Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Season recap'

2010 is almost over. Perfect time of the year to have a look in the rear view mirror. And there's a lot to see!

I began the year with a small knee injury, that got me worried about the coming season. Thankfully, nothing major and I could carry on. February was spent on the singlespeed before I received my Deluxe 29er in early March. A few rides at home to get a first feel and I went to the Bruniquel 2000, a bit North of Toulouse. That's where I really discovered the Deluxe, on the rocks of the nice course around Bruniquel:

IF Deluxe 29er after the Bruniquel 2000 - © David G.

In April, I spent as much time as I could on my Deluxe. This was a crucial month to get up to speed for the Transvésubienne. I rode as much as possible. I tried hard at the ESSC in the Forest of Dean and in Fontainebleau when spending a week-end home:

My buddy Baptiste in Fontainebleau - © David G.

At the end of April, I headed to Nice for a few days to ride the Transvésubienne 2009 course. Good times, where I could enjoy scenery, gather as information as much as possible for the race and put some serious training in before taking it easy and catching up with friends at the Garda lake Festival:

IF Deluxe 29er above the Vésubie valley - © David G.

Before I knew it, we were in May. The EHBE show was a blast, very nice occasion to share good moments with friends from all over Europe and seeing some amazing craftmanship. Our team jersey was also shown for the first time:

Me, myself and I - © David G.

One week after, it was time to get the jersey dirty at the Transvésubienne. I won't bore you again with this race. But if you're interested, have a look to my race summary. One of my season highlights, for sure.

Deep in it at the Transvésubienne - © Art Photo Reflex

June was easy, I needed some rest after two crazy months with not much time at home on week-ends. Then I jumped in the car again and headed to Sweden for three weeks of vacations in July. I mostly rode my road bike over there, but also did a couple of really nice mountain bike rides mostly around Stockholm. I can say that Hellasgården is still one of my favourite places to ride on Earth. Amazing stuff!

Hellasgården does make you smile this much - © David G.

On the way back from Sweden, I stoppped in Germany for some XC racing in Hochspeyer before heading again in Pfalzerwald to ride the infamous F trail and meet lots of friends at Schlaflos im Sattel. Not much riding afterwards in August. A few nice rides to discover again trails around home and some much needed family time. Eurobike rounded the month and summer was almost gone.

September and October were mostly spent singlespeeding, sometimes on a borrowed bike as in Frederick (MD, USA), while on a short trip to the East Coast.

Frederick Watershed typical stuff - © Joe W. (Singlespeed Outlaw)

Since then, I'm back in training mode again, preparing next season. Rock climbing, trail running, BMX, road and obviously mountain bike riding. Spending more time at home, I try to rest and build up strength for next season. Bring on 2011!

Huge thank you to sponsors and friends, both old and new, that made these good times possible: Wilfried for his training advices, Baptiste for being the perfect training partner, Guillaume (my physiotherapist and osteopath), Sandi and Ken @ Crema Cycles, Stefano @ Biciclista, Chris D @ Chris King, Jelle, Mario and the European singlespeed mafia for the good times at the shows, Adrian, Bo, Dane and Patrick for the rides in Stockholm, Ricky and Joe for the ride in Frederick, Basti and David @ Farhstil, etc. etc.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Critical Dirt

It has been a long time since I have felt this good after a race and it is a variety things that contribute to this. First it was an epic event - 4 stage cross race the first day across Eastern Germany  deteriorated roads, gavel, paths, trails and fields that battered bikes and their riders. Then a second day with two heats of cyclocross qualifiers followed by the main heat. Excellent format of racing. Second the venue, the locations contributed as much to the event as did the format. As said, former Cold War enemy land that has seemingly been left behind in some ways, not too mention it was a scorching 37+ C out with the sun beating down... Lastly, the people, just awesome people there.

 Picking up the route map

This made for a recipe of great racing, and I have slowly started to feel my old self again, which allowed me to hang with the fast guys there and even take my own digs. Stage one became a toss-out stage, the lead group I was in blew the directions and got lost. The orga team sent out navigation guides, but we out paced the lead guy seemingly early on and we lost our way. I came in like 47th on the stage. Oh well.

Stage 2, Stijn Deferm and a couple of others lit up the pace and I joined in on the festivities up front, taking my turn yanking the field across parched fields and seering roads. One section was nothing more then a double track riddled with baseball sized rocks, old tarmack and was lined with sharp bushes & thistle that burned on your sweat drenched arms. With the mountaintop finish rapidly closing in, I tried to pull the pace back a bit to recover for the climb up since it is very hard for me to shift from tempo riding to climbing. But no sooner as we hit the climb up, my legs got tight and that was it, I would come home in 6th.

After a nice lunch break, it was back to high-speed riding through woods, up some sharp steep short climbs and descents on stage 3. The woods took its tool on the field, thinning things out a little, but we still had a strong group leading the charge. As we dashed through one village, we went through a train station, which entailed descending a ramp, riding under the tracks and then a run-up the staircase on the otherside. We also took that at high speed - freakin' cool! We hit another section of dirtroads where I was pulling and road everyone off my wheel except for my teammate Ronny Leder, with an easy 200m gap on the field we conversed, and since neither of us knew the way, we had to sit up and wait for the field. But I was feeling really good and kept track of where we were with one of the guides. Once I saw we had a straight shot to the finish with just a few km to go, I launched an attack and went for it. Quickly I opened a gap, this time alone. From there it was head down and pedal. I almost blew it coming into the finish, by overshooting a turn. But I held it and won the IF sponsored stage. I was super stoked!

The table was set for the final stage into Leipzig, but it was not easy at all. We still had some seriously rough roads to navigate including what must have been an old tank road with huge, rough, uneven slabs of concrete that were separated down the middle with dirt the abruptly turned in to vast holes or rockgardens along the way. This section claimed its victims. After clear of the last obstacles, we gambled the traffic lights as we charged into and then through town for a full on sprint into the park. Hanging on by my fingernails, I survived to finish 4th.

The first day was an incredible day of racing that will go down as one I will always remember. I have always wanted to do some of the Spring Classics, I no longer need to, I have done something much more demanding in my eyes. And if that weren't enough, we got up the next day for some full-on cyclocross racing.

In the middle of some parched land in the southern part of Leipzig, with the forgotten past of hollowed industry building as the back drop, with turned laps in some deep loose rock and sand. After the start we had a short flat section before ascending the one hill around the area that hand a mean runup at the top. Then we descending around the backside about halfway, rolled around to the front, then dropped like a rock back down to the base area past the start/finish area and up a short ascent of gravel that was so loose, you just had to do a high speed drift to get up it and around the corner. Through about 30cm of moon dust we rode away before making a u-turn and heading back to the finish through the world's longest sandpit.

two 20 min heats, top 10 go to the finals. I drilled it my heat, maybe a little too much, easily winning it. But Arne also won his heat, and is one fast guy, so I knew it would be a fight in the finals. Stijn took the hole-shot in he finals and had his fun on the first lap while I took up second. Stijn pulled out after the first lap, and I was already shifting to survival mode. Sure enough, Arne caught and passed me at the end of the second lap when I had a poor line in the sandpit. I was suffering big time. Arne checked out and would cruise in for a deserved win. Now I was fighting for second, which Robert also wanted. He got me going up the climb the last time, but did not get away, and as we shot down the hill for the last out and back on the course, everyone was going nuts. we rounded the final 180 together, and it was a drag race back to the finish. Once again I picked a bad line and couldn't power through it, and Robert popped in for 2nd while I took 3rd. Great racing.

 Stijn & Arne coming into the 180 turn

It was good to have today off from riding, time to recover and think back on the weekend. Lots of things to process and to think about, lots of people to thank, and time keep the stoke moving forward.

"It’s a gift to be in each other’s lifes, racing Cyclocross and having our support and camaraderie.
Let’s represent, make lifelong memories and RACE!

photos courtesy of ersatzspeiche, Torture King & bomberklaus

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You go girl!

Sandi has steadily been improving this season, much like that in her hey-day of racing, and is killing it. Fresh off a 2nd in Niederlinxweiler at the MTB-Cup Saar-Pfalz series, Sandi overcame a tough starting position at the Rocky Mountain Marathon in Willingen to nail a top ten & beat out some very fast ladies in the process.

Sandi said the course at the BIKE Festival actually turned out to be somewhat fun since it was wet, turning some of the doubletrack into fun, slippery techy sections. The rolling terrain also was a welcome change to long flat sections typical in German marathon racing. She had a lot of fun with it, so that made it all worth while.

Starting in the 2nd block, an half an hour later that the winner Pia Sundsedt and other top women, also she was pretty far back in her start block, Sandi charged forward, making quick work of her group (guys included) and eventually caught up to the earlier start block. Hopefully we can get her in the same start groups with the other fast girls to give her a better shot at moving up in the placings.

Next up for our top girl rider is the 24hours of Munich with the boys from Team Zypris, and then the Pfronten Marathon on the 4th of July.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The CremaCycles site is up, finally. we still have some tweaking to do, but it is live. Come on over and check it out, we have Independent Fabrication, embrocation journal, soft goodness, coffee, Mule Bars and much more. Give it a spin and let us know what you think.

Monday, June 7, 2010


After a week of rest, it's now time to share my Transvésubienne experience.

The Transvésubienne is a race taking place in the South-East of France, in the backcountry of Nice. This is known as one of the hardest, if not THE hardest, race in France. Since the beginning in the early 90's, this race has been long, rough, technical and basically just hard. Its legendary status might be too much, but this is no race for the week-end warrior.

I did my first Transvésubienne in 2006. At the end of 2005, a friend bet we could do it on fully rigid bikes. I was the only was to follow. We didn't really know what to expect, but the appeal of the legend was enough for us to jump in the band wagon. We prepared for 6 months and discovered the hardest way what the Transvésubienne was. We had a good time, finished the race, won our bet, came back home sore and happy. After a few months, I was already thinking of coming back. I was hooked.

Fast forward 4 years and I'm finally back at the start of the Transvésubienne. It took me a couple months to get up to speed, but coming in Nice, I'm confident I can finish it once again. But I know it won't be easy. The course is the legendary one, which goes on top of the Brec d'Utelle, toughened up for what the bikes of nowadays are able to cope with. Imagine 86km, with 3300m of elevation and 4800m of downhill. Add rocks, treacherous hiking singletracks, lots of hike-a-bike and even more rocks. And you're not even close to what it is really like!

Transvésubienne 2010 course on Google Earth from LudoTA on Vimeo.

I wake up at 4:45 AM on Sunday. Harsh. From 6:00, we get our places on the starting line. 6:30, off we go! The first quarter of the race is the easiest. A big climb right at the beginning, amazing views from the singletrack on the edge at almost 2000m above sea level, a first few downhills to tease you and as you approach the Brec d'Utelle, it gets more serious!

Brec d'Utelle - Photo © Christophe

The course arrive North of the Brec d'Utelle and get on top of it with a short hike-a-bike giving you a nice view to the East, on the Vésubie valley. At the top, you discover the view to the South West and all you can see beneath your wheels are rocks. After the first switchback, you're in loose rocks the size of your head for 5 minutes and 20 more switchbacks. Low saddle, easy on the brakes, trust your line and go for it. Full suspensions bikes are not much faster than me and my trusty full rigid Deluxe 29er. A bit of rest with an easier part with much more flow and speed and it gets rougher again for the biggest part of the downhill to Utelle. I have a mechanical there, with my chain getting out of my rear derailleur cage, without even breaking. Strange.

Somewhere in the downhill of the Brec d'Utelle - Photo © Art Reflex Photo

Down in Utelle, it goes up again, around the Cime du Diamant and up to the Madone d'Utelle (a small chapel above Utelle and the Vésubie valley), where the second feed stop is. From here, we go down to the bridge above the Vésubie, which is halfway on the course. I start to feel cramps in my legs around here. Rough terrain, not enough drinking and not much time to take my Camelbak hose. But I really enjoy that bit of downhill, which suits me and my bike better. I finally arrive at the bridge in 5 hours. It will be tough to be at the finish line in 10 hours, as my goal was...

The race really begins here. Right from the bridge, the climb is brutal. It's long and not rideable the whole way. Alternatively, I push, carry or ride my bike, whenever possible. Then we hit a fireroad, which gets us to the top. It's hot, there's not wind to cool off on this climb. After more than an hour of climbing, it's downhill again, on a steep, loose and narrow singletrack. Just after the biggest climb of the day, this downhill takes a lot of riders down. I ride conservatively, I have no safety margin with my full rigid bike.

At the 3rd feed stop, I make a long stop. Volunteers are friendly and take care of us nicely. I chat a bit, eat lots and finally take off for another long climb under the sun. This one is easier, but there's still a bit of hike-a-bike to get on top of the Cima Mount. I ate too much at the last feed stop, I'm feeling heavy and my legs are still on the edge of cramps. I manage to keep everything under control, taking it a bit easy for some time. The downhill afterwards is rough and loose, freshly cut between the bushes. My head is still clear enough to ride quite fast downhill and it's a lot of fun trying not to get passed by full suspension bikes!

On the slopes of Cima Mount - Photo © Denis

The last feed stop is also the last time barrier and I have more than hour of margin when I get there. I make a short stop and hop on the bike again for the last stretch of the course. We're on the slopes of the Chauve Mount and after the climb coming from the North, the view on Nice is a relief. The finish line can almost be seen from there, although there is still quite a bit of riding to get to it! But I'm feeling better here. My legs are not worth much, but I have lots of energy left and 10h seems now achievable. Rock on, then!

The end is almost a blur. The downhill is super fun, although once again I'm careful and keep everything under control. I try to be smooth, fast whenever possible and mostly to have fun! Then, we leave the trails and enter Nice, where we ride on a river bed for a few kilometers, before one more climb to the Arena where the finish is. Finally, the line is in sight and I cross it after 10h04 on the course, 201st out of 900+ riders, of which only 418 finished. Job done!

Thanks to my Deluxe 29er, its 29" wheels, disc brakes and a few other nice bits, this experience was much more comfortable than 4 years ago. This bike is still not adapted to the course, which is really well suited to full suspension bikes. But I chose to ride it this way and had fun along the way. Who cares about anything else?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Message received

"If you were a full on pro, you could toss this season away," is what my doctor told me when explaining my diagnosis of EBV. He went on to say taking it easy would be the best thing I could do and racing would not be a good option.

I have felt like poop. Last weekend in Garmisch I could barely turn the pedals and felt exhausted. Training rides I have reduced in both volume and quantity to aid in the recovery process, hoping that I might be able to salvage a late mtb/ cyclocross season this year. So going to Neiderlinxweiler in Saarland this weekend I was just looking to go for a 'training' race to build on what little condition I have. Also, i promised myself to quit if it did not feel right or thought I was going to incur more damage to the body.

So from the start I took a conservative approach, letting others dice for position, buying my time to see how I felt on the first climb. Surprisingly enough, I felt pretty darn good, and quickly lept up through the field until I found myself hoovering in the top 5. It still felt strenuous on the climbs, and little wobbly, but good. The flats and descents I was flat out morting and was pulling people in and passing them. The one 'tricky' descent fun was to be had pulling mx-style block passes and finding much faster lines than what others were taking, aiding in my cause to move forward. Lap 2 I found myself in 3rd with 2nd in sight, a great feeling for sure. But towards the end of that lap I could tell the body was not liking the efforts I was putting in. So I settled in to a steady pace to see where that left me, and with no improvement, some overheating and seeing that continuing I was running the danger of doing some damage to myself, I pulled the plug.

Quitting is normally not an option to me, but given the circumstances it was the right decision. Besides I can take a lot of positive out of this race, and it gives me something to continue building on. Having a rough first part of this year have been a challenge physically and mentally with lots of set backs, but every situation has a positve and negative aspect to it. At first I rejected my diagnosis and then was depressed, along with being angry about it. But there is a positive, and I am starting to receive the message.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Garmisch Bike Festival

As a racer, I think it is inevitable to dream about riding up front, but at the same time be honest about your capabilities. Well, Saturday was a reality check for me. Giving up 'training' rides for family and work, 2 operations on hip this spring, recently being diagnosed with the Epstein Barr Virus and having just dabbled in racing since my 'retirement' all stacked up against me on the weekend. Still I thought it were possible to be top 20 maybe top 15...

Should have known in the neutral start already things would not go according to plan, but still I hoovered around the 10 spot when we hit the first climb. And when we did hit the climb, I went backwards like a brick sinking in water, in fact I think the whole field went by me. There was absolutely nothing in my legs and nothing I could about it. My only comfort was that as the climb got steeper, I was already going slow, and the others slowed down and then I was able to match pace and even pick up a spot or two.

The first half of the course was pretty much all road, up and then back down to the Eibsee. The foot path around the Eibsee riddled with pedestrians made for interesting racing circumstances, when drafting others you had to hope that around the next bend there wasn't a grandma, kid or dog in your path... After the lake cam a somewhat fun double track, that showed the advantages of a 29er, rough and undulating the big wheels rolled nicely and made the ensuing descent pretty alright too.

Another slog gaining vertical meters found more riders pulling me in and passing me as a labored with my virtual lead weight tied to my seatpost. But again my pain was rewarded on the back side with the gratuitous some what technical section + singletrack (sometimes I think that the German promoters but these sections in just so they can toss the word singletrack into the race description although the course lack any kind of technical ability or real trails).  Once again this section played towards my bike abilities hand and the lack of riding skills in those around me and I was actaully able to gain some time on people.

Seriously, I was ready to call it a day after 1 of 2 laps, I thought "what was the purpose of suffering another lap that will more than likely be worse than the first?" But quitting is not in my nature, so I pressed on. By now I had settled into a groove and had a few riders around me riding the same tempo. on some sections they would roll ahead, on others I would pull back by. It wasn't until the last climb that some real racing happened. A larger group was pulling me back in and I knew if I could just make it over the top either in front or near the front of the group, I had a shot at beating them back to the line with the 'technical' & 'singletrack' between us and the finish.

Making it over the top in 2nd, I held on until we hit the techy section and sure enough the first guy bobbled. I lept past him, but still had the groiup on my heels. Not too long after we caught another rider going much slower than us, but it was really muddy back in the woods and with no passing options, we sat in. Then with a small glimpse of daylight to one side, I popped past the slow rider and punched it (well as good as I could with my rubberband legs). There was a super slick slick descent and then about 1.5k back to the finish. My cagey move scored me the distance I needed on the group to bring it home. I guess this old dog can still teach others a trick or two.

I was beat and exhausted back in the finish, 17th in age group, 34th overall. Not a result I can live with, but a reality given where I am at. It will take some time for me to get back into riding and racing at a level I can be content. While I have no ambitions to make a fulltime return to racing it would just be nice to gain a glimpse of my old glory.