Sunday, February 26, 2006

A new trailhead

This morning I did my first ride from the new house.

We're officially moving next Friday, but I had a bunch of boxes to drop off before riding.
I picked up a bagel on the way and fired up our new super-automatic Gaggia espresso machine to fuel up.
Holy shit, that thing is amazing. Push one button and you've got a cup of caffeinated goodness.
Call me lazy, but this machine rocks.

Out the door with the new C3/ADG/Joe's gear on I was at the trailhead in about 3 minutes. No loading up the car and driving to ride the bike. Hot damn!

It was cold out so the trails were frozen and had a lot of traction. It was also quiet and peaceful with only the wind making any other sound. Half a loop around Rockburn and I was across Landing Rd. and into Patapsco. It was a nice change starting a ride from this side of the Park.

I had fun on some big log piles and launched off a few nice drops feeling pretty happy that I haven't forgotten how to ride a bike. One of the skills I really try to work on for 'cross is carrying speed through technical turns...loose, off-camber, whatever. This is a skill that pays off in the races. The rear tire on my full suspension mtb is a balding piece of crap so I had a couple of sketchy power-slides as the rubber broke free in turns.

The climbs hurt today. My riding has been down the last 2 weeks due to moving and I suffered on the steep power climbs at Avalon. Actually, it felt good to hurt a little bit. The legs felt pretty good, they just needed a little longer to recover. Two and a half hours on the mtb probably doubled my hours for the week. Yeeee ha!

I was just having fun riding my bike. A couple of times I thought about the poor bastards riding circles in the wind at Trade Zone this morning. It'll make them strong so they can race around more office park crits. I'm taking a pass on that crap this year.

It's all about the mtb, HAVING FUN, and 'cross season.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

El Salto

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

This is Thor chowing down at El Salto last night.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Radio Flyer

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

Thor digs his new Radio Flyer wagon, courtesy of his Great-Grandma.

Monday, February 20, 2006

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lekker ding!

Life has been busy around here lately.

We closed on the purchase of a house on Valentine's Day. A sappy card and a box of chocolates has gotten old so we decided to go big this year! After the closing we celebrated with cheese, crackers, & a couple of bottles of Stella Artois in our new home.
The movers are trucking our furniture and big stuff on March 3 so in the meantime we've been moving boxes and doing some work to get the house ready. My Step-Father and I built a nice bike shop in the basement this weekend. We put up peg board on the walls and installed a nice work bench on rollers. The bikes will be getting a lot more attention now that we have room to hang our tools and set up a work stand. The bikes will be hanging from hooks on the rafters. It's a nice set-up.

The bikes will be getting plenty of use too. From our driveway it's about a 2 minute ride to singletrack leading into Rockburn Park. Rockburn connects to Patapsco Avalon so we have a ton of singletrack out the front door. The road riding is not bad either with the hills of Ellicott City climbing out of the Patapsco River valley and rural western Howard County not far away.

When the trails dry up I'm looking forward to doing some early morning mtb rides before work. I figure I can ride with lights for the first half and finish up as the sun rises. We'll also the after work rides, taking turns hitting the trails. I'm doing some research on Burley trailers because I think Thor will enjoy cruising around the trails at Rockburn. Man, I'm looking forward to getting more riding in, because it's not happening right now...we're just too busy (but it's all good 'busy')!

We'll miss the City (mostly all the good restaurants for carry-out) but it's time to move on. Now I just need to find some good Sushi & Thai near the new house.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Worlds Junior video

Check out the link for a video of the Juniors coming down the gnarly downhill on lap one.
I was positioned right behind a haybale coming out of the last tricky turn.

Click on the title of the post or use this url.


My trip to the Cyclocross World Championships was truly an adventure. I will try to capture some of the fun here in words and photos. I took a lot of notes in a journal on the train between Amsterdam and Zeddam each morning...I mean A LOT of notes. My hand was cramping as I tried to puke out all of my memories of each day onto the page. I was having so many cool experiences and I didn't want the memories to fade away.

The flight over was a breeze with a 20 minute hop from BWI to Philly and a 7-ish hour overnighter to Amsterdam Schipol. I had a drink in the Philly airport with fellow MAC killer B Wade Hess and learned that he would be staying over an extra week to do a couple of races, including a friggin' Superprestige in Belgium! Another drink and a Tylenol PM on the flight and I slept for most of the flight.

