Pictures of camping and stuff

The last two weeks have been great. After North Star I got sick, took a week of rest, then went to Steamboat to camp, hike, and ride with Adelaide. My brother Galen and his girlfriend Joslynn moved to Boulder that weekend as well, and we’ll be moving into a new apartment with them in mid July. Meanwhile, they’re sleeping in the living room. I did a bunch of great training last week then we all went up to the Estes Park area for climbing, hiking, and more camping.

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Adelaide and I before a hike in Steamboat.

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Strawberry hot springs.

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Bike to work day spoils.

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Galen cooking dinner up in Highway 7 near Estes Park.

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Adelaide and I getting to camp after riding up from Boulder, eager for that dinner.

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Galen warming up on the first boulder the next day.

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Jos climbing. Galen spotting.

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Galen resting while attempting a V9.

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Flower.

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Adelaide and I did an even longer hike than the previous week. I got tired and grumpy after twisting my ankle and had to be fed apples and nuts like a 5-year-old.

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Dinner that night was the best in a long time. Beans, rice, avocado, lettuce, salsa, peppers, mango, cilantro, and chips.

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Jos making easy work of a 5.10.

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Adelaide being proud.

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Adelaide belaying with Joslynn shouting directions to me (climbing).

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Last but not least, I just got a job at Amante!

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I used to wonder why so many guys would quit the sport after a season of making it onto a pro team. This would inevitably happen after getting booted from that team back to the amateur ranks. I would think, “Why give it all up? You’ve obviously got what it takes to reach that level so why not continue and get back there? You’re throwing it all away!” I thought it was a shame when my friends would drop out of the sport like this.

But now I understand why. Year after year we have this goal in our mind: to be a professional and get paid to ride our bikes. And when that goal is attained, if you’re lucky, talented, hard working, and smart enough to get there, you feel like you’ve finally made it. Your life mission has been accomplished and all your struggles were suddenly made worthwhile. Of course this isn’t true at all. The sport (and life in general) is only worthwhile if you’re enjoying the moment, not some pie in the sky end goal. And I knew that, but still the deep down thing I wanted and thought I needed was to earn a pro contract in order to validate all the years and miles.

When I signed with Firefighters Upsala CK after 8 years of dreaming about this single goal, I felt like my cycling career had been a success. Now I could focus on the next goal, which was…well I guess still really the same: train hard and try to win races. But at least I had accomplished part of my dream. It was a milestone, something concrete I could look at and say, “I accomplished this. And damn does it feel good!”

That feeling of elation and satisfaction that I had last November quickly began to crumble as the fall suddenly slammed into the back of winter. This team, with the supposed multi-million dollar budget, didn’t quite have everything in line like they said it did. In fact, as the racing season approached and bikes went undelivered, salaries went unpaid, and team training camps were cancelled without the slightest bit of communication from the management, a doubt grew within me and I took my first unveiled glance up at the impending shit storm. As I stared up into the sky wondering what was raining down upon me, I was still so much in awe of being on a “pro” team that my gaping mouth quickly filled with excrement without me even realizing it.

After swallowing more than my fair share of said bullshit by mid April, Adelaide bailed me out of the hole I was living in, which was possibly the only disheveled place in all of Sweden. She bought me a ticket home in an attempt to save my mental and physical health and salvage the rest of my season. Luckily Team Horizon Organic/Einstein Bagels stepped in and offered me a spot to guest ride at some later season races in order to fill in for a couple of their injured riders. If it weren’t for those two things happening—Adelaide getting me home and Horizon giving me a chance to race—I would have quit the sport.

I was on the edge. I was so depressed, crushed, and let down from being ignored and lied to over and over again that I didn’t feel like continuing. Everyone has moments like these, though for me they’re never that serious. It was the first real time I’ve contemplated moving on and never looking back. To give up a dream I’ve had for almost a third of my life would have been devastating. Cycling was almost ruined for me, my way of life almost snubbed out. There are others on the team who will almost certainly quit at the end of the year.

I’ll have to give up bike racing someday, or at least be less downsize the amount of time and energy I invest in it, but I want that day to come on my own terms. I want to say when to stop. I hope that all future team owners, managers, sponsors, and anyone up at the top realizes that this is not just a hobby or a game to play for their temporary entertainment. This is our livelihood. More than that, it’s what we wake up for in the morning and what we dream about as we go to sleep at night. I’m all for someone having big ambitions. We need them in the sport because they’re just like us riders: full of self-confidence and certainly a bit delusional, otherwise they’d never take the chance. But please, be honest about it during the process. Truthful communication, and a lot of it, will go farther than the biggest team budget or best equipment sponsor.

I decided to leave the team last week.

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And now it’s back to square one.

(Not really)

North Star Grand Prix Stages 4-6

As social animals, we’re hard-wired to take pride in group efforts. While personal results are what many of us strive for in cycling and life in general, it’s always heart warming to be part of a team effort, especially when it ends in a huge success.

Stage 4 Friday:

The Uptown Minneapolis crit was packed with spectators. It’s usually the rowdiest event I compete in and this year was no different, with somewhere between 30,000 and 300,000,000 people in attendance. A bad crash in the women’s race delayed our start to 8:20 PM and also shortened the race from 40 to 35 laps. I expected a dark finish.

I got off to a perfect start with a line up at the very back, which meant I had no chance of getting in the early breakaway that won. Wait. That’s the exact opposite of a perfect start. Man I’m so dumb sometimes!

The rest of my race unfolded as follows:

1) I slowly made my way to like 60th wheel 20 minutes in.

2) Got stuck behind a large crash and went to the pit.

3) Did four or five more laps before I jammed my brakes on again in corner three to avoid another pile up. Went to the pit and in the process jumped ahead 20 spots from where I’d been before the crash. I hate it when people do this when those people aren’t myself.

