Road Bike Solution

If you follow along on Twitter or Facebook (links over to the right), you have noticed my excited postings yesterday when I had just talked with Chris from Cysco Cycles. Earlier in the year, when I was in the middle of my frame drama with Cannondale, he’d contacted me about building something custom if the Cannondale thing didn’t work out. Fast forward 6 months, and I’m shopping for a frameset and realizing that the frames that have most everything that I want in both geometry, stiffness, and handling characteristics are pretty expensive, and all of them had tiny, nit-picky things about them that I didn’t like (fit not exactly right, BB standard that would mean changing cranks, etc). I was literally laying in bed half asleep, thinking about road bikes, when I remembered the conversation I’d had with Chris, and realized that I could get EXACTLY what I wanted in a custom bike for the same cost as some of the frames I’d been running through my head.

So, late last week,I emailed him, and, over the weekend, we started the planning process. By yesterday (Monday) evening, I had the 3rd draft of a frame…

CAD

As we’ve talked about on Just Riding Along, if you know exactly what you want, the custom process is magical. I’m getting a frame with the exact stack and reach measurements that I like, an oversized downtube & swoopy seatstays (like this one featured in Bike Rumor a while back: Custom Stiff Yet Comfortable Road Frame), oversized chainstays, and a seat mast & raw ti finish like this bike. We’re also throwing around the idea of some extra bottle bosses, but they may be too difficult to squeeze in on such a small frame. If I wanted, I could have full-run housing mounts instead of normal cable stops, but I’m not intent on full-run housing for a road bike like I am for an off-road bike. It’s nice to know that the option is there, though.

Talking with Chris is great, because he sounds almost as enthused as I am, and, as an added bonus, we share feelings on the importance of standover and Chris King components. We’ve got a few more small details to hash out before the final draft & deposit, but it should be a go by the end of the week. I’m excited to not only get exactly the bike I want, but also have the cool factor of supporting a regional small business and having a gorgeous, one-of road bike.

 

 

Cyclocross and Hard Labor

My weekend consisted of about 1.5 hours of riding, but left me sore and tired nonetheless.

Saturday morning, I packed up and drove to nearby Shelby Farms Park to race our newest local cyclocross series- Crossroads Clash. It was fun, though I don’t have much of a report for it- one other local gal showed up, and she’s pretty new to CX, so there wasn’t much of a “Clash” to speak of. She is, however, very enthusiastic and starting out on a steel singlespeed, very much like I did. I concentrated on pacing myself since I tend to go to plaid for the first 10 minutes and then fade. It worked well, and, despite an early washout/chain drop on a greasy turn, I ended up 3rd overall in the “B” race.

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After the race, I watched Ryan, who had a decent go despite his increase in work/decrease in training in the past few months. Matt showed up on his mountain bike with a noise-maker and some dollar bills, and a good time was had by all…

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Afterward, we cleaned up, ate some lunch, and packed up to do a little trail work. Matt and I ended up pruning privet off of the Wolf River Trail for about 3 hours before hiking back to the car. We decided that that the hiking in/out thing was the only bad part about trail work, so Matt devised a solution for our “long haul” on Sunday:

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My original plan for the weekend was to drive to Land Between the Lakes, KY after the CX race for Sunday morning’s Race to the Canal. Unfortunately, a bunch of asshole, sleazebag politicians with only their own self interests in mind screwed that up for everyone. So, Matt had the idea to do hours of trail work equal to the number of hours we would have raced/driven. Ryan, unfortunately, had to leave for a 2-3 week work venture, so he was unable to attend the trail party.

Sunday morning, after large quantities of coffee, eggs, and uncured-organic bacon, Matt and I loaded shovels, bikes, a rake, saw, and loppers then drove out to the Greenline trailhead to ride in and tackle some of the worst mudholes on the Yellow Trail of the Wolf River Trail System. Since the yellow trail is the sandiest and fastest-draining of all the trails nearby, it sees the most abuse in the winter time (when we tend to see more rain & less trail-drying warmth). The places that do hold water have turned in to 10-15ft wide mud pits as trail traffic rides around the outsides of them, continually eroding the edges and making them larger. Trails in many other areas of the U.S. have been shut down for less…

…but here, it’s considered “the usual spots,” and people ride anyway. My stance isn’t popular with a large portion of the MTB community, but it’s one I stand by, given the eyesore that mudholes create and the amount of effort it takes to fix them.

Matt and I used our previously successful “divide and conquer” strategy. We scouted out the high side of the holes then set off into the woods to find an appropriately sized piece of wood to create an “edge” for our dirt. The other side of the hole gets filled with privet clippings and branches in order to close it off and allow the woods to grow back in to the area. We then fill the high size with enough dirt to bring it up to the level of the surrounding trail. The two spots we fixed yesterday took about 5 hours worth of shoveling…

Sorry ahead of time for the lack of before shots, but if you just look for the piles of privet in the shots below, you can see the extent of the holes we filled in.

This one was the deepest, and will require the most upkeep because the hill on one side of the trail drains straight into it. We sunk in a couple of large limbs on that side to act as a water bar and diffuse some of the runoff. If you look at the 1st photo, you’ll see that the hole spans from the left side of the frame to the large tree on the right:

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This second one was as big as the edge of our dirt to the other side of the pile of privet you can see in most of the photos. Our work also included the cleaning off of a conveniently-placed roller on one side…

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Of course, neither one of these fixes is a perfect 12″ wide ribbon of singletrack, but, given the expanse of the existing holes, they’re a step in the right direction. Our prolific spring/summer growing season will take them both in a few inches every year. There are several more almost as bad holes/wide spots very close to those, and each one will likely take a couple hours’ worth of digging and engineering. However, it was a huge step towards getting the yellow trail fortified for the upcoming winter.

 

“The John Daly of…”

Other than some cyclocross intervals in the rain this morning, things have been pretty low-key around the house. I’ve made the executive decision that, while I will race the regional CX stuff this fall/winter, I’m going to focus slightly more on mountain biking- both for fun and for 2014 preparation. The training for Worlds over the last two winters was very good, but, on the other hand, I feel like I missed out on some prime southeastern singletrack adventures in the process. So, it’ll be a year off from serious CX, and I’ll re-evaluate next year when Nationals will be a quick 10 hours away in Austin.

So, in lieu of anything else important, I present to you my favorite timekiller from back when I was in high school and rode horses:
My friends and I would always laugh at one guy who could turn a killer round in the Grand Prix area in spite of how he and his horses were notoriously dumpy and ungroomed, and how he was highly likely drunk at any time of day. I coined the phrase, “The John Daly of Grand Prix.” Since then, I’ve carried the game of  “X is the John Daly of Y” to any and every sport or hobby in which I’ve participated.  Now you can play along at home. Pick your favorite sport, then pick the participant who is most likely to be fat, drunk, and unruly while still kicking everyone ass in the process. Enjoy.

Tennessee Adventure Challenge

I made the “quick” (by my road trip standards) 5.5 hour drive to Knoxville on Friday afternoon. Observation of the drive? Driving in and around Nashville is quickly becoming like driving around Atlanta, except more pretentious and with no good rap music to listen to on the local radio.  I still made pretty good time, though, and I tracked down the race HQ location (literally, tracked it down, because the TNAC website just listed it as “Outdoor Knoxville” and gave this link: http://www.outdoorknoxville.com/) I figured out that it was the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center by looking at the information for the bigger 30-hour Adventure Race Championship that was being held concurrently with the smaller “Challenge” race.

After confirming that it was, indeed where the race would start, I headed over to the Urban Wilderness trails to spin my legs and get a lay of the land. I rode some trails around the Mead’s Quarry area (if you’re inclined to look at the map). It’s a pretty sweet trail system- a good variety of rocky, flowy, and well-built trails. Once I was finished, I found my way over to FullFace Kenny’s parents’ house. They were nice enough to let me stay in their basement (and, by “basement,” I mean, “lowest floor of the house that’s actually the same size as the main floor of my house, but with a lakeside porch/view on the downhill side”). They’re super sweet people, and their dog is adorable.

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Saturday morning, I woke up, packed, and went downtown to get breakfast and hang around ’til start time. When check-in opened, we were given n Urban Wilderness trail map and instructions (which turned out to only show half of the checkpoints, so we received full-sized maps about 10 minutes before the race start).  Map (terrier added for scale… checkpoints- red for land/blue for paddling, start, and finish- green & yellow, approximated with MSPaint):

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Then, we were off! The fun thing about adventure racing is that you can gather checkpoints in almost any order you want (for this one, the river paddling section was  last, because one of the paddling checkpoints was listed on the instructions as the “final” one). So, sticking with what I knew best, I decided to go to the easternmost area where I’d ridden the day before. It looked like a couple of other teams had the same idea (all of the other entries were either teams or male solo. I was the only solo female).

I quickly found the first two, but overshot the third one by at least half a mile. Once I backtracked and found it, I navigated my way to the forth, then the road, and hammered to the nearby quarry for the standup paddle board and running checkpoints. One of the two teams that had gone in my direction seemed to be a little ahead of me, and the other was generally moving at about the same speed (I may have been physically faster, but they knew the area much better, so they didn’t need to stop and study their map to figure out where to go next). Once I paddled and ran, it was off into unfamiliar territory to look for the next 3 at Fort Dickerson park and the final 2 that looked like a bluff and an overlook along the river.

Luckily, the route I took to Ft. Dickerson led me directly to an overlook where I collected the first of those checkpoints. Then, I rode up the park road to try and find the trail with the next checkpoint. It was a dead end (and the team I was back & forth with was trying to figure it out, too), but I noticed on the map where I’d gone wrong, and saw that there should be a gas line field that’d lead me straight down (steep! Woohoo!) to the other 2 points. Luckily, it’d been recently cut, and I balled down it, Enduro™ style to the quarry-lake at the bottom, where there was a guy with a clipboard and a checkpoint punch on his belt. He said that all I had to do to get the checkpoint was to jump in the water.

P.S. The water is about 30 feet below where the guy is standing. Here’s a link to a video of the area… I think where we jumped is the first “main” one that he shows at about 1:20 in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR0k-90L5KU

I took my shoes, socks, helmet, and backpack off then hurled myself, flailing my arms & legs like a chicken, off the cliff. Once I climbed out, I re-dressed, and set out to find the final Ft. Dickerson checkpoint (slightly hidden in a bend in the trail) before going to the last, westernmost 2. I had a good lead on the guys I’d been around for most of the day (they’d overshot the trail checkpoint), but they caught up to me when I was trying to figure out how to get to the spot that looked like it was right along the river that the instructions simply called “cave.” The three of us wound up riding circles in a parking lot for an apartment complex when I noticed that there were tire tracks straight into the kudzu on the west side. I pointed it out, and we eventually found a trail that took us to a riverside cave entrance, where there was another person with a clipboard and a checkpoint punch. She said to go in the cave, find the pumpkin, and bring back a piece of candy to get the checkpoint.

The three of us went into the cave at the same time, but I realized very quickly that I needed a light. Apparently, that was added last-minute to the mandatory equipment list, but I wasn’t getting pre-race emails, so I didn’t know. Luckily, one of the guys let me use his, and I used my roadie negotiating skills- if I use your light and ride with you guys to the paddling transition area (local knowledge of roads would make it a lot faster), I’ll shimmy through the ~12″ wide, 8ft long gap in the cave walls and bring out enough candy for both of us. Boom!

Once we left the cave, there was a quick climb to the nearby overlook for the final checkpoint before we went back across the river to finish with the paddling portion of the race. We arrived to the put-in spot to find one other team already there, looking flustered. There were several canoes and PFDs by the water, but no kayaks (for solo racers) and, the bigger problem… no paddles. The 5 of us just stood around with the lady who was in charge of that area, who was also at a loss. Eventually, one of the head race guys showed up, cursing into his phone, and trying to figure out if he could get some paddles to that spot.

He couldn’t, and he ended up cancelling the paddling section and calling the race as we’d arrived at that point. We rode up to the finish line and collected our finishers awards, and I booked it back to Memphis. Disappointing? Yeah, a little. However, the rest of the race was a ton of fun. The cliff jumping and caving was really exciting, and the whole “choose your own adventure” format of collecting checkpoints is really fun. The people who put the race on are planning on doing more of them next year, and the shorter, less-competitive, less gear-requiring, less orienteering-based, “challenge” race is an excellent way to get into the fun of adventure racing without the money spent and sleep deprivation.
My only criticism for the whole thing is that running any sort of event concurrently with a 30-hour adventure race seems like waaaaay too much for the race crew to handle. They were obviously sleep-deprived (the 30-hour race had started early the previous morning) and stressed from issues that’d occurred within that race. Totally understandable, given the race format. If they had a whole extra set of volunteers/director for the extra event, it’d likely work out fine, but asking the same people who’ve been awake for >24hrs to run a separate event at the same time as the bigger one seems like biting off more than they can chew.

Hopefully it works out well for them next year- they made mention of the series expanding and even coming to Memphis, which would be a fun time. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and would definitely make it an off-season habit if more of that type of low-stress event were offered in my general vicinity.

Hey, Memphis…

The Tennessee High School Mountain bike league is racing at Herb Parson’s Lake on October the 27th (including our local team from Collierville High School).

I’m trying to round up a few helpers for the weekend (October 26th and 27th). They need volunteers on Saturday starting around 8:00am to help with setup and course marking, then 8:00am on Sunday for course marshaling, time-keeping, etc. As an added bonus- everyone who volunteers will receive some free stuff from Gu Energy Labs!

If you can work any part or either/both days, please send me your name, phone number, and when you’re available via email: andrea at brickhouseracing.com so I can put you on the list.

Random SSCX

Yesterday morning, the trails were wet and the weather was nice, so I felt the need to complete a “long run” in preparation for the next weekend’s adventure race. I figured I’d stick to the 6 mile Tour de Wolf trail near my house since it’s got a good bit of root/roll to it. Since I started on this run buildup, I’ve made it a point to always run with some sort of impetus rather than just plodding along. It seems to have worked, because, though I doubled my past mileage in yesterday’s run, I kept with a solid sub-9min/mile pace. Kinda slow, but, not knowing how I’d feel the second half of the run, I started slow and ramped up until the last mile was at a sub-8 pace. (Side effect- Strava poaching!) I was comfortable the entire time (although, this morning, my body seems kinda pissed at the jump from 3 to 6 miles), so I’m feeling good about however much I’m going to need to run next weekend.

After my run, Matt and I went out for a short stint of trailwork on the Wolf River Trail. We didn’t get into hours of digging and hole-fixing like last time. Instead, we cleared vines and branches from tall cyclist/horseback rider headspace. We also saw a bunch of people going to ride the trails, which we’d both avoided riding since they were too wet. “Too wet” is a bit of a subjective definition, of course. However, now that I’ve put hours into moving dirt to fill spots that are eroded because of people riding them when they’re wet, I can tell you that riding on days like yesterday- when 75% of the trail is dry, but the other 25% is water/mudholes- is what causes the holes that Matt and I (and others in the community) are trying to fix.

I digress.

This morning, I was trying to decide what I’d do today, when someone on Facebook posted a link to the Keep Calm and Race Cross flyer. I immediately noticed the placement of the Singlespeed CX race a nice bit after the Women’s Elite race. I ran through the houshold spare parts list in my head, and came up with this idea:

out

in

There’s something oddly satisfying about putting a handful of high-end components on a nice, budget-oriented steel frame. I’m going to go ride it now and make sure that the rear wheel doesn’t slip. It may end up needing a tensioner, but for now, I’ve got the dura-ace skewer as tight as I’m able to make it.

Parts rundown:
Surly Crosscheck frame/fork
Dura-ace C24 Tubeless wheels
Hutchinson Bulldog Tubeless tires
SRAM Red Crank w/FSA 39t chainring
KMC 10spd Chain
XTR Pedals
Tektro Mini-v brakes
Tektro Levers
Salsa Cowbell bar
Thomson X2 Stem
FSA SLK Carbon Post
Fizik Saddle & Bar tape

Simmer Down

Since returning from Interbike, I’ve given myself a little bit of leeway to act more like a normal person who rides bikes than a full-time bike racer. In the past couple of years, I’ve gone to either extreme- either taking a full-on break from the bike for a week-ish, or, in the last year, since I did a good job of pacing my schedule, didn’t feel the need to take much of a break at all. Though I am “training” for the Tennessee Adventure Challenge race, it’s basically a fun thing that gives me a laid-back, low-expectation “goal” to keep me from going nuts while I take a rest from being hyper-focused on my usual races.

