On the rivet: Interview with Jessica Cerra

February 5, 2015 § 20 Comments

Jessica Cerra is one of those riders who has earned her spot in the peloton through skill, toughness, resilience, and force of will. She came to road racing via triathlon and MTB, and burst onto the local North County San Diego scene a couple of years ago as she was recovering from surgery to correct a severe case of iliac artery compression syndrome in her right leg.

By the time she had healed, she was thrashing men on the group rides, and from there it was a short hop to dominating the local road races, riding as the marquee women’s racer for SPY-Giant-RIDE. With powerful performances on the national stage, notably at Redlands in 2014, Jess was picked up for the 2015 season by Twenty16 p/b ShoAir.

It will be her first full year with a professional women’s team, and although she had calendared an ambitious season, a few weeks ago she learned that she was also suffering from iliac compression syndrome in her left leg. She’s had the surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, though she’ll have an obviously different racing schedule. Jess was kind enough to talk with me about a whole host of topics related to racing. Enjoy!

CitSB: What are your goals for 2015?

Jessica Cerra: My biggest goal was a stage win at Redlands and a top-3 GC finish. I don’t know that that’s a reality anymore [due to surgery — ed.]. An NRC stage win, a podium at nationals, definitely a podium at Winston-Salem or in Philly. Qualifying for the road world championship team, I guess that’s the biggest goal that I have overall.

CitSB: What kind of mental prep goes into a shot at making the road team for worlds?

JC: The more I try to hold back expectations the worse things go. The more I go in relaxed, remembering that I’m here because I like to race my bike, then the more instinctual decisions I make and things turn out better. This year I planned to go in being the strongest, most durable, fittest person out there because in those situations you can think more clearly; you’re not hanging on, you’re affecting the race. That’s how I want to race this year. I put in a huge base this year, 2,000 miles just in December, and I took good care of my body, got consistent massages, and have been working with a coach now, documenting sleep and weight, and taking a more professional approach. But my coach also likes me just being me; I like numbers and knowing my power but I also like doing the group ride with Thurlow on the front just killing it, and putting myself on the front, in the wind, so I know what my body can do in those super tough scenarios and then I can rely on those things to get me ready for racing, where those super hard moments happen all over again. Since I don’t have a lot of experience as a racer, the group rides are a huge part of my training.

CitSB: How does it feel to be the only woman in the first 25 wheels or on the entire ride when Thurlow and company are drilling it?

JC: It’s my favorite part about riding my bike. It’s pretty cool! After a while I don’t even feel any different from anyone else. I compare myself exactly to the peers I’m riding with. I’m hard on myself, too, I only see my weaknesses.

CitSB: What’s the hardest thing for women throwing their hat in the ring on the hard group rides?

JC: A lot of women are intimidated. There’s the fear of getting dropped, that everyone will notice, and it’s so embarrassing. I always try to encourage other women and make sure to compliment them when they do well or make it to certain points in the ride. I remember being nervous going to the Swami’s Ride, feeling exactly like I was going to a race! It’s intimidating and you don’t want to do something goofy and be “that person,” and you’re obsessed about training and don’t want to ruin your training by getting dropped. I encourage every woman to get out there. It’s the reason I’ve gotten as strong as I am; I’ve put myself in situations that are harder than what I have the strength for. You learn so much about racing and handling when you’re over your limit. It’s true, too, guys have better bike handling skills. You learn so much by racing with guys in a crit, about the lines that they take, and you start to see things, like how they can squeak through the inside of corners. It’s faster and more aggressive so there’s less time to think about what you’re doing. Most of the riders have the fitness to race but a lot of it is, “Why am I getting dropped when there’s five laps to go?” The more you do it, you realize it’s not fitness, it’s efficiency and awareness. You keep putting yourself in those situations, and it’s scary and you just do it. That’s how I learned.

CitSB: Now you’re a fixture on the North County rides and guys know that you can grind them up into little chunks of meat and they fear you. How does that feel?

