Mud, Beer, and Cross

I came home with muddy boots, muddy pants, and an achy body. But above all, I came home with great memories, new friends, and a happy heart. I spent the first weekend of the new year in Madison, Wisconsin, soaking up all that the Cyclocross National Championships had to offer.

I really had no idea what to expect, as this was definitely the biggest cross race I’d ever been to. I figured there would be big crowds, beer, and lots of cute cyclists. I was right on all accounts!

Beer

To be honest, I can’t say I was overwhelmed or in awe of anything- except maybe seeing in the flesh the cross stars I’d been posting on Tumblr all season. I’m not a good fan girl- I get shy, reserved and bit awkward around those I consider celebrities. I feel super awkward asking for autographs or pictures, as much as I want them. So, when I went to breakfast the morning I got in, and realized halfway through that Ryan Trebon was sitting at a table across the way and then saw Jeremy Powers walk in, I first went crazy inside with giddy excitement, then ignored them and pretended they’re ordinary people. Which is my normal MO. I actually really dislike this part of my personality, but I’m not sure how to change it. Because, let’s be honest, I don’t see a lot of famous people on a day to day basis. ANYWAY. Regardless of my awkward fan girl nature, it was amazing to see all the people I’d only seen on the Internet. Friday there was a roundtable discussion with some of the female racers to talk about women in the sport, so I got to meet Sue Butler, Mo Bruno Roy, and Meredith Miller. Then, there was a meet and greet with some of the big names- Jeremy Powers, Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, Zach McDonald, Cody Kaiser, Jonathon Page…

I did work up the nerve, with the help of my twitter friend Roxanne, to get Jeremy Powers to sign the hat she had gotten from Zach McDonald. 

 

#CXNats takeaways:

  • Ryan seems more uncomfortable with his “star” status. Between that and his maybe more introverted nature, he’s a bit more awkward around fans. Jeremy’s more extroverted nature, his hyperness, and his comfort with the spotlight have made him a bit more comfortable with fan interaction.
  • It was tempting to run around the course to try and watch it develop, but I found it was more enjoyable to find a spot and stay there for the whole race. Running around so you can see your favorite riders again is good fun, but I found it to be less stressful to hang out in one spot and watch the laps go by- you could stake a prime spot and not have to worry about missing them as they came around. It was almost more fun to cheer on the rider in last place than the guys in the front- they may be last, but they’re still way more awesome than I am just for being there.

Tim & the cupcake

  • The course was BEAUTIFUL. I’m a midwest girl and I appreciate prairie and rolling hills and open sky, so this course was perfect for me.

  • Next year, I’ll just come out for the weekend. While it was great to be there for 3 days, it wasn’t really necessary. I didn’t know anyone racing on the first day, and only 1 or 2 on the second day. It’s not quite as much fun to watch when you don’t know anyone racing and the crowds aren’t really big yet. So basically it was two days of checking out the course, doing recon, taking pictures, and taking in the atmosphere. While that’s awesome, it doesn’t need two days! AND next year I’ll leave on Monday. Leaving Sunday evening meant I had to miss the big after party after the races! Arguably the most important event of the weekend. Seriously bad planning on my part.

Best part of the weekend? I’m pretty sure I made my family into cross converts. My sister, brother, and dad all drove up from Iowa to watch the race with me and I think they were suitably impressed. I know I impressed them with my heckling- I’m a tame heckler by most standards, but yelling insulting encouragement at the riders was not something they expected. But they yelled as loud as I did at the riders going by at the stairs, barriers, and finish line. They knew no one, but it’s so easy to get sucked into the amazing atmosphere, with all the great fans that come out. And to top off a great weekend, we got our picture in VeloNews.

Photo credit: Wil Matthews/VeloNews

Molly did a good job matching my enthusiasm. John was a little more restrained. It’s not a golf game, John!

I also have to give a shout out to my twitter pals Roxanne and Melissa who drove me around and let me hang out with them. Thanks, girls!

It was a fabulous weekend and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Check out the rest of my photos here!

New Kits! RadioShack-Nissan

To be honest, there really isn’t anything new or exciting about the RadioShack-Nissan kits. It’s basically the same kit with added red Radioshack stripe. Even so, I might like this kit a bit better than last year’s kit. I like the added color the red brings- it spices the kit up a little!

http://www.radioshacknissantrek.com/team/riders/jakob-fuglsang

However, I am not impressed with what they did with the US National Champs kit. The stars and bars just looks smooshed and it looks odd against the solid red!

Overall, it’s a very simple kit. While I enjoy simple, it seems a bit too uninspired. And that’s really all the commentary I have about that kit.

