Archive for December, 2007

There have been a bunch of apologists regarding the US men not named Page and their lackluster results at the Hofstade World Cup. Sure, that was the first race off the plane, Trebon has lingering back pain after the crash at Nationals, etc. I’d just like to point out that Sue Butler and Wendy Williams scored a 17th and 24th respectively and both finished comfortably on the lead lap. How is it that the men have such trouble making the transition but our women show up and peform?

Shoot, it begs the question as to where our cylclocross development dollars ought to be going, doesn’t it?

Many of you may have seen the results of the Hofstade WC. Powers, Johnson, Trebon all one lap down. Ouch. Today I’ve got some reflections on that race made by an American who has raced it the past four years. This year he’s sitting at home with a new son. Without further ado, here’s Erik Tonkin’s thoughts on the race.

You may know this already, but top-30 in a men’s World Cup is automatic discretionary selection to the our country’s World Championship team. (Or at least it was, as I did not petition for Worlds this year and, thusly, paid not attention to details.) USA Cycling really nailed that criterium, given that as long as I can remember, only three, including Page and Trebon, have placed top-30. (I’m not sure about pre-2003 results.) I managed to become only the third, placing 25th at last year’s finals, a uniquely horrendous day indeed. (I was already named to the team, so the result was meaningful only for curiosity’s sake. Also, I have to thank the weahter for making it all possible: only the stupid survived.)

I though for sure the modest record would be matched today, by Powers and, especially, Johnson. I guess it really is harder than it looks. Just think: Powers, in all his tries, has never done it; ditto, Wicks and a host of others, from Baker to Jacques-Maynes to Stewart to Wells, etc.; and now even Johnson.

I shouldn’t leave the ladies out of the discussion. The equivalent result for women is top-15. While the men’s WC series is hot all season long, the women’s really heats up right about now. Early women’s WCs sometimes see very small fields. In fact, at one last year only 15 women started, and Christine Vardaros placed 14th. She was then automatically on the short list for world’s, a proverbial wrench thrown into the selection process for the rest of the women’s team. Nevertheless, outside of that fluke result, it’s been rare for a rider other than Compton to place in the top-15.

For Sue Butler and Wendy Simms (Canada) to place in the top-20 at Hofstade only two minutes and five down is exceptional. That was a real WC. I’d say it’s the best result either have ever had on a ‘cross bike. For Sue, whether she knows it or not, it was her best race on any kind of bike, ever. The course, its setting, the time of year, the crowd, and the competition make it–seriously–bigger than any ‘cross other than a World Championship held in Belgium, like last year at Hooglede-Gits. (That was something–it was kinda freaky.) Worlds in Italy this year will pale in comparison. In fact, Friday’s GVA series ‘cross at Loenhout–”Azencross”–will exceed this year’s worlds in nearly every way.

But back to the men. I’m so disappointed in how the top US riders not named Page performed. I honestly can’t believe it. All of them have Euro ‘cross experience, so they should know better! Yes, their results underscore how different the sport is over there. It explains why top US riders will, in all seriousness, fear whether or not they can beat somebody like me in Belgium even though they wail on me all season at home.

And they’re right to worry: had I been there, it would have been more salt in the wound. They would have been one rider further back. I don’t mean to sound immodest. I mean, hell, to finish in the top-30 is a rather modest goal. But you have to race with a complete lack of modesty–the total lack of care and regard, the absence of ambivalence–to meet the goal. You need total commitment to achieve so simple and small a goal. And I don’t have a problem giving my all for what seems so very little.

Yes, I am sitting in a comfy chair at home right now. Some of what I have to say is thanks to bitterness boiled over: I’m envious that they’re there while I’m here. And I can’t fairly judge what it was like at Hofstade today. Still, I’ve been there four times, and I think I can say my record stands for itself. And I’m the one who made it publicly clear that I’d like to see the US field her best 5 in Europe, even if I’m not one of ‘em. Well, four of ‘em are there now. I always thought of myself as the spare tire that gets the job done until the real wheel gets fixed. Maybe the spare ain’t broke, and we shouldn’t fix it.

What’s the opposite of modesty? Is it arrogance? Cockiness? I suppose I’m now guilty or, at least, flirting with it! But what’s truly cocky is not trying hard. Hell, that’s what I do at Cross Crusade events, so guilty as charged. Trust me: I’m not cocky half-way across the planet. If you’re really good over there, you will still get crushed. And I’m not really good. So, I don’t further disadvantage myself by bringing less than my very own best effort. I’m sorry to call people out, but they’re pros and can and should be able to take it. Pick it up, guys! I know you can do it.

–Erik Tonkin

I’ve got a big time cross hangover. My season ended three weeks ago at the Portland USGP and now it’s all unstructured riding for me. I commuted — just commuted — for a week and a half and then started doing some riding. I’ve left the HRM/speedometer at home. I like riding that way so much, I might keep leaving it a home for a long while.

Then there were all those races in KC to geek out about. I was checking the KC Nationals blog compulsively, like some sort of OCD freak who had to hit the refresh button on the browser or else the heebie jeebies would grab hold. I watched all the video and looked at all the pictures and read all the reports I could. I couldn’t help thinking I was missing something big as I sat at home. The weekend had some great moments and some real low points too. A lot has been made of Page’s comments about being the best rider out there even though he didn’t win. Big deal *yawn*. How about AJM saying that Tillford was sandbagging in the 45-49 race since he won it by almost a minute. I guess it’s okay to race the age groups if you only win by 3 seconds.

Wait a minute. Where was I going? Oh yeah. Some people would like the cross season to be longer. I don’t. I think that three months is about perfect and that the national championships is a pretty good closing date for domestic racing. First, the weather starts to get pretty cold in most of the country by late December and cross isn’t really a winter sport. Sure, some snow once in a while is good for the soul but races scheduled for times of the year almost guaranteed to see temps in the teens and a chance of snow on the ground is just silly. The holidays are also a great time to connect with your family. All you guys are spending a big chunk of the weekend (or practically all the weekend for the dedicated doublers) away from home. C’mon. Go out with your wives. Play with your kids. Have some fun — that’s why you have a family in the first place isn’t it? To spend time with them?

Races have started popping up in August. That’s just wrong. Early September is bad enough but August is rediculous. Yeah, let’s go out and race cyclocross in choking dust and oppressive heat. Who thought that would be a good time? If you really need that, take up mountain bike racing. Just wait till the nights get cool and there’s likely to be a little crispiness in the air before you get started racing cross.

Personally, I like the compressed season. I have plently of time to be family guy and then I race for three months and I’m done. Perfect. I love the late summer as cross season gets closer and the anticipation builds. Everyone starts obsessing about their bikes and whether their form is either going to last or come around. Then the season starts and it’s racing every weekend until the weather gets so crappy that it takes more than an hour at home to clean up bikes and kit.

And then the season is over. Done. Time to think about what to do for next year so you can finally beat those guys you’ve been racing around all season. Time to form trianing plans and consider what new stuff might make you a couple seconds faster. It also gives you some time to take it easy before building up for a road or mountian bike season if you so choose.

The compressed season keeps cross fresh and fun. It makes it possible to race other bike disciplines or keep your family life sane (generally not both). It also gives you plenty of time to figure out how to go faster next year and makes it easier to eveluate whether you managed that trick for the just completed season.

So have a beer and stop on over to procyclocross.com and pick up some Euro race DVDs to watch as you ride the rollers.

From YouTube … I had to watch it a couple times to figure it out since the dude that goes all the way across the oncoming lane isn’t actually involved in the crash. Trebon had a pretty good gap on Johnson at the time.

I read the report on Cyclingnews.com and they make the Trebon crash sound like it was the other rider’s fault. I’ve heard it’s more likely a case of poor course design. Cyclingnews.com says that the rider lost control and went through the course tape. What I’ve heard is that the tape was already broken and many riders were crossing over to use the better line. If the KC crew had separated this section with hurricane fencing or made a buffer zone between the two lanes, then this crash likely wouldn’t have happened.

I’m not getting down on the KC Nationals promoters. I’ve heard they put on a great event under some challenging weather conditions. However, it’s unfortunate that one of the lessons learned had to take out the defending national champion.

The 30-34 race had a very nice showing by the OBRA crowd. Donald Reed (4th) and Molly Cameron (6th) placed in the top ten. Patrick Wilder was comfortably inside the top twenty at 17th and Joel Koester was just outside the top twenty at 21st.

So, given that I caught up to Joel a few times during the season (after starting 90 seconds in arrears), I might have done okay at Nationals. Of course, no one will know since I didn’t sack up and pin on a number out in KC.

Anyway, good going guys!

Check out this video from the 40+B race on Thursday. It’s the first lap in two parts. Check out how well the dude moves up in the field! Plus, you get to see him follow, then pass Oregon’s own Terry Keele (red bike and blue kit) in the second video.

Part 1:
Part 2 (Note Terry K on the splash screen!):

Tim Butler predicted that his wife, Sue, was going to win the 35-39 national champion jersey. And he was right. Congratulations to Sue Butler!

I’m sure you all know that US cyclocross Nationals is going on in KC right now through Sunday. Day one saw the non-national championship races. Our own Terry Keele took 34th and Andy Wilson got 52nd in the 40+B race today. Good going guys and good luck in the age group races. The event coordinators look to be updating the blog and posting results very fast. Kudos for the swift results. Also, Action Images is the official photographer and is supposely going to upload photos within a day or two. However, I thought they were the official photographers for the Portland USGP weekend and I haven’t seen any of those photos on their site and it’s almost been two weeks now.

In other news, I went for a ride yesterday and today. It’s amazing what a week and a half of rest will do. I’m officially wishing I had gone to Nationals.

Since I have been commuting to work, I haven’t been completely off the bike. However, I haven’t really been riding since the USGP. I keep on thinking that I should get back to some easy rides so I don’t get fat (already put on two pounds!) but I haven’t had the gumption. I think today will be the day. I want to get out so that I don’t lose all my fitness since next week I’m heading down to my Florida training camp.

Okay, not really. I’m spending the holidays at my mom’s in Florida and my road bike is already on its way. I’m hoping that some bike shop rides will be happening over the holidays and I can do a couple or four group rides plus some more solo rides. Dunno what the weather is going to be like but I know it’s going to be warmer than here. Once I’m back from Florida, I hope to keep the momentum going and build up a really nice base during the rest of the winter and drop the last few pounds that I didn’t manage before cross season started.

I’m also going to build up a winter rain bike this year. I’ve been using my pit bike for commuting and rain riding. However, this year, I’m going to strip the pit bike and build up an old Trek 760 (circa 1988) with full fenders. I’m in the process of a rattle can paint job to cover all the chips, nicks, and scratches. I’ll be looking forward to riding a bike with road geometry this winter.  My daughter insisted that I paint it green since it’s her favorite color. I picked out a can of metallic green. We’ll see how that looks …