Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Congested Carnival (or 93s and 80 degrees)

Despite the fact that I was coming down (or came down) with a nasty little cold and despite the fact that rest is the common sickness remedy, I decided to try track racing as an alternative means of recovery. What can I say, everyone else was going and yeah, like I'm going to miss a chance to rebuild my ego after I was pummeled blue through most of January...

So into the car and out to Fielding we went to race on the flattest track I have ever seen. This track is what would happen if Marymoor lost its foundation and the rail sunk 20 feet. I'd wager the bank is somewhere around the 6 degree mark. Awesome.

In typical Rubicon fashion I decided "warmups are for loosers" and messed around with my gears for a good hour instead of rolling around like everyone else. After all, it's a miss'n'out, we'll have a neutral lap right? So tinker I did and warmup I didn't, untill the whistle blew and we were called to the line with just enough time to put my shoes on. Captain Indecision was our promoter, and the instructions went something like this:

"Okay guys, this is an elimination race, so we'll be pulling riders I think every lap or so, but first we'll have a neutral lap and I'll probably fire the gun and you'll be racing. Then we'll pull riders untill there are six or so left, and we might have 2 laps left untill the sprint. Either way, I'll ring the bell. Okay any questions?"

"Uh, yeah how many are you going to pull to?"

"Six or so"

Every race.

The miss'n'out actually went surprisingly well, despite the geniuses that tried to lap the field, didn't make it and ended up winning. I was third behind the geniuses after about a half an hour of sweet manuevers from the back to pick of dork after dork. Chauncey would be proud.
Because of the slightly dissapointing finish in the elimination I decided through sniffles and sneezes that for the 1500 Wheelrace Final, it was time to throw down. And throw down I did. I drew a sweet mark for the handicap, blasted off the line, found a good group and settled in for a few laps. Powered by Catherine Sells, the previously mentioned NZ world cup rider, our group swallowed up front-mark riders like a shop vac and when the time was right I blew the field a kiss goodbye and laid waste to all in my path.
That made me feel better.
NEXT UP... Scratch race. 16 laps on this track is like 40 on Alpenrose, so this would be a decent effort for the combined A and B group riders. The B group dudes started a good 30 meters behind us, so we had to lap them before the fun could really begin. So BANG the gun goes and so do we. Six laps later, as we catch them the wee little dude in front of me drops the hammer and attacks the field on the apron so off the front I go with a group of four. We roll pretty well, stay off the front and things are looking up with a lap to go so I pull the old "I'm not sprinting yet" sprint with about 300 to go, but the wee dude is too smart and waits until the very moment that I completely die to squirt around me and steal the win. Later I find that this guy probably learned that tricky maneuver at Manchester or any of the other world cups that he's ridden, so I don't feel too bad about getting beat, I just sneeze a good one at him to seal the deal.

Not a bad day of racing and shockingly enough I'm feeling better today. Damn good thing too because I'll be spending all day in a car headed back to Auckland with three guys who probably don't want to hear "SNIFF.... pause.... SNIFF.... pause.... SNIFF... pause... SNEEZE.... pause..." DT

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Tissues and Terrorducks

Man, I woke up at negative-o-clock this morning... sick as a dog. Nose feels like it's full of peanut butter. Sinuses are at 200psi. I'm pretty sure I've sneezed more times than I've taken a breath this morning. What timing, how super. Just as I'm getting over a nasty little knee problem BAM some stupid bug jumps down my throat and sets up shop. With a track carnival tonight and a 7-hour drive back to Auckland tommorow, things are looking lame.

Quote of the day by Adam Felber (Fanatical Apathy, to your right): "Are vicious, freedom-hating terrorducks going to wait around while you drop flowers on your fancypants monuments before they shred your snobby overcoats with thier deadly beaks of fury? I think not."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Real Life and Times of Hubert Ice

Some of your may wonder what I do all day. Some of you may wonder what I do all night. The second group I can't help too much, but if you want a rough schedule of the average weekday of a finely tuned international athlete, then here it is.

7:00am Wake up a little, think about waking up completely, then go back to sleep.

8:00am Dogs barking, bed too hot, time to get up.

8:07am Inspect how much of my cereal Brei's brother Saul has eaten. Eat the rest of the box, read the paper.

