Monday, December 1
So we were heading to Iowa for the next races, but last Thursday was Thanksgiving. My family is really into getting together, and Turkey-Day is usually a huge affair. My cousin lives in Chicago and was missing the big get-togethers. So we detoured, hooked up with Colin and his new wife, and had a big old Thanksgiving dinner. We had to walk around the city for an hour just to let the food settle. Then we had dessert.
Once we made it to Iowa, we froze our asses off. It was damn cold, still. In California, it's 70 degrees. Here, it's half that for the high temp of the day. Actually, on Saturday it was just over 40, and that felt great. The race is put on by John Meehan, who's also the team doctor for my new road team, Team Bissell. It's a small world. John now lives in Seattle, but commutes back to Iowa to put on this race, he really did a great job. The course design was awesome, the crowds were rowdy, and the weather cooperated (with the spectators). It actually felt very similar to the Watsonville Fairgrounds, cause we were first rolling through barns and stables, and then nearly puking at the top of the damn steepest runup. Aaaah, right at home.
So, Saturday was dry and reasonably mild, which made for some road racing tactics. I flipped off my bike in the start, and had to clamber back up to the front of the race. By the time I was there, the Wells Brothers had checked out, and I was fighting for third. I wasn't going to chase them back solo, so that was that. I rode with Marko Lalonde and Brian Matter, and then attacked them for two straight laps to get 3rd. Ouch.
Saturday night it snowed a lot, and we woke up to 3 inches of snow. Perfect. The snow was slopping up the ground, so we would be racing on a nice slick layer of mud. And we would be going DOWN that steep-ass runup from the day before. In 4 inches of mud. Wow, neat. The whole day was slick and sloppy, and I was lucky to keep it smooth for the entire race. Really, no bobbles, no crashes, no technicals, nothing. Sweet. It was snowing for the whole race, too. On the start, I stomped the first off-camber and got a gap on everyone, Todd Wells bridged up and then took off. I rode my own pace as if no one else was in the race. Todd was 10 seconds up teh trail for a couple laps, but I didn't bother trying to bridge up. All it would take is one striaghtaway of going too hard, and you are guaranteed to piledrive your head into the mud. All it takes is one small mistake, and you lose tons of time. I kept it safe, and held onto a big gap behind me for second place. Two podiums on the weekend is always awesome!
In an astounding show of solidarity, JoJo matched my placings for the weekend. She's now yelling that I matched HER placings, since she raced first each day. I guess that's accurate. On Saturday she was in a three-way battle royale for the win, but another rider's bobble in the sand pit broke her off, and all three rode solo TTs for the last lap. They were all less than 5 seconds from each other, and were all out coming into the line. JoJo couldn't quite catch on and ended up 3rd, but it was the most exciting race of the weekend. I was running around trying to warmup and trying to follow the race and cheer JoJo on. It was awesome.
Sunday, JoJo's race was won on the first downhill. One girl CRUSHED the descent and pulled out a 20 second gap in a 100 meter off-camber. She did it again the next lap, and that was that, she won by 34 seconds at the line. Very impressive. JoJo out-rode everyone else, and looked quite comfy in the slimy corners where everyone else was freaking out. She's the champ, for sure.
From here we head to KC, stash the trailer and fly to Portland for the USGP finals. Then we're back to KC for Natz. Bring it on!
We started with a whole new bike-unrelated adventure, namely getting from New Jersey to Long Island! We were "just driving along" on the interstate through Staten Island, and a sign says "get the hell off the highway." Or, maybe it said "all trucks over 12'2" MUST exit here." Since we're 13'0" we got off.
INTO THE MIDDLE OF BROOKLYN!!
No other instructions, just "don't take the highway." We start slaloming between double-parked UPS trucks and tourist busses, and eventually made it back to the freeway without running out of gas. It was mayhem. Sarah Kerlin was following us in her rental car, and cracking up at our absurd situation. Then she'd freak out if I made a light and she didn't. Like it's hard to lose a 40-ft trailer in Brooklyn. Yup, that was fun.
So we made it out to Long Island, posted up at an RV Park for the week, and then headed out to the race venue. Because the races were both Cat 1, and the finals of the new NACT series, all the major players were there. But it was also out in the middle of nowhere, and damn cold, so there weren't so many others there besides us racers.
Also, the big news of the weekend was the un-retirement of Lynn Bessette, followed by her prompt re-retirement. She showed up, had been training a bit for the race, and placed second both days. Studly.
