Climbs like a hardtail! Total dream in rockgardens. Tires supple and resistant to cuts on knife-edge ledges.
Utah sucks. Don’t move here. The riding is terrible. And the scenery blows.
Sidenote: I’m just going to rename tumblr to “Dogma2 sitting on rocks in epic locales”.
Sidenote 2: Dear girl who told me she loved Pinarello Dogmas at Tony Grove lake this afternoon while I was too busy shoveling the last of my gummy treats into my calorie-deprived cakehole (and taking above photograph) to comprehend: Please cross my path again. Please? Thanks.
Afflicted by permanent wanderlust, I’ve opted to spend the three weeks between the end of Speedweek and the US Professional Cycling Championships in Greenville, SC at the welcoming abode of one of our team’s gracious supporters just outside of Athens, GA (home of the University of Georgia, the infamous Athens Twilight Criterium, and launchpad for numerous American cyclists).
Having never been to this part of the country before (read: The Deep & Dirty South), I’m still taking it all in and gulping it all down, like a UGA freshman frat pledge doing a manhood-validating kegstand.
First on my list of dispensable observations to expound to the outside world: The riding itself. I’ve never trained anywhere with population so spread out, and so my road choice has always been pretty limited. Here, though, there are roads FOREVER. I could easily create a 300 mile loop on twisty backroads that all look the same from the front door of my temporary domicile. Of course, this necessitates a cue sheet a mile long (yeah, that one was front AND back for a 4.5 hour jaunt) to keep from ending up bassackwards 200 miles away on the coast. While there’s no sustained climbing near Athens, the rollers of the Piedmont offer up spots for good, punchy accelerations on endless repetition of 500 meter-long Murs. Roads are fairly narrow and without the wide shoulders I’m used to, but they’re in really good condition (thanks to the lack of freezing temps in the winter, I’d guess) and typically devoid of traffic. The dirt roads are a blast! Well-packed, and not moondusty or gravel-strewn like the ones near my home in Utah.
The “store stops” here are nearly always entertaining - it seems the locals aren’t as used to seeing cyclists on long rides as they are in the West. I can always count on getting into an amiable conversation with store proprietors about expensive bikes, bike racing, the insanity of spending five hours perched on two wheels, and suspicious questions when informed of my Utah residence.
Speaking of, the church marquees in front of Baptist houses of worship on the backroads are nothing short of comedic gold. I think I might start photographing all of them and making a nice leather-bound photo essay when I get back to the Wasatch.
Fantastic weekend! Little bit of local stage racing, little bit of cruising with my progenitor masquerading as Alejandro Valverde 20 years removed from racing (bonus: I think he likes my Dogma), little bit of ice cream, corned beef, and burgers, little bit of mashing for four hours on Sunday.
From the Friday mailbag:
How did you get hooked up with the CC team?
Long story. Kind of. I started working at RealCyclist (CC’s future owners) in November of 2010 putting ordered bikes together in the shop, as well as doing a lot of warehouse logistical fun. Shortly thereafter RealCyclist sponsored the team, and I met Gord when he took a tour of our warehouse sometime in the winter (though I doubt he remembers - he commented on my UHC team shirt and I got some warm fuzzies). Fast-forward a few months, and I’d embarked upon my overly ambitious season-long Cat 5-to-1 campaign. I’d also transferred over to doing bike photography for BC, giving me a lot more latitude when it came to bailing out of work to race.
Anyway, I first met RealCyclist’s athelete sponsorship/cat herding guy, Jonny Atencio, in April at Gila where I was riding in the 3’s (and would eventually take second in the GC). He was a little confused when I begged him for some team kit to give to my New Mexico housing host, but chucked some lycra/beer coozies my way and patted me on the head. I tried to remain in contact with him on an intermittent basis (read: I’d email and beg him for stuff) throughout the season, as we worked in different offices.
