Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fitchburg, Massachusetts

I'm in that routine again. The one that leaves you with a really long look in your eyes afterward and causes your body to act out against itself. Road stage racing is the culprit and it's no wonder, after purging one's self of every ounce of life sustaining energy day after day, that "one" begins to creep backward toward a seemingly infantile state. And since this post is being written on the morning of the 3rd day, I ask myself, how is it that the anguish begins after only two days? I've done 10 day stage races in Europe in the past and a host of equally soul sucking monsters here in the US and my bodily reactions have always followed fairly predictable cycles. Day one, excitement and subsequent wasting of energy. Day two, feeling it but more relaxed and primed. Day three, over it, sore, and tired - emotionally unattached. Day four, acceptance of my downfalls as an athlete but back in the game. Now, at this point, most "stage" races in the US are over so it no longer matters and has in fact not mattered since the last Road stage anyway since Time Trials and Criteriums are no friends of mine. Now, wouldn't this jaded and verging on whinny post be more interesting if I were writing it from the Giro or TDF? Maybe the Vuelta?

I'm in Fitchburg, Massachusetts racing in the four day, four stage, Fitchburg, Longsjo Classic. This is an event that I've never done before and because it's in New England, it's green and the climbs, although short, are steep. The road surfaces are a little sketchy but I'm used to that having grown up riding the back country coal roads in WV.

Stage one was a 75 mile circuit race with a short, steep, stair stepping climb. I hit the ground near the end of stage when friend of mine went down in front of me. It was a bummer but through no fault of anyone really, since crashing is part of this peculiar sport. I was not smashed by the other hundred riders behind me, so after a quick bone/bike check, I was off. I don't often hit the ground, but the few times it has happened, I always feel pretty cool afterward while chasing back on all bloody and battered. It really is the only card you can pull that takes almost all the pressure off the rest of the race. People no longer see you as dropped. Instead they see a soldier working his way back into the battle. The wound wrappings look super fesh, too, and are completely worth the days of stinging showers. Anything good you can manage to pull out of a crash is usually looked at as a heroic effort of sorts.

Stage two, essentially a 98 mile circuit "road" race, had a nice popper of a hill in it that was broken up by the finish half way up with the feed zone at the top. We did 9 laps. Moves went. I marked some, missed some. With a few to go a group of six went up the road and it contained exactly no one from Kenda Pro Cycling. Before I elaborate further, I'd like to point out the obvious: I'm not adding much to the excitement of this post as far as racing is concerned. The state of mind of someone in the event speaks as loudly as the fireworks of the racing itself. Boring. Since Kenda had no one, we chased. When we hit the bottom of the climb, the breakaway was in sight about halfway up it. A rider jumped from the peloton and I sprung to catch his wheel in an attempt to bridge the gap to the break. My effort was strained. My efforts earlier in the day made the acceleration a struggle and I had to rely on a chasing group of eight coming from the field to actually make it into the break a half lap later. Once the chase made contact to the main break, swelling it to 25 riders, it settled into a smoother pace until the final lap where the demons of pain and speed returned to wreak havoc on the weary bunch. I was on the proverbial rivet at least seven times as the group attacked itself relentlessly in the final 10 KM of racing. I propelled myself across the line with an anemic sprint for 16th place 30ish seconds behind the jubilant winner. The peloton, having given up, finished 15 minutes back. Andy Guptill, who I grew up racing in the dirt with on Team Devo, was 4th. He lives in VA now so we've been able to team up for some riding over the past few months. It was awesome to see him rally.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stay on the motor

Harrisonburg's racer cult has a new member. It maxes out at about 45mph and only fatigues if it's tank hasn't got a drop of combustible solution in it. JB got a 49cc moto-scooter. This means all the meandering, rolling rides through the valley that make one yearn for the ride to be over are now a bit more tolerable. Now all we have to do is pool enough cash together for a gallon or two of petrol and convince a competent and sober friend to drive. That shouldn't be too hard considering it's fun as shit and the pilot has ultimate control over the suffering of the rider(s) without feeling the pain himself; pure and unadulterated satisfaction. From the pilot's seat, a quick look in the rear view mirror reveals the damage they've done. It only takes a micro twist of the throttle to dramatically affect the facial expressions of the rider. This is not just a torture device, of course. The speed factor is big, as it replicates the feel of a race and forces one to react quickly.

