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Team Giant Update- End of Season What-Not
For being the alleged end of the season I’ve been pretty busy the last couple weeks. Working on the Rally Car, racing a bit of Cyclocross, some gravity racing, some fun bike rides, riding motorized bikes, kicking it at the White House, you know, usual stuff…

First off I suppose bike racing is our main interest so I’ll make some comments on Cyclocross. It’s fun. It’s also another couple months of racing. The fun to extra travel ratio seems a bit off this fall so I’ve set up a very simple rule to govern my ‘Cross racing exploits. I only race under the lights. That’s right, if your ‘Cross race happens during the day I can’t be bothered to partake in 2008. This rule was strictly adhered to a couple weekends ago in Seattle when I raced the Star Crossed event Saturday night, then, instead of racing under “the sun” in Tacoma the next day at another UCI event (which I’ve won in the past) I drove past on my way to some proper baggy short mountain biking at Post Canyon. Doing shuttle runs with old friends and hitting a bunch of sweet jumps was way more fun than a 100-meter run-up… Although we did take some time out for a quick, sketchy, hike-a-bike to Mitchell point for a doughnut and scenery break. And, as a double bonus, I ran into the Penningtons in Hood River, which may not mean much to my average reader, but know that, as legends in my own mind, IT SHOULD! Ah, but back to Star Crossed. It rained. And I took the scenic route to get there. Friday evening cruise on the MacKenzie River Trail on the way to a N.E.R.D and Common show in Eugene. Not quite content with my ADD, I then rode 2 hours of rad singletrack on the Souixon Creek trail as a pit stop during my drive up to Seattle Saturday afternoon. That trail is all time. As opposed to a bunch of other trails in the NW, or anywhere for that matter… Right, Star Crossed. We raced. It was SLICK. There was a beer garden. I rode kind of fast, even tried to win a little bit. Then fell down on the (not surprisingly) slick Velodrome and got dropped. Oh well, I jumped the barriers on the last lap, much to the delight of the adjacent Beer Garden, on my way to fourth place and one of the most comprehensive Chamgagne dousings in recent memory…

Three Days later I found myself at the start line of the only other Twilight ‘Cross event in the Country. CrossVegas. After two days of Interbike wandering around and not exactly taking care of my body it felt kind of good to be racing around in front of approximately a Brazillian well-lubricated fans. Thanks, Dale’s Pale Ale (as handed off by ‘Cross Crusade promoter Brad Ross, who didn’t have much luck getting Lance’s attention for the same prep) for the refreshing start line beverage and turning the fans up to Eleven… Man, it pains me to describe this race other than two parts. One, I penned a new race tactic. It’s called the “Attack and Stack”. For those situations where it’s obviously a waste of energy to try and solo away from arguably the strongest lead group assembled in an American ‘Cross race, the AnS is the perfect option. To keep from looking like a sissy for just sitting in, you drill it for about 20 seconds and a few corners, getting a workable gap. Then, as a direct result of coming into the (totally cleanable) barriers about 10 mph faster than the previous laps on account of “attacking”, you mistime the second bunnyhop and case barrier #2. This puts you on course for a spectacular nose wheelie and slow-motion over the bars excursion that allows you to just be picking yourself up when the lead group catches you. Perfect, now go back to sitting on the back of the group saving energy for the last lap, when it counts. Which is boring, yet effective. The other highlight, which could be considered a low point depending on your view of “smart” racing, was riding out of said lead group on the last lap in an attempt to bridge across to Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebron, who were in the process of winning. I almost made it, third to Ryan’s convincingly powerful win. So, smart racing yields good results. Lame. Ending a beer-sponsored race at 10:30pm is a great springboard for a night of Vegas-style debauchery though…

So, every year I come up with some kind of excuse to leave Vegas ASAP. This year it was that I needed to get home in time to prep my Downhill Bike for the last event in the Fluidride Cup series at Mount Hood Ski Bowl. And have a culturally diverse Friday evening including a theatrical performance of “Driving Miss Daisy” and a Sweatshop Union Concert. The bike got prepped (thanks, Fitzy, for the Fox 40) and we made it to the shows on time. Unfortunately, this led to a late morning and just enough time for two DH practice runs before Slalom started at 3 on Saturday afternoon. Two runs was enough for me to determine I ride downhill like a small child and have similar arm strength as when I was 11 and jumping the flower garden in our yard. Good proper old school slalom was right up my alley though. About a dozen pros and twice that many amateurs ended DH practice early in favor of a little good old-fashioned gated racing. The track was mostly flat turns with a few teeny little jumps for good measure. I qualified middle of the pack and had my first round up against Phil, a burly looking Downhiller from Portland. Somehow I kept ahead of him in both runs which put me up against Lars Sternberg in the round of four. In addition to writing how-to articles in Decline, Lars rides for the Fluidride Skills School and definitely has some. He housed me in the first run by a 1.0 second margin. There are two runs to each round though, one each on the red and blue courses and I had the faster red in run two. I pushed hard and Lars made a few mistakes over the course of 30 seconds. I ended up winning the second run but only by 0.6 sec so Lars, undefeated thus far in Fluidride slalom, was able to advance. He won the finals and I won the consolation round for third. $20. Sweet.

If only a night of camping down by the creek had turned me into a badass downhiller I might not have gotten smoked by fifteen or so Northwesterners who are way less scared of rock gardens. And might have stood a tiny chance of making Luke Strobel nervous about our gentlemanly bet in Australia a few weeks back… The race was run in best of two runs format. I was cleanish on the first one and did a 2:36. 44 year old Bart McDaniel did a 2:17. What’s that, 10% faster? Dang. Second run I actually jumped a few things, but probably blew a few others to turn a 2:35. Bart’s time stood for the win. Dowhnill racing is fun. We need some rocks in Bend or I need to remember my teenage years of east coast DH charging so I can start riding kind of fast. I met up with the boys from Hutch’s Bike Shop in Bend who were up shuttling from Timberline for a super fun bomb run down the Glade Trail in the afternoon and generally re-confirmed that regardless of all this Olympic World Cup seriousness, riding bikes is a damn good time.

We’re getting a bit long-winded here, so a few more anecdotes and I’m going to go for a ride or do something outside here in Maine where it’s a beautiful fall day. I’m here because the US Olympic Committee invited us to the White House for a little meet and greet with the President and it seemed like a Maine stopover was in order. That’s right, Mary Mcconnelaug, about 300 other Olympians and I got to stand on the back porch and south lawn while Bush gave a speech about our Great Olympic Team and the future of American Physical Fitness. Somehow Mary and I ended up about one row behind the Prez while he spoke which set her up perfectly for her plan to hand him a signed copy of a Seven Cycles catalog. He was visibly stoked to talk to us MTB’ers. Turns out our leader had ridden the Olympic Course and was impressed that we were able to ride it all without stopping, let alone race. So, regardless of our current international and economic situation, W likes bikes. Hopefully this means some eleventh hour appointments in favor of IMBA and Forest Service support for trails. Bikes are fun after all… Then we got the White House tour. Nice place.

Our buddy of Offroad to Athens production fame, Jason Berry, rescued us from a ride on the puke-bus and five hours of sitting at Dulles Airport after the White House. Instead he picked us up at the east gate and took us for a mountain bike ride at Great Falls park. That’s my idea of a travel day afternoon. Singletrack and waterfall scouting. Perfect. Thanks, Jason.

What else? Um, we’ve been riding dirt bikes on perfect dirt. That’s fun. I rode bikes in the first snow of the year in the Cascades on Saturday. Cold, but fun and exciting. Carl and whoever he can get to help have been working on the Rally Car in earnest. We dropped the new (300hp) STI engine in on Sunday at about midnight. That’s the last heavy job in our quest for a FAST Open Class car to race at the Mt. Hood Rally next weekend in Oregon. Now Carl just has to figure out where a few thousand wires go, get some driveshafts made and solve a bunch of other unforeseen problems so we can go racing. I get home on Monday so that leaves approximately 180 man hours before we have to head up to the Gorge for Recce on Friday. I think we’ve got it.

It being the end of the season and all, I don’t have many interesting photos from the last couple weeks, but you can go to these fine websites to find video footage from the Fluidride Cup Slalom and Vegas Cyclocross…

http://bonesovermetal.com/

http://velonews.com/

But before you go looking at racing movies, head over to PinnedMTB and buy a raffle ticket to the Tara Llanes Fundraiser! I just sent them a signed 2008 Olympic Jersey and the pair of Smith Serpicos that I wore for that race in Beijing. You can bid on that business in their Ebay auction… Tara is amazingly tough, but she’s not rich. Help a sista’ out!

http://www.pinnedmtb.com/tarallanes_raffle08.htm



Team Giant Report, World Cup Finals- Austria
World Cup FINALS!

How is it that ten days of staying up late, kayaking, dirt jumping and riding singletrack whenever I wasn’t too tired from the aforementioned activities produced 110% better sensations than “focusing” for a good solid month for that Race in China? I’ll tell you how, MORALE! Nothing ups the M like getting on a plane all haggard from a (rad) weekend in Hood River to fly across the Pond for WC Finals in Austria and not really caring in the least bit about the outcome of the race. I guess that’s what being “burned out” (a state of mind I’ve always looked down upon for those in this “not exactly rocket science” line of work) is all about. And what relaxing and riding your friggin’ bike FAST is all about.

Let’s talk about the old adage that what goes around comes around. As this world of bike riding and riders turns, my original Teammate, Walker Ferguson rolled through the Pacific Northwest last week. He was doing a bit of a western road trip to ride bikes, pick up a surfboard and drop by some local bike shops (been to yours lately with a six-pack?) so they could check out his new clothing line project. Verde Goods. Nice, casual bike clothes made in Washington for people who like to ride. I’d spent a couple summers couch surfing with Walker on the Uncompaghre Plateau in Colorado where he’d shown me all kinds of trails, opening my eyes to big hills in the process. Unfortunately, Walker had never made it (been tricked) to Maine for a proper reciprocation (minus the hills). I finally got him back on Tuesday. We set out into the Cascades and did “The” loop, with a few scenic extensions for good measure. It was great to show him a new zone just as he had me nine years ago. I think riding with a guy who was a consummate focus master and has a Rainbow Jersey in his closet to show for it, but has decided that life is too diverse to focus solely on riding bikes all the time, was good for my perspective. It got a bit of (fairly light) weight off my shoulders at the perfect time. Thanks, Walker.

While we’re saying thanks, here’s one to Southeastern refugee Bo Wallace for being down for leaving Bend at Noon on Saturday on a 36 hour jaunt to Hood River where we ran into old buddies, relaxed in the sunshine, ran awesome rivers and capped things off by him showing me just how fast to roll into the dozens of perfect doubles at Post Canyon. Dual Slalom Challenge fall training has begun! Here’s a photo Bo snapped as I was paddling my kayak of a perfectly perfect waterfall at about 24 hours in…

These pleasantries, coupled with knowing who was behind a Particle of Me, produced the definition of ENERGY LEGS at World Cup #9 in Schladming, Austria. Usual fall weather (cold and damp) had my mind sharp enough to actually attach my spare foot to my pedal off the line and I immediately, comfortably, settled into the lead group up the first climb. Sweet. Jose Antonio Hermida and I were separated by a few points for fifth and sixth in the World Cup Series at the start, so whoever bested the other got on the Overall Box. I figured, on lap two, that if I attacked him and Christoph Sauser he’d be on the ropes, I’d win and get the overall podium prize. Good plan. Totally worked until the end of lap three, when I was still winning (towing those two around) and starting to feel the effects of world cup leading pace. No matter, only five more to go. I was at an equipment disadvantage though. I’d been nervous about the high-speed section through the village plaza so Tom had swapped me out to the old-fashioned “double chainring” setup for the first time since I committed to the Single Ring in Scotland. This was a good call, except I was clearly having a good day, and you know what good days mean, right? BIG RING CHALLENGE! Oh yeah, I was totally in THE MEAT while Hermida and Sauser were calmly spinning 30rpm faster in a reasonable gear. Sissies. Smart too… This, and the fact that there seems to be a limit to the power of Morale and screwing around, is why those guys rolled and smoked me on the fourth lap. No Man’s land for a few, then the inevitable slide began. I didn’t really crack, just stayed steady. 4th, then 5th. Time for an ice cold Coca Cola or three. Good thing Elke was ready with the obvious refreshment. Once it hits your lips… It still takes a lap or two to kick in though. I was back to 11th by the time that happened… Good thing I got on the sugar and caffeine horse early though, energy legs came back in time to get back around Todd Wells and a few Swiss guys for 8th place.

Pretty sweet that in a year where everyone was looking at the Olympics (where we sucked, hilarious) Todd and I quietly snuck into the top ten in the World Cup with 6th and 10th, respectively. It’s been quite a while since two gringos finished in the money for the season. I think that says a lot about us stepping up gradually, healthily, onto the international stage. The announcer said it best “This can’t be right, it looks like the US Champion, Adam Craig, with the lead on the descent”. And “Now another American, Todd Wells, is moving into podium contention”. That’s right, buddy, we’re here to stay…

The flip side of the “here to stay” coin is the best Soignieur The Circuit has ever known, Elke Brutsaert. She’s throwing in the (massage?) towel. The Queenpin has been going to bike races since her college days racing on the Road for the University of Maine and reckons she’s had enough. All the World Cup DH wins, trans-oceanic flights and evenings spent tailgating in the pits have filled up that part of her fun bin and she’s ready to balance it out with other stuff, like going on camping trips with Peanut in her ‘70s Dodge Van. Thanks for all the help, and good times, Elke, there are lots of people who will miss you…

Up next, Twilight Cylocross, Dual Slalom “training” and DH racing. Maybe motorcycles and kayaks. Sleeping in. Not riding unless it’s going to be proper fun. Oh yeah, Carl and I are giving the Wheels of Teal a huge engine and four wheel drive. It’s gonna be awesome. Right after it ends up a pain in the ass and expensive…

An old buddy from riding and racing in Maine lives in Czech now. He came down with his girlfriend to watch the race. They took photos. I told him about the new Quarry Trail in Maine. He’s pumped. Good to see you, John VanVranken.



Team Giant Report, Australia World Cup #8
Being an Olympian is quite possibly the highest overall sporting honor I will ever have the opportunity to achieve. That said, holy hell did it feel good to step off the plane in Sydney to be greeted by a fresh, cool, Southern Hemisphere spring breeze and know that I was going to spend the week decompressing and doing some proper fun mountain biking…

Which is exactly what we did. Rando, his dad Lou, little sister Chessie (Squid), his long time riding buddy and former Junior DH World Champ Ben Cory, Tom and I immediately took off on an evening ride on Canberra’s local trails. It felt sooo good to be out riding on a crisp evening with guys who know that flow that we all seek with our riding of bikes on some trails through the Majura Pines that promote exactly that About ten minutes in we stopped to check out the Australian postcard setting of a dry meadow with a dozen Kangaroos and Joeys cruising around eating dinner… We were pretty excited, not knowing that we’d end up seeing plenty more by the end of the ride… Actually almost running into a few as our respectively bouncing paths crossed, in fact…

But, all this sappy evening riding stuff behind, we should get to the meat of this week. Sleep. Good shades and cool evenings at the hotel, preceded by DELICIOUS dinners cooked by Rando’s Mom, Sonia. There was some serious catching up on rest going on. Serious. Maybe a bit too serious, as when the gun finally went off on Saturday’s XC race I was pretty much still asleep. I faked it for a while, chasing Roel Paulissen around for tenth (and by chasing I mean pinning the 50% of the track that involved good skills and metered leg strength in between soft pedaling the “hard” bits) for the first two laps, then faded into the reality of not being able to pedal very hard. This left plenty of strength for the dozen or so shortcut options that had been engineered into the track for those with good skills. Whether those be jumping skills, rock hopping skills or corner drifting skills. All good, fun, “Mountain Bike” skills that should be rewarded in each and every race with options such as these. I guess I’ll take my lucky thirteenth position, which I earned in a “sprint” with Liam Killeen, considering how much worse it would have been if we’d just had the classic up and down World Cup track… Good work, crew at Mt Stromlo, for creating a very interesting, very unique race track. It’ll be sweet to come back here next September to race the World Championships with fresh, fast legs and an Anthem X that I REALLY know how to ride.

Oh, and, much to our delight, the Canberra organizers pointed out (the old fashioned way, with CASH), the fact that us XCers are generally still around on Sunday with nothing to do but watch DH or ride local trails by putting on a Short Track race with $4000 on the line for the win. Surprisingly, most of the World Cup riders entered… Money talks. So does a sweet, super tight course around the Downhill Finish area. A few jumps, some good berms and a few thousand spectators who were milling around waiting out the intermission between Downhill Qualifying and Finals. Oh, and it was RAINING! Pretty hard. Normally the Canberra locals are stoked on rain and make it a point to go riding in it, as it knocks down the dust and ups the cornering G Forces to a whole ‘nother level… This was a bit much rain though. Anytime XC bikes are roosting in a similar fashion to Motorbikes it’s a definite sign of a shitstorm. Fortunately my mothballed Michelin Green Meenie’s did just the trick. I rode smart(ish), biding my time for the first ten minutes and making sure I could hit all the sweet doubles, then rode through the chase group, which contained our British counterpart, Oli Beckinsale, to set off in pursuit of Jose Antoino Hermida. I didn’t quite catch him, but at least my legs worked right, I got a bunch of compliments on the Serpicos and made a couple grand for the Snomobile fund. Skiing this winter is going to be off the Hizzy!

