Sponsors and friends,
Welcome to a long overdue update on the 2013/14 SmartStop/Mountain Khakis 'cross season. We're 6 weeks and 1/3 of the way into the year, so there's a lot recap, and I'll do my best to keep things brief!
Things were incredibly busy for the road team in August as we built towards Tour of Alberta and the final NCC and USA Crits events of the season. The heavy lifting for the 'cross season happens in that same window, and as in past years, Pat and Jamie turn the 'cross season planning over to me. There was so much work to do, with very little time to talk about it. This season, instead of only me flying the team colors for the fall, Travis Livermon is joining me out there in the mud. It's great to have two us representing the team, but it also means twice as much commitment for the equipment sponsors. We're lucky to have so many of you returning and stepping up to keep us both going. With the switch over to Ridley disc brake bikes for both of us, as well as SRAM Force 22, there was a lot of retooling to do for this year, for Mercury and TRP especially. In addition to SmartStop, Mountain Khakis, and Happy Tooth as title sponsors, our equipment suppliers this year include Ridley frames, Vittoria tires, Champion System clothing, Mercury wheels, SRAM Force 22 components, TRP Spyre disc brakes, Mavic shoes, Hawley-supplied EIS bars/stems/seatposts, Lazer helmets/glasses, Crank Brothers pedals, Selle San Marco saddles, Enzo's chamois cream and embrocation, ProGold lubes and cleaners, Toko gloves, and SwissStop brake pads. All in all, it's an exciting program for us. CX Magazine even did a feature on the bikes already:
For me, the 'cross season kicks off with our annual Cycle-Smart Cyclocross Camp in early August. We have 50 riders of all ability levels show up from around the country to spend the weekend with 6 Cycle-Smart coaches working on 'cross technique. It's also a great way for me to sharpen up before the hard training begins, and introduce a lot of 'cross riders to the equipment I'm riding.
The racing started in earnest for Travis and me at the Nittany Lion UCI events in Trexlertown, PA. For both of us right now, staging is a challenge. Travis is coming back from a season off due to illness, and I had a forgettable 2012, so our call up positions are much further back then either of us are accustomed to. Nittany was a success, though, with me making the front group for the first time in a long time, spending much of the race off the front, and hanging on for 7th on day 1 and 4th on day 2, making the first weekend of this season more successful than any weekend from last season. Travis took his first steps back with top 20 rides both days.
The following weekend was the opener for the Verge New England Cyclocross Series, which I organize. The Vermont round is a challenging, hilly course both days, and I came away with 12th and 17th. Not the top 10s I was hoping for, but good photo coverage on Cyclingnews nonetheless:
Interbike and 'Cross Vegas was next. The hardest part of 'Cross Vegas is not the race, but getting there, and then having to "work" the show. Add the USA Crits finals back into the mix on Thursday night, travel home all day on Friday, and the Boston Crit that Saturday, and it's a difficult week. I had a respectable ride to finish 29th, and felt great the next night in the crit riding for the team. Escaping that trip without getting sick is a victory in its own right.
Travis skipped Vegas to focus on the Charm City UCI races in Baltimore the following weekend, and his gamble paid off. Saturday he was still looking for a good ride and finished 13th, but Sunday he showed everyone why he's a guy we believe in, making the front group and narrowly missing the podium with a 4th place. That's a great result, and those points will pay off when the new rankings are posted after the first World Cup next week.
The first two Shimano Series races followed in the weeks after that at Gloucester and Providence. I'm also part of the organizing group for the Shimano Series, so these weekends see me wearing multiple hats. I do my best to focus on being "just a bike racer" when race day comes, but there's always a lot of peripheral stress to manage. 21st and 24th at Gloucester, and 33rd and 21st at Providence were again just fair results, but improvements over last season, and not without challenges. At Day 1 of Providence, I was caught in a huge pile up in the start, and rode from 80th place through almost 50 people to get that 33rd. It was one of my strongest rides in a long time, and I only wish it was for the top 10.