8:30am Emails, blogging, etc.

9:30am Saul crawls in, showers, checks if any of my cereal is left, then we discuss a plan for the rest of the day. Should we ride early? Should we surf first? Should we lay on the beach for a couple of hours, then surf, then ride? Should we go into town an laugh at people? So many choices.

9:40am Watch soccer or cricket or whatever happens to be on the sports channel.

10:30am Surf, beach, swim, bum around town etc.

11:30am Brei calls to finalize lunch plans. Cafe? Home sandwich? Kebab? Deciding factor is how thick the wallet is, so usually we either stay in, or go out and have nothing but coffee madness.

1:00 pm Shimmy into a chamois and head out into the forests, hills and empty roads around Wanganui. Spend some good hours hurting myself.

4 to 6:00pm Roll home, have a feed and contemplate the evening. If it's Wednesday we follow much the same procedure as the lunch discussion with the same parameters. If the wallet isn't bulging (which is most of the time), it's a night of more cricket, a bad movie and emails. Otherwise we are children of the night.

Weekends are a different story. Weekends are for racing. Every single week there's something going on somewhere on the island. Somewhere to sink some more money into gas and entry fees and stage race food. This weekend will be my first weekend off in a long time, and I'll still be racing, just not out of a hotel room. Maybe someday I could write a weekend schedule but for now they're too chaotic and unbalanced. Everyone knows road trips have to logic, you just have to go with the flow. Go with the flow. Not a bad mantra at all. (Unless the flow = The Man, of course). DT

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Kill Your Radio

One thing I wanted to do when I came here was listen to as many Kiwi bands as possible, check out the local scenes, all that bohemian uber-cool crap. To my surprise, this didn't turn out so great. It's not like I didn't try, I did everything I could without spending gobs of money on concert tickets every night or hiring a proffesional investigator. I combed painstakingly through the biggest record shop in NZ (Real Groovey... a prety sweet store actually), I listened to each radio station on the dial (FM and AM), I read as many local-ish music mags as I could find in chic coffee shops (I found two... one of them was from Australia..), I even browsed through friends' music piles ("Yeah I got that one in the States, that too, and that, and that, yeah that too...") and talked to record shop employees ("Uh, yeah, I don't really listen to alot of music, I just work here"). Things were not looking up. It seems NZ's local music scene is entirely geared toward shipping bands overseas to get popular in the States, so they don't do alot while they're here.

It's the curse of a relatively lightly populated country, and it goes like this: A vast majority of the tunes in NZ come from the US. US labels look at NZ and say "This is a country of 4 million people. That means only 2 million or so are in our target audiences. There's not a lot of potential to make money here, since we can sell 2 million Eminem records in the LA suburbs alone. Therefore we will only release our records that are guaranteed to sell."
Hence... You have radio stations that are 20 times worse than any American Top 40 station. These guys don't even have the whole top forty, they only get about the top 15, so they just repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, the same Eminem, Destiny's Child, Jay Z, Linkin Park, J-Lo, and Blink 182 songs over and over... Normally you can look to student-run college stations in the US to find better music, stuff more off the beaten path... Not here. I found the Auckland student station and they were being original and adventurous by playing old Eminem and old Linkin Park. And the problem is not just that the radio stations suck. Let's be real, most radio stations in the US aren't much better, the problem is that there is so much music out there that just isn't available. So much stuff isn't shipped over because the bean counters at Capital or Universal don't think the profit will be large enough. This means Kiwi kids who try to start bands in high school all end up sounding like crappy versions of Blink 182 or Linkin Park because they never get exposed to the music that gave birth to those crappy bands, then they never get anywhere because "why would you listen to a crappy version of Blink 182 when you can just listen to the real thing?"

Don't get me wrong here, NZ has it's own music and it's noteworthy bands, but they don't get much airtime or credit. I heard alot of noise about NZ's "biggest band" Shihad because they changed thier name from Pacifier, but I never once heard them on the radio on any station, never saw them on a record-store listening station. I only heard one Shihad song and it hidden on a mix CD of crappy US pop-rock. It was good. I liked it, but I never heard it again. Other good groups like Pluto or Scribe get 15 seconds of fame on C4, NZ's answer to MTV, but like with the previously mentioned US tv station, good bands are few and far between the J Lo's and 50 cents.