How’s that different? Well, Sunday, I had a 4.5 hour tempo ride on my training schedule. I wanted to do a specific ride on my mountain bike, but then it rained. So, instead of doing the ride on my road bike, in the rain, I just blew it off and went for a run/yoga class. I’m also doing other fun stuff, like stopping to take photos:

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Wearing baggy shorts:

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And meeting up with the Ladies Only ride last weekend:

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Part of my aversion to the 4 hours of road riding last Sunday was my lack of a road bike. I finally sent all of the defective Cannondale frames back and asked for a refund of my money. The final tally? 5 frames in the last year- every single one of them with the same defective bottom bracket shell. Number 5 was actually promised to be a 2014 bike from the new mold (the only reason why I rode a defective one with an adapter for months), but all that waiting, and they just sent me another one of the 2013 defective ones. They’ve got the bikes, and I’m still waiting for them to get their shit together and give me my money back so I can buy something else.

In the meantime, I’ve got my Scott CX bike overhauled and set back up as a road bike:

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In non-bike goings-on, I decided to try an Aerial Yoga class. It’s a ton of fun:

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Also, here’s a random photo of Indy, getting a bath:

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I know that my “less serious riding” time is serving its purpose, because I’m already starting to look at early season races to get on the schedule so my fall/winter training has a tangible goal. For now, I’m excited about trying some new-ish stuff and relaxing a little.

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Handlebar Tape- Etiquette and Attention to Detail

I’ve come to notice a disturbing trend that’s taking the mountain bike world by storm. As “Gravel Grinder” bikes are becoming the newest hot thing (I’ll reserve comment about the whole gravel grinder specialty bike thing… Guitar Ted did a good writeup, and he’s much more qualified to opine on the subject than myself) . It’s not the gravel grinder trend that I find disturbing, it’s the utter lack of respect for handlebar tape I’ve seen on some gravel grinder bikes.

I understand- as a mountain bike person, you’ve only dealt with lock on/slip on grips. Now that you’ve got this fancy drop-bar bike, suddenly, there’s a new skill to be had with getting that overpriced strip of foam/cork/pleather wrapped around the bars in a way that covers the metal and doesn’t come loose. Uh… kinda a pain, but whatevs.

What you don’t realize is, it’s so much more than that.

Enter, the roadie world. Perfectly wrapped bars are more than just function. They’re a sign that your attention to detail is impeccable. It means, “I’ve poured over every detail of this machine as if it were a part of my own body.” At one time, white bar tape was used to denote the “captain” of a road team. There’s history there. The perfectness of your wrap job is a sign of respect to the activity of both cycling and wrenching itself.

So, when I see things like this:

(The finishing tape… oh god, it’s so wrong)

…it’s as if someone got up during the eulogy of a funeral and talked about the time he had a raunchy one night stand with the deceased. You just don’t do that.

I understand- the guys at ESI (makers of the above tape) are, as I described earlier, just not privy to the tradition that surrounds the accessory. That’s why I’m making this post- so you, the gravel grinder seller/buyer/wrench/new wrench who just started learning, know exactly just how disrespectful it is to our sport to not take care and make the tape just right.

You’ll find instructional videos and websites all over the place, so I’m not going to go into detail about the process itself, just the small details that you should pay attention to when you’re wrapping bars.

-If the bar-end plugs that come with your tape have any sort of logo on them, make sure it’s upright and straight when you install them.
-If you’re using SRAM road shifters, make sure that the ends of  the strip of “cover” tape for the back of the lever don’t come between the hood nubs  and any of their respective holes in the body of the shifter. If you prevent the hood from resting in those spots properly, the hood will rotate around the shifter while you’re riding. I usually wrap the bar as normal then go back and trim the cover strip away from any of the holes in the shifter body before rolling the hood back into place. Rob Manning has a great photo of what I’m talking about in his blog post about 2012 SRAM Red:

-The finishing tape that comes with your tape is bunk. No one really uses it. You’ll want black electrical tape. Yes, electrical tape comes in other colors, and there’s some cool pin-striping you can do with it, as well as some fun color-swapping/customizing (see photo below), but black is always appropriate on every bike.
-The surest sign of a nice wrap job (aside from tight, evenly spaced, complete coverage of the bar with tape) is a good finish. When you read most taping instructions, you’ll see how to trim the last bit of tape at an angle so that it creates a straight line around the bar. That’s incredibly important to master prior to the application of electrical tape.
-The electrical tape goes on the bar tape… not on the bar itself. This is the most often violated “rule” out there. If you do everything else right, one width of tape wrapped around 2-3 times is all you need to keep your handlebar tape in place. Here’s one from the Garmin Pro team:
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Also, it’s extra style points if you apply electrical tape in a way that allows a tiny bit of the cross-section of tape color to show on the edge (especially if it’s something cool, like the Cinelli Caleido Tape). See photo of Poolboy Matt’s bike:
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-Finally, make sure that the distance from tape to stem is even on both sides. The tape should cover at least to the part of the bar where it gets fat for the stem clamp. I like 3 finger’s width (my fingers and yours may not be the same size, but 3 fingers is usually a safe bet, anyway). I’ve been known to count the number of wraps from end to lever then lever to finish, but as long as you can make them look symmetrical, one more or less on a side isn’t going to spoil everything.

So, there you have it. Like any other part of wrenching, it’s really about attention to detail. It’s the little touches that add polish to a job well done that make a big difference between a bike that just “works” and one that not only works perfectly, but that has the extra flair that makes it pleasing to the eye.

Interbike #2: The Hustle

Crossvegas was just something thrown into my trip for an extra challenge. It’s like the spur of hike-a-bike to an overlook that you add to your long ride just because it’s worth the view. The real reason I went to Interbike was to visit with sponsors and potential sponsors. Couldn’t all that be done through the magic of the internet? Well, maybe… I can let someone know what I need and what I’m willing/able to do for them, but the impersonal setting doesn’t suit me nearly as well as meeting face-to-face.

I’ve been told that I’m very “marketable.”

Last year, I approached the show with very little focus. I swept across the show floor going into any booth that looked cool, and probably handed out about 100 business cards in the process. It was a successful trip in many respects, but I got pretty lucky along the way. This year, my approach was more calculated. I made contact ahead of time and found out when I should stop by to talk to the right person to hand out a packet full of race resume and other pertinent info.

The process of turning myself up to “11” and selling people on my ability to persuade the masses is both incredibly fun and incredibly exhausting. I took breaks often to hang out at the Ergon booth with my friends in there. As Sonya Looney put it… it’s a “safe” place where you can sit down and switch off for a few minutes. Plus, they had a kickass happy hour on Thursday afternoon. I generally played it cool on the post-show parties, though. It’s hard to do my job if I get further sucked in to the money pit/hangover that is Vegas. There’s a great article along the same vein over on BikeMag: Interbike Survival Guide

With the exception of not being able to track down a marketing guy at SRAM, I was successful in meeting with everyone who needed to be met with.
Fun side story- I did have a fun moment at the SRAM booth when I stopped by their info desk. The nice girl behind the desk said she had the same shirt as I was wearing. I asked if she’d taken advantage of Target’s “2 for $10″ deal as I had, and, turns out, she did, and her other shirt was the same as I’d bought.
Like I said, I would rather meet in person, but the info desk couple was very nice and encouraged me to take a ‘MTB Sponsorship” card and email them after the show.

As for everyone else, the meetings were positive. Nimblewear, Gu Energy, ProGold, and Industry Nine are all a go for doing it again next year. As far as potential new sponsors, I can’t really talk about who and what just yet, because it’ll be different than the who and what this year. More on that sometime (hopefully) early in November.

Interbike #1- Crossvegas

Earlier in the Summer, Chad from Nimblewear asked if I’d be interested in the “Wheelers and Dealers” race at Interbike. I wasn’t sure if I was going to Interbike, and was less sure that I wanted to race, so I told him I’d get back to him.  Fast forward to August-ish, and I decided that I was game for both. However, when I went to register, I saw that the Wheelers and Dealers race registration was full. So, I entered the Elite Race. Nevermind that it’d be my first CX race of the season, my first Elite-level race since 2009, and that I’d never flown with my bike anywhere.