New Kit! Garmin-Barracuda

Well, well, well. Color me impressed. Garmin-Barracuda (formerly Garmin-Cervelo) (side note: how AWESOME is that name??)  has managed to take a ho-hum kit and make it great again.

Garmin-Barracuda 2012 kit

While there was nothing terribly offensive about 2011 kit, there was nothing terribly exciting about it either. Most people complained the color choice was too similar to Sky and Leopard and that the kit lacked the signature argyle.

Garmin-Cervelo 2011 kit

I was mostly sad that they didn’t keep the blue and orange color scheme. However, I liked that they kept the Cervelo “e,” even if I felt the color scheme and design was a little unimaginative.

Garmin-Transitions 2010 kit

For their newest version, I applaud the reintroduction of the argyle, even if it is just the blue argyle (I, for one, loved the orange and blue combo of previous versions). In addition, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that I don’t care for black kits. I’m not sure why, I just find kits that are majority black to be uninteresting (the only exception is Sky). The white and blue is much more pleasing to the eye. I’m also very happy to see that kits are becoming a little less homogenous this year!

New kit! 1t4i

For 2012, Skil Shimano has become 1t4i. I can’t say that I know what that stands for, but I’m a bit sad to see the Skil kit leave the peloton. For some reason, I became quite fond of it. Normally, I say “no” to white shorts- they’re often a bit too revealing and rain can make things *really interesting! But this kit makes the white work. The white set off nicely the blue and green and I think the red of the Skil logo really makes it stand out.

The new 1t4i kit, while being  a step down from the old Skil kit, is really not too bad. They kept the white and green of the old Skil kit, but I think the black a nice addition- certainly the black crotch panel helps reduce the risk of embarrassment! It’s a bit more bland that the Skil kit, but overall, I like the simplicity and the colors.

In theory, they’re supposed to announce a new sponsor in the spring. If that actually happens, the kit could change!

EDIT:  1t4i has also fallen victim to the horribly embarrassing team photo. It’s a disease we will never be able to eradicate, I’m afraid. (thanks @KimTMcCall, for reminding me of this!)

2012 Team Roster (more…)

New Kit! Team Type 1 – Sanofi

I’m disappointed. Team Type 1 took a great kit and pooped all over it. The 2011 kit was simple and classic. I liked the blues against the white and the understated logos.

2011 kit

Now…now it’s this.

They took the beige of Footon-Servetto, the lime green of Liquigas-Cannondale, the blue of their previous jersey, mixed it all together on an artist palette, then threw it on the jersey. To an unfortunate effect. The beige is really the worst of it, but if you take it out, you’re left with the blue and green, which is basically the Liquigas kit. Oy. I’d say this is the worst kit I’ve seen so far!

On a side note, I wonder what the goes through the rider’s head when they pull out a kit like this (or any kit they thought was ugly) and think, “Awesome. Now I have to spend the whole season looking like a fashion disaster.” I mean, imagine what the poor Footon guys had to go through! It’s not like they weren’t all aware that they were wearing one of the fugliest kits known to man. It had to be a bit demoralizing to get on your bike everyday and know that everyone in the peloton was thinking, “Thank god my kit doesn’t look like that.”  Although…you can guarantee their kit and team will live on in the cycling kit history books for their willingness to humiliate their riders. Kinda like the Castorama kits. Or Mapai ;)

2012 Team Roster (more…)

New kit! Katusha

I’ve always been a bit neutral about Katusha. I’ve never seen them do particularly well in races, they’ve never had any riders I’ve cheered for, and most of their names are too hard to pronounce. I was likewise ambivalent about their kit. I didn’t like it overly much, but I appreciated the way their kit was different but not ugly.

This year, however, the changes they’ve made have me taking notice. Red is one of my favorite colors (along with blue!) and I love how they’ve forgone the city skyline for solid red. I prefer the more solid red color to the mixed red and blue of the previous kit- it made it too messy, too jumbled. It’s a bright, cherry red that will stand out in the peloton. And putting white as the contrasting color makes it pop even more, unlike the BMC kits, which pair their red with black.

I also really like how they’ve kept their team name in their native Cyrillic script, instead of using the western alphabet. It makes it feel like a true Russian team AND makes me feel cool because I know how to say it.

They’ve done a good job with their national championship jerseys as well. I’m a fan of the white kit and the national colors look good!

Let’s also take a moment to appreciate how they’ve staged their team photos. Apart from the strange stormy sky (that seems to threaten a tornado), they look relaxed and natural on their bikes. Sometimes team photos can get darn weird.

This year, for example, the award so far goes to Astana. They have awkward beach photos

Vino giving a very forced thumbs up

and someone staring moodily through a bike frame.

