Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer Insanity Heat.

The forecasters say the temperature will reach 102 degrees in Boise today. This is entirely unacceptable. My brain will boil for sure.

Now for the most part, I am a big fan of the sun: it brings warmth and life to our planet, it provides plenty of light, and it makes the clouds really pretty when it's rising or setting. But this is too much. No man should have to wait until 8:00PM to go on a bike ride to avoid heat stroke. I guess that a few weeks ago when it was 40 degrees and raining in Seattle I was complaining about how winter weather has no business in the month of June, and how Summer should have its turn. Well I got my wish -- nobody would doubt it's summer now. But seriously -- 102 degrees?

Thursday, June 26, 2008


LEVI FUCKING LEIPHEIMER IS RACING THE CASCADE FUCKING CLASSIC!!!!! So is his teammate Chris fucking Horner. Check out the press release. Sucks to be those guys -- nothing better to do than shoot fish in a barrel over here in Oregon instead of trying to win the tour. I'm not scared of them or anything. If you need me, I'll be rummaging around my duffel bag searching for a clean pair of shorts.

On a much less impressive note, Rock Racing signed up for the race too. Botero will be there. Whoopdy-do.

A Storm is Brewing....

The Cascade Classic starts in less than two weeks. I was on the website checking out my competition, and was pretty impressed with the start list: full teams from Bissell, Health Net, Toyota, BMC, Type 1, and -- awh shit -- Garmin/Chipotle?

I suppose you could argue that the guys going to the Cascade Classic are Garmin/Chipotle's B-team, seeing as how they'll also be sending a team to a little stage race in France that overlaps. That said, I'm still intimidated. B-team or not, guys like Tom Danielson (a multiple time top-ten GC Vuelta De Espana finisher, and record holder for like 70% of the nation's hillclimbs), and Tyler Ferrar (also a pro-tour veteran, and like 30 time national champion) are not so be scoffed at. I'm really exited to be racing against these guys, cuz honestly, I'm a pretty big fan. I know some of them are jaded they're not at the tour, but I hope they still take the Cascade Classic seriously, and ride like they're there to win it. Knock it out of the park Garmin/Chipotle!!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It Seems Boise is Doing Just Fine Without Me.

So I'm in Boise for the first time since April. To my surprise, the town appears to be running perfectly smoothly, despite my absence. Here are some of the developments:

--The velodrome is starting to take shape. I rode by today, and was happy to see progress. There were several large mounds of dirt that resemble banked turns, several large earthmoving machines that resemble iron dinosaurs stationed around the mounds' perimeter, and several large men who resemble construction workers all standing around looking at something.

--Sustainabuilt appears to be thriving. I had coffee with my old boss this morning, and he tells me things are going well. He says their last cabinet job went smoothly the whole way through -- no major hangups all the way from design to installation. Hopefully this increased efficiency isn't entirely due to my absence from the shop. Sustainabuilt had a booth at the "Idaho Green Expo" that happened in May, and apparently forged some solid new connections and brought a lot of attention to the business. Congrats Sustainabuilt! (There was even talk of hiring me again if I return to Boise in the fall -- an attractive idea considering how hard it was to find a job the last time I looked.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Starving Cyclists Survival Guide: Ravioli

Have you ever found yourself at the Baker City Motel, and it was dinner time, and you didn't want to go out to a restaurant because you were broke? Did you buy a frozen pasta dinner that looked like you could microwave it in the pouch, but actually needed to be boiled in water? Since the picture on the package of frozen ravioli fooled you into thinking it came covered in delicious sauce, did you find yourself searching for a sauce substitute?

If you said yes to any of those questions, I'm about to let you into a little secret that will change your life for the better. As they say, a picture's worth a thousand words. So here's about 3,000 words worth:

For the record: yes, that's peanut butter I put on my ravioli. No, I wouldn't order it in a restaurant, but I've eaten much much worse.

Elkhorn Stage 3: I Call Bullshit!!!!


IT’S FUCKING BIKE RACING PEOPLE!!! IT’S A SPORT FOR GLADIATOR HARDMEN WHO RACE IN THE RAIN!!! WHAT IS THIS, BASEBALL?? When was the last time the organizers of Paris-Rubaix canceled the race because the course was wet? When was the last time a whole stage of the Giro simply didn’t count for GC because the road was slippery? Never! You know why? It’s part of the sport!

