Sooner Than You Think

Ran into a friend mountain biking yesterday and she asked if I was ready for cyclocross season. I was like, sure thing, then I watched these two video’s when I got home and my answer now is now a resounding fuck yeah!

 

 

Speaking of fuck yeah, theses socks! They are no Black Sheep Cartel socks, but what are?

Fuck Yeah!

Fuck Yeah!

 

 

Oh No, I Might Get Dirty!

Really, are you kidding me? I’m completely dumbfounded, the excuses people have come up with to justify skipping both Boss Cross 4 and the Missouri State Cyclocross Championships (Dec 3-4) are just amazing. People dream of having an epic ‘cross race in the rain, muck, and mud, it doesn’t happen much around here. The CX gods smiled down upon us and gave us just what we wanted, all the wet mud-filled fun we could handle. Well, most of us, I was shocked by the amount of people who bitched out of racing for no other reason than it would get their bike dirty. Oh the horrors!

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Dirty at the moment, clean now. (Jon Peck)

Tweets and Facebook posts were awash with lame reasons why people didn’t race. For example.

“I have to admit, bypassing racing this weekend was… SMART! My bike is all in one piece, clean and it won’t cost me a penny if I want to ride it today! As for 90% of the people who raced locally this weekend, not so much!”

Many of the replies to this post reaffirmed this and added more insanity to the mix, mostly it smacked of laziness. I’d race, but I’m too lame and lazy to get dirty and cleaning a bike is just too difficult for my underdeveloped roadie mind to figure out so I’ll stay home blah blah blah…

Missouri State Cyclocross Championships 2011

Dirty yes, impossible to clean? No.

So, let me get this right, the prospect of having to clean your bike is enough for you to skip a state championship race, one that’s held in your own back yard? It’s idiotic, why are you even racing ‘cross in the first place?

Shitty weather and terrible conditions is what ‘cross is all about, battling your competitors along with the given conditions, this is why cyclocross is so unique in the all too straight laced world of competitive cycling, well that and the beer. ‘Cross can be treacherous for not just you but your fancy rig as well. Sure the chances of screwing up your bike rises in the mud and rain, but shit happens and said shit can happen anywhere. My rear dérailleur went into my spokes breaking the hanger on the first weekend of racing in September, a lovely late summer afternoon, not a cloud in the sky and not an ounce of mud anywhere near the course.

Missouri State Cyclocross Championships 2011

There will be mud!

Anyway, I had just come off a weekend of racing at Jingle Cross in Iowa City in very similar conditions, so four straight wet muddy races in less than two weeks and nothing happened to my bike. In fact it took nearly as much time to clean the interior of the Velo Sedan of all of the mud I’d collected over the last two weeks of racing as it did to clean the bike last Sunday. And yes, black cars are hard to keep clean especially if you race cross and don’t puss out when the conditions go south.

If your so worried to ride and get your bike dirty, why don’t you just hang it up, put your cx bike on Craigslist and get a recumbent and a pair of SPD sandals and join the PV Yacht Club, you fair weather, faux cx’er.

Missouri State Cyclocross Championships 2011

Eating it!

P.S. Attention cat 4 types, don’t listen to the idiots behind the tape who are yelling at you to do things during your race. We are wanting you to eat it.

ct

Cartel Cover Boy

Damn the luck, the one time a member of the elite Cartel CX team makes the cover of  a newspaper he isn’t wearing his official team issued kit.  Instead of the pink and black of team Black Sheep Cartel he’s in a turtle necked red and black candy cane striped sweater, sliver tights and sleigh bells attached to his saddle as well.  Oh well, he’ll probably never learn.

Finish last and get your picture in the paper, hell yeah!!

As he hits the final stretch of his race, Chris Thomas, Kansas City, MO pedals through the snow on New Years Eve during Cross off the Old Year Race at Stump Park in Shawnee.

The Johnson County Sun, Jan 13 2010. Front Page. Photo Ben McCall

CX On The Hoth Ice Planet

The stupidness that is cyclocross.  It’s 20 something degrees, you gladly pay $25 to go ride on snow and ice for 30 to 60 minutes stripped down to the bare minimum to stave off frostbite and hypothermia.  This is no doubt why most CX series end in December not long after nationals, but no, not around here, we push our luck and race on into January.   As of late we seem to be living on the Hoth Ice Planet minus the interference of the Empire forces.  I was stranded on a expedition to Target Wednesday and had to unfortunately use my light saber and slice open the belly of my Tauntaun to keep from freezing to death.

