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The Stay Classy Classic : 10 Thoughts, Observations, Recollections

1. Four teams of approximately four individuals gathered at the top of Mounds View Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota around the hour of 9 AM. These individuals came by choice, coercion or because there was nothing better to do with their Saturday.

2. Late August in Minnesota. (See : Uffda)

3. The four members of #TeamMusette were as follows :

1(a) : David Peterson

1(b) : David Bucklin

1(c) : Jeff Christenson 

1(d) : Myself

4. There’s just something about a Cue Sheet soaked through that is both terribly disgusting and endearing.

5. To the Wedding Party taking photos in scenic Vermillion Falls Park, we are forever in your debt for the three bottles of Ice Mountain Bottled Water. We also apologize for perhaps ruining a few shots with our sweaty, disgusting, worn-out bodies.

6*. Never pass up a well-placed Public Water Access.

*Bib Shorts can, in a pinch, double as swimming trunks.

7. That time when David Bucklin’s water bottle decided to release itself from its cage and land perfectly on junction of his bottom bracket, seattube and downtube.

8. Summer Home – Typhoon

9. Jeff Christenson’s gift of a Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll right around mile 86. On the Pearson’s Quality Confections Website it is described as follows : “In an ever-changing confectionery marketplace, Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll continues to represent the highest standards of quality and excellence.” in addition – “Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll is a good source of protein and carbohydrate energy.”

10. Rolling up to the finish at the Black Dog Cafe with the official time of 08:44:58 and only one other member of #TeamMusette left. This arrival was met with mostly heckles, a lot of sitting down and some well and truly deserved pizza.

Bravo, Spencer Haugh! Bravo, Stay Classy! Till next year, say we, the members of #TeamMusette. Till next year, indeed.

mm_few_15 mm_few_4mm_few_21Spending my last few hours of 2012 riding my bicycle in below zero wind-chill wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it wasn’t incredibly out of the ordinary.

I first heard about A Few Gears Eve last year through friends. It’s been put on every year by Dan Jacobsen, now owner of Omnium Bike Shop, in hopes of celebrating what seems to be a strangely Minnesotan trait; The desire to combine alcohol, riding bicycles and deathly cold weather (as evidenced by Stuporbowl).

This year I decided to throw some schwag in the pile (along with Omnium and Trash Messenger Bags) and sponsor the event. Along with the giveaways, I also biked along and took photos of the event. Unfortunately, Lobster Gloves make horrible gloves for DSLR shooting, and so most of the shots you see are either indoors, or close to a place where I could find warmth shortly after taking the shot. You can find the rest here – 

As we climbed out of downtown Saint Paul and headed to the after party all I could think was how much better the day was because I got out on my bike. I imagined most of the other people behind me were feeling much the same, and as we shot up Ramsey Hill the pain didn’t matter, all that mattered was getting to the top first.

Happy New Year, and may your 2013 be full of bike time, in whatever form that might take.

You may remember that I wrote this (the Heckler’s Creed) awhile back. If you have read that, you’ll have an understanding about where I was coming from. You might even get a glimpse as to where my thoughts were while Mattio and I were heading up on that lovely morning of Daylight Savings. Bikes in tow, chocolate milk recently purchased from a Holiday somewhere in the vicinity of the NSC Velodrome.

Perhaps they were not as full of hope as say, other’s thoughts may have been.

So we pulled up and I began to take photos. I ran around the course in a stupid fashion, trying to get a little warm-up before my own race. Thankfully, due to Little Guy Racing’s official stance of ‘Cat 4’s probably like Brunch too’, my own event would not take place until the very end. This allowed me plenty of time behind the shutter. And for a little heckling. Okay, a lot of heckling.

And to the Gentleman who had set up at the Dos 180’s, beer in hand, hatred in heart – you sir, are the King. Using such personal information to cater to the individual nature of the Racer; Piercing their hardened, embrocated legs to get the soft, vulnerable core of their inner most fears – Well done. I only wish you’d have been present at my own race.

Other Hat Tips would include the Waffle Van, for providing excellent, cocaine topped waffles (do not laugh while eating or USADA’s gonna be all up on your ass). Matt ‘Little Guy’ Allen, for providing what would be the best announcing of this, or any, CX day. Well done, sirs.

