Monday, April 08, 2013

Why we need USAC

You might find the following surprising. I doubt it.

We need USAC. They are the National Governing Body in the US, and as such, hold the cards in terms of our International Cycling future. They are responsible for National Team projects, World Championships, National Championships, Olympics, etc for the United States. No one else can do what they do. Not to mention that they saved the Cyclocross World Champs this year when nothing else could. USAC does good work.

They also fuck up. But really, everyone does. One of the major issues in the past decade is the slow loss of their understanding of what their true currency is.

USAC seems to have had a culture shift recently, in that the underlying driving force in its practices and policy’s has been to only look at the bottom line, in the sense of $.

This is the mistake, albeit an easy one to make, especially when you look the situation from a traditional business perspective. But USAC should really be in the business of serving its membership.

I would like to argue that USAC needs to refocus on its true currency, which is a total membership numbers and total race days. This is their real job.

It seems apparent that USAC wants to get more races under its umbrella. Recent rule enforcement announcements indicate this. They seem to have focused on their ability to make $, rather than their ability to server their membership and this has caused the route taken to be the incorrect one.

If we can refocus the goal of USAC away from $, and onto increased membership numbers and race days, an easy solution emerges.

Race promoters want to put on events. They also need to have insurance to do so in a responsible manner. USAC provides insurance. But, so do other people.

If USAC wants to be the product of choice for a race promoter, they need to make a product that race promoters want.

I do not know what that product looks like, as I am not a race promoter. However, it seems fairly obvious to me that USAC is not currently providing that product; hence race promoters are going elsewhere to get it.
All USAC has to do, is provide that product.

We need to tell USAC what the product is, and USAC needs to listen.

If USAC becomes the simple, inexpensive, go to choice for a race promoter when they go out and shop for this product, then all the consequential problems that arise from USAC not being utilized go away.

So, if you are a race promoter, tell USAC what you look for in a competitive product. They already know they messed up, so maybe skip that step. No one likes to be reminded of why they are jerks.  Just tell them what they can do to bring you back.  If they actually listen, we may all be able to go back to riding in circles and having a rad time with our friends, and leave all this bullshit behind. That’s what we really all want to do anyways.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Today marked my first foray into the world of off road triathlon at the Xterra Del Valle outside Livermore California. The idea of doing an Xterra began forming in my head during the cold winter months in Chicago as I ran and swam my way into some form of fitness while the blizzards raged outside. I have limited experiance in triathlons, competing in a few road sprint triathlons in high school, and also a decsent swimming background as I was the district champion in the 200 meter freestyle race my senior year. Even with this I had no idea of what to really expect going into this event. Dusty had dialed in my Hei Hei 29 during Seaotter so I pulled it out of the quiver and headed for California. Doing a race solo without support reminded me of the early days of my mtb career but nostalgia aside I definatly appreciate having someone around at events to help out.

I arrived mid day on Friday and set about assembling my bike and getting things ready for a preride. I did a nice loop on the multilap mtb course and after a quick snack headed out on the bike to check out the run course. It was totally fucked up! I had been doing some cross training leading up to the event and was confidant in my swim, but not so much for the run. After seeing what was in store for me during this final leg of the race I really began to worry. I'm not sure if you know this or not, but Illinois is totally flat. Flat like the only hill is in a parking garage or highway overpass. This run was not flat. I was worried after the first km, but then things got really nasty. We made a right hand turn off a trail next to a river a basically ran straight up the side if a mountain. Not sweet. I decided that instead of doing a short run to get my legs moving I needed to go straight to the hotel and go to bed.

I awoke early the next morning to the fog lifting off the surrounding hillsides, revealing massive wind farm projects on the hill sides all around me. I arrived early to the race, got all my gear positioned in the transition zone, took 3 shits, about 15 piss stops and then struggled into my wet-suit.

Xterras are mast start, and I suggest looking one up on youtube so you can witness for yourself the mad chaos involved with 150 crazed triathlete all gunning for the same bouy floating 250 yards away. Luckily I had checked those videos out beforehand, so I lined up at the front and prepared to pinned it. I kept with the front runners for the first third of the race, but then backed it off a tiny bit so my head wouldn't explode. I came out if the water in 7th position, with the first few guys exiting the transition area as I entered it. I strapped on my helmet, shoes and gloves and was off like a prom dress.

My race plan was to get as much of a lead as possible on the bike, so that when the run came I could struggle through and have a nice cushion for a massive failure. I quickly brought back the guys who had been better fish than me and proceeded to put my head down and go for it. At the end of lap one I was 8 min clear of second place. I kept it rolling, but at a critical junture a combination of bad planning on my part and bad marshalling and the marshals part send me out on a 7 mile detour that I didn't have to do. I did not realize that I had made an error until I was in the transition zone and saw a couple of other guys in there as well. Shit! I soldered on though, having no idea where I was in placings but determined to at least put in a solid run effort. My legs felt surprisingly good, and I quickly pulled away from the guys I had started the run with. I even managed to get up the retardedly steep hill without passing out, but made the error of trying to free-wheel the ensuing massive descent in order to make up some time, but my right hamstring was having none of it and cramped badly about half way down. I pulled over to stretch it and two or three guys got past me while took a piss and tried to get rolling again. Luckily I did and was able to regain one of those lost spots and had the others in sight by the finish.

I ended up placing 6th overall just over 4 minutes off the winning time. After riding 7 miles further than the winner and still be so lose I am fairly certain had I not gone wrong on the race course my margin if victory would have been substantial.

So, a successful and fun go at Xterra racing,and definatly some thing to think about for the future. The Xterra World Championships are in October in Hawaii, and the winner gets $25,000... I might have to think about that pretty hard!

Until next time, thanks to everyone who supports me in these endevors and next up, a MTB race at Lance's ranch. Hope he shows up so we can show how real mountain bikes do it!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shes a long one...

Three weeks on the road may not sound like a lot, but for those left at home it came become an eternity. My latest journey started out with an early morning flight out to Santa Barbara, California. This was a special trip because Sarah and Eva got to travel with me. Eva does a pretty good job of hanging out under the seat in front of me a sleeping the whole trip, which is more than can be said for a lot of the babies that I usually share flights with.

In Santa Barbara we spent time on the beach, ate awesome food, visited friends, and I rode my bike up and down some gigantic hills in the sunshine. That was pretty nice. Sarah and Eva had to head back to Chicago early Monday, so I met up with Ryan for a few more days of training and then we loaded up the truck and headed for Sea Otter.

Sea Otter used to be one of the first big races of the year, and I have always had a bit of a love hate relationship with the race. Early on in my racing career making the journey down to Monterey from Oregon was the first sunshine we had seen in months, and it was a pleasure just be to be there, riding in the sun and enjoying the circus like atmosphere. After a few years of missing the race while pursuing the World Cup circuit, I was excited to return this year and ride the epic XC race I remembered and feared from the past.

Unfortunatly the UCI had other plans. Now, I can understand wanting to create a spectator friendly format for big MTB races, but there in lies the problem. It is supposed to be a Mountain Bike race first and formost, but this was lost somewhere in the translation this year at Sea Otter. Our XC circuit resembled more of a road circuit race than a MTB course, with over 3 km of pavement in a 7 km circuit, some of it even downhill. That is just totally unfortunate. When the rigid structure of UCI sanctioning completely obliterates the entire purpose of the event, what is left? Well, we found out at this race. We rode around in packs on the pavement and there was a sprint finish. Granted, we were on MTB bikes and racing, so technically this was a MTB race, but I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the race that thought what we did was a good idea, especially the amature-elite level racers who spent a bunch of their own money to travel all the way down to Sea Otter and were presented with the above format. In Europe the sport may be spectator driven, but in my experiance, the US MTB race circuit is completely racer driven, and if we continue to race events that are no fun, expensive and uninspiring, the racers are not going to show up.

I'm not saying that UCI santioned events and spectators do not play a massive role in the growth of MTB events, but I would propose that everyone involved would be better off if, instead of imposing arbitrary guidleines as to what form a race course may take, we leave it up to the promoter of each individual event to determine what will bring the best mix of spectator acess, racer success and actual MTB racing to the event. The Promoter knows the area, knows the tralis and it is in their and everyones best interest to put on an event that both racers and spectators will enjoy. Limiting things by setting out finitly defined race course specifications, in my opinion, ruins it for everyone.