The Australians know how to party. Ben and the local crew put on a little get-together at a local pub that was fairly entertaining. I was hoping Hermida would be there so I could shit-talk him about how I was going to erase his 90 point lead at Schladming and reclaim an World Cup Overall Podium placing, but, alas, he was at home in bed… My smack had to be directed to American DH honch Luke Strobel, who I’m pretty sure I initially bet my Short Track prize money that I’d beat at the last Fluidride Cup Downhill event at Mount Hood in a few weeks. That bet inflated a bit over the course of the evening… Hopefully he forgets… Or I’m not going to be able to afford that snowsled after he smokes me and takes all my money… We’ll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, I’m on the fourteen hour flight home from Sydney right now, some serious high-country singlespeeding and various other recreating will fill the ten days I have at home before heading to Austria for the weekend to contest World Cup #9, which happens to be the last one. Awesome

Thanks for reading…

AC

Here’s a little tidbit that’s allegedly going to be in the Sunday Times… I’m so relieved that Carl could Keep It Real while I was chasing the Olympic Dream… Smart man, that Carl…

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/08/29/sports/0831cycling_10.html




Team Giant Report, Beijing Olympic Games

The Olympic Games. A big deal. Once every four years random little sports like the one I have such a good time partaking in get a chance to explode onto our World’s Grand Stage. But, in order to explode properly, you need a medal. I’d spent the last eight months preparing for just that. I figured I had it in me if all the chips fell correctly. Which they rarely do. And they didn’t. It’s not important how or why they fell the way they did, we’ll just say I made a rookie mistake that was compounded by not having magic legs anyway.

For me personally, if the worst thing that ever happens to me is that I get 29th place the Olympic Games (one lap down on our consummate champion, Julien Absalon), things have worked out pretty well… For American Mountain Biking though, I was really hoping to pull one out on this grand stage and get everyone fired up on riding in the woods. Seems like some hardware and a Today Show bonanza like the one BMX Bronze Medalist Jill Kitner is embarking on would have gone a long way to getting people down to their local bike shop and out riding all the rad trails IMBA and local clubs have been putting together over the years. Ah, what the hell, I guess people will just have to figure it out themselves. Or start racing BMX so they can eventually figure out how to ride trails as beautifully as Ross Schnell.

The overall “Games Experience” was pretty awesome though… If a bit hard to soak in during the four short days we spent in the village. We agreed, as the US Mountain Bike Team, to train in Korea to avoid the possibility of challenging training conditions and poor air quality in Beijing. Turns out that, through a combination of aggressive pollutant control and natural rainfall, the air was fine. And Mike Broderick found some good riding in the “Fragrant Hills” just west of the city, so we could realistically have just come to the Olympic Village a week out and done our prep here. It would have been hard to avoid going to a bunch of events, hanging out in the dining hall and International Zone and generally doing a bunch of random cool stuff at the biggest sporting event in the universe. So, our plan was good, if a bit short on culture…

Trek’s Chinese front-man, Todd McKean, came through huge for the Americans without even being asked. He had the foresight to open a Trek Shop on the corner just outside Laoshan park. He also had the foresight to make a work area available for our Mechanics and set up a lounge with showers and couches in addition to a downstairs mingling lounge where we could invite our Families in for a cool beverage and take a load of. It was perfect. We can’t thank Todd enough for this service, it made the weekend so much easier and more pleanant.

So, we had all the pieces, all we had to do was put the puzzle together. The Ladies rode smart races and ended up with solid results to show for it. 7th and 8th for Mary and Georgia. Putting the pieces together is where us guys came up short. It just wasn’t Todd’s day, or mine. Too bad the Olympics weren’t in Bromont or Mont St. Anne. And I think that’s just it, I’ll always race better in a relaxed, fun environment, without the hopes of Americans riding bikes in the woods on my shoulders. Sorry for that…

Thanks for all the help along the way though, maybe I’ll figure out a few things in the next four years and get some inspiration together in Longon…

On the lighter side, here are a few photos.

-The crew that came to China to yell my ass around the course.

-An artist’s conception of the Deckerator’s new SSWC08 Tattoo…

-What I plan to do when I get home…

-Earthquaker pointed out that Shimano still likes me…

-Since I couldn’t give my Mom an Olympic Medal for her birthday, it seemed like some cake was in order…

-Some things are lost in translation, I guess. The MTB venue actually ran pretty smoothly, security was still tight on Monday when Tom and I tried to do a victory lap. Good thing they didn’t have the facial recognition stuff running so he could get in with my credential to do a lap and get some souvenirs…

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the dozen Kangaroos hopping across the trail we were ripping into the sunset here in Australia with good friends and a cool breeze. THAT is why I ride bikes.

Oh, and a bit more homework, if you like reading about our Rally exploits…
http://www.subaru.net/newsletter/ojibwe08/story4.html






Team Giant Beijing Preview

The Beijing Olympic Games. I’m definitely here (as evidenced by the fact that I just looked out Mary Mac’s window at the Olympic Flame) and definitely fired up for some bike racing. It even rained today. A lot! Something about having my first lap on the proper Olympic Course in a downpour has good sign written all over it… Even though it’s supposed to be sunny (and pollution free) on race day. I don’t like dealing with dirty laundry THAT much…

It’s pretty crazy to actually be here in Beijing, in the Olympic Village, as an Olympian. I think it’s gonna be good. Solid energy from a whole bunch of badasses. Everywhere you look, someone who’s really good at something. Maybe even a couple things. It’s rad.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We had a pretty nice time over there on the Island of Jeju. I was the perfect holding camp before we came over here to the Games. It didn’t rain (much) but was definitely HOT and HUMID. Which was the whole point, that and giving us all a chance to decompress and rest up for the big show on Saturday. We ate delicious food, mostly cooked in our Jazz Village Apartments, but complemented by one night out at a Korean Restaurant where we ate an impressive smorgasboard of fish, raw and cooked in various fashions. It was delicious and needed to happen. And, despite Gully’s concerned look when the food started rolling out, everyone got full and stayed that way (no rapid transit, if you know what I mean…).

I took a pretty big step in the name of professionalism and installed a SRM powermeter on my mountain bike in order to do good, focused, not too hard, workouts. And it turned out that we didn’t really find any trails to ride until the last day we were there, which was probably for the best, we all needed to give our bodies a rest. That said, having been on the (awesome) roads for a week made finding those nuggets of narrow dirt and rock all the more rewarding. Amidst all this Olympic business, mountain biking is still fun.

It’s going to be fun on the gussied up Laoshan MTB course too. They put in some new sections to challenge us a bit, which is exactly what was accomplished. Especially with the aforementioned rain… I’m Scared… It’ll be all good in the dry, or, if not, with my super secret Michelin Mudders. But, in an unprecedented move, the Women’s Cross Country event was postponed until Saturday morning and training has been pushed back until 3pm Friday so the course can dry out? What? Since when do we let conditions and a couple sketch descents get in the way of some good old fashioned bike racing? Or, maybe, hopefully, it’s because some of the logistics of having BMX and Women’s MTB on the same day at the same place were a bit much for some of the Nations, or the organization. We’ll hope for that. Ah well, it’s for the best. We don’t need people breaking in half… Mary and Georgia will get another day to rest up and then ride in some clever lines for us I’m sure… Oh, and there are a few sweet jumps. Perfect.

Well, that’s about it, time to do more resting up, maybe a Sports Med clinic administered Ice Bath, and, maybe, another trip to the Dining Hall, before bed…

Thanks for reading.
Adam

If you want to try to pick me out of a crowd, here’s some Mountain Bike Race Coverage info straight from the horse’s mouth. Actually, our USAC press contact, Andrea, isn’t really a horse, but you get the idea…

Also wanted to let you know that both the men's and women's MTB races will be streamed live in real time at NBCOlympics.com. There is also an updated TV schedule on there. You just select the date and click on the sport and it should give approx. air times.
On television, the vague air time NBC is giving us is on and off sometime between 5:00 A.M. And 5:00 P.M. On the 22nd on MSNBC for the women's race and sometime between 12:30 a.m. And 5:00 a.m. on NBC on the 23rd for the men's race. Keep in mind these will most likely be taped cut-ins, so don't let folks get discouraged if they turn it on and see another sport.




Team Giant Report, Bromont World Cup and Korean Training

We’ll go ahead and tie a homecoming of sorts in with some new frontiers here… August was ushered in with a race that’s close to home and close to heart, yet it’s going to go out with a trip to the biggest sporting event in the universe.

I last raced in Bromont, Quebec in September of 1998. It was my first event as a member of the US National Team and my first World Cup competition, albeit as a seventeen-year-old junior. I remember starting hard, riding fast against the “Euros” on super fun trails and eventually getting a flat tire to finish lucky thirteenth or so. I was hoping for the same thing this year, minus the overindulgent riding resulting in a puncture… The trails, upon initial inspection, weren’t as super fun this year, but they ended up being entertaining in a kind of sadistic way during the race. It must have been the morning rain and resulting shit-storm conditions… I’m glad I wasn’t a bike in said conditions, they got THRASHED! Mine somehow worked mint though. Thanks, Neb…

Everyone started hard, like always, but I decided to take a page from the (recently successful) Carl Decker playbook and ease into things. I reckoned it was going to be a hard day at the office and there’d be a Euro or forty struggling later in the race. Turned out it only took me a lap to ride from 15th into 4th, then a couple more to climb up to Jose Antonio Hermida’s wheel before passing him in the most challenging kilometer of a world cup race this season, maybe ever… Kilometer 3-4 of the race traversed a hillside in classic ad-lib east coast style. A trail that’s been there for ages yet never really was “built”, just kind of cut and ridden in. The kind of trail I grew up riding, although with a little more mud and a little more hilariously bad line selections the norm… My shiny new Anthem X gave me the strength to put this section together with less wasted energy than the average fellow, but I was surprised to dispatch Hermida here, that guy knows how to ride. After that it was a solo TT with Absalon up front riding away and Lukas Flukinginger dangling a minute or two up, depending on who’d screwed up less recently. Geoff Kabush was gaining on me with two to go but instead of getting caught by him I actually turned the tables and opened the gap, surprising and definitely a good sign of things to come.

Third place for me. Actually ON the World Cup Podium with an oversized medal to boot! And, thanks to Carl and Hannes Metzler’s 13th and 18th place finishes, an overall victory in the World Cup Team competition for the Giant MTB team. Even though Athleticum went up on the podium for it due to a clerical error… Good moral victory for us, and Elke was spared standing in the “Triage Room” while two more skinny bike riders cleaned an amazing amount of mud off in an attempt to be presentable on the podium… Maybe we’ll make a habit of this someday. And maybe Kelli will make a habit of parking the van in appropriate locations someday too… You never know what might happen down the road, or driveway…

Now, onto new frontiers. The kind on the other side of the Date Line. I’m in Korea. On the Island of Jeju, off the Southern Coast, to be specific. It’s HOT! Which is the whole point, get to this side of the planet and into some sticky climate to prepare for the aspects of Beijing we have the ability to target and avoid riding our bikes in a fairly huge city for ten days before the biggest race of our lives. The entire US MTB Team is here, Mary Mac, Georgia Gould and T Wells, complimented by South African stowaway Burry Stander and our favorite hardman Mike Broderick. We’ve rented a few condos at the “Jazz Village” (where they play BB King on the projector every evening) about two kilometers from the southern coast of the Island and 20k from the central volcano. It’s working out pretty awesome. Relaxing and riding bikes. To the beach. With some delicious Elke-prepared and Gully-grilled food in between…

We’re all pretty pumped to be here with all the tools we need to get rested up for success at the Big Race in China next Friday and Saturday. We’ll head over to Beijing a few days before our event to check out the course and have some Olympic experience, then race our faces off at 3pm on the 22nd for the ladies and 23rd for us boys. After that it’s the Closing Ceremonies and some proper taking it all in. Can’t wait.

Brick too this photo of me on the future of scooter technology during our (sweet) ride up onto the flanks of the Volcano today. This advancement in technology allows you to implement unheard of amounts body English without ever having to leave the parking lot. It appears that cornering at a speed above about seven m.p.h. would result in an entirely different kind of body English though… Scary.

Here’s some homework I found on the internet, an article in the local Maine newspaper, a Mountain Bike mag web article, with some Video of the Bromont race embedded, the Giant Bicycles Olympic website and a PBS news hour piece with yours truly commenting on the Beijing situation. Check it out…

Thanks for reading, hopefully you’ll be reading about more surprisingly good stuff next weekend. Things are right on track…

http://bangornews.com/news/t/news.aspx?articleid=168134&zoneid=500

http://www.bicycling.com/article/0,6610,s1-6-12-17695-1,00.html

http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-US/beijing_olympics/

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/video/share.html?s=news01ne87q31c








Team Giant Report, Mont St. Anne World Cup, and Homework...
http://www.motortrend.com/features/adamcraig
Before we get to storytime I’ve got a bit of homework for everyone… click on this link. Read about my motoring habits. And maybe prove that I’m more popular than last week’s “Celebrity Drive” subject, Sammy Hagar… Not bloody likely.

As I write this I’m neither in a hotel room nor on a plane. I’m in a location that is quite the opposite of those I’ve frequented for the last five months, a location quite the opposite of most locations, in fact. Beside Lake Chesuncook in Maine’s Great North Woods sits a small camp belonging to two very close friends of mine. John and Carol Frachella. I’ve been coming to this camp for almost ten years now to have breakfast or just meet up with the boys for a run down the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Tomorrow morning will be just like so many others, HI and Peter will show up at 9ish to chat and get ready for a day on the river. We’ll head down to Big Eddy and set shuttle before walking down into the Ripogenous Gorge and floating off into classic whitewater. I’ll have earned this run down the Gorge and Crib by floating the two upstream whitewater stretches of the Penobscot (Canada Falls and Seboomok) today on my way down from Quebec. Sometimes it’s good to do things in sequence…

This kind of familiarity and order of things was embraced this weekend at the annual Mont Saint Anne World Cup as well. It’s really nice to have this time of the summer to get back to my roots in the midst of all the excitement. It’s also really nice to have legs and mind in good working order twenty-six days before the big race in China.

After a nice, albeit brief, week spent at home in Maine catching up with friends, family, trails and the local media, I did the once a year solo drive up through Jackman to Quebec on Friday. Normally a bit more than a day’s prep is preferred for a World Cup race but I feel like I’ve got the drill down at this point in the season… Immediately upon my arrival our DH mechanic, Joe, told me that Carl reckons they’d “smartened up” the sections of the great old course that had been “dumbed down” in recent years. And it rained. Perfect.

A glorious massage and some Smartened Up riding on Saturday was all I needed to be ready to roll on Sunday at 2pm. Carl and Kelli were ready too, mostly so they had something to do after hanging out in Quebexico all week… We were going to have the Fun Team Challenge again this weekend. Them on hardtails and mud tires hoping to climb fast and take chances and me on the bike with full shocks and dry tires hoping to sag the climbs and get all freaky on some euros in the thought provoking bits. I’m always interested to see how these little ideological challenges turn out…

Turns out mud tires and hardtails are a good combo for punctures… Shoot. Dry tires and shocks are a good combo for biding your time somewhere in the top 10 until two laps to go, then watching your rabbits (on the same setup as Decker and Emmett) crack, crash and flat their way out of contention. At least a few of them. Three guys still were faster and kept it together… I ended up riding faster laps as the race progressed and finished fourth, a long ways behind a resurgent Julien Absalon but still in front of some legit fellows. It’s always good to ride fast, even more so when it happens to be such fun and such proper mountain biking.

Post race and post podium I took Paul Thomasberg out for a “cool down” on some of St. Anne’s finest singletrack. We got muddy (again) and had a real good time (again)… Have I mentioned I like it here on the east coast? All the finer things in summer life, including Whoopie Pies…

Next week, more right coast glory in Bromont, Quebec, bringing things full circle to the first World Cup of my career in 1998. It usually takes things ten years to fully mature, right? I suppose it was ten years ago this summer that I first floated through Big Eddy rapid with Josh too… Hmmm, could a good sign of things to come.

Thanks to Colin Maegher over at www.inmotionphoto.com for proof of what really happens on World Cup Podiums… And in the deep, dark forests of Quebexico…



Team Giant Report, National Champs in Vermont!

Another July, another US National Championships coinciding with with the best race ever. That being Mount Snow, Vermont. While riding around on some back roads this morning I ran into a local guy who enthusiastically gave me directions to connect a nice ridge-top loop. We rode together for a couple minutes and he asked if this was my first time here. I thought for a moment and realized I’ve still got a t-shirt in the garage at Grandma’s house from the World Cup here in 1995. So I’ve been coming here since I was fourteen and still haven’t ridden every road, or had a less than absolutely stellar racing experience. I love it here. Carl, on the other hand, pretends to be respectfully indifferent, mostly because he hates riding rooty goodness and steep climbs but doesn’t want to dampen my enthusiasm. Kelli, being a Michigander, has been coming to Vermont for quite a while too, and always seems pretty into racing here. She showed up fresh from her BC Bike Race victory with a whole new (British Columbian) perspective on awesome trails but still was smiling after riding a lap on the goods…

Over the last year I’ve been working on a variety of bike development projects for Giant. One in particular had a definite (personal) goal from day one. Ultimate Vermont Domination. The Anthem X is an updated Anthem frame utilizing the Co-Pivot design, rendered in good ol’ aluminum, to provide four inches of Maestro suspension. With the combination of extra travel and a touch slacker angles than those found on the razor sharp Anthem Advanced, you can take the irresponsibility of your (cross country race) riding to a whole new level. We were able to commandeer one of the recently arrived Anthem X demo bikes, strip it and have a suberb last minute build courtesy of our head mechanic, Tom Neb. Thanks, Tom. Now it’s time for UVD…

There was a bit of contention as riders went out on their respective Recce missions over the course of the week. The course was a bit, um, different. In the same spirit, but, well, just not the same. Gone was a super fun opening loop singletrack, replaced by a (gasp) fire road descent… Also gone was the first five minutes of super techy steep proper east coast singletrack climbing to get the big loop party started. Fortunately, a whole bunch of other all-time trails remained and it would still be a good proper mountain bike race. Albeit one that your average 50+ Sport Class rider could survive. I guess that’s OK, we want everyone to have a good time, and my idea of a good time is a big skewed… Some of the Right Coast purists were a bit miffed though…

The lack of a proper singletrack on the start loop meant I got to ride the first climb with Ryan Trebron instead of him crashing out in the first few minutes… We had figured out that Ryan would need at least a minute gap over the top to keep me from running over (under?) him on the descent… I decided not to find out and had a small gap on him as we crested. ProPedal off and time to roost things. After some UVD bike railing of perfect singletrack and a few steep intermediate climbs I finished lap one. The look back didn’t produce any chaser sightings so I put my head down and rode fast. A lap later still no chasers. More riding fast. Then I saw Carl starting the first loop as I started the second. We tried to high five across the tape and fortunately failed, sparing us both crashing into the tape and losing our races… He was sticking to his guns and passing guys on the climbs between surviving the awesome bits on the XTC SL hardtail… Boring, but effective. Carl ended up fourth on the day and I kept things fast enough for a comfortable win. Good thing I didn’t get beat, keeping the Jersey at the Best Race Ever feels way better than losing it… Now I can comfortably give the local Maine boys some hilarious Captain America skinsuits so our Wednesday Night Bog rides can be hilarious in addition to fast and shockingly fun. I love those Maine trails…

Somehow I convinced myself that riding my TenSpeed as a cooldown wasn’t the antithesis of proper Vermont racing (and good training for that Chinese race), but I was nervous for the Karma ramifications in Sunday morning’s Super D contest. If my Reign found out that I’d been tenspeeding the night before it might buck me off on the first pitch… Fortunately, we have photographic proof of this not happening. And of me at least being in front of a few guys after the 100m uphill run at the start… Once I got around Harlan Price, who was riding impressively fast (LOOSE) on his 29er hardtail I had the pleasure of being on the wheel of Rad Ross Schnell (recent Downieville Downhill winner and course record setter). Ross is, for lack of a less cheesy phrase, the Sultan of Smooth. We kept things smooth and fun until they had to get really hard. There was a 30 second fireroad climb where we’d have to pass a couple guys to get into the lead. We pedaled REALLY hard and just barely made it happen. Some ski slope bombing, some awesome proper woods trail riding and more bombing brought Rad and I into the finish, 1-2. So, if I had a GPS on my bike I could plot my Vermont race on Ross’ (nonexistent because he’s not a whiny NorCal chach) Downieville GPS and both of us would have beaten Weir there… Even though he flatted. Which is his fault and therefore irrelevant. But enough of that, we rode fast and had fun, high fives at the finish for everyone. Ross will have to wait till next year and home (Colorado) turf to end my SD Title streak at Five… I can’t wait.