4) Karma came back to get me a couple laps later. I managed to keep upright again through the second to last corner when the guy in front of me rolled his tubular. I thought the danger was over as I clipped back in and slowly started rolling forward, but someone came from behind and crashed into me, bending my derailleur hanger. I went to the pit for the third time that night.

5) I finished 8 or 9 laps later in 38th place with the same time as the main group. Got to bed well after midnight once Nick, our host Chad, and I were done doing bike repairs. Faith made sure we had plenty of burritos for the van ride home.

Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant) won.

Stage 5 Saturday:

As the second and last road stage, I intended on making my mark on the race today whether it liked it or not. Of course I failed and was pretty much just pack foder. The course was 100 miles with some steep but short climbs. I had good intel that the break would go away early (as did everyone else), so I made sure to attack early and often in the opening miles (as did everyone else). The goal the team had set out for ourselves was to get in the move and scoop up the KOM points, since there were 30 on offer today and whoever won the majority of them today would likely win the overall by the end of the week.

I followed the first move that went. I don’t remember how many I went with afterwards, but my normalized power for the first 40 minutes of the race was 370 and the max was 1,568, which is a lot for me since I’m a pretty lousy sprinter. The entire team covered move after move and attacked non stop. We had a guy in every attempt for the first 30K until Fabio ended up finding the successful one. He would go on to take all the remaining KOM points, the KOM jersey, and second place on the stage behind Tom Devriendt (3M) since the breakaway held off the field by a half minute.

The rest of us back in the peloton helped each other stay close to the front and Mac grabbed plenty of bottles from the car to disperse among us. After that first hour of attacks, the middle two-thirds of the race were tame and boring, though I was definitely feeling it in my legs. I thought I came here in good shape, but I was currently learning the hard way that by June, there’s no substitute for race days, of which I’ve had few this year.

As we entered the final hour and a half of racing, the clouds opened up. The rain was heavy and cold and I immediately began shivering. Everyone’s moral took a turn for the worse and we talked about how they might (hopefully) cancel the finishing circuits. I knew they wouldn’t. We all did.

I quickly ate the rest of my food to help stave off the cold, but within 20 minutes I was shivering uncontrollably. The rolling hills approaching the finishing circuits shed more riders and finally a couple guys crashed at the bottom of a hill. It was incredibly hard to see with the dark skies and thick wheel spray, but I kept my sunglasses on since it was impossible to see anything without them. There were still 20 miles left to race.

I was way too far back by the time we entered the technical finishing circuits, and was on the verge of giving up and letting the gaps go unclosed once I’d completed the first of four, 2-mile laps.

Each lap had 19 corners, I could hardly see from all the wheel spray, my brakes were barely functional, my legs completely and utterly zapped of strength, and my motivation for a stage placing was gone since the breakaway was going to stick. But everyone was in the same shitty situation as I. We were all cold and tired and didn’t want to crash on the slick pavement as the rain continued pissing down. I decided to harden up a bit on lap two and did everything in my power to stay in contact, including some risky chops that I later realized weren’t worth taking.

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Wet corners and chilled bones. Photo: Velonews

Sprinting out of those corners the final two laps and closing down gaps to finish 55th was, at the very least, character building. I was the last rider to come across the line with the same time as the main group. Looking at my power back home after the race showed that I am indeed not as strong as I thought, and the last 30 minutes of racing weren’t even that hard. Hard being a completely subjective term.

We were all ecstatic to hear that Fabio was in the KOM jersey and took 2nd on the stage. Faith and Nick rewarded us with a round of hot chocolates before the long drive home.

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Photos: Velonews

Sunday Stage 6:

At 26th on GC and not currently enjoying great form for such a demanding crit, I knew my personal race was going to take a backseat to Fabio’s and Chris’. Stillwater is 23 laps (which is also roughly the average gradient of the first part of the climb) and 70 minutes of pure anaerobic blood lust. If you want to see pain, there are few places better than standing near the top of Chilkooht hill. The crowd was big, loud, ambitiously drunk, and ready to see some grown men crack! (Not to be confused with grown mens’ cracks).

Our primary goal was to keep Fabio’s KOM jersey. All that we needed to do was make sure neither the 2nd nor 3rd placed KOM guy won all the sprints. Also, if Fabio scored just four points, he would seal it up. The easiest and quickest way to get the jersey was to have a break up the road early on that soaked up the first KOM sprint points.

Our secondary goal was to position Chris for the final lap so that he could take a shot at the win the last time up the climb. He’s been top 10 and top 5 there for five or six years now, so we knew the finish was good for him. Normally this sort of finish and race would be great for me as well, but I knew that I was lacking the form needed for this sort of effort, and even lasting to the finish with the lead group of 20 guys would be a tall task for me.

The race started with a searing effort from the base of the climb. Like all the other crits, I was near the back for the start but today wasted little time moving up into position. By the third lap I was where I needed to be, and attacked near the top of the climb. I made contact with the lone leader (Team 3M) a lap later at the base of the climb and we powered up it under a thunder of cheers and screams. At the top of the course we were bridged to by Ben Jaques-Maynes (Jamis) and one other guy. The 3M guy let a gap open to them a minute afterwards on the descent and I didn’t have the legs to close it. I cursed at him, we sat up, and the pack consumed us shortly afterwards. I was completely gassed by the effort and got shelled two laps later. I pulled out of the race after coasting for a lap and spent the rest of the hour in the parking lot sitting in a chair by myself, incredibly depressed but somewhat content to have done something of at least a little value for the team to help retain the KOM jersey.

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Travis McCabe (Smart Stop) won the stage and Ryan Anderson (Optum) took the overall. Photo: Velonews.

Fabio kept the jersey and ended up 12th on GC, Chris was 5th on the stage, Mac had a great ride for 31st, surprising himself but not the rest of us, and Emerson stuck in to the bitter end. Kit, who’s eye had swelled shut the previous night from either a scratch or bacterial infection, held in as long as he could and made sure to squirt eye juice at anyone who got in his way. We also finished 4th out of 24 squads in the team classification, which doesn’t earn money or bragging rights per-say, but shows depth. This week was a huge success for the team and I’m looking forward to the next race I get to do with them.

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Fabio in the Sports Beans King of the Hills Jersey on the final podium with the rest of the jersey winners.

As for my own North Star GP, I was pretty let down. Last year I was one of the strongest in the race (until I got sick and DNFed, LOL!). This year I was only “okay.” It might take me the rest of the season to get back to where I was in 2013, or I might not get back there until next year. Who knows. The stress of being a part of the fiasco that is Firefighters “pro” Cycling, the lack of racing, the lack of knowing my future, and just the constant let down and battle with the management has destroyed my legs and my season to date. There will be more news about this in the next few days.

To end things on a high note, I’m back in Boulder, it’s sunny and warm out, I’m eager to go train, and I’m sick! Oh wait, that’s not a high note! Silly Kennett!

North Star Grand Prix Stages 1-3

I’m racing with Horizon Organic/Einstein Bagels here at the North Star Grand Prix, formerly known as that race where you can make off with 1 billion Nature Valley bars. I forget what the name used to be.

Racing this weekend:
Fabio Calabria
Chris Winn
Kit Recca
Mac Cassin
Emerson Oronte
Me

Staff:
Nick Traggis
Faith Clauson

Wednesday: Stages 1 and 2. It all has to start with a damn time trial for some reason. Why? WHY??? For the love of humanity why does it always start with a time trial?!?! At least it was short and we were on road bikes. I was 42nd, which was two places worse than last year and like 32 places worse than I’d hoped for. I chalk that up to me not being fast enough. Mac had the best result for the team with 15th, and just four seconds shy of the best amateur jersey. So close yet…so close.

Tom Zirbel (Optum) won (by a lot). And no one was surprised.

The second stage of the day is the dreaded downtown St. Paul crit. It’s dreaded because there are generally quite a few crashes and it’s lined with Rastafarian spectators (get it?). Personally I didn’t have any close calls, mainly cause I rode like a wimp, took the corners like a bulldozer (wide and slow) and never factored into the race. I did a terrific job chopping 300 cars on the highway during the drive to the race when I snuck up the exit lane and cut back into the long line of stopped cars to the left (that was an accident by the way). But that was the extent of my nastiness for the evening. And crits are all about being nasty and chopping the shit out of your close friends competition.

I got a solid warm up on the trainer while watching the women’s field crash, I mean race, through corner Two. Every other lap had a pile up. It was great for my nerves.

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Photo: Velonews

It took me half an hour to move up from near the back where I’d lined up and into 30th position with Chris and Fabio. I lasted there until seven or eight laps to go and drifted backwards again to finish 48th, thankfully without a time gap. None of us crashed but Kit did flat with two to go and was docked some serious time. My crit skills are lacking from lack of crit racing, and my top end is still lagging quite a bit. I’m happy with how my form has come along since coming home but I’m continuing to see that I still have a ways to go, which is frustrating. Usually I’m at my peak this time of year.

Ian Crane (Jamis) won! He’s on fire this year.

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Photo: Velonews

Faith brought us Chipotle afterwards and we sat in the dark parking lot and argued about who’s burrito was who’s. I quickly ate mine and hoped that someone might not want theirs and give it to me. I was not in luck.

Thursday: Stage 3. The Cannon Falls road race goes one of two ways: it’s cancelled because of T-storms or tornadoes, or it’s not cancelled and is one of the best races of the year. This year was the latter. It was “off of the hook,” as the kids say. While a flatter rolling course doesn’t typically cause much drama, last year’s race, as well as this year’s, had some major action right from the start.

With a complete course change from last year, the dirt section began at mile 4. It was false flat downhill and thankfully there was a freshly laid, thick and loose layer of gravel. Eric Marcotte of SmartStop drilled it at the front, which caused mayhem behind. I was close enough to the front to avoid the crashes, but behind guys were dropping like it’s hot. Thick dust made it hard to see and huge chunks of gravel barraged bikes, shins, and faces. I got all drifty numerous times but kept upright just fine and dandy. I countered an attack by Emerson once we got onto the pavement and right then the officials neutralized the race, which pissed off all of us in the front and caused joyous celebration for those behind.

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Marcotte in the gravel. Photo: Velonews

Crashes and flats had caused a large split in the field, with only 50-60 making it through unscathed. After 10 minutes of being stopped in the middle of the road, we began again.

Steve Fisher (Jelly Belly) smartly slipped off the front a mile from the first KOM and got full points. I had my eye on the jersey so I was kicking myself for not attempting the same maneuver. I jumped across to an attack at the top and rotated through a few times before we were caught. That was the first taste of the cross winds for the day and it was obvious that the race was going to be heavily influenced by wind. I attacked again a short while later when things calmed down but I went nowhere. I followed another four or five moves in the course of the next several miles, hoping and praying to get away without too much effort. It was not to be, so I decided to wait until the next KOM to make another attempt. I didn’t have to wait long, as it was coming up in just two short miles.

My positioning going into the ‘climb’ wasn’t great and I had to come from way back out in the wind to latch onto the move as five guys attacked part way up the climb. Steve was there again and I realized I wasn’t going to be able to sprint for any points with 250 meters to go. I’d used up too much to just be there and was quickly dying. Three of the guys vied for the points while me and another guy got dropped, though we powered along and made contact a few hundred meters later.

The wind at the top was strong and blowing fiercely from the right. We worked together and our group turned into an echelon as guys behind began bridging up. Within a few minutes it swelled to 15 riders. Things behind were chaotic as the field blew up in the wind.