I had a great race on Saturday, ending up about 10 feet behind 2nd place. But I was one step off the podium, ending up in 4th. Still, I was able to battle for the whole race and gave it my best. I ended up riding a few levels higher than my usual effort. At the start it was 34 degrees, and 32 degrees by the finish. And it was blowing about 30mph. Damn cold, for sure.
The next day I paid for those efforts, and my legs really refused to push very hard. I ended up 6th, and I'm pretty content with that since I could easily have been 36th. I just rode my own pace the whole day and played it steady, it worked out pretty well.
JoJo caught a cold over the past week, and stayed inside and warm for the weekend.
Thursday, November 20
Hot damn, we got some real 'cross conditions two weekends in a row! And did we ever! In NJ, the rain had been pouring down for several days, and we were in for it. This was a weekend that started out poorly, but ended on a high note:
We arrived in NJ just in time to ride the course a couple times, and we were confronted with lots of soggy, soggy grass. Because there were only 20-30 people out on the course, only a few ruts were getting laid down, but the writing was on the wall: a mudbath would be coming! The first few classes on the course shredded what grass was left, and the course turned into 3-6" deep mud, with no place between the tape unchurned. Depending on how wet it was, you could choose on whether running or riding was faster, which is really what CX is all about. The wetter stuff was very rideable, since you just splashed through it, but it also gummed up the bike pretty bad and left your drivetrain screeching in despair. The drier parts of the course were turning into peanut butter, and were impossible to manuveur through, on your bike or not. Also, it had stopped raining, so the course was gradually becoming drier, meaning that by the time I raced, we were running almost 1/4 of the lap! ...Of the 15-minute lap!!
An entire section of the course was eliminated on race day, I think just to preserve enough course tape to allow for fixes later on... We started on an uphill pavement section that went under the finish banner and promptly turned left into the bog. Everyone went from 30+mph to 6mph in about 10ft, and the slog commenced. I am usually a good runner, but something was off on Saturday. I would run well, but it would gas me for the next section (the next "section" being the rideable portion of the next straightaway). I would be gasping for breath, only to have to pedal as hard as I could to keep up the momentum through the muck. I was changing bikes twice per lap, and still the mud piled on heavy and clogged up everything. Shifting? Nope. Braking? Not really needed, but still didn't work. Breaking? Oh yeah, plenty of that. It was rough, to say the least.
Usually, I excell in these conditions, but again something was not quite right... Then the lights went out. I've had similar experiences, most recently at Nationals in Portland, when I couldn't keep the bike moving AT ALL. All power was gone, no fight left, it was pure torture to keep the pedals turning. At that race at Natz, I stuck it out and dropped 3 spots in the last lap, but was dead to the world for hours afterwards. At this race, I did the smartest thing I could, and pulled myself out of the race with 1/2 lap to go. I was in 11th, and had about 8 minutes of racing left. I took a lot of shit for yanking myself out, but I wanted to cut my losses, keep the effort manageable (so I could recover better), and come back better the next day. Plus, I would have been 30th by the time I got around to the finish. I might have walked the rest of the lap, I was that bad. I rode the trainer to cool down, ate a ton of food, and rested up, hoping that the next day would go better.
Well, the gamble paid off. My recovery is pretty good from all the stage races I do over the summer, and I'm usually better than everyone else on the second day of a weekend. I'm usually good in the mud, too, and that didn't play out so well, but I had to keep thinking positive and play to my strengths. I started Sunday's race and instantly knew I would be good. I felt the same as when I started the day before, but everyone else seemed to be going in slo-mo. I could punch it up the straights, and I lost no momentum grinding through the mud. EVERYONE complained after the race about how Sunday was harder than Saturday, but I found it much, dare I say it, easier on Sunday. It wasn't easy, but it just wasn't like getting your teeth pulled. I ended up 5th, which ties my best USGP result EVER, so I can't complain one bit about the day.
JoJo charged through the mud on both days, and on Sunday she had her best USGP result ever, coming in 7th! At this event last year, she was 21st, so that's quite an improvement! In a show of team solidarity, we both are ranked 10th overall in the USGP series, with one weekend left to go. We both were feeling good about the momentum we've got going the past couple weekends, with good results piling on during this late-season stretch. We're going to keep it going through until Nationals in a few weekends, watch for everyone else to wither at the end of a long season while we're breathing down their necks!
