Monday, November 30, 2009

The Final Showdown: Mooney's Bay Cross

Sunday, the big show. I'd hoped for snow and rain all week, in the way only a sadistic cross racer would. Or so you might think. In fact, I hoped for rain and snow so the racing would hurt LESS. Yes, that's the secret of the slop: you can only go so fast when you are trying not to eat it on every turn. Thus, you get to recover in between things like straights and, oh, I don't know, basterd hills you have to 'run' up. Yeah, sure, I'll likely crash in the slop, but I'll have fun doing it.

It didn't rain or snow. As a consolation, it was beautiful out. The sun warmed my emerald clad back as I cast my gaze across the land, sending out silent encouragement to my cyclocross bretheren as they squeezed every last drop out of their bodies on the uphill finish. Or something like that. Race 1 saw Brad, Will, Martin, and Will's bra, Noah, thrown down. Brad decided he would "not [in fact] pay to rock the one-cog," and instead busted out gears to take on the course. The others had gears on their bicycles as well, and too attacked the course with abandon. Then Martin flatted...on lap one. No sweat, he'd fix er up and rock the second race. That's how we roll; versatile.

Photos below come courtesy of Coolfish Andy, and Gilles. Thanks guys, great shooting! Their sets can be found here and here.

Will cannot be accused of not trying. Look at his face, he's trying hard. Next year he'll be back, swine flu free and crushing it!

Our cheering section was not quite as well developed here as provincials, but our numbers did grow for the second race. Lily rocked the trumpet like a pro, and Thom improvised a stellar dual cowbell technique that was acoustically stunning. Lovely! Jamie has not yet developed his rabid fan skills, but will likely do so...eventually.

Will would likely have been ripping this harder if he wasn't trying to choke his heart down.

Brad would make a good fighter pilot. Look at him, he's totally relaxed, but riding fast.

Tanya seems to know the secret to cyclocross, because she's always smiling. What is it? Tell us. Is it an extra special chamois creme?

Noah shredded the course on his kids wheels. I normally don't use that turn of phrase, but when I caught him in my sights one time, it looked like he was riding a bmx or something for a second. Then I realized it was Noah on the 26s. Even the wee kids ride 700s, so these wheels look really small with narrow tires.

The beginning of race 2.

I've noticed Anna also smiles a lot. Does she also know the secret?

She must, look at this. Anna is running AND smiling. QQF? And why is this underlined?

Neil doesn't so much smile as not look like he is not hurting much. Does he mask it really well, or is he just that fast? Either way, I should find out, cause it might be something simple like chamois creme.

Rodd does look like he enduring pain. He came up from behind again. I should consider this tact sometime, but probably won't.

Martin, aka, Wolverine, shreds the course. He noted the pace was marginally faster than the first race usually is. But I'm thinking that with the right chamois creme, or perhaps even embro, he'll be right in there.

Jamie probably did not have magic chamois creme or embro on. You can tell by the knee warmers. Nevertheless, he did work himself hard and rode a great race. He used to never show his suffering face, but now he does all the time. I like it!

Look at that, that's totally running. Nice going Jamie!

I have no idea what Rodd is doing here. Possible sign language. This is the point where I am still hanging on. Then he gets away. I'd waited for him earlier on, when I felt crap, thinking I'd be able to stay on fine. Nope.

I think Mike had a good race. He seemed to ride strong and place well. I'm starting to find out that he always pins it. Nice.

Oops, this should have come earlier. Nice clouds, and Neil going fast.


Yes, I'm right on Shawn, just where I want to be. This is going awesome. Oh no, he's getting away....


As you can se below, I crashed. But not here, yet. I'm unclipping to moto the turn. I crash on the exit, as my back wheel slides out on the dirt path up the hill (my wife was standing there and filled me in, cause I had no idea how exactly this happened). I'm thinking a little less rake on my fork would have allowed me to pull this off. Either that, or perhaps DZ Nutz instead of Mad Alchemy Pro Chamois, as the former has way more tingle effect to keep you on your toes.