Enter early August, right before the 2011 Tour of Utah. Fresh off winning the Cat 2 GC at Cascade and a local stage race, I headed up to DealerCamp in Park City for work and free margaritas. Serendipitously, the then-RealCyclist.com Pro Team was there, meeting sponsors and mingling with the kind-of public. It was there that I met one of the team owners, Jason Kriel, and I asked the rather baldfaced question: “Is there a chance I could ride with you guys next year?”. He asked me to send him a resume, and I wormed my way into going out for a four-hour ride with the team the day after (for the locals: The PC/Guardsman/Emigration/Parley’s loop), a nice 2000 meter, 115km day.
During the ride, we got to talking about the weekend’s upcoming Utah State Championship road race, and myself/Evan Hyde (then Park City resident and team member) managed to con Rabou and Paco into doing it. Coincidentally, my parents live in the town near where the race is held, about 150km from Salt Lake - built in host housing for the crew of four (sidenote: also where I’d find myself the following spring)! The race ended up going 1/2/3 RC, with my ass dragging up 4th. By nature of elite amateur competition, I was awarded the state championship.
The Tour of Utah came and went, Backcountry/RealCyclist fulfilled my dreams of shooting bikes like Competitive by buying them, and the days went on. Enter October (I think), and I got a message from Jason: “You want a spot?”. I had to contain the news for a few weeks, and was a little on the verge of exploding into a bludgeoned pinata of joy for awhile.
Rest week top-offs, and bourbon lemon French toast for Easter brek. Life is good.
The new residence has PILES of big dirt roads to shred - something felt right about thrashing my Dogma 2 with (admirably performing) 23c tires on some pretty sketch loose-over-hard doubletrack the day before PR.
Remember: CO2 is for rich people, and frame pumps make excellent billyclubs in a pinch.
Achieving Crash Zen:
Seven race days.
Four deck hits. As a sage told me, “missing more skin than many hospitalized burn victims”.
All of 2011? 60+ race days. Skin met tarmac twice.
2012 Competitive Cyclist Racing Team camp is over.
I pen my missive from the lowly “A” terminal of the humble TUS (realworld name: Tucson International Airport). Our stalwart Uruguay squad has departed on their 24-hour slog to South America, leaving the intrepid T. Shelden and I behind to fend for ourselves at the airport bar.
The past week has been a rush of unmodulated (and varying) emotions, not unlike that of a stage race; though lacking the intense competitive adrenaline rush usually accompanying said events. While the ephemeral euphoria I felt when I first received word I was being offered a contract has long passed, the whole “riding-your-bike-for-a-living” mentality hasn’t set in until now. A needed refocusing of priorities has taken place in the past week, likely thanks to the close proximity of compatriots and mentors on the squad.
I feel incredibly lucky, not only to be riding as a pro, but to be riding as a pro on this team. I’ve said it before, but there’s really no better outfit for a (very) new racer such as myself. The veterans on the team, and there are a ton for an American Conti squad, are VERY willing to share their experience with the younger guys such as myself. This is nothing short of gold. Even though I’m a relative grain of sand in the cycling world (racing with veritable sandcastles like Mancebo, Grajales, Beyer, Olheiser, and Fraser), their adeptness with lending advice and critique makes me feel like part of the team. The inclusiveness of the whole crew is something I wasn’t prepared for, and it makes me feel right at home.
In addition to having a deep well of human talent to draw from, we’re also incredibly lucky to be rolling on the best equipment in the UCI Continental game (and, dare I say, Pro Continental). A true “A-List” of sponsors, from the Pinarello bikes to the Chamois Butter/Paceline skin products. The simple fact that I don’t have to worry about equipment this year is a three-ton weight off my shoulders (the same could probably be said for my industry friends and colleagues who put up with my incessant begging last season). At the start of 2011, I was rolling on a too-big aluminum frame I’d snagged from eBay for somewhere under $100, outfitted with a free group that had been run into the ground, and “race” wheels I rode everyday, sourced from the returns bin at work with a vaunted Backcountry “schwag” ticket. The rear rim was cracked until month two of the season, when I finally convinced a certain warranty department that selling me a crash replacement was the only way to save me from…myself.