Carl and Kelli are kind of smart. Instead of getting up at seven to race the funnest race of the weekend they slept in so they could ride fast in arguably the least fun race of the weekend. Too bad everyone takes Short Track so seriously. I guess I do too… Carl and I thought our 1-4 in the XC made us the team to beat in the Short Race. On paper, we were right. Too bad we’re way too retarded to actually capitalize on that. When Bishop rolled off the front with 4 laps to go we didn’t think much of it. I drove the chase for a couple laps and didn’t accomplish much but keeping him dangling at about 8 seconds. I did accomplish making my fellow chasers tired enough so they couldn’t help. Oh well, Jeremiah won and I totally set Carl up to get 3rd, flawless last lap leadout… Not really, but hey… So, with my paltry 5th and Kelli's solid fourth in the ladies race we could have some kind of cheesy Giant Mountain Bike Team pep rally cheer, "Fifth, Fourth, Third, we're moving on up..." Good thing there aren't pep rallies a bike races...

Some fun trail riding in the Sherwood Forest eased the pain on missing out on the triple, on account of the Short Track, for the second year in a row. I’ll take the fun races…

A week in Maine and a race in Quebec coming right up. This is why I keep coming back…

Thanks for reading, and to everyone who made another year of wearing obnoxious skinsuits possible…

Tom Moran really does take the best Finish Line Wheelie shots… Thanks, Tom, here’s to another year in Vermont.





Team Giant Report- East Coast National in Windham, NY
Even though I’ve moved away from the Right Coast and my roots due to the horrifying nature of the winters here, I’ll be coming back every summer for as long as possible. It’s awesome here. People and Places go a long way towards making the region first noticed by Columbus a continued hit, especially with those who like to ride mountain bikes. Or be lost.

I don’t usually talk about racing proper in this little forum. I’m going to have to make an exception here, sorry… Pretty much from the moment the freshly constructed Cross Country course used it’s awesomeness to trick Carl into riding an unintentional lap in the dark on Thursday evening we knew it was going to be a good weekend. Even if we were both a little puffed out from doing a bunch of Oxygen Assisted intervals at the Rebound Sports Performance Lab earlier in the week at home…

The XC race started with the usual fervor, which I deserved for taking the piss night before on the topic of National Series start intensity. I got gapped on “Alpe d’ Huez” (that’s right, whichever stoked local built each trail section got to name it) as punishment for saying domestic starts are nothing compared to world cups… Eventually I caught Carl and the leaders as we wound our way up the (perfectly broken up by fun little descents and traverses) slopes of Windham Mountain. Somehow the fact that we ended up climbing fireroads sometimes in there wasn’t a problem at all since we were so entertained otherwise. And we knew that there was a pretty perfect descent awaiting our undivided attention. I was able to use the big ring challenge to simultaneously pass the remainders of the lead group and build huge muscles for that Chinese race coming up. This also meant I got to roost the pleasantly long descent alone and off the front. Full Suspension bikes are awesome. Lap two I continued to ride alone, but at the start of the third a Trek Team rider joined me and pushed the pace. I let him. After more downhill awesomeness we came back together at the start of the fourth and final lap, thinking it would be a two-man battle. But then, out of the dust came Mathieu Toulouse. I actually said out loud, upon noticing him a switchback below “holy crap, its Matt Toulouse!” Jeremiah and I upped the pace a bit but he kept coming, joining us on the last climb of the day and opening a small gap with a solid surge. Impressive. I did my best to respond and started the descent about 50 meters back. I like riding downhill fast, but Matt is from Canada, so he does too. We took chances and pedaled wherever we could as I slowly closed the gap. Contact was made with about 500m to go. The finish chute wasn’t exactly sprint worthy, but was exactly lined with rabid fans. Toulouse kind of slid out in the last sweeping turn, giving me the inside which I accepted and charged up but the finish was just too close, he stayed ahead by approximately the width of three tires. Not wheels, tires… Carl had the foresight to remove himself from the race early due to the aforementioned puffed-out-edness and so that he could observe his teammate getting yet another sprinting lesson.

Whew, that was a lot of race description. I’m glad it was such an exciting race though, the local crew that put this thing on deserved a good show for their kick-off party. Windham Mountain has long been a New York City skiing destination and last summer the local mountain bike community convinced them that it could be a summer Mountain Bike hot spot as well, with a little work, of course… The resort was selected in the fall of 07 to host the “East Coast National” this summer and the GM immediately gave the local crew permission to flag out the courses before the snow started to fly. Ground was broken after the snow had flown all winter and melted off, sometime in April. This “not enough time” scenario plays out all the time with race venues, usually resulting in courses that seem to be an afterthought, just thrown together. Not so here. Every inch of each and every course, Super D, Slalom, Downhilll, Cross Country was manicured in some way or another. Beautifully benched in rolling grade singletrack with problem solving ladder bridges and hand placed rocks to link sections that would be unridable was the norm on the XC track. The gravity courses weren’t the usual fall line skid, they had great flow and were built with an eye toward sustainability. Good stuff overall, thanks, people who live and ride in the Catskills.

OK, more racing action. The short track was a barn-burner as well. Carl held things down for Team Giant at the front until I could get myself together and up into the mix. Once that happened Carl started riding on the front and trying to break things apart on a course where they just weren’t going to. I played the “smart guy” card and sat on. Smart guy looks a lot like “tired guy”… The fireworks started with two laps to go. Bishop and Wells rode off the front while Ryan Trebron uncharacteristically open a gap to them. This put him and Carl in trouble while I set off to pedal down some bumpy ski slope on the Anthem and try to close the three second gap. It didn’t happen, Wells won, I was third, Decker fifth. We like to flank the podium rather than stand on top of it all the time…

Here at Team Giant we try to give back to the local bike riding community here and there. Usually this just involves doing wheelies up to the start line. Sometimes, though, we go above and beyond the call of duty… Windham Mountain Outfitters, the local Giant Dealer, set up a “Night with Team Giant” at their store on Friday night. Sometimes these types of shop visits are sparsely attended. Whoever is there is always stoked, but sometimes it’s just the guy on the clock… Nick, the owner of WMO, and general Windham MTB crew ringleader, had the foresight to place a local radio ad in addition to telling all his buddies. This meant that after we were done tuning up our race bikes we got to spend a couple hours eating delicious hors’d’oveurs from the local Italian Deli and bench racing with about 75 enthusiastic locals. It was a very impressive welcome to the valley and very indicative of the stoke level we would continue to encounter all weekend. Tons of kids, tons of parents, tons of random bike riders who just wanted to hang out. This is the kind of thing that gives me faith in Mountain Biking. People like those who came out for this event will keep this sport going the small towns that make up the soul of our sport forever. Thanks.

And a bunch of those people were fired up to race Super D. That’s because it’s the most fun racing you can fit into ten minutes. Once again, the course was SPOT ON! The LeMans start wasn’t even that long a run, I totally got on my bike in front of Carl and soon passed the holeshot king downhillers in the first minute of false flat traversing. I had a little lead on some people who were making very “people-like” noises behind me as we dropped into the first rocky doubletrack descent. I would have liked to look back and see who they were and if they were gaining, but I would have crashed and died. More traversing took us to another steep rocky track, this one pretty much pinballing over perfectly moistened flagstone. More noise behind me, this time more like a bull in a china shop. Then out onto a ski run for a quick game of “who will brake latest into this huge dreamy berm?”… Dreamy berm flung us into the woods (where I ATE SHIT about 30 minutes prior in practice, funny how rain makes rocks slick…) and the ensuing seven minutes of railing absolutely perfect singletrack. Steep at times, flowing at times, always awesome. A couple little climbs to work on my Beijing Punch and we were railing Super G radius turns on the ski slopes toward the finish. I’d finally identified the infamous Sam Koerber about five seconds behind me, still making noise. We crossed the line like that. Always good to get a win on the weekend, especially if it’s in the “mountain biking” event. Carl was 5th on a Trance X we stole from a gracious Team Devo member, Greg…

Well, that’s all the racing and local stoke that’s fit to dish, but there is one more notable event that happened this weekend… My usual M.O. on the East Coast, where I grew up and have driven around A LOT, is to just kind of put it on autopilot when we’re driving around. Deep down, I know where to go. Well, somehow, Albany, New York isn’t one of the places I’ve driven through enough to know how to stay on I 87 North… About an hour after passing Albany, something just didn’t feel right. Maybe it was the fact that we were on I 90 going west towards Buffalo. Oops. We exited immediately in Little Falls where a Gas Station Attendant told us the “back way” to Saratoga Springs, where I had spent some time hanging out. After looking at a map to confirm this we determined that there was a much spicier route through the southern end of the Adirondick Park. Instead of buying said $4.00 map we just memorized the route and proceeded into the hills… Directly onto one of the top five Rally roads we’ve ever encountered. It was all time. Rain packed sand over endless flowing crests and bends. For about twenty miles. Another 45 min of driving nice north country pavement had us back on course at the Crown Point bridge over Lake Champlain and back into Vermont. Carl didn’t see Champ, Vermont’s version of the Loch Ness Monster, though. So far he’s 0 for 2 on lake monster sightings…

Next up, the Best Race Ever. US National Champs at Mount Snow Vermont. Awesome.



Team Giant Report, Olympic Announcement and Carl's Update

It’s OFFICIAL! The names were announced a few days ago and I’ll definitely be one of the two guys representing the good ol’ US of A in Beijing on August 23rd. Now, I’d kind of known that this might be the case for a while now, but you never really know until it’s official. Now it is. Perfect. I can continue on my current track of getting in shape for steep climbs in hot weather, but with a newfound motivation. It’ll be good to go over there and ride fast, hopefully inspiring some folks to do the same at their local race or evening loop in the meantime…

A very important part of my preparation took place on Friday… I’ve been out of the country on Independence Day for about nine years in a row now. But not this year… Fortunately, there was the impromptu “Freedom Ride” through downtown Bend in the afternoon to provide that group ride atmosphere that is so valuable for precise training efforts. The “group” was oddly clad and four or five hundred strong. The workout I was focused on for the afternoon was balancing the esteemed Hailey Foster’s Tandem Cruiser whilst traveling at 0.5mph, very important practice for the inevitable first turn bottlenecks… Eventually the ride made its way to Columbia park where all kinds of bridge jumping, music listening, river floating, socializing and refreshing beverage consumption was taking place... From there things are a bit of a blur, but I can definitely say that it’s good to be home on the Fourth… People with fireworks in the desert (tinder box) didn’t even start any fires…

Anyway, here’s hoping everyone had a quality holiday weekend and it has you as refreshed and ready for the remainder of summer as me…

Some photos from the (extremely safe) afternoon are below, in addition to this link to a story the local news station did about going to the Olympics and riding bikes on the trails down the street from my house…

http://www.ktvz.com/Global/category.asp?C=98358&nav=menu578_1

Here’s Carl’s report on the Park City NMBS race from last weekend, good reading…

The jig is up. I've been enjoying unprecedented time at home this June, and crappy weather notwithstanding, it's been really nice. While the rest of the Giant team has been in europe, dealing with the inevitable Grade A struggling that that involves, I've been here in Bend, with lots of time between naps and bike rides to do whatever I please. Since napping pleases me, I've been doing a lot of that, in particular. While awake, I've been learning how to jump my STP at the "Lair" (a jump park near my house that sounds like "the layer" when the little jump grommets pronounce it). And I've been to Oarkridge and Hood River to do shuttle runs with my new Reign X fro-riding bike. I've finally worn out the rear Michelin on my KTM street bike, exploring parts of Oregon I've never seen. And I've spent some quality time in the garage, tearing apart a prematurely totalled Subaru STI, so that it's heart and lungs might live again in the trusty Wheels of Teal. It's been kinda nice having a June at home. But now it's time to get racing.

Last week found Amiel "Sammich" Cavalier, and I on our own at the NMBS in Park City, UT. Since everyone else was either just back from europe (and thrashed) or just back from europe and racing the BC Bike Race (Kelli), Amiel and I were the only ones that made it to Utah. So it was a little like my days of riding for the Brewery for the weekend: borrowing tools, washing bikes, sharing lodging with strangers, and looking for a sucker to stand in the feed zone for 2 hours. Kinda reminded me of how spoiled I've become with Giant's staff always taking care of all the details and making things easy for us (uh, so thanks Tom, Elke, Joe, and Frank).

Saturday was the XC and I did what I have done there the last 3 years. I told myself I would start conservatively on the opening climb and NOT write checks my lungs couldn't cash in the first 5 minutes of a 2 hour race at altitude. And so I set about following my own sage race strategy. Until the gun went off and the race actually started, at which point I rode rediculously hard for the first 5 minutes, thus insuring that I would have a terrible day and suffer hugely, while riding pathetically. It was grim for about an hour. And then people starting coming unglued and I started feeling better. My last lap was my fastest (not saying too much), and I ended up 5th, nearly catching the elder Schultz brother in fourth. My lanky roommate du jour, Trebon, won the thing, beating Bishop and Kabush, respectively, about four minutes ahead. Not bad for wanting to drop out for 1/2 of the race...

Sunday was the usual double-header with an afternoon short-track followed by the last event of the weekend, the Super D. I felt good about my chances in the ST. The course had a few tricky corners and my legs were feeling good. The Super D was looking to be a little more than I'd bargained for though. Amiel (who just came 19th at the DH World Champs) said he might ride his full-tilt DH Team for the Super D race, and that a bunch of other fast buggers were joining the fray, as the course was "more fun" than the proper DH course.

ST gun went BANG, and in the first steep uphill corner, K-bomb dabbed hard, which brought half of the field to a stop, whilst the other half charged on. 22nd place through the first lap or so, and then I was able to pick guys off one by one. Three laps to go and I'd made contact with the leaders (Ryan, Kabush, and Bishop), but I knew I'd be lucky to outfox any of these guys after a pretty tough charge just to be in the mix. Ryan and Kbomb attacked each other (Kabush is hard to beat in this game) and Jeremiah showed a little weakness. We threw down on the long climb with 1/2 lap to go and I got to the corner first. 3rd place for me then...

Supa D was a great course. Not great for me, mind you, but a really nice fast, rocky downhill run with a couple of little upswings. Amiel and fellow Gravity ringers all reached for the light bikes (4-5 inches or so) because they could ride them just as fast as the full DH bikes, but couldn't be bothered to ride the big bikes up the two small inclines. I am the opposite of a DH ringer (as far as SD goes), so I took Amiel's bike after he graciously swapped the brake levers left to right (the rest of the world rides moto-style, with their front brake on the right, don'tcha know). Good times riding that big rig down the hill. And riding up the 20 second climb was murder! I ended up running (almost literally) a 6:02, Sammich was 2nd by a Second in 5:45. I was probably 12th. Didn't have the heart to look. Still leading the series though...

Made it home yesterday and on the 10th I'm off with AC (the Olympian big-shot now) to NY, VT, QC (that's Quebec), and another World Cup in Bromont that's supposed to be very cool. Hopefully the forests will stop burning and I can get some clean-air training in before we leave. Adam should probably just go get used to it for Beijing.

