Thursday, July 23, 2009

Le Tour

Alright, I really haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to that 3 week spectacle of drama in France ( and I don't mean drama in a good way ). but I did catch the last few stages in the Alps....and....watching this stuff is getting me FIRED UP for cross season!!!! I mean I can feel the cold air filling the nostrils, slippery wet leaves and or clumps of mud/snow, dead feet and hands and that searing pain in the close

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Fat Tire Revolution Part 3- Racing

It was at the halfway point through the Cross Country race course at the Sea Otter Classic about 10 years ago when I strayed off course. I was sitting in a group of 4, three of whom were my co-workers. We were participating in the Industry Cup portion of the race where cycling companies gather a few teams composed of 4 men, 1 women and we ride for bragging rights within the industry. I was part of our "B" team, definitely not a contender but if I could help out with gathering some points while having fun, so be it. Our group had managed to wander off into a sandy drainage before realizing that there were very few tracks in front of us and no other riders behind us. One other unfortunate employee from an unnamed company followed our folly. Within a few minutes we assessed the situation, regained our bearings and joined in to the race without any drama. Twenty of so minutes later we cruised through the finish line, content and tired, I immediately headed back to our tech truck parked in the infield looking to relax and listen to some stories from the "A" team. When I had plunked myself into a comfy camp chair, our lone straggler who had followed us into the weeds came up me, bright red in the face spewing " As a sponsor of this event I would expect you to know where the course leads !!! Thanks for getting me lost !" That was the last mountain bike race I participated in, this was not the sport I witnessed grow up. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not bitter about mountain bike racing. To me this was one of the most amusing circumstances I've ever had while racing but the sport had morphed into something that I didn't quite recognize any longer.

I blame my interest in racing on the Fat Tire Flyer, a West coast based publication dedicated to the fat tire phenomenon. The magazine was filled with a hefty calender of upcoming races and results postings. I had fooled myself into believing that I had built up the requisite skills to start thinking seriously about entering one of these things. Problem was, there was nothing to enter. As with most trends, the New England scene was barely in bloom. Inevitably, a race did pop up on our calender, the Sandhopper up on Cape Cod ,it was a time trial format on a mix of pine needles and super fine sand. My memory of this race is hazy, I finished 3rd and came home with a prize...a pair of Shimano DX flat pedals. What made an impression at this race were some pretty nifty bikes, all painted primary colors ( same all on the same frame ), the logo on the downtube read " Fat Chance" and rumor had it that Chris Chance was building the finest mountain bikes available for tackling the wet slimy root and rock infested New England trails. Next up was another time trial called Tour De Bluff in Groton, CT. I remember lots of thorny prickers, slimy muddy corners and a giant tree in the middle of the course that required portaging. I was on the podium again and took home some Suntour components.
Luckily, that same summer of 1984, the circus arrived in Wendell State Park in Western Mass, billed as the Ross Stage race. Ross bicycle company had thrown a bunch of money into sponsoring a formidable team as had Specialized and Gary Fisher. All the talent from the West would be attending. Stan and I quickly booked a dorm room at UMass in Amherst and readied ourselves for the weekend. I was stunned when I arrived, V-dub campers, tents pitched, there was a game on Ultimate Frisbee going on, campfires and bikes everywhere. Next sensation was becoming star struck, I spotted Jacquie Phelan with her goofy dropped bar, aluminum frame that resembled no other bike in existence, Joe Murray on a sweet red, black and yellow Gary Fisher, Gavin Chilcot, Dave McLaughlin sporting their bright pink Specialized Stumpumper Race bikes, Aaron Cox riding a fillet brazed Ross, the Cook brothers from Crested Butte, Chris Chance in his crew had organized a photo shoot for everyone there riding his bikes. There was not one ounce of the road scene in this group, everyone had arrived to enjoy themselves on 2 wheels in the dirt. Lot's of smiles and hairy legs. At the end of the weekend someone would be awarded the win but that was a secondary prioritization. There were 4 events held and since it was a stage race, all events were meant to be participated in. There was the hillclimb, the downhill, ( both time trial format ) observed trials and the cross country race ended the weekend. I raced the cross country wearing striped calf-high athletic socks, cut-off jean shorts and a t-shirt with a cotton hoodie over it. I can't quite remember but I think I fit right in. I had also taken this sport with bait, hook, line and sinker, it was providing way too much fun to ignore.

In part 4 of my infinite part series, the evolution of bikes and off-road racing
Thanks for reading