Equipment aside, other aspects of camp provided both a physical relief and bludgeoning. I might accuse the week of being a “buffet party” (I wouldn’t be shocked if I gained a pound or two thanks to the infatigable Leigh’s phenomenal culinary labours), but by the last day I was feeling the compiled physiological effects of throwing down with an internationally-acclaimed crew. Or maybe it was the twin bed and snoringDutchman. Either way, even the coffee from Competitive (via Silver Bean, an SLC roaster co-owned quite ironically by the guy who owned the shop I was an on-and-off shop rat for in high school) couldn’t rouse my heartrate beyond the depths of threshold by the end. It hit me on return: This team is strong and incredibly deep.
Not to toot our own horn, but I think a certain Nikita Khrushchev quote might be in order, especially after witnessing Mike Olheiser absolutely crush the first stage of the first team race (and his first pro race - HELL YEAH MIKE!) of the year in Uruguay with a 50k solo win.
3.5 weeks to San Dimas.
Is no longer steel. I’m a little young to have sampled the frames Pinarello chiseled from the earth’s crust for Der Kaiser, but I now understand what riders talk about when they say “…it’s a Pina,” and reference their Torayca-laid wunderbikes.
I’ll admit, I used to be a bit of a hater. “Oh, nearly all carbon frames ride the same”, I’d preach, whenever consulted about the purported dream-like quality of the newer Pinarellos. Of course, I’d never had a real chance to swing a leg over one. Now, thanks to their generous sponsorship of the Competitive Cyclist Racing Team, I can finally sample the bikes many only get to fantasize about.
Down to brass tacks. This frame is a mind-blower. My first time on it, with too-big bars and stem, it was still an epic experience. Stepping on the cranks provides razor-sharp response from the bike, but without the feeling of being beaten around on the pavement. It’s not mushy like a lot of carbon bikes - I’ve never once looked back at my rear wheel thinking I’ve got a flat. No waifish chainstays here. From the front end, the massive 1.5” tapered headtube and fork steerer rail corners with nary a hint of flex.
The bike strikes a perfect balance, in my opinion, between all the polar qualities of a superb all-around race bike. The geometry is incredibly well-balanced. It’s stable on descents and when taking a no-handed feed, but not to the point of feeling slow in corners or in the pack. It’s comfortable over the long haul, but not comfortable enough that you lose road feedback or stiffness. The fit and finish is second-to-none…I often find myself gazing at the bass-boat silver paint accents and getting a little lost. I honestly can’t think of a better bike for us to be on this year.
I know it’s been a mellow winter when I see a forecast of 45 with a 50% chance of snow and opt to spend my day on the trainer instead of outside. Hey, at least it’ll help out my Chilblains (aka “Warehouse Trenchfoot”), yeah?
Yes, I am still alive - still riding. Shooting pretty pictures of beautiful bikes (read: working) takes a certain creative (and mental) toll that I still haven’t figured out how to mitigate coupled with training; at least when it comes to devoting my energies elsewhere. Like writing a blog entry, cleaning my house, getting an oil change, finding a “nice girl” (thanks, grandma), or maybe trimming the mane.
Enough bitching about my favorite hashtag. Life is good - I am, after all, riding my bike for a career. In that vein, I recently got hooked up with both a new laptop and new bike, both of which I’ll profile (yes, the Dogma 2 is amazing) a touch in an upcoming update. I’d commit to tomorrow, but I’ve been studiously counseled on “underpromise, overdeliver” at the nth degree, so I’ll let that hang.
In any case, I’ll be jetting down to Tucson in three days to hook up with the team for a week of basking, bonding, and battering some pedals (as well as shooting with a borrowed Hasselblad). Excited to shut off the half of my brain that worries about work for fourteen hours a day, see the guys I know, meet those I haven’t, and put myself into knowledge sponge mode for a week. I’ve got a lot to learn.