Saturday, November 29, 2014

Always Coming Back, Part Two

I have long lamented the fact that it seems like I am forever coming back. Instances of yet another comeback were relatively rare when I was younger and could ride nearly every day, but have seemed to become more frequent with each passing year. As November draws to a close, I look back on my mileage totals and see that distance is at a yearlong low, pretty typical for the month. Whether or not there is any racing in next year's future, it is now time to start a procedural build-up. A few more miles at first, then a little more intensity later. The pitiful ride on Thursday morning, followed by the brilliant one yesterday were a textbook example of what results from the inconsistency of the Autumn months. Time to start yet another comeback.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Always Coming Back, Part One

I opted out of the Thanksgiving group ride on Thursday morning, for a solo mountain bike ride at Bonelli; it sucked, or at least my riding did, but man was it a beautiful day.

Back in the before-time, when we were yet to become Mrs and Mr, the wife and I would go on rides. They were often out along the coast - the Mar Vista, Venice, Santa Monica area, 
because that is where she lived. During one of those rides, and after barking at her one too many times - you know, something along the lines that maybe she should try pedaling rather than coasting as a way to keep from dropping so far behind and getting lost - she bestowed me with a new nickname, Sgt. Wagner. 

Then and there I decided it just wasn't working. Not the relationship, just the riding together part. We were at different levels, and the meeting ground was a muddy bog of unsatisfying compromise. She refused to heed my, clearly expert, advice, tips about riding on my wheel, maintaining momentum, and the like. For my part, I viewed everyday as a training day, and found it impossible to let my speed drop down to Cat 10 level.

Little has changed over the years, yet somehow things have continued to work out adequately. Knowing that I have to prepare mentally, I rarely extend an invitation for a joint excursion. But that is exactly what I did today, just a simple thirty mile out and back on the SGRT. It wasn't bad, but at one point she asks, "I'm riding pretty good today, huh?" Growing frustration, and my quick retort got the best of me - "sure, for a seventy-year-old." Oh, man - you just said that didn't you? - Fortunately she took it the way it was meant, as a joke. Yeah, thats it, a joke.

Truth be know, the mrs is a pretty good rider. She's not going to win any race, she won't even come in fifty-fifth out of fifty-seven starters but, even though her riding has fallen off lately, she is game for just about anything. Slow and steady wins the race, the turtle to my hare, and at the end of the day, if you can look back and know you had a good time, you can consider it a success.

Friday morning's ride was much better. Hope everyone got to enjoy a couple extra free days this week and that you didn't have to spend them in lines. Unless, of course, it was a line of riders.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How to Wear a Cycling Cap: Regis Delepine

Regis Delepine knows how to wear them - while going fast.

Frenchman, Delepine raced professionally between 1970 and 1980 for a number of teams, including Fagor-Mercier (1971), Gan Mercier (1972-1973, 1976), Merlin Beach-Flandria (1974), Flandria-Carpenter (1975), and Peugeot-Esso-Michelin (1977-1980).

Delepine (Gan-Mercier) with Herman Beysens, 1976 Tour de France. Rene Milanese photo from Wikimedia Commons

His palmares during that time include a number of wins and high placings. Those finishes include a 2nd Place in the 1969 U23 Paris-Roubaix, and 1st on Stage 7 of the Tour de 'lAvenir. In 1970 he picked up a win at Poullaouen, in France, and then four stages on the way to a 3rd Place finish on G.C. at the Volta a Portugal. 1972 saw him win the 5th Stage of the Criterium du Dauphine Libere, and then claim victory at Langemark, Belgium. During 1973 he picked up a win at Paris-Camembert, and another in the 1st Stage of the Tour of Indre-et-Loire. In 1974 Delepine picked up another stage at the Tour of Indre-et-Loire, and then perhaps the biggest win of his career - Bordeaux-Paris. His three wins during 1975 came at Chateau-Gointier, the Circuit Indre, and at Poullaouen (his second win there). 1976 proved to be a big year of him, as he picked up wins at the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, 2nd and 4th Stages at Rochecorbon, and the 4th Stage of the Tour de Mediterranean. He also finished 2nd at the GP Aix en Provence, 2nd on GC at the Tour de l'Oise, and 2nd on the 1st Stage of the Tour de France. In 1977 he won GP des Herbiers, Paris-Bourges, and the 4th Stage of the Tour de France. Wins eluded him in 1978, but he had nine podium appearances. In 1979 he picked up a win at the GP Peymeinade, as well as a second at Bordeaux-Paris, and in 1980 he finished his career with wins at the Circuit Indre and the 1st Stage of the Tour de l'Oise.

