I don’t know what the whole fuss about the dangers of disc brake rotors in pro road racing is all about. I may not be the fastest road racer on the planet, but I’ve had my fair share of experience in a road racing field and same goes for disc brake use.

It blows my mind how little these pros actually know about disc brakes, pros/cons, or how to even use them properly.  I guarantee you more than half of the pro peloton at this year’s Paris Roubaix probably have never used a disc equipped bike in their life time.  Especially the ones who remember racing on bikes that only had 3 gears…

To clarify, I really feel bad about those riders who were injured during this years Paris Roubaix, and I wish them a very speedy recovery.  Yes, road racing has it’s dangers.  I’ve crashed on the road more than I care to admit, and crashing at speed makes it even worse.  Throw in some cobbles, 200 of some of the strongest cyclists in the world, and a pretty big trophy at the end of the race, and you end up with these dangers compounded.

This year is the first full year (or was until about 3 hrs ago) where at least the pro peloton had the ability to ride a disc brake equipped road bike in any UCI sanctioned road event.  Yet you can easily get away with racing an old school cantilever equipped CX bike with carbon rims in a rainy road race no problem, but that’s another story.  Honestly, I cannot tell you what the solution to this whole debacle is, I’m just here to point out some VERY obvious facts.

What actually happened?

First off:  If you read Ventoso’s word for word account of what happened, his recount of the crash goes something like this:

Let me take you to 130km into the race: into a cobbled section, a pile-up splits the field, with riders falling everywhere. I’ve got to break [brake] but I can’t avoid crashing against the rider in front of me, who was also trying not to hit the ones ahead. I didn’t actually fall down: it was only my leg touching the back of his bike. I keep riding. But shortly afterwards, I have a glance at that leg: it doesn’t hurt, there’s not a lot of blood covering it, but I can clearly see part of the periosteum, the membrane or surface that covers my tibia. I get off my bike, throw myself against the right-hand side of the road over the grass, cover my face with my hands in shock and disbelief, start to feel sick… I could only wait for my team car and the ambulance, while a lot of things come through my mind.”

Ok, so he remembers his leg ‘touching’ the back side of the bike of the rider in front.  I have a hard time believing that he himself remembers exactly what his knee touched.  But regardless, lets move onto some other alarming facts.  Did he ever mention anything about spokes?

Ventoso goes on to talk about the number of disc brake rotors present in the peloton for this years Paris Roubaix, 32.  Meaning 2 full teams of 8 all had disc brake bikes.  8 x 2 (wheels per bike) x 2 (# of teams) = 32.

Disc Brake Rotors:

Only those who have used disc brakes a lot would understand the true dangers and/or subtleties of riding with disc brakes.  For example, if you are riding down the Stelvio, or a MTB trail descent next to the Stelvio, your rotors will heat up like no body’s business by the end of the downhill, so you better stay away.  Yet if you are on a long road ride where you only use your brakes (lightly I might add) to take a 90 deg corner every 5 mins, it will be highly unlikely that your rotors will heat up hot enough for the hot rotors to be any help in cutting through your skin.

Bladed Spokes:

So how many bladed spokes do you think were present in this year’s Paris Roubaix Peloton?  Of all the bikes I could see from photos of the race, and the status of the types of wheels in the current pro peloton, I imagine EVERY team had aero wheels with bladed spokes (as flat box regular spokes are essentially a thing of the past), but just for safety sake lets say 5% of the wheels out there used normal non-bladed spokes.  As most wheels are carbon, this allows less number of spokes per wheel, but lets assume that the average number of spokes for a wheel is 20 (a far cry from the 32 on some wheelsets, so this ends up being a very safe estimate).  So the total number of bladed spokes in the peloton would have been about 200 (# of riders) *2 (wheels per rider) *20 (average # of spokes per wheel) = 8000 (factoring in the 5%) = 7600 bladed spokes.  A whole lot more than 32, or am I wrong?  That’s over 200 times more likely to come in contact with a more dangerous spoke than a rotor.  ***My initial math was of by one whole digit.  Which further makes the case.  Thanks to Gary for pointing this out!

Spokes vs. Rotors:

Bladed spokes are always more narrow than rotors further adding to the danger of the bladed spoke.  Most bladed spokes (and even rotors for that matter) are measured in units smaller than mm’s but lets say for the public sake that an average bladed spoke ends up being around 1mm wide.  When the average rotor comes in around double that at 2mm’s.  Adding to the fact that bladed spokes are called ‘BLADED spokes’ for a reason (meant to be as aerodynamic as possible in order to cut through the wind with minimal resistance like a blade) I don’t know of any rotors that are designed with this in mind.  Most of them are all flat at the end further reducing their ability to cut through skin.

