Posts Tagged ‘Cyclo-cross’

Park place

January 13, 2014
From the annuals of VeloNews, circa 1998.

From the annuals of VeloNews, circa 1998.

Chapeau to all the folks who are taking stars-and-stripes jerseys home from Boulder, especially Bibleburg’s very own Katie Compton, who racked up title No. 10 at Valmont Bike Park on Sunday.

Our politically and spiritually unhinged community is home to some top ’cross talent, for reasons that elude me. There’s six-time U.S. ’cross champ Alison Dunlap, who used to live right here in the Patty Jewett Wild Democrat Preserve and can often be seen towing a trailer full of offspring at a pace that makes grown men weep.

And of course there’s Ms. Compton, who seems so genteel and mild-mannered when buying a bottle of wine at Coaltrain, yet come race day can be seen methodically ripping off people’s legs, eating them, and then using the bloody bones to club lesser riders out of her path.

With two such exemplars of the discipline in residence, you’d think some bright person would have had the idea to duplicate Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park down here in God’s Country™, where men are men and so are the women, only more so.

Alas, the Free Hand of the Market is too busy jerking off to fantasies of an Olympic museum, a “multipurpose” stadium and a visitors center for the U.S. Air Force Academy, which already has one.

You know — places for looking at things, instead of actually doing them.

As one-half of the executive team that operates The House Back East™ Bide-a-Wee Vacation Home & Money Laundry, I have yet to encounter a guest who longs to visit museums, stadia and visitors centers.

What they want to do is tackle the Incline, Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods, and Manitou Springs. They want to do stuff, not just look at it. And some of them want to do it while blazing a fatty.

But don’t tell that to the local leadership. They turned this place into Six Flags Over Bethlehem and now it’s all about The Five Rings To Rule Them All, the feddle gummint’s saggy ol’ sugar tit and state-supported fantasies about what a bunch of old white guys think will get the money train chugging through town again.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines “spectator” as “a person who sees or watches something without taking an active part; onlooker.”

Yeah, that’s just what we need.

Here’s mud in your eye

January 8, 2014
This may be a shot of my final cyclo-cross, in Memorial Park. I rode to the race, without a spare bike, and promptly flatted just a coupe of laps in. DNF.

This may be a shot of my final cyclo-cross, in Memorial Park. I rode to the race, eschewing a spare bike, and promptly flatted just a couple of laps in. DNF.

Cyclo-cross nats got off to a sloppy start today in the People’s Republic. I thought about motoring up to watch the industry race, maybe provide a little sage advice to the competitors — “Hey, that looks just like cyclo-cross, only slower!” — but chores got in the way.

I had to content myself with tweeting, “Guess how many guys in the industry race at CX nats will be riding steel bikes and cantis and win a free trip to are you fucking kidding me?”

Yes, I’m that old. Steel frames, threaded steerers, cantilever brakes, seven-speed freewheels, bar-end shifters, Lyotard 460 pedals with double steel Christophe toeclips and Alfredo Binda toe straps, Vittoria Mastercross and WolberCross 28 Extra tires, the works.

You see anyone riding a rig like that in Boulder 2014, you’ll know you’ve died and gone to Cyclo-cross Hell.

Still, it was big fun. It’s hard to believe I haven’t raced ’cross for 10 years — and even harder to believe that I haven’t attended nationals since 1999 in San Francisco, where I covered the race for a now-defunct sporting website.

I raced nats only once — in 1992, in Golden — and just missed a top-10 finish in the masters 35s. That was it for actually racing the sonofabitch. But I covered the championships in 1994 and ’94, in Seattle; helped lay out the 1997 course in Lakewood; and finally wrote up the race for the last time in ’99 at The Presidio.

It would have been amusing to old-school it at this year’s industry race — time-travel into the 21st century aboard the old Steelman Eurocross with its eight-speed Ultegra, Paul’s Neo-Retro cantis and Michelin Jet/Mud clinchers — but lord, would I ever have gotten my fat ass handed to me. They’d have been timing me with a calendar, and a paper one at that.

• Editor’s note: Unlike Your Humble Narrator, Cyclocross Magazine is on the scene.

Fenderhead

January 7, 2014
That old cyclo-crossin' gang of mine, following a 1990s race in Fort Collins.