That 1974 win at Bordeaux-Paris ranks as one of those unusual finishes in the sport. Delepine crossed the line first, but did so after race leader, Herman Van Springel, took a wrong turn on his way to apparent victory. Officials granted each a share of the win, and so it is recorded in the books.

If I read the source correct, the occasion of the above photo was the l'Anjou Velo Vintage, l'etape des champions de legende in 2013. Delepine, still looking fit in Gan-Mercier kit, cycling cap fitting snug over his leather hair-net. Mario Fournier photo.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Upcoming: 2014 Tour de Tryptophan

Hey all, still haven't figured out that post-Thanksgiving Day ride, or want a better option than the same old loop thing, consider the Tour de Tryptophan at the famous Fullerton Loop. This year's cause will benefit Brad 'Moose' Rasmussen, a fellow cyclist who suffered a spinal injury while riding the Big Bear Bike Park in July. Rasmussen has limited movement right now, but is determined to walk and ride again. Coming out and contributing to his medical expenses would be a step in the right direction.

The 'ride' begins at 11am on Friday and goes till noon on Saturday. You are free to ride as many, or as few laps (11.5 miles per) as you want. Heck, you don't even have to ride. Apparently the record is officially held by sixty year old Jim Cooke - 18 laps, which equals out to 207 miles.

There are many place to 'enter' the Fullerton Loop, but the ride's official start location is the upper parking lot at the Courthouse, on Berkeley Avenue, west of Harbor Blvd. Donations gratefully accepted.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rasta Beater, Man

Behold, the humble college beater bike. Hand-painted, sticker-adorned, saddle-askewed, often as not ill-maintained and of questionable dependability. It serves without reward, an old dry chain, a flat rear tire, loose cranks, wobbly wheels, brakes that may or may not work, and mis-matched pedals, its life is not one of glamour. Quick sprints across campus (Zeus willing) in the morning and afternoon, then unceremoniously dumped with a hundred similar others, onto an outdoor bike rack. There it waits through the cold of the night, the heat of the day, rain, maybe even snow. 

What a life.

They carry their riders to make, and meet, new friends. They may carry their riders to start a life in tandem with a significant other. In to town for food and drink. Out to the stadium to watch the game. The carry their riders to a brighter future. What more could you ask, what more could you want.

What a life.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Blues: No Excuses

There I was, an amazing Southern California Sunday morning. I had done a quick loop up into a local canyon, exhaling all unnecessary thoughts from my mind. I was at one with my bike, on a good road. Stopping at the local farmers' market where I was going to meet the wife, I broke out the jersey pocket camera just in case something presented itself. Someone came into view up the street, riding down towards me, with a lengthy pole or something sticking out from both sides of the bike. Hmm, I thought, what the heck is that, before my attention turned a different direction. Just in time, I remembered to check back, and saw this woman, foot all ensconced, and a crutch carried lengthwise across a front basket. She parked her bike, locked it at a rack and hobbled off to take care of some shopping. No excuses. If she can ride...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

2014 CXLA, Day One: Katerina Nash

Since the beginning of the cyclocross season around here, some two months ago, I have been noting the mastery of Amanda Nauman over her competition. Each weekend she has raced in SoCal, she has ridden her closest rivals right off her wheel. Each time the Elite Women have lined up, the ending has been something like a foregone conclusion.

So then, what are we to make of the victory by Katerina Nash in the Elite Women's race at today's CXLA?