Over and Out
Carl




Team Giant Report, The Prague Stairs Afterglow

It might seem like that after spending the last 1/5 (thanks for the quantification, Carl) of the year in Europe, I would have been on the first flight home after the World Champs on Sunday. But, you see, sometimes after spending that much time in the strange parallel universe of bike racing existence, a person needs a few days to wind down. I was presented with the perfect opportunity to do this a while back. An invitation to an event call The Prague Stairs was passed my way by Jiri, the Giant distributor for the Czech Republic. The promoter was interested in having an American attend the downtown event for the first time, and I, as the current US Champion, was the guy they wanted. As far as I could gather, the race was adjacent to the famous Prague Castle and basically looped down a bunch of stone stairs and back up some narrow cobbled streets and alleys. It was one hour and they were going to pay me to show up, in addition to providing transport and lodging for my “Wife” and I to Prague. I’d always wanted to check out the Capitol of Bohemia so this seemed like the ideal opportunity. It just meant spending three extra days in Europe. No matter…

I remembered that half of the Foster Family, arguably the Funnest Family in Bend, was going to be on a loosely planned European Vacation in June. I dropped them a line to see what they were up to, figuring that Hailey and Judy would make an ideal “Wife” and “Mother-in-law” to get in on a free trip to Prague from Italy and take in some culture… I met up with them at the Worlds and after a very lame attempt at a Super Worlds After Party we set off in a generally Northeast direction… This meant taking the train south out of the mountains to Trento first. I figured we’d take the train to the German Border, hire a car, then tour through the Austrian Alps before heading up to Czech. We got our train tickets and some ice cream to battle the 100-degree heat and loaded the High Speed train to Rosenheim. Or did we? Nope, we didn’t, you see, you can’t take a bike on the high-speed train. And the greasy Italian train pimp wouldn’t budge on the company line. I couldn’t put it in the back car (as I’ve done before) or take the wheels off and stow it above our cabin. Nope, we weren’t getting on that train. To get to Germany any other way we would have to take a series of local trains, which are all slow and would take a lot of ice cream and Lemoncello to make the hot transfers tolerable… And would leave us in Germany after Europcar closed… So we just grabbed a car in Trento (for a hefty international drop-off fee) and headed for the Grossglockner. Bingo, immediate Automotive freedom, which I still hold close to heart, even in this day and age…

I’ve always wanted to drive over the Grossglockner. Constructed by the Austrains before the Wars as a state labor project and with a projected use as an auto-racing course, it’s intrigued me ever since Carl and I got turned back by early snow on our bikes about five years ago. A pleasant evening in a small Austrian hotel on the edge of the Dolomites, during which I got to watch both a fantastic lightning storm over the craggy peaks and the Foster Family work through a classic Austrian dish of Weinerschnitzel had us rested up and (at least me) stoked to tackle the Grossglockner in our Fiat Punto… We drove to the Franz Joseph Haus, which overlooks one of the largest Glaciers in the Alps. It used to be a lot bigger. Like ice up to where we were standing just 150 years ago. Impressive receding amidst a still very impressive landscape.

Starting up the pass proper I heard the unmistakable crack and pop of high-RPM V8 Supercar throttle being blipped on a downshift. I looked around the bend in time to see a Ferrari F-430 being driven at full tilt with a Lambroghini Gallardo hot on it’s heels. It was an assaulting experience. I immediately started givin’ the Punto the Corn… Judy was amused in the back seat and Hailey giggled up front as we did our best to wring the little Punto’s neck and get rid of some tire sidewall the rest of the way up the pass… More beautiful vistas and a very entertaining descent into the Zell am See valley hot on the heels of a couple on a Motorcycle. A day of motoring off to a good start. We had a quick, nutritious, delicious lunch in the most beautiful truck stop I’ve ever been to and continued north toward Czech on the Autobahn.

A few hours and a whole bunch of quaint rolling hills later we were following the river through downtown Prague with a pair of tourist maps looking for our Hotel Questenberk. We got to its address, just up the hill from The Castle, on the first try, but couldn’t find the place. It wouldn’t have occurred to us to look upstairs at a building that looked like an old church… Which we parked 100 meters from. Eventually a local barman pointed us across the street and we were there… Which happens to be where we already were. Nice place. Nice view. Even nicer at night after a thunderstorm with a rising half moon.

A nice dinner with the race organizer, Robert, and some of the other World Cup riders who were attending and we hit the sack. Long, great, day. Wednesday morning we woke earlyish, as we had an appoinment to meet the Mayor of Prague at the Old Town Hall. Turns out the fellow is a bike rider, and his mom lives in Seattle. We got a tour of the original Town Hall chambers that were used in the 17th through 19th centuries and the Astrological Clock tower. Interesting stuff.

Eventually the six o-clock race rolled around and we moseyed down to the course to check out these stairs. Turns out there are a lot and you can go scarily fast down them. And the climb back up isn’t exactly a road climb… All ancient cobbles and STEEP in places, this race would be no hour in the park. Us World Cup guys figured we’d ease into things and let the local boys have a go for the first bit of the race, then set about seeing who the fastest guy up the hill and down the stairs was. Turns out the local guys were making a good case for that title overall… I rode just off the leaders for most of the race, keen too keep it clean (by that I mean I’m scared of riding fast down stairs with a bunch of random dudes). The skies had been threatening rain, but Romans and Robert promised it would hold off. It did. Until about 40 minutes in when all hell broke loose. I haven’t seen a cloudburst like that in a while, crazy winds, flooded streets, almost complete darkness. Awesome. Except there are few surfaces slicker than stones worn by hundreds of years of foot traffic. Ice. On Stairs and in Alley. They gave us the “One to Go” sign as soon at the skies opened and we all tiptoed around another circuit. I saw the group sprint it out, someone won, nobody died. Perfect. We all huddled in the VIP tent and imbibed some delicious Czech Pilsner while the rain pounded down. The sun came back out for our walk to dinner, casting a perfect twilight glow over the Golden City. Not a bad end to a sweet afterglow trip…

Time to go home. For real this time, and do some proper resting up for that race in China…



Team Giant Report, Italian World Champioships

I was pretty disappointed as I crossed the finish line at the World Championships in Commezzedura, Italy. Not because I had ridden in the absolute definition of a small child, not because of yet another year of randomly (or maybe not so) crappy performance at the biggest annual event we dirt riders have, but because the frickin’ sweep moto guy wouldn’t race me down the last downhill.

I had ridden pathetically slow enough over the course of seven laps to have a variety of humiliations (hilarious). These included riding across the finish line to start my last lap about four minutes before the winner (Christoph Sauser) finished, with the photographers already blocking the course for “The” photo, having both a Chinese guy and Meirhaege pass me shortly after, and, finally, hearing the unmistakable sound of a two-stroke Trials Dirt Bike behind me. This meant I was the last guy on the last lap. Sweet. In the theme of making lemonade that I’ve implemented this last few weeks of being stranded in Europe, I figured I’d talk the guy (who was wearing easily the awesomest moto suit you could ever fathom) into indulging one of my long lost fantasies. The Bicycle versus Moto downhill challenge. I waved buddy guy up alongside me on the last climb, making my plan quite obvious with gestures and Italian/Spanish/English. He was smiling and laughing and seemed amused with the prospect of our little race. I soft pedaled up the rest of the climb, you know, to rest up, gave one last smile and a suggestive nod before pinning it into the woods. I used my clever inside lines, gapped some roots and figured I had a gap. I MUST have. Then I realized that he’d stopped at the top. No race. Sissy moto guy couldn’t take a little challenge… Oh well, I guess Josh or Carl and I will get around to it sometime.

Other than that, the race was pretty horrible, I finished 45th. Not exactly the way I wanted to end spending 1/5 of the year in Europe… But hey, the extra training I’ve done in the last couple weeks with a casual eye toward Beijing might pay off in a couple months… Things still look good for me to make the Olympic team, but nothing is set in stone as I write this. I hear things will be announced next week, as they’re waiting for a new month to start for this one to go on the books… Till then, here’s to a week off the bike and some reintegration into Americanisms…

Thanks for all the support this spring. Couldn’t have done it without y’all…



Team Giant Report, Italian World Champs Relay
I’ve been tossing around the idea of trying to “move” to Italy one of these days. I was really only half serious. But now, as I sit here writing this from our balcony overlooking the Torrente (river) Nocem, about to go eat delicious pizza once again, I’m getting a bit more serious. It’s real nice here.

We’ve been in the “Val di Sole” for about a week and a half now, relaxing and getting ready for the Intergalactic Mountain Bike Championships. The relaxing has mostly involved pizza, kayaks and haircuts. The getting ready has mostly involved doing sweet rides around the valley and over some passos. Like the storied Gavia, which Sam Schultz, his Fisher team Soignieur and I rode to the top of last Friday, with our Swanny Elke volunteering to drive support. This enabled Sam and I to stash snacks and Dee to get a ride home instead of doing the full 150k… Good solid team effort.

As a very important part of resting up for the Worlds Team Relay I somehow ended up networking into a borrowed kayak. After getting told at most of the rafting companies in the valley (of which there are about a dozen) that I would have to take a “class” or hire a “guide” to get ahold of a proper whitewater kayak, I rocked up to Euro Rafting, off the beaten track at the confluence of the Torrentes Vermiglio and Noce. There was a Chilean chap there by the name of Rodrigo who knew some of my buddies from Oregon. A half hour of shooting the breeze later I was floating down the river in his personal boat, with my Giant Helmet on for good measure… Not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon in the Valley of Sun…

The other day I talked with my Mom via Skype (anyone who doesn’t have Skype needs to get on the program) and she mentioned that it looked like I needed a haircut. So I got one. Boredom rose to a fever pitch a few nights ago and resulted in the Aussies instructing a surprisingly competent Dee in the implementation of a Right Angle Steve/Roo Boy/Mullet combo being carved onto my head. Sorry, Mom, it’ll be gone soon…

Another good way to spend the afternoon in the supposed sunny valley is racing your bike in perfect mud. Well it was perfect for descending at least… Climbing on the snotty grass they had routed us on as part of some kind of Alps region pact to include at least 2k of freshly mowed field in every course was another story. One that involved pseudo-running… Our US team of Georgia Gould, John Bennett and Sam Jurekovic decided to stick with the approach that rewarded us with a Bronze Medal last year. The reverse of pretty much everyone else, this being Girl, Junior, U23, Elite. When I took the tag for the fourth and final lap we were in about 13th place or so. And things were SPREAD OUT… A bunch of running and crashing will do that to a race. I rode a solo TT for most of the lap, picking off a lady or flailing fellow every few minutes and having a pretty good time putting the legendary (in Carl and I’s mind) Michelin Green Meanies to good use on the steep slick awesome descents. I must have made up a bunch of time on those, since my lap was the second fastest of the day and I’m pretty sure my climbing was nothing to write home about… It’s good to be from Maine sometimes. I ended up getting in a “Sprint” with a Dutch guy for 7th place. Fortunately, I had grass wound up in my gears from some creative line choices, which meant my sprint looked like I was at the finish of the SingleSpeed Worlds… We got 8th. Sorry, team. Then the sun came out. And it still is.

Proper Worlds race on Sunday afternoon, then it’s off to Prague for the “Prague Stairs” race in the old city before heading HOME on the 26th. After that it’s all burritos, kayaking and extremely focused, motivated preparation for a big race on August 23rd…






Scotland World Cup and (possible) Olympic Confirmation

It was Oli’s birthday on race day. AND, we both got double yolks in our boiled eggs. So we pretty much figured we were going to end up sprinting for the win. Which would have been a hilarious sprint, him weighing 140 pounds and me with a single front chainring… Somehow, though, the strength of twin chicks didn’t really come through for me… Oli responded a bit better to the immediate hike in cholesterol levels.

We flew up to Scotland from rainy Spain on Tuesday and checked into our delightful B and B under sunny skies. After flogging the minivan for the three hour drive up into the highlands, of course. A nice week of eating delicious breakfast and doing some quality lying around being “professional” had me pretty well rested up for race day, I thought. Oli also was appreciating a couple days of life away from fatherhood and the ensuing ability to sleep past “half five” as well.

After two laps of racing around the strangely dusty Fort William XC track, Oli and I were hanging out in the lead group of a dozen or so, resting up and trying to digest the yellow egginess… I decided my initial move through the group would have to be over the “skinny” option at the start of lap 3. In order to overtake Seamus Mcgrath, who’d chosen the nancy route around the long way, I had to sprint across the 6” wide log. This made negotiating the 90 degree turn at the junction a bit challenging. So I decided to do it on my face. I think my look of disgust was actually milder than Seamo’s who had to stop and throw my bike out of the way… No matter, I watched Oli and the rest of the lead group ride away from my vantage point on my back in a peat bog. Perfect. And my bars twisted on impact… Oops. Joe had a tool for me in the tech zone though (this was the first race I’ve ever done with no allen keys, as I lost them last week) and I got it sorted in short order. Settling back in I found myself in an epic battle with Jeremy H-K for our nations final virtual Olympic spot. Actually, it was more like we were just riding together for a lap. Then he unluckily hit one of the 487,000 rocks imbedded in the course, this one in the “Berminator” section, immediately causing his rear tire to surrender it’s captive air and sealant. Well, I guess that’s that then. I settled into feeling totally average and maintaining my mid-teens position. Which I did all the way to the finish. 16th, to be exact, for the second weekend in a row. Oli did much better, leading the sixth place group up the climb the last lap and paring it down to four. Who all ended up punking him in the last kilometer. 9th on the day, good thing, finishing anywhere outside the top 10 with a beard like that at his home race on his birthday would have been unacceptable…

Overall, it was sunny and it looks like we’ll both be going to the Olympics in a couple months, so we’ve pretty much accomplished what we set out to do a couple years ago. It’s nice to have that sorted out. Of course, anyone on the US Olympic Long Team could get a top three at next weekend’s World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy and punch their ticket, but that’s not super likely. I’d like to see it though…

In the meantime, I’m gonna take the Highlands Topo Map that our buddy and SSWC07 Organizer Marty just handed off and go do some singletrack exploring to celebrate. Then we head to Italy on Monday to eat proper delicious PIZZA! Yes.

Thanks to everyone who’s made this whole Olympic thing come together in the last couple years. Especially Tom and Elke for the mint support in the last two months of world cuppin’…

Cheers,
Adam

Here’s a photo each of Oli and I roosting the same turn, courtesy of Colin Maegher (In Motion Photography). The beard makes him look way faster, eh?

scotland1
scotland2


Andorra World Cup #4
So, a while ago, whilst hanging out riding bikes in France, I took a situation that had handed me lemons and made lemonade. I’d been out for a real long, real nice ride, which I had eaten delicious fried eggs before departing on. When I returned I noticed what I nice job the morning sun had done warming our apartment for my return. Turns out it was the kitchen stove I left on that warmed the apartment, for five hours… Lemons. But, a warm pan and burner isn’t to be wasted, so I went ahead and substituted a turkey veggie melt for the usual (boring) recovery drink… Lemonade.

To be honest with you, and myself, I was feeling a bit lemons all week in Andorra. The combo of a whole bunch of training in the last couple weeks, a fairly hard (even though I tried to go easy) race last weekend and reintegration into proper team and race life after utopian nothingness for a while just kind of had me a bit run down. Lemons. But once I got out on the race course on Wednesday to check it out for the first time, as part of a tire testing session with Michelin, I knew I had to get out the juicer and add some sugar… Top notch track. Tons of fun fast rooty rocky proper singletrack, a bunch of thought provoking climbing up reasonable grades, and the obligatory grassy ski slope grunt climb for good measure, and to keep the UCI happy… Although it had been raining a continually impressive amount for the first half of the week, the track was still pretty firm and everything still rode really well, just a bit more interesting… Lemonade. The skies would continue to clear the rest of the week, giving us a chance to marvel in the solidly spectacular scenery available in the Andorran Pyrenees Mountains. The race site was perched on a ridge about 700 meters above the valley floor, sitting at just about two grand. So we had the interesting prospect of racing a punchy, power oriented world cup course in all it’s splendor at fairly high altitude (6500 feet). We’ll see how that goes…

We’re going to stretch our analogy a bit here. You see, to make lemonade, you have to squeeze the juice out of the lemons. Well, to enhance my (and my trusty East Coast compatriot Lea Davison) chances of lemonade on Saturday, I resorted to a really brutally cold version of the ice bath. All this rain had the local rivers still swollen, mostly with recent snowmelt at this point, so we climbed down the retaining wall of a bridge and dunked our lower extremities for a few. Very refreshing. A good dinner, one of Elke’s award winning massages and another twilight ice bath and pretty much every step toward lemonade had been taken.

The only thing that could have helped more did. It rained all morning. Mint. Unfortunately, when the gun went off at 2pm under clearing skies, I still had lemons for legs. Fortunately, my wise choice to run the Anthem Advanced let me play a fairly fun game for most of the race, that being staying just ahead of whoever was around on the climbs, then riding the (awesome) descents a bit irresponsibly fast to reestablish my gap. This plan worked to get the lemon legs into the top 10 for the first half of the race. Lemonade? Perfect. But then the lemon juice got a bit acidic, or was that lactic acid? Either way, it got harder to keep from getting overtaken on the climbs and I eventually fell back to 16th. Oh well, not too bad for lemons I guess. Our fellow American Todd Wells turned in a solid ride for 6th, and his young South African teammate Burry Stander almost win the thing, Christoph Sauser just barely caught him on the last lap for the win.

Our Australian Downhill boys were in the house this weekend, providing entertainment in the evening and some serious rut roosting during the day. They would finish on the same 2:46 second, Amiel in 30th and Rando in 38th. 20th through 60th was all on that same second. World Cup DH racing is TIGHT these days… Good work boys, hopefully some road riding on our infamous Team Giant folding bike, the Halfway, this week in Scotland will sort them out another second or three.

I’m planning on resting up and being professional this week, as I’m pretty sure I’ve got a good race in me somewhere these days… Another step closer to making the Olympic Team though, so that’s always good. I’ve got a sum of 38 from three races with Todd just ahead with 34, I think. The next Gringo is a ways off that, so hopefully luck and health holds out for a couple more weeks. We’ll see…

Here’s some self explanatory photos.



Spanish Brunch
To all those who appreciate Brunch, you know who you are…

Two things conspired this lazy Friday to trick me into cooking an absolutely delicious feast.

One, instead of using my “rest day” to network through the outdoor adventure brotherhood and hook up some scary skiing in Chamonix or (probably) sweet kayaking down on the Durance River, I used it to sleep in, go for a proper easy recovery ride (which happened to take in a bit of fairly awesome singletrack) and make myself Brunch.

Two, the reason brunch had even occurred to me is that Oli brought a few tidbits of English literature with him to France, namely a copy of his local Bristol Sunday Telegraph and it’s “Housewives Anonymous” glossy mag insert. Within this insert was a bit on the institution of Brunch, which they give us Yanks full credit for the creation of. Good work, us.

One of the Brunch dishes presented was called Spanish Sausages with Migas, which is proportioned to serve “two greedy people”. I had already read all through this bit a day or two before, letting my imagination run wild with the prospect of having the ingredients to cook this little nugget up.

As I got back from my bike ride, did my responsible stretching and showered, I wondered what kind of Brunch I could create for myself. It being almost two o’clock and all… I had a cheesy baguette that was a few days old and needed using. Cheeesy French toast? Nope, I’m not about to make French toast in France, fuck the French. Let’s see, I’ve gotta toast that bread at least to make it palatable. Hmmm. Oh, wait, that Spanish-style brunch actually said “375g stale white country bread” PAYDIRT.

