Pando XC. My race yesterday was complicated…… had it’s ups and downs.

It started with a very heavy heart. We found out that my godfather in all likelihood has cancer last Wednesday, and the indications are it’s bad. Very bad. My godfather is a person who is very important to me and so the news was a real blow. I am waiting till some test results come back to find out how quickly I need to get out to Wisconsin to visit him. Yeah, it put a damper on my week.  I had some very good advice from a friend who raced with a heart much heavier than mine and experienced how emotion can affect you when you race. But I wanted to ride and ride strong today. So I planned to be angry, but smart. Use the emotion to go hard on the uphills. Pound them. And then be smart on the single track.

When I warmed up I knew I had good legs and that all the bruises I had from my race two weeks ago were all healed. I was looking forward to a very very good day.

Pando is an excellent course for me. Lots of climbing (well as much as you can get in southern Michigan anyway) and not exceptionally technical. At the start I was in last place (I am just not a good sprinter compared to the sport guys right now). But right out of the shoot you go up the biggest climb of the course and I stayed with the group. I knew that I would be OK and relaxed into the race. I resolved to ride the race steady, not to burn myself out on any one lap or climb and pick people off as they showed any sign of weakness.

During the second climb on the first lap I started to pass the people in the back of my pack. Somewhere on that first lap in some relatively tame single track I fell. I am still not sure why. It wasn’t on anything tough or hard. Maybe my tire got clipped by the guy behind me. Maybe I just rolled it on a loose rock. It doesn’t matter. Nothing was broken (except for my barfly garmin mount) so I got back up and passed the guys who had passed me when I went down. When we got to the start finish line I was still in contact with the lead group, though I was a little bit behind. I started to catch up to people again, and as they cracked just a little bit, I passed them on the climbs. I had an excellent second lap. On the third lap I kept it up.

I realized I was having fun. I was in the moment. Then on a little steep kicker, after the two big climbs, disaster struck.

I down shifted and my chain skipped off the back cassette and became lodged between the hub and the cassette. Probably there was too much tension in my chain when I down shifted. And when I say stuck it was not just a little bit stuck, but as  far down as it could go. I couldn’t get it out. As people came and passed me I became more more frustrated. Eventually threw my bike down off the trail.

Everything that happened this week spilled to the surface and I felt like I was finished. Some of the people I have met and ridden with out here rode by and asked if I needed help. I didn’t want them to stop their races on my account and so I waved them on. Then one of the elite riders came by with a beginner teen he was coaching. They were pre-riding before the beginners race and he was giving the teen advice on how to race the trail. They stopped and asked if they could help. I showed it to them and said that it was OK, I had a crappy week, and this was just the icing on the cake. I said I was finished and I was going to walk down. The elite rider looked up at me and must have seen something in my face. He said, “Its a beautiful day, you are on a great course, we are going to fix this and you are going to keep riding.” It took the three of us, with tire tools, working together just over 10 minutes to get the chain out, but eventually we freed it.

I got on my bike and finished the third lap, and then I went out and finished my 4th lap. I was pretty burnt at that point and so I am sure my last lap was not my best one (confirmed via STRAVA). The finish was at the top of the first climb (so in 4 laps you get to do that big climb 5 times). I locked out my front fork, stood and climbed to the finish like there was no hill there at all.

I looked at the results tonight. I ended up 13th out of 16 riders in my group. The last three riders had DNF’s so I was the last rider in my group to finish. I was 15 minutes behind the person who won my group. You can do the what if’s. Believe me I already have.

I don’t know where I could have finished, I don’t really care (ok that’s not entirely true). I was competitive with the sport guys. My best lap time doubled (the beginners did 2 laps to our 4) would have won the beginner group in my age bracket by more than a couple of minutes. Today I never got passed by the fast guys from the groups starting behind me (well until I lost my chain). I passed many many more people than people who passed me. And in the end I finished. I guess I may actually belong in that group.

I have said before that part of what makes mountain bike races so much fun are the people. Today two riders who were strangers took time out to help another rider who was clearly having a rough time. The elite rider said just the right thing to me to keep me from becoming the 4th rider on the DNF list. I wish I could have gotten his name so that I could thank him properly, but the universe knows. I trust he will be paid back for his kind help and words.

I know the next weeks are going to be challenging. I should be finding out how challenging at some point today. I have one more race to do while I am in Michigan. Its in 3 weeks on another course that should be good for me. Maybe, just maybe I can catch a brake. I feel like I deserve it.