Shwoop. I actually slid on my shoulder too a split second earlier, tearing my number. I love the grass in the air. Action. After this is felt really horrendous in the lungs and slowed down a lot. Damn, I had to win and make sure Drew Rapoch got no points in order to take 5th overall! So close! Rodd got away I decided it was time to get back into it and give'r.

Thom is out of the frame, but he's surely yelling a split to me here, urging me on (I'm only showing so many of me because I am the one doing all the crashing and suffering. promise). My wife, daughter, and mother-in-law were also nearby screaming it up. Danielle reminded me I was on my last lap of the season, so I worked it extra hard.

Mike was definitely also putting in 100% here.

Thom kept on giving me splits to Rodd, but I couldn't see him. I could see the Cyclety rider, Jeff Faulds, up ahead though. I'd been chasing him, maintaining a gap for a while, but I managed to bridge on the last lap. As I tailed him around the final turn, there was Rodd up ahead. My primary concern was to try to drag race Faulds, but we both passed Rodd.

This one captures the story. This was the first time I've caught and passed Rodd after he's caught and passed me. Barely pulled it off. I look forward to improving to the point where we can work together in the races.

Neil's svelte set-up.

Sexy, right? This is called sex lacing, and Will did it. Probably right around 1995. Stiffer was the word. Noah rocked it sexy style for sure.

My Secteur 18 performed admirably. I managed a 34 in the front, and 30 tubular in the back (my Vittoria 32 fits too). The bike was extremely stable and responsive. I also loved the lack of toe overlap. I'd go with cantis for a cross bike, for sure, but this shows the versatility of a bike set up with mid-reach calipers. A bigger tire could fit in the rear by providing more clearance at the seat stays. This all-road configuration is pretty sweet.

Hope to see fellow racers on Wednesday at the awards night.

NOTE: See below for info from the NCC regarding a great talk next week.

The National Capital Commission (NCC) and the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands invite the public to attend a presentation on how the city of The Hague has become a world leader in bicycle transportation. Marie Lemay, Chief Executive Officer of the National Capital Commission (NCC), and His Excellency Wim Geerts, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, will host the event. The evening’s key note speaker will be Ms. Inge Molenaar, The Hague’s leading expert in cycling infrastructure, who has helped transform The Hague into a bicycle-friendly city. Ms. Molenaar will share her city’s best practices, lessons learned and will answer questions about The Hague’s challenges and successes.

Admission to the event is free.

WHEN: Monday, December 7, 5 pm to 7 pm

WHERE: Christ Church Cathedral Hall

420 Sparks Street, Ottawa

For more details:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nomological Danglers: Double Cross Un-race Report

I once took a 'philosophy of mind' course while working away at a degree in...philosophy, back in Montreal. The course could have been extremely interesting. Either I wasn't quite ready for the material, or the prof was in fact a lame duck. I can say that he wore the same black jeans, black running shoes, and black sweater every day. In addition, he had thinning long gray hair and spoke with a British accent. Classic.

As I say, some of the material for this course just didn't really resonate. However, there were at least a couple really fun terms we got to throw around:

1) Homunculus - This word and its denotation are so interesting they've left a lasting impression in my mind. In a (small) nutshell, a homunculus (in this context) is a hidden agent steering/directing the functions of the body.

Rather than digging out my notes, I've gone to wikepedia for a quick and dirty account. Gilbert Ryle writes,

According to the legend, whenever an agent does anything intelligently, his act is preceded and steered by another internal act of considering a regulative proposition appropriate to his practical problem (Ryle 1949).

That's not really very illuminative is it? Nope. That's ok. I encourage you to do some more reading on homunculi if you are interested. That's what the interweb is for. The point is, its a really cool term.

2) Nomological dangler - This is another one that just stuck; its so distinctive. This time, wikipedia comes through with a good spiel:

Nomological danglers is a term used by Scottish-Australian philosopher Jack Smart in his articleSensations and Brain Processes. He credits the term to Herbert Feigl and his article The "Mental" and the "Physical". It refers to the occurrence of something (in this case a sensation), which does not fit into the system of established laws. He thinks that systems in which such "nomological danglers would dangle" are quite odd. In his example the nomological danglers would be sensations such that are not able to be explained by the scientific theory of brain processes. Some mental entities for example in a phenomenological field, that are not able to be found (and do not behave in the way that is expected) in physics....Smart puts forward his own theory in the form of Materialism, claiming it is a better theory, in part because it is free from these nomological danglers, making it superior in accordance with Occam's Razor.