Nash's win was one of absolute conquest. Her race combined sure handling with sheer power and allowed her to finish a nearly comfortable minute up on 2nd placed Amanda Miller, with Courtenay McFadden a full minute further back. Nicole Duke and Emily Kachorek rounded out the podium. It was a strong field, and a tough, challenging, course, and Nash owned both.

Katerina Nash

Coming in for bacon

never mind the racing - the Great CXLA stare-down

double rooster-tail in the sand by Brannan Fix (Boo Bicycles/Training Peaks) who would finish second in the U23 race behind Liam Dunn (Clif Bar Development Team)

The CXLA weekend has become a big deal, probably the biggest on the SoCal cyclocross calendar. UCI sanctioning brings added prestige, as well as points, and thus the field of competitors includes a greater percentage of higher calibre racers who come in from all across the country. It was cool to notice so many people from NorCal who travelled down to challenge the southland's best. And that, though I can't pinpoint the reason why, brings me to the topic of bacon and why anyone would think it a good idea to hold little strips of greasy pork (actually, I think it was turkey) out to the maws of passing cyclists. Would you hand feed raw steak to a hungry lion? A MilkBone to a strange pit bull? Not likely. Bacon to an energy-starved cyclocross racer would seem to fall into the same category. Well, I never saw either of the brave souls (or would that be foolish souls) at the medic tent having fingers sewn back into place, so I guess everything worked out.

A couple days ago I mentioned that riders should expect an abundance of tight and twisting turns, likening the course to the slithering locks of Medusa. If anything, that may have been an understatement. As I look back through the photos from the day, and notice all the blood at knees and elbows, it is clear that many riders hit the deck in those turns. The medic tent was kept busy from high noon to sunset with minor cleaning and bandaging. Tight turns and a loose surface took people off their bikes in other ways as well. In most cases it took but a single pass before riders realized the quicker way around was to dismount and run.

Access the Flickr album here. In it you will find one hundred thirty-one photos, most of them shots of individual racers this time.

By the way, if anyone found my little, beat up Irish flag and wants to return it to me next race, I'll give you a copy of the 2013 Seasons In the Sun yearbook.

Friday, November 21, 2014

No Dogs on Bicycles

So I was doing a little research at work yesterday; a project I am working on includes a dog park and I needed to find some signs for it.

As I searched through some images on the internet I noticed this one. Only it wasn't quite this one - it was a sign, about the size of a "No Parking" sign, on a steel post. The type of sign you would expect to see at a park. Only it wasn't quite what you would expect to see. I mean, dogs on bicycles? 

My first thought was, "who would put a sign like that in a park?" My second thought was, "where is this place that has a problem with dogs riding bikes?" My third thought concerned the problem of dogs riding bikes. "What is the problem, exactly. Are they careless? Do they bolt off on a tangent unexpectedly in pursuit of squirrels and cats? Is the problem only with the long, floppy ears of basset hounds getting caught in spinning wheels?" "Do the greyhounds go too fast around the younglings and old folks out for a Sunday stroll?" It is a curious thing, and my fourth thought was, "this is a place I want to see." Next I thought, "Curious that there is a similar sign stating 'No Dogs, No Bicycles' - that is just boring." After that, I ran out of thoughts, but recovered a few moments later, just long enough to wonder if I could sneak such a sign past the city planners of Chino Hills.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Medusa Approved

Holy Zeus, it is almost here - CXLA, the only local UCI-caliber cyclocross race on the calendar this year is returning to the Greek Theater. This weekend.

There is a full slate of activities scheduled between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. Golden Saddle Cyclery will be hosting a 'Ride with the Pros' clinic - happy hour at Mohawk Bend - racing - heckling - partying - dinner fandango at Golden Road Brewing - Expo - community cross - doggy cross - kiddie cross - bike swap - a course that will twist and turn more than the slithering locks of Medusa's hair. Check here for the full schedule.