Tuesday, November 11
AJM is ranked 35th in the world, and is currently the 6th American ranked in the world.
JoJo is 46th in the world, and is the 14th American in the ranking.
Think about that women's ranking for a second... Women's cyclocross in the USA: the depth of the field is just stellar, and 2/3 of the podium at the last World Cup will be racing in NJ next weekend! Wow.
for all the details.
Friday, November 7
Wednesday, November 5
Late Thursday the truck started to overheat, which is odd when you're coasting downhill and it's 25 degrees out. And the truck's new. So we stopped and checked the fluids. There was no anti-freeze in the tank, I guess that would lead to all the idiot lights flashing. We filled it back up, drove the 10 miles to our scheduled stop, and hit the hay. The next morning, we found the fluid level down again, and once we turned on the motor HUGE white clouds were billowing out the tailpipe. We drove it straight to the dealer, where they told us it would take at least 10 days to fix the radiator, EGR (whatever that is), and do some regualr maintenance. This is not good news when you are one day and three states away from your next race!!
We left the truck with the dealer, stashed the trailer at a local RV dealer with some extra space in his lot, and rented a cargo van to haul our bikes and stuff up to Northampton. Bye bye New York, and thanks for nothing!
But the riding was killer! I saw clouds that looked just like jelly fish, with a little cap for the hood and some rain trickling down for the tentacles. We rode to Valley Forge and touristed around a little:
Oh yeah, there were some races.
On Saturday we raced just over the Delaware border at the Dupont family estate: Granogue. This race has long been a mainstay in the US CX scene, and this year it's a Category 1 UCI event. I did this race five years ago, and frankly I hated it. I think it had more to do with my form, and I suffered on the hilly course. The course was largely the same as I remember, but I felt and raced much better and enjoyed myself a lot. I was lined up 3rd row because the UCI officials missed me in the rankings, I was very "whatever" about it and just did my job. I guess that was the right mindset, since I ended up almost with the hole-shot from the 3rd row! I was second off the pavement, sat comfy for a while, but ended up making simple mistakes that took me off the wheel. I dumped it in an UPHILL corner and had to chase, and then stuffed my front wheel in a switchback one lap later... I guess I was going fast, since I was obviously fuzzy-headed. Anyway, I consolidated my position and rode with a group coming up from behind that had Barry Wicks and Matt Shriver. The three of us started going fast and we got to battle for the first spot out of the top 5. I positioned myself well in the last lap, sneaking by Matt through a tricky turn, and then hung on for dear life on Barry's wheel as the finish line approached. I was able to sprint by to nab that 6th spot that I always seem to get. JoJo sneaked a pic of the action:
JoJo had her best start yet at Granogue, popping out of the woods in 3rd spot and then driving hard from there. A bobble ahead of her let a group of 3 get away, and then an exceptional Rebecca Wellons flew by after a poor start (she was back in 20th on the first lap!). Towards the end, JoJo seemed to just want to get it over with and Barb Howe snuck by for 5th, so we both were 6th on the day. JoJo said that the hills were just a little too much, so she packed it in to save something for the next day. That's the thing with our racing schedule: If you don't like how your legs feel, just wait until tomorrow!
Sunday's race was awesome!
Tuesday, October 28
Gloucester is always a fast course, and I figured it would be more like a road race with some dirt. I was not disappointed. The races were blazing fast, and were actually pretty tactical. The lead group just rode me off the wheel both days, but it was embarassingly early on Saturday. The trip really took it out of me, and I felt like I was starting my first race of the year (which hurts like hell). I still have some room for improvement, obviously, and I'm still easing myself into the season. I'm not too worried. The next day I was much better, helped in part by a new runup that broke up one of the high-speed sections. I loved the change, but if you know I cut my teeth on giant runups in Watsonville Fairgrounds and Aptos High Schoool, you'd know why. I was much more in contention on Sunday, and felt like I had something to go for. I ended up 6th both days, but got there in two very different ways, so I was happy with the improvement.
In a show of solidarity, JoJo placed 6th on Sunday as well. On Saturday, however, she killed it and rode like the champ she is. We were just out of the car, and normally the course doesn't suit her, but she said she felt great and really rode well, ending up 4th. Killer!
After the races, we moved to a campground and chilled out on Cape Ann. I have an aunt that lives down the way in Manchester, so we got some visiting in also. We attended the local CX practice on Wednesday night, and then split the next morning for Philly. Next up: Granogue and Wissahickon CX Races.