BTW, I maintained the hyperlink on Occam's Razor because I've always loved its elegance. Check it out.

Ok, so what's the geeking out al about? Well, as a person who maintains a fascination with the many wonders of the mind, I like to pursue things that pop into my head from time to time. Once in a while, something is indeed going on below the level of awareness we call 'consciousness' that bears fruit. Dreams are sometimes productive in this way, as are intuitions. Nomological danglers popped into my mind as soon as I started thinking about this post, so I decided to follow the lead. What's the connection to Sunday's ride? Read on, I'll try to piece it together.

Like most, if not all, would be riders, I awoke on Sunday morning to +6 overcast weather, a good 4-5 degrees warmer than predicted. Very fine. After a quick breakfast, mostly brown, I 'kitted' (isn't that and annoying term?) up. I was faced with what would prove to be one of my most difficult decisions I'd make that day: which embrocation to apply. Indeed, I underwent mental gymnastics, weighing the pros and cons of capsicum versus cloves, finally arriving upon my choice: Mad Alchemy Uber Secret Coffee flavour. Its my favourite, and consequently I tend to save it for special days. Such a day it was to be. Off I went.

Five minutes later I faced an even more challenging question, quandry even: should I return home to get the maps I'd forgotten. I was already cutting it close to arriving on time, and it certainly looks bad for the organizer to show up late. Maybe I should leave them....But I photocopied them and everything! I decided there was more to lose from having riders get lost without maps than me showing up late, so I backtracked and got them.

I arrived to see a solid mass of riders assembled at Gamelin. Well, solid in number, not congealed, that is. Without much fuss, and a minimal speech we were off on the parkway.

What felt like a mellowish pace proved not quite mellow enough pretty quickly. By the time we turned onto Mine Rd. we'd already broken a few danglers off. I knew Dom and Sean were likely to be happy maintaining their own pace, so I didn't worry. They are always well prepared with routes, so I figured we'd catch up at Pipolinka. There was a bit of hammering going on up front that had to be tamed, which I managed to do one point. I was very impressed by the quality of riding in the group, numbering about 20 at this point. A few of the riders I know are not powerhouses on the road were sitting in very well, riding really smart. There was very little yo-yoing happening and we were covering ground fast.

As usual, Cross Loop was a real crowd pleaser. For the first time, I witnessed riders pass in and out of the covered bridge from atop the hill; a beautiful sight. Before we I knew it, we were pulling up to Pipolinka for a snack. It felt premature for a snack to me - we'd covered the first leg so quickly - but it was promised, and I think well appreciated by many if not all. Stronger riders tend to not realize how much a break like that helps others recover. I quite enjoyed my coffee, as I always do there.

Off to the trail past the Mill we went.

After a last minute addition of air to the tires (sorry, I should have done this earlier, like at home), we were rolling on the dirt. Ryan and Nathan pulled away immediately, never to be seen again. They expected to see some of us at some point. Nope. The rest of the group rolled toward Lac Phillipe as a group for a bit, then strung out. I pulled up the the parking lot at the lake and waited for the others to trickle in. Jamie and Neil were right there, but we soon realized there were issues further back. A lengthy wait revealed a number of flats have occurred further back. Once we were all reassembled we continued on around the lake.

‘We' is a little misleading here. In fact, a few riders dangled off the group and were completely detached. This was not realized up front until we'd pulled away from the lake. This was where the most difficult decision had to be made: do we wait?