With big points on the line, many of the top racers from the US and Canada will be here. Who will the gods favor? Who will give the finger to those gods, forsake them and risk their anger to go it on their own? Whether Aphrodite shows up or not, I am expecting good things. Show up and see for yourself.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

At Least There is This

What a week it was. Heady concepts were thought on, debated. My son, the philosophical high school student, informed me one evening after work that ours is the only country that does not regularly revise its Constitution. Truth be known, and perhaps due to my upbringing, but I have never questioned the inviolability of our Constitution and certainly cannot recall (though it has been many years in the past) ever debating the point in school. Yet I see the point - times change, and to succeed you must react to those changes. So what happens if change is limited due to outdated constraints?

Later in the week came word of a conference being held at UCLA concerned with the relevance of the teachings of John Muir. In many ways, from what I understand, the Muir debate is much the same - holding certain notions, of preservation, the meaning of wilderness, etc, as timeless standards to be emulated regardless of change in the wider society. 

Being someone of the liberal persuasion, who's biggest dream growing up was to live in the mountains, I can tell you I am more receptive to one, than I am to the other of those debates.

Yes, there has been much to think about lately. Enough to start my head spinning, if I had let it, if I had not been able to get out and ride, ride to this place, this place where only the moment matters:

The beat of a heart, loud in my ears. A crow's three-peate caw, followed by another series a few seconds later and further away. The melodic whistling of an unseen songbird. The tumble of granite pebbles as a lizard causes a small cascade down the nearby cliff face. The familiar side to side rocking of a climber out of the saddle, wheels making a shush - shush - shush in regular rhythmic pattern as he ascends the road. The wind, a hum, as it rushes along the canyon bottom then rises upslope sounding like the drone of a thousand busy bees. The sun, filtering through a canopy of leaves, drifting ever so slightly as I sway on my feet, a curtain of light drawing closure, even if for a few fleeting minutes, on all but this close up place.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Donuts on the Go

This little gem is another from that old "Cycle Log: Diary and Guide for the Cyclist" which includes photographs by Rich Cruse and Jim Safford. That little innovation around her neck would, without doubt, meet the Homer Seal of Approval. Heck yeah, no more problems trying to pull that energy bar hidden deep in the jersey pocket. No, instant energy is dangling right in front of you with "Donuts on the Go." Choose you flavor - chocolate, cinnamon crumb, powdered sugar and, yes, plain. Chocolate works best for distance rides, something about the cocoa coating helps keep the spongy rings intact when the miles begin to add up.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Blues: Name Dropping

Twenty years ago, this week, I got a new bike. It was the blue GT. I have mentioned it before. To this day I regard it as the best bike I ever owned. Frame geometry was perfect for me, and its thin-walled lightness made it uber-responsive to my every demand. My first real ride with it (notice the grammatical choice of preposition - with, rather than on - signifying a more symbiotic relationship) came on the 20th of November, a Sunday that year.

"Did the Park Ride again with an even bigger group this week. Second day with the new bike [look at that, even back then I used the word 'with'] was pretty much superb. After bridging a short gap to the lead group low down on LaTuna, a group that included Olin, Mitch, Darren, Alberto, Dave, and [2nd] Dave (aka, Abdujaparov), I was in damn good company. I finished up 5th behind Olin, Mitch, Darren and an unknown Azteca rider. When the ride was done and we were back at the park little did I know that the day was just half over. With Dave, Mitch and Olin I headed out along Ventura. Eventually out in Tarzana or Encino, or someplace nearby, we stopped at a donut haus for a bit, and a bite. From there we came back to Sepulveda Blvd, up that to Mulholland and then back via that road. I did quite well until Coldwater or Laurel, or some such canyon when Mitch and Olin picked up the pace and left me behind. I should know by now not to believe them when they say easy pace."

Since Olin Bakke, Mitch Boggs and Darren Rogers were an entirely different category of rider from myself it was no small thing to brag about finishing fifth to them. Still isn't, I suppose.

