Archive for the ‘Cyclo-cross’ Category

The mark of Z … denek?

January 30, 2014

My idea of a really good time at the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships would not involve having Zdenek Stybar, tanned, rested and ready, lining up next to me.

If I’m racing, that is. If I’m watching, I’m all for it.

“I’m in good condition,” Stybar said via a press release from his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team. “I came from important training sessions in Mallorca and I’m ready to compete. I’m really looking forward to the race.”

The two-time champ is a road toad these days, but Stybar has turned up at a couple ’crosses this year, and between him and the youngster Lars van der Haar (Rabobank) they do keep the old guys huffin’ and puffin’.

My man Dan Seaton has a preview of this weekend’s big doin’s in Hoogerheide over to the VeloPlace. Expect “heavy” conditions, which is Belgian for “lovely day.” I wouldn’t bet the ranch against Sven Nys in the men’s race, and I’m rooting for homegirl Katie Compton in the women’s. Fuck a bunch of journalistic objectivity anyway.

If you have Universal Sports as part of your cable package, you can catch the races live online — juniors, women, under-23s and men. Otherwise you’ll have to fly the Jolly Roger like me, arrr.

Park place

January 13, 2014
From the annuals of VeloNews, circa 1998.

From the annuals of VeloNews, circa 1998.

Chapeau to all the folks who are taking stars-and-stripes jerseys home from Boulder, especially Bibleburg’s very own Katie Compton, who racked up title No. 10 at Valmont Bike Park on Sunday.

Our politically and spiritually unhinged community is home to some top ’cross talent, for reasons that elude me. There’s six-time U.S. ’cross champ Alison Dunlap, who used to live right here in the Patty Jewett Wild Democrat Preserve and can often be seen towing a trailer full of offspring at a pace that makes grown men weep.

And of course there’s Ms. Compton, who seems so genteel and mild-mannered when buying a bottle of wine at Coaltrain, yet come race day can be seen methodically ripping off people’s legs, eating them, and then using the bloody bones to club lesser riders out of her path.

With two such exemplars of the discipline in residence, you’d think some bright person would have had the idea to duplicate Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park down here in God’s Country™, where men are men and so are the women, only more so.

Alas, the Free Hand of the Market is too busy jerking off to fantasies of an Olympic museum, a “multipurpose” stadium and a visitors center for the U.S. Air Force Academy, which already has one.

You know — places for looking at things, instead of actually doing them.

As one-half of the executive team that operates The House Back East™ Bide-a-Wee Vacation Home & Money Laundry, I have yet to encounter a guest who longs to visit museums, stadia and visitors centers.

What they want to do is tackle the Incline, Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods, and Manitou Springs. They want to do stuff, not just look at it. And some of them want to do it while blazing a fatty.

But don’t tell that to the local leadership. They turned this place into Six Flags Over Bethlehem and now it’s all about The Five Rings To Rule Them All, the feddle gummint’s saggy ol’ sugar tit and state-supported fantasies about what a bunch of old white guys think will get the money train chugging through town again.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines “spectator” as “a person who sees or watches something without taking an active part; onlooker.”

Yeah, that’s just what we need.

The big show

January 12, 2014

crosstoonNo, I’m not talking about the Belgian national championships (which is basically a second world championships, and which Sven Nys crushed today). I’m talking about today’s elite men’s and women’s USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships at Valmont Park in Boulder.

The Twitterati say the wind is up and the temps are down as Katie Compton and Jonathan Page prepare for their title defenses, and you can catch the action as it happens via streaming video starting at 11 a.m. this morning.

Here’s hoping mic’ jockeys Dave Towle and Colt McElwaine go a little deeper into history today when calling out the names of the greats — elite titlists like six-time champ Alison Dunlap and five-timer Laurence Malone deserve their fair share of the shout-outs.

‘Cross purposes

January 11, 2014
The off-camber bit, which had about two "good" lines.

The off-camber bit, which had about two “good” lines.

If you’re anywhere near Boulder this weekend, get thee to the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships at Valmont Park.

It’s been a good long while since I attended nats, either as a racer or a rumormonger, but my brief inspection tour of the 2014 circuit left me seriously impressed with how course design has improved in my absence. (It may help to have a cycling-specific park in which to host one’s event; I was never so fortunate.)

Express elevator to Hell, going down!

Express elevator to Hell, going down!

There’s a little something for everyone on the rolling circuit — run-ups on stairs and in mud; a sand pit; scary, sloppy descents; bumpy, steeply off-camber bits; a whole bunch of cornering; and on Thursday, anyway, lots of slippery goo. A “heavy” course, in other words. Pete Webber did a fine job setting it up, and then went on to win today’s masters 40-44 race. Chapeau.