Got ready at the Omnium tent and while putting my Mad Alchemy on, advice was given from many sources. When you know you’re in over your head, when you have no idea what to expect, and your community comes around you and throws every tip and trick in the book at you. Fortunately, I’ve surrounded myself with good people, so there was much to glean out of it. The one that I think should have stood out the most was Smither’s tip – ‘Stopping is faster than crashing.’

He’s right about that one.

So we started, like any other race. Whistle blown and the front row took off. Thankfully, I know enough from Crits that when this happens, slot in and draft – don’t lose a ton of ground or it’s already over. I stayed behind people I felt comfortable with (Hairy Gary and his SICK Moots) and we made our way through the holeshot and into the first barriers. I lost a handful of spaces, but kept up, my dismounting having the grace of a Donald Trump tweet. My remount was only a little worse, but it got me over the barriers in one piece.

First lap finished I had that moment that you tend to in races where you feel good, the one where you take a breath and realize you need to figure out a plan. With my (extremely) limited knowledge, I was duped into thinking that every lap would go so smoothly. Hearing that I was in the top 10 helped that along, eventually convincing me I could make it to the top 5. I got low and started working away, attempting to catch Gary who had now moved three to four people in front of me.

This is when I hit the mini barriers and was told to bunny hop them. I thought I’d be alright, I can bunny hop okay, and they’re just like three inches or something stupid like that. I cleared the first and moved to the second. Unfortunately, my momentum had forsaken me entirely and when my front tire cleared, my rear did not. This bounced me into a front wheelie (which I have been informed lasted for a good few feet) and then when I decided to stop it, I hit my front brake (you know where this is going). I got up in a huff, saw all the spaces I was losing and hopped back on. My chain wouldn’t go, so I had to dig it out from my crank and push my left shifter back into place (thank you Ultegra 6600 for working smoothly after this).

And so that explains how those photos got on Facebook (maybe video too? woe to those who have good friends)

But that wasn’t the worst, amped up on adrenaline at this point, I hit the small gravel section and wiped out almost immediately after. Now a little more bloodied, bruised and sober, I got on a bit more carefully and started to work away at the spaces I had now lost.

None of the locations on the course I thought would be difficult, were. I was lucky enough that the little amount of skill I possessed seemed tailored for them, and could follow some really nice lines laid out by the Cat 1/2’s. That said, the ones I thought would not present an issue, were the ones that did, and now I have a fairly large sized bruise to show for it.

But at the end of the day – even with the embro burning into my leg while I scraped out small rocks from fresh wounds in a hot shower (really not the best) – it was all worth it. I had discovered a love for a new style of race, and participated in one of the more prestigious events Minnesota has to offer.

And next time I’ll remember that sage advice – ‘Stopping is faster than crashing’

A big thanks to Spencer and LGR for putting on such a great event. Also to Dan from Omnium for helping me get set up and taking off my bottle cages ten minutes before the start. And to Birchwood Bike Team, my brothers/sisters in arms, you are the best. If you’re looking for more photos of the event, you can find them on the Musette’s Facebook. See you next Sunday, CX Racers.

-MM

 

 

I wasn’t planning on attacking. 

Well, in truth, I was. Just not then. Not 10 meters off of the start line. Not while my ears still rung with the sound of the start gun. But there it was, a beautiful gap and a gentleman to share it with. It wasn’t going to last, but that wasn’t the point. The point was there was something left in my legs, and I intended on leaving it all out there. 

We worked together. I’m still not the best at holding a wheel and it became apparent that he would benefit more from my draft then I would from his. I heard a lot of yelling and a lot of encouragement. I saw Kevin shake his head a lot. It’s easier to break away on the Track. I imagine this is how breakaway riders in the Tour feel when the camera points directly on them. They must feel a little of fans excitement. It’s probably what pushes them on. It certainly worked for me.

Eventually the Catch happened and I just held my line. As they approached I yelled at my compatriot to hit it. He was able to hold on while I drifted back. The last 20 or so laps were uneventful for myself, but it was exciting to see the last 10 duke it out for the final sprint from the top of the rail. 

Next time, I’ll try something different. But I will try.

Damn I missed racing. 

Image courtesy of Chad Bailey

Ah, yes! Mr. Turner is back to regale us all with another one of his tales. This time with stories of a different type of racing. Enjoy!