Blue: A color, a mood or emotion, a genre of music. Tune in each Monday for another installment of the Blues, with a cycling twist.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Welcome Oppression

A mere forty miles away, The Valley stretched and yawned beneath a blue and sunny sky. Or so I was told yesterday. Here, morning fog and afternoon clouds crowded up against the mountains and pushed, but could move no further. And so they gathered, growing thicker, deeper, obscuring anything and everything above the city limit lines. It was a welcome oppression. No slathering of sunscreen, no squinting of eyes on this day. With no mountains to draw the eyes outward, the view becomes one of closeness and constriction. Some recent brush clearing, and late season die-back and hibernation, reveal sights closer to hand. Corrugated pipe, a slowly deteriorating maw, opening from the jungle's detritus. The collection of broken shards of sandstone littering the surface of the west hills, the Beeline trails, encourage me to stop every time - a quick searching glance for fossil imprints in the ancient stone.

Down at the shore, grown ever more receded, rings of fish surfacing and 'v' wakes of waterfowl hastening away from my intrusion, break the grey glass. But for the nearby roar of dragsters during their few second burn of competition, the occasional passing whir of props rising from the airfield, the disquieting rattle, knocking of a front stanchion in need of maintenance, quiet can still be found. There are no motors on the lake this day. Birds call, tires crunch and hum, the heart beats loudly in my ear, unseen things rustle the underbrush. The trail winds serenely around the cove, wrapped by leafy greens, yellows, cream and russet stalks of flowers are ribbon and bow. Uugh, a month and a half away, and the holiday season creeps into my thoughts.

The sun peeks through where the cloud cover is thin, but it is muted light. Just enough to provide barely perceptible shadow across the path. They are slow, more so than I am today. With no one to rush me, to push on to the next rise, hill top, I linger where I want, when I want, for however long I want. The clouds are my mentor, and I follow their example. There is no hurry today.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How to Wear a Cycling Cap: Trish

Now here is someone who knows where, as well as how, to wear a cycling cap. 

Trish knows how. While gracing the top step of a podium, of course.

Erik Pipins photo

If you are a local, I am sure you have been wondering how long it would take for this photo (or any of many similar ones) to pop up in a "How to Wear A Cycling Cap" post, since she often sports one cap or another. Well you can let go the horses now, the wait is over. Few wear a cycling cap as well as Trish does. The only question was which photo from the many in the archives of the Psycho-lists © to use. In the end, the one from the recent Tour de Foothills fit the purpose just fine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Upcoming: Texas Hold 'em With Gary

So your local school does not have a cycling team. You wish it did, and would probably help out with coaching duties. You could teach, mentor, you could encourage and cheer. Who knows, maybe years from now you could say you knew that rider when she or he was just starting out, and look now - World Champion. Just because there is no local team does not mean you are out of options, you can still help the Southern California High School Mountain Bike League in their mission to introduce kids to the sport of mountain biking, help them continue the growth which can only help the future of the sport, and of the individuals.

All it takes is buying a ticket to the SoCal League's annual CycleFest, held at the Queen Mary. It is as little as $45.00. Or, for $100.00 you can take a seat at one of the events' poker tables, and a chance to play Texas Hold'em with the legendary Gary Fisher.

You can buy tickets up to, I believe, Wednesday the 19th. Check here for information and tickets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2014 Seasons in the Sun

Just to let you know, the annual yearbook / review will be back for a second edition. Again, material will be drawn from all the races and related incidents covered by me for the CLR Effect between January and December 2014. After reviewing last years' volume, I have decided on a few changes which have already been initiated - photos will be no smaller than quarter page; those six per page images just seemed too small to be effective. Rather than presenting a chronological review of the year, I am going break this one into themes -  the gathering, focus, attack, bell lap - things like that. I opted not to pursue sponsorship this time, I admit that marketing is just not my thing and anyway, I put too much time on weekends during the year, and then at the end of year putting the book together, to not attempt at get at least a little recompense for the effort. When the book is ready - mid to late December - you will be able to review the entire thing page by page (though at this time I am only guessing that Blurb still offers that option), before purchasing directly from Blurb, or possibly even via Amazon.