Since Elke is a culinary genius, I had a stash of cumin, which would prove to be the key ingredient, obviously. Peppers, onions, garlic (with a press even), milk, salt, pepper, olive oil, eggs, no white grapes, but raisins noir. All I was missing was chorizo and pancetta. Oh well, I guess a vegetarian version was in order. All the bits went together perfectly. The stale bread slowly absorbing it’s milk, water and salt mixture before slowly cooking to soft, crispy perfection. The veggies, complemented by tomato and sweet corn, obviously, sautéing up nicely. Some fried eggs and raisins on top, and, for good measure, the remains of our previous night’s Guacamole for “garnish”, whatever that is. Anyway, since there was a photo in the magazine I decided to take a photo too. And, I’m obviously pretty bored. Either way, it was flippin’ delicious, I didn’t even miss the chorizo, although I can only imagine… The perfect solo brunch compliment obviously being VICE magazine and my day is already complete.

Let’s do brunch sometime.

Cheers,
Adam


Team Giant Report, Copa Catalan and Rain in Spain

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved flooded rivers. I had the good fortune to grow up on the banks of the Kenudskeag Stream in Exeter, Maine, and one of my seasonal highlights was waiting for that spring (or sometimes mid-winter) day when it would rain on snow, causing the water to rise exponentially. This would break up and carry away the ice, sometimes quietly in the night, sometimes with spectacular gunshots in the middle of the day, sometimes over the course of a few days. It was the official start of spring, regardless of what the groundhog’s shadow said. And it meant we could dust off the trusty Old Town Canoe and go for a float trip on the swollen waters. Awesome.

The last thing I expected when I traveled back down to Spain on Friday afternoon for a round of the Copa Catalan series was to observe some tip-top flooding carnage. I expected it to be hot enough that I would be wishing for a haircut midrace… Instead I found top-notch hospitality from the organizers and top-notch flooding carnage for the drive home, capped off by a damn classic course made all the better by the biblical weather…

Before we get into the nitty-gritty (and it was gritty) of the racing and flooding action, let’s take a moment to appreciate the European National race series model. At least in the case of the Copa Catalan, a UCI series based in the Catalonian region of Spain, the northeast to be precise… In the interest of both maintaining and expanding the stature of the series, the promoter is happy to provide food and lodging for any respectable World Cup riders who want to attend their events. I was fortunate to have Kashi Leuchs suggest this race as good prep for the upcoming World Cup in Andorra (about 50k from St. Llorenc de Monruys), he forwarded me the promoter, Albert’s email . I dropped him a line and he immediately set things up. A mint apartment overlooking the course is a nice way to say “yeah, we’d love to have you”, dinner on top of that is, well, the flamed crust on a Crème de Catalan, I suppose… Thanks, guys and girls, for putting on a good show on a course that happened to be good proper classic mountain biking. If, of course, you consider that to be perfectly flowing sidehill singletrack of all types for about 7k. With a few Spainish-speaker approved WALL climbs and a bit of grassy field thrown in for good measure…

The gore-tex jacket and pants were put to good use in the downpour conditions available for warmup, I haven’t had to do that in a while… Hope I didn’t ruin those pieces, I might need them again someday… After a (welcome) rushed line-up we fired off in Spanish style, fast and loose… A bit of ROOSTING (thanks Giant Anthem and custom siped Michelin XC A/T rubber) the first awesome descent found me in second place and having a grand old time. There was even a jump, right after a pass… Our early leader, local boy Marti Gispert (who’s ECP/Tau Ceramica team had fixed my brutalized wheel yesterday) had a puncture and I settled into the lead, rallying the descents and riding as slow as possible on the climbs. This system drew out another local, Sergio, who climbed and ran impressively quickly, and was nice enough to move over and let me charge the down bits. Perfect. Unfortunately, this type of racing usually sees the guy who’s climbing faster eventually ride away, 75% of your time spent doing that and all… Oh well, I was happy to feel decent and not gutter myself before the impending World Cupness… 2nd place, a handful of Euros (no ATM trip for me) and a completely trashed skinsuit to show for my casual efforts.

Now, to the good stuff. I wish I hadn’t been distracted with the multitude of tasks at hand driving home (eating stuff, tring to heel-and-toe effectively on the brake and gas pedals with the Luke Pennington Addition Adidas’) to snap a POV photo of the amazing amount of debris that fell into the (awesome) mountain roads we had to drive back up to the Pyrenees proper. At one point there was a 15 foot tall pine tree sluffed into 2/3 of the road, rootwad and all. Impressive. Fortunately the little rental Toyota hatchback did just fine, traction control switched off and all… I did, however, do a serious amount of making Kashi nervous as I would crane my neck every minute or two to check out the rivers we drove along, which were all out of their banks and solidly in the bushes. Turns out it hasn’t really rained in this area for about two years, so they’re loving it, reservoirs we passed the day before on the way down were visibly more full, mostly of logs and various other flotsam and jetsam. Good scenery for climb back into the clouds. Which, as of sunset, appeared to be breaking a bit, it sure would be nice to have a clear day to check out the hills around here, I bet they’re nice… And might just have fresh May snow, it being 6 degrees Celsius here and all…

Anyway, here’s to flooding and racing in the mud, it’s a good thing to do once in a while.




Team Giant Intergalactic Report, California to France
Since Carl is calling me out below for being in Europe “relaxing” I figured a bit of a rebuttal was in order. And I’ve got another rest day, so not a whole lot going on…

Read on about how Decker and Emmett held things down at this past weekend’s NMBS Race in Los Olivios, California in grand style while I was on holiday in France… Then continue reading on about what I’ve been up to over here…

Big Props to Kelli for winning her first National XC in convincing style amongst a stacked field. Quite impressive, must have been the new KTM dirt bike she just picked up egging her on…

Contents: Team Giant race report for the Los Olivios/Firestone/Solvang/Santa Ynez/Stumpgrinder NORBA/NMBS race

This weekend, while Adam Craig was maxing and relaxing in the French countryside, It would be up to my teammate Kelli Emmett and I to fly the flag at the 3rd National Series race of the year, north of Santa Barbara, CA. This race is known by many names, but none suggest how hot and hard the racing here can be (okay, maybe firestone kinda does). Last year I was shocked by the heat; the race boiled down to who could absorb the most water, and who could stay strong in the face of blast-furnace-like breezes. Since I am a nancyboy (and it's been a long and cold spring in Oregon, where there was frost in the yard 5 days ago), I even considered staying home and doing something easier. Like gardening or road racing. Kelli was committed to racing though, and I finally relented. Good thing, too. It was an action packed weekend.

Saturday dawned warm and warming. Kelli took off for the venue at 8:00 and I fell back asleep. A couple of hours and a bowl of cereal or two later, I was at the venue, just moments after the women's XC finish. A friend said hi and said that Kelli was ripping. I asked how she did and from behind me she yelled "I won!". I said "holy crap" and gave her a hug. That's Kelli's first NMBS XC win, and her second big victory in a row. In 100 degree heat, Kelli rode a smart race and kept herself under the redline. Georgia Gould had a commanding lead for most of the race, but collapsed from heat stroke 15 minutes from the line. From there it was Kelli and Catherine Pendral. In the flat and open final mile, Emmett made a strong pass for the lead and Pendral couldn't respond. Kelli rode clear and won by a margin of 10 seconds. Another career ride for KE.

My race started with me in the weeds from the gun. Turns out they cut a lap from our course after Georgia's hospitalization. Meanwhile, I was staring at the ground and focusing on not melting or vaporizing (Spontaneous Human Combustion happens.) when the organizers (repeatedly, I hear) told us of the course change (from 3 to 2 laps) on the start line. So I started off kinda slow and was surprised at how fast those top 4 guys were riding, for a (I thought) 2:30 race. After half of the race was over, I asked an official (who probably thought I was suffering Heat Stroke) how many laps were left in (it turns out) a two lap race. So then I rode a little faster and tried to catch the hind-most of the lead group. JHK was within striking distance with 10 minutes to go, so I dug deep and gained absolutely no time on him. I finished 6th, 3 minutes behind the winner, Aussie Sid Taberlay.

After a night of celebrating KE's win with some good food (and smooth jazz?), we awoke this morning ready for some Short Track punishment (taking) and some Super D punishment (hopefully giving). Again, Kelli raced first, and again, Kelli raced well. The course was flat and long (over 3 minutes), and Kelli spent nearly half of the race working at the front. Katerina Nash got away with a couple laps to go and stayed away. Emmett lead the chase and then held off the freeloaders in the final sprint finish to take second.

My Short Track ended up being a rehash of the XC; 5 fast dudes (and me) at the front. I even got my nose in the wind a little when I lead for a lap or two. Then the attacks got a little faster and I went the same speed and was left in 5th place, playing cat and mouse with Aussie Sid. In the finish sprint, Sid was the cat. I ended up sixth for the sixth time this year or so. Drat.

Super D: Mostly the same as the first big XC descent with a little jog through the weeds and back to the finish. With it still hot, and even more extra windy, Kelli and I felt like we'd been at the beach all day and were feeling more ready for a nap than a downhill timetrial. Kelli rode accordingly. She said she couldn't ride her bike to save her life, and ended up just of the podium in (my favorite place!) 6th.

My SD was uneventful, which was a pleasant change from last year, when I blew the first turn and ended up hiking while within view of the start shack. Had a clean run and rode hard, just not hard enough to beat Kabush. Dispatched Wicks though. 2nd place. Four places better than 6th. Our favorite oversized Giant cubicle dweller, Andrew Juskaitis, won his class, and his wife won hers too, to finish off the weekend of racing.

Now it's back home for a week or two, and then Kelli and Carl's Team for Fun without Adam is headed to the Teva Mountain Games in Vail for some deep breathing and bike racing at 10,000 feet.

Thanks for reading,

Carl and Kelli
Giant Factory Race Team

With that bit of info to digest, here’s a random update on the daily happenings here in Villard de Lans…

I’m holed up here with Oli Beckingsale doing a proper training camp between world cups. This pretty much means doing a whole lot of sleeping, riding, eating and reading books. Being “professional”, I guess, whatever that means. I suppose what it means is that you can train your face off on huge climbs everyday and still be rested up enough after ten hours of sleeping to do it all over again. Awesome.

We pretty much roll out mid-morning with a map, raincoat and a bunch of snacks for a day of exploring around the Vercors region with its gorges and high plateaus. It’s a pretty nice way to work things, in the name of training, of course… Although we do spend a lot of time consulting the map (reminiscing about navigating in the Rally Car), we also spend a lot of time ripping pretty amazing trails, made all the better by the fact that we found ‘em. In between ripping these trails we also do some hike-a-biking up and down unrideable bits that we have no business being on, as evidenced by the red signs saying something to the effect of “don’t even try to VTT (Velo Toutes Terrain?) on this here trail, it’s not happening”. Ah, you’ve got to find out for yourself, right? After a few days of off road abuse and awesomeness we generally do a big road ride, putting slicks on our hardtails to ensure we don’t get distracted from pedaling by trails dropping off into unknown gorges… The roads are seemingly unused by vehicles and happen to wind up and down the Cols at a perfect pitch for getting in shape and feeling good about yourself (read: big ring). So, basically, it’s ideal here. Except for the one day it rained and I had to do morning efforts in a “sucker hole” (stops raining long enough to trick you into going out) followed by evening intervals on the trainer, which I finished, after procrastinating all day, about 14 minutes before the sun came out… Shoot. At least we had a classic melted cheese French Raclette dinner to ease the trainer pain…

Basically this is the best training camp ever. Unfortunately, it’s got to end sometime. Friday I’m heading down to Andorra to get a bit higher altitude (although we’re at about 3400ft here) and try my hand at the Spanish Copa Catalan series on Sunday in Val de Lord. It’ll be good to get in a race before the World Cup picks up again in Andorra on the 31st, and find out if I got in shape the last few weeks, seems like I shouldn’t have to train any more this year after this little chunk of time…

As an aside, I spent part of a day hanging out with a couple Aussie blokes filming for a news piece on the HD Net cable station about the Beijing Olympics, specifically the air quality situation. It’s going to air on June 3 if anyone gets cable and has a bunch of spare time… There should be a bit of riding and some scenery here in the Vercors, in addition to a bunch of talking…

AC’s French Giant Team Connection
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Team Giant Report from Madrid, Spain, WC #3

It’s amazing how much more tiring riding fast is than riding slow. So, with this little tidbit in mind, THIS week would be a great one to go on a huge sweet mountain bike ride, do some intervals and crash my face off. Not LAST week, when I rode fast enough to get real tired and had another (fairly important) race coming up… Ah, live and learn (again)…
I guess the genesis of the problem for me is the fact that I hold exploring and finding sweet new trails in awesome locales in a bit higher regard than chasing a bunch of dudes around a city park. I like chasing a bunch of dudes, racing is what I do. But proper Woods Riding is what I will do for the rest of my life. Better practice up now while I’m racing so I’m ready when the rest of time comes around…
To all those who support this racing effort, I’m sorry. I do love it. Which is why I do it. Those days like last Sunday in Germany will keep me coming back for years to come. Wednesday of this week in the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains north of Madrid will keep me coming back for the rest of my days. I took off with a jersey full of food and a map, the obvious route being up over the (snowy) crest at 2200 meters and down the headwaters of some river drainage, which I envisioned as beautiful river grade singletrack all the way to the valley. Obviously. Three hours later I was hiking through a small snowfield to gain the crest. Perfect. Except I’d had my map plucked from my pocket whilst descending cow-trail singletrack off the previous Puerto de Morcuera… And couldn’t tell what drainage I wanted. I picked one and committed. 1k of scree slope descending later I ran into some guy who was hiking. I spoke my broken Spainish and he replied in triple speed… I got the gist of it though. I was on the wrong ridge and this trail ended in a cliff. Back to the top… I gave up on the ultimate drainage when I saw an obviously class AA singletrack heading down another ridge. It was mint. 4 hours in and I was an hour or so from home, with a tailwind. Sweet. If only my ultra supportive, ultra awesome team support weren’t concerned for me… Tom was just leaving Mira Flores to look for me when I rolled into town, saving me the heinous grunt up to the house… Not a bad day.
If only I’d recovered from that day instead of climbing up the Morcuera Pass again the next day to check out another cow trail. It ended in a fireroad decscent, which I wasn’t that into, so I was looking for more trails when I ended up sliding down the road on my side at an alarming rate of speed. Turns out ancient roads have rocks on them. Who knew… Guess I should look where I AM going instead of where I WANT to go… Possible metaphor for life? Anywho, riding a bunch and crashing pretty much sorted out being really tired for the rest of the week… Shocking.
Good thing the race in Madrid’s Casa de Campo is notoriously easy. You just roll around for a couple hours in about the position you started (for me this was 8th, awesome) and then you’re done. If only…
About a dozen really steep climbs need to be surmounted per lap, and we did seven. The descents are just short and pedally enough that you never really recover, regardless of how many times you hit the handful of perfect hip jumps for your own personal entertainment. If it weren’t for these (really awesome) jumps this day would have been a total loss for me. 31st place almost five minutes down is a tough pill to swallow (or force feed yourself) after being in the lead group the week before… But man, those jumps were fun. The hands-down best one started from a G’d out right turn and floated over a knoll into a G’d out left. It was great. My race tactics all revolved around getting in front of whoever I wanted to show the jump, or letting them catch up. Did I mention it was great… If only I’d been riding fast everywhere else.

Anyway, we’ve got Ollie for that. Beckinsale was solid today in 19th, if he’d only gotten around Todd in 18th I’d still be second in the USA Olympic team chase with 54 points to Todd’s 51, I think. Good thing two guys go, and I’ve got some time to get in proper shape…
Thanks for reading, we’ll check back in after whatever random European racing happens in the next three weeks before the world cup resumes in Andorra on May 31.
Here’s a pic of the start. It sure is nice to be on the front row. Playing Where’s Waldo with start photos is never a good sign…
There sure were lots of people in the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon. They seemed pretty into the bike race too…
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Ten Reasons Why Offenburg WC was the Bollocks

Basically any time a week of racing bikes somewhere kicks ass we’re going to do a Ten Reasons piece. There’s just so much to tell on these perfect weeks that there would be pages and pages for you, the unfortunate reader, to wade through. We’ll just condense things a bit here…

Ten Reasons why World Cup #2 in Offenburg was the bollocks:

10. Turnaround. After driving to the best place in the whole universe, the Nurburgring Nordschlieffe, only to find it closed to Touristenfahrten unexpectedly, then driving through rush hour traffic to get to our bleloved Feirenhaus Woerner in Durbach, Germany, then riding in the rain and dark instead of the Belgian sun team morale wasn’t exactly low, but it sure wasn’t at an all time high. Then, the turnaround, Elke and Tom brought home delicious dinner (not just schnitzel) from the local Winestuba and all was good.

9. The Ferienhaus Worner. This place is awesome. Lots of awesome stuff happens here, like a previously unarable piece of vineyard being swiftly converted into terraced perfection, ready for grapes to take over. The view is nice too… Which works out well, because we were completely enthralled with watching the Excavator operator paint lines on this particular canvas for the better part of an afternoon. In between watching the vineyard cats stalk things…

8. Uncut macaroni. Elke likes to keep us on our toes at the grocery store. This time she found some pasta that was essentially spaghetti length mac. Awesome. A delicious bolognaise sauce covered it’s enhanced surface area quite well… That wasn’t enough through, we had to innovate a bit. The mac snail was born… Roll up your mac, stick a toothpick through it, garnish as desired… Yup, we get pretty bored.

7. Unexpected quality singletrack. After a couple days of R and R, Oli and I headed out for a “few hours steady on the road”. We made it about half of that before we decided we were “lost” and had better follow this trail sign to some town we recognized. Before we knew it we were getting strung along a pretty epic ridgeline singletrack with signs to the Mooskopf, which I vaguely remembered seeing signs to last year. We committed to my memory and wound up doing a sweet ride to the highest point in this corner of the Black Forest, just as the clouds broke. Awesome.

6. A darn good bike track with roughly a ton of people out to watch. There’s a bunch of trails in the Offenburg ‘burb of Rammersweier. Most of ‘em are pretty fun when the dirt is absolutely perfect. Like concrete perfect. With perfect 70 degree sunshine. And proper thousands of people, a LOT of people, most of whom adhered to the German spectator code, that being beer, brats and YELLING… It was rad.

