New England Worlds, as they say

I don’t know who started calling Gloucester “New England Worlds”, but I’m not complaining about it either. It’s a special race. Gloucester is the one race where everyone wants to have their best performance. It has a magic that draws out a little extra in each of us.

Maybe it’s racing with the sparkling sea as a backdrop. Maybe it’s the sheer number of people who look forward to Gloucester as their one “event of the year”. Maybe it’s the rowdy beer garden, even. But whatever it is, Gloucester creates a contagious energy that few other events can replicate.

It was extra special for us too, as the whole team was back together for the first time since Rochester. The strength of our team has always been the support system; the camaraderie in suffering, in disappointment, victory, and everything in between. So, in the same way, being together draws extra out of each of us. Imagine fighting, knowing you have three other people in your corner?

Except it’s not three, it’s four. Our mechanic Gary is notably absent from the social medias (unless you follow our #garydoesntknow tags), but he’s as much a part of the team as any of us, and he’s really the one that keeps the operation going. Gary takes special pride in our weekly race footprint and he’s always picking up new things to make the setup even better. This week he debuted new fancy tent walls, including the ones that are half translucent so we have windows outside. (Not gonna lie, I’ve always wanted a fancy tent setup with these ones).

Our good friend Jon Nable stopped by the tent to say hi and snap some pics of the new coffee kits. Remember this for later…

Cool kit club #gpgcx

A post shared by Jon (@jonnable) on

We ran through our normal pre-race routines and set out for racing. Saturday there was a big pile-up in the start grid, which is always a terrifying way to start a race. Also, on a personal level, difficult not knowing if it’s one of your good friends sandwiched between pavement and carbon. I had my best Gloucester ever. To be sure, I am one of those New Englanders who most wants to have a breakout race at Gloucester. As a Cat 3 it was the race I really wanted to win. And yet, I was struck by calamity when I had the chance. This year I hoped to finally chase down that elusive UCI point in the elite field. I’d looked at the start list and knew it was possible if I put together a good race. The start crash shook me and I found myself chasing from the back, but never let up. Toward the end of lap 1 I found myself in 10th place and trying not to think too much about it lest I jinx myself into crashing. Shortly thereafter I was joined by Lyne Bessette.

Personally, I’m always astonished when I talk to newer people in the sport who don’t know the legends that came before us. Though this day it would’ve been an advantage, for I found myself racing like I was amazed to be there. Amazed to be racing for a UCI point against Lyne Freaking Bessette! No amount of people asking her if she enjoyed her time in the Faccone Zone could calm my nerves about that one. Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane for those of you who may not know why this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done in a race. Lyne has WON Gloucester at least three times that I see in crossresults. Look at 2007, she won both days after racing the 2/3 men’s field first. And finishing 7th and 9th. She’s a multiple time Olympian. She had already retired when I started racing, but I heard many stories about the years where she’d pull over before the finish line to avoid getting UCI points, so as not to compromise her paralympic eligibility. She’s a legend.

This is one of the places where my nerdery about the sport interferes with my ability to participate in the sport. Believe me, I suffered hard trying to keep Lyne’s wheel through the start finish every lap. But I never raced like I was expecting to beat her. And the thing is, you can’t beat someone if you don’t really believe you can do it. Because if you don’t believe it, you can’t go all in on executing it. And I didn’t. I raced like a passenger, and I got the results of a passenger. Which is all to say, I didn’t get that final UCI point Saturday.

I mentioned that our team is special because of the support structure. Talking with Julie after the race, she said something small that fully  reframed my thoughts about the race. She asked a simple question about my execution, but in a way that helped me see where I should’ve done things differently. Where I have to do things differently if I want to succeed. But in a way that says “I want you to find that success you’re looking for, let me help!” and not “you messed that up let me tell you”. And that’s true for all of us. Each of us wants the others to succeed as much as ourselves.

I came into Sunday ready to claim points. I knew what I had to do, and I felt ready to execute differently. Ultimately, I just didn’t have the legs on Sunday. It’s disappointing, but that’s bike racing. Every day is a new opportunity. Sometimes you feel great, other times not so much.

Perhaps the most important thing to come out of the weekend is the new slate of team photos. Remember the green tent walls from above? Praise be to artist friend Alex Carlson who pointed out that the tent wall background makes a perfect “green screen” for editing photo backgrounds and turned Jon’s photo into this gem:

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Naturally, once we knew this we took a long series of intentionally green screened photos to do fun things with all season. If you get tired of these, blame Alex.

And, to save the best for last, our good friend Carlo put together sick footie from the weekend for us. We love Carlo and we double love this edit.

Thanks for everything Gloucester. Can’t wait to see what the 20th edition has in store for us next year. And thank you to Paul and everyone behind the operation there. It’s a massive effort to put this race on every year, and I appreciate it so much.

Hey, the cyclocross season started!

Just like that, the cyclocross season is underway after a spectacular* kickoff in Rochester this past weekend. It’s remarkable how every year I spend months counting down to cyclocross only to find myself majestically underprepared one week before the first race.

*The race itself is truly spectacular and one of the highest production value events I’ve experienced. I, myself, was a spectacle.

Remember how we went on that awesome Belgium trip way back in February? Yea, I’d like to hop in a wayback machine right about now to ask past-Erin why she declined to inspect equipment after coming home. You know, in the offseason? Or really at any point between February and September. Long story short, I broke some things, some other things needed adaptery things, and I was rolling with with two sets of stock clincher wheels as my options for the weekend. One got set up tubeless with the siqq** Vittoria file treads and the other remained clinchers with whatever tread came with the bike. Basically regardless of conditions I’d be running files. Pray for not-rain!

**Mikey and Carlo of the scrub zone podcast told me this is how young people say something is really good.

Praise be to #Gary for the saint he is, for we showed up in Rochester at 10pm with bikes and parts that were not in their desired arrangement for racing. Leslie called him our magical fairy because while we’re not looking he does so many things. Friday night this included changing bars and chainrings while we were peacefully*** sleeping.

***The house across the street from us was a revolving door of people, one of whom was locked out in the middle of Friday night and spent an hour banging and screaming on the door. He was replaced by a barking dog that stopped for a mere one-hour nap between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

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Bike is DIALED.

The new Rochester course is fantastic. The dust bowl section from last year morphed into “double trouble” this year with the addition of a rooted tree section immediately before. The course is deceptively technical, with a dusty woods section into a sketchy off-camber, some fun weirdly-cambered hill turns, double trouble, and other down/up/sprinty/turny/generally cyclocross things. The race could be aptly renamed “the Rochester Gran Prix of Forced Dismounts” with five to seven dismounts per lap, depending on your skill level. Two run-ups, the log-step, barriers, a set of stairs, and double trouble which counted for zero to two dismounts.

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(pretty sure this is the feature that ate Mike Morse’s wheel)

I was feeling confident about my fitness after diligently preparing for cyclocross season by riding my road bike all year, most recently at GMSR. It’s almost like while I was riding road bikes, all the other racers were practicing for high-speed dirt turns! Jerks. So while they were both pedaling and turning fast, I tried desperately to hold onto groups while turning as if it were my first ever time on a bicycle. I owe a particular apology to Brittlee, whom I ducked ahead of on the double-trouble descent, then promptly crashed on my face in her way. SORRY.

I recovered from that crash by pitting, crashing again, pitting again, crashing once more for good measure, and limping my way back to the start. But not without seeing old Boston friend, and current Rochester resident, Nate!

On the plus side, skills come back with practice, and everything else about the weekend was great. The first race is like an actually-fun class reunion, where you get to see all your old friends. It was our first race back together as a team, the new bikes are amazing, Gary somehow gets more dialed in his setup every year, and we all remembered how much we love this crazy sport of ours. Rochester is a ride-able city with a surprisingly good coffee scene and some cool street art we were fortunate to explore on our morning spin.

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The only real negative is that racing the elite race makes it hard to superfan the elite race. So I didn’t get to see Ellen claim victory in the C1, but best believe I watched the replay. No amount of racing will ever make me less stoked to see good people pull off great results.

If you like tech things: I ran this tire tubeless at 22 and 22.5 psi.

If you like Strava nerd things they are here.

If you like supporting bike racing, go check out these folks who live-streamed the race for all to see!

And if you only care about results, look no further. Day 1 & Day 2.