Crash video here:
Gloucester post-race interview here:
In between Gloucester and Providence, we have two amazing mid-week nighttime 'cross races that are part of what we call Holy Week: The Midnight Ride of Cyclocross in Lancaster, MA, and The Night Weasels Cometh, in Shrewsbury, MA. Both races have UCI-level prize lists, great courses and production, and big crowds. This year, I was excited to actually win one of them, taking the sprint from a group of five for my first victory of the season:
Midnight ride post-race interview:
Midnight Ride race video, including podium:
Night Weasels is a much hillier and taxing course, I was wary of going too hard here and not being recovered for Providence. 7th place was an ok ride with that in mind, including a few bike changes for mechanicals:
Race recap video, including Mr. Jeremy Powers as the race DJ, if you want to see what a great event this is:
With the stress of Vegas, Gloucester, and Providence finally behind us, it was time to take a break this week and try and catch my breath. I opted to recover Monday-Friday, avoid the travel, and take advantage of the great local racing New England has to offer. As a result, I ended up on the podium both days, getting 2nd at the Casco Bay 'cross in Portland, ME, on Saturday, and again at the MRC 'cross in Lancaster, MA, on Sunday.
I lost contact with Dylan McNicholas after a rare mechanical that saw me off my bike for about 30 seconds, leaving me with a gap I couldn't close, so I was happy with the ride:
I was disappointed to lose the sprint on Sunday and not get the win again after a strong race, but it was a great weekend and felt good to ride well in front of the home crowd:
Next up, Travis and I will both be at the UCI races in Rochester, NY, and after that is my weekend, the Cycle-Smart International in Northampton, MA. Today is a day for some big choices in the schedule, though, and making the call between a big road trip to the UCI events in St. Louis in between, or staying home to rest, train, and manage the stress that comes with organizing the oldest UCI event in North America.
Ideally I'll be moving these updates over to the Cycle-Smart Constant Contact account, and sending out them out on a more regular basis. Weekly would be great, if I can manage it. Thanks to all of you for the support!
If you missed it, 'cross camp registeration is OPEN, and there are only 18 spots left! This year we've pushed the field limit out to 50 riders, and as of today 32 people have registered. Camp will definitely fill, so don't get caught out!
I haven't blogged in a while. I know. I've been too busy to think in more than a few tweets at a time. But every now and then something spills over.
I got a special email today. It meant a lot, and I just wanted to share it. I've edited a few things out, but this is 99% of it. I don't think it requires any additional commentary from me.
"I haven't really taken time to digest all of these doping confessions that have come out over the last few months. Mostly because I am too busy and to disconnected from personally being competitive in elite races now. It feels like a different life. The Crawford thing stung. I mean, we all "knew" all of this long ago. The person that mailed the epo for Crawford told me a list of names in 2002 and 2003 that included all the names listed in the Velonews article plus some others. Who knows.
And Crawford and Tyler are still making money in cycling off of their connections and affiliation with doping. That is what stings. The other thing that stings is that a lot of us never got the chance to compete in a clean sport. I mean, look at my career overlap with the dates and what was out there. My experience in Europe and what the doctor told me to do is a whole different story. But here in America, trying to eke out a living at the bottom and retroactively seeing, or 100% knowing how many spots were taken by dopers, is now hard to swallow.
I guess when I read the Crawford thing this morning it made me want to reach out to you and make you aware that you are riding for our generation, or at least as a spokesman for our generation. The generation that never had it stacked fair from day one. A lot of us got tired of treading water at the bottom knowing the system was flawed. Now, the system is better (I hope) and it is super cool that "one of us" is there to ride in this new system. These kids racing now will never know what it was like (and that is good).
More later--but just keep in mind when you are feeling beat up that there is more at play and more reason for you to keep going than your own will and desire. You speak and ride for more than yourself.
Thanks for going training today."