Picture of the Day


“Noah at Pando”


Review: Rising From Ashes

Those of you who bike, and I mean Bike, know that you cannot become a true cyclist without suffering. The contradiction in this is that that through that suffering one also finds healing. It’s a little like the Caamora ritual the giants use in Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books. (Sorry couldn’t help letting my geek self out there for a moment.)

Rising From Ashes is a documentary about the formation and development of the Rwandan Cycling Team. The team was conceived of by Tom Ritchey in 2005. If you don’t know that name, you need to look at the history of mountain biking, because he is one of the three people who started mountain biking. (You can just click on the conveniently supplied link. You are welcome.) Tom enlisted his friend Jonathan “Jock” Boyer to become the coach of the team. Again if you do not recognize that name click on the link. Jock was the first American road cyclist to race in Europe.

I am going to skip a report on the events detailed in the movie. The problems and successes that are detailed. Those are all worth while parts of the movie. I am doing that, because you should see how the story unfolds and where this story takes them for yourself.

But more than that I am skipping those details because at its heart, the story of Team Rwanda is a story of redemption and healing. It is a story of using the bike to heal wounds, physical and mental, on a personal and national level. And for me this is where the story really works.

In case you missed it, Rwanda was the scene of a genocide that rivaled any in history (yeah including the genocide during WWII). Over a million people were killed in just about three months. Anyone who watches this movie should be warned that the movie does discus and show images from that time. It’s hard to watch and you may not find the material (as well done as that section of the movie is) appropriate for everyone.

Like I say, this movie is about redemption and healing, and it works on two levels.

The obvious level is to the story of the Rwandan riders and country. The riders on the team were children when the genocide occurred. All of them were touched by those events, in some cases they lost most or all of their family members in those acts.

On a second level this story of redemption and healing is about Jock himself. After leaving professional cycling Jock was convicted of lewd behavior with a minor and was sentenced to a year in jail and five years or probation which ended in 2006. Tom approached Jock to come develop and coach Team Rwanda because he felt Jock was a good coach and in need of a second chance.

What I really liked about this movie was learning about the people and watching their progression over a span of six years.

Jock starts out not caring about Rwanda, and admittedly not even really knowing about the genocide. He goes for a month to assess the riders for his friend Tom. When he starts working with the riders he begins to make connections and agrees to stay on to form a team.

About midway through the process Jock comments:

“Adrien (the top Rwandan rider) rides a bike because his past haunts him. When I think of it now, I got out of jail and got on my bike. It gives you time to think.”

You can see, no more than that you can feel, the connections being built. One of the most poignant moments came when Adrien and the other team members are concerned that Jock is going to leave them. In their experience people come and stay for a year or two and leave to return home. Jock talks about his father and his father’s leaving of the family. You see that his commitment to the Rwandan team is strong, real and heartfelt.

The other thing I really liked about the movie was the video footage from Rwanda. It was inspiring to see the riders being mobbed by admiring kids, to see the parents and families of the riders and to see the joy that they have in each other. I am sure that Rwanda has its issues, but I find hope in those images.

What I didn’t like? Well I wanted to see more races and hear about their results. Sorry, that’s just the racer in me wanting to know. But I guess that’s not the point and in the end I am OK with that. (And yes I did Google search to find some key results.)

At the end of the movie Jock says:

“No matter what you do in life, if you have done something like this, you have done something of value.”

Is Jock talking about what he has done for the members of his team? Is he talking about what the members of his team have done for him? Is he talking about what the Team has done for Rwanda? I think he realizes while he is saying it, that he is talking about all of those things.

If you are interested in learning more you can find Team Rwanda here.

(BTW Netflix has the movie available for streaming and on disk.)

Rounding out the week…

Finally. Finally I had a week where I felt good about my riding. My first since I got to Michigan.

It started out with a “nice” day of descending intervals. These intervals were a little different than typical descending intervals where you do time on=time off as you down through times. These ones were 60 s on, 20 sec off, 50 s on, 20 sec off, 40 sec on, 20 sec off. Well you get the idea. Not much rest in there. My legs finally felt like they were alive and ready to go.

Friday I went to Burchfield Park. The site of my derailleur catastrophe and later my mud eating exercise. I had two hours to ride. Just enough time for 2 laps. The instructions were ride how you feel. So I rode hard. I tried to be smart in the twisty tight sections and I hammered everywhere else. When I loaded that ride up to STRAVA I was happy to see I threw down my two best laps on that course since I have been here. My second lap was the faster than the first. And I now have the 8th fastest time out of the recorded 45 rides on that segment. I will take that. (It turns out I had to do 2+ laps to fill out the 2 hours.)

Saturday I was supposed to do a mellower endurance ride. I kept that ride under control not pushing and had my best three laps there are well. (Again each faster than the last. A really nice little trend there.)

Sunday I had a 2 hour high intensity endurance ride. It was time to put a stamp on the week. Last week I discovered a segment on the road route I had been using that looked ripe for the taking. I called out the Michigan bikes for their shame of letting little old me on a mtb getting close to a KOM on a road segment. (I do believe that is why Michigan took its revenge on me in the form of a yellow jacket flying into my mouth and causing havoc with my lip.) I decided I was going to get the KOM on that segment. (There are other segments on that ride, some clearly written by someone with a TT bike. I am pretty sure I would top out on my MTB well before 30+ mph on a flat road segment. Well with the way it is geared anyway!)

I had a nice 15 minute warm up to get to the start of the segment. Then I dropped the hammer. It’s a 3.6 mile flat segment, I averaged 21.2 mph and topped my previous best time by over 2 minutes. And I topped the previous KOM by 30 seconds. A nice little chunk of time in a 10 minute time trial. The best part is that I forgot where the segment started and didn’t hammer the first half mile or so. There is more time there.

So Michigan… well I and my now not fat lip threw it down. Let’s see what you got.

Yeah, it was a good week. I definitely need that going into my second race on Sunday, where I do believe the pie flavor might again be “humble”.

Oh Michigan

Dear Michigan,

I am not sure why you are so angry with me. Well mostly the anger is showing in my biking. So maybe you are angry at me for something with respect to that. First you broke bike. Then that area of mud “mysteriously” appeared strategically placed to crash me out. Now, finally my bike is 100%. I am feeling good. So what do you do to me yesterday? You send a bee to fly into my mouth to bite the inside of my lip.

You know what Michigan? That freaken hurts. Its a hurt that sticks with you. By the time I woke up this morning my lip was swollen. Well the right side of my lower lip was swollen. It’s pulling my lips into a frown. The inside of my lip? Seriously?

I am tired of it. If there is something going on, well, please just let me know. Let’s talk about it. No more of this passive aggressive stuff. Let’s just get it out in the open and be done with it.

Lacking the courtesy to do that, well then bring it.




An Open Letter to My Sponsors

Dear Fatty and JenniHoops,

By now you have probably read the report of my race in Velonews today. No? Weird. They were supposed to have that up by now. I mean they are really really interested in the progress of my racing career. Clearly they just haven’t had time to post the article yet. Since you both are sponsoring my racing, I wanted to clarify a couple of things that are reported in that article. There is more to the story than their slanted one sided “reporting” of the facts.

My race today was tough. But that’s only part of the story. The story of this race really started last weekend when I wrecked my rear derailleur on a stick. By Wednesday night I had my bike repaired, but it really ruined the flow of my week. Friday I went out to some local trails to test the repairs and all was well. Saturday I went back to those trails to warm up. That’s when the second disaster struck.

I wasn’t pushing it really hard. I wanted to work on my single track form and find my flow leading up to the race. I felt really good. Nice form, leaning in the corners, look ahead on the trails. I came up to a sandy corner and set up for it. I was starting to lean my bike to start the turn when my rear tire washed out under me. There was just a little bit of slick hard pack mud right before the corner and I found it. I went down hard. Really hard. My arms and legs were scraped up. (Well at that time they were caked in mud and sand. I would learn later when I was picking the sand out of the scrapes that I was scraped up.) The right side of my bike was covered in mud. I finished my ride, but was hurting. BTW. The rumor that Maxxis Ikons are treacherous in mud? Well I can conform that.


They are really fast rollers on hard pack. But they do not shed mud. You might as well be on slicks.

Here I was going into a race, on a course I had never ridden before, in mud and beaten up physically (my shoulders and neck were really sore).

I finally caught a break when Noah (you remember Noah right? The Columbine Aid Station kid) got invited for a sleep over and I was free to get to the race as early as I wanted. I got to the course before the first races went off and went to pre-ride it.

Let me say that the Addison Oaks MTB trails are a lot of fun. They are fast and flowy. Well burmed corners with a really nice rythm. I was feeling better about the race. Well except for the fact that I was really sore from my crash. My neck and shoulders were stiff. Still, in true Team Fatty Hoops spirit I decided to soldier on.

