Sunday, December 30, 2007

blurs of the Basslink

sit tight and strap in, this one's a doozy.

The 2007 Basslink Christmas Carnivals are one day from their end. It's all been quite the experience so far. Seems like I've been wide-eyed or too tired to focus for most of it. Des, Eugene and Viktor (Eugene's dad) left this morning, so Kelyn and I have transferred from the posh Tasmanian Country Club to a downtown Launceston hostel. Huge, hundred year old building complete with hundred year old furniture and hundred year old maids. We managed to score a room with two beds and just enough room to fit all the bikes and bike cases and bike accessories and bike minutia for a wickedly cheap rate. We could stay here for 2 weeks and still come out ahead of what most people are paying at the Country Club for a single night. Magic. Tonight's New Years Eve and the question of what's happening is all anyone wants to talk about. All over the building, all over the cafes in town it's all "what you up to" and "where you headed tonight?" Word has it a big barbecue's happening at the hostel (which is allowing beer on the premises for this day only) then a big group's heading into town for some traditional Australian revelry (read: drinking beer until you fall over). We may not race till 2pm tomorrow, but a race is a race and this one's boasting some good cash up for grabs, so we're imposing a strict 50 beers per person limit tonight. No attempting the century with racing the next day... Actually I'll take it easy on the liver (gotta get it rested for a weekend at the lake in NZ with a certain Scott Allen), but I'm sure as sh!t not sitting in the room on New Year's Eve.

The Launceston carnival was quite nuts. I guess they're all a bit crazy, but that one seemed a bit further off the rails then the rest so far. The Silverdome is an indoor board track, which is nothing new if you've ridden LA. The new part was the freestyle motocross on the infield, the woodchopping, the Aboriginal war drumming and the 4000 boozed up Tasmanians in the stands all the way around the track. Wheelraces are already a chaotic affair in my book, and cutting the distance and width of the track in half doesn't make things any smoother. I wasn't too worried until the last lap of the feature wheelrace heat. Myself and 3 others were catching the leading group with the bell ringing and the scratchmen breathing down our necks. Just as we're about to swing up and around the group riders start diving off thier bikes at the rail, guys from my group are smacking into downed riders and faceplanting all around me and I dive onto the apron to keep from losing my front wheel. I make it through clean just in time to realize that I'm on the painted concrete apron heading into a sharp corner, which is about the point that my front tire gives up and I come crashing down, hipcheck the cement, knee into the top tube and grind to a stop. Des helps me up, tells me the bikes okay and sends me to the first aid stand to get scrubbed out.

Devonport was better in that I did not end up laying on the track or in an hospital bed. The best way to sum up the day actually comes from the front page of the local paper, which just printed a picture of riders splayed out on the shallow bank and a line of ambulances headed toward the track with the headline "CARNIVAL CARNAGE. Four in the hospital and one in Intensive Care as the Christmas Carnivals take a bloody turn." Fortunately none of the US riders were involved in any of that business, but it made me feel pretty lucky about sitting the day out with a swollen, sore hip (which kind of looked like I was trying to steak a grapefruit by hiding it in my pocket.) Two separate crashes prompted hospital trips, and one ended with a rider flying over the railing at the top of the track and colliding with a light post. The last update we heard from the organizers was tough to hear. Broken ribs, punctured lung, broken wrist, broken collarbone and a head injury which landed him in a medically induced coma. Most of the racing was cancelled for the night, and a visible funk settled over all of the riders and spectators alike.

Devonport's a two day affair, and the second day proceeded as scheduled. Collections were passed around for the rider in the hospital. By the end of the day they had collected just over $15,000 from personal donations (including $1000 from Stewart O'Grady, who was apparently in the stands) and a large amount of riders donating their winnings. On the racing front, I was not allowed to start the wheelraces or the kierins, as my joint pain had gone away and been replaced with paralyzing cramps through my left side hip flexors. I assured my coach that I'd be fine for a first lap in the Olympic sprint, and so we lined up against the Australian Institute of Sport B team. The last time we had done a team sprint in Latrobe we finished 6th of 6th. This time I blasted off from the line, got the team up to speed, pulled off and nearly fell off the bike as my leg started to seize. Eugene kept the speed up, Kelyn finished strong and we beat the AIS team by almost 4 tenths, to grab 4th place. We were 2 tenths from third and Des was a happy man.