The problem at this point was precedent. I/we'd waited the first time. I personally felt like riding with friends beyond Jamie (no offense Jamie, the more the merrier), and thought there were a lot of people riding the same pace anyway. My informal plan was to keep everyone together around the lake, then let it string out the rest of the way. Getting around the lake on the path we wanted to take is a little tricky, but getting around to the far side of the lake is pretty easy, one way or another. Unfortunately, a few riders broke off before we made a couple key turns. So when we found ourselves missing riders, I wasn't quite sure what to do. The tempation was to backtrack to find them, which Rodd and Pascal did, while the rest of us continued. But they came up empty. Later on I wanted to backtrack to get Rodd and Pascal, but they ended up catching us as I fixed a flat anyhow. In the end, the missing riders all made it home, but a couple ended up stopping to hang out, which we didn't know about. So, the lesson I take from this is that we have to follow a pretty cut and dry approach: unless explicit agreements are made between teams to wait for each other, riders should continue on with their partners, assuming those behind them will sort themselves out. Since you can't tell whether someone behind had a catastrophic failure and called in a lift home, took a shortcut home, or opted to take an hour long break, its best to just keep rolling. This lends predictability and reduces confusion. Dropped riders will know they can ditch the route and nobody will get screwed looking for them, and everyone can proceed without doubt. Again, pairings are meant to cover people - you'll know your buddy will come back for you.

Beautiful shot by Rodd.

Steve. Beer. We amassed a gaggle of riders apres at Raw Sugar on Somerset and it was great. They serve proper coffee, food, desserts and beer. New after ride spot I think (replacing our present non-existent one).

It would be rather nifty indeed if I pulled this all together and revealed how its all about nomological danglers. But its not, so I won't force it. Sure, I could work it, but the theme here is danglers, and I think that's what made me think of nomological danglers in the first place. Danglers are not unstuck, at least not all the way. They don't break off in a clean a binary manner: on/off. While a rider might well perceive they are off, unlikely to get back on, they often still dangle in the minds of those ahead. Where are they, just around the bend. They are not gone, a thread of concern psychically connect them, almost imperceptible...danglers.

If anyone else felt pretty bagged Sunday night, know that you are not alone. I cannot remember once doing an long cross bike ride on trails and not being drained at the end. Micromanaging your lines takes much more mental energy than riding a road bike on roads or an mtb on trails. Decisions are constantly being made. Its draining. Its also very rewarding. So don't think you are in worse shape than presumed; its just a case of sensation not really lining up with expectation. Not nomological, but certainly phenomenological. More on that another time.

Rodd's photos can be found here

NEWS FLASH: Sunday's ride was so much fun I can't wait to ride more trails on my Steelwool (below). After this coming Sunday's cross race, the last of the season, I hope to be able to pull off at least one more long ride before the snow sets in. I've got a couple routes in mind that would be fun (and longer) than the DC route. This would of course be an informal affair, but I'll post here if it looks like a go. I'd really like to make it out past Lac LePeche and return on the trails. You can email me at if you are interested.

Some will recall I promised a post on the ride quality characteristics I had in mind for this bike. That post is sitting, waiting for a quiet time to put up. That time will come very soon. I hadn't expected to ride this bike much with full on cross tires, but took Sunday as the perfect opportunity to try it. The bikes geometry is very different in comparison to my Pinarello. While it is set up with mid-reach caliper brakes, it still fits a 34 in the front and a 32 in the back, on account of the chainstays being too narrow for my fat 34. I fell in love with this bike on Sunday. Before then, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. On the trails the bike was flawless, incredible stable while plenty nimble. I will race it on Sunday and see how I like the geometry and tubing in that context. I hope for mud for the sake of making the race harder technically, but hope my brakes don't hinder my progress if that materializes. I'll report back on this for certain. I've tipped off the Belgian Waffle man about the race, so bring some cash in case he shows up!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Double Cross Action!

Just a brief note until I have time later to provide more words about today's ride. Thanks to everyone who came out! The turnout was great, around 23, and the weather was outstanding. A few flats were had, confusion abounded about certain people's whereabouts, but nevertheless, everyone seemed to have a swell time. A group of us had coffee, beer and food at Raw Sugar apres, which was fantastic. As I write this I am sprawled out on my couch feeling rather well used. A great day in the saddle indeed.