5. Respectable start position and narrow start loops. When you’re on the second and third row, as Oli and I were, you can actually race from the gun. It’s handy.
4. Good legs. Yup, good start position and good legs mean you get to ride at the front. It’s kind of strangely easier up there. Stay with the group, get a bit of draft, try not to crash into something someone else just jumped over, don’t even try to respond when Absalon attacks and things will be surprisingly manageable. When you have the aforementioned really good legs.

3. Ill fated “attacks”. I don’t think what I did really qualified as an attack, but on the fifth lap, after sitting in a bunch and thinking I was riding comfortably with the leaders, I figured I’d try my (meager) hand. This hand pretty much involved thinking I could ride 1k of the course faster than the rest. A downhill bit, not surprisingly… To earn this opportunity I pulled the second place group of five around the whole fifth lap. I figured that would get my karma in order for a low-blow singletrack surge. I was foiled. Some swiss guy, Florian Vogel, jumped me into the woods and I had to do what I’d already been doing, ride plenty fast and have a good time. But not get a 1-3 second gap of glory as I’d envisioned. I figured I’d try, a top three result being an automatic Olympic Spot and all…

2. Being Humbled. After a strange uphill root bobble by Flo I led the rest of the lap and was still feeling spry. Then the real guys started playing their (substantial) hands. Sauser surged and blew things to bits. I got dropped. Then I got a bit tired. The big ring challenge was getting to the good legs. Weird… Damage control went into effect and worked out fine, I slid back to 8th, a coupe minutes off the winner. I’ll take it at World Cup #2. I’m not even supposed to be in shape yet… That’s OK though, Oli and I have a good training camp planned in the French Alps so we can get ourselves together. He was wise enough to ride the Anthem today and had a good time ripping around, ending up 30th. We can both build on this week for sure. It’ll be good.

1. Relaxing. We’ve been doing lots this week, and it turns out it’s good for you. Makes you fast, and fresh, and generally promotes good feeling. (but doesn’t completely cure clumsiness, as we broke two glasses and two plates this week…) We ended the week with some nice sunset relaxing with our hosts, Rita and Felix, along with the Slovenian women’s team who stayed downstairs, enjoying some of their fantastic local Weissvein and Rotvein. Overall this week kicked ass.
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Team Giant Report from Houffalize, Belgium, World Cup #1
This year at Houffalize we’re trying a new angle over here at Giant. Team language integration. For our efforts over on the continent this year we’ll be on the Queen’s tongue. That being all anyone who grew up speaking English knows how to use anyway (a bit pathetic, that…). Giant UK rider Oli Beckinsale is joining Tom, Elke and I at big bike meets this year. Turns out the Queens tongue proper is a bit different that our Gringo English. We’re learning lots this week. Oli will sound off in a paragraph or three with his best. Hopefully he integrates the word of the week, “Chav” in there somewhere.
Although we’re embracing our only language ability (Elke does obviously get culture points for her Flemish and German skills), we’re also trying to branch out with our proper UCI Trade Team, the loose-knit “Giant Mountainbike Team”. This includes a Dutch team, a Norwegian team and a Swiss team. We’re all sharing a team tech area at the events, which will be nice once we get a cold, wet weekend, or even this afternoon, for that matter. It’s good to have a home at the races. It sure was nice this afternoon though, Saturday’s showers slicked up the course a bit, which was perfect, but Sunday dawned (by dawn I mean 10:00) sunny and warmish. 60 and sunny all afternoon with a light breeze, bringing out the classic Belgian crowd in full force, there were lots of people, pretty much the entire 7k was lined with fired up race watchers. Mint.
I was tempted to shout “get out of the way you fe**ing Chav” as I irresponsibly overtook Oli on the last big descent of the last lap. We’d been going back and forth most of the race in the teens somewhere, both clearly relieved to not be riding like small children at World Cup #1. I figured I’d roost things a bit and keep our English speaking battle interesting to the line. He kindly obliged and I somehow didn’t crash. Caffeine is good stuff… At any rate, I’m pretty stoked and a bit relieved to have been 15th in my first proper race of the year. Having your best international start in memory is a good sign that I didn’t do too much skiing or dirt bike riding this winter… Just right, it looks…
I think some guy named Absalon won. Shocker. In the American Olympic team speculation department, Todd Wells uncorked one for 11th, JHK and Wicks were 60 or so, and Bishop a bit off that in the 80ish realm. Five races to go…
Anyway, I’ve got Elke ready with the massage table for some invaluable recovery work, so I’d better hit it. It’ll be an ideal compliment to a nice sunset on a perfect Sunday afternoon in the Ardennes… Here’s what our Brit has to say about the day’s events.

It’s always a bit of a stress at the first World Cup, with all the how are the legs, how’s that guy doing thing. There is a need to keep it real, so its cool to be hanging out with my American buddies and thankfully they are not a bunch of chavs, but the atmosphere round the apartment is more jazz club than night club. Only problem is I am saying sweet way to much and going to take a right good kicking when I get back to the UK.
Back to the racing and from my start of 49th I wound my way round a few people on the stupid steep start hill and rolled up through on the next few laps in the company of my man Adam. With two to go I started to dream of frites and mayo which is not a good sign but kept it together for 18th. Pretty chuffed with that and a good first race for the new XTC advanced.


Arizona 08
Desert singletrack is always good for early season racing. We can use our skills and rad bikes to ride fast and have a good time, regardless of actual fitness. Desert doubletrack, on the other hand, is a suspect arena… You see, the wonder of singletrack is that you can only ride it as fast as you can, well, ride it. Jeep roads, on the other hand, you can ride as fast as your pasty white legs have the strength to turn the pedals.
Round two of the NMBS was held under the stage race format. Friday was a “Super D”, Saturday a Short Track and Sunday a proper Cross Country. The trails of McDowell Mountain Regional Park, just outside Phoenix in the Sonoran Desert, played host to the weekend’s events.
Now I’m a big proponent of the idea that mountain bikes can pretty much be raced on any terrain and whoever wins will do so as a result of some special skill or fitness set, but we’ve gotta draw the line somewhere… Friday’s stage 1 Super D was held in time trial format over an approximately five mile course. The first mile was a false flat, slightly winding walking path through a campground, the next four were a jeep road crossing washes and small ridges. It was the hardest 16 minutes of my life, pedaling as hard as possible for every second, not hitting the brakes even once… But, hey, the winner, Geoff Kabush, did have a special skill, riding hard and keeping his nose on the grindstone. I kept it moving and tried some risky sand wash gaps to entertain myself along the way. 4th place. Decka was 8th, as was Kelli. We all agreed it was the hardest thing we’d do all weekend…
I like cyclocross. It’s fun to rip around on knobby shod tenspeeds and corner hard. I’m not so sure about racing cross in the desert on mountain bikes. So, instead of calling a spade a spade we’ll call the short track the MTB Hillclimb challenge. Instead of airing down the sweet rock drop as we usually do, we rode the course the opposite direction. Word spread quickly (and kind of hilariously) thorugh the pits about the “UNCLIMBABLE” hill in the ST. I figured, being the meathead boy that I am, that I can ride up anything. Turns out I need to be more of a meathead, or just better at hillclimbing… Fortunately, after Carl and the rest of the lead group checked out, Ross Schnell, Liam Kileen and I could casually try it every lap. With very mixed results. The more entertaining of which resulted in the three of us tangled together and not moving forward at all after various failures to climb the unclimbable. We all made it at least once, Carl claimed 50/50 success, which is why he got 5th to my 8th. Go figure.
XC race. Finally, good proper desert singletrack ripping. Or at least ripping as fast as possible, which was more a mind and handlebar challenge. It was a perfect scenario for the dreaded “Eye Bonk” , this happens when you simply can’t process any more awesome trail in front of you. Somewhere around the middle of the final of three laps this happened to two of our lead group companions, Wicks and JHK started blowing corners, so Kabush and I started railing it and got a gap that kept growing. Just like the gap he got on me in the last 4k or so… 2nd again, I’ll take it. Decker kind of held his promise to be 6th this weekend, as he always mysteriously is. He was 7th in the XC, but ended up 6th in the overall stage race omnium. Kelli did a few better with 4th in XC and overall. 3rd overall for me. Looks like the old fun Giant Team still can ride fast when we have to…
Next up, ten weeks in Europe for me, chasing the World Cup, and possibly my tail…
Here’s a pic of Carl pulling a funny face whilst roosting through the desert on his shiny new Anthem Advanced. Thanks to Colin Meagher of In Motion Photography for the image.
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Team Camp and Fontana NMBS

Who in the room has gotten shot lately? A show of hands? If you could see me right now I’d be raising my hand… Yup, some little Fontana neighborhood punk, hunkered down under his daddy’s jacked up pickup truck with an AK-47 looking BB gun got me in the leg. From about four feet away. It left a mark. Seems like I should have been fired up enough after chasing him around the yard to have won the short track a few minutes later, or at least gotten the holeshot… Read on to find out…
A pre-season rite of passage for most professional bike riding teams is the “Team Camp”. It’s a time to meet up with everyone from the program after a bit of down time, set up new bikes, try on new t-shirts, take a bunch of photos, chat with some sponsors and media folk, you know, usual stuff. We at the Giant MTB Team are fortunate in the fact that our company’s US headquarters are just north of Los Angeles, adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains. So, once a year, we head down there to camp it up…
This year camp took place just before the first National MTB Series race in Fontana, CA, killing two birds with one plane ticket. Everyone arrived as planned, except our young Aussie downhiller, Amiel Cavalier, who is mired in the US Sporting Visa acquisition process and stranded in Oceania… We immediately set about our business of meeting with the Product Development guys, Kevin and Dennis, who gave us a shockingly comprehensive overview of what Giant Bicycles is up to. Turns out its some totally awesome stuff. Stay tuned, we’re gonna have even cooler bikes sometime soon, and are going to continue having a legitimate hand in their creation. After learning about what the future holds I decided to go learn about the present with a kick-ass ride on the local singletrack…
Day two was media day, which was a pleasantly casual affair. Morning was some media interaction training, always good for a laugh, and, I suppose, a bit of introspection. A handful of editors from the SoCal-centric bike industry showed up for a conversational team presentation, lunch, photos, some interviews and a bike ride. I easily convinced our BIKE magazine guy, Kip Mikler that he needed to “step into my office” for a chat about the whole Olympic Business. Turns out my “office” for the week is the best thing that’s ever happened at the Giant Offices. An indoor BMX street course. Yup, a usually empty corner of the warehouse was converted into a series of professionally built quarter pipes, spines, hjps, rollers and wallrides for the lunchtime entertainment of all. Awesome. We got to chat about Beijing “singletrack”, air quality, selection procedures and such as the manager of Giant’s MOSH brand tossed fifteen foot high fufanus (that means tail tap—ed.) on the concrete wall. Did I already say awesome? The questioning ended with the obvious, “Can you ride that stuff” from Kip. My plan had worked perfectly. Jared Rando and Kurt Sorge rolled in just as I got suited and booted for what ended up being an hour-long session on Product Development head guy Kevin Dana’s STP. Turns out riding skateparks is a lot of work. I’m still a bit sore…
Thursday at camp was photo day. Usually this means standing around in a parking lot smiling and such. Not this time, A couple quick portraits and we were back in the Warehouse Bike Park, this time to get our pictures taken. After that, and a delicious Chipotle Grill lunch, we drove up to Santa Barbara to check out Giant Media Relations guy Andrew Juskaitis’ all time favorite loop. The Jesusita trail. The catch was that our Canadian photog buddy, Stephen Wilde, was going to come along and capture whatever he deemed worthy. Turns out the whole ride was worthy, perfectly techie climbing and perfectly perfect descent from an amazing overlook. Top notch loop, AJ. Even with the incredibly vibrant poison oak and an incredibly vibrant (possibly captured on film) crash on my part… As all good rides do, we finished in complete darkness, none of that namby pamby romantic twilight business… Good thing it was dark, we all would have looked awfully strange scrubbing down with a variety of anti-oak chemicals in the parking lot for twenty minutes… Hopefully it worked, I have only a little bit of the rash four days later and everyone else seems to be in the clear… Totally worth it either way.
More photos on Friday with inside Giant guy (and bike park shredder) Jake Orness set us up for an epic drive across the armpit of the universe. LA rush hour on a Friday. 60 miles in 3 hours. With the following wind we definitely could have ridden our bikes faster. But that wouldn’t be the LA way… Amazing. We got to the Southridge Park venue with just enough daylight to squeeze in a lap on the XC course, although racing it blind would have been entertaining…
Being realistic has always been an important undertone of Adam and Carl’s Team4Fun. We were realistic about our level of tiredness and just wanted to get in some exercise that coincided with racing over the weekend. Carl was hoping to continue his cold-turkey 6th place streak for NMBS openers the last few years and I was hoping to not get smoked and suggest some type of Velonews cover shot curse… Fortunately we had Kelli Emmett prove that our week of running around didn’t break us as she sprinted for fifth place in the XC. Maybe all that “one more time” photo riding was just the ticket for race prep… I guess it was, I felt great. Rode at the front with Barry Wicks, Geoff Kabush and Ricky Federau until it was just Kabush and I. He attacked a bunch, I rode steady, although my totally awesome new prototype XTC Advanced SL hardtail (with a frame weight of under one kilogram) kind of encouraged me to do some attacking too… This tortise and hare routine resulted in him beating me by 30 seconds. Which is about the cumulative time I made up on him over the course of the race by jumping the infamous (for no good reason, as it’s about seven feet) Ditch Gap. So he really beat me by a minute I guess… Carl used his uncanny knack for riding uphill wheelies to get himself back in the race mentally (wheelies are fun) and physically (turns out they’re a good back stretch) by riding a 500 yard doozie of one up the ENTIRE paved climb, passing three confused riders in the process. 11th on the day for his efforts.
Saturday night it RAINED! Wow. Rain in LA. Surprisingly it didn’t do jack to knock down the dust at Southridge Park. No matter, we can race in the dust, it’s almost welcome after a cold, wet winter… Short track was going according to plan for the 4Funners; Carl in the top five solidly, me gradually working in that direction. I caught him just as Ross Schnell kicked an impressively sized rock directly under Carl’s rear wheel, immediately forcing the tire to surrender all of its air pressure. Thanks, Ross… I kept the legacy alive by bridging to the solo leader, Barry Wicks, with a few laps to go. We worked hard to keep Geoff Kabush just off and entered the penultimate turns with time for a little good old-fashioned elbow banging. I had the drive for the pass, but Wicks had the five inches taller advantage going. Shut down… I tried the inside block pass with two turns to go, shut down again. I guess he earned it with the solo move anyway…
An hour later we did the same EXACT thing in the Super D, which finished on the same stretch. Hilarious. And maybe a bit pathetic on my part for not closing the deal… I kind of liked the sound of the “Triple Deuce” on the weekend anyway… Carl was fourth and Kelli actually closed the deal in her SD with a decisive win.
That’s about it, we’re all happy to have the first weekend under our belt and I’m especially relieved to be feeling surprisingly decent after a winter spent doing some good solid training and some good solid paying the piper in the form of lingering colds...
Next weekend we’re racing NMBS #2 in Phoenix, on some good and proper desert singletrack. Should be entertaining…


Doo Wops Rally

It’s been a while since we over here at Adam and Carl’s Fun Giant Team have filled your inbox with some drivel and, if you’re lucky, a photo. Hopefully this means that you’ll actually read this one. It’s kind of an ace in the whole though. It’s about Rally Racing. Everyone loves rallying, right? That’s because it’s awesome. To quote a bumper sticker spotted at Tech on Friday night “Real Cars, Real Roads, Real Fast”. Sounds like a good time, right? It is. Especially when it’s, for some unlikely reason, sixty degrees and sunny all weekend on the Olympic Peninsula of Western Waashington. The Doo Wop Rally ceebrated it’s twentieth anniversary with this edition. Race director Ray Dimisho, a sprightly eighty years old, has put on the race every year since it’s inception in 1988. He also happened to co-drive for John Lane in his fire breathing 500 horsepower Volvo, which happened be the Series wining combination. Ray, with his hundreds of times over the weekend’s stages, probably had a bit more information to give his driver that I did. Since the Doo Wop is a down-home event with a very reasonable $300 entry fee, they only provide a “Route Book” to make it though the stages. This book provides directions to the individual stages as well as outlining intersections and hazards on stage. It is NOT a play-by-play descriptor. That would be what we call “Pace Notes” which are strictly prohibited at this event, keeping a simple, level playing field. This meant that other than calling out hazards and keeping Carl on route between stages I pretty much sat in the passenger seat and enjoyed the badass driving that was going on.
It didn’t go on for very long though. The Wheels of Teal is settling into a somewhat concerning pattern of first stage brake failure. For about a mile I was observing quietly, with growing concern, the manner with which Carl was frantically pumping the stop pedal. This pumping of the brake didn’t seem to be producing any type of slowing sensations, which made me read instructions like “Double Caution, road drops left over crest, esposure right” with increasing concern and volume. Carl eventually confessed that we had no brakes. Just as we crested a rise at about 90mph and were greeted with our neighbors and competitors stranded in the middle of the road in their Sentra. We both went for the horn and somehow squeezed by, rocks audibly ricocheting off from their car. Awesome. We made it through the next few miles of stage (not very) gingerly and limped back to service, which happened to be right on the beach in the little Indian village of Taholah. Nice. Fortunately, our crack automotive diagnostic skills identified the problem immediately from the puddle of “Super Blue” brake fluid dripping onto our service area floor (tarp). A new line was dug out of the spares pile and we had things fixed up in fifteen minutes flat. Perfect. Now back to going 100 on one lane roads through giant potholes.
The rest of day one passed without incident, we drove the anemic little Impreza for all it was worth on a bunch of really straight, really fast roads into the setting sun. Ending up 2nd in Group 2 and 9th overall on the firsr (partial) day of racing.
Day two dawned a bit wet but rapidly clearing. The car was clean and ready to go for a change, so we had time to stop at the used car lot and check out a BMW with the help of a curious passing Local Law Enforcement offer on the way to the first stage. That Bimmer would have been markedly better on the Blue Slough road, four miles of Tarmac that we ran twice in a row than the gravel tire shod rally cars that were racing on it. We still had a good time though, some gratuitous ditch hooking and wet pavement drifting for the spectators, always starts the day off right. Up next were two opposing ten-mile loops through the Pico Stage. Tight roads, lots of elevation, lots of sunshine and perfect dirt. We drove pretty quick in between making some tasty sandwiches at service. With the Group 2 ringer, Tom Burress, in his ’77 VW Rabbit getting towed home with a failed fuel pump, we were suddenly in a decent battle with Adam Crane in his patchwork Toyota Corolla. Trading stage times by a second or two on each run is always good fun.
The afternoon of rallying kicked off with the classic Brooklyn West Stage. Seven miles of mainline logging road that’s been called one of the greatest rally stages in the U.S. Turns out it is. Two lanes wide, perfectly graded and with perfect camber. Now if we only had enough power in the little WoT to make it up the hills with conviction and actually need to be concerned about the cautions and “tightening” turns… Another good stage time nonetheless, thanks to Carl’s aggressive downhill attack style… He is the NMBS Super D series champ, after all… An out and back on the extremely open, extremely fast Smith Creek Stage, which found us shifting from fifth back into fourth even on the downhills to keep the WoT making the most noise possible, brought us back to Brooklyn East as the sun set. Fortunately, we tested out the driving lights before the stage started, then plugged them in correctly so they actually worked. Carl kept it clean as our nemesis for the G2 title spun into the weeds passing the spectator area.
First for the weekend in Group 2 and 7th overall. Not too shabby for having one of the lowest top speeds of the field… We both agree, a new engine with more oomph is imperative before any more rally racing happens. My how skills develop and needs change. It’s a slippery slope that I’m sure will get expensive quick… So if any of you know someone who wants to sponsor a pretty fun Rally Team, let us know.

Let’s see here, it’s been a while since we’ve done an update about anything, it being the “off season” and all. Here’s a few things that have been going on.

Carl has been skiing a bunch, and went on an anti-winter vacation to Hawaii.

My anti-winter training vacation to Northern California was a bit of a bust, I still got snowed on… But I did ride a bunch, so hopefully I’m in shape.

Before that, there was lots of skiing, some dirt bike riding, some relaxing, usual winter stuff.

We’ve got a few weeks left to get in shape before the season kicks off with NMBS #1 in California, then it’s down to Venezuela for me to contest the Pan Am Championships. Then back home for a week before heading to Europe for about ten weeks of world cup racing and such. Olympic selection stuff. If I ride fast, I make the team.

Carl is going to hold down the fort over here on the domestic racing front. And do some more car racing. Sweet.



SSCXWC07
Carl and I like to ride bikes with one gear sometimes. It is good, simple, clean, fun. There are a bunch of reasons it isfun, it is quiet, you are always in the right gear, you can do your best BMX bike impression out of every turn, you just have to lube the chain and pump up the tires once in a while, it is the original, simple, bicycle with a few modern twists. We also kind of, in a weird way, cherish those evenings in the garage with the bag o chains and a stack of chainrings and cogs trying to figure out the magic gear which allows us to run our normal, vertical dropout, quick release compatible, light, simple frames. In this case it is our TCX cross bike. I found the magic gear (39x16 with an eight-speed half link in a 1.3mm stretched nine-speed chain) the day before this particular race, rode it to the bank and pronounced it good to go. Carl found a different gear (38x16, sorta roached chain) an uncharacteristic three days before the event.
Unfortunately, while trying to fly the team giant keeping it real flag in the Saturday Time Trial qualifier, he broke his chain. Shocker. Fortunately, while he was trying, amongst about 175 entrants, to secure a start spot for the Grande Boucle on Sunday, I was test riding a works KTM Supermotard in Bend and going for a luxurious sunset singletrack ride. Only having a few days at home between Right Coast trips I needed all the time I could get at my house. Thanks for holding it down, Carl, and by holding it down I mean running most of a lap and qualifying 68th.
Luckily for me, the Portland Singlespeed Collective, the group promoting the event at Estacada Timber Park in conjunction with one of the Cross Crusade races, was generous enough to let me sing some karaoke (Britney Spears has never sounded so bad) before the race, after showing them my SSWC (MTB) tattoo to gain an honorary late entry for the big showdown.
And a showdown it was. We were all pulling for our local bend boy, Tim Jones to win the rainbow speedo and (unoriginal) tattoo. Tim Jones was even the one who tipped Carl and I off to the existence of a Tequila Shortcut somewhere on the course. When the kingpin of Northwest Cross predictably instructed the carefully called up 100 racers to turn around moments before the start, resulting in an inverted field with Carl, Wicks, Ryan, Tim Jones and myself at the back, we knew the shortcut would be key. Little did we know it would turn into the theme of the race.
Some entertaining passing got the party started, good natured heckling mixed in to smooth things over, but we quickly grew tired of cutting people off and telling them how much better we were. The obvious solution was already floating around in Carls brain somewhere. Tequila shortcut. I thought we were simply passing a dozen dudes around the outside of an off-camber corner, usual stuff, when we ducked into the crowd and were immediately handed some questionably shaded agave nectar. A shot and a shudder later and we were on our way, suddenly winning. Sweet. But then Ryan and Barry, being all in shape and all, caught up to our jumping, skidding, kind of riding slow ways. Another shortcut, another shot, and we were winning again. Then Wicks retaliated with a non-tequila shortcut. Low brow for sure. Suddenly he was winning. We roosted some corners and caught up, agreeing that we would all start taking only sanctioned shortcuts. Or making them up, with a twist. After another shot for everyone things were getting a bit loose, I decided to counter Barrys cutting with the first ever picnic table cut. I figured if I cut the course but jumped a picnic table that would be kosher. Winning again. The winning was short lived, I had to make a pit stop to rinse the beer out of my eyes from a rowdy spectator spraying incident. At this point we all regrouped and started talking about who would win, because nobody particularly wanted a tattoo. Proposals were the rock, paper scissors, lost by Ryan, so he would have to win. Then he proposed a sumo wrestling match and whoever got pushed across the line would obviously win. Then we decided we would unhook our brakes on the last lap and whoever lived would win. All good ideas but no concrete decision was made, other than that by Carl, who removed himself from the race to go back to his car and get some spicy pork rinds, I guess he just could not wait another minute. Clever. Wicks and I decided to take another shortcut, this time stopping to sit on a park bench and have a rest till Ryan completed the course. By this time it was clear that Tim Jones was not going to catch up and win, so we started riding around, me trying to come up short on root gaps and get a flat tire, guaranteeing a not win situation. No luck. I ended up leading across the final pedestrian bridge crossing, and doing a bit of blocking, just like the track racers, before sprinting down into the final turn, roosting it accidentally and having it look like I would win. Fortunately, a fan was spraying beer in my face and I figured the best way to make it stop was to grab and down the beer. This gave a Wily Wicks the chance to do what we all wanted him to, and knew he would, do - win the inaugural Singlespeed Cyclocross World Chamionship in front of his home crowd. Barry got his start racing cross in portlands wildly popular (there were 990 racers this Sunday at the classic Timber Park event) Cross Crusade, and every person present was stoked to see him win the Golden Speedo. Whether or not they were stoked to see him change into it on the podium is up for debate.

As a post script, Barry had to catch a plane so he could not get tattooed up that night, which is about as much BS as the fact that the CX worlds promoters are copying the MTB guys schtick, which is an eight year running tradition. He is supposedly going to get inked when he comes back to OR for Turkey Day. We will see about that. I am pretty sure the Scots, or the Berliners, or the State College boys, or the Aussies, all of whom have recently administered same-day Tattoos to those who had them due. Including me.

Oh, and they had podium girls. If you want to see photos, look around on the internet. You might find some. Or you might (hopefully) not.

And, it was a really nice day, even by Portland fall standards

CrossVegas, No Rallying, Thrillah, Maestro, Cross Crusade, etc…

Since I have been at home and thoroughly distracted from my responsibilities as a storyteller/blogger/reporter, lets take a few moments to catch up on the last couple weeks. (Now I’m actually away from home again, read on…)
First of all, it’s snowing in Oregon. Dang it. That means all my high-country singletrack missions are getting shut down. And it’s wintry cold all the time. But it does mean it’s raining in the valley and I can start going boating over there on some proper runs. I’ve gotta get these spindly arms in shape for the Green River Narrows race next month, after all…
We’ve gotta stay on track though. Tip of the story: Don’t go to China. If you do, definitely don’t fly home to anything important that you need to do. Because, if you’re like me, you’ll need at least three or four days in the bathroom to cleanse your system of whatever it is you catch over there as a soft, sissy westerner. This sissy westerner had just enough time to come down with some kind of flu/intestinal issues combo before heading to Las Vegas for Interbike. I was actually fired up for Interbike this year, an afternoon of riding good trails at Dirt Demo, a day and a half at the show proper, split by the inaugural CrossVegas cyclocross race on Wednesday night, then out on Thursday afternoon to make it back to Oregon in time for the Wild West Rally Race that weekend.
First thing to fall was the riding at demo. Too much time in the port-a-john… Next was the race. After a five-mile warmup on the three lanes each way, absolutely terrifying boulevard out to the race, I went to the port-a. Pre-rode a lap, then back in for another pit stop. The event was a huge success before the racing even started, thousands of spectators, huge fields of Elite Men and Women, a cool course under stadium lights and a packed beer garden. I was glad to be a part of it regardless.
Fortunately, our girl Kelli held things down in the women’s race, riding aggressively on the front of the chase group the entire race before getting out-sprinted by Alison Sydor for the fifth and final spot on the podium. It was great to see her riding with the strength we all know she has. Unfortunately, seventy women racing for 45 minutes did absolutely nothing to pack down the turf grass we would be racing through shortly after their finish… Thanks for nothing, ladies…
Our race started as fast and furious as you would expect with an internationally acclaimed field blasting off the line. I immediately took a knee and watched Carl ride away as I groveled mid-pack. Eventually I started feeling better, working out the port-a warmup, and caught back up with Carl. We worked toward the chase group, trying to put on a respectable show of bunnyhopping and cornering for the Giant Employees in attendance. Then, just as I was getting tired of riding hard, I smashed into a sprinkler head. I assumed I had flatted, and, when I hadn’t, expressed my disappointment to Carl before soldiering on. What a relief when, a lap later, I noticed a slow leak. Finally, I could slow down, start picking up the cash being thrown on the course, accepting pizza and beer feeds from revelers and generally having a good time. Tom was in the pits with a spare wheel, but by the time I had gotten there I realized how much money and K.I.R. points were to be had by riding around accepting various donations. I made $43 cold hard cash and didn’t finish hungry, or thirsty. I did have to go the port-a again though… Carl’s earning paled in comparison at $13, but then again, he didn’t completely give up on racing to focus on his earnings. Although, just as, on the last lap, I was noticing that someone had laid tire tracks up all six uphill barriers, a rowdy fan shouted in my face “Don’t be such a nancy, your teammate just rode this shit!” Carl is the man.
I appreciate what interbike does for the team, the sponsors, Giant, and networking in general, but I’m still always looking for an excuse to spend as little time in Las Vegas (the armpit of the universe) as possible. This year we had the coup de gras of excuses. We had a Rally Car Race to get to in Washington State. With our win in Group 2 at the Olmpus Rally this spring, we earned a free entry to the Wild West Rally, to be held in the far southeastern corner of WA, Parsons to be exact. New roads and another chance to race and have a good time had us fired up to get back into it. Just one thing. At Olympus, in MAY, the input shaft bearing in the transmission started making a bit of a racket. It held together, but Carl figured it’d be a good thing to get fixed over the summer. He dropped it off at Transmart about three months ago for the routine fix. Carl, being a nice, upfront guy who assumes everyone else has the same approach, told the guy no hurry, he’d be out of town for a few. Well, turns out he should have been more demanding. Our noontime Friday departure rolled around (three MONTHS later) and we were standing at the tranny shop watching two guys feverishly reinstall the hastily (over the course of THREE MONTHS) repaired transmission. Carl proposed we just drop it off the rack directly onto the trailer but Ed and I insisted it be at least driven around the block before we towed it seven hours. Good thing. The wheels of teal only made it half-way… Some bad noises preceded the car being stuck in fourth. Buddy came out, kicked the tires, proclaimed it not to be his faulty repair, noted that Carl was about to punch someone in the face for the first time, and left us in peace. The new transmission shop we limped it to diagnosed the problem immediately. In addition to improperly installing the replacement bearing, homeboy had forgotten to fill the tranny with OIL! Wow. I guess we really rushed him. Poor guy only had THREE MONTHS to get it filled with oil… Instead of racing, I went home and took a nap, then went boating. Not so bad, but a bit of a let-down still…
The next weekend I attended the kick-off of Giant’s Ride Maestro demo tour in sunny Boulder, Colorado. We had about sixty dealers show up to learn about our revamped line of Maestro Suspension bikes, then ride said bikes around some pretty fun trails. Turns out the International Mountain Biking Association was having a ribbon cutting ceremony on the newly finished Wild Turkey Trail at Heil Ranch, where our event happened to be held. Perfect, we got to ride sweet new trail and, as a bonus, I got to run into Peter Webber, a fellow Mainer and one of the first real Pros I got to chase around at the Carrabassett Valley Challenge. Pete promptly gave me a tour of the new loop and a brief education on the improving access situation around Boulder.
Now, back to rally racing. There was one more event in the Northwest Regional Series. The classic Mount Hood Rally. This was where we really got the racing wheels turning last fall over the course of a day as spectators, after which we realized this was something we needed to get into… But, the transmission… Unable to locate a suitable ’93 2WD Impreza tranny replacement, Carl had the new mechanic order the $900 worth of parts the Transmart guy has destroyed and set about rebuilding the old unit. Every part came on Thursday, except one… It was overnighted, set to arrive Friday morning, so we committed and drove my car up to the Recce (reconnaissance) Course so we could learn how to, and then make our Pace Notes. As we drove around in the hills flanking Mount Hood on a beautiful fall day, Carl calling out what he observed on the road ahead and me marking it down in a spiral bound notebook, shorthand, we kind of forgot about the phone call we never got saying the car was ready, because it wasn’t… And wouldn’t be. Oh well, at least we have some sweet notes of some sweet roads now, might have to go on a camping trip to the Hood region sometime soon, once the car is fixed…

The notes look something like this:

R3 OC into L4>3 100 R5 into R5 OC 50 !BUMP! 100 R3 NC

Which reads something like this:

Right Three Over Crest into Left Four tightens to Three. One Hundred (yard straightaway). Right 5 into right 5 over crest. Fifty. Caution: Bump. One Hundred. Right Three Don’t Cut.

We’d drive this in about twenty seconds. It happens FAST! Our notes were about a page per mile of stage. One stage was twelve miles. I had writer’s cramp, but definitely not writer’s block… And Carl was sweating. Should that make me nervous?
After we made our notes for a stage, we would turn around and drive the stage (following the Recce speed limit of 30mph) with me calling out the notes as if we were racing and Carl dictating any recommended adjustments. It was pretty awesome to learn the process, although applying it would have been great too…

Let’s see, the update I sent out from Carl the other day covers the ‘Cross Crusade race we did in Portland the other weekend after not racing cars, and talked about all the rally racing stuff I just did, plus some other random stories. I’m not sure if I’ve got any random roommate anecdotes, although my new one, Alexandra Victoria Lawson Chapman (an old friend from high school in Maine) will commence producing very noteworthy, although sometimes unrepeatable, comments as soon as I return to Chardonnay Lane…

In the meantime, check out these websites for things like an interview Carl and I did at Interbike, a Cyclingnews article from last week and the ubiquitous Thule Roadtrip Blog, which is about to get very interesting chronicling the last two weeks spent driving around the east coast doing a variety of things, Giant Ride Maestro Demos, Cyclocross racing, sweet mountain biking, Downriver kayak racing, more driving around, etc… Check it out...

Interview:
http://www.brightcove.tv/title.jsp?title=1213841069

http://thuleroadtrip.blogspot.com/

http://www.cyclingnews.com/mtb.php?id=riders/2007/interviews/adam_craig07

Team Giant AC/CD Update
Carl is much less wordy than I, and I haven't finished my little update quite yet, so here's what we've been up to. Maybe I'll finish mine sometime. It just keeps getting longer as more random stuff happens...
AC

Looking out over half of a burrito and a backyard full of snow, I figured I'd catch you all up on the Giant Team 4 Fun's fall.

Upon our return from Las Vegas and "Cross Vegas" Adam and I packed up the truck and the trailer and the cooler for a Rally race in Washington. When we picked up my car from the (shady) transmission shop (it had been there for 3 months), I took the racecar (pallindrome) for a drive around the block. I made it about 300 yards before the transmission blew up. Adam, Ed (our master mechanic/masseuse) and I spent the rest of the day unpacking our stuff. I did this while thinking how lucky that transmission guy is that I'm a bike racer and not a Ultimate Fighting Champion or an arsonist.

We limped the car to another transmission place. "TransFix" sounds way better than "TransMart" so we had high hopes of running the Mt Hood rally 14 days later. AC and I drove up to Hood River and did the Recce (pre-driving and making notes of all the corners) for the race in hope that the transmission fairy would have our car done by that friday as planned. Nope. Stupid fairy. At least we got to check out the DaKine offices in Hood River. With a bunch of new ass-kickin gloves and some hoodies, we were at least ready for winter, if not a rally race. We ended up still winning the Northwest Group 2 and 2WD championships this year, even without those races, but those roads sure looked like fun.

Last week I got a new roommate to replace the theiving lame-o that I had kicked out the week before that. Jeff Dengle is a bright guy and no stranger to the bike world. His second night here we were talking over a couple beers and he told me of a quote that had left a lasting impression on him. He reminded me of a trip In 2001, when the two of us had gone to a bike race together and were stuck in traffic half way there. The holdup was due to people trying to turn in to the local church that sunday morning. Jeff jokingly said "maybe we should just go to church instead." And I replied "Jeff, we ARE going to church."