Feeling much better today after some good food and good rest, so hopefully by tommorow I'll be at 100%. Enough typing for now. I need a coffee..

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

live rounds

Internet access, finally. The yardstick of civilization. No internet at the hotel, so Kelyn and I are spending our day off wandering around Hobart (Tas' only major city) and have wandered straight into a internet cafe, into 3 coffees too many and probably into a steep bill after my little "me me me!" screed is done.

So anyway. About me. My first ever Tasmanian christmas carnival is done and dusted. Latrobe: check. What's that phrase athletes tend to throw out when they've been beaten senseless? Ah yes... "I learned alot."

For instance.
I learned not to ride a 95in gear for a 200m on a pan-flat windy track. I was off 5th, so I kind of had to wing it on gear choice and came up nil. The 200m times ended up being similar to a fast day on Alpenrose (slowest track on the planet), so when I couldn't muscle the 95 up to speed, I "learned something."

I learned that no matter how many times you put on sunscreen, you will get a sunburn in Australia. If you're a fair-skinned Portlander raised under cloudcover, you will fry when riding in circles under the hole in the Ozone layer. No matter what you do.

I learned that a Tasmanian wheelrace is simultaneously the most confusing, exhausting, sketchy, stupid-hard, death-defying race there is. And that was just the heats. I never figured it out well enough to qualify for either of the finals, but the heats were challenge enough. Just making it into a final by the end of this will be a big deal.

I learned that the Tasmanians are pretty cool people. The UCI officials will say "no collusion!" while the Tassie organizers are telling you how it really is so you might have a fighting chance.

I learned that Tasmanians love their carnivals. A sold out crowd of several thousand were in the stands watching us skinny US geeks get "learned." The spectators are great.

I learned that these Australian Olympic riders are not human beings. They are alien cyborgs that eat wallabies and kangaroos in one bite, have rocket booster packs under their skinsuits and can't process things like "fear."

I learned the Japanese are pretty much the same, but with more interesting hair.

I learned that despite being an alien cyborg, Shane Kelly can loves Borat just as much as I do, and is a pretty cool guy.

Anyway. That's the condensed version of the latrobe carnival. The little counter at the bottom of the screen says :12 minutes - 5 dollars: so in conclusion, I'm having a great time, never gone this hard in my life, hurting real bad but hopefully improving, didn't make any finals so not in contention for anything but tomorrow's a new day a new track and I'm out.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

holding patterns

Three more days till racing starts. Three more days. All I've been doing the last few days is riding and resting. Not much else.

Had one day of racing at Manukau Bowl, dirtiest track in New Zealand. 6k scratch race, 1k handicap heats and final, 500m scratch and a long points race. Still had a 95inch gear on, but who has time for a gear change these days? Just as I pulled my shorts on, they were calling A grade riders to the rail. Last time I was here, I learned the valuable lesson that warmups are for suckers, so the scratch worked well to get the day started. The big man-gear was tough to push but got me most of the way through, until the poo hit the fan and the skinny guys had their way. The 3 lap handicap went a bit better. I'm not used to handicaps, and Tas will be full of them, so I felt a bit of jitters for the first time in months as I rolled up to my mark.

::Handicap Crash Course::
A handicap (a.k.a. "wheelrace" or "gift") is a standing start scratch race. Riders are "graded" based on past performances, speed, skill and the whims of the promoter. While most traditional races are restriced to categories (elite, a grade, b grade, etc.), anyone can ride a handicap. Olympians and first-timers can end up in the same heat. To make things fair, the Olympians and the bad dogs start the race at the exact race distance. If it's a 1k, they start 1k from the finish line (with laps). This is called riding "on scratch" or being a "scratchmarker." A rider with slightly less speed or experience will start a few meters in front of the bad dogs. Mid-level elite hacks like myself might start 50 meters in front of the Olympians, while beginners will start 150 to 200 meters in front of the scratchmarkers. Therefore when the gun goes off, the lesser riders have less distance to cover, giving them a legitimate shot at beating the scratchmarkers to glory and a big fat check. It's a full-on super-dangerous effort from start to finish.

So we line up for our handicap. I'm off 30 meters in front of a junior world champ and a well known NZ sprinter dude. The gun goes Bang and I look around for a second and kind of go "eewah?" before I realize I should probably go now so I do. Big start to get over the 95inch gear and I get moving, get through the field and on through to the final. The final also makes me weirdly nervous even though it doesn't really mean anything. The scratchmarkers are the same, I'm still at 30 and we have to catch 160m or riders. Another big start, big enough to leave the scratchmarkers behind, never to catch up, I come up on the lead group with one to go and it's 6 wide around the final bend. Fast as I can turn the toobig gear, I can only make it to 4th, trying to come around the field on the rail.

Felt good about that. Out of the money, but on the right path. The 500 meter standing scratch should have been my big one, but that's when I checked my tire pressure and saw my rear tubular delaminating in my hands. F!&K!. No spares, no neutral wheels. Guess it's time to call it a night and buy a new tire instead of a christmas present...

As for now, time to climb back on the bike.

Friday, December 21, 2007


MT Eden Village. Our hood.

Wisconsin is the shizzle, apparently.

Edible heaven, lightly fried and wrapped in the paper of joy.

These tires are so great. I love them. They will complete 2 track sessions like nobody's business. On the third ride they will self-destruct faster than a bottle rocket, but what else would you expect from a tire that only costs a hundred bucks? Everyone knows you need to dump your entire savings to get any quality in the bike industry, so who am I to critisize?

You can't see the wonderfully phalic snorkel air intake very well in this awful picture, but this car is the mechanical equivalent of that guy you see walking around town in 100 degree sun wearing combat boots, leather pants, and a knee-length black leather trenchcoat that barely covers his cheeto-fueled beer belly.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

too much time, not enough time

Ah, the comfort of routine. Even on temporary stay in a country on the other side of the planet it's easy to find a routine. The bike racer lifestyle demands it. Wake up to the sounds of a raging screaming 8 year old. This kid Tom is like Calvin (from calvin & hobbs) without the good intentions. Coffee, food, kit up and roll down to the waterfront. The waterfront on Mission bay is the ultimate morning spin. A perfect 90 minutes, mostly flat, full of people and sights that are easy to look at and duplicated every day. Ride along Mission Bay and you do feel like you're miles away from home. Palm trees, outdoor cafes, white beaches, bluish green surf lapping up on people in boardshorts and less... this is not December, is it? Can it be? The ride home takes you through the Auckland Domain, which is a jungle mid-city. Trees that seem older than man, HUGE fronds and ferns. You can't stop looking at all this deep green wildlife stretching above you and you're now drifting to the right side of the quiet road and shit there's a car coming straight at you but it's not his fault and he lets you know with his horn which snaps you out of your tourist stupor, you ride home and straight to the fridge.

The rest of the afternoon is spent at coffee shops and on couches, trying not to think too much about the evening workout ahead.

Track racing tonight, Mint Chicks concert Saturday. Had a run-in with the Mint Chicks last time. Turns out that my favorite Kiwi band is a couple of months away from becoming one of my favorite Portland bands. Been reading local music rags and lately everyone can't stop moaning about the spazz-rockers ditching thier bassist and heading for wetter pastures in PDX. Can't wait to see them play in town after they find a bassist a following and a regular spot at Tube.

If the video above is not showing up on your automated electric computing figure generator box, click here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

took the camera on the morning ride

Good art doesn't always live in a gallery.

I suppose you could consider this art. Like the art that I made when I was six years old and stuck in the grip of ADD. Let's cover this house with glue, throw a shitload of lumber at it and paint the whole thing black. At least this one has windows unlike...

This house is ugly in the way that Las Vegas sucks. It's stupidly expensive, completely impractical, dark inside and isn't really as impressive as the builders hoped it would be. Looks about as comfortable as living inside a casket.

Maybe this is what happens when you admire the two above houses, read too many design magazines but have neither the cash or the drive to see a project like that though to its end. This is the housing equivalent of a teenage girl wearing neon underwear on the outside of her jeans.

After I got back to the house, Baxter/Whiskey/Meatface the boxer/german shephard dog mauled me until I took his picture.

So here he is. In all his glory.

Baxter/Whiskey/Meatface plays rough.


Monday, December 17, 2007

tuesday list

Songs you should be listening to, should you find yourself wandering around Auckland on a warm, overcast and somewhat humid day in December with 5 hours to kill.

"Ballad of Jim Jones" - Brian Jonestown Massacre
"A Warning To The Curious" - The Coral
"Zurich Is Stained" - Pavement
"El Chupa Nibre" - Dangerdoom
"The Worst Taste In Music" - The Radio Department
"Down Boy" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"Walk On The Wild Side" - Lou Reed
"Back 4 You" - Jurassic 5
"Sentimental Man" - The Dismemberment Plan
"Good Morning" - The Dandy Warhols
"Kiss Kiss" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Slow news day on the island.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

kia ora

I hate that flight. I hate it so bad. Air New Zealand does a great job of making things as comfortable and pleasant as possible, but there's only so much you can do for a 14 hour flight. Anyway. Stumbled out of the plane and into Andy Small's tiny compact car, where we drove at top speed straight to the corner cafe for a kickass breakfast and coffee.

Nothing beats taking off from Portland under rainy 40 degree skies and rolling out the door the next day in Auckland wearing a sleeveless jersey and shorts for a ride along the waterfront. Nothing beats it. Except maybe more coffee after that.

My favorite Kiwi spazz-rock band The Mint Chicks plays on Friday. Excellent timing indeed.

Off to the store for some camera batteries and food food food.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

the flying meatball victorious

That right kids, hot off the press, fresh off the blackberry txt vines from Des in the Kung Pao General Tso Velodrome in Beijing, Mike Friedman won the World Cup scratch race. Sounds like he didn't actually win it, he annihilated everyone in his path with a solo breakaway that would make Armstrong himself shed a single tear of joy. Not that we care that much what a skinny millionaire roadie thinks anyway, but cool stuff regardless, eh? Good thing too, as Meatball seems to be the only US trackie that isn't deathly ill. Sickbay thus far: Jennie Reed, out. Michael Blatchford: So out he couldn't even make in out of the springs. Bobby Lea: Down and out in a chinese hospital. USAC needs to find another cook, maybe start distributing Flinstones vitamins...


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

our town could be your life

So it's been a while, eh? Feeling pretty ill at the moment, so I've kicked out of work early and now have time to burn, and I will burn it in your face.
Walker The Stalker has come and gone for his November Crappy Weather and Sad People Tour. A note for anyone looking to come to Portland for a pleasant vacation and some loose partying with people of the fairer sex: Don't come in late November. It's wet, it's cold and everyone's either studying for finals or suffering through the first waves of seasonal affective disorder.

Anyway, we went to the Doug Fir to see a pair of kick-ass dance-rock bands last Friday. The bands played well, they sounded great and yet everyone stood there like a bunch of slackjawed invertebrates, hands in pockets, eyes to the floor. Come on, you paid 13 bucks to see two party bands. Two bands whose sole purpose is to get stupid hipsters to dance and you're too cool to even nod your hoodie-covered head? Fakc. Lame. Jenny and Walker and I rocked out despite the cool kids. We won the night.

Open note the the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross promoters: Next year let us run the show. They came to town with all thier "rules" and "fees" and stuffy pro-ness and damn near crushed the Portland cx spirit. Rider attendance for the Alpenrose Crusade race was over 1000. Rider attendance for the USGP barely topped 400. Crowds were okay but not great. Someone said to me "i thought portland cross was supposed to be a big deal." It is, but only when it's on our terms...