I fell out of the rotation and was guttered for a few minutes, wishing I’d stayed up front and somewhat protected from the wind. I decided to move up and came around Marcotte just as he crashed hard in front of me. If I’d stayed on his wheel for a quarter second longer there’s no way I wouldn’t have gone down. I got back into the rotation.

By now I’d been in and out of the red for quite some time, and the front group of 40 was getting too big to find shelter from the crosswinds unless you were up front, which I no longer was. I’d been guttered off and on and had to close gaps, so my legs were building with more and more acid. I was on my limit and all it took was a few more sprints in the gutter to dislodge me from the front. By then the group was blowing up everywhere. 20 or so guys formed the front echelon, while a few smaller groups chased. Myself, Luis Lemus (Jelly Belly) and Benny Swedberg (Cal Giant) rotated for a few minutes and were soon reinforced.

With a large number of riders coming up from behind, we eventually caught the leaders 15 minutes later. I wasted no time, taking advantage of the momentary lull, and attacked with three others, once again including Steve. It only lasted for a mile or so and I wasn’t a huge help since my legs were already trashed from chasing and my pulls were weak.

The group was back up to 70 or more riders at this point and I continued following moves off the front until the first feed zone at mile 39 ( yes all this took place in the first 39 miles). I noticed the wind was strong from the left as we went up the short but exposed climb and I had a hunch that whoever was at the front might be dickish enough to attack in the feed zone. I started to move up as we climbed and decided I didn’t need water after all, but it wasn’t in time. Sure enough, Optum attacked and the race blew apart once again with Jamis’ help (I would have done the same had I been up there I guess). The race situation was now 14 off the front including many of the GC contenders and the strongest guys, a group of 8 chasing, my group of 30, and 90 guys behind in various groups. We caught the group of 8 and continued drilling it for miles afterwards, keeping the gap to the leaders at one minute for well over an hour but never getting closer than 55 seconds.

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Race blowing up in the wind. Photo: Velonews.

Fabio and Emerson were with me in that large chase group and Emerson did way more than his fair share of work. The Belgian 3M squad kept the momentum high with five of their guys all angrily pulling, as well as guttering at times. I pulled off and on, doing more work than I needed to but less than Emerson. I was on the verge of telling him to ease up and save himself but decided to keep my mouth shut since it was actually safer to be near the front and in the rotation since even our chase group would attack itself when the wind really picked up. When the gap went up to 1:35 I stopped pulling altogether, figuring that guys would begin attacking out of frustration and split the group.

It didn’t take long. I made it over the roller that spurred that attack and I went cross eyed, suffering in the gutter for the millionth time that day before a series of corners lead us to the first head wind of the stage. Everything else had been cross wind or cross tail. Peace at last! Our group was down to 25 by then and  I just sat on for the most part. The gap was over 2 minutes now and the chance of catching the leaders in the final 20 miles was slim. I’d done enough work and attacking anyways.

Fabio was my last teammate in the group and he took 3rd in our group’s sad sprint, which was for 16th place. I came in 22nd after 97 miles of balls to the wall racing. No one from our team crashed and everyone made the time cut. It was a very hard day. That’s all I have to say about that.

Ryan Anderson won and took the leader’s jersey. He was my pre-race pick for the overall so I’m feeling pretty smart about that prediction.

We ate burritos during the car ride home. I have to say that Faith’s cooking and Nick’s and our team’s general stage race preparedness is pretty fantastic. Tonight we have another crit. Tomorrow a road race. And Sunday a circuit race.

Just got in shape

It was Monday. I was pacing Adelaide from behind (um..) during a brutal set of 4×20 minute intervals and I had Simon & Garfunkel’s The Only Living Boy In New York stuck in my head for hours, only I’d replaced the words with ‘The only US Pro in Boulder.’

Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where and we don’t know where.

This wasn’t one of those times, Simon. And I can easily tell you where I wasn’t: Chattanooga, TN for the US Pro national championships. And I won’t be at the Parx Casino Philly Classic, Tour de Saguenay, or Tour de Beauce either–the biggest month of racing of the year and our team is missing it all for no good reason. To add to the embarrassment and disappointment, our names are even on the start lists. Classic being listed as DNF when you’re sitting at home throttling pillows and cursing violently into an empty room. Depression, LOL.

My legs have decided to come around at last. My mind and body are strong once again. But instead of vying for the stars and stripes, which I’ve been dreaming about pretty much every single damn day since September, I was stuck in crummy old smelly old, stupid old Boulder, riding the high mountains with friends by day and eating at barbecues by night. It was an alright time I guess. Actually, last weekend was one of the best I’ve had in quite some time. While watching the US pro championships on the computer wasn’t the way I hoped I’d experience it, I was in a good place nonetheless. I had bigger fish to fry anyways. Well, not really. But I did have training rides to crush!

Since all I’ve been doing is training, that’s what I’ll write about today. But first I have some good news and some bad news. I’ll start with the good news: the good news is there’s no bad news. Now, onto the matter at hand:

Let’s see, where did we leave things after my last blog post? Ah yes, on one of the many cliff hangers of my life’s story. It was mid-week, I’d just come off a successful Superior Morgul, and I was on the verge of finally feeling normal and good on the bike again. I smartly rested Wednesday after my day of manual labor. My hamstrings were the worst off in terms of damaged body parts, likely from doing physically exerting things that didn’t require pedaling.

Thursday was my breakthrough, the day I’d been waiting and praying for since I got back to Boulder in April. I went out for a set of VO2 intervals and wheezed and whimpered out my second best set ever. A huge relief. I ran into Matt Cooke as I descended Old Stage after the last interval and soon, instead of tapping out a few extra hours of easy tempo and zone 2, I found myself glued to his wheel heading up Linden, staring intently at his rear hub while he did an effort to open up for Nationals. Five minutes at his pace was all I could take, then blew sky high.

It was a week full of riding buddies. After cruising a bit more with Matt I met up with Stephen H and Nick T for more climbing on Sunshine and Flag. All this human interaction! And there was even more to come. If only I liked humans.

Adelaide and I had a friend, Travis Furman, staying with us for the weekend. We’d met in Tucson this winter and he also happens to be the teammate of a certain Mike-L SencenBoss. Travis drove out from Oklabraska or somewhere flat and boring filled with corn, so I was excited to blow his mind with some mountains. He, me, Adelaide, and a group of Horizon Organic thugs including Ross and Jackson’s roommate, set off the next morning from Spruce Confessions, a Catholic-themed coffee shop that paints sinful images in your latte foam to scare you into repentance.

We climbed, flatted a tire, climbed Deer Trail at the top of Lee Hill, descended, and flatted another tire. I ended up riding mostly by myself that day because I can’t stand riding with a bunch of people who keep getting flat tires, even though it was me who got the flat. I ventured to the end of Flagstaff, searching for the secret, magical road that leads to Magnolia. I never found it, or if I did I wasn’t sure I was on it, so I backtracked and did the Gross reservoir to Coal Creek route instead. That night we had two barbecues to hit, so getting home at a reasonable hour was necessary. I would be drunk when the first sip of beer hit my lips.

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Image taken without permission from Travis’ blog.

Sunday. We met Jackson, Nick, Fabio, and Nate at the other Spruce Confections downtown. Adelaide split off to get a head start up Flagstaff as we waited 13 hours for Kit to show up, then we went up Flagstaff, Gross Reservoir, Gap road, Golden Gate park, Peak to Peak, Nederland, down Canyon, then up Sunshine. The weather held, as did our legs, for the most part. A brief moment of torrential rain sent us scrambling off the road for the shelter of the trees, but aside from that the day was incredibly pleasant. Lots of elevation, the lovely smell of pines, dirt roads, and very few cars. It’s my absolute favorite loop to do and the riding buddies proved to be good enough company as well.

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The route.

Monday. I rode “easy” with Adelaide as it was designated a rest day and I’d accumulated 26.5 hours of hard miles the previous week. But since she was doing 20 minute intervals, with me as a reversed motor pacer (sitting on her wheel yelling at her), it might have been a bit too much to consider it rest. I had to earn my burgers at the Creek Festival afterwards though. And I don’t mean earning the calories, I mean earning Adelaide’s time to come with me and get extra samples for me. There are granola bars, yogurt, sparkling juices, chocolate and other flavored “protein” milk drinks, etc, but the Morning Star stand is the best and most important sample stand to hit. And we hit it HARD. They give you 3/4ths of a burger each time you go through, and since they’re all gluten-high and Adelaide is gluten-free, I get all her burgers. We went through twice each, with me coming away with three full garden burgers. Day=success. Week=success. Life=Success. I would have opted for a third time through but we had another barbecue to attend later that evening and I’m trying to drop 1 or 40 kilos.

Tuesday. More VO2 intervals with climbing afterwards. Travis took off for home, dreaming of moving to Boulder and living the good life for the rest of his days like the rest of us here.

Wednesday. I finally cracked. I set off to do 6×1 minute intervals but ended up cruising around town at 100 watts instead. It was warm and sunny and felt like summer. I’m still jobless so appreciating “nothing” days is high up on my priorities. Adelaide and I met up that afternoon to cruise around town on the bikes, stroll through the farmers market, and read on a bench in the sun.

Thursday. I resisted the Siren of Jackson, who’d tempted me in riding BIG instead of resting like I was supposed to. I stifled the urge and told Jackson to shove his luring songs of big rides where the sun don’t shine. I needed recovery! Instead, I rode with Rhae and sat on while she did intervals. I seem to be doing a lot of “resting” while sitting on the wheels of people doing intervals. I believe this gives me the fruits of their labor without the unpleasant damage to my own legs.

That finally brings us to today. More VO2. Gotta get up to speed again for the crits this weekend. More accurately, ‘gotta get worn down and tired for the crits this weekend.’ I kid. I’ve got bigger fish to fry. This time for real. I’m heading to North Star, formerly Nature Valley Grand Prix, with Horizon in two weeks. I have very high hopes. And I do believe the shit we’ll kick out of the other bike racers will be stained with blood and drenched in their tears. Too much? Never.

Superior Morgul 2014

Bear with me” because this is going to be a long post.

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Okay, now that I’ve spent the better part of the day doing THAT, let’s continue.

I guest rode for Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros last weekend and first thing’s first, THANK YOU! I had an absolute blast racing for you guys.

Teammates:
Chris Winn
Jake Duering
Brad Bingham
Jackson “Old Man” Long
Fabio Calabria
Mac “Charles” Cassin
Emerson Oronte
Kit Recca

Staff:
Nick Traggis (Manager)
Clayton Feldman (Broken rider from Gila crash)
Josh Yeaton (Broken rider from Gila crash)
Brad Bingham (Likes crits but not hilly road races)
Charlie Suthard (Sougnier)
Brent Apgar of Sync Chiropractic

I’m getting off to a late start on this post not due to idleness, but because last week while racing I realized two things: A) I’m beyond broke and 2) I’m weak. Weak like a broken dandelion in a garden, dangling its currently wilting, but once brightly colored, flowery head in shame.

To compensate for #1, I picked up a landscaping job yesterday. It was in Longmont, which is a LONG way from Boulder. The ride up there and back, as well as the almost 9 hours of landscaping with my shirt off getting a nice deep red sun tan, proved to be too much. It was supposed to be a recovery day after all. I’ve hence forth decided that if I’m going to continue being a serious bike racer, manual labor has to wait. For those who manage to do both, wow.

To compensate for #B, I rode for a little over 5 hours in them thar mountains the day after Superior Mogul. This also helps explain why I’m so currently wrecked after yesterday’s weed-picking, mulch-hauling, hedge-trimming, and rock carrying day of real man work. And real lady work, too. (One of my fellow laborers yesterday was a lady. We should stop describing human beings’ worth based on gender.)

Which brings me to:

Friday’s stage One time trial…I rode like a bitch man. I thought I was putting in a good effort at first as I rocketed downMarshall Rd. at 45 miles an hour, smashing my 56×11 to oblivion. Then I took a right turn like a rusty old kaboose onto Cherryvale Rd. and lost like two minutes in that one corner alone. No matter! There was only one more corner (two total for the race) and I currently had a nice little hill in front of me to tear to bits. I crested it and got as aero as I could for the next couple miles of false flat downhill.

The 18-ish-minute race ended with a climb up South Boulder road, which gets fairly steep at the top, and I went deep into anaerobic hell for the last couple hundred meters, which took five or 10 minutes. As I came to a stop at the top and lurched over my bars in gasping, ragged breaths, I figured I’d finished in the top 3…at worst. Probably 2nd. I doubted I was 1st since I’d lost sight of Jim Peterman of Rio, who’d been my 40 second man. This was all based on feel, since I had no power data or time based off anyone else to gauge myself.

I ended up 12th, completely and utterly spiritually, mentally, and reason-for-living crushed. I’d set my hopes so high that 12th, which wasn’t terrible, seemed like a death sentence. I’d rather have been kicked in the nuts 920 times by a peg-legged pirate than get 12th. Not only was I pissed about probably losing any chance at winning the overall, but what did this mean for Nationals? What does it mean???

As I rode home with Adelaide, I began to realize that miracles don’t often come true. Three weeks of training after being sick for 5 weeks isn’t enough to reach peak form. That made me feel a bit better. But not a lot better. I began doubting my chances at Chatanooga, which was just 10 days away at that point.

Stage Two Criterium

Pre race meeting in the parking lot:

Nick: “I want you guys to make the race hard, but most importantly we’re working to get Fabio prime points and set him up for a stage win and the leader’s jersey.”

This is what I and many of the other guys heard:

Nick: “I want you guys to make the race hard aksdfl ajsdlkfhasl dhfk jashdfjkhsdkjf hjdhdjhfj dhfjdhj dhasld kaop KILL CRUSH SMASH CURB STOMP ALL THOSE WHO OPPOSE wmeamw alskdufoieanlka l aksdl.”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. We all knew the plan was to set Fabio up for the GC. He was 8th in the TT and had a good chance at placing well in the next two stages, so supporting him was definitely our top priority. But HOW we went about doing that didn’t go quite to plan. Instead of being calculating and methodical on which breaks went away and how we controlled the field, we basically just just went ape shit.

I got things going with an all-out first lap attack from the gun since the first omnium sprint points were on Lap Two, and Fabio suggested I just go hard right out of the gate. I gave it everything for a full lap, then peeled off to let Jake take over on the second lap. He took Fabio through for full points.

From there it’s hard for me to remember what exactly happened because I was pretty much in the red for the next 60 minutes. It’s a hard course with a hill and some technical corners, which makes things difficult wherever you are in the field. I’d gone way too hard on that first lap for where my fitness was/is, and was paying dearly for it. Last year I did the same thing (went balls deep on Lap One), but I recovered in like 2 seconds and went balls deep again for Lap Two. I pretty much did that until I got away in a three-man breakaway that won. This year was different. Not only was my normalized power 30 watts lower, but I suffered more this year than last as well.

Jake was riding very strongly, as was Brad, Mac, and Kit. I felt outgunned but did what I could.

We attacked throughout the race with multiple guys up the road in almost every move. At one point it was just Kit and Chris off on their own. Emerson and I sat on a bridge attempt but when our group made contact, the field was right behind. I went hard for half a lap to re-launch Kit, who spent another few laps off by himself.

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Photo: Dean Warren

Nearing the bell lap, Emerson rocketed out of the field with two to go while Chris looked after Fabio near the front. With one to go it looked like Emerson might stick it, and he would. Meanwhile, I made one last effort to get to the front and take Chris and Fabio to the line. Unfortunately someone pushed Fabio towards the fence in the last corner, which caused a nasty crash behind him and separated him and Chris from my wheel. Luckily I looked behind with 300 meters to go and saw that they weren’t on me, so I sat up instead of giving Colt Peterson of Rio the perfect lead out. Emerson won solo and Fabio finished 4th. With the omnium sprint points and his stage placing, Fabio would don the leader’s jersey for the final road race stage on Sunday. Exciting times!

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Photo: Kathryn Winn

I went back to Nick’s for an excellent massage, dry needling, neck- and spine-cracking experience with team sponsor Brent Apgar of Sync Chiropractic.

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Photo: Nick Traggis

The needles are in my lower back and the controls on the ‘lectricity are in my hands. The highest I could stand was level 3. I went to level 4 once just to see if I could and I think I pooed myself just a little. (I feel like everyone has seen this exact set of photos like nine times by now if you’ve read any of the Horizon blogs. It’s a consequence of being late on a race report. But thank you to everyone out there photographing this weekend. Many more awesome pictures can be found here at Dejan’s site Sportif Images).

Stage 3 Road Race:

Today marked the first time I had coffee in like three weeks. Regular coffee that is. I’d unknowingly been drinking decaf, had suffered poor quality sleep, blamed it on the coffee, so decided to stop drinking it until the race. Hashtag placebo effect.

Anyways, after two REAL cups of coffee Sunday morning, I was jacked and ready to go. My job for the day: set tempo and keep things in line for Fabio to take the stage and the overall. I was content with this. Very content, since I always relish a chance to ride hard on the front.

Lap one (or two?): Kit got away in the breakaway. He sat on since we had the jersey, making the race situation perfect for us. If they stuck it, Kit won the stage and the breakaway sucked up many of the stage placing points, increasing the chances of Fabio retaining the overall lead. If we brought it back by setting tempo all day, then hopefully Fabio could win the uphill sprint on the Wall. Jackson, Jake, and I went about keeping the break’s gap in check for the next couple laps. I felt good, and kept telling Emerson to chill out when he wanted to come take pulls. The finish suited him well and I wanted him as fresh on that last lap as possible. Chris and Fabio didn’t have much to do for those first four laps except enjoy the view of my ass.

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Photo: Andrijan Smaic

By lap five we realized we should have just let the breakaway roll away since Kit would have likely won the stage and also taken the overall; he was the virtual leader on the road. We didn’t quite figure this out until it was too late. By now, the break was disintegrating and their gap was too low to hold off the chase. We got off the front and let Rio do the work, but at this point we’d blown it.

By the final and sixth lap when the break was caught, attacks started flying fast. I followed moves and pulled things together as best as I could. The field broke apart as Taylor Sheldon (Five-Hour) attacked with Chris sitting on his wheel. Emerson and I helped stitch it back up before the second to last turn around.

More attacks went on the rollers that followed. I was holding on for dear life at the back of the field, which was now down to 30, then very quickly, 20 riders. I went to the front as soon as I recovered then got shelled to the back when the more serious attacks started happening again. Fabio rocketed off the front with Sheldon as we approached 6K to go, so our team sat up once more and tried to control the front. I sat third wheel as Rio and Primal chased Fabio and Sheldon down with just a few kilometers to go. By now their chances didn’t look so great. Sheldon got dropped on the approach to the climb and came back in the field with 1K to go. Fabio would soon to be swallowed up too, but was making a valiant effort to stay clear until the very end.

My legs were dying at that point. Even more than I had expected. I stayed at the front with a few little surges, hoping to at least be of some use to Chris and Emerson, but once the first race-ending attack went with 400 meters, I was gapped off.  The steep part of the Wall is like 250-300 meters, and at that point I finally realized I had a flat tire, not just flat legs. I thought about getting off to walk or run the bike up the hill to the line, but decided that might be harder than just grunting it out on the flat tire. I came in 11th, flung myself over the bars in acidic agony and oxygen debt, wondering if we’d won and what I could have done if my tire hadn’t gone flat. I was pleased with how I raced and how my legs felt. After giving everything on the front all day and still getting 11th with the tire, my confidence finally took a much needed boost.

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Photo: Andrijan Smaic

The bad news: Fabio finished 10th and we lost the leader’s jersey. The good news: Chris won the stage. For the third year in a row! Emerson also placed well with 4th and took 2nd overall, with Chris in 3rd overall. It was a bold move for Fabio to attack on that last half lap, and I, of course, approved of his effort. After all, it was pretty much the same thing I did last year in an attempt to win.

While we lost out on the primary goal: to win the GC, I feel like we came away with enough success (two stage wins and 2nd and 3rd GC) to give ourselves a modestly large pat on the back. Besides, it’s not polite to be greedy! Yeah right. Maybe as a child. In the adult world you take everything you can get while no one’s looking. Speaking of children, we lost the GC battle to a 16-year old. So there’s that. Congratulations to Gage Hecht, who we’ll most likely see in a grand tour or two within the next decade.

Thanks for another great race, Without Limits!

Post Script:

After gauging my fitness this weekend I’ve decided to forgo racing the national championships in Chattanooga next week. I simply don’t have the fitness to contend for a top 10, and blowing 800 of my own bucks (that I don’t have) on a one day race doesn’t seem like the best plan. I’d be going without a team as well, so all in all it most likely would have been a huge waste of money and energy that could be put to better use here in Boulder, training hard for the next big one and searching for that elusive coffee shop job.

 

THings and STuff and JUnk

My cold was instantaneously cured upon touch down in Denver. The long flight left me tired and jet lagged, but the quest to find my long-lost legs couldn’t wait a minute once I got back home.

I rode for three hours the day after I got back from Sweden, slowly plodding my way up to Ward then Lee Hill. I felt okay actually, likely because I was going very, very slowly. The next day I rode over five hours with Liam and felt absolutely horrible. I could barely pedal above 280 watts as my congested lungs begged, not commanded, the thin mountain air to oxygenate my screaming, unfit legs. Riding at least that hard was a necessity too, since Liam and I chose to ride Sunshine to Peak to Peak, down through Nederland, then up Magnolia back to Nederland–an idiotically steep route considering how screwed up I was. But I recovered. And over the next few weeks I’ve continued punishing my weak legs at a demoralizing pace, 20% slower than what I can normally do.

Even 10 days can make a huge difference. I smashed myself pretty hard throughout the following week with some long rides, threshold work, and sauna time, and was feeling strong enough to tackle my first race since Redlands. It’s been a long time, I know.

I rode out with Lang and Liam and one of Liam’s friends to the Koppenberg course on Sunday. It was hot, dusty, and the race consisted of eight, 5.5-mile laps. While super short, the race was hard, with a long dirt section that included a short, mean little climb. Crosswinds would also play into things.

This isn’t a race report blog post, it’s more of an overall of what I’ve been up to report, so I won’t go into the details.

I was good enough to attack on the climbs and make the lead group, which was down to eight guys on the fifth lap. But I flatted and my day was done just like that. I got off the bike and began walking to the start/finish with my thumb out, since there was no wheel support. The race promoter, Lance, picked me up so thankfully my hitch hiking was short lived.

It was my first real effort in a long time, and my lungs and legs were smashed even though I only did five laps. Adelaide got third in her race, so after riding home we celebrated by hiking up the mountain behind our house and splitting a half bottle of wine.

Throughout the next week (last week) I trained even harder, racking up 25 hours with VO2 intervals every couple days. By Saturday I was still feeling okay, and went out on a big ride with Andrew Clemence, Carson Christian, Nate Brown, Chad Young, Jason Keifer, Tyler and Will Nabors, Nadiya Mitelman, and Adelaide, who’d been sick the past three days but made a good recovery Friday night with a heavy coma sleep.

Heading north out of town on a luke-warm, sunny morning we made our way by Carter Lake, where the Gebhardt Automotive Cycling Classic will take place again next year under a new race promoter (me, gulp), then went up Big Thompson to Estes Park. I’d never done this climb before. It’s a cool but busy road with steep gray cliffs and a high-spirited little river that, just this fall, tore the hell out of every poor house in the canyon. I spent most of my time looking off into the river gorge wondering what it had been like when the water was at its full rage.

Skip the next five paragraphs if you don’t want to hear a stupid, pointless rant.

For no reason whatsoever, a cop car bull-horned us to stay to the right, single file. We were already riding in the shoulder and we WERE single file. We had been for the last hour. The police officer did say it in the politest of ways though.

A mile later the cop car was parked on the side of the road and the police officer was standing behind it, signaling for us to pull off the road. To get you on the same page of my rapidly building furry, think about how you’d react to “law” enforcement interfering with you during one of these scenarios: do the police hassle you when you’re playing a game of pick up soccer? Do they hassle you when you’re out on a run? In the gym lifting weights? On a hike in the mountains? No. The only time you get unjustly harassed by the cops is when you’re black, when you’re at an Occupy rally, when you’re homeless, when you’re making a documentary about the immoral practices of an evil corporation, or when you’re riding a bike. Having a talking to or getting screamed at by a cop is bad enough, and has happened dozens of times to me over the last eight years. I’ve also had them buzz me as well as slam their brakes on in front of me during group rides, trying to cause a crash. As a cyclist, my general patience with police is very small and I never look to them for protection or to take an honest view from my perspective. I trust them to always take the side of the motorist, no matter what. There are exceptions, but I’ve never encountered these understanding police officers since they have never been the ones to pull my group over or yell at me.

Anyways, I was so incredibly mad that the moment I came to a stop I got right to the root of my anger and asked why WE were being harassed for simply riding our bikes and trying to enjoy a nice sunny day. “We have a right to the road and we’re riding safely blah, blah, blah,” I can’t even remember what I said because I was so mad. Luckily Adelaide got a word in to shut me up for a half second so the police officer could explain herself. She was actually very polite and I do believe that she was just trying to help us be safe. It was still complete bullshit, of course.

“We’ve had a bunch of calls from motorists complaining about bikes taking up too much room.” Wait, what? Taking up too much room? Not the usual complaints about cyclists “acting rude,” when cars honk and buzz them, no complaints about bikes “riding recklessly” or “two abreast,” the later of course being completely legal. No, she’d had complaints from some lousy, worthless scumbag human beings about us taking up too much room and slowing down traffic. A motorist certainly wouldn’t complain to the cops about 10 slow-moving motor homes, which would stall traffic way more than a few bikes riding single file, taking up three feet of space on the shoulder of the road.

Unfortunately for society, the future of humans, and the health of our planet, the officer decided that the best thing to do was to pull US over instead of doing something real for our safety, like driving 100 meters in front of us for 10 minutes and ticketing all the cars that didn’t give the required three feet of passing space. We patiently let her talk and I bit my tongue and forced a smile since she was being polite. But the whole ordeal was such a load of bullshit that the flies are still buzzing around my poop-encrusted hair. I basically just stood still while a big old dump truck full of fresh manure backed up and unloaded all over me. Okay I’ve gone on enough of a rant about this. It wasn’t that big of a deal, the police officer really was one of the nicest I’ve encountered, and I didn’t even remember this happening until I started writing. Moving on:

We stayed mostly together up to Estes Park, regrouped, filled bottles, got food, and threw on warmer clothes at a café, then continued upwards. Some dark clouds were looming all around, and we began discussing the possibility of bailing down Highway 7 to Lyons instead of going to Ward. Snow was in the forecast.

The group broke up over the next few miles and four of us continued on to Ward, getting just a taste of snow the last few miles before making the turn down to home on Left Hand. When we got into Boulder I went back up Lee Hill for a little more climbing, then wrecked myself in the sauna for half an hour before calling it a day, which totaled 6.5 hours, 10,000 feet of elevation, and 122 miles. The pace had been chill and I felt fine at the end, better than I had at the start. I’m getting pumped for Nationals now that I finally have a hint of hope that I’ll be fit enough to have a good race. The Estes Park ride was a perfect way to cap off the hard week and it was a lot of fun riding with a new group of friends.

Now it’s Sunday and it’s snowing. Dumping actually. Last night it rained so hard that the power went out and the smoke detector started chirping. I angrily yanked it out of the ceiling and now it’s broken. Speaking of things that wake me up in the middle of the night, I hope this snowstorm kills the bird that lives above our window and screams super loudly at 4:00 O’clock every morning. Okay that’s a bit much. I’m not that cruel. But seriously, if that bird froze to death I wouldn’t lose sleep. Pun intended. Get it?

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We did a ride a week ago up to Ward the day before the race. Adelaide, who hadn’t been training that much the past month, was slower than ever. The fact that she did so well in the race the following day, then was able to stay with us for most of the Estes Park ride was pretty amazing. Just shows how well the body remembers how to be fast. I’m hoping the same thing goes for me.

IMG_0090I re-named the gray horse on Lee HIll Bernard. Remmie just wasn’t doing it for me.

coffee shop ride

Adelaide, most of the office, and I did a SmartEtailing photo shoot on Tuesday morning. I was bribed into waking up early with free coffee and a Mexican lunch. Photo Courtesy of SmartEtailing, shot by Lisa Tharp.

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Adelaide on the Koppenberg podium.

photo 2This is her dad, Raymond, at the Butterfly Emporium. This is supposedly what butterflies look like before they go in their cocoons.