Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dedication: Singular Focus

Here come all the, "If I, I should've, next time, next Spring, next year..." It's natural to start setting goals for 2010, not because it a new year, but because it's the next chance. Want to be harder when the thaw comes? Me too.

I'll never be this fit

The question is what can we all do. 15 months ago Mike Hemme was a Cat 3, now he's looking back on a season where he raced as a PRO. Born with the DNA to be fast, Mike also has the dedication to train hard and fearlessness to ride with guys who would turn me into a feature on the race course. Me, I've got a wicked fast bike and a bit of ego - I don't think that's enough.

So what will it take to get a competitive 4, who is 80% fit, to podium? Coaching and dedication. Will I get a coach? Who knows, but Mike reminded me that a coach will help you make the most of the time you have, not ask you to spend more time. Sounds good, and logical to me.


If anyone is looking for good motivation check out some of the essays on the Gym Jones site. The theory behind Gym Jones is about singular focus, give up anything that slows you down. If what you're doing isn't furthering your goal, stop it. The stories cover a range of athletic endeavors like alpine sports, Ironman, UFC fighting, and will make great sitting-on-the-couch-while-you-get-fat holiday reading

Back to the ballerina. Ruby, my four year old daughter loves ballet. I of course want to see her interested in cycling and teams sports. But I've realized it almost doesn't matter what sport she picks it's how dedicated and focused she can be at achieving her goals that will matter more than the goal itself. Based on her attention span and dedication to wearing a tutu everyday I'm guessing Ruby is going to be pretty damn fast.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2009 CX Season Review



2009 started of with a bang. Rocking the holeshot on my first start was good enough. I even had visions of podiums and champagne, but all the gravy came in the form of press. Major press. The Chicago Tribune ran an online story, had a one pager in the printed edition, and the Chicago Red Eye ran a centerfold shot of me leading out the first race of the season. OK, go ahead and call me "Mr. Friday, September 24th," I don't mind.

Luke Seemann's articles wasn't about me, it was about the joys of cyclocross. However, the image did capture the peak of my season.

Power to Weight

Watts are a measure of heat

The COURAGE Chicago race team had a few new faces this year. Holly and Kevin Klug had outstanding seasons. I cannot begin to list off all their accomplishments, but a few wins, a bunch of podiums and Kevin wrapping up the the series overall in Wisconsin just scratches the surface.

Mike Hemme is just plain crazy. Last year he was racing as a Cat 3, this year he lined up with the PROs in fiveUCI races. He wrapped up the year with his first podium in a Cat 1/2/3 race.

All three of them did battle in Bend, OR for Nationals and while Holly won her Woman's 30-35 B race (awesome!), the boys both got caught by national press doing their thing: Hemme on Velonews in the gallery at the bottom, and Kevin on Cycling News. Sweet!

I want to thank the three of them for representing COURAGE and our sponsors with a tons of watts and a positive attitude.

While I'm here, thanks to Chris King and EDGE for making wicked good parts, and thanks to Roscoe Village Bikes for keeping us running smooth all season long.

Heckle Me Once, Shame on You, Heckle Me Twice!

Power to the people

Pic: Liz Novak

Chicago has the best fans in America. Importantly, a lot of the fans are not racers. This points to the beauty of cyclocross - it's a great spectator sport. At some of the hill tops and sand pits this year you would have thought it was the Super Bowl. Freakishly animated fans screaming and shouting, and hysterics as the last man came through, the last man!

Damn You're Cute

Lucky me

I have to admit I don't make Autumn easy for my girls. A low key race day easily eats up six hours, likely more, but I work hard to make it up to them. Sometimes it means I get home and am giving the kids baths before I can even change out of my kit. Mostly it means I do all my training and prep work in the inky black hours that no one should have to function in. Either way I owe them big time for letting me race a very full season. However, Ruby did pull a last minute stunt that prevented me from racing the USGP in Louisville... Next year.

From a fathers perspective the most encourage things I see out at the races are all the kids in the crowds and the juniors on the race course. Good to know some of America's youth won't think it's strange to wear spandex while you jump barriers and eat sandy Twinkies.

Yeah, I'd Do that Again

The Buffet

I enjoyed the hell out of every race this year. The CCC and the independent promoters all did a spectacular job of setting up wicked race courses. However, there will always be favorites.

Dan Ryan Woods delivered pain in spades. Like it technical, like the hills, like it fast? Cool, Beverly Bike-Vee Pak will give it to you.

St. Charles is always worth the drive (it's WAY out there). This year's mud made a great course epic. So it's not so cool to use the word epic, but if you where there you know what I mean. Nice job Bicycle Heaven.

Special props to The South Chicago Wheelmen for putting on a complete event at the Indian Hills Hilton. Let's see that become a two day race in 2010.

Montrose! Montrose! Montrose! Every year it is spectacular. Thanks to Turin for making some magic. Read about my UCI idea here.


The first in the country?

I've been singing the praises of the Chicago Cross Cup all year. These guys are doing wonderful things for cyclocross, and the cycling industry as a whole. I'm not going to rehash all my old love-fest blog entries but I will remind everyone to thank the CCC, the sponsors, the officials, and all the volunteers at every race. These people are solid gold.

On the Horizon


There is plenty more to share even though the US race season is ending. There will be lots of NAHBS stuff surfacing, and I'll be writing a series of entries focusing on "Old." Maybe I can get Aaron to post a bit too.

Get fat, sleep in and stay tuned.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Montrose Equals Cyclocross

Wow. It's over.

I'm saving my exhaustive season wrap up for another day. Instead I'm diving squarely into the Illinois State Championship weekend at Montrose Harbor.

I'm going to through down the gauntlet now and challenge the power behind the Chicago Cross Cup to bring a UCI event to Montrose Harbor. This was my third year racing, forth year as a spectator, and every race, every year has been inspiring. What's so good about it? To start with, everything.

This crash laden, demolition derby we call a season finale always delivers with spectacular terrain, huge, eager crowds, and Old Man Winter's best weather. Add some of the important logistical details like cheap flights from all over the world, hotels within, wait for it, biking distance, and Mayor "Yeah, I can probably make that happen" Daley. What more do we need? Jason, you listening? I'm down to help with threatening phone calls to whomever gets in your way.


Let's cut to the faster 3/4 of the Chicago COURAGE squad. While Hemme was out west cracking the whip in the Lion's Den, the Klugs where busy padding their palmares' with two great finishes. I was late to show up on Sunday, more on that later, so I can only say Kevin's third place and Holly's second place must have meant that a few other racers brought their best, because staying ahead of these two is not easy. Way to go guys!

Pace Odyssey



The stylish one

My race report is all preamble. It starts on Thursday morning, about 4am, with Ruby crying for mom. I dadded up and got out of bed to see what the deal was, unfortunately I was able to diagnose the problem with my nose. Puke. Welcome to parent hood. Kids do this every once in a while, but when Frances pulled the same stunt on Laura around 8am I knew our home had been invaded.

Cue Friday night, my company's holiday party. Take one part open bar, two parts over worked, shake from 6pm til 2am and you get straight pounded. Yes, people had to check their receipts to verify where we rocked the after party. Yes, a car was slept in, and another car was puked on. And yes, Monday morning my team was declared to be the friendliest bunch of drunk pirates this side of the Atlantic.

Friday night carbo load

Saturday, at eight in the morning, I was logically feeling 70% while Ruby and I shopped for tile at Home Depot. However, after lunch, around one o'clock, I got bit hard by "The Bug." Whatever the kids had brought home earlier in the week ripped through my hungover, defenseless body like a DR Trimmer on rocket fuel. I was fucked until Sunday morning.

I couldn't even get this down

I set myself up with high expectation by inviting a bunch of non-cyclist to the race. A lot of friends and colleagues where going to come see the freak show I rave about every Monday. How could I not race? I'll tell you how. At noon on Sunday I couldn't sit up straight I was in so much pain. I hadn't had more than a glass of water and a bite of toast that wasn't rejected by my body in over 24 hours. If I couldn't walk comfortably from the bedroom to the living room how on Earth was I going to get my bike on top of the car, let alone race? Ego, that's how.

At one o'clock I made the decision to race. I'm glad I did because I'd have regretted it for months if I chickened out. Not to mention I had, a bunch of people willing to stand in the cold to humor me and I made a COURAGE Snuggie earlier in the week I wanted to rock on the start line.

Real men ride the sand

Oh yeah the race... I showed up 40 minutes before the race, registered, pined up, road the trainer for 10 minutes, and stood around in my Snuggie for 10 minutes. I lined up back row, to avoid slowing anyone down, and to add to the drama of moving up through the pack. It seemed to worked, I made some nice passes in the first two laps of the race, I only had to run the sand once, and I didn't puke on anyone.

I was most pleased my my riding in the sand and the heckling I received from the guys I work with. I was called Sally once, told I looked funny with hairy legs, and I was chastised for loosing to Santa. All in all I felt like I had been telling good cyclocross stories if everyone was able to heckle so well at their first race.

I'm glad I survived the race, and sad to see the season close. An obvious thanks to Turin and the CCC for shutting down the party with style.

Classic Moments in Cyclcross

The season's final Classic Moments in Cyclcross comes from Bradley of the Cuttin' Crew, who exemplifies all there is to love about cyclcross: commitment, pain, and making the crowd to wild.


Pic: nerobro

Friday, December 4, 2009

As Seen on TV

I picked up a little something special for Montrose.

And seriously, I hope I can find all my gear, my house is a total mess from construction.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dedication: The Darkness

It's that time of year again when I'm putting in all my miles in the dark.

Belmont Harbor in the morning

Back home in the rain

I like the adventure aspect of a ride like tonight's. Strobes reflecting off the front wheel spray, feet soaked to the core, wicked head winds, and hands so cold you can't get the silicon band off your Night Rider. And the reward for putting thousands of miles on the Lake Front Path? Instinct to guide you around the tricky seems in the asphalt hidden by the glare of your halogen off the wet surface.

I hope Old Man Winter makes a mess of Montrose.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two For the Price of One + An Important Lesson

Part 1: Elite Action

Hemme tagged his first CCC 1/2/3 podium - behold the power of the look. Mike has been talking about reaching his peak form by this time of year, and true to his word it's arrived.

Vulgar Display of Power

The ruthless tempo of his first lap looked freakish, and quickly a selection of four was made. About 300 calories later he shook Ben, who maybe got tangled in a chair entering a corner hot, or maybe he was putting on a bunny suit.

With a growing gap at three to go Mike was looking solid, unfortunately his saddle was not. Snap! He came by the tents shouting something about a broken saddle and 19cm... I turned to Alex with a look of despair, ever calm, Alex said, "27.2 right?" Yep. A quick aside - Mike is so loved out here that in 30 seconds the people in earshot of me offered up two complete bikes and half a dozen seat post assemblies.

Ben the Bunny likes nuts

Alex had the pit prepped, and I back tracked the course to let Mike know we had a solution. But by the time Mike came around to the pit with two more to go, the case group, lead by Ben (sans Bunny suit), was closing in. Mike made the call to risk the busted saddle until the end, sensing his 15 second gap was too valuable to give up. Mike kept it together, the saddle kept it together, and a hard earned third place was had.

Compare the factual variances of Mike and I here.

I've yet to hear how the Klugs did in Wisco this weekend, but be sure they didn't leave anything out on the race course. Those two are always racing for the win.

Part 2: Elite-ish Action

My race was remarkably different than my druken rampage in Indian Hills, however, my placing wasn't so different. Hummm. This time out I was on a mission. Last weekend Lew, from Rhythm Racing, enjoyed even more brewhahas than I did. And in our drunken ramblings he gave me the "We're racin' next weekend" ultimatum. So we raced. Lew, Alex, and I we're at the very end of another huge field.

Poker Face - 20 minutes before the race

Gun goes off, and, and, and, no one around me is moving for way too long. The rollout from that far back in the field is spooky slow. So the three of us start moving up in the field. About a half a lap in I'm feeling OK. Exiting the tightest toilet bowl to date, I can see I've got a few seconds and about a dozen people between me and my competition. Then a few moments later Lew comes flying by me. WTF?!

Three things. Lew is a smoker, Lew has been off the bike with a bust rib for a quite few weeks, and Lew raced earlier in the day. Granted I've been sick, but really I should have the advantage here.

I love this

Pic: Chris Strahm

I lock onto his wheel. As he tows me around for a lap I realize that we're busy passing a lot of people. Lew knows how to race - fight for position before the technical sections, drop gears and get on the gas when everyone else is catching their breath at the top of the hill, attack, attack, attack. But I'm learning too.

Entering The Buffet line

We enter The Buffet 1, 2 (or 33, 34). I watch him remount right after the barrier and I attack on foot and sprint up the hill for a pass. I've got 30 feet on him and try not to let up, but a minute later he makes another move around me. Duh! I lock on again and we play the exact same game. We move through some guys, and when we get to The Buffet on the bell lap he remounts and I sprint. I've got him again, and this time I burn the whole book of matches and put two more guys between me and Lew before the final decent. I was not going to leave it to a finish line sprint with someone that has a big ring and major leg speed. 29th isn't the same as 1st, but yesterday it was good enough for me. Lew kept me scared for 30 minutes straight - bravo.

Lew is a fighter

An Important Lesson

This weeks Classic Moments in Cyclocross brings us an important lesson. The Chicago Cross Cup is one of America's most valuable racing series, period. Making bike racing, not just cyclocross, fun, accessible, and competitive is imperative to the overall growth of cycling. Our race scene will promote the growth of the bicycle industry and help further the integration of bicycles into the civic population. When people outside the sport of cycling see us on bikes having fun, they are more likely to be a part of it. At a minimum it will no longer be a foreign concept to them.

Someone get this on the cover of a national mag!

This billboard is awesome, not "dude that's awesome," but awesome like the force of an erupting volcano. Walid Abu-Ghazaleh at Van Wagner is the man for making this happen, but Jason Knauff has done us a huge favor by building a community of fans, racers, and business that want to participate - that is the key. The Chicago Cross Cup has become ours. We're emotionally invested, we're dedicated, and holy shit Montrose going to be off the hook.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Chicago Cross Cup stop eight in Indian Lakes was a drunken feast, and after a stint in the UK I was beat, over worked and ready to relax. So yeah, I lined up to race, because we all know how relaxing that can be... Thanks to Chicago Cross Cup and South Chicago Wheelman for putting on a sizzler at the Indian Lakes Hilton.




Pic: dirt+beer

My race in brief: good start, crash, Twinkie, beer, beer, beer, whiskey, beer, crash.

Best part of my race: spouting drunkenly, and out of breadth, to someone he had a flat tire - then watching him look down as I made my pass.

Classic Moments in Cyclocross brings you drunkenness in a hot tub thanks to the pre race party. Props to Ben for making it into the hottest tubs each and ever time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lo-Fi UK

My last minute call up to London proved to be a good time even thought I had to work my ass off. Laura was able to make it out for six very well earned days of holiday. It was nice to have a side kick on such a long trip away from home. What follows is my Lo-Fi/iPhone London report. I'll follow up with a glossy report too.

The trip started out on a high note when saw COURAGE get a call out in Bicycling Magazine. We made a pretty short list of talented builders and got a nice pic of Arron's latest stainless dropout.

I eat my way through long flights. Fresh, bag stable ingredients like bread, cheese, chocolate, olives, and cured meats make eight static hours in coach bearable. I also enjoyed the Tyson documentary to kill a little time. It doesn't address the question of his moral station - it simply tells his hardened story. Well worth a watch.

I took off at 5:30pm, landed at 6:30am and went straight to the office for a 11 hour day. Between the Tube and my office I saw the following sign and the coolest bike in London. Honestly, I never saw a single bicycle that made me drop jawed, but the shear number of cyclist in the city was inspiring. I'll cover that a bit more in the Hi-Fi write up.

The Condor store is a couple blocks from our office so I made a lunch time trip to check it out. Condor owns Rapha. From a retailing study the store was exquisite, if a bit cold. It didn't have the worn in history I would have expected (and wanted) from a such an established London institution. However, they had a fit rig that was out of this world, complete with a patina produced by putting 100's of cyclist through fit sessions - maybe this was all the history a pro shop needs.

Now it's official.

The flight home was made all the better by some stinky, unpasteurized French cheese and sardine filled olives.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Roscoe Village Bikes Gives Back

One word, awesome. Roscoe Village Bikes, a COURAGE sponsor, steps up again to show it's commitment to community building by joining A100. Audubon, Roscoe Village's award winning public K-8 school where Ruby is a student, benefits greatly through the A100 program. A100 business offer financial support to the school. This additional budget enables technology and arts programs that would otherwise be underfunded or non existent.

Thanks RVB!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Yes Sir!

Ruby the Friendly Ghost

Thursday I was told to go home from work because I was working too much... That was nice. Friday morning I took my little ghost to school and walked in to the office about 9am - two hours later than usual. At 9:15 I got an email from the Strategy Director in London. He was wondering if I could be in London next week... Yes sir. Too much, not enough, who knows, but this time I'm bringing Laura with me to London and leaving the little ones with the grandparents. Oh yeah, my place is still a total construction zone from the flood. Oops. I won't be back in the country until the 11th, so I'll miss the Green Monster at Northbrook.

Work, shmurk. Sunday was awesome.

Cruella De Vil

Pic: Madcross

Everyone's form is coming on strong. Holly took the top step of the podium again! She's really showing her strength, coming out swinging from lap one in every race. Well done Holly.

Classic day in the mud

How about the boys digging deep Sunday afternoon. Kevin and Mike were making major watts for 60 minutes straight. They battled hard back and moving between 2nd and 5th, trading leads, falling back, moving up... Exciting. Racing as it should be. In the end Kevin saw through the pain and put another late move together to secure 2nd place. But everyone notice that Hemme's form is seriously improving and it won't be long before he's on the podium too. Some more great pics of the guys racing in the mud here.

I cracked back in to the top 20 with a strong finishing lap. I made three passes in the last muddy, barrier laden section of the course and felt good about putting some technical skills to use. So many times this season guys have blown by me on the straights, at least I know I have a card to play too. It helped that I got a call up for dressing as a cyclocross racer...

Let's give Bicycle Heaven and the CCC a big word-to-the wise for continuing with the momentum from the first half of the season. Spectacular course, well organized as always, and another great crowd to cheer everyone on. I managed two piece's of cake (thanks Julie), a little limp bacon, M&Ms and $101!

This week's Classic Moments in Cyclocross comes from the newly formed RVBR team.

If your not having fun, what are you having?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Long Winded

Word up to the Chicago Cross Cup for putting on and incredible first half of the season. There have been five races with awesome courses. The CCC has responded to concerns with real action. Race results are posted before I can even get home and finish dinner. And the races are consistently seeing record turn out. This is good for everyone - racers, sponsors, local business, bike shops, bike companies, etc. Hell yes.

Win, Podium, Survive

Blast off!

It's Holly this week who wanted it the most. Congrats to Holly for her dominating first win this year in the Womens 1/2/3. Kevin had a solid performance to earn a third place in the Mens 1/2/3. He kept his cool and got it done on the last lap breaking away form a strong chase group of five guys.

Mach 1

Mike Hemme is alive! After his first trip in the Lion's Den he came out in one piece. When I asked him how it was he responded, "Fast." Going head to head with the nation's fastest is something I will never do. Hunt down Mike at the next race to ask him about beating Jeremy Powers. You the man Mike.

I was supposed to be in Louisville to race the 4s. I was looking forward to racing against a bunch of unknowns and in a world class setting. However, as a dad, things came up, like the temperature of Ruby. Below is the report from my Louisville experience, minute by minute - kind of:

Friday afternoon

11:00 - I took a half day at work to hit the road early

11:45 - Organized a ton of clean gear

12:30 - Packed the car

13:00 - Hit the road? No. 103 and a cough meant I had to bag the trip...

Saturday morning

08:30 - The whistle blows, pretty good start

08:35 - Damn this course is buttery smooth

Great recommendation Helge

08:42 - I must have hit 20mph bridging up to the leaders

09:09 - Get it together man!

09:10 - Podium!


My race in Bartlett on Sunday was good. I lined up 15 minutes before the race and ended up in up way in the back. I had a good, aggressive start, narrowly missed a big crash and made it up into the top twenty by the time I got over the triple barriers.

Estimating the gap that was about to form behind me...

The rest of my race was status quo - kept the pressure up best I could and stuck Heckler Hill three times straight. Undoubtedly some of the best heckling of the year on that greasy little lump.

Classic moments in Chi Cross Cup brought to you by me.

100% classy