Until then, here are a few page examples. Hope they pique your interest.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Blues: Bicycle Patent Blueprints

In these days of digital everything, the old blue printing machine has become a relic, museum pieces if lucky, junk otherwise. During my high school years we had one in its own little room off the back of the drafting class. I am pretty sure the door between the two had to be kept open for air circulation otherwise, using the machine, you would quickly be overcome by the ammonia fumes. If I close my eyes I can still smell them today. Oh wait, sorry, that is the cat's litter box over in the corner.

Anyway, digital artist, Nikki Marie Smith has taken numerous of these old bicycle patent blueprints and made them into digital works of art. They may not have the same historical significance of the originals but, nicely framed, any of them would look pretty cool hanging on a wall. Click for her bicycle artwork. Once you are there you can scroll through a couple pages of similar works. If you like what you see, click on 'galleries' up at the page top for other themes by the artist.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Melancholy Baby Cancelled by Crazy Legs

Every cloud must have a silver lining.
Wait until the sun shines through.

Those two lines from My Melancholy Baby sum up this time of year - the early descending darkness, the waiting out the Winter for a brighter Spring.

Back in the day I always would feel a little melancholy when the end of October, beginning of November, would roll around each year. It was a year that revolved around the racing calendar - late January to the end of October, when the last race was run. Those nine or ten months were filled with energy; in the days between races I would bounce between rides, a round of steady solo ones and white-knuckle group ones, filling the weeks. November days signaled an abrupt shift - most of those group rides slowed for the season, those that did not ceased entirely until well into the new year. With a snap of the fingers, all that energy was suddenly gone, or at least confined to the weekends.

To try and fill that gap I would ride loops at the Rose Bowl a couple nights a week through the winter. Those were almost always solo and would do little to assuage the melancholia. The ghosts of last seasons training races circled with me, climbed the hills in my wake, loitered around the parking lot as I hurriedly packed to get home to light and warmth. But while I missed all that energy and excitement, there was always the other side to consider as well. I looked forward to the slow down, a change of pace, to relaxing a bit before ramping back up, after a month or two, for the start of a new season. 

Lets face, it I haven't done a road race in ages, or so it seems. These days, calling myself a racer is solely based on the evidence of renewing my racing license each December. Maybe due to that, the melancholia isn't felt as strongly. Even so, the off-season still soft pedals through at a slower, lower intensity pace. 

And that brings us to Thursday (last) night.

before we ride, we drink coffee

The riders who come from twenty-five miles around and have made the Crazy Legs Ride a twice a week big deal, fail to grasp the significance of the term off-season. They fail to fully understand what it means, and the great responsibility that comes with that understanding. There I was, fully committed to practicing the fine art of the off-season with some thirty, or more, riders in front of me and none behind. Upon reaching the hill at the edge of town I latched on to a couple pairs of wheels whose riders, like myself, were making no extraordinary effort to be the twenty-seventh rider to reach the top.

Later, we rolled along the Badillo speedway as a single entity until a traffic signal caused a split, and with that the nights laughing group was birthed. This group rolled along at a healthy not-going-to-catch-back-on speed, an anyway-it-is-the-off-season speed, until that front group was not just out of reach, they were out of sight.

At the Glendora Cut-Off (shortcut) half the laughing group turned right, while the other half made as if to continue along the standard route. I did what any self-respecting off-season rider would do, I waited just long enough for everyone to commit. Then, at just the right moment, a moment that was the pure essence of off-season, a moment that would not be noticed by anyone else until it was too late, I quietly turned right myself to join the others honoring all those legions of off-season riders who have come before us.

Lets not forget, there is a lengthy tradition to uphold, a tradition perfected by generations of riders stretching into the murky, distant past, a tradition of pros lounging on beaches, spending two weeks worth of consecutive days with their families. A tradition that recognizes the length and exhaustion of a racing season, and recognizes the need, nay the right, to ride slowly through November and the first half of December.