If you have photos you'd like to share, send em over to me:

Check back soon for more.

pics here

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Double Cross: The Path the Salvation

Well, salvation might be a little too strong, but I like the ring of it, so I'm running with it. I stated earlier that we would not provide cue sheets for Sunday. The reasons for this are twofold: I don't want to waste time and paper unecessarily (as we don't have confirmation of numbers), and I believe riders are fully capable of creating cue sheets on their own. Preparing a cue sheet shows a degree of commitment to the ride that differs from the typical race-oriented event. One of the reasons we like doing events like this is that they provide the context in which riders can access terrain they would not otherwise encounter. Or perhaps combinations they would not encounter. Its about expanding the possible right here, in our own - big - backyard. So taking the time to look at the map is a way riders can enhance their familiarity with the region. For those who have not mapped out rides like this before, its an opportunity to try your hand at making a cue sheet and testing it out with the confidence that you won't likely get screwed if its off. We posted the route map last week to afford everyone the time to look it over.

Despite all this, I am a little concerned some riders will show up without having looked at the map, and also have little familiarity with the area. The buddy system will mitigate this potential issue, but nevertheless, I have decided to compose a rudimentary map to bring along, just in case I have to give some out. Bringing along a map of the park that shows the summer trails will be completely sufficient. The GPS map we've posted can be transposed manually onto your Park map. This would be the simplest way. A cue sheet would be easier to handle if you already have a familiarity with the area. Again, the route is not complicated, but their are decisions to make along the way, once we get onto the trails. There will be riders who could simply be told the trail numbers who would be good to go. To others, the numbers will be meaningless.

View 2009 Double Cross (Bikely) in a larger map

In en effort to make the route very clear, we took photos of each intersection last week. Jamie created the geo map above. CLick the riders for photos. In very simple terms, we'll be accessing the trails from the Mill in Wakefield, heading North then West to Lac Phillipe, bearing around the lake and back South-East toward Pine Road, then pretty much South to O'Brien. That's pretty straightforward for those who ride the trails. From O'Brien we take Meech Rd. to the North loop of the Parkway, then continue toward the Gamelin gate to finish (this differs from the last leg of the Parkway Rodd mapped). In other words:

52 to 53 to 51 to road around lake to 50 to 36 to O'Brien to North Loop of Parkway continuing to Gamelin gate. The end.

As I have stated earlier, we will ride as a group or small groups to Wakefield, stop at Pipolinka for a snack, then continue as a group to the trail. Thus, there is no reason to discuss the route to Wakefield beyond saying we'll take the parkway to the cut over to Mine road, take that to Old Chelsea, then Scott to the 105 and Cross loop, then River road.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2009 Ontario Cyclocross Provincials - Mooney's Bay

Will took a tonne of great photos. See them here.

It was a hard race today. Lots of opportunity to really put the hurt on. I think at least a few spent some time in the hurt locker. Make no mistake, today's course at Mooney's Bay was far more brutalizing than yesterday's Anvil.

Greg Rein, one of the builders of the Anvil course. He really knows how to ride cross. I'd like to follow him sometime...if I can hold on AND see (Photo: Steve).

With over 200 riders competing today, the stage was set for some great racing. Jamie and I showed up just after the start of race #2, and had a few opportunities to cheer Anna and Mike on. I don't know what spots they wound up in just yet.

Anna O'Brien, perhaps wishing she had a team-mate to work with (Photo: Will).

Mike Abraham, definitely leaving it all on the course (Photo: Will).

Once the race was wrapped up we got on course for our preride and confirmed our suspicion: lots of wide open straights and lots of climbing. The approach into the straight line ascending the toboggan hill was modified with a chicane, in tended to force riders to run. But that didn't stop some of the Elite men from riding straight up anyhow. Nuts. I suppose I could have ridden it with a 36 rather than a 42...maybe not. I had to run, not a strength for me. Rodd would have taken out many on that climb had he been able attend.

Rob was remounting and riding the last pitch. Brute. Brad lends a hand. All these black and whites are by Steve, aka, Colonel. Nicely done (Photo: Steve).

Beyond the hill, the other feature of note was the sand. Out toward the water and 180 degrees around the lifeguard station back. Out was fine, but getting around the turn clean was beyond my ability today. I heard some of the guys were pulling it off; this is extremely impressive. Perhaps we should always use the sand there so us hacks can learn how to ride it well?

Rob and Dave were on course before long, and of course Neil as well. Before long we were standing alongside out cheering contingent - Will, Angela, Kent, Kim, Brad and his munchkins, my wife and daughter, Jamie's parents, and my dad. Noisemakers in hand, they readied themselves for the job at hand.