This is my second race in the last 10 days that has been canceled due to rain, and I am pissed. The crit in St. Paul is somewhat understandable – the motorcycle crashed, and confusion reigned. This time however, it’s utterly reasonless. Yes, the roads were wet [note: the rain stopped 15 minutes prior to our start, and were dry within half an hour]. Yes, there were crashes in the other fields, some of them due racers miscalculating the amount of traction on the road. SO FUCKING WHAT???! Don't get me wrong: I feel awful for those who crashed and hurt themselves. But the presence of a treacherous corner doesn’t make a race inherently more dangerous – it simply forces the racers to change how they ride: use grippy tires, lower your pressure, take a smart line, and most important – slow the fuck down if you need to! This race has no time cut; nothing says you can't start at the back and get pulled on the first lap if you're too freaked out.

By canceling the race the organizers may have avoided a few more crashes. Then again maybe not – I’ve been in plenty of crits where the pro/1/2 men are the only ones to go crashless – but we’ll never know, will we? What we do know is that canceling the crit totally undermined the spirit of the stage race. Stage racing is cool because it tests racers across a variety of disciplines; that’s kind of the point, right? Well I happen to have a teammate or two who are outstanding in wet crits, and in my opinion, they were robbed. They should have been given a chance to move up in GC over guys who hate crits or suck in the rain.

Possibly the most annoyingly ironic part of this whole thing is the headline of the local paper:


I HEFTED THE MIGHTY BATTLE AXE AND SWUNG WITH BOTH HANDS. Make that TWO notches on my TT bike for the season.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rollin' Like Rock

YEEEEEEAH BITCHES, after enduring a week of humiliating pain and torture (courtesy of the legs of the nations best) I'm happy to say that I've left the trenches of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. While nobody on our team pulled off a great overall result, we rode pretty well on some stages, and had one hell of an after party. Your Honor, I would like to submit the following debaucherous photographic evidence, so that it may be added to the record:

I have been redeployed to the fronts of eastern Oregon, to the battlefields of the Elkhorn Classic. I dearly hope that getting my ass handed to my in the crosswinds by the pros will translate to me being able to distribute the same kind of wallop to the field here, instead of just leaving me feeling flat and burned out. Only the race itself will tell. As for our accommodation, we're rolling like Jay-Z. In Minnesota, we stayed in an absolute hovel (a massive, gorgeous, custom mansion owned by a charming and generous professional photographer and his wife):
Enough of those annoying home stays, with all those inconveniences that accompany them (like full kitchens), we're livin' large for this race. That's right, we're staying in a MOTEL! Check it:
With our armada of tricked out race vehicles, we're rollin' just like Rock!

I will say that this motel is filled with charming, personalized touches -- ones you just don't see at the cookie-cutter chain hotels. Take for example this sign posted outside the shower: Now I dearly hope that I'm supposed to let the hot water run so that it will reach an acceptable bathing temperature -- instead of a less savory alternative (like: please let hot water run for 1 to 5 minutes so the concentration of flesh-eating bacteria reaches "safe" levels). Also, I'm glad they posted that other sign -- just as I was about to pour a saulsberry steak down the drain, and then shampoo my St. Bernard, I caught myself. Here's another thing you rarely see at a Holiday Inn: real live dead flowers!
Last and perhaps best -- the Baker City Motel has its own wake up service -- courtesy of Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railroad located across the streed. Instead of those annoying wake-up calls that most hotels use, this convenient alarm system is fully automated, and insures none of the Motel's guests oversleep. In fact, we are lucky enough to get SEVERAL alarms, almost on the hour (missing a race from oversleeping would be a crying shame, you know).
Until next time,
this is Sam Johnson,
from the front lines,
signing off.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nature Valley Wrap Up.


Well it's over folks. That's all. The Nature Valley Grand Prix is now officially in the books. I could tell you everything that happened in the races....but that would be a waste of my time. That's what cyclingnews and velonews are for. I will tell you that much like the queen stage of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, I was very aggressive early in the race, and ended up making both of the substantial breakaways of the race. Unlike the queen stage of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, however, this I got my name in print, and a nice picture for doing so, and I also feathered my effort enough that I didn't get dropped.
See? I'm learning.
I did pay for my efforts eventually, finally getting dropped on the finishing circuits, but I made it to the finish goddamit! And what did I have waiting for me after I finished? Another one of these.