Speaking of slicing open a Tauntaun I found photos of a sleeping bag which looks like you are sleeping in a Tauntaun, minus the steaming stinking guts. Pretty cool if your a sci-fi Star Wars nerd.

It even comes with a little light saber.

You race ‘cross long enough and you’ll learn how to dress for nearly every season, winter especially.  Through trial and error, you will eventually figure out just what you need most of the time.  Sometimes having a bag of extra gear pays off especially with our schizophrenic weather of late.  Sometimes you just never know what to expect when your race finally rolls around.

Regardless of what you put on, it’s always one layer too many when nature calls. You can never get yourself unzipped quick enough, totally disrobing your outer layers would be the ideal choice but who has the time to start unpealing skinsuits, tights and baselayers just to take a wiz.  Plus it’s way to cold to start stripping down and who has time to wait in line at the always foul smelling port-a-potties usually a tree or an open car door is enough privacy.

On occasion I find that the tank isn’t quite empty when I’m in the process of stowing away the equipment, (yeah, you know what I mean). You soon realize the remainder of the fluid in the tank is now on its way out, oops too late, I just peed my tights and skinsuit, at least it’s warm.  And a quick word of warning, wash your hands well after applying your embrocation, if it gets on your… well you know, it burns like it’s on fire not fun.

Holiday sweaters for holiday theme races.

To add insult to injury and a urine soaked skinsuit, racing the Hoth Planet Cyclocross Series (Cross of the Old Year and Grote Prijs) on snow and ice is just plain stupid.  I know it’s done all the time, but that doesn’t make it right.  I’ve never raced well on snow and ice, it’s not as easy as some people make it look to be.  Your at the mercy at unseen frozen ruts and the line that everyone else has dug out.  Gone is the full width of the course, now your fighting to keep a line that’s only a few inches wide. Find your line or find the drifts of snow along the edge of the course. You feel like you have little choice in your line, you go where your front wheel and the ground wants you to go, much like the Le Taxi Tour ride at Worlds of Fun, you can turn the steering wheel all you want, but the car just follows the rail imbedded in the road.

Le Taxi Tour

Too much time off between races starts to play tricks with my mind.  All types of disillusions of grander began to seep in.  Yeah, I’m sure I can win the next three races, and I’ll cat up and kill the A’s while I’m at it.  Then reality crashes in and you find yourself battling to keep out of last place.   I’d almost rather find out who will my race, give him my check for $25 and have him kick me in the crotch and be done with it.

NBC 41 showed up, click here to see the video. The anchor looks seriously confused.

One more race to go, the re-scheduled Epic Holiday Cross race is next Saturday, then it’s off season. Let’s hope the snow and ice are history. Then maybe some road races, defiantly the KC Street Cred series.  Maybe a new road bike, possibly a mountain bike.  Who knows, we’ll see how the bank account looks like after the trip to Chile in May.

ct

Some Random Thoughts About Jingle Cross

So here goes, my thoughts on three days in Iowa.

Jingle Cross Rocks

Climbing Mt Krumpet with a tandem.

  • Tandem bike with girls in bikini’s!
  • Seeing people race and not caring how well they did.
  • Racing bikes down hotel hallways, Friday Night 3rd Floor World Championships.
  • Stopping up hotel room showers with mud when you try to wash you, your kit, shoes and a bike, well not the bike it wouldn’t fit. (I feel so sorry for the housekeeping staff, we really trashed those rooms and hallways, dirt and mud everywhere.)
  • Realizing you entered a race way beyond your skill level seconds after the start.
  • Having to stop to remove mud from your bike because the wheels will no longer spin.
  • Over 1000 entries, huge fields.
  • Deliberately flaunting USA cycling and UCI rules and regulations about hand-ups and glass bottles.
  • Watching the KCCX / Verge kids school riders twice their age in the elite race.
  • Finding good Mexican food just down the street from the race venue.
  • Starting a race with an 18 lb. bike and finishing with a 30 lb. bike.