I watched a couple of masters events — women 40-44 and men 50-54 — and caught up with an old racing rival, Mike Spak (at right in this photo). He finished 25th in the 60-64s and said that first trip down the mudslide was a doozy. A Slip’N Slide full of extended legs, chainrings and cursing, I bet. I would’ve been one of the dudes making the most noise, what with white knuckles exploding on brake levers, explosive bowel evacuations and ear-splitting screams.

The descent leads to a long staircase run followed by an off-camber plummet reminiscent of Satan’s descent from Heaven:

Hurl’d headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky,

With hideous ruin and combustion, down

To bottomless perdition. …

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but there were only two lines and both of them looked like Hell to me.

The rest of the course basically heaps insult atop injury, with another short staircase run, a sand pit and lots of little bits of this, that and the other, all of which add up to being nibbled to death by zombie ducks.

Word is it’s windy out there today, with temps in the 50s, and Webber told Cyclocross Magazine that it was “a dry and fast course.” If the weather holds, tomorrow should be even more so.

If you can’t make it there in person, you can catch live streaming video of the marquee events starting with the U23 race at 12:30 p.m. Mountain time today.

• Late update: If you missed the live stream, what you missed was largely a one-man show, a wire-to-wire ass-whuppin’ administered by first-year U23 Logan “See Ya, Wouldn’t Want To Be Ya” Owen. You can catch a replay at USA Cycling’s YouTube channel. But the part everyone is talking about is his teammate Cody Kaiser’s riding — hopping, actually — of the Belgian Stairs. Watch and enjoy.

And now, a recipe for organic chamois butter

January 10, 2014

Guess where I was today?

January 9, 2014
More to come tomorrow, including a bit of video.

More to come tomorrow, including a bit of video.

Here’s mud in your eye

January 8, 2014
This may be a shot of my final cyclo-cross, in Memorial Park. I rode to the race, without a spare bike, and promptly flatted just a coupe of laps in. DNF.

This may be a shot of my final cyclo-cross, in Memorial Park. I rode to the race, eschewing a spare bike, and promptly flatted just a couple of laps in. DNF.

Cyclo-cross nats got off to a sloppy start today in the People’s Republic. I thought about motoring up to watch the industry race, maybe provide a little sage advice to the competitors — “Hey, that looks just like cyclo-cross, only slower!” — but chores got in the way.

I had to content myself with tweeting, “Guess how many guys in the industry race at CX nats will be riding steel bikes and cantis and win a free trip to are you fucking kidding me?”

Yes, I’m that old. Steel frames, threaded steerers, cantilever brakes, seven-speed freewheels, bar-end shifters, Lyotard 460 pedals with double steel Christophe toeclips and Alfredo Binda toe straps, Vittoria Mastercross and WolberCross 28 Extra tires, the works.

You see anyone riding a rig like that in Boulder 2014, you’ll know you’ve died and gone to Cyclo-cross Hell.

Still, it was big fun. It’s hard to believe I haven’t raced ’cross for 10 years — and even harder to believe that I haven’t attended nationals since 1999 in San Francisco, where I covered the race for a now-defunct sporting website.

I raced nats only once — in 1992, in Golden — and just missed a top-10 finish in the masters 35s. That was it for actually racing the sonofabitch. But I covered the championships in 1994 and ’94, in Seattle; helped lay out the 1997 course in Lakewood; and finally wrote up the race for the last time in ’99 at The Presidio.

It would have been amusing to old-school it at this year’s industry race — time-travel into the 21st century aboard the old Steelman Eurocross with its eight-speed Ultegra, Paul’s Neo-Retro cantis and Michelin Jet/Mud clinchers — but lord, would I ever have gotten my fat ass handed to me. They’d have been timing me with a calendar, and a paper one at that.

• Editor’s note: Unlike Your Humble Narrator, Cyclocross Magazine is on the scene.


January 7, 2014
That old cyclo-crossin' gang of mine, following a 1990s race in Fort Collins.

That old cyclo-crossin’ gang of mine, following a 1990s race in Fort Collins.

A long time ago, in a peloton far, far away, when it got to be too cold or sloppy to train on the road bike one of the Dogs would invariably propose, “How’bout riding mountain bikes on the road?”

It makes sense, if you think about it. Big ol’ tires for traction. Closer to the ground for purposes of falling onto same. Lower average speed and thus less wind chill. Add fenders and you don’t even get the deadly Brown Stripe of Shame.

So that’s what I did today. Dug up a pair of strap-on, zip-tie Planet Bike fenders for the DBR ti’ and went out for my second mountain-bike ride of 2014. That’s about two more than I did in 2013*, and it’s only Jan. 7.

This also means that five — five! — of my bikes now sport fenders. A sixth has a set, but isn’t presently wearing them. And I have an extra pair in case I feel like going for Lucky No. 7. You can’t stop me!