Enter today's bullet list: Top 11 albums I'd like to donate to NZ radio in no particular order...
  • Stephen Malkmus and The Jiks "Pig Lib"
  • Thursday "Full Collapse"
  • Interpol "Turn On the Bright Lights"
  • The Dandy Warhols "Dandy's Rule, OK?"
  • Modest Mouse "The Moon and Antarctica"
  • Elliot Smith "Figure 8"
  • Ambulance Ltd. "Ambulance Ltd."
  • Built To Spill "Keep It Like a Secret"
  • At The Drive-In "Relationship of Command"
  • The Smiths "Singles"
  • Pavement "Terror Twilight"

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Westpac Velodrome (or how not to quit when you're ahead)

Not sure why it's the Westpac velodrome of CHAMPIONS but I'll get back as soon as I figure it out. Anyway, weekly track racing was last night, fun was had by all and it was the end of a fairly long day. Went for 3 hours of climbing earlier in the day, so the legs felt bruised just cruising around on the warmup. No worries though, racing here's not quite like the track pummelfests in Invercargill, more like an average night at Alpenrose (without Curry and the Kiwi crew). Before I continue, let me introduce Johnno. Johnno's real big. He's a big maori sprinter guy, used to be on the national team, rode worlds and all that cool stuff but tested positive and fell mysteriously out of favor with the coaches, the management and just about everybody from BikeNZ. Nowadays he drinks beer and eats too many pies so the usual sprinter's bootage is now much more significant. Either way, the dude can still go blazing fast and he's got wicked skills to match. OTHER PLAYAS: Catherine Sells: NZ World Cup endurance racer, fastest chick on the block. She hurt me in the warmup. JDD: It think this kid's name is Jamie, he's 15, goes faster than a scalded deer and he's not too smart. Seems like he does fine for most of the time untill his ADD kicks in and he does something wierd, hence JDD. WESTPAC VELODROME: Sweet track if it wasn't built on top of a hill, therefore prone to galeforce headwinds on the front straight ALL NIGHT. All board 250 outdoor.. not bad... It's not even Burnaby Glo-Worm "half board-half plywood" either. It's all one kind of wood, the good kind.
First we rode a handicap-ey scratch race-ey thing. It wasn't one or the other, just two groups starting at opposite ends of the track a la team pursuit style. 10 laps, GO! And we went, then I sprinted and won. Sweet. Next up, Miss n out, one of my least favorite events. Anyway, Cath sets a wicked pace at the front the whole time, so I'm chillin like a villain the whole race at the back popping people one at a time untill I get to one elimination left and it's either Johnno or JDD. I come up next to Big J on the back straight and he gives a little nudge to let me know he could flatten me if he wanted to, but alas, he's out, then I outsprint LDD and win. NEXT UP, handicap. My other least fav. event. I'm all by my lonesome on scratch with the front-marker 3/4 of a lap up and I've got four laps to work some magic. Meanwhile ahead of me the Two J's are both on 40m and Johnno tells the squirt "lead me out or I'll crush you" or something like that, so they start wicked hard, it takes me a lap and a half to catch and JDD commences the leadout. It's JDD, Johnno then me coming around getting the bell and this is chaos, there are riders everywhere and everyone is at different speeds. We're passing under people, over people, prectically right over the top of other people and in the middle of this, JDD's starting to blow so in the middle of the corner at about 40k an hour, while going under some guy, he takes his right hand off the bar to wave Big J through.... Boy are you for real? Johnno's obviously feeling a bit more comfortable with me now, because as soon as we get around everybody and I start to come around, he rides me to the rail, back to the apron, to the other side of town and back, then wins because I had to ride about 10k more than he did. This guy's got some skills. Good show.

This is where he packs up his stuff and leaves because "I want to quit while I'm still ahead."
Ahead? What? It's 2 to 1, you ain't ahead!

Oh well, needless to say the Kierin and the scratch aren't as much fun because I don't get to exact any revenge and no elbow madness is about to happen with this group. I won the scratch and here's the best part about the kierin: JDD rides the whole first 6 laps next to second wheel, completely in the wind, no draft at all, giving me a sweet place to hide then with 2 to go makes a hard right. Alright, that's cool daddio, so I wind it up from 2 laps out and show him why (as that carney guy says) "when in doubt, lead it out." I had time to sit up and chill on the home straight despite Little J charging hard out of the corner.
Afterwards he said "looks like you were getting pretty tired, I almost got you on that last one." Ha. Right. I didn't have the heart to tell the poor kid "no son, I just sat up."
This weekend is a four-stage two-day road race with (you guessed it) lots of climbing. Yee freaking haw. There is a crit however, so I'll have one chance to ride like a pirate and steal a little coin before the double whammy big last day. Oh. Also. Check out the links at the bottom of the little sidebar thingy to your right. I reccommend, well, all of them actually, but the Diary of a Wherewolf one is pretty funny stuff... DT

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Picture of The Day

Ever wonder why us geeky dudes get into cycling? This guy can show you why.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Tough Days in Tauranga

It's right smack in the middle of January but there's no umbrellas or jackets in sight, just sand, waves and the sun 5 feet above my head. Racing's done for the week, back into it in 5 days, but for now it's boardshorts, not lycra. I think my inner-calendar's getting a little wacked-out running around in mid-80's sunshine this time of year, but I'm not complaining. Sometimes the phrase "not a cloud in the sky" is a bit of an exaggeration, but this is not one of those times. Some Scottish guy my age who's touring around the country has joined Logan and Brei and I for the day. I'm not sure where he came from or who he is, but it hardly matters. He's quite the character, doesn't seem to fit with the three reasonably tanned, thin bike racers, with his typically Scottish stovepipe features, casper-white skin and thick, indeciferable accent. He's visibly excited to be on the beach in such weather, and he lets fly with bursts of words allegedly in English but no one can translate, so we smile, laugh a little and nod.
Then it's in the water to fail time and time again at swimming into the shorebreak waves, but nobody cares because everyone's high on sunburns and salt-water. Thrashing around in warm waves like this turns everyone into children regardless of supposed "age" or "maturity," proof positive when Logan's dad swims out to join us. This man's in his 50's, a farmer and a tractor-driver, but today he's nine, giggling between mouthfulls of seawater, flailing around somewhere North of Tauranga in the Pacific Ocean.
After the arms can't take it anymore and the waves loose a little magic it's back to the beachtowels and sunglasses for a stretch and some sand. I'm lulled by sun and a slight on-shore breeze into sleep, just long enough to recharge and run back to the water when the sun gets just too damn hot... We'll race another day, we'll train another day but for now it's some recovery, some mental rest. Quite the change of scenery from the sub-arctic plains at the bottom of the south Island only three days ago. I can dig it... DT

Thursday, January 13, 2005

And In Other News...

I admit, the whole carnival coverage was pretty weak, but it was late, I was tired, boo hoo. Anyway. I'm settled in Wanganui at the Casa de Brei, and I have internet access in the house once again (the past three entries have been typed at furious speeds on 'pay per minute' internet cafe places, hence the grammar), so I can finally check out the rest of the world's biz again. First off, let me say that Portland rules. Two of the US's World Championship cyclocross squad are Portland guys. Word up to Barry "The Hair" Wicks and Erik Tonkin, who I have no clever knickname for, but we could call him "The Tonkinator." Could be three if you count Ryan "Tree Farm" Trebon, who doesn't live here full time, but I saw him in P-town an awful lot this year at races and Starbucks and such (hard to miss a guy who's about 80 feet tall).

While Portland rules, the new Discovery Cycling Team uniforms do not. That's Discovery, formerly USPostalService for all you non rider-guys. The guys who at least used to look slightly different from the gaggle of other teams who wear nothing but white and blue.USPS at least had some red in there somewhere. Team Disco Fever? Just white and blue. Boring.

You know what's not boring? Mooning people. Randy Moss of the Minnesota Vikings agrees with me on this one, but Randy's a pro athlete, he's got some common sense, he knows that whole "right and wrong" thing, so he wouldn't really moon people on the field even though it would probably be hilarious. So in celebration at a touchdown and responding to the boos and flying trash that the Green Bay Packers fans were flinging at him, Moss "pretended" to moon them. Ohh SNAP. Laughs were had all around, even a few Green Bay fans were quoted in thier local papers as saying "it was pretty funny" after Moss mimed a vicious mooning. WAIT. STOP THE PRESSES, says the NFL. In this time of extreme censorship and fear of conservative backlash a la "The Great Janet Jackson Superbowl Booby Fiasco," Moss is being fined $10,000 for his hideous act. Ten grand. Granted Moss has a history of doing wierd crap because he has ADD or something, but I think this shows some restraint on his part, and he gets the size 9 penny-loafer of The Man straight up his butt for it. Damn The Man. He's just trying to get you down. I'm with you Randy. Don't let him get you down.

Speaking of drug-addled freaks, Ben Berden, a Belgian cyclocrosser, admitted use of EPO a few days ago. Why did he use EPO you ask? Because he was "tired." That's easilly the best reason yet. Millar's reasoning of 'team pressure' was my other favorite, no scratch that, previous favorite was when some Lampre guy said "it's for my dog," but this takes the cake. Congradulations Berden, you've thrown down a new standard for excuses, it's going to be hard to top this one. DT

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Not All Carnivals Are Cotton Candy and Ferris Wheels...

Especially not this one. This one is 6 days long, includes track racing, a handicapped road race and a crit. It also includes THE AMAZING WORLD CHAMPION GREEEEEGGGG HENDERSONNN!!!!! The announcers reminded us of this fact often. Hendi himself also reminded us of his status and superiority by smashing the field to pieces in every single race without even breaking a sweat. Scotty was the only one without an expression of anguish on his face, since "Big Rig" never really shows any expression at all. My performance wasn't anything to write home about (so I won't) but Scott managed to hang on to Hendi in a couple races for second place finishes. Ho dang. Hard racing. Crappy town. Nice people. Crappy town. World Champ. Wow... On to Wanganui....

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Nelson, More Climbing and Crap Racing in the Armpit of The World

Long time no talk to party people, it's been a while since I've had any internet, so this is going to be a long, possibly quite boring entry.

I set down in Nelson on New Year's Eve. After the daunting task of unpacking, inspecting and rebuilding the bike (after watching some slacker asshole fling it into the plane from halfway across the tarmac), Scotty, Aaron Tuckerman and I went for a quick ride and settled in for a slow New Year's Eve.
THE PLAN: Although it is New Year's Eve, the number one night for party and celebration, the night when all people my age are supposed to cut loose and freak out, WE are elite bike racers, highly tuned machines who are expected to perform tommorow. SO. We will eat some pasta, watch the TV edit of Coyote Ugly and get some sleep. One bowl of pasta and half a Coyote later Scott's phone goes RING RING. It's Brei and a bunch of other bike racers, they are going out on the town. They apply what your high school counselor reffered to as "peer pressure."
This is where the 19 year-old guys look at each other, the TV, the phone, the lone semi-nice shirt crumpled in the corner, back to the TV, and after several seconds of this everyone simultaneously jumps up and says "I'm in."
Race? What race? It's NEW YEAR'S EVE!
New year's in Nelson is quite the sight. Downtown is shut down to cars so thousands of people can roam freely from bar to bar, all gathering in the street for one massive countdown led my some unseen DJ. Things progress, the night lurches ahead unchecked, in some sweaty overpacked club AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" blares away into everyone's clouded heads until we spill out into the street, shouting it at the top of our lungs. Things end up predictably out of control and by 3am thoughts of racing are very distant on the horizon. Maybe Scotty and I got kicked out of McDonald's for excessive dancing and wicked moves, maybe not. Maybe Logan went running down the street naked as a new born, maybe not. Either way, the first race of the tour was 5 hours away.

The first 20k of the next day's road race blur into breathless vertigo. 14 laps of a 6k circuit complete with corners split by concrete center dividers (which split the field at the last possible moment every single time) and one little digger of a hill. The presence of several NZ Olympians kept the speeds pinned at 60k/hr on the straights and made for a few panicked chases and failed breakaways. When the break finally did stick it was 8 men strong, and neither Scott, Aaron or I was in it.
No worries, says I, still a 9th place field sprint to go and by this point things are looking up. Scott offers up the leadout and gets absolutely STUFFED with 400m to go, trapped on all sides but a tiny gap opens up to my right and before you can say BAM I'm through it and halfway into orbit. As I am in terrible shap and a bit under the weather I start to blow with 10m to go an the only guy that gets up next to me happens to be enormous, dressed in orange, and named Scotty Allen. Not sure who got it in the end because the officials couldn't be bothered with posting the actual order of the finishers, instead listing the field in alphabetical order. So instead of 9th or 10th, I was 60th or so. Awesome.

Stage 2 wasn't epic or great, but there was a 6k climb halfway through the race that I completely detonated on, sentencing me to ride the last 60k with a few other stragglers who didn't feel like working. Meanwhile ahead of me, Scott attacked early and had to ride the whole climb alone with the group breathing down his neck. Afterwards he said "I lost almost all my senses on that climb. I was down to three: sight, swearing and lactating."
Apparently he still had the sense of spewing left at the top of the climb, it took him almost half an hour to clean his bike off back at the room.

The crown jewel of the Tour De Vinyards is a 140k bastard of a stage that includes 2 big climbs mid-course and a 18k mountain-top finish worth $1000. I assumed today would be another hard, lonely day and I was half right. 5k up the first 6k climb I was breathing through my eyeballs, watching the field roll away and thinking "well, shit."
At this point there are over 100k left to go.
I'm scared to be alone.
So over the top I go and run smack into a straight headwind descent. Not good conditions to catch a 70-strong field of impoverished bike racers chasing sweet moolah. At the bottom I'm joined by 5 other goons who don't see the point of working hard enough to catch the field, so it's all me launching the desperate chase. Let me remind you od one important factor: I hate individual time trials. Why? Because I suck at them. The time trials I tend to do well at are around 200m long. I use this rationale to justify going all-out in hopes I can catch the field in 15k or less. If I can, sweet. If I can't, I'll end up completely frying myself and probably abandoning the race when my legs refuse to go any further halfway up the next climb. Long story short, I haul back a minute and a half on the field in 14k and catch them just as my quads are about to fall out of my shorts. Sweet.
I don't remember much about the next climb aside from complete loss of motor functions (aside from turning my feet in labored circles) and the joy of realizing I was descending the other side with the field. The next 50k wasn't too bad with everyone saving up for the mad dash up Takaki.
Remember what I wrote about climbing Ruapehu? This was about the same, but the first 10k wasn't pleasant.
It was the opposite of pleasant.
Which is bad.
I was maxed out with my legs cramping hard for 2 hours, and every 5 feet some asshole was telling me "you're almost there." Every time I heard that I felt like saying "f@!k off, I've got 12k left!" and punching them in the throat, but I was too busy gasping for breath, pedalling and swearing to myself, not near enough energy to swear at someone else, let alone take a swing.
I reached the top 10 minutes behind the field I started the climb with.
Then (here's a great idea) we rode another 60k home. It was a 200k day (that's 120 miles, people) in under 6 hours. I slept for 15 hours. I was too tired to eat, too tired to stand, almost too tired to sleep. All that was left to do was pass out and swear at things in my sleep.

The final day of the tour wasn't destined to go well. In the past I never would have finished a stage like yesterday's let alone reach the last climb with the group then ride another 60k home. I never would because I never have. I've never climbed that well and I can count the number of 200k rides I've done on my left hand. I was completely smashed up after that stage and by day 4 I still hadn't found all the pieces. I probably made half of the hilly-ass Hill Street circui race before I turned off the course and rode (crawled) back to the house. For my efforts in the Sprint competition I was still out of the money and my 50th place on GC wasn't going to net me anything, so it wasn't worth me walking the rest of the course. I damn near had to walk my bike up the driveway. Breezy once again convinced me to get out of the house and attend the post-race "rider debriefing" session at the local pub, which once again ran late into the night, was capped my her sister out-drinking me handily, and early early in the morning I was on a plane to my next destination...

What a hole. This place is what would happen if you took some podunk 40,000 person Texas backwater town and plunk it down 600k north of Antarctica. This is supposed to be a 6-day track carnival but the first day was rained out, and the infield is now a lake. This is gonna be a long week...