Do rotors heat up when braking and cut through skin when red hot?  I don’t know if you’ve seen the recent GCN episode talking about the differences between disc brakes and canti’s but for shits and giggles, it’s a must watch.  Make sure you get to the middle part when they use a sausage to show you the dangers of the rotors, er… I mean bladed spokes…

Not only are bladed spokes more dangerous when comparing directly to disc rotors, you need to keep in mind that spokes are travelling at nearly twice the speed of the rotor and are always moving.  Lets use this image from http://physics.stackexchange.com/ to show what I’m talking about.

If the bike ends up moving at 40km/hr (v) which is roughly the speed of the rotor given how small it is and close to the hub, then the part of the spoke that is closest to the rim end up moving at almost double this speed, or 80km/hr (2v)  I don’t know about you, but this trend is getting a bit alarming for me…


Ok, now taking all this into mind, on top of the fact that Ventoso doesn’t recall exactly what he ran into, nor doe they say anything about the details of his Etixx- QuickStep buddies incident, who’s to say his knee didn’t ‘touch’ a spoke.  The dangers in the peloton are real, yes, but the inexperience (when related to disc brakes) of the majority of these pros is portraying a very twisted view on what the dangers truly are.

If the majority of the people involved in cycling at this higher level are really just worried about the compatibility problems, and the fact that they know they will have to wait longer for a wheel than if they just stick with the tried and true rim brake wheels, then why are they shooting technology advancement in the foot by playing the safety game.  Or is cycling the next soccer (or football for those outside of North America) and we are just looking for the next thing to blame in order reduce the amount of suffering we have to go through to win a bike race.  Hey what do I know, I’m just a cyclocrosser in the ‘off-season’ who’s 2 beers into the night…


The last couple days of our Trans Alp journey were pretty cool, but also a heavy slog.  We stayed overnight after the mechanical day in a place called Kortsch (near Schlanders).  We had a pretty cool night of good food and lots of it to refuel for the last 2 day push to Lake Garda.  That night we had to hand wash our clothes due to the mix-up we had with the hotel in Livignio and then ended up not washing our clothes.  Thanks to Uli for taking on the task!  Unfortunately the heat was pretty unbearable at this stage and it was the first time we slept lower than 1000m since starting the trip.  To add to the heat our hotel was in the middle of a fruit orchard, so at 5am the sprinklers went off and stayed on until we left.  Also, due to the placement of our bikes, they got a bit of a soaking too…


Because the day before’s plan to hit our highest altitude on the trip had to be cut short from all the mechanicals and slow moving day the day before, we were pretty motivated to tag on any further optional parts to do on the bike in order to make up for what we missed out on.  The first pass of the day was pretty high considering we were starting from 700m and the pass was well over 2000m.  We had the option of taking the chairlift half way, but we opted for the hard man approach.


This was when my Garmin showed me the steepest grade I’ve seen on it to date showing me 35%.  It was a bit hard, and lots of out of the saddle climbing.  The first half of the climb was so knarly (mostly gravel climb with some rough pavement or dry dirt) that we needed to stop at the top of the chairlift for lunch before continuing on.  I had a pretty big schnitzel with some Spätzle, and it had a boat load of butter in it.  Really not the best idea after finding out what was next to come.  A whole lot of walking…  I’ve coined the term, ScraMTBing.  Essentially scrambling in your MTB shoes hauling your bike everywhere you go.  And no, there is no limitation on how knarly the scrambling can be.  I sure was pretty glad to get to the top though…


You’d think the downhills would be pretty fun, but at the very top of them we were literally only able to ride about 75% of it.  At least it would allow us to move quite a bit faster.  This day the tension was starting to build as we were really starting to get tired.  I’m pretty happy to have done it with Uli though as we worked really well together and were able to push our limits a bit while still keeping things safe and within reason.  We stopped for some food in the next valley to wait out a short storm and get a quick rest in before the final push to the next pass.


The next climb was pretty hard considering what we had already done that day.  So steep and loose that the last couple Km’s were mostly walking.  The hut was a very welcome relief.


The hut came complete with an Italian toilet (a hole in the ground with place for your feet) and a super cool puppy to lighten our spirits!


The last day was going to be a hard one, we knew it.  The trip that we planned, was normally supposed to be done in 7 days, but we figured the last day we’d just spend the majority of the time on the road and head it straight into Riva del Garda, just over 100 km’s away.  At least it was supposed to be 100km’s.  The last day was the day we had the biggest breakdown in communication of the whole trip.  Which is understandable given how tired we were, but not a good thing.  The first downhill was pretty cool, but it just wouldn’t stop coming.  We started at about 2200m and I knew by the end of the day we’d be around 100, so we expected fully that it would be a lot of downhill riding, little did I realize we’d also be doing a LOT of unhill as well.  First off we went too far down a valley taking us in the wrong direction when I was adamant that it was the right way, then when we headed back I was sure that riding not on the road was the better option, only to realize it would end up being the worst riding of the trip on top of construction, on top of Uli being a bit mad at me, made for a bit of a rough start to the day.  Once we finally got back on the road it was all good, and after a short stop for lunch in Madonna di Campiglio, we made the final push towards our finish line.  You know you’re in Italy when this is the main road on the map that you need to take to get to your destination. More like a Canadian back alley!