I attended the Lion of Fairfax race, which was a benefit for the school that hosted the event. I did the race last year, and figured it would be good to go help them out again. Plus, they have a nice prize list. Last year, I was not-so-thrilled about the course, but this year they made some subtle improvements that really made it a lot safer and more fun to race.
I drove up with my teammate Justin Robinson, and we lined up for the first race of the morning. JRob, Josh Snead, and myself showed ourselves out the front door, and never looked back. At four laps to go I pounced and tried to ride away solo, Justin got to sit on Josh for a bit and relax. The course wound back on itself a few times, so you could keep track of where others were behind you... On the last lap, all of a sudden Justin wasn't there anymore, and it was just Josh riding by himself. I thought that some calamity had struck, but actually Justin just turned on the rocket boosters and killed a whole lap. I was starting to worry that he would catch me, he was going so fast! I dug in for a half lap and cruised across the line for my first win of the season, Big And Burly hot on my heels. We did the whole podium thing, but had to split straight away since Justin had kid duty in the afternoon and I had to go check out fire engines and AstroJumps at my nephew's 3rd birthday party.
The next morning, I was up and out the door to make it to the Central Coast CX race in Ft. Ord. Now this is more like it: local race, killer course, close to home. Nice! The race yesterday was great, but it still was 5 hours in the car vs. 1 hour of racing... Not much sense to that!
I've raced the Ft Ord courses so many times that I know every turn. I put it in cruise control and bided my time to attack the hill like crazy. Finally the elastic broke and I soloed in for the win. The form is coming around, and I'm glad to be riding strong all the way until the end of the race.
The day after we started our drive to the East Coast. Next up, I'll get some race reports in about races more recent than last month.
Star-Crossed is easily the best race in the country, given the crowds, course, the quality of the field, and the amount of FUN that everyone has. Two years ago I won the race, and last year I was on the podium in my first comeback race of the year. This race has treated me well over the years, I was stoked to get back up to Marymoor. This year was not so lucky, though, since I broke my chain before the first corner. I had to run to the first pit, and started riding my bike about 3 minutes off the back. I started riding steady, just hoping for a workout, and ended up passing about 85 guys. I finished 13th at the end of the night, and I'll be reaping the benefits from the workout I got in a couple weeks.
JoJo had a killer race, starting really well and staying out of trouble. She was riding in 3rd for a while, grouped up with a couple others, and scorched them to finish 5th. She's a rock star, and claimed our team's first UCI podium of the season.
The conditions were pretty intimidating for the first big race of the year, since it was raining for a couple days ahead of time. It was a little slimy, and I figured the start was going to be total mayhem, which it was. Knowing that going into the race creates a little apprehension, but we dealt with it, rode it out (literally), and got past it fine.
The next day was GP Rad Racing, which benefits the top junior development program in the country. Jim Brown and his crew have their hands full, but they do a great job bringing more and more kids into the race scene each year. They have one of the best venues around, with THE BIGGEST RUNUP that we'll see all season. It's an awesome race!
I really like to run, so I was not so intimidated by the course. Everyone else was, waiting and riding relatively easy so that they wouldn't blow up at the top of the course. I rode easy in the draft and then relaxed on the run while everyone else stressed out. Eventually, I made some mistakes in the corners and started cramping in the straights, so I let them go and went on to fight another day. My muscles were in bad shape from the efforts of the night before, so I lost the sprint for 4th and ended up 5th on the day. Still, my first (of many, hopefully) UCI podiums of the year.
JoJo's race wasn't a good as last night, and she ended up 10th. The hill took it out of her, and the high speeds on the flats were a little too much. Plus, she claims she's getting old.
We made it to Vegas just fine, and hung out for a couple days to recover from the races. On Wednesday, the rest of the Cal Giant team came into town, and we went racing again. The Cross Vegas course was similar to last year, in that is was really hard to go fast: the grass was so thick and heavy that you felt like you were climbing a steep hill the whole time. I rarely used my brakes, since all you had to do to slow down was to stop pedaling your ass off.
Oh yeah, and the field was STACKED. MTB World Champ, Lance Armstrong, and every domestic crosser was there. This field was harder than Nationals! I got tailed off of the giant lead group, and was the first guy to come in after. I still had to battle, since my little group of four consisted of the Danish national champ, two current US National Champs (me and JDriscoll), and Barry Wicks. I ended up turning the screws on them and rode two off the wheel, and then sprinted Parbo for 14th place. A little redemption, since he beat me the previous Sunday in a two-up sprint.