JC: I don’t know if I look at it like that. I’m so focused on my own internal fears of what’s going to happen when I get to the power climb, and I know the women’s pro field is so strong and they know what they’re doing and are so good. NRC races are so different from local ones. I was supposed to go with the national team to do the spring classics which I’m not doing now, but I think of those situations on the local rides getting me prepared to be in those types of pelotons. When you don’t have a ton of experience in these races but you live in a place where there are 150 people on a group ride, you can apply the same things you know are going to happen in a race. If you want to be part of a race, then I go into a group ride practicing rotating through in the first 10 or 15 positions, gauging the effort to pull through, really what I’m doing is preparing myself to have to do those things in the peloton. It’s nice to ride with the guys; it used to be fun but now it’s more about completing a job. I expect them to make it hard and I expect them to look at me like I’m one of the people up there where it’s windy and not to make it easy because I’m a girl.

CitSB: Do you feel guys cut you slack? Or do they try to slaughter you like everyone else?

JC: They treat me like everyone else.

CitSB: How do you make the jump from racing Boulevard to the national or international level?

JC: Without my mountain biking background it would have been harder. I have lots of natural positional awareness and muscle memory where things happen in a race and I can read where to be, how to navigate through tricky situations, and how to feel confident about how I ride my bike. That’s huge. The second you don’t have confidence it’s going to be the worst day. When you’re riding scared nothing goes smooth.  You bobble and crash, and it’s the same in the peloton. Confidence is so huge. You take control and put yourself where you need to be. Combined with my fitness, I was lucky. I went into pro racing and figured I can handle a bike and am one of the best descenders, I’m fit enough to see what’s going on, to read how the lead-out will go, so in a lot of races I could freelance and observe and notice, and you know, I could also be focused on what I was bad at–I tried to practice those situations to get better because I didn’t have a lot of racing experience. I think the biggest thing about the transition was positioning and being efficient, and that same transition happens going from the national to the international peloton. It’s a whole different level. The courses are harder, the conditions are worse, the fight for position is constant, you have to keep putting yourself in position over and over and over again. I also learned that every time at end of a race when I decided to think through what was happening, I got my face kicked in, zero results. When I just “did” it rather than think it, something inside told me what to do and it seemed to work. It takes time to trust that inner feeling. I also didn’t feel I belonged. I was stoked with a top 20 at Redlands, and had no idea about my potential. I figured out that I was more prepped than I thought I was. It’s a hard balance, though. You can’t let it go to your head but you still have to be confident enough to trust your instincts to put yourself where you need to be.

CitSB: How are things going with Harmony Bar?

JC: We had a setback with the name. We filed for a trademark and then a couple of other companies filed for the same name and our application was denied. So now we’ve filed for a new name and have been in a year of a holding pattern because we can’t make our packaging and take the next step; without the name and the brand it’s hard to move forward. The good news is that we’re still consistently selling all of our inventory online and in the bike shops we work with. There’s no marketing except word of mouth. People say it’s the best they’ve ever had and they tell our story. The next couple of months will be quiet because we’re sorting out the name. We also signed up with SmartStop, which is a big opportunity for us. By Tour of California time we’ll be with SmartStop and ready with our new name, branding, and packaging.

CitSB: For someone not familiar with Harmony Bar, how is it different from the zillions of other energy foods out there?

JC: It’s unique because I never made it to market and sell. I made it because I have a master’s degree in exercise physiology, I was in the kitchen with ingredients, paper, and pen, and mixed them a hundred times over, over, and over until I got a bar that tasted like a cookie and had all the macro nutrients that I wanted for my training. This was something I was making for myself. I knew the research was there showing that bars higher in fat were good for endurance athletes. So basically, I wanted to eat cookies on the bike! I love food and eat a ton of calories on the bike and wanted to eat things that tasted good and were like real food. Everyone said “Holy crap, this tastes like a cookie and works so well and can I buy some?” It got popular on its own because, you know, athletes out there like cookies and like to eat!

CitSB: Do you see yourself as a role model for other cyclists?

JC: I’m starting to. Unfortunately, as much as we’re trying to grow the sport of women’s cycling, coming from triathlon and MTB, I can say that road racing is by far the most intimidating to get into. Its very clique-ish, the teams and their kits and the people keep to themselves. I remember feeling like “Whoa! This isn’t like mountain biking where we finish a race and all have a beer together!” It’s hard to feel like you have a place in it. For me it’s important to change that atmosphere and for women to feel like the sport is approachable, the people are approachable, that I’m approachable. People come up after a race and they’re intimidated and I don’t like that. I’m open to talking to everyone. Lots of people are continually asking for advice about food and particular race courses and I spend lots of time answering questions on Facebook and getting to know people. I’m genuinely interested in people and their goals. After having my setbacks, the biggest joy for me is seeing others succeed. I gave a girl my racing clothes from SPY because she didn’t have any; the team kits weren’t ready yet. There’s more I can do than just racing and trying to win.

CitSB: How do you help people break into the secret society of road racing? How do you get them to take the step to enter a race?

JC: Maybe it’s different for women? I just go up to women and tell them how well they’re riding. For women it’s different. A lot of people wlll approach me and say, “My friend said you’d be on the ride,” and it’s someone new or who’s not in a club and I’ll be cool and tell them to keep coming out, and find out what they like, do they like climbing or sprinting, and the more you start hanging around the more you’ll learn. It’s in my nature to help. When I started cycling in grad school I was a a Fred, or a Frieda, I didn’t have any money for equipment and cool, nice people helped and supported and gave me pedals, for example, and had that never happened I would have never gotten to the point I’m at now. I want cycling to grow, and rides to grow, and races to grow, and people who complain about prize money or promoters are missing the fun–it’s about knowing people and being excited about seeing people you know, not avoiding the race because you don’t fit in and aren’t going to beat Monster Media and Surf City and SPY and not get a result. I try to imagine if I were a Cat 5 dude how tough that would be and how intimidating. But there are enough people who are cool and who have the same perspective that I do, who want to help. We want local racing and good group rides and an atmosphere of mutual respect. There are a lot of really good people on SPY, the team I rode with last year, people who are great riders and humble and who want to help. Without the opportunities given me by SPY and Michael Marckx I wouldn’t have ever gotten to race Redlands and then gotten the call-up to the pro ranks. MMX knew I wouldn’t be at SPY in the long run but he saw the potential and the opportunity to help grow and launch an athlete. He really put his faith in me and I couldn’t have done it without him and the support–the financial support, the logistical support of getting to races, and just a group of people who were always so cool and who believed in me.

CitSB: Tell me about your new team.

JC: The new team is amazing! It’s called Twenty16 p/b ShoAir, and we’re a UCI team this year. The director is Mari Holden and the GM/owner is Nicola Cranmer. They appraoched me and had watched my racing earlier and saw something they liked and it seemed like a great match. We’re a unique team. We have a lot of team goals and do a lot of big races but we also emphasize individual goals like doing ‘cross or track or the national team and racing in Europe. The theme of the team is “Women that race with continued education.” They encourage college and want us to have things off the bike to contribute and bring to the team as well. I’m 32, I did the reverse — went to school first and then found pro cycling!

CitSB: How many teammates live in SD?

JC: Only me. A couple live in Orange County, but we’re from all over the place.

CitSB: Has the team targeted any races this year?

JC: Redlands, which is big for women, and this year TTT nationals is a good one for us because it will be good prep for TTT worlds, which is in the USA in Richmond. One of the big sponsors is SRAM so having them support the TOC women’s race is a huge addition to our calendar and something we’ll focus on. Tour of the Gila is UCI for women this year, so it’s a focus for all of the teams, as well as Winston-Salem and the Philly race, and Philly is a world cup event. All the races are around the same time as nationals, which will be key racing for our team.

CitSB: Anything you want to add?

JC: The team has been really supportive so it’s scary being the new person on the team and I’ve been waking up every morning with photos and texts from team camp. It’s a pretty good feeling to not have really met teammates and already be included. They truly have my best interests at heart! I know that it’s going to be a good season this year–a bunch of bad-ass women with a lot of horsepower on this team!

END

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First trimester summary

March 24, 2014 § 3 Comments

In SoCal, the road racing season starts Jan. 12 with the Ontario Shitfest Grand Prix, and ends September 7 with the Droopy Breasts and Leaky Prostate Old Persons’ National Championships. That’s nine months of racing, about the same amount of time it takes to gestate a baby.

