Thursday, February 28, 2008

BAT-SHIT INSANE!!!

I used to think going down a hill on a bike was cool. I used to think going down a hill on a bike was scary. I used to think going down a hill on a bike was fast. And then I saw this guy:

Monday, February 25, 2008

HOORAY!!! PICTURES!!!

It finally happened! I never thought the stars would align themselves with such perfection, but i was wrong. I finally raised enough extra money to afford a $15 memory stick reader the very same weekend a house mate and I decided to drive to the Fred Meyer near the mall (where all the large electronic stores are located). Thus, to celebrate my newfound ability to transfer photos from my camera to the internet, I'll share a bit of my race weekend:

See? I wasn't kidding -- I really was in Arizona!

This is my team mate Ross, and the deathtrap-gasguzzler of a truck we used to get around.

There's me enjoying a "call-up" at the crit.
There's David Clinger looking menicing.
Crit racin'.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

All The Gory Details


“DROP YOUR COCK AND GRAB YOUR SOCKS SAM, IT’S TIME FOR CHOW!!!” Harry bellowed before rushing back to the kitchen. I groggily trundled out of my room and sat down at the table next to Nick and Ross. Before my butt hit the chair, my plate was piled high with eggs, potatoes, bacon and bagels. Harry is Ross’ grandfather. He was in the military and clearly knows how to feed a bunch of young, hungry men. This is by far the best kind of homestay.

It had to rain, didn’t it? I come all the way down to Tucson to ride my bike in warm weather and get my tan on, and what do I get? COLD AND RAIN??? Ross and I were unenthusiastic, and woefully underdressed when we arrived to the first stage of the Valley of the Sun to find temperatures in the 50’s and spitting rain. It was so cold that I mostly waited in the truck while Ross raced his TT. I was able to charm the nice girls next to us into letting me use their trainer under their tent so I didn’t have to warm up in the rain. The course was as pure of a TT course as it gets: 14 miles out-and-back, pancake flat, super smooth roads. I was able to procure an extremely fast front wheel in the nick of time (while I was en rout to the start line – thanks Cammie), and I raced with my powertap in the rear so I could give a nice powerfile for my coach at the end of the day. I honestly didn’t expect to go as well as I did. After I was done racing, we were all tired and cold, and really wanted to get home. Since one of the Cat 2 guys beat me, I figured I wouldn’t have a time in the top three of the Cat 1 field, and agreed to drive home without waiting around for the results. We joked about how funny it would be if I actually made the podium somehow, but missed the presentation -- Alan Schmitz, our team manager would probably strangle me! Hahaha! Little did I know that Cat 2 guy had the fastest time of the day, and my time was good enough for second place in the 1’s (.04 seconds ahead of 3rd). I missed the podium presentation – very unprofessional of me. Lesson learned. It won’t happen again.

Day 2 was a ninety-mile road race, 5.5 laps on a mostly-flat course with one short climb right before the finish. I had no teammates, and I doubted the field would let me get up the road, so I mostly just hung out in the back half of the pack and let the race play out. The pace was pretty tame on the flats and speedy on the climbs, but not blistering. Halfway through, a 14 man break got up the road, and gained a good 2.5 minutes on the field. Race leader Ben Kneller (of Jittery Joe’s) put all his teammates on the front, along with a few Waste Management guys (who missed the break). Those poor Jittery Joe’s guys sure did work hard, and I did not envy them for it. But they did their jobs well, and the break came back with less than a lap to go. Once things were all back together, attacks started going, and a three man break with Stefano Barberi got up the road. The final time up the hill, I got to the front and started looking for opportunities. Maybe a mile from the finish, the Slipstream guy right in front of me launched off the front. I hung on his wheel until he started to pop, and then I leapfrogged my way to the tiny breakaway. I came around Stefano with maybe 500 meters to go, and it was all me ‘til the last 100. Just as I started to think my move might work, ten guys zoomed past me right at the line, one of them Carl Bordine, who took third, giving him the time bonus he needed to take the leaders jersey and bump me to third in GC. Darn.

