Archive for the ‘Cyclo-cross’ Category

Tunnel vision

September 19, 2022

Miss Mia Sopaipilla is locked and loaded.

Everything old is new again.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla has rediscovered the joys of an old crinkle tube, some coarse wrapping paper, and a Wholeazon Amafoods shopping bag, all of which make fine sounds when run through, sprawled upon, or snuggled into.

Me, I likewise got back on the old hoss, metaphorically speaking, which is to say I started running again after giving my damaged toe a month of downtime.

Bikewise I hardly broke stride. Kept cranking out the 100-mile-plus weeks even with a pulverized piggie, and so far (knock on wood) I have avoided doing anything else inexplicably stupid to myself.

It’s nearly fall here in The Duck! City, but you’d hardly know it. Oh, the leaves are coming off the trees, but the weather widget says 87° in midafternoon and the hummers are still hitting the feeders like a cluster of knee-walking bog-trotters who just heard the barman call, “Time, gentlemen, time.”

Time, indeed.

A certain restlessness I ascribe to muscle memory. Come September Back In the Day® I would be in the early throes of cyclocross season, with a side of Interbike, and there would be much motoring and bicycling and running around to no particular purpose.

Your Humble Narrator at Dirt Demo circa 2005.

My Septembers are less hectic now. I did my last ’cross race in Bibleburg, way back in 2004, rocking a Steelman Eurocross but no spare bike, not even spare wheels. I rode to the course from the DogHaus, and when I flatted midrace, I simply replaced the tube and rode back home. It could be argued that I was not taking the whole thing seriously.

Thirteen years later I did my last Interbike. I lasted longer at that game because the finish-line payout was better and getting sockless drunk on the publisher’s dime was more or less a condition of employment.

But the publishers changed, and so did the game, and in January 2022 I retired, an event with all the significance of a mouse fart in a haboob.

I hadn’t expected to waltz offstage in the middle of a plague — which is over now, I understand, so, yay — but as the fella says, you go to retirement with the virology you have, not the virology you might want or wish to have at a later time.

Anyway, here it is September again and I still haven’t tapped my generous pension to buy a Peace Van and finally buckle down to the serious business of writing my great American road-trip story, “Travels with Snarly.”

Some days that Nobel Prize in Literature seems farther away than the finish line  with a slow leak and no spare. At least I’m still riding and running.

Here’s mud in your eye (or not)

January 30, 2022

My 1998 Steelman Eurocross didn’t get muddy today, either.
I’da wanted mud, I’da had to pee a damp spot into the dust.

The great thing about being a retired cycling scribe is that if there’s a race going on that you don’t care about, you don’t have to watch.

So instead of finding some way to catch cyclocross worlds over the Innertubes, I went out and rode my own damn cyclocross bike for 90 minutes.

Your Humble Narrator on the job during a rare soft day at the Bear Creek Cyclo-cross. As you can see, I am a veritable blur of activity.

I watched one lap of yesterday’s women’s race on YouTube earlier in the day, and that was enough. The Fayetteville course looks like a lot of fun, and I hope it hosts many years of exciting racing.

But I’m sorry. I gotta have filth.

No knock against the race organization — they couldn’t get a hammerlock on the Arkansas legislature, so you know they can’t control the weather — but I gots to have me some evil weather, mud and/or snow, equipment failures, spectacular crashes, pit strategy, and all the rest of the unpredictability sweepstakes that keeps a ’cross from turning into a dirt crit.

I promoted a few dirt crits in my day, but in my defense I will say that the Dogs at Large Velo races in Bibleburg were always intended to provide a gentle transition from road season to ’cross season. Occasionally we got a bit of weather to make the Bear Creek course interesting, but generally it was pretty predictable.

Me, I lived for the sloppy conditions we’d get at Chatfield, Fort Collins, or the horse park in Franktown. The kind of race where you spend so much time off the bike and running that your cyclocomputer goes to sleep. And you have to clean up in a nearby car wash afterward — bike, spare bike, and kit —  because the wife caught you doing it in the shower once and you’re lucky she still lets you into the house, much less your slime-soaked gear.

Of course, the course and conditions don’t seem to have much effect on the actual finishing order. I notice the strong people mostly win wherever and whenever.

So, congrats to all the freshly minted world champions in Fayetteville. I hope that shiny new kit gets dirty one of these days.

WallyWorlds

January 28, 2022

The Stud, retired from the bike shop, found himself with a little free time and more than a few unpaid bills.

The UCI-Walmart 2022 Cyclocross World Championships kick off today in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

I won’t be there, and neither will my old ’cross buddy Brook Watts, whose baby this is.

Or was, before the political climate in Arkansas took a distinct turn for the worse, presenting him with an insurmountable run-up to race day.

Those were not cheering throngs at courseside. Cowbells were out, bullshit was in. Not even shoe spikes would help, unless applied to asses, and maybe not even then. Some days a fella can wear out a couple dozen pair of kneecaps kicking ass and all he gets is practice.

You can read Brook’s take on the whole mess at VeloNews. And for those of you who enjoy such things, here’s a hot GoPro lap of the course.

 

Cold comfort

December 11, 2021

The sun peeks over the Sandias.

Speaking of filthy weather, looks like I made the right call when I skipped cyclocross nats in Illinois.

USA Cycling announced via Twatter this morning that powerful winds had caused “heavy damage to both the course and the venue,” and that the industry races would be canceled and other events delayed and shortened.

Still, could be worse. This is apparently a love tap from a series of storms that roared through the Midwest and South like Sherman marching to the sea.

Kentucky may have gotten the worst of it, though a tornado in Illinois ripped open an Amazon fulfillment center like a wassail-crazed holiday reveler taking a box cutter to a package.

“About half of it’s missing, it’s gone,” a fire department captain told The New York Times. The building was about 400,000 square feet. One wonders how many car condos were parked nearby, their occupants grabbing a bit of shuteye between holiday shifts.

Here in The Duck! City we awakened to temps in the teens, but the usual blue skies appear poised to prevail. The furnace is running like a cyclocrosser with a 60-mph tailwind, but at least the roof is still on.

December’s desperados

December 2, 2021

A fine December morning.

December. The relentless march through the holidays toward year’s end upshifts into doubletime. Hup hroop hreep horp.

I don’t know but I been told

Winter ain’t gonna get real cold

Climate change done stole our snow

Endless summer for New Mexico

Sorry, Sarge, but that’s how it feels when the thermometer reads 63 degrees, a dozen or so degrees above normal, on Dec. 1.

Herself went for a late-afternoon run in her summer kit. Me, I rode in long sleeves and knickers, but I got out earlier than she did and was generating a slight wind chill despite my usual torrid pace.

The Soma Double Cross, back to its dirty roots.

The mean streets did not appeal (something to do with drink-addled, lead-sneakered gunsels), so I chose the Soma Double Cross with its fat tires and we skulked around various dusty foothill trails and side streets for about 90 minutes.

The DC in its present incarnation — cantilever brakes, eight-speed drivetrain with bar-cons, etc. — is kind of an old-school cyclocross bike, if you overlook its triple crankset, long-cage XT rear derailleur, and 43mm Soma Cazadero tires. Plus its stem is too long and too low. And I wouldn’t use a wide-profile brake like the IRD Cafam II on the rear end if I were jumping on and off the bike the way I did when I was a sprightly young fellow. I carved my right leg like a Christmas turkey once and further instruction was not required.

The too-long stem makes me think about adding a set of top-mounted brake levers, but it would be simpler to just replace the stem, if I could find a replacement, which I can’t. The Great Parts Drought of 2021 continues, especially where weirdo bikes and oddball dimensions are concerned.

Later it was movie night, with pizza and salad. Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” is a beautiful, disturbing film, and we’re probably going to have to watch it again this weekend to see if what we think we saw was actually what we saw. This ain’t exactly John Wayne, pilgrim. Afterward I had to break out the old family Bible and use it as a decoder ring.

Sweet dreams are made of this?

July 25, 2021

Cyclocross weather. Not just in my head, either.

So last night I dreamed that I was racing the cyclocross national championships, and since I was the only competitor I felt I had a strong chance to podium.

But somehow I was managing to fuck it up.

Everybody’s looking for something.

I was missing some important bits, among them a helmet, a race number, and the faintest idea of what the actual hell was going on. Nobody in the dream seemed any wiser.

And at one point I was having a helluva time making the bike move at all, which is a familiar feeling to anyone who’s ever raced ’cross, but this bordered on the ridiculous, like I was trying to cycle through wet concrete with two flats and a dropped chain while the Klingons had a tractor beam on me.

It seemed increasingly likely that the officials would call the race due to there being no actual racing taking place, and I was looking at a DNF in a one-man nationals, when I saw a shooting star in my peripheral vision and abruptly woke up.

There was more to the dream, and I should’ve written it all down while it was still fresh in my mind, but Mia had somehow slipped into the bedroom and was yowling for my attention and grub, not necessarily in that order. Women were hatching schemes in the kitchen. The day was thrust upon me. Coffee was indicated.

I probably should’ve ridden a cyclocross bike but no. After last night it was the road for me, thanks all the same. And I barely made it home before the rain came. No medals or prizes were awarded.

R.I.P., Laurence Malone

May 19, 2021

The details remain elusive, but it seems that five-time U.S. national cyclocross champ Laurence Malone died Monday in an automobile crash near Lancaster, Calif.

Laurence was the real deal. When he turned up in New Mexico back in 1990 or thereabouts he’d pin on a number and go round and round with the little people. But he never went Hollywood on us. He would race in the most outdated, anonymous gear you ever saw, and beat your ass with it, too. Sold lentil burritos, which he delivered by bike.

I knew him to say hi to, but that’s about it. Herself and I gave him a lift to a race once. Another time I saw him ride a sketchy, sandy descent to the pit with his spare bike slung across one shoulder like a messenger bag, and I thought: “Man. I want to learn how to do that.”

And I had the privilege of finishing second to him in the 1991 state road championships outside Albuquerque.

Laurence was good. I was lucky. I was actually riding OK for a change, and Laurence and I had both made it into the break coming into the finish of the masters-35 race. Everybody in there was better than me, so I thought I’d launch one of my patented, doomed, last-kilo’ attacks on Sedillo Hill, go down in a blaze of glory.

But it was everyone else who went down. Well, almost everyone. Cliff Loucks and Rick Quant got tangled up somehow, taking out Tim Schoeny, Neil Davie, and Louis Abruzzo, as the contenders jockeyed for position in what should have been quite a sprint.

I heard the clatter, looked around, and the only dude still with me was … Laurence Malone.

“Shit,” sez I.

And that, as they say, was that.

I should’ve been seventh at best, but instead I got to finish on the podium with Laurence fuckin’ Malone. I’ll remember it until the day we meet again on the Other Side. If I can catch him, that is.

Peace to Laurence, his family, friends, and fans. He left us way too soon.

The dirt on Earth Day

April 22, 2021

“This site is undergoing maintenance.”
How about getting to work on the state legislature next?

It’s Earth Day, and I plan to celebrate by staying on top of it, where I can keep an eye on things.

This ain’t always easy.

There is, of course, The Bug®. And I’ve had a couple close calls while riding trails this past week. No harm, no foul, but still, I think I might give that pasatiempo a rest for a while. A skinny trail can only handle so many remote “workers” before something gives. Our dirt arteries are dangerously clogged. That’s my diagnosis, anyway.

Speaking of keeping an eye on things, and dirt, here’s some bad news: My man Brook Watts has stepped down as organizer of the 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. Nor will he have any involvement in the UCI World Cup race there.

Says Brook:

“The situation in Arkansas remains problematic and unfortunately, I don’t see any satisfactory resolution. I have sincerely, but unsuccessfully, attempted to work out my concerns and differences with constituents. However, regrettably, we were not successful. I remain dedicated to continuing to use my position of influence in the cyclo-cross community to fight for equity in racing, and to ensure that the sport is accepting and welcoming to all.”

This is a goddamn shame, frankly. Brook is a righteous dude, a fine racer, and a top-shelf organizer. This can’t have been an easy call for him to make.

I haven’t tugged on his sleeve for more details because he asked for privacy after making his announcement. He deserves that and much, much more.

Some people build things. Other people, eh, not so much.

Sanitized for your protection

April 14, 2021

The new descent.

I haven’t spent a lot of time on the Elena Gallegos trails lately. But somebody has been putting in the hours over there. And not on a bike, either.

Two rocky stretches have had the kinks ironed out of them, which is both good and bad.

The old climb out of the sand pit has been rendered impassable.

Good in that they’re much easier to ride on a cyclocross bike now. And bad in that they’re much easier to ride on a cyclocross bike now.

One I usually rode as a short descent. It was a real tooth-rattler, rocky and rutted, and I always took a good look around at the top because I didn’t want to meet anyone coming up when I was halfway down. It dumped into a sand pit and turned into a short, rocky climb with poor line of sight, so I usually hit the bell a time or two on the out of the pit.

The other I generally rode as a short climb after a longish rocky descent. It required some negotiation with medium-sized stones in tight corners, and I occasionally dabbed because it looked like it should have been easier than it was.

Well, they’re both easy now, which means people will be riding them faster, even me. No good deed goes unpunished.

Stupor Sunday

February 2, 2020

His Excellency confers with the underside of his eyelids.

As you can see, Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) and his adjutant Miss Mia Sopaipilla can’t wait for The Big Game to get under way.

We don’t follow the feets ball here at El Rancho Pendejo, having gotten our fill of artificially augmented athletes at that Boulder-based journal of competitive cycling.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla stands watch at the rear portcullis.

Indeed, we watch no televised sports of any kind, preferring to participate rather than spectate.

Oh, sometimes I’ll watch the U.S. cyclocross nationals, or ’cross worlds, if I can find a free feed uncontaminated by bots, viruses, Trojan horses, poltergeists, pixies, h’ants, djinni, cooties, boogers, and other agents of Chaos.

But I didn’t even watch worlds this weekend. My gal Katie Compton just missed the podium after a poor start, and Mathieu van der Poel — well, let’s just say that the dude might as well have been racing all by himself.

Anyway, this morning I had other concerns. Ironically, they involved my own doping regimen.

As I stumbled into the kitchen Herself intercepts me and goes all like: “Bad news. The coffee grinder’s broken again.”

Happily, she’d managed to brew just enough joe for me to pour a shot in each eyeball and then get to work rebooting the evil sonofabitch.