Now anyone, regardless of where they fall on spectrum of wattage output vs. obesity status, Kilo-joule efficiency, and leg-speed can be the dropper instead of the dropped. Dan Oats is our committed and loyal draconian throttle twister until after the Tour de Burg in July. After that, we'll be on the prowl for a new driver.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Short muse.

Something has shown up, and it's not entirely uninvited. My legs are supple at the moment and they aren't arguing with the fluidity of my pedal stroke. So good rides have ensued over the last few weeks since training camp with my new bike racing team. Jeremiah and I are playing nice again - which always means solid and sharp training efforts. The benefits are always welcome. Andy McKeegan is down and out for a few days with some sort of entrenched hamstring issue. In fact, I felt it today on the side of the road and I believe his problem is coming from the fact that his left hamstring has turned into a piece of steel rebar. He's on it with some electrical current acupuncture so it won't be long before he's pulling us up route 42 at the end of 5 hours rides again.

I'm already two races deep this season so I suppose it has "begun". Again. After a while out.

Two for two so far so I'll aim to keep that on track the best I can. This Sunday is the Harris-Roubaix, the classic underground and graveled nightmare we're all so fond of on the outskirts of our fair city... C'mon, c'mon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Panache

The last three weeks have been full of training, travel and amazing skiing up in Canaan. After that amazing Wednesday I spoke of so fondly in my last post, I was back at the push-pull effort of cranking up my training efforts on the bicycle again. I came back from Canaan with a sense of closure with the ski-season and felt like I was able to satiate that itch that tends to have me torn and resentful towards riding when the snow beckons elsewhere. I think I got it right this time and I feel like I'm on the half-full side of motivation to race my bicycle with my own proprietary blend of "NickcantWaite" panache.

The Kenda Pro Cycling camp down in Macon Georgia last week was a much needed reminder, for me, of the capacity for a group to mesh amidst a sport that can turn people off from it almost as quickly as it can turn them on to it. The group's collective theme is aggression and tenaciousness. If those two themes hold true throughout the second-year-pro team's season, it'll be be good and we may all be invited back.

The daily routine was stage race-esque with rides leaving at 9:30 every morning, on-bike lunch, massage, meetings and bike-fits in the evening along with plenty of time to toil the warmer hours of the day away in our rooms recovering from the day's exploits - a luxury the rock star mechanics did not have while they built 60 custom Masi's with exacting precision. Everyone on the team received the customary bags with our names embroidered on them and exploding with new and shiny gear with a subtle formaldehyde scent to remind you that the season has not yet begun. For team-cohesion we rode our bikes for 3-6 hours everyday - a given, but the real bonding occurred over unthinkably large beers at the Mexican joint across the street from the hotel. Those eight days are over and one 14hr travel day later I was meeting the Harrisonburg crew at Mr. J's Bagel shop for a 5 hour not so mellow ride in the mountains of VA. and WV.

A week well done, leaving only another 3 weeks or so to preen the feathers before my first race with the team.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Just a Wednesday.

I spent this past weekend in the Shenandoah Valley - a first since the velvety, powdered-sugar base of snow up in WV entered it's nirvana phase more than a month ago. This coming Thursday I'll catch a ride down to Macon Georgia with the media director of the Kenda Pro Road Cycling Team. I'm going to be flying the KPC colors this season on the road bike and GT for the MTB side of things. Macon will be the site of the KPC's eight day pre-season training camp. Gear/media/training and testing. I'm excited to have a first class introduction back into racing after a year of messengering in NYC. My last experience at an "oh so pro" cycling camp was with KBS in California a couple years ago.

Last Wednesday Andy Mckeegan and I made a special early-morning-push over the mountains and into WV to grab some first tracks in the pillowy stash of fresh snow usually reserved for White Grass staffers and locals who can pull the mid-week powder card. We pulled into an almost empty parking lot with the snow still coming down sideways. The main slope that's usually groomed and beaten down from skiers was occupied by an arsenal of snow-fences and the resulting drifts towering over them. Mid-week skiing at White Grass has the mystique of a beach that by day is flowing with people churning up the sand and building sandcastles only for the tide to erase it overnight night leaving it pristine and undisturbed by morning. Inside the lodge there was room to move, to sprawl out with our gear without the worry of taking up the space that's so coveted on a busy weekend. There were no Kid's spilling hot chocolate on us and it was warm from the wood stove that has likely not gone out since late November. The light was soft and the food smells mixed with the smells of ski wax, leather ski-boots drying and wood smoke creating a sweet earthy scent unique to White Grass.

On our way out through the breezeway we ran into Morgan (Chase). He ended up jumping on our train up the trackless main slope. We zigzagged our way up to mid station were a lonely retired ski-lift shack has sat quietly since the mid 1950's or so. Ducking into the woods and up Double Trouble, a classic steep and serpentine White Grass trail, we kicked our way over Round Top and into the Bald Knob glades. Morgan's bother Adam their friend Kevin were taking a break at the little rest hut tucked under the Spruce canopy. We left as a powder-giddy pack of five and wound our way out of the trees, over several larger than normal drifts and onto the wind-swept summit of Bald Knob. Our 4300' elevation soon turned into 3500' after thirty or so jump telemark turns down the steep face off the Knob through knee deep powder. That particular plummet into the upper steeps of Springer orchard was a first for me - a testament to the amount of snow Canaan (had) last week. I wasn't able to wipe the manic OMFG-grin off my face for the next few hours. So then we waited, shaking from the vertical drop, for Andy Mac who chose a slightly tamer route around the West side of "Baldy". When we saw the explosions of drifts above us we just yelled. As Andy emerged, dusted white, he had our same elated look on his face and said he thought he was on the wrong trail because of all the mammoth sized drifts. From there, together again, we aggressively charged our way into the next glade. It was too perfect to even begin to explain after the fact. The coffee won't last that long. Wispy powder bouncing and scratching across synthetic ski pants and how that sounds, describes it partially. I'll also say that if you filmed us and photoshopped the snow away, we would appear to be smoothly flowing three feet above downed trees, through gullies, over large piles of brush and many small hibernating creatures.

After that? Repeat-Cafe-Repeat, Hellbender's for beers, burrito's and the Olympics and Lindsey Vonn's gold medal run in the woman's downhill. It was only fitting that we did not have enough fuel to get home. Gotta pay for this surely on-loan snow somehow. Does Ullr have good interest rates? How long will it take for us to pay this back?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

360

It's been two days since I've gone outside for anything but to get a bag of stove-pellets or make a trip to the post office. In the house, the smell of burnt indian spices from a dinner last week still permeates the air. Outside, a rectangle of white road salt remains where I parked my car after returning from a heavy weekend of snow in WV. From the porch, the snow reveals the pattern of an icy and beaten path leading to and from the garage. It reminds me of a set of marble church steps I saw in Switzerland several years ago, all worn from hundreds of years obedient routine.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Next, please.

December !st. Yeah, it's still here. It seemed to be quite a distance away a few months ago. The city was melting the rubber off my old Cane Creek rims and food stayed hot even on the slowest most convoluted routes to it's final destination. And those tight, dimly-lit, Brooklyn street's and their black cats... Those curbs that jump out of the shadows.

The Six Packs are gone - raced and won by folks with hidden talent that reveals itself on the backsides of shady-green mountains after three p.m. on Fridays. A fixed-gear Champion of the Universe was crowned in a beer-drenched battle unbeknownst to the local Frolfers who wandered just beyond the treeline in Westover Park.

Then, two weeks after the Invitational-mud settled on Tear Jacket Knob, the Blue Ridge Cyclocross Cup gave way to frosty mornings. Rock Town took the trophy back from the Foof (Charlottesville). It's strength lays in the collective effort of four Country Club Malt Liquor pillars.

I rode for three hours today, traversing back and forth across the hilly Shenandoah Valley, until the sun fell. A mountain bike ride is in the works for tomorrow at 9 a.m. with JB. Gotta beat the rain before it beats us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rock Town Rally



Only days after the Tidewater Classic, the year's final local domestic MTB throw down, I rallied with a surprisingly motivated Rock Town Crew for Round #4 of the Blue Ridge Cyclocross Cup.
The last few days of sunshine and warmth have been nurturing for all sorts of outdoor play time. Today our sleepy little town, as well as the rest of the Shenandoah Valley was greeted with overcast skies and a chilly drizzle that made stoking the furnace and folding freshly cleaned race clothing from Sunday's mountain bike race seem more alluring than an hour drive in the rain to race with a damp, cold chamois in the heart of Foof Town. And when the hour hand struck three this afternoon I was already drifting towards the softness, encouraged by the fact my phone was still as silent as it so pleasantly had been all day after I dodged Jeremiah's interval-ride call in the morning. Then, a minute later, the proverbial "shit" hit the fan when Suzy Q Haywood from down the block rang the phone off my desk. The text read: 'Crossin' tonight? Carpool?". Any thoughts of abandoning were immediately erased as I frantically rang the go-to crowd to get the plan knitted before I got back to Sue. I called Chris Scott first who was just a few exits away from Rock Town on 81 coming back from a weekend in DC. Yo, the Suburban a go for the Blue Ride Cup tonight?, I said. "Nah, it's in the shop". With the rowdy group-mover out, we had to get creative with a few vehicles - some taking people and some taking bikes. Chris took care of Misty and Paul. Suzy and I jumped in the Element with Jeremiah while Andy and Celina swung around with their Toyota with the mad rack setup and grabbed the bikes. They were bombing out of town as the calls were being made so, thanks to the wonders of cellular technology (and Andy Smack actually answering his phone - for once) it all worked out.
So, one way or another, everyone who wanted to brave the journey over the parkway to Foof Town was able to. Save for a few missed souls in the form of Carpenter who was apparently hunting frantic animals and the SBC duo of Kyle and Colin who used their reasonable judgment. And of course our rec-center friend, Ryan Fawley, who had to work 'till nine.
The drive was dark and the rain pelted the hoods of the Rock Town Brigade. Jeremiah was bummed that he forgot his grippy front tubular tire and would be relegated to sketchiness on what was sure to be a slick course. It was good to have Sue along for the ride to balance out the intense history of racing, training, travel and competitiveness between Jeremiah and I. I'm happy to report we've both matured, somewhat, since those more eccentric bike racer days, so conversation was functional and pleasant.
We rolled into a mostly empty parking lot at Foof Town's Tonsler Park. There were a few cars with a handful of riders slowly spinning around the parking lot. I don't know about you, Suzy, but I'm staying in the car until the last second before the start, I said. Waiting until the last possible moment to prepare, I'm finding out, seems to be a motivational technique I've developed as my tolerance for the wet and cold has wained over the last few years. Meanwhile, Jeremiah was stumbling around trying to change his front tire to one that had a little more "bite". In the end, his attempt was futile as the other tire had a leak and he had to swap it, again, with the "bald" one. I think after all these years of constant self-motivation, Jeremiah, like me, has the need for a certain amount of chaos right before the start to get his engine going. He has a few years on me but still... By the time race-time came around, the scene had ballooned to 20 + racers and 10-15 spectators which was motivating for everyone.
The start was casual, unlike the mad-dash rampage at most sanctioned events. But, since the BRCC is underground and rad, the first lap is a "friendly lap" for people to warm-up a bit and check out the course before the madness begins on the second lap. The friendly lap also gives the pack a chance to sort itself out since there are no categories other than the Foof, Rock and Queen towns. Ultimately, It's one big happy effing family.
Andy Smack threw in some friendly fire on the friendly lap and really gave us a chance to experience the sketch that was the BRCC round 4 course. It took us around slick, off-camber, 180 degree turns, through a wood chipped jungle gym with moving barriers, up several sets of cement stairs and up a 3 foot wide paved-path with 5 super tight switch backs. There were two steep downhills one of which crossed another section of the course - we just yelled to avoid a full on t-bone collision with other racers. Disc Brakes were a choice commodity over the classic cantilever cross brakes. So I had the advantage with the mountain bike on a few spots along the slipping slide like course. This blog post is already too long so I'm not going to go on trying to defend my -race-winning- steed.
And so there we were, Andy Smack smacking down the field for a solid 20 minutes before relinquishing the lead to Jeremiah, Bruce, Chris Scottistan and myself. The racing was pretty tame for a while since the slick course could only be ridden so fast. Eventually, after everyone had a shaky lap or three, the racing got tighter and our passes by the lapped riders, respectively, became more frantic and less gentle. Jeremiah and I ended up in a final last lap battle during which he pointed out the fact that I was on a mountain bike several times then proceeded to put me into a prickly hedge when I tried to pass him for the "final" move. Ha! Only to be expected and welcomed in this sport, really. I used the last stair section to gap him off for good when I chose my usual line between two cement barriers and almost smashed into a disoriented spectator. I managed to still sprint across the line ahead of him by a few bike lengths. It was a knock-down drag-out last lap! Jeremiah told me afterwards that his gamble on the last section had to do with the fact that if I hit the lady he would have surely gotten a gap and won. Dirty, filthy sport this is. So good, though. And nice work, Jeremiah. See you in the A.M for coffee like a good neighbor.
Bruce of Fooftown hosted the after party with a warm house, two homemade pots of chili and a tray of cornbread. Rock Town brought the Camouflage High Life.
The roadside fog lights kept us all on the road back over the mountain. Now it's Night Time in The Little town. Still raining.