That old cyclo-crossin’ gang of mine, following a 1990s race in Fort Collins.

A long time ago, in a peloton far, far away, when it got to be too cold or sloppy to train on the road bike one of the Dogs would invariably propose, “How’bout riding mountain bikes on the road?”

It makes sense, if you think about it. Big ol’ tires for traction. Closer to the ground for purposes of falling onto same. Lower average speed and thus less wind chill. Add fenders and you don’t even get the deadly Brown Stripe of Shame.

So that’s what I did today. Dug up a pair of strap-on, zip-tie Planet Bike fenders for the DBR ti’ and went out for my second mountain-bike ride of 2014. That’s about two more than I did in 2013*, and it’s only Jan. 7.

This also means that five — five! — of my bikes now sport fenders. A sixth has a set, but isn’t presently wearing them. And I have an extra pair in case I feel like going for Lucky No. 7. You can’t stop me!

And to think I once lived for cyclo-cross, the entire purpose of which is to get cold, wet and filthy dirty, all at the same time. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!

*Purists will note that I rode a buttload of 29ers during 2013, but that doesn’t count. I’m talking 26-inch hardtail here. Who rides one of those in 2014? Besides me, that is?

Crosswords

October 29, 2013
The flier for the 2000 Mad Dog Cyclo-cross in Bear Creek Regional Park.

The flier for the 2000 Mad Dog Cyclo-cross in Bear Creek Regional Park.

Bibleburg has never been a hotbed of cyclo-cross. Oh, sure, nationals was held here once, back in 1980, and shortly after I returned to town from New Mexico in 1991 we got a small local scene rolling, mostly because driving to the Denver-Boulder clusterplex was something of a pain in the ass come wintertime. Or any other time, come to think of it.

Also, the U.S. Cycling Federation required a racing club to promote at least one event per annum, and back in the day there was nothing easier to run than a ’cross. Find yourself a venue, mark it casually with some red and blue flags, install a few homemade wooden barriers to force the roadies off their bikes, and by golly you had yourself a race course.

So we put on a couple races per year, in Palmer Park or Monument Valley Park — host to that long-ago national championships — until some turd in the city government who lived nearby took an infarction about people racing bicycles in “his” park. That we were donating the proceeds from our events to park maintenance was immaterial. Sorry ’bout that, said the parks people, but we have to deal with this asshole all the time; you we only have to see a couple times a year.

Thus we shifted operations to the county parks system, putting on races in Bear Creek Regional Park — where, as a precaution, Team Mad Dog Media-Dogs At Large Velo formally adopted the section of trail that included our course — and in Black Forest Regional Park.

Your Humble Narrator on the job during a rare soft day at the Bear Creek Cyclo-cross. As you can see, I am a veritable blur of activity.

Your Humble Narrator on the job during a rare soft day at the Bear Creek Cyclo-cross. As you can see, I am a veritable blur of activity.

Ours were fast, simple courses, suited to beginners and roadies in need of an early season refresher, in part because the county was not interested in our veering off established trail, and in part because we were not exactly the most vigorous of race promoters.

In fact, we were about as lazy a crop of bastards as ever marked a course. Our northern counterparts, among them Chris Grealish, Lee Waldman and John Vickers, were more imaginative when it came to locating new venues, negotiating with their overseers, and designing interesting circuits.

At our peak, we were getting just over 200 riders per event, which wasn’t bad for being outside the Boulder-Denver velo-ghetto, whose more sensitive communards either feared getting born-agained or libertarded if they dared cross the Palmer Divide or didn’t like driving south any better than we liked driving north. We also were working with our northern cousins on a statewide series that included events from Pueblo to Fort Collins.

Eventually, inevitably, we Dogs flamed out. I peaked as a ’cross racer in 1999, and shortly thereafter started dialing it back; by then, Herself and I were living on a rocky hillside outside Weirdcliffe, and Bibleburg was a 90-minute drive in good weather. The last Mad Dog ’cross at Bear Creek may have been in 2000, though I still raced occasionally until 2004, when I finally gave it up for good.

Another club picked up where we left off, drawing OK numbers and getting progressively more creative with its courses, including one last year up near the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs that I heard good things about. Alas, they, too, seem to have flamed out for now — for one reason or another, there seems to be nary a cyclo-cross in Bibleburg this season.