Today's race was awesome. The final stage of the NVGP is a pretty epic -- STILLWATER!!!!!!!STILLWATER!!!!!STILLWATER!!!!
So there was a great crowd, and it was an epic race, and a it was pretty hot out (enough that our cleats were squishing into the asphalt on the start line), and the hill was like 24%, and I got dropped REALLY quick and got to take pictures of the finish (and the crowd), and man it was brutal, and holy shit there were a lot of people there!, and OH MAN it was brutal, and those BMX guys are completely nuts -- I know some people might think that about us -- but those guys are actually nuts, and I just rode until I got pulled. DANG DANG DANG.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Minnesota Photo Update

Here are some photos from the day. The bright and sunny ones are from this morning's TT. The overcast skies occurred tonight at the downtown Minneapolis crit. This is by far the coolest crit I've ever gotten pack time in. 30,000 fans line the course, and so it feels like a real sporting event.

Don't DO That!!!

I got a whopping 4 hours of sleep last night, thanks to my decision to indulge in a post race Coca Cola. I'm not opposed to caffeine consumption by any means -- quite the contrary, I drink coffee in the morning like it's the highlight of my day (which it often is) -- but when I'm caffeinated close to bed time, I can't sleep at all. In my case, my race ended at 7:30 PM. I was tired. It was hot. Nothing -- I repeat nothing -- looked more satisfying than the ice cold Coke Adrian was slugging down. When he told me he'd packed one for each of us I nearly cried for joy. The ice-cold, sugary, carbonated elixir slid down my throat, and within moments, I felt better. Simple sugars, while not a good fuel for endurance sports, are especially good at getting energy to a tired Sam in a hurry. I didn't think much of it until I tried to go to bed a few hours later. Was it worth it? No. Will I do that again? Unfortunately, the answer is most likely yes. The reason? After a hard race, my capacity to perform rational cost/benefit analysis of drinking a can of Coke is about the same as my capacity to build a time machine out of washing machine parts.

In other news, I got gapped off on the final lap (of 6) finishing circuits that preceded the finish of Thursday's road race. I lost 30 seconds, which was rather disappointing.

I don't know how I did in the today's TT, but I don't think I completely sucked. Tonight is a crit that starts at 7:45 PM. Adrian had better not pack a coke for each of us.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nature Valley Stage 1 (or not).

Shit howdy....that was nuts. I do not intend to mince words here: people are idiots. They pump their tires too full of air, and then corner really hard over the sewer grate even after they've seen like 30 other guys crash on that corner! Just CHILL OUT PEOPLE!
Here's what you need to know:

--the staging might have been the best part of the whole race. I have rarely felt such sublime suspense. The entire field stood around for over twenty minutes as the excitement, anticipation, and nervousness built to a pretty awesome crescendo. The DJ's were spinning some excellent tunes, namely the beginning of Daft Punk's Aerodynamic moments before take off. When the beat finally kicked in, I could swear the gun had gone off. I was all in favor of skipping the race and turning the thing into a giant spandex dance party, but that darn official had to shoot the gun off anyway. Check it (thanks to Moses Images):

--into the first turn, I slammed on my brakes ('cus that's what everyone in front of me was doing), only I didn't seem to slow down at all. It was wet wet wet, and my brakes didn't seem to do shit! That didn't keep me from using them the whole race though. A lot. I need to work on braking less -- I'd save more energy, and wouldn't have to spend so much time cleaning nasty break dust off my fork after the race is over. Adrian's bike had no visible brake dust on his fork, so I know it was possible to go around that course with less braking. Things to work on....

--that one corner! There were crashes on corner 3 every friggin' lap! ARE YOU JUST DUMB, OR DO YOU HAVE THE LONG TERM MEMORY OF A GOLDFISH?? If you see guys wiping out on the same corner over and over again....maybe you shouldn't BOMB through that corner with a shitty line while trying to pass three guys. Maybe. I didn't crash, but good lord, a lot of people did.

--after the motorcycle crashed, they paused the race, rounded everyone up at the start line, and held some sort of bizarre poll:

Head official: all in favor of stopping the race, say aye.

ither a majority, or a very loud minority: AYE!!!

Head official
: councilor, do we have a quorum?

: yes head official

Head official: the results of this race will not count for GC, are you cool with that?

Ivan Stevic
(with thick serbian accent): SO COOL -- I've got the Oleeempics coming up. I don'wanna die.

Head official
: then by the power vested in me, I hereby proclaim this race null and void!

I won't say that now I've seen it all....but I've certainly seen a lot more.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Let's start this saga by going back in time, a small stroll down memory lane -- if you'll indulge me.