Interviews and Insights from Blue Ridge Cup #4. Charlottesville, VA

video video

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's late. My brain is rattling and I've had a full evening. A sweet evening with nothing. Nothing but some goodness cooking fowl at the Stokesville Camp ground followed by four bands in a tiny basement. Good. I've got some ginger tea now. Was reaching for the sleepy time eXtra but it's been exhausted. Tommy M. has thoroughly stoked me about heading out West this winter for some big mountain shredding. All this while cooking chicken on an over sized grill fit for cooking a wide assortment of large animals (or the veggie equivelent). It was amazing that I made it out there at all. 30 min. of driving and all. Filled the tank with petrol on the way out, too. Almost stayed at the house working on the myrid of projects I have going after this morning's pre-iron cross ride with JB and Andy. That was nice. Reminds me of the days I spent oblivious to the world while bicycle racing as a junior.

And so it goes. Here and now. Still. Sweet Jesus, how much longer will this continue?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kermit

Favorite new friend in the 'Burg.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Late night loitering

Nice visit from (most) of the JV squad last night. The lights are on
here at 240 Sunrise.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pointing at stuff

Crossing great North Mtn into Folks Run yesterday morning.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lots and lots

Well, I'm tired. The days have been full and I've been taking naps. The A.M routine is rolling alright and Jeremiah and Andy are sure to provide company on the rolling roads on the outskirts of town while the sun is high in the sky. Harrisonburg, Va is small, no doubt, but it's not lacking things to keep one from hitting that snooze button one too many times in the morning. I've been riding a bit, using my friends well established training routines to ride the coat tails of. And it works fine. Really. I can toggle between Jeremiah Bishops recovery weeks and Andy Mckeegan's pre-season 'cross rocket sessions in the hills. We did some steady riding up Reddish yesterday. 3x20 minute efforts to be exact - an hour of riding up for 20, descending back into the valley and then back up. We saw hikers and they were like "we thought you'd be heading up again", or so we thought that's what they said trying not to imagine it being a pedestrian harassment of some kind. Andy rides too close to the center of the rode when he descends. And that just scares me since I feel like I may see him smashed on any given turn.

The Six Pack Downhill races have been awesome. Although the first one a couple weeks ago left a pack of 20 or so of us waiting at the top of a mountain being swarmed by sweat/blood thirsty insects. And last Friday when Sue George, Whitney and I broke trail through several miles of stinging nettle bushes that left us itching and swollen for the remainder of the ride. Then I had a welcome back high speed crash that left me clinging to the very tree that took me out and limping my way down the remainder of the timed downhill like a injured, leukemia ridden, kitten. At the bottom I dabbed my freshly bloodied chin, tossed the bike, gave people high fives and enjoyed my endorphin high. One after another, riders rallied into the final steep to the finish. Sometimes we'd just hear a loud snap followed by a body and bike crashing down the side of the mountain, missing the finish all together. People cheered fantastic! Rightly so. Back to the parking lot, licking our wounds. Drink a beer. Hit the Six Pack Party at the winner's house. Surf a hoverboard around the yard and ride home in the dark. There's trail work to be done in the morning.

Pedaling hard for multiple one minute efforts in the morning with JB and Andy. Radio Paradise is choice late-night listening.