We’re fast approaching the end of the first trimester, so I thought it would be a great time to do a mid-season analysis of who’s doing what, when, how, where, and why, and maybe even make a few predictions for the rest of the season. It’s the time of year that you start to hear the rumbling and grumbling of “Are WE the next Labor Power?” And it’s as good a time as any to say, “No, you aren’t. You are to Labor Power what a dingleberry is to a dinosaur turd.”

To be clear, the bar set by Labor Power is unattainable, so quit trying to be its heir. What do I mean?

  • Labor Power rode the ugliest kits ever. No matter how stupid and repulsive your outfit is, Labor Power’s was worse. If Roger and Chris couldn’t sublimate an abortion, no one could.
  • Labor Power was the cheapest team ever. Your team spends more on water bottles than Roger spent on his team car, race entries, and kits. Labor Power was so tight with money that even bike racers considered them cheap.
  • Labor Power won more races in a season than most teams today even enter. In 2002 they had 110 first place finishes in everything from crits to road races to stage races to track events to circle jerks. They were so dominant that if you finished 2nd or 3rd no one cared. At all.
  • In 2003 they only won 103 races. Get it? “Only” 103. So quit bragging about your string of ten wins.
  • In 2004, they won the ELITE men’s national championships with Chris Walker putting everyone to the sword. This isn’t the shrunken and leaky prostate division, folks, it’s the full-sized, covered-with-dog-hair testicle race. And Labor Power won it.
  • From 2005 to 2007, the year that Roger imploded with a full brain-and-hip replacement, no one from Labor Power wound up in prison.

So just in case you’re wondering whether your string of seven or eight victories puts you in the “Labor” class, the answer is “No. It doesn’t. Not even close.”

Is there any hope for this younger, weaker generation?

Yes! Great things have been accomplished so far in 2014. Let me tell you about them.

  1. Jessica Cerra is the best all-around racer in SoCal, if not the USA. She wins hilly, windy, brutal road races. She wins four-corner crits. She time trials. Best of all, she’s always ready with a smile and encouragement before she tears your ego out and pops it in the shredder. Plus, she makes a mean Harmony Bar. Word on the street is that sooner rather than later she’ll be snatched up by a pro team.
  2. Rahsaan Bahati has confirmed (again) that he’s the fastest and best crit racer in America. 2014 has seen Rahsaan absolutely tear things up in the pro crits, and the only people who’ve been able to give him a consistent run for his money are Corey and Justin Williams. Over the last decade Rahsaan has remained the single best crit racer in America. And he still shows up on the local Tues/Thurs NPR in L.A. to smack down the locals. Sometimes, literally.
  3. Charon Smith’s legend keeps growing. What began as a wanker who couldn’t glue on a tire (crashing at Eldo thanks to a rolled front tire on the last lap) has metamorphosed into the most consistent winning masters racer in SoCal. Charon’s always there to encourage, to lift up, and to laugh — unless you’re muscling for the sprint, in which case you’re going to learn the disappointment of second place.
  4. Surf City Cyclery has put together premier masters crit racing club. Along with Charon we’ve seen Kayle Leogrande, Ben Travis, and other SCC riders keep a stranglehold on the SoCal crit circuit. Will they ever venture out from the safety of four corner crits? I’m guessing … no.
  5. Kings of the road? That title goes to Monster Media and the Troublesome Trio of Phil Tinstman, Gary Douville, and Chris DeMarchi. These three musketeers have dominated in the hardest, most grueling masters’ road races that SoCal has to offer, taking impressive wins at Boulevard, Punchbowl, and Castaic. If you plan to win a 35+ road race, take a ticket and stand in line. A long line.
  6. Biggest contingent of women racers? That’s Monster Media again, with Emily Georgeson, Patricia Calderon, Suzanne Sonye, Shelby Reynolds, and a host of other strong women riders taking wins and letting promoters know that women race and they race in numbers.
  7. Best all-around team? That’s SPY-Giant-RIDE, of course. Not just one-trick crit ponies, the SPY team has won races in every division from women’s to extremely old and mostly brokedown 50+ geezers. (That’s you, DJ.) With two big wins against the Surf City machine — Derek Brauch and Aaron Wimberley — SPY has also taken stage race victories in the 45+ division with Greg Lonergan, as well as stage wins with Kyle Bausch. However, SPY’s strongest division is the pack-fodder category, topped by Wankmeister, who is able to convincingly defend 52nd place against all comers. SPY’s dominance in ‘cross is also unparalleled, and SPY promises to again put riders in the top-1o of the hardest road event in America: The SPY Belgian Waffle Ride.
  8. The top of the mark in the Pro/1/2 division seems pretty much occupied by the Jakroo/Maxxis team. However, since they’re all under the age of 40 I don’t really pay much attention to them and assume that the weakest rider in that category is faster than me by a factor of ten.
  9. You’d be crazy not to acknowledge that the one team that is over-the-top in terms of filling categories with its riders and therefore PROMOTING the sport of bike racing is Big Orange. This South Bay conglomeration of wankers packs the fields in every division. Hats off to a club whose emphasis isn’t just on racing, but on encouraging people to get out there and have a go.
  10. Young punk getting outta town? That would be Diego Binatena, who, after an early season of consistent top-10 finishes and a few key victories has been invited by Team USA to storm the beaches of Normandy for a Euro campaign.
  11. The Ageless One: That would be Thurlow, still ripping the legs off of young, snot-nosed punks in the 45+ division. Rumor has it that The Hand of God a/k/a THOG is going to celebrate his 400th birthday this year, but we know that’s a lie. He’s older than that.

Did I leave you out or forget to mention you? Better fill out a “Hurt Butt Report” and submit it to Chris Lotts for public comment and review.

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Two for two

February 15, 2014 § 2 Comments

The 35+ race at Boulevard was relatively uneventful unless you were one of the riders who got shelled on the very first lap. Or the second lap. Or the third.

It was the first tough road race with all the major players except for Chris DeMarchi, who’s still recovering from a broken femur that he sustained in an MTB accident. Without Chris the race would be slightly different, as his trademark “bring the pain and thin the herd” brand of killing accelerations would be absent.

The riders didn’t know where they stood fitness wise, so there was a lot of watching and waiting, but only up to a point. It was Boulevard after all, a race of attrition that eventually was going to wear you down whether you waited or not. The general pattern in the 35+ race is this:  If the race stays together, only shedding the lame and infirm, the big explosion happens halfway through the last lap. The start of the race was freezing and two minutes into the race it began to snow. There were also a couple of new faces, which is always a troubling question mark. It’s the new faces that can completely screw up a well-planned race.

The 2014 edition played according to formula, with Mike Sayers and Marco Arocha putting in huge attacks that did damage but failed to shatter the group. Marco launched halfway into the race, but that’s a long, lonely distance to hold off a super field like this one over such a demanding course. He was  brought back on the downhill, where a solo rider has difficulty keeping ahead of a peloton that can easily hit 50 mph.

While Marco was away Monster Media strongman Karl Bordine set tempo up the big climb and made sure Arocha’s advantage didn’t extend too far. By keeping the gap in check on the second lap, Bordine’s solid tempo prevented the dangerous move by Arocha from suddenly turning into a  3 or 4 minute breakaway. That would have forced the Monster Media team to organize a chase, waste valuable energy, and take away their ability to keep team boss Tinstman safe and out of the wind. It was Bordine’s tempo that allowed the group to bring Arocha back and then set up Gary Douville for the big move on the last lap.

When the remnants of the field turned onto La Posta, Gary Douville and Phil Tinstman went to the front, attacking just over the railroad tracks and whittling it down to five riders, later joined by two others.  Tony Restuccia, Tinstman, Douville, Derek Brauch, Sayers, Paul Vaccari, and Randall Coxworth made up the final selection. The two who bridged, Vaccari and Coxworth, made it across at just the time the break briefly slowed.

From that point the break drilled up La Posta and put a big gap on the field, a gap that no one would be able to close once the breakaway hit the frontage road and began the final three-mile climb to the finish line. Sayers was the biggest threat to the Monster Media machine, which had four of the seven riders in the break. Sayers coaches the USA U-23 team and in addition to being a great coach is also a beast of a rider. Sayers attacked the break a couple of times but was countered by Tinstman and Douville.

This is the point in Boulevard where things come unraveled. The break was on the rivet and Tinstman was still feeling good. With teammates Restuccia, Douville, and Coxworth covering the SPY-Giant-RIDE duo of Brauch and Vaccari, Sayers put in a huge attack and, taking Tinstman with him, opened up a 20-second gap on the chasers. With Sayers urging Tinstman to pull through, the Monster Media rider declined the invitation. The math was simple: Better to get pulled back to the group, where there was a 4-to-7 advantage and where Tinstman was confident of winning the field sprint, than to trade pulls with Sayers and lower his chance of winning to 50 percent.

Once the Sayers-Tinstman duo was back with the chasers, Coxworth unleashed a flurry of attacks, swinging off with 250 meters to the line. Sayers was now out in the wind and had no choice but to go, and he gave it everything he had, but 250 meters out at Boulevard is like a kilometer anywhere else because the race finishes on a hard pitch after a long climb. With Sayers firing his final volley too early, Vaccari then jumped with Tinstman on his wheel. At the last minute Tinstman hit the wind and passed the SPY rider with room to spare. Vaccari got second and Brauch got third, making a good podium haul for the SPY-Giant-RIDE p/b MRI team, especially considering the quality and quantity of Monster Media riders at the finish.

Teamwork

This was a classic example of a road race going according to plan. It was simple in theory: Keep Tinstman out of the wind as much as possible and save it for the end. Although he was feeling good, the fact that his teammates were doing such a great job increased his pressure to close the deal as they sacrificed everything to put him in position for the win. Having raced together for a couple of seasons the Monster Media team has reached a point where the riders can communicate in key moments without talking because they know what the other guy’s thinking and what they’re going to do. This is the kind of clockwork teamwork that only comes from lots of races.

Tinstman’s secret? There are none, other than the things that all successful athletes have in common, such as maximal preparation. Spare wheels in the car, food, bottles, clothing, then double check everything. Reassured that the prep was done, the victory was going to depend on using the least amount of energy and conserving until the end. By being alert and continually reading the race, Tinstman made sure that every second in the race he had a reason for what he was doing doing. Whether watching a guy, resting, or chasing, it was the continual mental alertness and rational planning that brought the victory to bear.

Saturday helped Sunday

Tinstman followed up his hardman win at Boulevard with an equally impressive win the following day at the SPY Red Trolley Crit in San Diego. Much of Sunday’s victory was the result of how well the team kept him fresh on Saturday. He wasn’t wrecked on Sunday because he hadn’t had to do the lion’s share of the work the day before.

Unlike the other dominant SoCal 35+ crit team, Surf City Cyclery, the Monster Media team never wants the race to end in a field sprint. 2013 was an extended clinic of breakaway crit victories by DeMarchi and Tinstman, and although SCC was absent from this year’s edition of Red Trolley, the plan was still to avoid a field sprint.

On the other hand, with accomplished finishers like Coxworth, Tinstman, and Danny Kam, if it came down to a sprint, there were options there as well. Coxworth had just finished second in the 45+ race after getting nipped at the line due to a premature victory salute, and felt like the snap was gone from his legs. He therefore volunteered to be the guy who would position Tinstman if it came down to a field sprint. In the last two laps he placed his team leader into position with laser precision.

With a tailwind on the climb and a headwind on the downhill it was going to be a hard course on which to establish a winning break because it was easy for the swollen pack to sit and then charge full bore up he hill. The Monster Media team attacked repeatedly with the SPY riders, trying to make things happen, but the field wouldn’t split. In the final laps SPY went to the front, with Tinstman on Coxworth’s wheel. A couple of intense efforts towards the very end even looked like they might create a winning move.

Everything came back together for the finale, however, so with Coxworth on the SPY train and Tinstman slotted in behind his pilot fish, the two Monster Media riders came around SPY’s Eric Anderson and locked in first and second place.

On February 15, Tinstman and the Monster Media tribe will have a go at the second hardman event on the SoCal calendar, the UCLA Punchbowl road race. If Boulevard and Red Trolley are any indication, they will be tough to beat. Very, very tough.