Exiting Amsterdam Centraal Station the first thing I saw were thousands of bikes parked outside the beautiful, old station. Any city where there are more bikes than people (let alone cars!) is ok with me. I immediately felt comfortable and in tune with the city. Even though I was pulling a suitcase I decided to forgo the city train and walk to my hotel in order soak up the vibe.


Bikes are the new cars in Amsterdam. Here's the latest minivan model.
The soccer (football) mom pilots the rig while the kids sit in the front and rear seats, sans helmets.


As I continued to stroll, a few flurries fell from the sky and people on bikes glided past me. Further along the canal I noticed familiar places...Hotel Estherea, Broodje Bert, Dutch Flowers, the floating flower market, Sampurna...good times. The Waterfront Hotel was right there too, adjacent to the Koningsplein. I checked in, brushed my teeth, and sorted out my stuff for the next morning's early train to Zeddam.



Then it was back out on the streets to wander and explore. I was really hungry from the flight so I stopped at Vlaam's for frites. This is a little frite stand off the Spui that has been around forever. It's in a busy shopping district and there's always. I ordered my frites with ketchup and housed them lickety-split...mmm good.

I did some window shopping as I walked and amazingly ran into Dieter & Zayne doing the same. We had a quick chat, made plans to find each other for a beer at the next day's races, and then went our separate ways.

After emailing home it was time for more food. The frites had just whet my appetite.
At Broodje Bert I grabbed a delicious toasted ham, cheese, & tomato sandwich. This hit the spot and fueled me up to explore.


I strolled over to the Jordaan, a groovy neighborhood a few canals over from Singel. I love Amsterdam. The city has a very funky layout with all of the canals, curving streets, and distinctive architecture that just seems to work. Most of the buildings are tall and narrow with very steep staircases.


The Jordaan is a residential neighborhood that has a good number of non-touristy restaurants and cafes. It's a good ways away from the red light district and sketchy parts of town so it's a good place to get a feel for real life in the city. I stopped in the Rokerij for some tea. The atmosphere was nice and the music was an interesting mix of styles so I sat down for a while. One of the cool things about being in an international city is to listen to the different languages mixing around you. I enjoyed being a spectator to the interactions of the locals as they came and went. The speech, intonations, & gestures seem familiar, but nary a word is recognizable.

After a cinammon tea and a chai I stepped back outside into the peaceful buzz of the Amsterdam afternoon. I stopped into an Albert Hein grocery store to check out the situation. I really like immersing myself in different cultures and walking through a grocery store is a neat way to learn about a place. Aside from a bigger selection of meats and cheeses the aisles were very similar to a store in the US. I grabbed a big bottle of water for my room and an Amsterdam t-shirt for Thor before continuing my walk.

The vibrancy of the city really strikes a chord with me. People are an integral part of the city. In many US cities people drive into town to work and then drive back out at the end of the day, rendering the cities a souless collection of buildings. In Amsterdam people are truly part of the fabric of the place. There are walkers, bikes, and trains everywhere all the time. It's very easy to get around town and there's always something going on.


After much walking I found myself very thirsty so I stopped in a bar near Koningsplein for a beer. Being a fan of Belgian beer I ordered a La Chouffe. It was fantastic. I sat in the window, enjoyed the beer, and continued to observe the pulse of the city.

La Chouffe, a seriously good beer.

Leaving the Arnhem station on the way to Doetinchem.

The early morning train to Zeddam was a breeze. The Dutch (and most of Europe) really have the train thing figured out. They are on time, clean, and plentiful. I bought a coffee, oj, and chocolate croissant to eat on the ride. Once in Zeddam it was an easy stroll up this cobbled street to the race venue.


The quintessential Dutch windmill gave the course a visual centerpiece.

The Swiss Guard was patrolling the venue with monster cowbells and a backpack-style canister of some strong alcoholic concoction. We need to book these boys for some MAC races.

The most technical part of the track was the downhill leading to the big set of stairs.
The descent was a twisty, off-camber corkscrew with a surface of frozen ruts. The organizers covered it with sawdust to provide some traction. Even so, there were quite a few crashes in each of the races.



