Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cycling Claremont: Studio Art Hall, Pomona College

The most recently completed building at the Colleges - this one on the Pomona College campus - is the Studio Art Hall. The hall is like a little village collected under a single protective roof. That roof plus the cantilever upper level and the obvious exterior staircase make it seem like the building hovers over the ground. The sense is compounded in the areas where you can walk under the upper level, such as seen in the top photo. The rooms revolve around a central court, open to the sky. From the courtyard you look up at the exposed structure of the roof and its patterned forms. It adds an element of interest in contrast to the plain blue of the sky. Another interesting contrast is of the numerous materials used - concrete, glass, metal, wood.

I didn't step into the building, but can imagine the studios are quite light-filled. The building includes a lower level gallery, though I didn't notice any reference to its hours of operation. Next you ride through the campus check it out - there are many interesting lines and angles - for instance view along the north face of the building (unfortunately, perhaps the most uninteresting facade) to the old, whited-domed observatory. I am not sure how the design of the ground plane relates, but the alternating bands of concrete and plant material is an interesting contrast in its own way. Currently there is a display of student art projects, various objects made from cardboard, scattered around the site.

The Cycling Claremont series of posts highlight some of the local businesses and points of interest I have been known to frequent because I like what they offer, because they are bicycle friendly, or because they provide something unique or interesting, and which visitors to Claremont may also like.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014 Krossto-beer-fest, Or Crying Over Spilt Ale

Before I venture any further with coverage of todays race, I want to recognize the exploits of one individual in particular. This one racer, dressed all in Helen's orange, had an exceptionally fine-tuned beer radar, beerdar if you will. On the other hand, if it was not instinct that saw him take the beer line on each lap, maybe it was simply opportunism or, more likely cross-smarts. If that latter reasoning was the case, then he was clearly the smartest racer on the course at the time. I mean, unless you were racing for a podium spot and would be guzzling out of the winners' stein from the top step, this was your best shot at free brew all day. Without doubt he must have won the Most Likely to Recognize a Good Opportunity When He Sees It award in high school. If Miss H&S Bicycles had not run out of beer, or the race run out of laps, there surely would have been more than just the three photos below. Anyway man, well done, and ein prosit.

first pass

second pass

third pass

Will beer, in fact, keep you pedaling? If Miss H&S Bicycles is to be believed, the answer would be a definitive yes. She argued most enthusiastically for the carb-loading benefits of a mid-race beverage, and was quite successful in swaying many passers-by over to her side of the debate. Or wait, is there a debate?

 For now I want to take a minute and turn to the podium. I don't often get around to the podium since the awards tend to be given out while other racing is going on. This time, however, I managed both. I got shots of some men's podiums and then some women's podiums. All the while there was this guy standing next to me who was clearly having a hard time - his muscles were twitching, he was making nervous sounds, and comments about waste. He would close his eyes, look away, but always refocus on the podium with wide eyes. You see, all the while beer was dripping, and spilling, and splashing from cups, mugs, steins, and bottles. This guy was really on edge and barely under control. Finally he couldn't take it anymore and dashed to the podium where he lay at the steps and let the amber liquid cascade into his mouth. It was Krosstoberfest, and the beer was freely flowing. And spilling.

I know what you are thinking right about now, you're thinking "what is this? This post has nothing to do with cyclocross racing. It's just about beer." What you have to understand is that for some people the two go hand in hand - you can't have the one without the other. I promise that once the Flickr album is ready there will be plenty of non-beer related photos.

From the hundreds of photos, I narrowed the selection to 142 - click here for the album.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Riding Through Spooky Hollow

The spectre let out a moan. It was not the first time her angst had become unbearable, but what was intended as a sigh, released as a howl, one filled with regret, overflowed with longing. She understood that the living could neither hear nor see her, yet she had the uncomfortable impression that this one had picked up on her plaintive cry; a quick swivel of a head in her direction, the face revealing surprise and suppressed anxiety, as evidence. She had seen the look before, but always as a reaction to the sound of some unseen animal scurrying through the underbrush. This time was different, the canyon quiet and still. The living possessed a wonderful gift in imagination. Yet that ability, which often made life more interesting, could hamper and stifle that same life when it took a more dark and surreal turn. These moody woods fostered that turn, especially when the day was dark with overhanging gloom. When fog or clouds pressed down from above, they smothered the brightness and light. Her mood darkening as the shadows faded from existence.

