Monday, January 14, 2013

"Next Year" Always Sounds Good

   My five-day off season is nearly over. I'm heading to the gym tomorrow, and, as soon as the temperatures get tolerable for me, I'll start riding to school again.
   It's been a long and busy cyclocross season. I'm happy with it. I had better results this year than ever, several top 5s, two podiums. No wins but I could taste them.
   I felt pretty tired at the end of the season. I figured the flu plague I caught before Christmas, plus packing up and moving Mom from the house I grew up in, took a little more out of my old man's body than I expected.
   My coach, Brian Matter of Momentum Endurance, asked me to think about the season and do some evaluation.
   The high points were definitely the good results. I really liked the ET Twilight Cross race down in East Troy and had a lot of fun there and got 4th.
   The funny thing is that I never felt great in any of the races I did well in. There was some sense of blockage, like something was in the way of really letting loose.
   Anyone who's read anything by me from the past knows that my head (emotions) often get in the way of just having fun on the bike. I've done a ton of work on that, but I must have gotten a little lazy this year. The ugliness of expectations reared its head a little more. That may have come from finally getting some results and tasting success. I wanted more!
   I also struggled with focus some days, especially when I crashed early in the race. At several races, crashes made me tentative in the corners, and I'd lose my nerve.
   Emotionally, this season was different as well with team director/holder of the center Mike Heenan at races across the country working as a wrench for Rapha/Focus. Mike and I traveled a lot together last year, but only once this year. When several mwi's came to a race, something was missing as well. Emotional core? Not sure, but I noticed the difference.
   Maybe that's it: Maybe I missed some kind of center this year, some kind of focus.
   At the line at nationals, I started to laugh out loud, literally. That seriously was the craziest damn thing I've done on the bike. Those conditions were hellacious: mud on top of ice. That laughter though got me riding really well, just having fun.
   One of the blocks in my head is confidence in driving the bike in all conditions. I'm a decent bike handler, but I can't wait to spend a LOT of time on the mountain bike this year. I want to be able to rail through corners and down off-camber climbs.
   Huge thanks for the season go out to Brian, who made me so much faster. I also ended up spending a lot of time with Ian and Hans Haupt. Ian is a great kid, solid. I'm so proud of him for his nationals performance. He rode like he meant it in crappy conditions, earning himself a 10th in a tough season.
   And Hans has been a huge support for me, working the pits, driving everywhere. He has selflessly volunteered to help the team as well.
  It's been a good season for cyclocross this year. For next year, I plan to smooth out the inconsistencies and ride like a kid again: Just having fun.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


   Many of my non-cycling friends and family have asked me lately about my thoughts on Lance Armstrong's doping.
   And my thoughts have always been a bit complicated until this week.
   Until Armstrong decided to "confess" on Oprah. Seriously? Oprah?
   If Armstrong really wanted to come clean, he'd talk to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, not Oprah. That decision to me is pathetic. His performance there is predictable: Some tears, some admission, some link to LiveStrong.
   Prior to the Oprah decision, I had conflicted feelings about Armstrong. He was a doper who was still a heck of an athlete and who trained hard. And the people he beat also doped. All true.
   The whole culture of doping leaves me empty. I'm giving away all the DVDs and videos from Tour de France and classic races in the 1990s and 2000s I used to watch while on the trainer in the basement.
   I'm sickened by the generation of riders who made their fortune while doping while other riders, perhaps equally naturally talented, went without the big contracts.
   The beautiful sport of riding our bikes has been blackened by doping, by the win at all costs attitude exemplified by Armstrong and his teams.
   The sport will not get any redemption by Armstrong spilling his guts after lying to us for years on Oprah. Armstrong has proved to be vindictive, arrogant, and almost soul-less in his treatment of anyone who got in his way.
   With the Oprah announcement, he's become a cartoon character to me. And this was a man whose posters I had on the wall in my classroom as an example of determination and hard work.
   Determination and hardwork, my ass.
   The only way Armstrong could gain any sense of redemption is to talk with USADA, admit everything, detail everything about how he was able to evade the tests, and then honestly and deeply apologize to all those who he ran over with the "Lance is God" bus.
   And that will not happen on Oprah with any chance of honesty, with any chance of righting the myriad of wrongs he has caused.
   I don't know whether I can stomach watching the fiasco. I doubt it. I'd hate to vomit if Armstrong starts to tear up.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cyclocross Ice Skating Nationals?

   Steve Tilford, who won the 50-54 masters title after crashing nearly as much as I did, expressed his concern about the course for Sunday for the elite riders.
   Today's course at Badger Prairie was mostly mud on top of some ice. With temperatures forecasted for the 40s tomorrow, the course should thaw out even more, making the course even muddier than now.
   But the rub is that the temperatures are forecasted to drop precipitously Saturday night into the single digits. That means the mud will freeze into wicked ruts. The whole course will be either a skating rink or a frozen ruts.
   I've heard stories about the Kansas City nationals a few years ago when the women raced on frozen ruts. The downhill at BP will get downright dangerous. I understand the course is going to be rolled out tonight and probably tomorrow.
   That may help, but I'd really hate to see our elite racers crash and get hurt on Sunday before worlds. I'm not sure what can be done at this point. It's a worrisome situation.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Epic Cyclocross Nationals race

   Today I fought gravity, and gravity won.
   I raced the 50-54 cyclocross nationals today in Verona at Badger Prairie Park. The course, which I've always hated, was muddy, icy, snowy, and wet. Twenty inches of snow had been plowed from the course, and what was left was starting to thaw.
   When I got to the course, Hans Haupt told me to go ride while the course was open. I couldn't believe how much fun I had. I had already been stoked to race in the snow and mud, but I was actually having fun on this course.
   I did two laps, careening wildly and mostly out of control down the hills. Brakes be damned. It was a hoot.
   I had hired a professional mechanic, Mike Teff, so while I warmed up, he washed and tweaked my bike. I started in the third row, wearing, of course, nothing on my legs except my wife inc embro! I felt great at the start, excited, laughing at myself for the insanity of wanting to race in these conditions.
   There was a tough crash right away in the race. Two guys hit the pavement hard, and I barely got around them. Missing that crash, though, caused me to slam the brakes and end up at the back of the field.
   My legs felt awesome, and I moved safely through the carnage of the first lap, and by the end of the lap, I was well within the top 20, close to top 15 or better.
   That's when the earth's gravity increased.
   I crashed hard on the greasy downhill, doing an endo that got clapping and cheers for my style points. I even crashed uphill in the loose snow.
   I was still having fun, but the crashes were taking some fun out of it.
   Then I crashed hard on two separate corners in two middle laps. The course had started to freeze in places where it had just been muddy, and lines I took safely and quickly now landed me on the ground.
   How ironic that last year, we got pulled after two laps if you were outside the top 20. Today, I did all five laps and finished over an hour for a 45 minute race. By the last two laps, I was ready to be pulled! I couldn't feel my hands any more since my gloves had been soaked with mud. It also started to rain!
   So I finished. The last race of my season finished with extra gravity. It's been a very up and down year, pun intended, with some great results (five different top 5s, two podiums). I've been mostly happy with how much progress I made this year, thanks to Brian Matter, my coach at Momentum Endurance.
   My body will be a lovely shade of purple tomorrow. I already have a lot of hematomas forming on my knees and hips. Even my skin suit has a hole in it!
  The washing machine just finished the load of laundry with a double rinse. Dinner is done. No way am I doing the dishes tonight. Time to sleep.