And to think I once lived for cyclo-cross, the entire purpose of which is to get cold, wet and filthy dirty, all at the same time. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!

*Purists will note that I rode a buttload of 29ers during 2013, but that doesn’t count. I’m talking 26-inch hardtail here. Who rides one of those in 2014? Besides me, that is?


October 29, 2013
The flier for the 2000 Mad Dog Cyclo-cross in Bear Creek Regional Park.

The flier for the 2000 Mad Dog Cyclo-cross in Bear Creek Regional Park.

Bibleburg has never been a hotbed of cyclo-cross. Oh, sure, nationals was held here once, back in 1980, and shortly after I returned to town from New Mexico in 1991 we got a small local scene rolling, mostly because driving to the Denver-Boulder clusterplex was something of a pain in the ass come wintertime. Or any other time, come to think of it.

Also, the U.S. Cycling Federation required a racing club to promote at least one event per annum, and back in the day there was nothing easier to run than a ’cross. Find yourself a venue, mark it casually with some red and blue flags, install a few homemade wooden barriers to force the roadies off their bikes, and by golly you had yourself a race course.

So we put on a couple races per year, in Palmer Park or Monument Valley Park — host to that long-ago national championships — until some turd in the city government who lived nearby took an infarction about people racing bicycles in “his” park. That we were donating the proceeds from our events to park maintenance was immaterial. Sorry ’bout that, said the parks people, but we have to deal with this asshole all the time; you we only have to see a couple times a year.

Thus we shifted operations to the county parks system, putting on races in Bear Creek Regional Park — where, as a precaution, Team Mad Dog Media-Dogs At Large Velo formally adopted the section of trail that included our course — and in Black Forest Regional Park.

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.

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.

Ours were fast, simple courses, suited to beginners and roadies in need of an early season refresher, in part because the county was not interested in our veering off established trail, and in part because we were not exactly the most vigorous of race promoters.

In fact, we were about as lazy a crop of bastards as ever marked a course. Our northern counterparts, among them Chris Grealish, Lee Waldman and John Vickers, were more imaginative when it came to locating new venues, negotiating with their overseers, and designing interesting circuits.

At our peak, we were getting just over 200 riders per event, which wasn’t bad for being outside the Boulder-Denver velo-ghetto, whose more sensitive communards either feared getting born-agained or libertarded if they dared cross the Palmer Divide or didn’t like driving south any better than we liked driving north. We also were working with our northern cousins on a statewide series that included events from Pueblo to Fort Collins.

Eventually, inevitably, we Dogs flamed out. I peaked as a ’cross racer in 1999, and shortly thereafter started dialing it back; by then, Herself and I were living on a rocky hillside outside Weirdcliffe, and Bibleburg was a 90-minute drive in good weather. The last Mad Dog ’cross at Bear Creek may have been in 2000, though I still raced occasionally until 2004, when I finally gave it up for good.

Another club picked up where we left off, drawing OK numbers and getting progressively more creative with its courses, including one last year up near the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs that I heard good things about. Alas, they, too, seem to have flamed out for now — for one reason or another, there seems to be nary a cyclo-cross in Bibleburg this season.

It’s a pity, really. ’Cross has been the biggest thing in bike racing for quite a while now, and last weekend’s Cyclo X-Xilinx in Longmont drew more than 650 racers, a number unheard of in my day. Surely we could get half that down here despite the Lambornagains and various other socio-political impediments. Tap a medical marijuana company for sponsorship, donate the proceeds to the Society for the Preservation of Steel Bicycles and Cantilever Brakes.

I may not race anymore, but I’d still like to watch now than then.

Paddy whacked

September 28, 2013
There was a hint of fall color in the trees as I cycled across the creek toward Palmer Park.

There was a hint of fall color in the trees as I cycled across the creek toward Palmer Park.

I rarely applaud the thumping of a Mick by a Limey, but I was happy to make an exception in the case of Brian Cookson vs. Pat McQuaid.

Fat Paddy pulled every dirty trick he could find from his size-5 cap during his frantic campaign to retain the UCI presidency. But when Cookson finally said, “All right, we’ve had enough of this,” and moved that the UCI Congress proceed to a vote, that august body handed said hat back to the blubbering bog-trotter and showed him the door.

Now, I rarely pay close attention to the racing side of our sport unless some silly person is cutting me a check. So I have no idea whether Cookson will be able or even willing to make all the changes that even a casual look-around deems necessary.

But at this point it seems to me that electing a blow-up plastic sex doll would be preferable to another term for Fat Paddy, unless that term were to be served in the H-Block.

Thus I celebrated the omadhaun‘s ouster with a short ride on a cyclo-cross bike with UCI-illegal tires. Póg mo thóin, Paddy, go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat!