Thursday, December 25, 2014

Socal ing with Cal!

‎Following the mtb adventure in the santa monica's, I ventured south of LA for a bit of a road racing adventure. Keeping two things constant, bikes and motor cyclists on bikes! Sunday's ride was something i was pretty dahn excited about. I spent a month training in encinitas over christmas new year 12months ago and had an absolute blast. I figured it was logical to follow a similar path heading into 2015. The great thing about training there last year was the group I rode daily with. Again like the mtb ride it was small but what we lacked in numbers we made up for in personality's! The regualer group consisted of MotoGP star Cal Crutchlow, cycling superstar Taylor Phinney, 2014 revelation keil reijan, future star Sean bell, son legendary motorcross star spider mike bell, and perhaps the strongest chick I have ever witnessed on a bike Jessica cerra. We would meet daily and head out for our rides. Taylor affectionately named us the wolf pack as we would patrol the roads of socal and at any opportunity go along to any group ride we could find and ride as hard as we possibly could. Cal may be a motoGP rider but I have never met anyone more serious about there cycling than Cal, he's an absolute beast on a bike. The only requirement to be in the group was to work hard, suffer together and enjoy doing! Pretty good morals to have for a group or in this case a pack! Anyways I could on and on about how cool that period was training with those guys but will no doubt have a heap more stories in the coming months so will save writing about the wolf pack for later. Where it's all leading is that on sunday the spy cycling club had there annual poker race event. A 100km 4 man Team time trial where you had to find 3 checkpoints and collect you poker deck and get back to the start finish as quickly as possible. Knowledge of the area was important as if you didn't know where you were going you got lost and took a long route. There were some 220 people who turned up to race the the teams of 4 starting 1min apart TT style. As the top seeds we started last which was a god send as we had no idea where we were going so our plan was simple! Go as fast as we possibly could all day in the hope we would constantly see and pass groups ahead of us whom knew where they were going!!

Anyways Cal has been beaming with excitement about this event for the past couple of weeks. He picked selected his team based on 2 equally important factors, firstly winning the event, and secondly having an absolute blast of a time doing it. Also for cal it has to be interesting and have a challenge involved so stacking his team with cyclists was a no go, we had to really earn it. So the team consisted of one of cals motorbike buddies Greame also from the UK who has probably ridden his bike 4 times in the past 12months. 3 of those times have been since he arrived in LA a couple of weeks ago so I guess the best way to put his condition is fresh form is good form! Besides cal didn't care how fit or strong greame was what was important was that greame knew how to suffer. Cal knew he would absolutely turn himself inside out to survive the ride and do what he could for the team and I have to say he is one of the funniest characters I have ever ridden a bike with, think Mr Bean on a bicycle!! Also let's not forget greame races in motorcross world championship circuit in europe, motorcross's equivalent of motoGP so he's probably one of the fittest guys on the planet. Ever tried riding a motorcross bike full gas around one of those tracks?? It's brutal which I was pleasantly reminded of on monday but that's another story! So while greame may not spend much time on a push bike he is fit and knows how to suffer and for the poker race that made him the perfect team mate! Rounding out the team was robin carpenter who rides for the hincapie development team. He's certainly developing pretty fast as he already has a stage of the usa pro challenge in colorado to his name this past season. He's a gem of a kid and had a massive engine so perfectly balanced out our motly crew! So that was the team, a MotoGP star, a MX GP star, a local rising superstar cyclist, and me and whatever I am! One thing was certain whatever the result would be we were going to have a blast finding out!

So out race plan was simple, full gas. We had no idea what any of the clues meant and nor do we know our way around the area so all we could do was keep catching all the groups ahead and hope they know where they are going. From the gun we were off with cal doing what a leader does best and driving it from the front! He went absolutely full gas out of the gate to set the tone for the day and from there we knew only one pace, full gas. Basically if you were on the front you had to absolutely drive it and if you were trashed then sit on the wheels and recover until you could drill it again! Pretty simple. The speed was simply race pace or as robin put it best like being in a 4 man breakaway for 100km with the peleton constantly breathing down our necks! It really was quite hilarious how much pain we were willing to put ourselves through, it constantly kept us laughing at our own lunaticness! 

So we are bulleting along looking for the first checkpoint and we catch a stronger group of guys. As we had no idea where we going we decided to stay with them and offer to work with them to get to the first checkpoint. We let them sit on us as we continued to drive a ridiculous pace which the other team kept reminding us we still had 90km to go! Whatever we said we will cross that bridge when we get to it, for now it was full gas. Eventually they stopped talking to us they seemed to be battling to hold the wheel and sure enough as soon as cal saw the chance on a short steep climb Cal attacked and unceremoniously dropped them and now we were alone!! I said great one einstein now we have no idea where we were going! Cal said well I don't care I'm not letting anyone sit on us and risk towing them to the finish, every team has to be destroyed!! Anyways on our own we had to look at the card again for a clue as to where on earth we were headed. As fate would have it the glue read follow the road all the way to the gold!! I looked at the name of the street which said ranco d oro!! Boom I said this way boys! Oro is gold in Italian!! My ability to speak italian had never ever come in so handy and we were on our way to the first checkpoint and still absolutely flying. 

As we barreled along the road we were so flat to floor that we were not looking ahead. Right at the last moment I heard cal shout LOOK OUT as the road was turning to gravel! We were doing over 55kmph at the time and all we could do was cross our fingers we would stay upright. Not surprisingly as soon as we hit the dirt our 2 moto men came to the fore and particularly greame. He had assumed the role of team coxwain and set at the back barking orders and simply gave all he had to avoid being dropped! Once we hit the dirt that all changed and his confidence on such terrain came to the fore and now he was doing the pace setting for us. The night before I had grabbed a new synapes disk break bike from my friends at cannondale for greame to use to ensure he had the flashest looking bike at the event. He was tickle pink with excitement when he saw it and when he hit the dirt on it was like 2 peas in a pod! One of the world's greatest bike handlers off road combined with the world's best rough terrain road bike. Again it was absolutely comical as cal and bryan tore through the dirt like it was perfect ashfelt with legs and arms going everywhere for stability and wheels drifting this way and that. Robin and I were now hanging on with grim death and desperately trying stay upright and on the road, we were well and truly on the ropes and preying for the ash felt to begin again! Oh and all this time we were passing group after group and I would be very surprised if there were not a few mild heart attacks as those 2 crazy pommy moto madman charged past specially considering the age of some of the competitors!! Yeah it was a fun club event but fun it appears for cal only happens when you kicking everybodies butt in the process!! Finally we got back on the road and that would be the end of greame's heroics! For the final 60km he would resume his role as team whip and motivation man and in the process ensure he didn't get dropped. Incase you hadn't picked up already cal is far from the sympathetic type and greame knew he was expected to suffer from go to wo and survive and that's exactly what he did.

Back on the open road and cal continued with his relentless pace. Robin and I now pulled longer and longer and faster and faster as we ripped past all the groups. We were miles ahead on time of everyone and headed for victory but that didn't mean letting up. No margin was to small for victory with cal. Inevitably after the rough road we finally had a flat tyre courtesy of my back wheel. Like the great team we had become we all stopped and chimed in fixing it. I got the wheel out, cal ripped the tube out, greame had the tube ready, I put the tube in, cal put the tire back on, and robin inflated it back up in a flash with his crafty co2 canister skills. I jammed the wheel back in and in no more that 3-5min, it's hard to say precisely, we were back on the road! Into the final 20km as we approached the final stretch along the beautiful Pacific Coast Hwy 1 cal told me to save my bullets. I was need to do the big pulls in the final straight stretch back to the finish line in encinitas. Sure enough as we turned onto HWY 1 cal ordered me to arms I went to work. We ramped the pace up somehow which seemed impossible as we had been full gas all day but somehow we did. For those final 10km I remember pushing just like I would in a race closing down that breakaway for Elia which I've done so many times. This time I was reminded by the stage in colorado in colorado springs where we were chasing down jens. There was no power or speed that you needed to focus on you simply had to push as hard as was possibly possible to catch a man ahead that you had no idea how strong or fast he was going. You knew you would catch him but a moment of complacency or loss of that urgency and you wouldn't. Well along that PCH Hwy we didn't have anyone specifically to chase but simply the desire to squeeze everything out of ourselves and put ourselves through as much pain and suffering as possible. We knew we had the win in the bag but that didn't matter, we were all in until we crossed that finish line! By this stage my heartrate was around 200bpm and I was way beyond fatigue, now we were all in that zone where you may aswell just give it 100 percent as you should have run out of juice yonks before. It was awesome, hurting that much, suffering with those guys and all in the name on winning an annual fun club event, what a way to spend a sunday!

When we finally crossed that line and handed in our cards we had stopped the clock at 2hrs 26minutes. Have no idea what that average speed is for 100km but considering the dirt, traffic lights, footpaths, bike paths, and whatever else you have to negotiate riding around the suburbs I'm pretty sure that's an impressive time for 4 dudes. Greame was as comical as ever right to the bitter end and suffered his was through surving on the train for the day and you couldn't wipe the smile of his dial. Cal was content that we had absolutely destroyed everybody with the 2nd place team some 15minutes behind even with the flat tire. Robin and I had average heart rate north of 150bpm which is a bench mark for a hard days racing. As robin rightly pointed out we have plenty of easier race days than that!! We both agreed it was the best simulated breakaway training you could ever do. After the race we sat around and chewed the fat with our fellow competitors and ate pizza and drank beer. Everybody was in ore of cal being the star he is and just chuffed he made the effort to support there local event. It never ceases to amaze me the types of people cycling brings together and also the way in which people get to know what each other is really like. It's no different with cal, all thos people watch him on tv and are in ore of his ability on two wheels but at the end of the day he simply loves riding his push bike just like everybody else. It was a really enjoyable time waiting around for the presentation just shooting the shit, one we won't and I'm sure everybody there won't forget in a hurry. At the presentation we were presented with the giant eagle perpetual trophy which put a photo off. Greame was so excited about it and insisted on being the one to accept the trophy and pleaded to take it home to sleep with for just one night. He was so excited, he's a guy that rides his bike a few times a year and is thrown in a team with some pretty decent cyclists. All he has to do is hang on but when we are going all out we go pretty fast was it was a remarkable effort by him and one he should be proud of. Greame just had a grin from ear to ear all afternoon and another reminder of what many would consider an insignificant event meant the world to us all. Yeah we are lucky enough to compete all over the world against the world best but competing is all relative. As cal showed it doesn't matter if it's at club level or world level the objective is still the same, give it everything you have to get the best possible result you can achieve. That way when you cross the line you have no regrets because you've given it all you have and you can now relax and enjoy what you've just done, win or lose. I learnt a lot from cal, robin and greame on sunday and feel honored to be apart of such an awesome event with the socal locals. Yet again I was reminded of how fortunate I am to be able to do what I do. 

After all the excitement of sunday and the effort we put in monday was a designated rest day. So after putting our legs through there paces in the poker ride we decided to switch to another form of bike and head to the motorcross track. Next season cal will be riding for Honda so picked up 2 brand new crf 250's to play around on. He can't ride 2 at once so he said "Cam I have a bike for you, we are going to the track" beauty I said and why not, I'd had so much fun the past 2 days on the mtb and road bike, may aswell see what the MX bike has to offer. I raced MX until I was about 1e with my last bike being an 80cc. I played around a bit on a 125cc but quickly lost interest when rowing became my focus. So I haven't really ridden an mx bike for 15years but with all the confidence in the world I seem to apply to everything I attempt I jumped at the chance to go mx ing, specially with riders of the calibar of cal, greame, AMA superbike legend josh Hayes and his wif melissa and cannondale sales manager and MX coach steve quate. C mon pretty amazing opportunity to ride with such esteemed company and simply being with them on the same track made me think I could cut loose on the new crf 250 even though I'd ridden a 250 perhaps 10 times in my life!! 

Onto the track and cal gave me a couple of laps to get my eye in and the feel for the bike. It kind of felt like cycling did at the start to me, I watched it so much on TV that I felt I knew how to do it, it was all up stairs I just practically hadn't ever tried it! Fortunately this confidence paid of and I was probably riding better than I had ever ridden an mx bike. I was riding the berms hard and washing speed of in the air where I needed to. I was changing lines in the air to better position for corners and generally feeling like I imagined it would from watching on the TV. Naturally as my confidence grew so did my speed and I chased cal as closely as possible. Obviously he was just playing with me but also providing a great wheel to follow, similar to following eric bostrom on the MTB. One thing I hadn't accounted for was how physically challenging MX was. You often here that's it's the most demanding endurance sport there is but having not done it for so long you dismiss it. Well I tell you what, it's really really taxing and after 30min I was absolutely stuffed. I kept on charging around following cal till fatigue finally caught up with me. My wrists and forearms were so sore I didn't have the strength to back of the throttle into a table top and held the throttle wide open! Into the air I went with the front wheel pointed toward the sun! At this point I realised I was in big trouble and fortunately managed to get my hand off the throttle and some how get the front wheel down enough to not land on my backside! I landed hard and cased out but fortunately stayed on the bike. Was a bit of a fright and made me realize i had to respect this sport so just rolled through a couple more laps and called it a day. I was hooked again on MX and will doing a lot more of it in the future. The mtb ing had certainly helped and I'm sure it will help the mtb. Was really just so cool using a 3rd type of bike in 3 days and having the most incredible experiences doing it. Not only did the MX day reiterate my appreciation for being able to ride a bike but more so how fortunate I am to have the group of people I have around me to enjoy it all with. 

With all that merry christmas

CJW


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