JoJo just wanted the workout for the night, and she ended up 3 spots better than last year. No complaints, plus she made some money grabbing dollars off the ground.
After the race, all I wanted was my prize money, a beer, and a steak. I spent much of the night getting my share of beer, but I didn't get my steak until we got back to the hotel at 5:30am the next morning.
Tuesday, October 21
Just to prove that we made it to the East Coast.
Big rocks in Utah. Note the brake smoke from the truck ahead.
MTBing in Fruita. Pretty awesome.
Our life in the car. For ten days straight.
Niagara Falls are behind us. I've never seen them before, and they were impressive! We rode through 40 miles of pretty countryside (block headwind) to get there.
Team Features Husband-Wife National Champions
Specialized, KMC, and California Giant Berry Farms are pleased to announce the newest cyclocross racing team for the upcoming 2008 season. The team’s official name will be Team Specialized/KMC presented by California Giant Berry Farms. The focus will be to garner excellent individual results through the season, amassing enough UCI points to place in the top 25 in the UCI World Ranking. With a top-tier schedule of 23 UCI Cyclocross events throughout the USA, the team will go full-gas around the country, with stops in almost 15 states: the team will attend all US Grand Prix of Cyclocross races, as well as select New England CCS, Mid-Atlantic CCS, and North American Cyclocross Trophy Series races.
The team will consist of husband-wife National Champions, Andy and Josie Jacques-Maynes. Andy has been to the World Championships three times, with seven National Podium appearances. He has three UCI wins to date. Josie has attended one Cyclocross World Championships, and has two UCI wins to her credit. Both Andy and JoJo are the current 30-34 National Champs, making the rare feat of being concurrent husband-wife National Champions. With extensive experience racing cyclocross in the US and in Europe, Andy and JoJo are ready and excited to meet the upcoming season head-on. They will be travelling in their RV from race to race, making the season one 3-month-long road trip!
The team will ride race bikes and equipment from Specialized, including S-Works Tricross carbon bikes, superlight Roval Alpiniste SL tubular carbon wheels, as well as industry-leading shoes, helmets, optics, and gloves. “Being a Specialized Factory-supported team means we get to race on the best equipment, hands down,” said Andy. “In fact, I had a hand in developing much of the gear on our race machines, so I know they will perform perfect no matter the conditions!” Andy and Josie will make appearances at local Specialized dealers throughout the season, so look for them as the cyclocross season swings through your area.
California Giant Berry Farms has supported the racing pair for 5 years and is excited for them as they take this next step in their cycling career. “Andy and Josie have always served as excellent spokespersons for the company and our berries”, says Anthony Gallino, VP of Sales. California Giant looks forward to providing continuing support for the cycling duo and appreciates all they have done for Cal Giant racing over the years.
The team would like to thank their sponsors for their generous support: Specialized, KMC , California Giant Berry Farms, TRP, SRAM, Clif Bar, First Endurance, and Crank Brothers.
It's got a garage in the back for all our bikes, a shower, stove, fridge, TWO high-def TVs, and plenty of room for the two of us... It'll be pretty comfy, I think. It took me over a week, but I engineered a rack system for the back of the trailer, so now we can bring along all our bikes:
If you're out East at the races, you'll get a chance to see this thing up close and personal. It's kinda hard to miss...
Lo and behold, another plan has presented itself to us: DRIVE across the country, and stay in an RV at each race. We worked out the options and price differences, and the RV method was more cost-effective! Soooooo, we went shopping:
We're gonna use that huge thing to pull our new 40ft toy-hauler (pics coming soon). Because the truck and trailer are so big, we need to upgrade our driver's licenses... Class A License required from this point forward.
A while back, I had a thought: We race every weekend (usually both days) during the 'Cross season, with CCCX, BASP, Surf City, Livermore, and some Sacto races thrown in there. We're pretty busy racing during the winter in California. But when it's time to go to Nationals, we get killed because of poor call-ups and a lack of high-end conditioning. So I thought we should race every weekend, but go to the races that matter: UCI cross events.
Since these are clustered on the East Coast, that meant moving out East. So I started planning a move to New England for the Winter. I was planning it out as early as July: I would move to Northampton, MA, drive to all the races, and campaign the UCI cross circuit.
JoJo decided she had enough of her job, so she quit and signed up too. Here we go!