Monday, July 25, 2011

The Cursed Remains

My day started at 5:15am with the alarm sounding and me hitting the snooze button several times so my day didn’t really start until around 5:45. I jumped in the ride and headed North up I-270 toward the Mason-Dixon Line, realizing along the way that I had missed yet another legendary Saturday night as the signs were everywhere, but such is the life of this weekend warrior. There was a drunk, shirtless redneck wandering I-270 and several miles later, the troopers had a lane shut down so a tow truck could scrape a car out of the ditch after rolling a few turns. Yes, those were the days…

After several wrong turns, I found myself at the Big Flat (yes, that is the proper name) parking area for Michaux’s Curse of Dark Hollow 40 miler. Not quite sure of Dark Hollow’s curse but one thing I have learned about the Michaux Endurance Series is that it never fails to rain on race day. Poz and I discussed this on the starting line and he said he remembered to close his windows. I didn’t. We were off, and I quickly dropped to the back on the long false- flat gravel road, but not to worry. There are 40 miles of soul crushing, technical trail to follow. Back at the lot, I had seen a disturbing amount of weight weenie tires, but now that I entered the first section of chucky trail, I began to notice a refreshing number of folks changing flats. A beacon of hope, in a seemingly hopeless attempt at another race for me. In one section, I made a brazen attack on a rider, taking the line less traveled and paid the price getting off-line and taking a digger. At least I supplied some entertainment. At around mile 12, an ego deflating number of single speeders (they started a minute back) came stomping by. In that group was Buck would later become my slum partner for the day.

As we approached aid station 2, I came upon Poz who carried the torch for Tony who is out with a broken ankle. By this I don’t mean he froze his Camelbak bladder which Tony had done last year and we joked about a couple of hours prior, but broke off his derailleur cage after cutting his chain too short and shifting into the one gear he shouldn’t have. Remembering how I got stuck at aid station 2 last year, sucked in by sandwiches and social time, I was determined to get in and out with the quickness, however this year the lure of cantaloupe kept me in just long enough to see friends coming up the road and before I knew it, they were accumulating and I saw my plans go right out the window.

I played tag with those single speed guys including one Dan Atkins, Buck and Mark Elsasser as well as a few I didn’t recognize and eventually Buck and I found ourselves slumming alone. Things got hazy. I got sloppy. Buck and I shared a slice of cantaloupe rolling out of aid 3. Now we were plugged back in with the 20 milers and the suffering was visible everywhere you looked. Riders standing unable to catch their breath or walking stiff legged from the cramps. Buck and I rolled in together, just like last month at Reddish Knob. 5th place for me in Vet. There was another fellow there on flat pedals in the 20 miler. I saw him roll in on an entry level Trek and there were rumors of him riding with his rear brake unhooked. I saw something in his face when he crossed the finish line. He must have seen something out there amoungst the loam, pines and stones. A look of horror and joy that it has all come to an end. He made eyes with a familiar face a broke a slight smile, yet remained silent. Just what happened, we may never know. Perhaps he experienced the Curse. I suspect he found that dark place we all have found in the woods that keeps us coming back for more. Welcome my friend. You done good.

The lure of Aid #2...


Been digging in crates lately and found negatives before I knew I took pitures. Here are some shots of Andy throwing down in the Laurel Pits in the pre-freeride era of '89...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lovin'

Lasts weekend, I gave the bike some much needed love after the Tour. Chain and rear derailler were both tired and the front derailler didnt play well with the frame as the cage was a bit long and bottomed out on the chainstay, resulting in chain drop when pedalling in the big ring. The damaged tooth on the big ring didnt help either so, the pliers and file came out as well. Went for a little spin around Big Schloss and jammed the big ring again. I had exactly one roll of 120 film and half a roll 35mm and ended up getting excited at the sight of the new bridge and blew my wad early.

Pat makes it look easy...


The gang at the overlook...


One last Tour photo...



Sneak peak. Acid bath stylie...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reddish Knob

Ever since the Tour last year, I have been waiting to get up there and take more photos. I was pretty blown by the time I arrived and had to throw some lunch in me while I tried to capture the views and vibes of the top of the Tour but managed to get some that I like. Hopefully next year I can have a better showing on the stage and actully get some pictures of folks suffering at the top.




First ride of the year on Reddish...



Remember that rock garden at the top of Timber? Here Collin gets some on the fixed gear...


A favorite from last year...

Adventure

Righteous journey...

Bikerafting Alaska's Lost Coast: Yakutat to Glacier Bay. from lacemine29 on Vimeo.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sinking In

Yes, I am still hung up on the Tour. It was good. So many good times, I am still sorting through and others are just coming to me. So much suffering, good riding, good people and hangouts. I look through my images, hoping to relive some of the week through them, but they only offer a glimpse into one brief moment of the event. It was everything compounded that made it such a great feat. One day would be enough for most but to push through day after day, waking to think, "Oh man, I have to get on that road bike and race 80 miles today, much of it on gravel, before mountain bike racing this evening," makes for a tough make up call. I gotta give Collin props, and if there was a "rockstar" award, he would have sealed the deal. This guy showed at Carp's house with a 40 of Olde English one night and was rumored to be out dancing until 3am the first night. Dude lives off hotdogs and sour patch kids and was in the top 5 all week until flats on the last day knocked him back to 11th. Tough break.

I lived to race as a youth and into my early 20s but started to get to a point where racing was taking the fun out of riding so I walked away. It took me a while to learn how to ride for fun again and I refused to go to races because I remembered how it had left me salty. Last year, some riding buddies were going to race at Michaux, and I was hesitant, but went. It was fun and pretty chill. I have done a few races here and there and have had mixed feelings. But the Tour is the one event I have been to that really puts the fun back into racing. Its all about fun and riding your ass off, for numerous days. Its fun and hard as hell. No sooner than I thought about dropping out of a stage did I start having fun again. No big money, no sponsorship deals. This year Sam Korber won the Tour de Burg and all he got was a crappy T-shirt.

Poloroid moments...







Friday, July 8, 2011

The Only Race That Matters

Touted as being "The only race that matters," how could I turn down a personal invitation I recieved to go attend this year's Tour to document the action and even do a bit of riding.

Friday, 5:30 AM:

The alarm sounds and I struggle to get moving, eyes heavy and burning as I see the day's first light out my 8th story window. I brush my teeth and give the furry mister his eye medicine and a bit of quick lovin' before making my way downstairs to my truck which I had packed the previous night. My goal is to beat the morning traffic and get to Harrisonburg before the shop opens to hang some art work for First Friday.

Making good time, I stop after safely negotiating NOVA traffic to fill the tank and grab a Pepsi man can. I can see the north end of Shenandoah and Massanutten rise in front of me as I approach Front Royal and just as I turn to head South, a lone hot air balloon hangs, bringing a spot of vibrant color to the blank blue canvass above. Arriving in Harrisonburg, I pull into the shop to find not only is Kurt there, but he is tuning up the bike I will be riding on the road for the week. We sort through photos and get them hung for the night's art walk.

Friday night Prologue:

The Prologue kicks off at 6PM with the ladies leading the charge. I start somewhere in the middle and notice pretty much right away my seat is about an inch and a half too low. It would do me well to stop and sort it out, by I opt to stick it out and get passed by some 8 people on the climb. Towards the top, Kurt comes by and I stick with him to ride the ridge and much of the descentin his company. On the ridge I catch a glipse of Buck changing a flat and realize that once again the Tour de Burg is underway. Right behind Kurt and myself I was catching glimpses of Joel killing it on the fixed gear. Passing Kurt, I feel the flow of the lower sections, roosting the turns and skimming through sketchy rock gardens. To my knowledge, this is the first time there has been any kind of race down the New Trail. The trail begins to rise and the bonk gets the best of me. I slow roll for a bit until Buck comes along and I jump in to see the show of flow through the final section of woods. I stick on him off the drop and into burms where folks begin to hoot and holler. A bit of a disappointing start to my Tour, but there is a long week ahead.

His onesie matches the curtains at Little Grill...




Stage 1: Trout Pond/ Big Schloss MTB

Lots of party pace riding unless you are one of the few chasing KOM points. For me it was social hour, climbing up to the ridge where we begin the timed section. The rocky ridge rolls slightly up and down and in typical tour fashion there were a lot of flats. I lay an eyeball on Dicky trailside and wonder if he is rethinking his tire choice. Fast and rocky descent down to the store with several spots to boot over the chunkiness if you have the sak for it. Long lunch and then party time again heading for Schloss. The timed climb seemed much shorter and tolerable than last year and I reeled in several riders once the ridge went from double track to single dropping back into the woods. I drop my chain several times, wrapping around my crank arm and forcing the dismount. I get back on it and once we turned onto the Cut-Off trail, I see Chris Scott in the distance. He is my carrot and I focus on making up that gap. He dabs in one of the slow techy sections and I come by him and Dicky and then Jimmy, but I see the trail goes up so I let Chris and Jimmy go since my legs are already toast and roll in solo.

Kurtistan...


Carboloading...


Cobras in WVA...


4X the Dicky...




Stage 2: Massenutten/ Short Mountain from town. Road Bike

My first road ride in 15 years and its a hundred miles of mixed surface riding. I know its going to hurt. We ride up the gravel on the backside of Massenutten then head for Fort Valley climbing Edinburg Gap. I slum in the rear, but am able to stay in the GC and not get sagged. I slum really hard on the ride back to town with Dan, who was either slumming as hard as I or just trying not to make me feel bad. Dinner at Carp's feels like a funeral as everyone is exhausted from the big day.

Manditory lap around Court Square...