After the road race was over, Ross and I had a bit of an adventure hitch-hiking to the gas station – yeah that’s right, we ran out of gas AS we pulled up to the race course, so we were stranded once the race was over. I had to bum a ride (thanks again Cammie) to the minuscule town of Sacatone (pronounced Sak-a-Tone), to the only gas station in the town. I asked the attendant if they sold gas cans, which they didn’t, but the guy offered to let me use his gas can if I promised to bring it right back. I accepted his offer. We had to drive into the trailer park where (we hoped) he lived, to the trailer that (we hoped) was his, and snatch (hopefully) his gas can of the porch. We were hoping pretty hard; it looked like the kind of trailer park where people don’t treat gas can thieves too kindly. Fortunately, upon returning to the Shell station the clerk claimed the gas can as his, and we proceeded on our way.

Sunday’s crit was a fast, flat, wide-open course in downtown Phoenix. I was still in 3rd place, and had no ambition to do anything other than keep that spot. The first 10 minutes were really fast, and I had a hard time staying towards the front, but after a while things settled down (or I warmed up), and I held my own. The race was mostly uneventful, but with 5 laps to go, all hell broke loose – there was a major crash on the long straightaway on the back side of the course that took down Ben Kneller (2nd place GC). [Note: Ben is a friend who raced in the Northwest Collegiate Cycling Conference for years. He had a killer season last year, and I’m really stoked to see him make it to the pros, but this is a rough way to start his season off: his team had a flat on the way to the TT (so he nearly missed his start time), the poor guy went from winning the TT on stage 1, to getting punked by Bordine on stage 2, to breaking his collarbone on stage 3. Ouch. Welcome to the pros Ben. See ya in two months.] With 3 laps go to, to my horror, my rear tire started feeling squishy. Yep, I had a flat. I made my way to the wheel pit, and franticly tried to get a wheel change, but the officials quickly calmed me down by letting me know that everyone who had a mechanical problem within the last 5 laps would receive the same time as the pack (including the guys who crashed, so Kneller kept his spot too). My flat couldn’t have been better timed; there were no neutral wheels, so if it had happened earlier I would have been shit-out-of-luck. I got to sit back and watch the last two laps from the sidelines – which were awesome! Rock and Republic made up for their fairly unimpressive first two stages by grabbing the field by the scruff if its neck and showing them how it’s done. They had at least 6 guys at the front, and gave their sprinter a lead out so good they took second place as well.

So I hung onto third place GC. After the race, I was sure to rectify my earlier mistake by staying in my sweaty kit until the podium presentation. Ross helped me make sure I looked as presentable as possible by loaning me his set of Gin optics. Thanks Ross. Since Kneller was well on his way to the hospital, the podium looked not unlike a hockey player’s smile: mostly there, but with a large, glaring gap somewhere in the middle. Even so, that only put a slight damper on my weekend. It was a pretty good weekend.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Just Plain Wrong.

Looks I was wrong about that trip to Phoenix. I thought it would be warm and sunny. Today was rainy and cold, and I was woefully under dressed. I also appear to have underestimated my early season fitness. Looks like I'm coming along just fine.

Here We Are Again...

And here we go again. At last. I’m sitting at gate B10 in the Boise airport, waiting for my flight to board. It’s 5:48 in the goddam morning. I’m about to board a plan that will take me to Phoenix for the 2008 Valley of the Sun Stage Race. Compared to years past, this could be an abrupt entry into the racing season. Normally, I ease into racing by going to smaller, regional events before showing up at the larger national level races; last year for instance, my first race was in Boise against thirty local cat 1-2’s. Valley of the Sun has a full field of 100 cat 1’s. Ladies and gentlemen in the boarding area, we are in an overbooked situation on flight 1090 to Phoenix. If your travel plans are flexible today….Uh, no thanks. I’m still just as excited to race, but the chances of winning boatloads of prize money waned a bit when I saw that no less than ten Rock and Republic racers will be in attendance, in addition to roughly 15-20 other domestic pros. While this won’t be as hard as the NRC races I’ll do later this year, the Valley of the Sun will be several cuts above anything I’ll do for over two months afterwards. Ladies and gentlemen, those of you in the boarding area waiting for flight 1090 to Phoenix, the flight has been delayed due to a mechanical problem….Awh shit, you kidding me? Well at least the forecast in Phoenix looks great. I doubt I’ll race in weather below 65 degrees. It was a challenge to keep that in mind while I was packing my clothing, my impulse being to take every shred of long sleeve, fleece lined, wind-stopping spandex I own. It’s been so long since I packed for a race – there are components of my packing ritual that have atrophied, and ones that have remained automatic. I could have disassembled my road bike in my sleep; my hands flew from bolt to bolt, disassembling what I needed to, protecting the vulnerable parts from the savage hands of the luggage tossers. By contrast, rounding up my road-rash kit took much more thought. How many non-stick wound dressings is enough? Should I bring the whole bottle of iodine? Will the bottle of iodine leak on the plane like my shampoo bottle does? Ladies and gentlemen on flight 1090 to Phoenix, our mechanics are on the plane evaluating the problem as we speak. Please remain in the boarding area….Being stuck in the airport is a good time to reflect on the less glamorous sides of bicycle racing. Racing is fun, but I easily spend more time in airports than I do in the peloton. While I can think of worse places to regularly spend hours on end (a Russian gulag comes to mind), airports suck. They’re like malls, but with fewer fountains. I hate the air in the airport. It’s so sterile and manufactured – I feel like I’m breathing through a mask of steel wool. The only plants in the airport are goddam fichus trees – plastic fichus trees. This begs the question: is it worth it? Ladies and gentlemen on flight 1090, I’m sorry to announce that your flight has been canceled. Please head to the customer service desk in between gates 82 and 83 for rebooking.