Although the climbing was not over yet.  We had to go over one more 1000m ish climb before a downhill and then the final climb up and over into Riva del Garda.  It was a bit rough, but at least we could ride on smooth roads the whole way in…  The views sure were absolutely stunning though!


We decided to do some touristy things that night and have a few adult beverages, along with some ice cream, but the most important goal of the night which took us to the next town over was our desperate need to do laundry.  By this time we smelt pretty bad.  IMG_1833

The next morning with a short climb over the hill to Rovereto where we were to catch the train, our trip was officially over.


6 Days, 32 hrs moving time, 475km’s, 14000 m elevation gain, 2 fully functional bikes and a couple of tired dudes.  All in all, a pretty cool trip.

*Values listed above are only estimates and actual values are higher given that the Garmin’s were on auto-pause, so when we rode or walked too slow for the Garmin to think we were moving, it stopped recording.  There was a LOT of walking…



The morning we headed out from Scuol was pretty straight forward.  Find the right valley and ride up it to the pass.  Only problem was that the climb up the valley was going so easily that we ended up riding much further than we were supposed to according to the map.  We didn’t really take a break until people started speaking Italian :).  Only problem was that we missed the proposed route turnout which was much further down the valley.  This would be the start of many missed routes as the Canadian just wanted to ‘follow his instincts’ and the German just wanted to keep checking the map.  It was a fine balance, and a few times too many we ended up taking the advice of the Canadian.  Not a good idea when neither of us had been there before…  This detour wasn’t that bad though, we just ended up having to do some pretty knarly steep climbing to get back on the proposed route… At least we got some cool views!


This day I felt super comfortable technical wise as I was starting to get used to the style of riding that is required when doing a Trans Alp.  I think Uli wasn’t super happy that I was pushing some limits in that department…  Which is understandable as if I had crashed we would have been hooped…

Off Cambre

It was so hot out this day and this was the first day that we encountered steep ‘ridable’ (but barely) climbs.  They were so steep that it was painful to stay on the bike and because the terrain was so loose, you needed to stay seated the whole time.  I was pretty happy with my tire choice of Continental Race King 2.2 29″ with Protection as I pumped them up at the beginning of the trip and didn’t need to add anymore air until the end of the trip.  Made for a happy Schooler…

Scuol Morning

Once we got to Livigno it was pretty relaxing as we were in a hotel and they even said they would do our laundry for us (which in the morning turned out to not be the case) but the day into Livigno had some of the coolest views and we got some of the best shots that day.  We even got to wash some of the cow poop off the bikes at the Bike Park in Livigno.

Sketchy Lake Shot

This had to have been one of my favorite trails of the trip as it was just a narrow trail cut into the side of a steep ass side slope with the run out being into a impeccably clear blue lake.  We had to take it a bit easy through these sections…


Nothing better than riding through an almost vertical waterfall right?

Tongue Pass

Final pass into Livigno.  We had a relaxing night, but the next morning everything started to go bad.  This day was supposed to be our biggest day of the trip in terms of effort and elevation gain but not necessarily Km’s.  We planned to ride up to the Stelvio via a back route hiking trail which is where we hit the highest elevation of the trip so far at 2760m’s.  Just over the height of the Passo del Stelvio.

Highest Elevation

The bad part about the day started before we even left the hotel when we went to pick up our laundry and it wasn’t washed.  Ok, so plan B?  Then before we even started climbing I end up breaking a spoke just after leaving Livigno.  Fixed that, climb, climb, climb, took a small break at the lakes, forget the only ride food we brought with me (pizza) at the lake stop, luckily it was only a 20 min detour and I got to ditch the pack for a short time.  Then all day Uli kept talking about how his dropper post was leaking oil meaning that his saddle dropped 2 cm’s every time he sat on it…  Not so good for the day with the most amount of climbing…  Once we got to the top of the Stelvio with some aide given to Uli on the final road section, he was completely out of it, and we were both nursing mechanicals.  Unfortunately, we had to make the decision to cut out the highest elevation point on the proposed trip and head down the rest of the road portion of the Stelvio and find a bike shop.  Luckily we found one that was open (after topping up on food and ice cream of course) and they were awesome with the support!  We were in and out of there with fixed bikes in no more than an hour!  At least the day finished well 🙂


We spent the night washing our dirty clothes in the bathroom of the next hotel.  At least it was hot enough to almost completely dry our clothes?!?!?!?!  The food sure was good that night though…

Next up, Skipping the recommended chairlift, and the final run into Riva Del Garda!

Trans Alp Schooler Style

Posted: 4 July 2015 in Uncategorized

When I told my buddy Uli I wanted to do something memorable in Europe before my time in Germany was up, he came up with the idea of riding across the Alps on the MTB. Sounded cool to me! The idea was 6 days, as light as possible, staying for as cheap as possible, and getting in as many jaw dropping sites and trails as possible. Oberstdorf, Germany to Riva del Garda, Italy.   

Seemed simple enough. I really don’t know what I was expecting it to be like, but so far, I’m gonna need a shovel to scrap my jaw up off the floor at the end of the trip. I am blown away by the types of trails we have ridden on. First day was a bit hard with the first pass requiring some hike a bike sections and a couple via Ferrara mounted sections which can still be done without gear and obviously if you are careful, can be done with a bike :).   

 After that we hit the first pass of the trip, followed by my first taste of Alpen MTB downhill terrain. Just super knarly rocks jutting out hiking trails which some crazy MTBers decide to do if they are stupid enough. Took me a while to feel comfortable on the descents, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. On the next climb we ended up getting covered in cow dung as we rode through a massive group of cows and yaks being herded to the next grazing area up this crazy gravel steep switchback climb I guess… 

Soon after that we finished the remainder of the massive climb to Heilbronner Hütte. It was pretty relieving to see that hut!!!
Day 2:

Distance on day 2 was told to be not too bad. So we took our time and were the last to leave the hut in the morning. On tap was a massive downhill to start the day into Ischgl before heading straight up the valley en route to Fimberpass, the only pass of the day. Then it was supposed to be an easy downhill into town, but it ended up being much knarlier than we thought. It first started with some rocks… 

Then came some bridges… 


Then some more bridges… 

 Then we finally made it to the bottom only to find out it was super hilly terrain into the final town of Scuol. Only to find a super cool pump track outback of the hostel we were booked into. As if we didn’t have enough technical practice today… 

 Germany, Austria, Switzerland, tomorrow Livigno Italy!!!

This year’s P2A for me was definitely a first.  The first year since I started coming to Paris to Ancaster that I never got the chance to ride in the lead group (aside from the first 2km’s of course).  As it sounds, I had a really great start.  In terms of not actually feeling like concrete I mean.  It’s also the first year at P2A for that.  Alas the cycling gods had other plans.  I managed to get a flat on the first 2km’s of the pothole infested gravel roads.  It was a bit intense as always, but I was definitely in the top 5 when we headed onto the rail trail for the first time only to realize my worst fears were now coming true.  My rear tubular was going flat.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Allen

Photo Credit: Jeremy Allen

So I figured it was best to stop as early as possible before the hole got any worse, or I put any more holes in my tubulars.  I took out the Pit Stop sealant and tried my best to put it into the valve but the damn thing didn’t seem to want to work on me.  So I took it off, immediately like a noob the head came off and sprayed much valued sealant everywhere, slammed the cap back on, tried to use it again back on the valve before giving up and going straight for the CO2.  Slammed the CO2 in there, found the leak, held it at the bottom and thankfully last year before this race I put some sealant in the tires as a preventative measure so I guess it held for the time being.  Fingers crossed it holds to the end… a whole 68km’s away…

So off to the races, through the masses, woops don’t run into anyone…  I had a few close calls in that first 30 mins of chasing, a few friendly cyclist recommendations for safety reasons, and off I was hopping from group to group.  I chatted later with a buddy who I passed but only after I got to the turnoff of the rail trail who assumed that I was back in about 200th spot when I got going again.  I know most of these riders are just out there for fun, but I sure was going to make good use of this high intensity training day.  As I picked up group after group, sometimes I’d sit there a bit because the group was going at a similar if not faster speed than I could do solo (this was usually on the roads) before I’d lead into the woods or a slower section and jump ahead to the next group.  I came through so many groups I got to ride with almost everyone in the first 100 at least which did include a lot of my really good cycling friends.  So all in all, the day of suffering was well worth it and super fun.

Photo Credit: Canadian Cyclist

Photo Credit: Canadian Cyclist

I started to tail off a bit towards the end and a bigger group behind me ended up almost catching me with Peter Glassford coming out of it to hold me off to the line.  It was really cool racing it this year, not only because I felt so good and rode well, but because I got to spend the coolest CX point to point race suffering with some of my good friends.  All in all, can’t complain.  And after the week in California with friends and the Focus USA crew, I was a happy tired dude.  Only to have to sit on a plane for double digit hours to get home to Germany.  I like taking breaks from racing trips, I get to screw my head on right!!!!