If the Greg G's, the Jason C's, the David F's, or any of those guys and gals wearing Win, Tru, Incycle, or SC Velo team kit, attack the bunch as we roll along at a nice conversational, off-season pace, add your voice to the many others grumbling about it. Make it loud enough that they can hear it as they sprint away and feel guilty about the winter pain they are the cause of. Call them out, call them back, remind them - "hey, this is November, this is the off-season."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On A Route We Call Scruffy Sue's

Alright, so I'm not the first to connect Lynard Skynard's Gimme Me Three Steps to California's Give Me Three Feet bicyclist safety law, but how many others took [ie. wasted] their time to write up a complete parody? I tell you what, I have a new-found appreciation for the craft of Weird Al; this parody thing is not as easy as one might think. As you read along try to stay as close to the rhythm of Skynard as possible - you'll be fine.

We were ridin' the road
Out at a place called the ells
On a route we call Scruffy Sue's
When up drives a man
In a car colored tan
And he was shoutin' and cussin' too.
He said, "Hey there jack,
With the bike all in black,
Watcha tryin' ta prove?
Cause this is my lane here
And you better take care
Or I might run on over you.

I was sweatin' and winded on my bike
I was soft pedaling after the sprint.
Well he was close and loud and
Wanted us cowed, too
Throwin' a great big fit.
I said "wait a minute mister"
Don't come threatenin' to hit now
No one here's harming you.
And I know you don't know it
And pro'ly don't care
But that lane is there to share.

Won't you give me three feet,
Gimme three feet mister,
Gimme three feet on the road?
Gimme three feet
Gimme three feet mister
And we'll both get home once more.

Well his face turned all red
about what I had said
as the bunch started gatherin' round.
There was mean ol' Ed
and Flat Line Ted
and more of us closin' ground.
Then someone asked him what it's like
To feel life's out of control, and
That old tan car done let out a roar 
And peeled out noisily.

Won't you give me three feet,
Gimme three feet mister,
Gimme three feet on the road?
Gimme three feet
Gimme three feet mister
And we'll both get home once more.

In writing, they say, the best stuff just flows from the pen in a quick burst. This thing took so long, with so many stops and starts, i should have abandoned it weeks ago. But no, I had to finish it. I don't think it will bring me any royalty checks but, whatever.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Blues: No Good Way to Lock A Bike

The bike thieving dregs will take what ever is not secured. Gotta think that the dreg in this case only had a wrench with him - with that he could get both wheels and pedals. In an ideal world people would respect the property of others. But then this is not an ideal world, so lock them up good.

Blue: A color, a mood or emotion, a genre of music. Tune in each Monday for another installment of the Blues, with a cycling twist.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014 Peloton Cross: It Was A Mud Bath

Well, SoCalCross was actually visited by one of those rare weekends of wet. A little taste of cyclocross European-style. It wasn't all that cold, certainly no sleet or snow, but there was rain and what accompanies. When that falling water hits the parched soils of Southern California the result is predictable. Mud. Of that, there was plenty.

A look through the photos in the Flickr album reveals riders relatively clean, considering everything. True there is some spatter, but they are not covered nose to toe in slime. This was not a wet mud. This was a good, thick Southern mud, full of clay. This was a kids mud. The kind of mud that only the best pies are made from. The kind of mud you throw all inhibitions aside for. The kind of mud you plop to the ground for, roll down slopes in mud, slide down hills in mud. This was a mans mud, or at least the kind of mud that had men cursing so loudly you could hear their struggles and frustrations clear from the far side of the course. This was mud so thick and gooey that, if your shoes were not properly tightened, it would suck them clean off your feel once you started running and walking, separate your tires from their rims. The kind of mud that, twenty hours later is still caked to the bottom of my cycling shoes. It was a hell that you could even lose your bike in - one poor guy came away with nothing but his front wheel. And, while it was a worthy attempt, a likely option, even a lone fat bike was no match for this mud, and so it sat in the pits covered in an unbreakable mastic that prevented its wheels from spinning. It was a mud that had racers running, and walking, the flattest portions of the course. Beside clogging wheels and drivetrains, all that mud added pounds of extra weight to the bikes, and once they ground to a halt the additional pounds became caked to shoes, clogging cleats and frustrating connections to pedals. If ever the advantage of the single-stanchion Lefty was clearly revealed, it was in this muddy bog on the slopes above Lake Casitas.