My answer oddly enough is a solid, no-hesitation shot from the hip. Absolutely.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Weather Alert!

Today marks my first ride of the 2008 season I was able to be outside wearing nothing more than a jersey. It was in the high 40's and wonderfully sunny -- if you didn't know better, you'd think it was like this all the time. Au contraire. The last two weeks have been a non-stop indoor training hell, thanks to the near daily snow showers that have been blanketing Boise. Thank goodness spring is here (or at least is teasing us, cruelly).

Thursday, February 7, 2008

My Enduring Love...

Breakfast cereal, I've loved you for as long as I remember.
and that love has grown with each passing day --
grown to the incomprehensible infinity of affection that I now feel
Breakfast cereal, you lift me up and made my heart soar.
you are the nourishment of my soul, and my body
you have kept me alive for weeks on end
literally.

Breakfast cereal, I shall never be full of you.
even if my belly is stretched like a drum around tabbouleh and falafel
even if my belly is stretched like a drum around a turkey ruben
even if my belly is stretched like a drum around other goddam cereal
there is always room for more of you

Breakfast cereal, you've never diminished.
in my heart. Even for that month when I preferred granola.


This poem was written by a full grown man.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Glider Bison's Official Endorsement

The Glider Bison blog has decided to officially endorse senator Barack Obama's campaign to become the next president of the United States.

Last night, I participated in my first democratic primary election. I am proud to say that I am one of those "young people" who has been inspired to not only learn more about, but to actually participate in our nation's electoral process. This newfound interest is almost entirely due to Obama. He inspires me; it's as simple as that. I don't see him as any more "qualified" to be in the White House than senator Clinton (or any less so for that matter) -- they're both great candidates -- but I feel Obama's potential to unite and inspire our country is far greater than anyone I've ever seen in my lifetime. Here's an excellent blog post that mirrors much of my sentiment by good friend and political junkie Aaron Mandel.

Last night, in the Quest arena in downtown Boise, Ada county held the nation's largest democratic caucus. It was an absolute circus -- nearly 10,000 people showed up. Even after the stadium was filled to capacity, the line outside stretched for blocks. Idaho does its first round of voting with a paper ballot, allowing everyone there (including those waiting in the line outside) to cast a vote. My friends and I realized we weren't going to get inside the arena, so we cast our votes, and then went into the sports bar overlooking the arena. We couldn't participate but we got to see the spectacle. Several glasses of water (no alcohol could be served inside the building) and a basket of French fries later, someone told us that there was now room inside the arena, and I got to go down onto the floor and bathe in the bizairre atmosphere. After the paper ballots were tallied, any voters whose candidate did not receive 15% of the vote was given the opportunity to cast another vote, or to try to lure voters into increasing their numbers to 15%. This was not necessary. Obama took nearly 90% of the vote for our precinct, helping to give Idaho his biggest margin of victory in any state.

Obama drew a crowd of over 14,000 to his speech on Saturday. Please remember, this is Idaho. There are only something like 12,000 registered democrats in the state. You do the math.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Super Bowl.