Photo Credit: Canadian Cyclist

Photo Credit: Canadian Cyclist

Next up: Täler Cup Action with the iWill Pro Cycling Team in the Black Forest with a couple Hill Climbs the next 2 weekends!


When I was arranging the season’s early spring logistics, I always book the spring to work around the Paris 2 Ancaster bike race which is this weekend.  But, this year, the logistics worked out quite well for me to be able to attend Sea Otter the weekend before it on route to Ontario.  It has been a pretty interesting prep to the new season with some bad weather stints coming to Germany along with a lot of hassle and stress setting up the new iWillProCycling Team.  Anyways, now things are settled with that, so the trip was pretty relaxing.  I even got to fly on the only double decker plane in existance (the Airbus A380).  It wasn’t all that eventful, but the trip did seem to go quickly.

I was able to hang out with some friends Jeff, Cara, and their newish addition Dale for the week which was pretty fun, and the first time that I was actually able to spend some time with them aside from coming in, racing then leaving!  I also got to meet up with a new sponsor that I’ve been testing their brakes which is now called, REVER.  I met up with the product manager and received a fresh new set of production ready brakes to go on the CX race rig in prep for Sea Otter racing.  Thanks to Hoffman for being the local who showed me the cool routes around their place and doing some rides with me while I was there.



It wasn’t long before I met up with the FocusUSA crew to head up to Monterey.  I’ve been to Sea Otter before, but never as part of an organization before, so the Focus guys really made me feel like I was at home within their organization.  Sea Otter was really good for me to head to because I was able to finally meet up with a lot of the sponsors that I had contacted to set up the iWillProCycling Team as well as other personal sponsors that I’ve worked with before.


The icing on the cake was the fun CX race that I got to do on Saturday.  I’m always amazed with how many people end up sticking around for the late race even though the show basically wraps up at 5 and we don’t start racing until 6.  Like every year SeaOtter racing is more for fun and sponsors than it is for the actual racing.  I did the race there a few years back when they first ran the CX race, but this year the course was a bit shorter, sandier and more fun than it was in the past allowing spectators the ability to see riders coming by more frequently.  Due to some unforseen troubles at the start (what’s new) and my non-choice of my start position, I had a pretty bad start, and it took me a few laps to actually work my way up to the lead group.  By this time I wasn’t feeling super good but tried to stay in good positioning, until the last lap came when the speed was cranked up once again and I was quickly relegated to the back of the group.  The legs weren’t cooperating with me, and I really haven’t been doing any sprinting work on the bike yet, so I was pretty happy with the ride I did for 8th.

Photo Courtesy Wil Matthews

Photo Courtesy Wil Matthews

I got to do a pretty cool ride on the coast with Allen Krughoff from the Noosa Pro CX Team which was way more fun than a solo training ride!


A massive thanks goes out to the whole FocusUSA crew for helping me out all week and letting me fly like a bird for the little ‘big’ event!  I look forward to working with them come CX season in North America for the first couple World Cups!!!


Next up:  Flight back home and straight onto the MTB for the Täler Cup racing!


It’s been a pretty crazy last month of the season.  Coming off of the infection I had over Christmas I took a bunch of time off to ensure I was healthy, so when I got back to training, I knew I would be fully healthy and ready to give it a good final push to the finish line, so to speak.  I had a few good weeks of normal training with some finally good numbers in the intervals, so I knew I would be ready for the last few races which would require a bit of travel to get to.  Little did I know the medical issues were far from over…

Nommay, France      then      Hoogerheide, Netherlands      then        Tabor, Czech Republic.

Nommay I rode really steady and technically well.  I think I only bobbled once and rode a really clean race passing lots of guys within the hour and finishing steadily on the lead lap.  It is always a really heavy and hard course in Nommay as we race in deep grassed mud fields.  You can’t ever do more than one lap without fear of busting off a derailleur due to mud clogging.  It was really good prep for me also because I seemed to at one point or another been steadily racing the entire French U23 team the whole day, I’d ride with one guy till I dropped him and caught the next guy, then drop him and onto the next.  I’m pretty sure I rode with at least 3 or 4 of them before loosing the final sprint to the last guy I caught up to to finish 20th.

Nommay Maurice Kloetzlen

Nommay Photo Courtesy: Maurice Kloetzlen

Onto Hoogerheide with a short flight to Brussels from home, some frienemy time with Marky Mark and right into more mud.  Started off ok and finished really strong.  Had one problem midway through after catching a rut awkwardly and it shot me head on into the metal fencing.  I ended up breaking a shifter in 2 and only realized later that my Garmin also popped off my arm never to be seen again :(…  This sport is rough on the body and the wallet.  No holds barred.  Got back up and after battling with my good buddy Parbo most the race, I was left to struggle home solo and was pulled way too soon for my liking.

Hoogerheide Photo Courtesy: Danny Zelck

Hoogerheide Photo Courtesy: Danny Zelck

Finally onto Worlds!!!

After I got home from Hoogerheide, I developed a full on runny nose for almost the whole week, so I knew something was up with me, but really just didn’t know what…  So I said oh well, and pushed through it, because I only had one weekend left and it was the big one, Worlds!

I was starting to actually get excited about this project even though Worlds is typically a high stress project, this year given my knowledge of how the project was going to be run ahead of time and my trust in the staff, finally, it made for a really seamless weekend of bike racing, fun even!  The team was able to pitch in for a custom skinsuit with Focus logos on it so it’s the first year I felt like I was really being taken care of on a professional level.  I had the national team organizing things behind the scenes and the Focus CX Team and Roman making sure the bikes were working top notch.

Worlds Start Photo Courtesy: Tom Prenen

Worlds Start Photo Courtesy: Tom Prenen

The weather all week was below freezing at night and would barely get into the plus temperatures during the day, just enough to create a peanut buttery like mud on top of a frozen glass like ground.  Conditions so adverse that the average cyclocrosser was not having fun.  I was loving it.  So tricky that it was VERY beneficial to spend as much time on the course ahead of time as possible.  I was able to learn from some of the more seasoned vets by watching which ways to take corners faster and which ones to use the sling from the fence or just go with it and ride the rut.  By the time race day came around I was ready.  So ready I had some time to take a few photos with my skinsuit on and my super awesome Icelandic hand knit sweater Emily just finished for me before leaving…  Or maybe not.  I figured there would be enough time, but as I got it on and headed out the bus, Roman reminded me how much time I had left and warned me to head to the start.  No time for photos?  Ok, I’ll ride there with the sweater then!  I got some funny looks and after the conversation I had with Thijs Al at the bowling lane at the after party, I thought it was even more funny… “On live Dutch TV” he said,  “Wearing a Sweater!”

Worlds and the Icelandic Sweater Photo: Shelley

Worlds and the Icelandic Sweater Photo: Shelley

So my start left a bit to be desired.  I know I start slow, but this was quite exceptional.  I was almost on the back row to begin with, and from watching the coverage of the race, obviously chose the wrong side to line up on.  Also given the crash of the Americans which happened just after the first corner on the same side of the track that I was on, I was really close to the back of the pack by the first couple corners.  It took me a while, but I settled in to a grove quite well and after almost being taken down on one of the short up/down sections, the rest seemed to be smooth sailing.  I was riding really well and for the first half of the race didn’t fumble or crash at all.  I was riding pretty steady and picking guys off left right and centre.

Worlds Photo Courtesy: Tom Prenen

Worlds Photo Courtesy: Tom Prenen

I only started to have a few troubles with about 3 laps to go when I started noticing that my rear wheel might be going a bit flat.  At the time I headed by the pits, I wasn’t really sure , but after I skipped the pits and headed onto the pavement, I realized for sure I was delusional thinking a small flat would easily last until the next pits.  By the time I headed off the road section, it was full on flat.  That’s when Zach MacDonald rode by me and I was left hobbling my way to the pits.  After that half lap a lot of umpf was taken out of my legs, which took at least another half lap to get back into a good rhythm.  Sure enough after at least 1:05 of racing, they pulled me on the last lap after knowing full well that I would have easily made it through the finish line before MVDP came around the corner.  Oh well, dems da rules, right?  Little did I know, I cracked the top 40 for the first time ever in a finish at either a World Cup or World Championships, and for the first time ever was in the real points at Worlds after finishing 36th!!!

Worlds Photo Courtesy: Pedal Mag

Worlds Photo Courtesy: Pedal Mag

After I got home from Tabor, is when I knew it could possibly be something to do with the initial infection I had in my leg.  I headed back to the doctor and came home with another (this time full week’s worth of) round of antibiotics.  This time a different kind and a much higher dose.  It was rough for the first few days of it, but I’m almost good as new now.  Thankfully I won’t be racing for a while now, so it will give me plenty of time to restart the body and get fully healthy for real this time…

A big shout out to everyone who has made it possible this year, including my wonderful wife and main sponsor without a logo, Emily.

Next up?  !Will Pro Cycling Team preparations!!!  and a well deserved break from the bike(s)!!!!!

Wow, that must have been the weirdest Christmas period I’ve ever experienced.  With ups and downs, change of plans and friends, sideways rain and snow, it was one to tell to the grand kids.

I started off by heading out to Belgium in prep for the Namur World Cup race.  Emily had planned to stay at home this year and not join me in Belgium mostly based on the fact that it’s Belgium and she’s not a big fan.  I would then stay in Belgium between Namur and Zolder 5 days later (with Christmas in the middle) to decrease the amount of travel I’d have to do and the fact that I can always stay with my Belgian rental parents Luc and Ingrid.  So I made it to Namur and this year I remembered to put my contacts in before the race, so off the bat I’m doing better than last year.

Namur Photo: Paul Sweeck

Namur Photo: Paul Sweeck

The course was a bit interesting though given that it was the driest conditions I’ve seen it in since it’s inception (normally it’s just raining buckets down for the race) and to be honest the fact that the mud was more sticky than usual made it even harder to race than normal.  The downhills are just as knarly though and this course has so many rocky sections interspersed with mud fields that I always struggle to find the right tire pressure.  I ended up flatting on two occasions, once on the back wheel, once on the front, on top of the very many crashes I had during the race.  One of the downhills I was riding so bad as each time I tried to ride the rut at the bottom I’d end up hitting the rut but being off balance from sliding into another rut just before it, so I ended up having a couple pretty spectacular crashes on the same corner and every time I’d come by after the first big crash the crowd would cheer louder.  It made it pretty hard to concentrate on what I was doing wrong at the time, but hindsight is always 20/20.  Finished up a pretty dismal 48th, but enough for a few UCI points. Little did I know the troubles my first crash would cause.

Famous Namur off cambre Photo courtesy: Tom Prenen

Famous Namur off cambre
Photo courtesy: Tom Prenen

So after a few days in Mechelen with Mark McConnell and co. we were off to Zolder for the next big go.  I felt ok and actually was pretty confident with my lines and pressures in the pre-ride, but once the race really got started, my body had other plans.

Zolder  Photo: Tom Prenen

Zolder Photo: Tom Prenen

I had a really good start on top of the fact that the field was down a bit in numbers for this World Cup which meant I was riding pretty steady in the top 40.  After a few laps though I started to ride like crap, crashed a few times, rode some bad lines here, missed a pedal there, and after a bit I couldn’t even hold the pace of riders I’d normally be ahead of.  After getting pulled way to early, and knowing where I should be riding, I was pretty choked, and headed straight for the showers, only to find out no one knew where they were.

Zolder  Photo: Tom Prenen

Zolder Photo: Tom Prenen

Based on the fact that my leg was now re-opened for a second time, and I really needed to clean it as soon as possible, I headed back to the team bus and my team mate gave me a bucket of water to clean off my leg with.  Only problem was, once I started pouring it on my leg to clean out the wound, I noticed it’s somewhat foul smell.  Yep, I was trying to clean out an open and dirty wound with brake cleaner.  After this, I was pretty bummed on the whole Belgian experience for this year, on top of being away from Emily for Christmas, and really just needed to head home to sort out what the issue was, so I decided not to race again over the Kerstperiod until I figured out what the issue was and why I was riding like shit.  A massive thanks goes out to Bob for helping the team out in the Pits during the U23 race, and Susan, Kayla, Ryan, Kristine, and Michael for coming out from Colorado and cheering me on!  It was pretty cool to spend some time with them catching up in Ghent a couple days before.

Bob helped out the U23's in the pits in Zolder

Bob helped out the U23’s in the pits in Zolder

So after Zolder I stayed with my German friend Uli in a cabin he rented in a massive campground near Mol for a couple days while Uli finished his last couple races.  I was able to help him out in the pits for Bredene which was a really cool experience, but after that race, which Uli cut open his chin in (requiring at least a few stitches to patch back up) on our way back to the cabin I started to feel not so good and we thought it was best to head to the hospital to at least get my leg checked out.  Sure enough, it was infected.  I’m pretty glad I didn’t wait till getting back to Germany to go in and get checked because a) I was able to keep my leg, and b) that night and the following morning were the worst I felt and my leg was already looking like it was getting much worse.  So off to the Apoteke to get my drugs and I was on a course of Antibiotics for the next 5 or so days.  I didn’t need to ride my bike much anyways right?

Next up:  Leudelange, Luxemburg C2 Jan 18.

I headed down to Freiburg on the weekend with Emily to meet up with the team and I would attend the last EKZ Cross Tour C1 UCI Race in Eschenbach and Emily was off to a super secret not so secret underground cross race in Freiburg known as the FUQRS.  She had fun, but I guess it was a bit muddy.

In Switzerland, I was super stoked because for the first time since the last time I got to spend time with Mike Kluge 8 years ago in Aigle, he came to the race with us, and I got to soak up some of that years of cross knowledge and experience.  Good thing I did too because the course was a bit of a douzie!  The majority of the course was what I would consider standard Euro style racing with some deep sticky mud sections interspersed with some fast on the pavement sections and gravel sections with quite a few bridges and flyovers going over streams and pedestrian walkways.  Then half way through the lap you went up a MASSIVE road climb, then shot straight down an obscene off cambre steep grassy (which turned to slick mud) hill, and straight back into the forest for a couple birmed corners before coming back out onto the standard Euro flat part.  A few photos below:

I couldn’t find any photos with me in them, I seemed to be the grey man last weekend…  Photos taken from the EKZ Cross Tour website.

Right off the gun I had a really great start from what I normally end up having, given that the start straight was VERY short, and there was a bad crash on one side which I was able to avoid, I managed to hold my position really well and the first couple corners came up super quick.  For the first couple laps I was riding with one of our strong U23 riders Lukas, so we were really able to push each other for the first few laps until the pace I was setting came too much for him, or I think I just rode the technical bits a bit better, and I lost him in the race-fog.  I was riding really well for the first 4 or 5 laps and then I got a bit too confident I think and took a really bad line into the off-cambre downhill and crashed even before it got really knarly.  I had major help from Mike Kluge when pre-riding the course ahead of time, so he gave some really great advice on how to ride it properly.  The most important thing to do was use NO brakes.  Which is kinda scary when you see the photos above, but it’s true and the laps I was the most cautious were the ones I ended up crashing on.  Towards the end with all the crashes and everything, I ended up loosing a bit of time in the lap times, but pulled it home for my best result of the series in 21st.  Not a bad race in such a strong international field and given how many of the guys who race in Switzerland are all World Cup racing MTB Pros.

Mad props and thanks to Mike Kluge for all the advice.

Next up:  Namur World Cup and the Kerstperiode in Belgium!

Because the Milton Keynes World Cup wasn’t running a U23 and Junior race, the team decided last week was a great time to head to some warmer weather, so we flew out for over a week to Mallorca.  It’s at times like this that I feel like a full fledged pro.  I’ve had some motivational troubles at home in the last while, so it was really great to get out of the house and get back to putting some good miles on the bike.

Typical small town in Mallorca

Typical small town in Mallorca

The weather was really nice when we first got there, but quickly turned to raining and about 15 deg’s.  I got a pretty good week of riding in with the crew and banged out some pretty hard core intervals with Felix.  It was really cool not only to get some good riding in, but to be out of the house and off grid with no internet, no phone, and only focusing on cycling, eating, and sleeping.

The team in serious training mode.

The team in serious training mode.

Once we arrived back home, it was straight into a double header of Deutschland Cup races.  First one was in Queidersbach near where Felix lives, so it was kinda like a home race for him.  Very MTB’y course with some good elevation gain (for a cx course, wich is still not a lot) and some good slick corners, plus a really cool massive fly over.  The organizers did a pretty good job of running this one as they are hoping to get the German National champs in the near future.

Saint Salvador, view from the top

Saint Salvador, view from the top

Once again, because I have so few Deutschland Cup points, I was basically starting on the back row.  Lucky for me, it was a really physically demanding course and I was ready for the challenge.  I worked my way up as much as I could, and was running very similar lap times to the leaders after I finally worked my way through the riffraff.  With maybe 3 laps to go I hit one of the downhill sections which were super choppy, and ended up feeling my bars slip a bit down which left me a bit awkward on the bike for the last few laps but because I was SO close to the podium at this race, I decided not to pit and instead do EVERYTHING in my power to try and chase the podium.  I came within almost 10 seconds on the last lap, but it wasn’t meant to be, I had to settle for 4th.  It wasn’t all that bad though, Felix took home the win on Saturday and Sunday!

Rollin out!

Rollin out!

Sunday was another DL Cup race in Bensheim and the course was very typical CX with lots of off cambre, barriers, and lots of short up and downs.  I finally got a better call up which put me on the second row, but I still had a really bad start, so I ended up in the usual position of chasing through guys I am normally a bit faster than.  I really just started getting warmed up in this one and after about 3 laps, when running the fairly tall barriers, I clipped my foot on the last one, it spun me around, and I landed with a smack right on the back of my head, hitting my helmet hard on the ground and breaking it.  I decided to finish the race would have been a bad idea at the time, so I called it quits, and DNF’d.  It’s rare that I walk away from races without giving it EVERYTHING I have to finish, but after hitting your head, there are some pretty important steps that need to happen in my opinion.  One of them being to take it easy and ensure that you don’t have a concussion.  Regardless, it’s never good to finish a race when you don’t know how bad a head injury is, always best to air on the side of caution.

Felix and I at the house.

Felix and I at the house.

Next up, The Last EKZ Tour race in Switzerland this weekend in Eschenbach!