It’s a pity, really. ’Cross has been the biggest thing in bike racing for quite a while now, and last weekend’s Cyclo X-Xilinx in Longmont drew more than 650 racers, a number unheard of in my day. Surely we could get half that down here despite the Lambornagains and various other socio-political impediments. Tap a medical marijuana company for sponsorship, donate the proceeds to the Society for the Preservation of Steel Bicycles and Cantilever Brakes.

I may not race anymore, but I’d still like to watch now than then.

The last leaf on the tree

October 21, 2013
If we had a pumpkin, there'd be frost on it.

If we had a pumpkin, there’d be frost on it.

Those first few cold days sure get a fella’s attention, and not just due to shrinkage, either.

A spate of subfreezing temps pretty much wrote finis to our fall foliage display, carpeting the sidewalk with defunct leaves, reminding me of a Tom Waits song, and inspiring Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) to take up winter quarters in a subordinate’s lap. Miss Mia Sopaipilla likewise reopened her seasonal penthouse atop the fridge.

Unlike the cats, Mister Boo adores chilly weather. It makes a peppy puppy of the little one-eyed stinkbug, who in the heat of summertime is about as frisky as a union ditch-digger being paid by the hour.

Me, I stand firmly with the cats. I got my fill of cold-weather cycling during 10 years of racing cyclo-cross, and once I abandoned that foolishness I usually did without the pedaling on damp, cold days but kept the running bits. Turns out they’re easier without a bike. Who knew?

Alas, since my knees began grousing, the running is out, so it’s either ride the trainer (barf), go back to swimming (puke) or ride the damn’ bike regardless of the temperature. It’s what you call your basic “First World problem,” for sure.

The leaves dropped like flies, and walking the Boo made a fine rustling sound.

The leaves dropped like flies, and walking the Boo made a fine rustling sound.

And y’know what? It’s not so bad, riding on a cold day, a lesson I relearn every fall.

Yesterday I chose medium-heavy kit — wool socks, leg warmers, long-sleeved jersey and henley, long-fingered gloves and tuque — and spent a pleasant 90 minutes riding the Voodoo Nakisi in Palmer Park, inspecting a few trails I haven’t visited since monsoon season began. Some are in pretty poor repair, though the city and volunteers have been doing what they can to put them back in order.

Last night’s light rain probably helped make them a bit more rideable — it left a crust of ice on our deck but likely tamped down the loose sand that blankets the trails after every heavy storm.

I might just have to get back in there today. The best thing about a brisk fall Monday is that most of the other sluggardly fat bastards are either at work or sleeping off a 24-hour case of Bronco fever.

It just ain’t my ’cross to bear

October 12, 2013
The colors are changing, fast and furious, as fall descends on Bibleburg.

The colors are changing, fast and furious, as fall descends on Bibleburg.

Cyclo-cross weather here in Bibleburg today. And yesterday, too; it was the first day I wished I’d fetched arm and knee warmers along on what proved to be an abbreviated ride.

It rained a little — naturally, since Herself had just bathed and groomed Mister Boo — and this morning with temps in the 40s the uniform of the day is pants, socks and a long-sleeved Ten Thousand Waves T-shirt. I wish I were wearing it there.

The ’cross this weekend is up north, in the People’s Republic. I will not be in attendance, alas, but one of my bikes should be there, under the narrow booty of Dr. Schenkenstein, who has been taking the thing for an extended test ride and promises to buy it from me sometime.

Another purchase stolen out from under the noses of the local bicycle shops, which are less accommodating as regards pre-sale product evaluation. But then their stock is a little fresher than mine and probably moves a little faster, even in this economy.

Whether it might move faster under Dr. Schenkenstein will remain a mystery, as the man does dearly love a bargain on a used bike. If he eventually writes a check for this one, he will have three of my castoffs in his garage.

And I will have an unoccupied hook in mine. Oboy, oboy, oboy. …

Rouleurs and Stooges and ’cross, oh my!

January 13, 2012
Edward R. Furrow

Never give a mad dog an open mic'.

Friend of the site Larry T., commenting over at VeloNoise, directed me to a witty review of cyclo-cross commentary American style by his pals at Rouleur magazine.