Yesterday, despite allotting a mere 35 minutes of my day to watching football (the amount of time I anticipated it would take the Patriots to score 9 touchdowns), I ended up watching the whole darn game. As anyone who did the same can tell you, it was a satisfying, nail-biter of a game, and the patriots lost, which makes most people happy (while simultaneously proving that a team's record means absolutely nothing when it comes to winning the super bowl).

There were some awesome new ads, namely, the baby explaining how easy it is to trade stock. He was hilarious (twice!).


I also like this advertisement (thanks to my teammate Patrick Stanko for sharing). It gives me hope that some day I'll find a job like this too...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Crystal Ball: Gazing Into the Future!!


Recently, I went to a carnival. It was everything that I wanted from a carnival: creepy carnies, delicious fried foods, dozens of ways to lose my money playing rigged "games of skill", and best of all, a fortune teller. Situated towards the back of the carnival grounds there stood a saggy, purple and green tent, with the faded words "Wanda the Wise" painted on the side. I nervously poked my head inside the entrance and the smell of burning sandalwood greeted my nostrils. The tent was dimly lit by a single candle burning on a low table. A woman (who I assumed was Wanda) was seated behind the table on a dark red pillow, still and motionless. Her face was knotted, her hair frizzy and gray. Her eyes were closed.

"Hello? Wanda? Are you, uh, available?" I asked.

Wanda's eyes snapped open, and she pointed to the red pillow on the other side of the table. I sat down. Without saying a word, Wanda reached under the table, produced a crystal ball, and set it down in between us. She grabbed my hands with hers, and guided them onto the sides of the ball. BLAH BLAH BLAH.....

I'm getting bored of this fortune teller nonsense. I just want to talk about my upcoming schedule. I'll share what is in store for the next three months. Here it goes:

February

Basic outline: Stay in Boise, work a lot, train a lot. Wish that the winter would hurry up and end.
Major races: February 15,16,17 -- Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a large race that serves as the season opener for dozens of fast guys from around the country, myself included. Many of the people who show up live in Arizona, and thus have been riding hard outside all winter. It will be a good opportunity to gauge where my fitness is, and I don't necessarily expect to do well.

March

Basic outline: Stay in Boise, work a lot, train a lot. Try to get as prepared as I can for the real racing (build my new bike, obtain any needed equipment, get my car a tune-up, etc.)
Major races: None. I will race the local Boise spring series and get smacked around by the Bob's Bicycles team. I might get very antsy in March.

April
Basic outline: Buckle up, because the ride gets bumpy. I'll pack my stuff into my car, and head out to Seattle. I'll be racing most of the month, but in between, I'll stay with my teammates and or Whitman connections. My schedule couldn't be better: three hard weekends of racing in a row, followed by a rest week (which I'll spend part of in New Mexico to adjust to the altitude), and then my first NRC of the season.
Major races: April 4,5,6 -- Tour of Willamette, outside Portland, Oregon. This three-day, four-stage race wasn't on the calendar last year, but was very popular in 2006.
April 12 -- Tahyua-Seabeck-Tahyua out on the Olympic Peninsula. This is a really tough, one-day "classic". There is inevitably lots of rain, lots of cold, and some extremely steep climbs that shatter the field. I've done well at this race in the past, and last year Hagens-Berman took first and second. We intend to defend.
April 13 -- Boat Street Crit, University District, Seattle. This is one of the most popular crits in Seattle. It's a great course and a fun atmosphere.
April 18,19,20 -- Tour of Walla Walla. My favorite stage race in Washington by a landslide. It's a blast racing in front of a home-town crowd of Whitties. The courses are hard, the field is usually full, and the weather is normally sunny. Yeehaw!
April 3o, May 1,2,3,4 -- Tour of the Gila, Silver City, New Mexico. This is my first NRC of the season. I'll be spending part of the previous week in Santa Fe so I'll have adjusted a little bit to the altitude. This will be my third year doing this race, and that experience will come in handy. I absolutely love the Tour of the Gila. Silver City is fun, the race is grueling, and the competition is intense. From The tour of the Gila, I'll be going straight to Portland to race the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic -- that's right, the first two stages are in downtown Portland.


You'll get the next three month "prediction" in a few weeks.
If you're lucky.