Of course the day was not all grey skies and quagmires, I passed four rainbows during the drive north, the final one just before passing the old home of Johnny Cash at Casitas Springs. This meant there were moments of blue sky and sun as well. It was like the heavens were engaged in a wide ranging game of British Bulldog - one side would press its advantage, the sun warming and drying the ground, but then the clouds would push back enveloping the overhead canopy. Most of the rain fell overnight and during the hours of early, early morning. Thus the first races of the day suffered the worst of the conditions on the ground. Gradually the sun and the passing of wheels combined to help solidify favored lines that racers could take advantage of. Then, sections of course that had to be walked earlier in the morning, were able to be ridden instead.

When the rain returned, right on time for the start of the single-speed races, it was just enough to wet the surface, make those worn paths slick and the verges of those paths gooey once again. Racers traded the floor of a glue factory for a slip and slide. Slipping and sliding came to be expected, but racers countered with everything from subtle shifts of weight and strategic breaking, to other, more obvious attempts to keep upright. Most races involve some exercise in attrition, but if ever there was a classic example it was this race. Never have I seen so many racers raise a hand when crossing the line - clearly it was a victory just to finish.

making it look easy, Andrew Juliano (Voler / HRS / Rock Lobster) negotiates the slickly tricky s-turns to the beach, on his way to winning the Men's Elite race.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

From the Archives: Casper Classic 1990 / 1991

Somewhere along the road I picked up these couple pins from the 1990 and 1991 Casper Classic. During its heyday, the Classic was regarded among the premier stage races in the Midwest / Rocky Mountain region, if not the entire US. Many of the races from that locale have taken on almost mythic proportions these days - Red Zinger, Coors Classic, Mt. Evans - and the Casper Classic right up there. It was known as an especially grueling weeklong race, during which it was not unusual for half the field of elite competitors to drop out along the way. I am not sure exactly when the race got its start, but in 1986 as a "fledgling" race it was a single-day criterium. By the next year, though, when Todd Gogulski won the General Classification it had grown to three stages - an opening time trial, a hill climb, and a road race. 

The race, in 1989, was won by Tom Noaker, and the next year by Michael Nields, who was tragically killed in a hang-gliding accident the following year. By 1990, at the least, the Classic had grown to a weeklong, seven stage race and was attracting many of the top racers in the country (Clark Sheehan finished 4th on G.C. that year).

Jonathan Vaughters was top amateur finisher in both 1992 and 1993. And it was not just men who raced at Casper, the best women did as well - for instance the top three in 1994 were Eve Stephenson, Didi Demet-Barry, and Alison Dunlap. That, I believe, was the final year of the old Classic (see below), and though there has been an attempt to revive it in recent years, the 2014 edition was cancelled.

As you have gathered by now, information on the internet about the Classic is spotty at best. Bummer, because I bet there are a lot of people out there with a lot of stories. Additionally, there must be more results somewhere. Anyway, besides the above info, I have included a few links to some more:

A Los Angeles Times article from 5 August 1990, is mostly about Mike Orr at Junior Nationals that year, but also includes a bit about the 1990 Casper Classic.

Some photos from the 1990 edition at Jeff Mather's Dispatches.

You are mostly likely familiar with, probably visiting there regularly for the racing calendar, interviews, or other features, but if you have not looked beyond those you may have missed the photo of SoCalCycling's very own Christy Nicholson sprinting to victory during the race.

Read about the "poppy seed muffin prank" pulled on Alexi Grewal during the 1991 Classic.

Ingrid Alongi, who won the Team Pursuit at Masters Nationals in 2009, remembers the 1992 Casper Classic as her all time favorite race. Read that at Mark Woolcott Photography.

If you liked the Alexi Grewal prank, Steel Wul recounts an additional incident, from the same year, involving mistaken rental cars.

The Bent Fork Chronicles newsletter from July 1995 notes, "the legacy of the Casper Classic still haunts the town, it was abandoned a few years ago when the city planners refused to staff a full time position to oversee the race and other recreational events. It apparently was a victim of its own success."


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