Steep, Off-camber, and sketchy I was leaning up against a haybale when I took this shot.
Many riders were hanging a leg out to keep it upright as they made this turn.

At the bottom of the downhill there were a few tight turns leading to this mother of a set of stairs. They weren't particularly steep, but there were 40 of them. The really hard part was the long-ish paved climb after the stairs. That must have hurt.


Zdnek Stybar, Niels Albert, & Lars Boom coming up the stairs leading the U23 race.
These guys got an immediate gap and then took turns attacking each other.


Here Lars Boom is trying to get a gap on the faaaaaaaaaaast & twisty section up top, just before bombing down the farm road back to the start/finish road section.


There were probably a dozen beer tents and at least as many frite stands. Generally I don't like mayonaise, but I tried some on the frites and it was damn good.


On Sunday Dieter, Zayne, and I spent a solid 2 hours camped out at the base of the big stairs waiting for the elite men's race. We drank a ton of beer and apple schnaaps as we made friends with a group of Belgians. One of the things that I always notice in Europe is the hospitality. Don't believe any of the bullshit about Americans getting harrassed in euro-land. In my experience Europeans are incredibly warm and welcoming.

One of the guys even gave me his sweet Jupiler beer Belgian freak hat and emailed some photos to me a couple of days later. Here's Marnick, after quite a few beers wearing the ubiquitous Jupiler hat.


I will proudly wear this hat, Belgian style, at 'cross races this Fall.

Here's Bart Wellens warming up. The dude was unbelievably strong in the race. He seemed to be the guy that was always on the front driving it and keeping the pace super fast.


During warm-up's we got a chance to check out everyone's technique. Nearly all of the euro's eschew the step-through and go with the back step when dismounting. And I saw very few riders grabbing the down tube for the lift. Most everyone did an underhand grab of the top tube before flipping the bike up to the shoulder.


Capt. Caveman (aka Eric Tonkin) rode gamely even though this wasn't his type of course. In this photo he's putting his bike back on the ground after cresting the top of the small stairs.


J. Page was on top of his game right up in mix of the first 15 riders. Look how closely these guys were riding. With the high speed and all of the tight turns it was bad news if you let a gap open.


My man, Sven NYS, was part of the final selection on the last lap, but didn't look to be on top form. Normally a stellar bike handler and descender he clipped a tree on the downhill trying to stay on the pace being set by Vervecken. As we watched on the big screen set up on the course he took a long time getting up. Game over for him. Vervecken put in the winning attack right in front of us after the small stairs. Coming out of the u-turn he looked back and saw a 10 meter gap to Mourey and Wellens. At that moment he stomped on the pedals with a huge acceleration and held the gap all the way to the finish.


After the race Zayne, Dieter, and myself were feeling no pain and we were very stoked from watching some world class cyclocross up close. We needed to vent some of that energy so we rocked the post-race beer tent and brought the party up a couple of notches.


There were many Belgies in bear suits (some of whom were trying to hump each other), but this guy was part of the Portland Cross Crusade crew. Those people are a lot of fun. We formed a temporary MAC/Cross Crusade alliance and showed the euro's how to get down.


This dude from Czech was ready to sound the alarm if things didn't get out of hand, but the party had plenty of energy so he didn't have to intervene.


Dieter still had his post-Natz form and gave the Belgians a taste of what to expect next season.


After the party we gorged ourselves on olibolen to soak up some of the booze. Things were tranquil until Zayne decided to jump down into a field to chase a herd of antelope and offer them our last olibolen. Though Zayne had good speed he was no match for the fleet antelope. When the bus arrived he had to scramble back over the wall. Like a good teammate Dieter hauled his ass over the wall and away from the now angry antelope.


Leaving Zeddam we were awarded keys to the city and the honorary title of...


On Monday morning I grabbed breakfast and wandered around Amsterdam for a while before training it back to Schipol for the flight home. Another adventure was over, but many more await.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My head is still spinning like this windmill

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.

I promise I'll write up the Worlds adventure soon! I kept a journal so I wouldn't forget anything. I just need to go through my notes, put them in semi-coherent form, and upload some photos.

Me, Dieter, & Zayne went into rock star mode and lit it up on Sunday. My head is still foggy. I think we did the MAC proud...I think.

Here's a shot of the windmill. The course looped around the windmill adding some Dutch flair to the race.