Anyways, enough of that rant. On to things that are more fun!

After Sea Otter I headed up to Oregon to do some community projects in Portland that Erik Tonkin was involved in. We visited a middle school during career day and talked to the kids about what being professional athletes was like and the paths we took to get to where we were today. We also went to the launch party of the North West Trail Alliance, a group dedicated to creating easily accessible, legal, fun trails in and around the Portland metro area and finally headed out in to The Dalles to do some road bike racing.

The Cherry Blossom Cycling Classic is in its second year and is quickly becoming the early season stage race Northwest rides target. Good weather, great organization and killer race courses make this event a real treat. It all started friday with a rolling 75 mile circuit race to get the legs warmed up. Saturday brought on the decisive stage of the weekend, with a super tough hilly and windy circuit that included a 3km dirt climb each lap. There was no hiding on this course, and each lap the pack was cut in half on the big climb until a select group of ten entered the final lap and battled it out for victory. I was one of the lucky few to make this last group, but my battle for victory was not as good as the others. The final day of this event consisted of an 8km TT and a Criterium in down town The Dalles.

Luckily for a guy like me, there was a concurrent Oregon MTB race happening on Sunday, and rather than try and ride fast in a stright line, followed by trying to ride fast in a square, I bolted for the flanks of Mt Hood and jumped into the frey at the Bear Spring Trap MTB event. This race is notoriously tough and totally awesome. I did the first iteration of it back when I was 17, and on that day, after coming through the start/finish at the end of lap one 2 hrs into the race, we knew we were in for a long day. I was only a few seconds out of the lead at that point, so I charged right through onto lap two in hot pursuit. I eventually bonked super hard, but as everyone else was in the same boat as me, and I somehow managed to crawl in for second overall after four and a half hours on the bike.

With this experience in mind, and two days of hard road racing in my legs, I made sure to pack extra food and water as I dialed my Hei Hei 29 in before the race. The gun went off and the next two hours were spent ripping rediculously awesome motorcycle and MTB trails with all my Oregon pals and having the time of my life. What a difference from Sea otter a week ago! In the end I was able to pull victory from the claws of defeat with a perfectly timed attack in the closing minutes of the race to beat out local super hero Sean Babcock of the famed Team S+M Young Guns crew after chasing him around all day.

After that super solid block of training, I am back in Chicago, getting my inner geek on as I prepare to race the Xterra Del Valle in Livermore in a few weeks. I figured I should try and put all the swimming and running I have been doing all winter to use at some sort of event, so, Xterra, here I come! Wish me luck, and I promise not to turn into a triathlete... Unless of course I win!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Santa Barbara California

We have been hanging out in Santa Barbara with our friends Rich and Claudia this week, getting in some beach time, acquiring nice sun burns and letting Eva and Axel, Rich and Claudias kid, entertain each other. It is pretty much a match made in heaven. Eva think so anyways...
The weather was pretty good for the first few days, then it started raining quite a bit, predictably, on the days when I was scheduled to do big bike rides. I did get to ride up some gigantic hills, which was nice, but it was so socked in above 4000 ft and windy that I could hardly tell I was up in the mountains. It was still awesome though, and now that I am throwing a wicked taper in it has become nice and sunny.

Ryan is down here as well, so we have been riding together and letting our dogs wrestle all day and tire each other out.

Headed up to Sea Otter Thursday, I hope it stays nice!


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Life in Chicago

We have been having a bit of this going on around here recently. Sarah caught some hail the other night that was about 30mm across. Thats Big!

Here is a link to a mix tape of have been enjoying recently via VICE Magazine.

All sorts of entertaining inglorious content over there to waste time with.

Headed to Santa Barbara next week to Hang with some friends and do some riding in the mountains before Sea Otter, then headed up to Oregon to see my family, ride with the old school crew, and do a little local MTB racing on the side.

I hope it doesn't hail today while I am about riding.