Kent. Superfan (Photo: Steve).

Thankfully, we didn't have to start with the Seniors. It was much simpler to know who we were racing. Neil was already off, which left the other four of us to mix it up with the Masters A group. Go! Pretty fast start, but not blazing. I managed to get up in the top five or so and relax a bit before hitting the hill. My 'run' was more of a low shuffle, but I didn't seem to lose ground. I slid out on one of the switchbacks, but was encouraged to find I did not lose a spot. Racing. The first lap was, as usual, pretty intense, but riders strung out pretty quickly. I rode in the first group for a while, then it broke up. Mistakes were made, but nothing horrible. I managed to stay focused on the job and aggressive. The cheering helped immensly, as it always does. My gals were superfans, up the hilld, down across, up.... My daughter apparently indicated she felt like puking from the intensity of running all over the hill. No matter, she wanted to stick to the plan. That's my girl! They couldn't tell whether I could see or hear them as I was too focused to spare a glance, but I assured them I saw them everywhere. Kent was also particularly vocal - he is also a superfan - and he urged me on really hard: "G0 gettem, downhill style!" I took his cue and caught my guys on a descent. I love doing that, it doesn't cost anything.

Neil, always fast (Photo: Steve).

Me, sometimes fast (Photo: Steve).

David Stachon. Back at it after a leg injury. Nice riding Dave! (Photo: Will)

Rob Parniak, Tall Tree's all round hammer. He even crushes it on the TT bike! Nice teamwork with Jamie Rob!

Jamie, getting into this whole racing up, down and across thing (Photo: Steve).

Jamie, wicked suffering face at the top of the hill (Photo: Will)

Is Jamie running? Fo shizzle! (Photo: Steve)

Rob, possibly in the hurt closet (Photo: Will)

Our posse consisted of numerous Superfans. Check Angela's style: MORE COWBELL! (Photo: Will)

You can be certain all the fans screaming encouragement helped Neil brutalize himself all the way up this every lap. Powa! (Photo: Will)

This is what I look like when I am trying to run. On the first pitch I did the old man shuffle: keep the feet low, one, two, one, two.... (Photo: Steve)

Nice light on this one. Jamie is working hard, nice suffering face. (photo:Will)

What, you didn't know cross is all about aerodynamics? Oh yeah, it totally is. Why do you think so many riders use the deep dish rims? Aero. I embrace this truth here, and really tuck in at 12kph. I might try an aero helmet to attain further gains next year. Rob can lend me his. PRO. (Photo: Will)

I was rolling well behind a Cyclery Senior for a while, but failed to notice him slowing down. I was in 3rd or 4th at this point. Once I realized we'd slowed way down I took off, but the damage was done. A chase group of three - two masters and one senior - had narrowed the gap to striking distance. I wound up riding with an out of towner ZYM...? for at least a lap, then a team mate of his got into the mix somewhere. The latter was riding strong on the last lap and I knew I would have trouble with him at the finish. I tailed him, then passed over the barriers and led up the back of the hill, down, and around. On the final turn he went wide, I went low, and we uncorked the sprint. He went hard, and I put everything into it, but my gears skipped around a bit and I had to navigate around a Senior, so it did not work out. He took me by at least a bike length. I'd been having issues with my shifting since sliding out, which I might have resolved if I'd taken more time with them twiddling my in-line barrel. Mistake. I also should have been more aware of the traffic ahead. Mistake. I also should have let him lead me in to the sprint instead of vice versa. Mistake. All mistakes to learn from. That's cross for ya.

So I wound up 7th, 5th Ontarian. Neil was 6th, I think 5th Ontarian, Jamie 18th or so, and Rob right around there too. I think Dave was back a bit. Tough course, but a great effort by all the Tall Tree riders today. I think we are all looking forward to next weeks mellow Double Cross ride next weekend! Then we'll be back to Mooney's for one more beat down. After that, if we're lucky, we might be able to put in a few backroads rides before winter blankets us with snow. Only time will tell.

Here are some photos I found from today. More to follow.

And here are a bunch from Almonte by Aaron Fillion and Jen: