Our “Rhino Down Under” has a birthday today and since he’s all the way around the other side of the world, we’re raising our glasses on social media to him. To celebrate, here’s a throwback photo of Gil, Brean, Aaron AND Lucas at Kissena a long, long time ago before there were Pink Rhinos in this world. Have a great birthday weekend Gil!
Last Chance! PRR Intro to Track Clinic THIS Sunday!
It’s your last chance to attend one of our amazing clinics this year to learn the ins and outs of track racing right here on our local velodrome in Flushing, Queens. The clinic is pre-reg ONLY so sign up before it’s too late!
Pink Rhino Billy just got his custom frame back from the paint shop and it looks GORGEOUS. His frame is a collaboration between himself, Coarse Fabrication and Frank The Welder. Both frame builders happen to be on the Pink Rhino Team. Lucky us to have them both!
Can’t wait to see this baby on the track later this month.
I had a great result at the Tour of the Battenkill this year, which feels good because, you know, it is a road race with dirt and mud and bridges and hills and skinny guys and all that wonderful stuff, and I am a track racer. Somehow, I took 3rd in my qualified Category 4 field (40+, so don’t get too excited), and I guess this race report is a bit of a reflection on how it happened.
The Rhinos hit the dirt and mud this weekend at the 10th annual Tour of the Battenkill where muddy doesn’t even begin to describe the conditions. It was heard on site from many that it was worse than CX races!
Bumping into Simon Gerrans at the Airport...No Big Deal
I was at Melbourne Airport getting ready to fly to Brisbane for a business trip. It was way too early in the morning and we’re all just trying to navigate security, gates and the hunt for coffee. While waiting in line for food I run into Simon Gerrans! The dude was glowing with fitness and vibrant energy. I felt healthier just standing next to him. He was with his wife, mother and kids. Simon was probably as frazzled and stressed as anyone traveling with kids, but he took the time to have a chat and shoot a photo with me. I wanted to give him some Pink Rhino Racing schwag except all I had were the pink and blue socks I was wearing. Everybody in Australia calls him Gerro because everyone down under has a nickname even your grandmother. Here’s to Gerro - a real pro and super nice guy.
While we’re winding down our track season in the northern hemisphere, the southern part of the world is in full on race-mode. Our “Rhink Down Under” Gil has been racing at DISC and getting great results. Here’s how he did Tuesday night…
I pulled off the front with 4 laps to go. Buddy Kirk attacked and broke the group in two which allowed me to slot right in 3 back from leader. I thought I would be able to come around my friend Niall the same way I did in the 40-lap motorpace event 5 weeks ago, but he held on and beat me by a couple inches at the line.
You’d think after doing the same race twice in one season and having pretty awful results, the idea of doing it a third time would be completely out of the question. Part of me wanted to never go to Hunter Mountain again after doing the Spring Classic and then the disastrous Summer Classic. Not only did I get dropped (again), but also ended up 20 miles off course with no cell service, no food, no water, no money and with a slow leak in my rear tire. Fun!
In late May, Squid asked me (Brean) to go down to Mexico City to officiate and help produce Velo City Mexico. I jumped at the chance, and Iliana bought a ticket to go and race.
Velo City is an event that Squid has been producing at least since 2007. It is designed as a track event for city bikers and messengers - people who have been riding fixed gears on the street but who may not have actual track experience. It is a fun event and a great way to introduce riders to track racing. Past winners have gone on to have impressive careers on the oval.
Velo City Mexico was a part of TIG Weekend, which was a fundraiser for next year’s CMWC in Mexico City. Safa and Joaquin put us up in their nice apartment in Roma, and Christian from DC and the Bay Area was already in town. Soon, Mario from Los Angeles would join us, as well.
TIG Headquarters - Mexico City, DF
The velodrome was built for the 1968 Olympics and was where Eddy Merckx famously broke the Hour Record (riding, surprisingly, “Eddy Merckx style”). It is an outdoor 333m drome with steeply banked turns —39°! The surface was concrete, and was unexpectedly fast. Very, very nice track.
Velodromo Agustín Melgar
We ran a scratch race, a point a lap, a tempo, a miss n out, a points race and a chariot (1.2 laps). None of the riders had ever raced on the track before, so it was a little scary. Turns out, they were all fine, although we had a number of slides down turn one on the neutrals due to folks riding too slowly for their equipment and the banking. Many of the riders were using 170mm+ cranks and had platform pedals with straps.
In the end, we held a final long scratch race to determine the winner. It was Pancho, who was a great, fast guy who had loaned Iliana an Affinity Kissena to ride.
Pancho and his prizes!
Iliana and Pancho’s Affinity Kissena
Hey, Iliana, this would be a good time for you to talk about your experience!
I was super, super excited about getting the opportunity to ride and race on the Olympic Velodrome in Mexico City, probably too excited. This is an old track built in the 1960s and could have been in bad shape. Luckily this wasn’t the case. The concrete track turned out to be in great condition and very smooth. This is something I always appreciate since my local track is good ol’ bumpy Kissena in Queens, NY.
One thing I did not realize is how steep the banking was going to be. Kissena’s banking is roughly in the 19-degree range. The most banked track I’ve been to at that point was T-Town (roughly 27 degree banking). This track has 39 degree banking and is rather large (333 meters). To be honest, I was terrified to get on the track. I just imagined myself sliding down turn one and making a fool of myself. In my head I was thinking there’s no way I can race on this.
So I hop on the Affinity Kissena bike (funny, right?) that Pancho of the Terremoto Crew let me borrow me for the race. Turns out the bike fit perfectly and I was ready to go. My biggest fear was going too slow. So I wind up on the apron and move up onto the track and ride into turn three. I’m amazed that I’m still upright and also at how steep the banking is as I look down. I quickly got comfortable on the track and started moving up and down it with no problem at higher and higher speeds. This is awesome.
Brean & Iliana doing some pace lining
I’m warming up and all is good until I start feeling really out of breath. What the hell? There’s no way I can be in this bad of shape. Then I remember that the altitude is high in Mexico City (almost 8,000ft). I also had to confirm that it wasn’t me being a weakling. Brean, who is much stronger than I am, was having the same problem.
Iliana feeling the effects of cycling in high altitudes
At this point, I was worried about racing. My body isn’t getting enough oxygen to sustain long efforts. An eight-lap tempo race seemed like eternity. Plus, I’ve never raced with men before. Even though they’ve never been on the track before, some of these guys were fast.
I had a really hard time the first race but was eventually able to hang on to the front group for longer and longer each race. The high altitude was killing me though. My breathing was so fast that I was almost dry heaving. For the first time, I literally couldn’t go on during a race.
Iliana at the rail waiting for the roll out
Racing wrapped up at about 1am – way past my NYC bike racer bedtime. Tacos and cerveza were next on the agenda to celebrate a successful night for the organizers and the racers.
Thank you Mexico City and Squid for hosting such an awesome event and letting us be apart of it!
For everyone heading down south of the boarder for CMWC 2014, we highly suggest arriving at least a week prior to adjust to the altitude.
Today’s Strasbourg, Pennsylvania road race described itself as a “circuit in the style of a European kermesse.” Between the rain/snow/sleet, the farms, the narrow roads, and the overwhelming essence of cow dung, I really could have mistaken it for a morning in rural Belgium, save the Amish buggies along the road.
Here’s the thing: I love to race in terrible weather. The crappier, the better, really. I realized long ago that about one in three bike races occur when the weather sucks. It’s going to happen. Embracing it gives you an ever-so-slight advantage over those who decide to let their guard down just because it’s 34 degrees and ice is raining down from the sky. (Jason Gay was not just being cute when he wrote in the WSJ last week that “bike racing is a sport that fetishizes suffering.”)
Which brings me to today: It was a women’s 3/4 race consisting of 35 km over a rolling 5.5 mile circuit. The weather went from a sprinkling of icy rain to thick wet snow as the race progressed. As we came around at the end of the first lap the pace was comfortable. As there was no money on the line and my sole purpose in finishing the race was to train for another, much harder race coming up, I spent most of the rest of the race pulling the pack around with me, not really worrying about conserving energy until the last half lap or so.
Over 35k, some things happened. Someone broke away alone. People chased her. Some caught her. By the last lap, there were five women at the front (sort of) working together. I tried to teach those in my group that pulling off the front of a pace line and then continuing at the same speed next to the new person on the front is actually not helpful at all for anyone in the group. However, they appeared unconcerned with basic aerodynamics. Whatever — it’s not like that’s the whole key to bike racing or anything.
With 2k to go, I figured it would be a match sprint between me and one other category three in the field, which I was dreading (but also excited about) because she’s THAT GIRL — the one I’m always near in race results, but never in front of. She’s kicked my ass on the road and on the track for the last three years. So, 500m to go and I’m following her wheel, ready to come around, when all of the sudden the woman who was off the front for two whole laps, who I wrote off as totally exhausted and also not a sprinter, gives a killer kick and leaves everyone in the dust. I missed her wheel, but in chasing her totally gapped everyone else in the group for a respectable second place finish.
After the race, I found out that because of the large number of women signed up to race, there was unexpected cash on the line! My winnings went entirely to gas/tolls for the drive. But hey, it’s still cash $$$.
(There are no actual pictures of me racing this race because, have I mentioned? Ice was coming out of the sky. I strava’ed it here though.)
Now that the cyclocross season is coming to an end I figured I ought to find time to post an update. While most of the team has been hitting the gym and racking up base miles for next season a few of us have been traveling the northeast every weekend to race our bikes in the sand and mud.
I spent my last few weeks as a Cat 4 bouncing around the top 5 and rounding out my final cat 4 race with a first place finish at BubbleCross in West Milford, NJ.