Rewind one year:
The 2007 Ballard Crit wasn't my proudest moment. By early June, I was suffering from a bit of burnout. I'd been struggling to find focus and drive, and my legs were feeling a little flat. I'd just gotten my butt kicked at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic (where I crashed twice in the final crit), and I was about to head out to the crit-heavy Nature Valley Grand Prix. I was bitter about having to go to Minnesota to race a crit festival (where I would undoubtedly flounder and flop), instead of racing the overlapping Elkhorn Classic -- a northwest stage race I thought I could do well at. So there I was: Ballard, a trendy neighborhood surrounded by a thicket of refineries, rail yards, and warehouses. Don't get me wrong, I like Ballard -- it's got all the dingy, industrial mystique of, say, Detroit, but it's right in Seattle and loaded with fun bars and cool restaurants. Hooray for gentrification! However I was NOT psyched to be racing the Ballard Crit. To begin with, in line with Ballard's whole "urban decay" theme, the pavement is awful: massive seams in the concrete, some big ol' potholes, a healthy sprinkling of manhole covers and sewer grates, and a bumpy brick section. To top it all off, it was raining, which made the course downright treacherous, especially the bricks. Oh, and the manhole covers. And the all the corners. I'd had a pretty dismal year of crit racing up to that point, and the conditions in downtown Ballard weren't at all to my liking. To be honest I was never in the race at all; the gun went off and my thoughts were something along the lines of "SHIT SHIT SHIT, THIS IS NUTS, I'M GOING TO DIE, I'D BETTER GET TO THE BACK WHERE IT'S SAFE". I was tail gunning within two laps. I was yoyoing off the back after fifteen minutes, and the referee mercifully pulled me from the race after half an hour. Oh, and I forgot to mention the crowd -- there is one. It's big and rowdy, and loves to heckle poor bastards who get dropped, so my humiliation was rather thorough.

Fast forward one year:
I showed up at Ballard with a slight chip on my shoulder. I wanted to show everyone who watched me suck last year that I do actually know how to get the job done. I've had a lot more success at crits this year, and I haven't really struggled with motivation or focus. The weather was better, and the looming Nature Valley Grand Prix wasn't nearly as intimidating. For the first twenty minutes of the race I chilled out and waited for an easy opportunity to get to the front. Eventually the front of the field slowed down, I grabbed a good wheel, and shot past everyone. Once I was up there, I stayed up there. I marked moves. I chased. I attacked. It was fun. The race started off dry, but about halfway through it started to mist on us. There were a few crashes as people adjusted to the changing levels of traction, but fortunately I was ahead of them all. With about ten minutes to go, our team was looking great -- we had a four man lead-out assembled for Cooper (albeit shoddily assembled), and in my opinion it was as much ours as it was anyone else's. Here I am keeping things fast with like 4 to go (Thanks to On the second to last lap, on the back side of the course two guys crossed wheels towards the front of the peloton and took out a good chunk guys. I didn't crash, but I had to stop to avoid running over some poor schmuck who was busy painting the asphalt red with the skin from his butt. Cooper easily won the field sprint for third, but didn't win because in the confusion David Richter jumped the field and BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.....the point is, we didn't win.

Fast forward two hours:
I was pleased with how I raced, but felt a little robbed because of the crash. After changing into civilian clothing, I met up with some teammates at a nicer "sit-down and order food" style bar. I ate someone else's onion rings and drank a beer, but the atmosphere wasn't quite right, so we paid our tab and went to the Lock and Keel, a much more "stand-up and shout while drinking beer straight out of the pitcher" establishment. I walked through the door with my friends, and stumbled into a strange situation: some guys on the Second Ascent team were trying to pressure another guy into drinking a whole bottle of Tabasco sauce for $20. By the time I got clued into what was going on, the ante had been upped. "Sam, $100 if you drink this bottle of Tabasco," one of them shouted. Now normally, $100 would be a FINE price for drinking a bottle of hot sauce, but I smelled opportunity. I eyed the bottle suspiciously, and countered "that's at least $200 worth of Tabasco." Lofty goals can be powerful motivators, and this was never truer than in the Lock & Keel that night. I felt a mixture of delight and disappointment, as the crew took my increased price as a challenge, and went about fleecing cash from everyone in the bar. Finally, when I felt like motivation was beginning to wain (and a few of the bigger contributors were beginning to actually question the "value" in spending $60 watching a man drink hot sauce), I said "that's enough." Final price: $184, a Taco Del Mar punchcard (with 7 punches!!!), and a bag of chips. I poured the bottle of tabasco into a pint glass, and downed the whole thing in two big gulps.
Lord in heaven it hurt. I suppose you could say the people got their money's worth; my discomfort was both obvious and prolonged. My lips, mouth, throat, and even eyes burned like the dickens, and my stomach felt -- well it's difficult to describe; my stomach didn't hurt exactly, it was more the sensation that I'd done something profoundly wrong to the interior of my body. I considered calling poison control. I considered vomiting. I tried vomiting. My attempt to purge the vile concoction was interrupted by an employee of the bar ["But I'm not puking because I'm drunk," I pleaded. "I don't care, you still can't puke in our flower pot" he replied] so I tried diluting the Tabasco with chips and more beer. This just added bloating to my list of many discomforts. Finally, when Alan said he was going home a little bit early, I chose to leave too. We stopped at the QFC on the way home, where I bought a some Tums, some Peptobysmol, and a nice big bottle of kefir (with live active Tabasco-devouring cultures!!). Once I got home, I was relieved to find very little under my Google search "Tabasco overdose", and the fact that the poison control website didn't even have an entry for Tabasco. I did however discover numerous youtube videos of people chugging Tabasco for FAR less than I did. Those schmucks.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Life I'm Livin': Pancakes.