Too much mud!

  • Watching the pros make the hardest thing you have ever done look alarmingly easy.
  • ‘Cross team kits are the best looking kits in cycling.
  • Costumes.
  • Finishing a race soaked in a disgusting mix of beer, cheese, and mud.
  • Getting a standing ovation after eating it in the mud while descending Mt Krumpet.
  • Driving five hours to race for 45 minutes.
  • Christmas themed race, hell yeah!
  • It’s not so much the mud that gums up the works it’s the grass that binds the mud together.
  • Cyclocross people are the best people in cycling!
  • Sandbaggers exist everywhere.
  • Finding mud on you even after taking a shower, how the mud got in my ears I’ll never know.
  • They change the course every day, you’ll never race the same race twice.
  • Watching KU loose to Mizzou in a room full of KU fans, priceless.
  • Getting a bit of recognition by the course announcer.  “…There goes 113, Christopher Thomas of Black Sheep Cartel, racing out of Kansas City…”
  • Mud, oh god, the mud.  Thick, deep, wet, slick…

Hand-ups come in all shapes and sizes.

  • F*#@ing awesome, it’s a must if you like cyclocross.  DO IT!!
  • Iowa and Missouri are really bleak this time of year.
  • Marriott actually has a catalog in each room selling the same mattress, bedding, and shower accessories.  Just incase you want your home to look like a hotel room.
  • Always hoping that the officials will screw up and place you higher in the results, aka “pulling a Chasm” getting placed 5th after getting lapped twice.
  • Race above your level so you can experience the full experience of Mt Krumpet.  The mens and women’s 4 don’t make full use of the entire course.

Beer?

  • People dig the pink kit!
  • I wish I had a pit bike, dealing with the mud is crazy.
  • It’s faster to go to a car wash in town rather than wait in line to wash your bike at the venue.

ct

Photos

My Name Is Mud

The term epic gets tossed around a lot these days, most often regarding burritos but I’m going out on a limb and proclaiming this last weekends De Stad Cup was indeed epic.

If the mud doesn't get you he just might.

Talking about weather is something I steer clear of, I leave that to old men and the Weather Channel normally but I will briefly for the sake of this post.  For the most part the mid-west has a dry autumn, which leaves a pretty dry ‘cross season much to the chagrin to many of the local ‘cross racers who look on in envy as our brothers and sisters in the Pacific Northwest and New England get to race in the most extreme conditions all the time.  Sunday was our day to finally get the full ‘cross experience, just as it was meant to be, down and dirty.

Crazy conditions, going from fair to terrible faster than I can fall from my bicycle and bleed all over myself (more about that later).  What was once was rideable during my warm up laps became ankle deep sticky as peanut butter like mud. So much for the white shoes. It becomes a test of bike handling skills and trying to find spots that haven’t gone bad to make up time for repeated falls.  One second everything is going well, then next your sliding down a hill on your ass with your bike using you as a sled somehow still attached to your pedals.This is 'cross racing!

My bike handling skills are questionable at best, I’m guilty of running into trees from time to time and venturing off the course through the tape. I often finish races with red streams of blood running down my legs as I did Sunday, I don’t recall where the wound came from I just recall looking down to see a stream of red running through the caked on mud.  Add mud to the mix and my race is even more in peril, goodbye to my hopes of finishing in the top 10 in points, 11th place when the day was over.  Getting your hands and bars wet then covered in a slimey / gooey mud did me in, worse than the falls.  The mud and then the numb fingers made breaking and double tap shifting next to impossible, basically pick a gear and make the most of it, thank god for the cross top break leavers, I hardly ever use them but they saved my ass this day.  Double tap shifting when you can’t feel your fingers is tricky, I lost count of the times I downshifted when I was wanting to do the opposite making things that much more difficult.  Hopefully a better choice of gloves will solve this issue, that and not falling in the mud so much.

Gloves proved to be my Achilles heel / scape goat.  I’ve finally learned what to pack for races, I actually had enough for two races, as was my plan but only one pair of gloves but two sets of everything else.  I was planning on doing the Masters B race and possibly the 3-4 race, just so I could ride in the mud for 45 minutes, but the thought of going back out with those wet gloves and having my fingers freeze up again was a deal breaker.  I’ll sit here in the gym and pick mud out of my ears.  It’s too bad, I really wanted to go at it again, but there will be other days the season isn’t over.