The last two weekends were the first two races of the largest Cyclocross race series in this hemisphere (the world?). Every Sunday, for six weeks in the fall, NW bike cult members of every denomination show up for the "Cross Crusade". The brainwashing of these racers is so complete that they complain about the weather not being BAD enough for 'cross. Even though it was a pleasant day at the first event and not even miserable, 1000 people tithed 20 dollars and took part in the race. There were about 80 singlespeeders. There were perhaps 300 women. There were 8 unicycles. Every person there for the fun and the misery of cyclocross. No awards presentation, no prizes, no worries. I'm doing all of them this year.

The first race I drove my newly resurrected (non-rallycar) Subaru over to the Alpenrose Dairy. Raced my bike. Didn't get muddy. Third place behind a couple of Portland legends. None too shabby. Then I had my car towed home when it stranded us near Sandy. Thanks for picking me up, Damien. Oh, and it stranded us because it was out of gas. But the gauge said 1/2 full! I swear on the grave of my grandfather it did. Really.

Second race was at the hippie amphitheater/trout fishing commune of Horning's Hideout. Steep trails and perfect dirt made for a great ride, as usual. Being on a five minute course with 250 other people makes for some fun passing. AC passed more people than I did though. We had the Giant one-two punch. And then some homemade recovery biscotti from our car-mate Vega.

Now AC's off to do some Maestro Suspension demo tour stuff and some CX racing on the east coast. I'll hold down the fort here, with a couple of new proto-Giant bikes that need riding and the weekend Crusade over the pass to keep me busy. Oh, and beer drinking too.

That's the news
Carl
Adam n' Carl's Team 4 Fun

Team Giant Report, "Good Luck Beijing" Olympic Test Event
As part of the Chinese Olympic Committee’s preparations for the 2008 summer games, they have been conducting a series of test events at the Olympic venues dubbed the “Good Luck Beijing” invitational events. We were lucky enough to get in invited to the Good Luck Mountain Bike event held on the Laoshan MTB course. USA Cycling used the 2008 selection criteria to select the top three men and top two women in the current World Cup series ranking to attend the event. Turned out it was an awesome group of people, Todd Wells, Jeremy Horgan Kobelski, Georgia Gould and Willow Koerber. The MTB national program director, Matt Cramer and our trusty mechanic TJ Grove accompanied us as well. The plan was to get in some time on the course, use some SRM powermeters to acquire course data and get in some good old-fashioned racing on the track. Fortunately, with such a happy-go-lucky group, and it being the end of the serious season, we also ended up doing a bunch of random other stuff around Beijing, getting in all kinds of culture.
The amount of propaganda we’ve been getting on the games is pretty interesting. On the bright side, China is bragging that all of the venues are complete and ready to go a year before the games. This was spot-on for the Laoshan MTB venue for sure. Everything was polished and ready to go, down to the PA system directing spectators around the site with recordings and the security screenings to enter the venue. Now, on the negative side, we have the air and the traffic. Chinese officials have been taking cars off the road and shutting down factories in attempts to clear the air in the city of 15 million. But they’re not stopping at that, an ambitious cloud-seeding program has been implemented to turn any cloudcover into immediate rain showers, knocking particulate matter to the ground. We were fortunate enough to land the day after it “rained” and the skies were pretty clear. I thought to myself that anyone in LA had to business talking down on Beijing’s air quality. Little did I know what was in store… Turns out it’s a cycle, rain, then increasing pollution for about ten days, then more rain. The fifth day in happened to be when we raced. It was HORRIBLE!
I don’t drop out of races in my backyard, let alone ones I fly to the other side of the world for, and am fired up to learn from. But I did this one. I had no option. After two laps (about 25min) of riding very comfortably with the lead group up and down the short, STEEP pitches of Lashan Mountain (the term mountain used very loosely, it’s about 40m tall…) and thinking I could probably attack whenever I wanted and win for a while, my lungs stopped working. It started with a routine deep breath on a descent to recover a bit, which produced a sharp pain and fit of hacking, then progressed rapidly to a state where I was unable to take more than ¼ of a breath, even that producing coughing, hacking, spitting up all sorts of gross stuff and feeling nauseous and kind of scared… It was awesome. Nino Schurter of Switzerland was experiencing the same thing in the lead group, so we slowed down, hit some jumps and chatted, thinking we’d recover and be able to continue. No dice. Ten minutes later I was sitting in the athlete’s lounge with gosebumps and muscle cramps, trying to take a breath and make it stop. Crazy. I felt pretty horrible for all of the volunteers and organizers who gave us the opportunity to check out the course, and I’m sure were hoping for a good show in return. Eight riders ended up finishing, lap times falling from twelve minutes per to fifteen by the end. But hey, now we know, and can figure out how to deal with it for next year (hopefully).
Now, on to the fun cultural stuff. Todd McKean of Trek China set us up with a translator (Kye, one of his trek employees) and vehicle to get around in during our stay, which proved absolutely invaluable. We could go downtown to Tien ‘anmen square and check out all kinks of history, get out to awesome dinners, stop by the silk shop and get fitted for custom tailored suits, etc. Todd, Willow and Georgia even went out to the Great Wall the afternoon Jeremy and I spent doing an awesome urban assault ride downtown to have a secondary suit fitting. All in all, we had a good time learning about the course and the country in one fell swoop. Thanks to China Todd and USA Cycling for making it happen. Now we just have to earn the privilege to go back next August, when it’s gonna be hotter and supposedly the air is going to be workable. If anyone can make it happen, it’s the Chinesse.

Team Giant Report, World Cup Finals, Slovenia
Ten Reasons Why World Cup Finals in Maribor, Slovenia, kicked ass:

1. Um, we saw a Hedgehog. Enough said.

2. Just before the hedgehog sighting we had paused for a few minutes, in a deserted parking lot, to polish our Rally Car flat tire speed-change techniques on the minivan. Just driving along… Good practice though…

3. Looks like this is going to end up being a reverse chronological list. Preceding the tire-change we actually hung out after the XC race and watched the MountainCross race from the comfort of a bench in front of Mike and Mary’s RV. Their RV was strategically placed where the racers had to exit stage left and catch the shuttle back to the top, giving us ample opportunity to pass off the Gentleman Jack (Daniels) I had won as part of the SSWC spoils. You’d be surprised how many strangers took pulls before heading up for another run over massive gap jumps lit by floodlights… Sometimes being a sissy XC racer is really disappointing… Even more so when none of us had bucked up, four hours earlier, sober, in broad daylight, and jumped the teeny step-up on the MX course we traversed. Someday…

4. Oh, the XC race. Right. Cool track, woodsy and raw. Annoying to preride due to lack of direction and flow but pretty entertaining to do the big ring challenge on whilst racing and conserving every ounce of momentum everywhere. Unfortunately, I waited till lap three, which is about one lap after Carl pulled the plug, still suffering from the black lung, to actually start racing and picking off guys who can’t ride weird contrived trails. Worked up to 12th by the end, with decreasing, instead of the typically increasing, lap times. I’ll take it. Kelli somehow got in a huge pileup on the UPHILL ROAD start and went into the woods about last. She worked up to 38th. Good work.

5. The weather was PERFECT all week. Unheard of for World Cup Finals. We’ll take 10 minutes of hail on Tuesday to keep us honest, and make more time for lunch…

6. There is a Mexican restaurant in Maribor. Just what you need in the middle of a big ‘round the world racing push, some tortillas and salsa. It was even good. And I totally put the extra tortillas in my pocket for breakfast burritos…

7. We could actually make breakfast burritos because our sweet apartment perched atop “Pohorje” had a workable kitchen, although the juxtaposition of the best knife set ever (infomercial quality) and the worst can-opener in the universe was a bit strange. We had to bludgen the cans open with butter knives all week. Almost resorted to the Seagull with a Clam technique…

8. Being perched atop the hill meant we started every ride going down. Excellent, even if it means riding XC bikes on classic old World Cup DH courses. And we could take the oldest Gondola in all of Europe home at the end of the day, or night.

9. Tom Neb is my hero. He came to Finals knowing that he had three XC bandits and two Gravity boys, racing both MX and DH, to keep in bikes for the weekend. He never missed a beat, we washed our bikes once and he pretty much took it from there, every bike working perfectly. Solid close to the season, Mr Neb. Hats off to ya.

10. Tip of the weekend: If you’re driving around in the middle of the night looking for the supposed town of Pohorje, you’re going to have to be more specific. You see, “Pohorje” basically means mountain. Which is the name of the whole friggin’ region. Throw in the towel early and call for directions, it’ll save your passengers lots of motion sickness as the rental gets u-turned once again and rallied back down the same switchbacks, again… Amazing roads though. We like Slovenia.

Team Giant Report, Fort William World Champs
The World Champs. A funny weekend. Everyone is racing for one day’s glory, which will then be spread over the course of the next twelve months. You’ve been thinking about it all season and preparing for all of recent memory for one event. And that’s the magic of it all, everyone has their game face on, as best they can. Unfortunately, I don’t even have a game face. Carl might though… I think he wears it in rally car races.
Every year I win a small battle of some type at worlds instead of actually accomplishing what I’ve set out to do, that being riding fast. Two years ago it was knowing that I was 5th when I flatted. Last year it was breaking a component at the start but still turning top 5 lap times and clawing up to 17th. But, more importantly, I felt like I know I can at those two worlds, bad luck is easy to swallow when you are strong and have done your homework anyway. This year the personal victory was small, and a bit of a stretch, but hey, it’s gotta get me through another winter, right?
This year we had a new kind of group success, which was a long time coming, and good to be a part of. The Team Relay is an interesting event, one each of elite, U23 and junior males and one elite female take on a lap each of the course. Usually each team sends it’s Elite or U23 guy out first to light things up and build team morale for the closing legs, where the lady can hopefully hold off the guys chasing her down. We instead went for the inverse, slowest to fastest. (no offense, Georgia, you hauled ass) Ms. Gould came through after the first lap dead last, about 4 minutes down. Our junior, Ethan Gilmour, laid down a solid second lap, catching the lone chick out on that round. Sam Schultz took over for the third and rode damn fast, high-fiving me in the exchange area in 7th place. I knew there were a couple of girls in front of me, and Cedric Ravanel, France’s elite male took off at the same time. We charged up the climb, me eventually gapping him over the top and doing my best BMX impression on the newly contstructed downhill. (A moment here to juxtapose the new and old “Witch’s Trail” XC course. The old one was raw and awesome mountain biking. The new one is a glorified bike path/BMX track hybrid. One line, berm after berm. Fun to ride, frustrating to race on due to lack of passing and lack of character challenges.) I first caught a Russian, followed for a few, eventually overtook. Then I caught the British lady. Same, follow for a bit, overtake. The last few women were a bit easier to get by. About 1k from the finish, someone shouted that I was about to get a bronze medal. Sweet. We used the come from behind tactic to get third, only a minute off the win. Our boy Sam had the fastest 3rd lap and I had the fastest 4th, and overall, lap. Looks like we’re set up, now we just need to keep the gang together for next year. Which is impossible due to Sam and Ethan graduating their respective age groups. Ah, we’ll make it happen somehow.
Sometimes roommates at national team events are able to establish a good bond that boosts them through the week of hanging out and carries on into the competition itself. Kelli ended up rooming with Lea Davison, who immediately proposed a trip to the Isle of Mull on one of the down days. Kelli and Carl signed up while I stayed home to “rest” or whatever… Their bond was forged over the course of an afternoon including a massive Kebab/burrito lunch, ferry boat ride, castle and coastline exploring by bike and finding their way home. Fortunately, the roommates had a common interest in the Elite Women’s race as well, that being starting last and passing as many girls as possible. They linked up at the start and rode forward all day, finishing 25th and 26th after starting in the 70’s… The little Russian girl, Irina Kalentieva, took the stripes. This being Lea’s first Elite worlds, maybe she’ll be that little girl someday.
Speaking of starting at the back, Carl and Barry actually got to watch the race start on the jumbotron from their perch in the 90’s, then they counted to ten, then started. Unfortunately, the camera panned away just as I slipped my pedal on the second row and blew my good position before even getting rolling. Lagging legs took me up the first climb in the 30’s and the course’s lack of passing snowballed my lacsidasical approach. By the second lap I was moving, but not in the usual charging style I’m accustomed to. It took Christoph Sauser coming out of the pits on my wheel starting the 3rd lap to get me motivated. I’d been feeling bad about making fun of his home life a while back (as quoted, in print) so I figured I’d try to help him get back in the mix and hopefully get myself in there as a bonus. Turns out, after turning the fastest third lap time of everyone, I dropped Sauser off at the back of the top 10 group and promptly grenaded. Whoops. Falling back to 22nd over the last three laps wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, but at least I got to ride with cyclocross legend Sven Nys until he dropped me. The jumbotron duo (also West End Hotel roommates) of Barry and Carl had interesting days. Carl’s mid-race assessment birthed his goal to finish 69th, something he knew he’d have to fight a battle of wits to accomplish… Carl’s a clever guy though, and played his cards exactly right to come in the magic number. Well played. Barry somehow turned his shift lever into a scalpel during a low speed crash and opened a wound in his knee of impressive stature. It required 5 STAPLES after he finished the race on it. Oh yeah, on my last time up the climb, I saw the lead moto followed by the French skinsuit of Julien Abalon tucking down the final descent for the win. Four in a row. Impressive. My perpetual barometer, Florian Vogel, was third. See, I knew I could do it… Someday…
Till then, we woke up at 5am this morning and are currently burning a long layover in the Manchester airport business lounge (eating peanuts and cheese) on our way to Slovenia for the World Cup Finals. We’ll see how it goes, Elke says it’s like Quebec…

Team Giant Report, Singlespeed World Champioships, Scotland.
It’s always a good idea to get to Europe a week before the World Champs and do a bit of racing to sort yourself out on the time schedule and get the body movin’. Usually this opener race involves a Swisspower Cup or Bundasliga race or something proper with some UCI points and the guys you’ll be racing against at Worlds the next week. Over here at the Fun Giant Mountain Bike Team, we decided to mix things up a bit this year. Instead of proper racing somewhere on the continent, we took advantage of the fact that the SingleSpeed World Championships was taking place a mere 70 miles up the road from Fort William in Aviemore, Scotland. The fact that we’re always scheming a way to go to SSWC anyway made it an easy choice to pull off our shifters and deraiulers, install the magic gear, grow some inappropriate facial hair and wear goofy-ass clothes while partaking in possibly (probably) the funnest race of the year.
Upon arrival in the Glasgow airport (with all of our stuff, yes!) we immediately ran into Jimbo, organizer of the SSWC ’05 that we attended in State College, PA. He and a his buddy Matt, who had just completed the Paris-Brest-Paris bike tour, were waiting for their bags, which arrived with ours, and were going to take the train to Aviemore. We volunteered the (windowless) back of our Transit van and they ended up sleeping on the couches at our place all weekend. Keeping the bikes of our fellow American bike touring vagrants running in the meantime… Those guys rode up from the airport, as they should have, neglecting to tell us that the knobby tires we brought for them to replace their touring slicks needed to measure 29” in diameter… No worries though, Jimbo had them fixed up with new rubber just as the last singlespeeder rolled out of the Bothy Bikes car park on race morning. Well played.
But let’s back up a bit. Before the seven mile social hour/roll-out to the race site proper on Sunday morning, we spent a couple days enjoying the atypically nice Scottish weather and did some sweet exploring in the Cairngorm Mountains. Good stuff out in them hills for bike riding, complemented by excellent maps, knowledgeable and stoked singlespeed locals and foreigners rolling about. Various activities, mostly centered around drinking and riding, took place throughout the week as folks rolled into town. The highlight was the Saturday evening SSWC ’08 host decider. Our girl Elke represented her homeboys in Durango, CO in the ADD event. First a 500m sprint on a roller bike, then a double shot of local scotch whiskey, then an interpretive dance of a jig. All judged by a panel of experts and their peers… It came down to a tiebreaker between Napa, CA and D-Town. Cali won. Boo. I hate poison oak.
Sunday morning came soon enough and we all kitted up (I use that phrase loosely…) and rolled on down to Bothy Bikes for the formal rollout. It was pretty sweet to have a seven mile cruise through the Rothiemurchus State Forest on nice gravel paths through the forest and moors before finding out exactly where the secret race location was, wondering how cool it was. Turns out it was one of the coolest race courses I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding around. After, of course, we ran down a forest track and around the “Auld Man of the Woods”, one very scantily clad Dr. Jon (event organizer) and back to our bikes, wherever they were. (mine ended up hung from a tree about 50 yards up in the woods from where I left it…) After catching a very obvious (and hauling ass on her pink chain) Kelli Emmett at the top of the first climb (I ran really slow) and moving on through the throngs, I eventually saw a classic red Scottish kilt flowing through the woods, Carl. We posse’d up with Travis Brown and rode around for a couple laps, marveling in the amazingly perfect pitched climbs and all-time great black dirt singletrack descents. It was amazingly perfect. Sunny skies to boot. After a mid-race snack of Hob-Nob’s (nobbly, oaty, honey biscuits), I decided to ride really fast for a bit. Carl and Travis faded back, so I figured I’d stop at the impromptu beer garden to avoid heckling and get a beverage. They caught up, I rode fast, we had fun. Another gap opened, another garden stop happened, etc. Starting the last lap I made a pit-stop at the finish line for a beverage, which I handily stuck in my denim vest pocket just before hitting a rock at about 25mph and pile-driving myself on a gravel road descent. Oops. That’s an impressive amount of blood on my arms. Denim kept the rest of me safe and sound though. Should have gone for the jacket… 20 minutes of wondering if I should wait for Carl so he got Tattooed later I crossed the finish line victorious. Carl arrived just in time to see me getting stern directions from Marty as to where and when to show up for my tattooing… He did, to his credit, say at the start (before pounding a beer), “if you don’t want the tattoo, don’t win!” A few minutes later an impressively fast riding (with a 2:1 gear, she really didn’t have a choice) Kelli appeared in her red “onesie” to take the women’s honors… Which meant I’d have someone to commiserate about sore skin with…
An hour later we were sitting in a small flat down by the tracks with a tattoo artist from Glasgow who had some options for us. Unfortunately, by far the coolest one was also by far the biggest one… We figured it’s a life-long thing, so we bucked up. Two hours later each and we had matching his and hers SSWC logos on our asses. Kelli’s a bit lower than mine… A fine weekend of World’s prep indeed…

If you want to see photos, www.singletrackworld.com

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