She was not sure how she came to inhabit these woods, or why or when, though she recalled thinking, long ago, that it seemed like an eternity. There was no measure of time here, none that she was familiar with. The black limbs of trees, crooked and scabrous, never seemed to change. They reached from the ground, clawing their way from the confining dirt. She often thought they were trying to escape this place, but as far as she could tell none ever did. Their imprisonment was the same as her own. As she drifted from hollow to hollow, she would sometimes come upon one with broken back, splintered bones abruptly white against the dark skin. That she could not recall a shattered form at this spot told her time was passing, but the movement was invisible to her.

Occasionally she sensed the presence of other forms like her, but there was never any contact with them. How could there be. She wasn't sure if they suffered the same confinement she did, or if they were able to pass from this place to somewhere else. This place? There was a vague familiarity to these woods, though the word familiarity seemed inadequate. She remembered a word - memory - but she could picture nothing before this existence, and so she sufficed with familiarity, hazy and ephemeral as it was. That seemed appropriate and she could think of no reason for it to be otherwise.

Some nearby ravens made that bone rattling sound deep in their throats. She had come to recognize this as their way of creating mischief; it startled some of the living, frightened others. The ravens were different, though, from the other denizens of this place. All the other animals existed in some shadowy form, they slunk or scurried here and there, seeming to be as unaware of her as were the living. After all, they occupied the same world. In contrast, the ravens were clear and sharp of form, from every curve of every feather, to the crook of every talon, to the depth at the center of their eyes. She suspected this was because they, somehow, could pass between worlds - that of the living, and the one in which she existed. The first time raven flew into her space she was curious, yet shocked and in some way frightened, by the suddenness of their trespass. Eventually, though, she came to welcome their appearance, to look forward to their, what she called, visits. They could see her when no one and nothing else could. They were her one comfort, her one pleasure.

That is until the pain began. More than familiarity, this was memory - clear and unmistakable memory which caused a surge of anguish. Why it suddenly appeared to her, she could not guess at. A rider passed before her as she sat beside the stream (though she couldn't quite be sure sitting is what she was actually doing), and in that instant she saw herself. It was just a flash, a brief moment of brilliant  color before the muted shades of her existence clamped back down. From that first passing she had become increasingly afflicted by the memory. Once again, she recognized the inadequacy of her place of existence, for the word affliction was grossly incapable of describing the depth of the pain and longing she felt. The feelings intensified each time she saw a passing rider until they became unbearable, her moans lost to all but the suddenly indifferent ravens. Or so she believed. What was this place that it created such longing, and why did the longing cause such torment?

The woods through which the trails of Spooky Hollow hide much in their shadowy recesses, much that our mortal eyes are incapable of seeing. Something to give thought to the next time you ride through when the day is like twilight.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to Wear a Cycling Cap: Imerio Massignan

With the brim up.

Massignan was a noted Italian climbing specialist, who raced as a professional between 1959 and 1969. In that time he captured the Mountains title at the Tour de France twice (1960, 1961), and claimed eight top ten overall finishes at the Tour and Giro, the highest being 2nd at the 1962 Giro d'Italia. A standout among the pantheon of epic battles of the Giro d'Italia was the first ascent of the Passo di Gavia in 1960, the first time the climb featured in the race. Jacques Anquetil, five-time champion of the Tour de France was there. Rik Van Looy, counted among the greatest climbers of all time was there. Charly Gaul, nicknamed the Angel of the Mountains for his grace in climbing was there. Gastone Nencini, with two earlier mountain stage wins already under his belt was there. Each of those greats, all but Gaul, withered in their turn. The road in 1960 was still unpaved and the melting snow on the pass's steep slopes had created a slippery quagmire with grades up to 17%. Undaunted, Massignan attacked the accomplished Gaul, pulling away with each turn of the wheel. The first puncture set him back, all the more because he had to change the flat himself. Pushing on, the second puncture set him back yet again, this time for good. A heroic effort, though, saw him finish as runner-up, only fourteen seconds back of Gaul. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Time and the Thin Edge