A dirty boy's dirty bike.

Mud is as bad as sand, you think you’ve got it all washed off only to find more of it later.  How it got in my ears I’ll never know, this is after two showers while I’m sitting at work Monday morning.  Everything is clean now of course, the kit’s gone through the washing machine the bike went to the car wash on the way home  and now is disturbingly bright, it looks as new as the day I first laid eyes on it.  I only have the photos of mud now which never show just how difficult it was to race through, the stories of course will grow, the mud will get deeper, the temperature will drop but that is the way things are.  I just wish my teammates could have been there to enjoy the misery with me.  Unfortunately injuries have sidelined nearly everyone but me.  Brian shattered his finger and is done for the season, Mike is nursing a bad back, and Pip has a sore shoulder.

Post-break, pre-surgery. Out for the season.

 

 

No local races for a couple of weeks.  I’m thinking of going up to Iowa and try my luck at Jingle Cross.  Anyone want to go with me? It’s not that far and I have most of next week off anyway, it’s that or sit around eat and watch football all week.

ct

The Brain Fog

I don’t know about you but I find myself in mental fog after most races, and this happens even before I start drinking my malted barley recovery beverages.  Not to be confused with Purple Haze, brain freeze, or Errol Morris’s The Fog of War, I’m talking about the temporary mental impairment I find myself in after every race.  Things are a bit fuzzy, it’s difficult to concentrate, throw in a bit of tunnel vision to boot, and don’t even try to have a deep meaning conversation.  Listening to people talk almost sound like the trombone whaa whaa whaa from the old Peanuts cartoons.  I like to find a nice spot and watch the colors go by while drinking a few cold beverages trying to figure out what I did with my car keys, trying to remember where the car is and finding the nearest Chiptole.IMG_0913

Grand Prix HPT – sat

Nothing is more exciting than racing under the lights and in a ⅜ mile clay oval at Heartland Park Topeka. Sure the long ass drive to Topeka sucks, but it was worth it.  I believe this was the first time I have ever had a reason to be in Topeka, I’ve driven through before, If your going to Colorado it’s difficult not to drive through it.  Anyway, the race was a blast, it takes a while to get comfortable on the track.  The cars create these little bb sized pellets, “marbles” that can be difficult to navigate before the lines get formed, especially difficult when cornering with any speed.  The feeling of coming in the track at the far end  and tearing down the front straight was incredible.

track

Well lit in some areas, not so much in others.

The lighting inside the oval proved to be problematic, at least to me.  Having multiple light sources create multiple sets of shadows.  I kept thinking I had someone on my wheel only to find that it was only one of my many shadows.  The extra flood lights they added to the remander of the course didn’t quite cover everything, there were a few spots where you had to hold on tight and hope for the best.

Veterans ‘Cross – sun

It seems that this weekend was sponsored by the Kansas Turnpike, Saturday night in Topeka, and then turn around and drive to Leavenworth for Veterans ‘Cross Sunday morning.  In all, a total of 275 miles were driven in the name of cyclocross over the weekend.

The weather could not have been nicer, 70 degrees in November, can’t say no to that.  I’m still holding out for a good wet, sloppy race, maybe this weekend.  The races at the University of St Mary are always tough, there are always lots of climbing and the grass seems to be as thick as green shag carpeting.  You can just feel the energy getting sucked out of your legs.

nate

Nate making it look easy.

I had thought that this season was a lost cause, I was not pleased with my first several races, but I’ve seemed to have turned things around.  Thanks to pre-registration I was able to get a front row call up and was able to get a great start up the bumpy ass brick road and found myself sitting in fourth place for quite some time, it’s really interesting to see a race with only three people in front of you rather that everyone but three in front of you.  I have to say I quite like the change, however I manage to usually go and do something dumb and it all goes for naught. This time I took a turn to wide and got caught up in the tape and the stake holding the tape got wedged in my fork.  Frantically trying to extricate myself I saw my great start slowly circling around getting flushed down the toilet.  I managed to get a few spots back, but could never get back up with the leaders.  One of these days I’ll put together a complete race with doing something stupid.

IMG_0911

SRAM fans.

ct