-MM

A.J. Turner

A trend, a joke or something just not meant to be taken seriously – All are labels that have recently been given to a large growing group of bicycles affectionately known as, “Fat Bikes”. This fun loving crowd breaks from the status-quo and takes adventure cycling to the next level.

Fat-bikes break free from the roads carved out in co-ordinance with the cardinal directions. Through fields, woods, prairies – and better yet – snow, they wander. All of this done effortlessly as their wide tires float above anything and everything.

Skeptical at first, I was swayed by converted FatBikers and even given a Fatty to borrow (I’m still not sold on the name these bikes have acquired). With it, I registered for the Triple D Winter Race. An “Ultra-Bike” race on the Eastern side of Iowa running a metric century in length – all upon snow. Upon arrival at the start line, and surrounded by nearly sixty similar FatBikesnI was in a different realm than my typical cycling scene.

Gravel slows riding down in comparison to a similar road ride – FatBiking makes time stand still as compared to either. Suddenly finishing 100km in seven hours becomes an elite feat, and catching a rider less than a minute ahead takes miles. The mental games take an unrelenting amount of wit as nine miles an hour has your body pegged at its utmost redline. Even sticking your tongue out as you pass the photographer doesn’t dull the pain.

Miles of solemn pedaling suddenly become unequivocal as your surroundings are realized. No longer bound by the simple gravel roads – you’re floating on snow in a field. Never before have I taken the time, during a bicycle race, to realize my surroundings as much as I did in this race. The sound of the statement is crude, but slowing down the mechanics and changing the playing field – makes the floating seem all the more real. I suddenly realized I was having fun.

Many claim the FatBiking is a trend or an embarrassment to ‘real’ cycling. I, however, had taken enough abuse to give a certain reverence for this crowd of cyclists. Fat tires or skinny tires, the idea is still the same. Getting folks on bicycles is always the goal, even if they have to float upon snow to do so.

An extremely tough, but wonderful event was the 2012 Triple D Winter Race. I’ll be back again next year, perhaps, with a fatty of my own.

After all, it’s simply about keeping it fun.

When Megan first posted up about ENDTombed (Extreme North Dakota… Tombed) it caught my eye right away. I was not the intended recipient, but upon inquiry she let me know that it wasn’t just a collegiate race as I had thought. A twelve hour MTB race in Grand Forks on Halloween; sounds great!

I began to badger whoever I could to come with. I insisted that we have a meeting to go over transportation and lodging. I nagged people with every question that went through my mind. I’m not usually like this, but due to injury and a lack of a ‘race season’ I found myself anxious to see this through. It was my saving grace; my proof that 2011 wasn’t a waste.

It was a little bit of a disaster.

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It’s the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. It’s over 400 riders singing happy birthday while trying their best to stay warm. It’s a refugee camp where a grocery store once stood. It’s camaraderie. It’s dish gloves in place of riding gloves. It’s the taste of the road. It’s finches – five of them – following you along in their own merry way. It’s muck thrown everywhere. It’s Chris Skogen. It’s gravel. It’s free.

It’s the Almanzo.

I get up and start collecting my things for the race. The night before Chris Skogen was kind enough to give me a packet and number despite my lack of foresight with registration. #441, I try to find some meaning in it, but fail and decide it’s for the best. I pin it to my right sleeve. A classy information packet – this is an endeavor many people have put good effort into. The typical pre-race jitters show themselves but only for a moment, I’m not here to see a number by my name at the end.

My teammates gather their things and soon we’re downstairs having breakfast. I chat it up with Dave, Chelsea, Bobby where the main topic is the fact that the weather took a turn for the worst last evening. Waking up, we’ve come to find the ground soaked and the skies less than welcoming. While we’re having our breakfast the 162 riders are already out and riding. My mind’s preoccupied with where Josh Kruck might be in the course – after his amazing performance at the Ox Yoke the week before I’m certain he’s doing just fine in the rain and cold. Only later would I find out that he was already stuck in one gear and still was pedaling along. Jeez. We pedal in circles in the parking lot of the hotel. Everything is packed and we’re set to go. Eric, Heather, Ben and I head on over to the High School in Spring Valley to see the show.