Naturally, I was inspired to bang out my own take on things.

Maybe it’s that I’ve spent too many years working alone from a home office, but I find myself less tolerant of racket in my advanced geezerhood. And that’s what I find most homegrown cycling commentary to be.

No disrespect intended to Dave Towle, Richard Fries or Brad Sohner, who had a more restrained delivery than his two comrades. It takes ’nads to put yourself out there, mic’d up and on camera, and then crank up the old P.T. Barnum for a few hours (“Hur-ry, hur-ry, hur-ry!”). I’d just like to see them dial down the theatricality a click or two or three. That sort of bombast is hard on an iMac’s speakers.

There’s plenty of drama inherent in the racing. No need to slather on more. It’s like watching someone take a can of Krylon to a Moots.

Meanwhile, my fellow geezers are mixing it up at the 2012 masters cyclo-cross worlds in Louisville, and all the usual suspects are serving up the whup-ass from a muddy 55-gallon drum. It would be fun to be there.

But it would be even more fun to be there in 2013, when Eva Bandman Park hosts the UCI Cyclo-cross Elite World Championships. Hell, if I can get there I might be doing some hollering my own bad self. “One to go! Onetogo onetogo onetogo!”

Don’t blink or you’ll miss your ass getting kicked

October 17, 2010

After all these years of covering bike racing, you’d think I’d quit being surprised by how friggin’ fast the Euro pros are — especially when it comes to cyclo-cross.

I watched today’s UCI World Cup kickoff via streaming video and I had to keep picking my jaw up off my belly button. Judas Priest. It was like the top-10 dudes were on rails and jet-propelled. Plus eight of them were bunny-hopping the barriers. Remember when it was unusual to see someone like Sven Nys riding the boards? Not any more, Bubba. If you can’t do it, you ain’t shit.*

Tim Johnson, who is not exactly a back-of-the-packer, finished 26th — more than three minutes down on winner Zdenek Stybar, who is world champ for a number of very good reasons. When he lit it up it was hasta la vista muchachos.

One of the best parts of watching the race online was hearing the squeal of cantilever brakes as the big boys damped a little velocity diving into an off-camber turn or a hairy descent. Fuck a bunch of disc brakes. What a real ’crosser wants going into a dicey bit is a little speed modulation. You want to stop, hit something. Or someone.

* Full disclosure: I can’t do it. Draw your own conclusions.

And on the seventh day, he flatted

October 10, 2010
Autumn is on us with a vengeance, if you happen to be a plant. But midweek the temps should be in the low 60s/high 70s.

Autumn is on us with a vengeance, if you happen to be a plant or a penniless drunkard without a furnace. But midweek the temps should be in the low 60s to high 70s, which means I can dial the ethanol heater back a notch or two.

Screw the calendar — today was the first official day of fall. I know this to be a fact because when I set out for a quick 45 minutes of cyclo-cross after a morning of light labor I was wearing arm warmers, knee warmers and an undershirt in addition to the usual kit, and wishing I’d opted for long-fingered gloves.

I had planned to do a few go-rounds at a nearby school that has a gravel track, some short, sharp run-ups, a bit of asphalt and even a log to hop. But some anonymous teabagger has let the grounds go to hell, so after trying and failing to find a suitable path through the weeds I rolled off to my old standby, Monument Valley Park.

Unfortunately I apparently took a couple of goatheads with me, and just as the ’crossing was starting to feel good the front tire went soft. Oh, bugger. Out with the bad tube, in with the good tube. This mini-pump works about as well as the Senate. Look at the time. The sis and bro’-in-law are en route from Fort Fun, expecting lunch. Home wi’ ye, ye bald-pated tosspot.

And that was my Sunday in Bibleburg. How was yours?

Live cyclo-cross video

September 25, 2010

… right now over at VeloNews.com, in partnership with CyclingDirt.com.

• Late update: Christ, that was woeful. The kindest thing I can say about it was that it was better than no live streaming video at all. Phil and Paul have nothing to fear. Neither do Beavis and Butthead. Here’s a hint and a half for your ass, guys: People watch streaming video to find out what’s going on in the fucking race, not what you’re having for lunch.


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