After that, I submitted for my upgrade and took a rest week around Thanksgiving.
Next up was Horseshoe Scramble. Fellow Pink Rhino Teammate (who races Cross for Continuum Cycles) took first place in the Women’s 3/4 Race!
Here’s her getting rad off some of the rollers:
I raced later in the afternoon in the Men’s Cat 3 Race. The front side of the course was really thick grass that only got wetter and thicker throughout the day. The entire backside of the course was long stretches of thick mud divided in half by a technical downhill off-camber into a steep run up that was also covered in thick mud. One section was so thick with mud that I don’t even think Sven Nys would ride it. While running with my bike, I took the opportunity to try and pull out as much mud from my brakes and rear triangle as I could. Races like these make me wish I had a pit bike. As I sprinted towards the finish I ripped my rear derailleur off the frame and it broke apart inside of my rear wheel. I had to run the final 200 meters with my bike covered in 10lbs of mud on my shoulder. Luckily the exact same thing happened to the guy behind me (seriously, at least 20-25 people must have broken their rear derailleurs that day). I finished up in 10th place.
This past weekend was Super Cross Cup, a 2 day race held out on Long Island, just 40 minutes from the city. This race was supposed to happen the 2nd week of November, but due to Hurricane Sandy the park was taken over by FEMA as a staging area and postponed a few weeks.
Jen Nordhem brought home 6th place on Saturday in the Women’s 3/4 Race and battled it out for 1st place on Sunday.
Is that the raddest podium shot, or what?!
I brought home another top 10 on Saturday with a 9th place finish. Sunday was going good for the first 4 laps. I was sitting 4th or 5th for a few laps, racing with people that I know are much faster than me. I wiped out on relatively easy turn and lost any ground I had put in on the group behind me. From there on out my race got progressively worse as fatigue and back cramps started to settle in. I finished in 12th place. Not awful, but I was hoping for another top 10 to round the season out.
As sad as I am to see it go, I think my cross season is over. There are still a few races here and there over the next few weeks but it’s time to start racking up some base miles and focusing on my goals for next year. Although I might head down to Philly this weekend to get rad at Bilenky’s Junkyard cross race. After that, I swear that’s it!
I’m in California for the next couple of months, taking advantage of the weather and racing as much cyclocross as possible. It’s a little different here on the west coast, as California gets about 5 days of rain a year, and it’s generally between January and April, so there’s not much mud around. Instead of mud, race organizers around here add technical BMX-style sections that tend to be pretty challenging, but also super fun. In general, I’ve been really impressed with the organization and consistency of the SoCalCross series, which stretches all the way from October to January.
I spent last weekend at Spooky Cross — a course assembled inside a horse racing track at the L.A. Fairplex. Because there were long, flat sections of packed dirt and the grass was relatively thin, the course was a little more favorable toward my road racing/endurance background than the previous week’s super sandy course that had some single-track-like sections. Of course, because I’m a bit of a hot mess, I arrived late, with roughly 20 minutes to warm up, so I wasn’t so sure how the race was going to go…
But when the whistle went off, I surprised myself. I got a good start (in the women’s 4 category) and was just behind the lead group of three on the first straightaway, ready to pass them when I heard a sickening crunch and my feet stopped dead. I looked down to find my chain had popped off the end of the cassette and was stuck between it and the frame thanks to my super-pro tiagra derailleur. I had to watch the leaders, then the rest of the pack pull away from me as I stopped to try to get my chain back on track. It took a good 30 seconds of pulling, but I finally got it and set off trying to catch the rest of the group. I was preparing to suffer for the next 35 minutes for a thoroughly mediocre bottom-half finish, if I caught up at all, when something of a miracle happened: my brain told my legs to push, and they responded, and my LUNGS WERE SORT OF OKAY WITH THAT. This was a major development in my CX racing experience. Things are starting to come together for me — I figure by the time my new Pink Rhino kits arrive in a few weeks I’ll actually be looking like I know what I’m doing(!).
On the third and fourth lap I caught up with what I would refer to as the “chase group” behind the two leaders, and passed them, only to be caught on the technical BMX sections by a girl who clearly had major skills that I lacked (*note to self: spend a few hours at a pump track*), only to pass her again every time we hit the flat. On the final lap I was gaining ground on the leaders, but simply ran out of time. I came in third, out of 11 women, just 0:29 down on the leader. And perhaps more importantly, I can’t wait to go out and do better next time.
This is the best prize I’ve ever gotten for third place in a W4 race, so thanks to SoCalCross for the swag!
I stuck around for the women’s elite UCI race after mine, and took some photos of the pros tackling the course:
Somehow the giant flyover doesn’t look as steep in the photo as it did riding up it on race day… Still, Teal Stetson-Lee makes it look easy.
French CX champion Caroline Mani, who I met at Starbucks on the way to the course Sunday and was nice enough to give me directions, tackles the BMX section — can you see the whoops on the left-hand side? I’m bad at those.