As an aside, while I was waiting for the race and walking around in my Fatty kit (“Halloween Retro” FC kit) someone said “Hey I am rocking that kit today too. It was a fellow Friend of Fatty (Hi David if you read this!). We got to chatting about 100 MoN and what out plans were. He was racing SS so I didn’t see much of him during the race. (It’s always like meeting a long lost brother when you stumble on a FoF in life. After the race we commiserated while eating pie. We both brought some. Love my Fatty Brothers! And really, pie is good for all possible situations, so why would you not have it with you?)

So that is the set-up for the race. Messed up week of training, hard fall that left me battered, on a course I didn’t know very well. Well except for ONE other small thing. I, as my gaming sons would say, “leveled up”. This was to be my debut as a Sport Class rider.

Now I put this decision to ride as in the Sport class on another “Friend” of Fatty who shall remain nameless (DavidH) who mercilessly teased me about riding in the Novice division in June. MERCILESSLY. I believe I was accused of sandbagging. Yeah I won that race and yes I did get my prizes while wearing a Leadville buckle,


but it was actually my second XC race ever. Not wanting to take any more heat I decided to go Sport.

OK, the race. It was clear from the start that the Sport division is a totally different animal from Novice. The pace is a lot higher. And, and those guys have learned something that the novice riders don’t quite know yet: how to pace themselves for a race. No one blew up for the entire race.

I held onto the back of the pack for the first lap. I was pushing myself, but was flowing well on the trail. Not as well as the people who knew the trails, but I was happy with my effort.

Towards the end of that first lap my race became infinitely more difficult. My shoulder and neck started to ache and then started to hurt. It started to be really hard to use my upper body for the climbs, and my speed dropped. My second lap was not fun. I had to do a third lap and was not looking forward to it. But I decided I was going to go as hard as my battered body would allow me to go. I stood to climb. I tried to flow, and I tried to really crank on the fast flat sections of the course.

I was passed by a friend who I met at Leadville and he asked how I was doing. I told him I was struggling and he  told me to get onto his wheel. I did for a while but could not sustain it. Still my 3rd lap was faster than my second and I am proud of that. My mental game was better on that lap.

In the end (as Velo will report) my finish wasn’t great. But I didn’t finish last! And my “No you go on, I am Riding Sweep” T-shirt, which I was wearing, remains a nice joke, not the truth.

So there you go, my Addison Oaks XC race in nutshell. I am sitting here licking my wounds (physical and mental) right now and recovering. In two weeks I go to another new course and race in the Pando Challenge. I am looking forward to racing in a race in which my bike is working and I am not beat up. It would be a nice change.



Status: Normal

Sunday is race day. Let’s take stock for a minute.

1. I have never raced this course. In fact, I have never even ridden on this course. Unless I can get out early on Sunday my first trip around the course will be at race pace.

2. My training this week was poor at best. Bike issues plagued me all week disrupting my normal race week preparation.

That means the situation is totally out of hand. Just like Team Fatty Hoops likes it. I mean its just a 1.5 hour race, with people I have never ridden with. What could possibly go wrong??? 🙂

But things are rounding into shape. I finally received the parts I needed to fix my bike yesterday. The mountain bike is back up. It was more of a process than I thought it would be, but I got it done. See:


I am going to be able to get a good warm up ride in this evening. And tomorrow I am going to ride some trails to get my single track swerve on.

Time to BRING IT.

(Not sure what it is I am bringing. Hopefully its not a pile of poo. Guess we will see 🙂 )


So much potential

Hey Michigan Bikers,

It’s time to wake up! I rode my mtb on the roads around Lansing on Saturday. Here is the thing. When I uploaded my ride to STRAVA I was shocked, nay dismayed to find out that I was placing kind of high up in the segments on my ride. (I was actually quite surprised to find out there were segments. Where I live segments are usually some sort of steep or long or both climb. But I guess you have to go with what you got.)

OK, here is the deal. I was on a MOUNTAIN BIKE. A mountain bike that is geared for climbing, not riding flat. On one segment I am now 4th. Its dead flat for 3.6 miles. I was 23 seconds out of first. Seriously? No drop handles, 2.2″ tires, 36×11 gearing. That’s all you got?

Even on the other segments I am in the top 20% of the riders.

Come on now. It’s time to get your game on. Seriously.



PS. If I had my road bike here…………