Let me introduce you to my Mobile Pantry/Pancake Studio. This cheap plastic filing cabinet has been retrofitted (read: restocked) to be a fully functional miniature kitchen. It is small and light enough that it can be lifted into the back of my truck, so it goes with me everywhere I go. The chances are, if I spent the night on your couch, my MP/PS was parked next to your dishwasher. It's on casters so it's easy to roll around a kitchen floor.
Naturally, it contains all the essentials:
My MP/PS gives me great comfort; it's a reliable constant in a swirling lifestyle of change. Humans are creatures of habit, and I am no exception. No matter where I am, no matter whose house I'm currently invading, no matter what strange new contortions were required to fit my 6'4" frame on that 5'10" sofa last night (or how badly I slept on said sofa in said contorted position), I can still wake up to my morning routine of coffee and pancakes. And thus, the slender reed of sanity to which I desperately cling is preserved for one more precious day. Pancake batter: mankind's last best anchor to the world of reason.
Pancakes, when made from scratch, are a limitlessly adaptable food item; they serve as my primary creative outlet. By simply adjusting the ratios of ingredients, or by making a few key additions, I can make a batch of pancakes that perfectly express my mood. This isn't intentional -- I don't try to make the batter one way or another -- I just make the pancakes I feel like making. The process is intuitive. Pancake batter: a window into the human soul, a street map of the unconscious mind. If I'm feeling happy and chipper, I'll boost the amount of cake flour, use less whole wheat or cornmeal, and sometimes even whip the egg whites so that I get light, fluffy, happy little cakes. If I'm feeling lonely, I'll add something like cooked oatmeal or grated apple. If I'm grumpy -- watch out, because I might just add shit like peanut butter or molasses to the mix. This morning, I felt awesome because I slept in a bed -- and not just that, but a familiar bed (yep I'm staying with my team manager Alan for the nth time this summer)! I went with a fairly standard buttermilk-based batter with a hint of brown sugar. Life is too short to NOT use real butter or a cast iron skillet. I made a sauce made of frozen cherries and blueberries.
As you can see, I'm ready for my day. I'm doing my best way to prepare for the Ballard Crit this afternoon. I love pancakes. I love cherry sauce. I love coffee. I love the Ballard Crit.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Alas, evil sheep have been spotted not far from Buckley, Washington. I spotted them while on my 4 hour recovery ride (THANKS A LOT COACH!), and fear there might be other animals waiting to enlist in this demonic militia. You can see them in the background here:
Clearly they are evil. Look at them!!! JUST LOOK AT THEIR HORNS!!!

In other news, I finished the Mutual of Enumclaw Points Omnium and Three Ring Circus. The final road race was loads of fun, and I spent over half of it off the front in several moves (including a boneheaded solo effort). My work paid off, as we were able to get teammate Dan Harm off the front late in the race with BMC pro Ian McKissick (whose victory seemed more like an inevitability than a likelihood). Dan took second on the stage and second in the GC. Not bad. A few day of rest should treat me well before the mighty mighty Ballard Crit. Then off to the big time Nature Valley Grand Prix. Oh baby.

p.s. Amara has tons of cool photos from the weekend up. If you're bored, check them out.