Wednesday morning, I paid the $150 one-way ticket for my bike and headed off to Vegas. Thankfully, my flight was a direct one, and, with the hop across two time zones, I landed with plenty of time to find a shuttle, get checked in (side note- when you check in “early” at a Vegas hotel, they charge you out the ass), and put my bike together. Turns out, I’d have one more chore… when the plane landed and I touched base with the person who was supposed to give me a ride from the strip to the course, he informed me that he’d decided not to go, and that his car was full of stuff from the previous day’s outdoors demo event…

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So, while I was in the process of shuttling, getting my bike together, etc, I mentally prepared myself to ride to the course from the hotel (not a huge deal, but not what I really wanted to do, given my lack of planning for that sort of thing). However, I enlisted the powers of social media and found a ride with a friend of pro racer Adam Myerson.

Hotel room workstand:

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After finding lunch and settling in, I needed to find the expo center and touch base with the Nimblewear guys, who’d made a special Interbike-edition pink houndstooth skinsuit for me (see right edge of photo)

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(Side note- Haven’t found any action shots… Even though I raced head to head with both Amanda Carey and Judy Freeman throughout the race, all of the photographers managed to keep me out of those ladies’ photos.)

Nimblewear’s got a new long sleeve skinsuit cut that I’m gonna have to get my hands on soon. IT’S GOT THUMBHOLES!!!!

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I only got lost 3 times while trying to get through the 2 casinos that separated the lobby of the Luxor from the convention center in the Mandalay.

After hanging out for a few minutes, I headed back to the room too put my feet up and roll my legs before meeting up with Chad (the Twitter connection) to get out to the race venue. As I was walking in, I saw Bob Roll:

bobke

Then, I found the guys from Swiftwick, who had their van set up right next to the course. They were nice enough to let me camp out there a little (ok, a lot), change in their van, and help me pin my numbers. If you’ve never owned a pair of Swiftwick socks, comment below, tell me why, and I’ll email you back with a code for 40% off a pair from their website. Your only regret will be figuring out what  to do with all of your other socks.

I made sure to start rolling around a little earlier than usual to warm my legs up slowly after flying/walking all day. They were  little argumentative at first, but eventually the power started to creep back. As soon as the course was open, I headed out for a pre-ride. The course gets a bum rep for being a “grass crit” and lacking in technical features. True, it’s a super power-course, but, as I’d find out later, being able to ride “crit” speed on wide open grass turns is a technical skill in and of itself.

As bib number 51 of 54, I had the honor of a back-row spot in staging. I didn’t stress it, though, and it actually turned out to be beneficial to NOT being caught in the pileup that happened just before the first left-hander off the start line. As soon as we were into the first turns of the course, I was starting to get into a good rhythm. I also noticed that most of the women around me were going slower around the turns than I wanted to. Once I was around them, I started trying to pace myself and use the momentum of “grass crit” turning to my advantage. It was working great until one of the last turns of the lap, when I came out of my coasting a little early and drove my left pedal into the ground at 500 watts. My mistake lifted my rear wheel and bounced it diagonally into the ground hard enough to burp air from the rear tire and stack me into the grass.

When I got up and remounted, my rear tire squirmed and the rim threatened to bump the ground, ending my “turn faster than everyone else” strategy. Oops. The remainder of the race had me head-to-head with Rebecca Gross (master’s worlds 2012 winner), Judy Freeman (from the Crank Brothers team), and Amanda Carey (among others). The crowds were amazing, and, around the run-up area, the sound was nearly deafening.

The last two laps, I was fading hard, and, as the last lap started, a small group came around me. Amanda was in the back of it, so I hopped on her wheel. The rest of the group started to pull away, but I didn’t want to blow myself up harder by trying to stay with them. So, I stayed where I was and caught my breath enough so that, as we approached the last long, heavy-grass power hill of the course, I went around with everything I had left. I didn’t want to look behind me, but on the last set of stairs, I could hear the crowd yelling for Amanda. I dug harder and finished a few seconds ahead of her and just behind the group that’d passed a few minutes earlier… 32nd place.

The dust and the effort on course absolutely destroyed me. I cooled down and got a ride back to the hotel just as the men’s race was staging. Great race? Hell yeah- it’s awesome to have a rowdy crowd and a lot of really amazing women to race against. Back at the hotel, I cleaned up and struck out on a dinner mission, finding a fancy burger place just before the kitchen closed. In bed by midnight on my first night in Vegas… hell yeah again.