Thursday, April 27, 2006


I don't usually geek out about the equipment side of mountain biking; I'm usually a lot more concerned with the experience itself, but this time has got to be an exception.

My pal Andy introduced me to Scot Nichol of Ibis Bicycles, who bought back the company after selling it some years ago, and he's busy making some incredible carbon fiber mountain bikes.

Here's the Mojo, which is pretty damn eye-popping:

Here's the suspension link, which to my untrained eye, looks quite similar to the Maverick/I-Drive concept. I gotta go to the website and do my research, since I plan to write a column about all this.

Here's Scot, left, and Andy, holding one of the carbon road frames.

The only bummer about a mountain bike that beautiful is that I'd be WAY too nervous to ever crash it, so it would make me ride like a weenie.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Early Season Racing, Baby

I did my first race of the season down in Nathrop this past weekend. Nathrop is a tiny little joint near Buena Vista (pronounced "Byoona Vista" of course) in central Colorado, with outstanding views of the Collegiate Peaks. My teammates Cindy and Noah and I drove down Friday night and stayed at the Byoona Vista Super 8. Here's the view from our room:

After laughing our asses off at a Jennifer Lopez-themed episode of South Park, we crashed out, and I had the most spectacularly terrible night's sleep I've had in a long time. It was a combination of caffeine abuse, songs stuck in my head, obsessive thoughts, and finding the bed too hard. I don't think Cindy and Noah slept that well, either. We sat at the breakfast table, hunched over more caffeine, staring at each other like extras from a backyard zombie movie. But after we drove to the venue and started checking things out, I began to feel really good.

We met two more teammates there, Steve and Ron, which gave us a great turnout from Blue Sky Velo. Steve knew the course, too, and was able to warn us about problem spots. Steve and Noah getting ready:

Me and Steve:

After warming up, we went to the staging area, and found that these training races (meaning they're supposed to be low-key and not super aggro) are so small that all the classes could be started in TWO waves. Cindy and I comprised the entire Sport women's class. :) We lined up with the Beginner and Sport men, which was awesome, because we were able to start as a team; plus I found the men a lot more fun to talk to in the start chute than the women. The men are less pent-up.

Soon enough, our wave started, and we all started hauling ass toward the first climb. Left to right, in the matching clothes, are Cindy, Steve, and me.

I got past as many people as I could, feeling surprisingly confident that I could hold them off. I was even more amazed when this turned out to be true! Only a couple of guys passed me on the climb, and then I found myself in perfect position for my fitness level... fast guys ahead, slow ones behind. I ended up racing the entire thing all alone, totally isolated, but it was good that way. It gave me a lot of leeway to work on the really difficult aspects of the course without feeling pressure.

And let me tell you, the course had some tough spots. Several really steep climbs, covered in a lethal combination of sand, soft soil, gravel, and larger loose rock. Traction was scarce. And then the downhills were even softer, like riding through cake mix and sand, while also being very narrow, exposed on one side, and at times slightly off-camber. Yikes. For whatever reason, though, I was psyched about all this. Conditions like that are a weakness for me, and I found myself very motivated to practice every technique I could think of. I had nothing but positive thoughts in my head, even after several minor slide-out style crashes on the downhills. I was learning that you have to just surf your bike down this stuff. Forget actually having any traction... it's just a barely-controlled slide.

My dedication to the yucky stuff was rewarded with an awesome section of singletrack by a creek, blessed with hardpacked soil, fast swooping turns, and logs to bunnyhop. I couldn't get the grin off my face in this section, and even whooped out loud, I was having such a good time. There was no answering holler, though... either the racers behind me couldn't breathe, or I had a substantial gap on anyone behind me.

I came through the start/finish area even more psyched for lap number two, because my lungs had finally stopped hurting. :) I've been off the bike for two weeks, so my lungs weren't quite up for that kind of intensity. I attacked the climbs again, trying to relax and pedal smoothly so I wouldn't spin out. On the second climb, I made it through a really steep, nasty part, and a guy who was hanging out there called out, "Nice job! No one else has ridden that!" I figured he meant out of my group of slower folks, NOT the pros, but it was gratifying nonetheless. Then I managed to hit the downhills even faster than lap one, but my overconfidence took me down twice more. And still I found that I coudn't view this negatively... I was having too much fun. Each time I just jumped back on and resumed my mental coaching.

I keep remarking on this, because it was such an unusual mind state for me. Not that I'm a ball of negativity or anything, but I'm frequently very self-critical about my riding ability. To be so mentally aggressive and non-judgemental was a fabulous way to race, and I realized that in another frame of mind, I probably would have hated that course. It was pretty eye-opening to see how much my own mind affected my experience.

I finished strong, passing two more men on the long fire road to the end. I was amazed to see how much the past two weeks of hiking, running and weight lifting have strengthened my legs. They had energy to burn.

I found the rest of my teammates, except for Cindy, who was still on the course. Noah and Steve had top-ten finishes, while poor Ron had broken his derailleur hanger and had to drop out. That sucks to drive for hours only to get half an hour of racing in. Bummer. When Cindy arrived, we had a great team "debriefing," comparing notes on the crappy sections and how much we loved the trail by the creek.

So I won my first race ever, but it's pretty meaningless with Cindy and I being the only ones there. Cindy was upset with the way she rode, which was a bummer, but she's even more self-critical than I am, I think. Cindy is one tough cookie who has endurance for DAYS from all her years of competing in triathlons. She needs to be patient with the transition to the much higher-intensity style of racing that is mountain biking. It takes your body time to adapt. I mean, let's face it -- if I tried to do a triathlon right now, I'd fall down twitching and crying by the time the run started. :)

Here's my girl:

At any rate, I'm so excited to have the season started, and that trip was exactly the sort of thing I've been dying to do -- road trips with the team to gorgeous locations and fun riding/racing. Yahoooo!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Speaking of Spectating...

This is hilarious!

My dear friend Sarah, the fabulous mountain biker shown on the right side of the picture, sent me this. Awesome. Maybe I need to move to Boise??

Monday, April 17, 2006

Yo, Check it Out!

This week's column is up! You can find it here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

All Blue Skies

Not much going on in my neck of the woods, but my team is ramping up on the road racing side of things.

Here are a few photos (not taken by me) at last weekend's Boulder Roubaix race.

Here are the Cat.4 guys getting their game faces on:

Here's my girl Cindy getting her 2nd place medal in the 35+ category. She also won a six pack of beer:

Here's Katie, our Cat. 4 roadie who has already won several races. I think it's time for an upgrade. Plus she has her arm warmers on the wrong arms :) But who can argue with her -- she took home the medal!

I may bring back some photos from this weekend's road race, as well.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I'm a Dork

but I wanted to show off our new team kit. Pretty cool. Some folks think the two different colored arm warmers, shorts legs and socks are lame, but I think it's fine. For a self-portrait, this came out decently composed, I think.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Riding the Desert's Edge

I should have posted this yesterday, but my cycling column ran, and it actually ranked #7 out of the top ten stories read on our website that day. Crazy! Considering that there's a lot going on in the news right now - not least of which is the RTD bus drivers' strike, leaving many commuters stranded - that's a pretty impressive ranking.

If you're not totally sick of hearing about Fruita, go here to check it out.

Thanks for reading!