I would not say that the stretch of dirt maintenance road where I stopped to snap this photo is indicative of Powerline, neither is it far off the mark. The opening third is more rocky, its surface marred with sand traps, there is even a pseudo stream crossing - not that I have ever seen water flowing through it. Last evening I decided to switch things up a little, head out on the cross bike, rather than the roadie, allow me to ride a little dirt and gravel. While I will often tack Powerline, and the trail beside Thompson Creek Trail, onto the end of a local mountain bike loop, it was the first time to have ridden either on a less beefy rig. 

I am still dialing in the cross bike, discovering and adjusting to its geometry and the nuances in the way it handles. Mostly I spun along the thin edge separating loosely-in-control from careening-wildly-out-of-control. Slipping from one side to the other allowed me to pick up speed and weave between rocks on the one hand, and forced me to squeeze the brakes and shake like a dachshund on the other. Bouncing from rock to rock, sliding through sand and gravel, it was the conditions of the trail that determined my line ninety percent of the time, not me. Clearly I need to move that percentage more in my favor, something that is going to take practice, miles of riding under similar conditions, time, and an entirely new way of thinking about riding a bike.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Upcoming: Pumpkins, Death Rides, and Velodromes

No connection, or none that I am aware of, just three events of interest that I wanted to make special note of: 

First up is the Pomona Pumpkin Patch Pedal which rides, this Sunday, from downtown Pomona to the Pumpkin Festival at Cal Poly. We would go to the Festival every years, when my son was of an age. It has been a few years now, so I can't vouch that it is the same, but there was a massive field littered with pumpkins you could wander through, looking for just the right one, there were games, food, the farm store, and I don't remember what all else. Oh, I remember now - fun, there was a lot of fun. The Pedal, hosted by the Pomona Valley Bike Coalition is, of course, a better way to get to the Festival because it allows you to avoid the campus parking hassle. 

If you fail to get your fill of climbing this weekend during the El Grande Fondo de Los Angeles Crest and want some more the following Saturday, check into the Deer Creek Death Ride.

And then the following weekend the Los Angeles Grand Prix is returning to the Velo Sports Center. If you have never seen Sarah Hammer circle the track during competition, it is worth it to go there one night just for that. She can rev it up like few others.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

2014 Velocity Cross: Happy Happy, Fun Fun

I suppose there is an advantage to being less well known in the blogosphere - it means not having to suffer the slings and arrows of race announcers. Poor Seth Davison took some ridicule today - the suggestion being tossed out that maybe someone could provide a little assistance, helping him to lift his bike over the barriers.

But that was later in the day, the old guys were on the course and well, l you know how it is. A couple laps into a race, a couple laps during which the grass conspires to suck every half mile per hour of hard-earned speed from your wheels, as it sucks your legs dry of energy, an older guy might very well look around for some help, or at least a little sympathy. Not that there is much chance of finding a sympathetic spectator at a cross race.

once again Amanda Nauman graces the top step of a cyclocross podium

There was a little organizational change at Velocity Cross - this year's race was not a part of the Southern California Prestige Series, but rather served as the kickoff race in the Spyclocross Series. Other than that, though, everything was pretty familiar, from the host team - Team Velocity, to the venue - Prado Regional Park, to the course layout - the series of stepped athletic fields. 

Fog. It was still settled over and into Prado Basin on this early morning, a condition which made the fragrance rising from the surrounding dairy lots all the more pungent. The sheen on the grass was yet to evaporate, the sparkle still to be ground out by the passing of tire and tread. Yet even at this early hour the paths of racers was unmistakable - here and there dark tracks sliced through the silver, some single tracks, others wide swaths of unknown number. It did not take much, a single passing through that moisture to cause a mat to form on tires, between treads, a shaggy, but slick, beard of green. Of course, this is inland and the fog does not hang out long, even in this low-lying basin. Only the earliest races, the Juniors and Cat 4 Women would have to deal with the dew. By the time the oldest Juniors came out, as well as the single-speeders, at about 10:00, the sun had been out for a couple hours, the ground was mostly dry, and the day well on its way to warming up.

The day. It progressed like a Japanese game show - Happy Happy, Fun Fun. Repeat it as a mantra over and over and it might come true. Even the Spy banners encouraged the sentiment - See Happy, See Happy. Falter in the conviction, lose faith, or even forget to pack it with your kit and shoes to begin with, and you were bound to suffer. The 180º changes in direction, the grass, the infield dust, the off-camber turns, the speed of competition, the dismounts, running, leaping, cyclocross has its own hells to ensnare you if you weaken in resolve.

The Elite Women's race was an amazing one to witness, not for the closeness of battle, but to see how far Amanda Nauman could extend her lead. She is such a phenomenal and powerful racer, and right now is racing in an outrageously dominant fashion. And I don't say that lightly - consider the competition, the racers taking their places on the 2nd and 3rd steps of the podium. Christina Probert-Turner has been well-placed in Southern California's cyclocross races for as long as I have been following them. Holly Breck regularly claims that top step in Southern California's road and mountain bike racing scenes. Neither should be underestimated, yet here was Nauman pulling further away with each completed lap.

The third weekend of the season is on record now, and though the weather will (hopefully) begin to cool down soon, I expect the racing will only heat up. Click for the Flickr album of a selection of 108 photos.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Into the Rut, and Out Again

I am largely a creature of habit and easily fall into a routine. Following familiar routes at familiar times means that conditions are typically similar from one day to the next - lighting, temperature, traffic conditions, etc. Eventually , after a certain amount of time has passed - sometimes more, sometimes less - and those standard rides have begun to blur one into the next, you realize that the routine has turned into the Rut. 

The Rut is a place no one willingly wants to find themselves. It is a staid place, full of repetition and similarity. Nothing remarkable ever happens in the Rut, or almost nothing. In the English language we developed a saying to cover the place with a few simple words - I fell into a rut. Falling is not a good thing (usually), and so the Rut clearly isn't either. Conversely, once things improve we note how someone was able to climb out of the Rut they were in. Again, the act of climbing, suggests that the Rut is a kind of pit or trap and getting out of it is a good thing.

How many of you are familiar with Alice Cooper's song 'Black Juju' - it rolls along steadily, lulls you in with a regularity of purpose, then goes silent but for the ticking of a clock. Then hard-hearted Alice lets loose with WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP, and the song bursts out louder than ever. Into the Rut, and out again with renewed energy.

When I realize that I have fallen into a rut, I usually resort to one of two options to climb out - do a group ride, or head up into the mountains. It won't be long now before I rejoin the Thursday night ride for the duration of the winter, but today I climbed into the mountains to break out of my rut, essentially riding the West Fork Extra out and back. Highway 39 had become estranged from me for some little while now, but with so much local attention focused on this new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, it has been on my mind to get on up there. 

I could not have hoped for a better morning for either a short thirty-nine mile excursion, or for climbing out of the Rut. There were a number of riders on the highway, but once I got to the West Fork Road the outside world fell way. A lone bike packer on his way out, and a recumbent rider on his way in, were the only other souls around. The silence in the depth of the canyon was as stunning as the scenery through which I rolled. The river mostly gurgled, sometimes bubbled over tiny little cascades, unseen things scampered through the underbrush, in the deep shade of the canyon the air temperature dropped by ten degrees, or more. Though I rode in search of renewal, something like the change to Spring, it was Autumn that I found all around me. That was fine with me, Autumn's change is just as worthy, just as likely to help break out of the Rut.

empty road ahead. Pun warning: traffic was anything but monumental, and I certainly did not mind

about as empty as you would want a reservoir to ever get

how can I get my own gulch?

even in its shaded nooks, the canyon was alight with the seasonal change of poison oaks brilliant red leaves. nowhere was the display more dramatic than on this cliff, the red set off by the white of the rock face

black water

blue, green, and gold water

no one was occupying my favorite picnic spot so I settled in, wishing all the while I had brought the fixings for a cup o' joe; would have been a great coffeeneuring entry

pun warning: a monumental view
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