But there’s still time for another team to outdo them. How could we forget the pillow shots of Quick Step last year?

To sum up- Katusha simplified their kit and made it that much better!

2012 Team Roster

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New Kit! GreenEdge

Leigh Howard- easy on the eyes

The newest cycling darling this year is GreenEdge. They’re the first team based in Australia to actually make it all the way to  WorldTour level status. And I quite like their kit. Some have derided the big “G” on the front, but I like it! I really like the greens they’ve chosen and I enjoy the simple design. Once again, it’s very reminiscent of the Leopard kit trend of last year- white torso, black shoulders and arms with accent of color. But I’m okay with that, as I like that simple design. And, again, simple shorts FTW.

It’s a great kit and hopefully the team will great as well…!

Update: GreenEdge has unveiled an updated kit at the start of the Tour Down Under.

I like the unofficial version more. The swoopy “G” gets lost in the vaguely tie-dyed green/yellow that now covers the bottom half of the jersey. The yellow/green doesn’t really bother me on the shorts, but in combination with the jersey, it’s a bit much. But, it still isn’t a bad kit!

2012 Team Roster

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New kit! Omega Pharma – Quick-Step

Okay. This kit is not great BUT it’s not horrible either. It seems to have borrowed from the color scheme that was so popular last year (light blue/black/white) and present on a certain Leopard kit, but that can be forgiven to a certain degree, because it reflects the colors of the Omega Pharma logo. However, that’s were the problem is- it makes the Quick Step logo look so out of place, because the dark blue of its logo is really jarring against all the light blue. It was like they designed this lovely kit, then at the last minute were like, “Shit, we forgot about QuickStep! What do we do?! Screw it, let’s just throw the logo on.”

At least they did the shorts right- unlike Lotto-Belisol team, these shorts are actually integrated into the overall look of the kit. Even though they look a little too much like a certain leopard’s shorts.

If it wasn’t for the QuickStep logo, it wouldn’t be a bad kit- albeit an unimaginative kit. The lines on the back of the jersey are quite slimming (because that’s such a concern for those fattie cyclists) and the lines on the back of the shorts frame the bum well. However, they should’ve made a kit that blended the two colors and logos together.

I put this review up first on Tumblr.

2012 Team Roster (more…)

New Kit! Saxo Bank

Ladies and gents, I think we have an early contender for my favorite kit of the season. Saxo Bank has really stepped up this season and took their kit from one of the ugliest to one of the best.

Last year saw the introduction of the “crotch eagle.” No one who came up with the idea of the crotch eagle or why they thought it would be a good idea to make it look like said eagle was coming out of the shorts for a look-around, but it made for some great joke fodder:

Crotch eagle!

I didn’t have a problem with the feather sleeves but the color…! It was as if the soigneur threw the jerseys in with some new blue jeans and the color bleed all over their nice white jerseys. Since Saxo Bank’s budget was decimated by taking on Contador, they had no choice but to wear the slightly blue jerseys. With the crotch eagle.

This year, the crotch eagle is still there, but the color…! It’s fabulous! This year’s bright blue is the total opposite of last year’s washed out blue. The  bold blue is sure to stand out in a peloton sure to be full of minimalist kits. I also approve of the bold branding on the back.

And you know what? The crotch eagle is growing on me. It’s silly and inexplicable but it’s unique and I admire how they’ve stuck by it!

So you go Saxo Crotch Eagle! Kick some butt this season (and for your sake, I hope Bert isn’t suspended…)

EDIT: I’ve since learned that the eagle comes from “Eagle from Herning”- Bjarne Riis’ nickname.

2012 Team Roster: (more…)

The Daily Bike: New Year

The first ride of the new year. 

I don’t go crazy over new years. I don’t see how the calendar turning over to a new month, a new year is the magic potion to make people a better version of themselves. I speak from experience- you’ll only make those changes if you’re ready and willing to make them.

I took a ride because it was my first day back after being home for holidays. And let me tell you about my new favorite website: MapMyRide.com. Most of you will probably be thinking, have you been living under a rock?? Yeah, yeah. I’ve been on it awhile, but just realized how it can help me.I’m not very good at just going out and riding- I need a plan or general route. And MapMyRide is perfect for helping me find rides in the area that other cyclists have done. All you have to do is type in an address or town and it will find all the routes people have logged. It’s great for inspiration and ideas. Today I went somewhere totally new, but other days, I’ve used it to help link up rides I often do with new areas and routes. This helps keep me excited about riding. I get bored if I’m riding the same routes all the time. So while it isn’t perfect (I haven’t figured out how to get those routes I bookmark to show up on my phone), it’s making me excited about riding again!

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