One rendition of Happy Birthday by the group and Chris gives us the final speech. He thanks us all for coming and as he finishes I feel the rain pick up just a tad. I clip in and head out with the group. After a short road section it’s a right turn and the gravel starts. Immediately the muck starts flying and people are looking for fendered compatriots to ride behind. The front group gets started and doesn’t slow up – I drop back in favor of saving myself. My teammates are up with the front, they’re here to get this done and I hope eventually I’ll meet back up with them. As we hit the first climb, I pull off to the side and ready the camera. It’s apparent that people have taken Skogen’s words to heart – there is a constant flow of ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Do you need anything?’ coming from the group as they pass by. I reassure them that I’m just fine and take a few photos of the group passing. Every now and again I’ll recognize a face, but it’s hard as they’re already pretty caked with gravel/sludge mix.

The funny thing is, everyone is still smiling.

I make my way and stop frequently, finding that getting out from behind the bars allows me to enjoy the scenery without being worried about how much more is left. Every mile or so I’d pass a group that’s stopped for a flat, some food or a break. The route is gorgeous. It is a route planned by someone who loved the area and knows it well. The rolling farmland, the forests and creeks all bring you back to a simpler time. Except for a few trucks here and there, the roads are mostly ours. The climbs are challenging and rewarding. Groups are forming at the tops, riders catching their breath. Only 10 miles in now, but with the weather it feels so much more. The phrase I keep hearing is “No shame” – as in, there’s no shame in turning around and calling it in. As I see a few turn around when we hit Highway 16 and head back to Spring Valley the phrase repeats in my head. No desire to join them, yet.

Eventually I find my teammates. Heather has had an unfortunate flat, but it’s allowed me to catch up. Ben starts talking about quitting and I mention I’ll probably be pulling off shortly. Eric and Heather are determined to finish and we start upping the pace to get it done. My skinny tires skip from hard packed line to hard packed line. Taking the corners fast, the wet gravel allows them to dig in giving me extra traction – lines I would never take on a dry day. A silver lining to this weather. We’re doing the passing now, but it’s a bit too much for me. We hit a corner and I stop for more photos/oreos. They head off and later I learn that the cold finally got to Eric and he ended up in an officials car. Heather as well, but she made it to the 65 mile point then called it in. Ben, even with his heart firmly out of it, found it somewhere along the road and was the only one of us to finish. All of them gave it everything they could and I am proud to say they’re my teammates.

I catch up with Peter and Gene and begin to work with them. They’re both looking good and taking their time – veterans, indeed. Their company was more than welcome, and quickly talk turns to the AGRS and the good that’s come from it. More simple beauty surrounds us as we make our way – no one tells you that you have to ride in Spring Valley.

You have to ride in Spring Valley.

We finally make it to Preston. The check-point is just up the road from here, but Preston seems to be the place many are turning back or getting a ride. After hitting the bridge and running into Eric and Greg, I head over to the local grocery store. It’s like a refugee camp – riders milling about shivering and trying to get warm. Still, smiles all around. Jokes exchanged and stories given, attempts at trying to find a lost compatriot or two. The familiar smell of powdered hot coco fills the air with something else – fried chicken. I grab a piece and scarf it down. With the cold I didn’t realize how hungry I had become and soon my outlook improves but my resolve fails. I’m done for the day and need to find the quickest way back, no need to be a hero. Greg and his lady are kind enough to allow me to join them and shortly after purchasing a new pair of gloves and polishing off some hot coco we’re well on our way down 16 to Spring Valley. We see a few others making their way, their faces telling the story with greater specificity than their mouths. Shell shocked, but glad to have made it however far. No shame, only a feeling of thankfulness for being apart of something so great.

As we pull in, Eric calls and lets me know he’s coming. Heather is still somewhere out on the course and Ben is just about deciding that it’s time to answer the call and finish the Almanzo. After cleaning up we head on over to A&W for some root beer and food. Eric and Heather tell of their own routes back to the finish, but the topic quickly turns to how to get back here and ride this again. I can still taste the gravel and pick bits out in between bites of chili-cheese fries. I think of the hundreds of other stories being formed still, at an event that you don’t even need to pay for, just send a postcard. As simple as start here, end there and make it as fast as you can. Horrible weather, road conditions, whatever else aside – I believe this is the heart of Almanzo. There’s no pretension, there’s no ‘inner circle’ of winners, you’re all winners.

No shame. All glory.

It’s the Almanzo.