A lunchtime dip...


Le director in the midst of chaos...




Sue grinds the gravel...


This guy has party pace written all over him...




Stage 3: Camp Todd/ Chestnut, Narrowback MTB

I know this climb and know it hurts. I start off in the rear and a bit of the way up help a fellow with a broken chain. On the move again I hear some yelling up ahead and 2 of the ladies are stopped saying there are bees. I sprint through getting stung once in the ankle as a guy from Boone is half naked dancing and yelling, "Bees! They're everywhere!" Behind me, Buck also tries to run through, but comes up short falling in the vicinity of the nest. I suffer once again from body and bike issues with dropped chain and an over inflatted tire. Another bee catches me on the way down stinging me several time in the ear.

The second timed section starts with a climb up Narrowback where a naked dude was making sure people didnt cut the corner. after lunch I feel a bit better and roll the ridge pretty well. A rider in front of me offers a pass and I say I will take it on the right. I jump off the line into the brush and I find myself now racing this chick that had just offered to let me by. Ah, the ladies and their mixed signals. My "line" is closing fast as there are some trees ahead, so I am forced to earn my position and take the line forcing her off the trail and almost into a tree. A big storm hits while on the ridge. I am invigorated as lightning strikes nearby and I see James Kelly the wrong way, frantically trying to find a way off the ridge. I roll on. Lightning striks 50ft to my right with a crash but move onward. The trail is somewhat hard to see and the tire tracks washed away so there is a little guessing. At a left turn I hear "You suck, Nate," recognising Marshall's voice but unable to see any sign of him. Between wrecking that chick and the bottle rocket, I was definatly marked as the asshole for the day. Late night hangouts at JV hq.

A stranglehold on DFL...


All of the glory...



Stage 4: Reddish Knob Road

A casual ride as any up to the top with Buck, then a rowdy descent off the backside. Joel stacks is up on the ridge and I pass some 15 riders with flats coming down due to the ledgy rock that juts up toward you as you ride down. I make the left at the bottom and Chris Scott comes flying up on my left, hot into a sweeping turn. He drifts out in to the deep gravel with his right leg out and then into the grass, before finally getting it back under wraps and narrowly avoiding disaster via 25ft culvert. I flatted shortly after finishing the 80ish miles solo.

Beautiful road riding...


Locals...


Reddish Knob...





Hillandale TT: MTB

20ish minute loop including a pump track loop. The tight left hander as soon as you entered the woods claimed many a victim including GC leader Sam who had one of 3 crashes there. Feeling good until once again having chain drop issues. Dinner at Little Grill.

Brian Fawley pumptrack action...



Harlan Hillandale TT...






Final Stage: Union Spring/ Flagpole, Timber/ Wolf

With nothing to lose, and glory to gain, I let it all hang out on the climb up Union Spring making my way up to some of the faster folks finishing the second to last time section in good standing. On the second timed section, I sprint off the line to beat the slummers into the woods and as I predicted a shit show unfolded before my eyes in the rock garden standing some 200 yards into the single track. The heckling began as folks flounder frantically in attempts to stay on the pace. Maxed out, I am forced to let a couple of people pass on the early pitches but am finally able to settle into a comfortable pace. YT comes into view as I merge onto Wolf and I launch several attacks, but a dropped chain forces me to dismount. I reel him in again and spin out on a steep pitch and then drop the chain once more. On Tighlman he comes into view once again, and I can see Tony chasing me down. By the time I reach the lot YT is long gone and Tony and Collin both come by.

I know I promised big things to come for my Tour, but in reality I couldnt have had a more mediocre final standing. 27th in th GC. Next year.

Nick Waite aint no slouch...


James had a strong showing, riding the same bike all week...


Podium madness...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Culture Shock

I arrived back in the DC metro area last night after a 6 day get-away to the hills of the Shenandoah Valley for the 16th annual Tour de Burg stage race. As I rolled down I-66, the traffic got more frantic and people seemed restless, like those moments on the trail where you know you can pull past another rider but the opportunity seems like an eternity to present itself. Sick of the CDs I brought, I turned on NPR to check in with the real world, and find myself grinning as I hear the Lybian rebels have taken another city, but unable able to stomach our own national politics, the CD goes back in the player for another turn. This morning I woke up after pretty much passing out as soon as I walked in the door, to find cat turds on the furnature. Pick it up and out the door to drop some film for processing. I snicker as a woman in car covered with bike racks honks at the car in front of her a millisecond after the light turns green. Every morning for the past week, I had nothing to do other than wake up, throw as many calories in the tank as possible and ride my bike as fast as possible for several hours. Today feels odd not having to spend it in the saddle, yet my mind still tells me nothing else matters. Today I have a glimpse of what was when I returned from Arizona this winter, and will probably spend much time today explaining to people that I am not stoned, just content and maybe a little tired. Photos and Tour detail to follow.