Honor, family, and the will to win

February 11, 2014 § 16 Comments

Some people climb the top step and the first thing they do is forget the people who helped them get there. For others, a sense of thanks is the thing they carry on their shoulders as long as they live.

When Rahsaan Bahati toed the line this Sunday at the Roger Millikan crit in Brea, he was looking forward to the throwdown. He was looking forward to it because Roger Millikan, an icon in SoCal cycling who affected the careers of countless cyclists before his early death due to cancer, was one of the first people at the velodrome who encouraged Rahsaan, a kid from the ‘hood who was destined to be one of the fastest racers in the American history of the sport.

Roger took Rahsaan under his wing even though his own son Chad was the best junior around, and even though everyone knew that if you wanted to win a junior race you had to beat Chad. Roger didn’t care that Rahsaan was gunning for his son, to the contrary, he accepted and embraced it as the apotheosis of sport. Rahsaan thought about all those things as he lined up with ninety other racers on a .6-mile course that would test the nerves, legs, and agility of every single racer who survived, from the fastest to the guy who crossed the line last.

As the pack rolled out, Rahsaan kept reminding himself not to miss the winning move, even though he doubted that anyone would be able to pull away from such a large, strong field on such a short, relatively unchallenging course.  Staying attentive and watching the legs of his opponents was key, and he stayed in the front the first 15-20 minutes to see who was on fire and who riding with sand in their legs.

By the first ten laps it was clear. They were flying at 29 mph and A-Ray, David Santos, Michael Johnson, Tyler Locke, and a handful of others were clearly on form. They attacked, followed moves, responded to counterattacks, and showed that all pistons were firing. Still, the safe money said that the course would work to bring back even the strongest riders if they made a solo effort.

There were a couple of times when Rahsaan found himself far out of position, forty guys back and coming out of Turn 4 when a good move looked like it was coalescing all the way up in Turn 1, but nothing stuck. The pain and the speed and the jockeying for position were relentless. At times like this Rahsaan’s teammates in the race,  Steven Salazar, Justin Savord, Christian Cognini, Bret Hoffer, and Arturo Anyna made their presence known by surveying the front, following moves, and motivating the field to follow.

In addition to a race victory that would pay homage to his mentor and friend Roger Millikan, Rahsaan’s family had packed the edges of the racecourse. With his wife, kids, nieces, and nephews all standing by and cheering him on, the pressure was high, especially since he’d placed fifth in two consecutive races and knew that his form was good enough to win.

Rahsaan also knew that the finish would be a battle of speed between him, Justin Williams, and Corey Williams. Between them these three rockets were marked in every single speed contest, and on a day like today when the course was tight, hectic, physical, and sure to end in a full-bore blast for the line, Rahsaan had no doubt that these two were his nemeses. As far as strategy went, it was simple: When the KHS p/b Maxxis guys went, Rahsaan had to be in their leadout train because they were the ones who would ramp it up to warp speed and set up the finishing explosion to the line.

The speeds were so high, though, that when the KHS team went to the front they would then sit up, which caused chaos as the charging field swarmed the slowing riders on the point. Rahsaan’s strategy got more complicated, because in order to avoid being swarmed he had to stay in the wind.

How did it feel?

“It hurt. It hurt bad.”

But he stayed with his nose in the wind and out of harm’s way, because it was the deceleration into the swarm that caused crashes, and suddenly it was five laps to go and all bets were off. SoCal Cycling threw its heavy artillery to the front and drilled like a sailor on shore leave for two full laps. With  three to go, they swung off and the KHS team blew through. This was the moment.

Rahsaan jumped onto A-Ray’s wheel, the powerful rider on Hincapie Development. Now it was two laps to go, tucked behind the churning legs of A-Ray, and on the bell lap all hell broke loose.  The KHS blue train hit the front with the force of a hurricane, and Rahsaan slipped into seventh wheel. At Turn 2 the blistering pace shed two KHS guys out of their own train, moving Rahsaan up to 5th wheel. This was perfect positioning because on the backside of the course, as the blue train notched it up another mph, another teammate exploded, leaving Rahsaan in 4th wheel and Corey Williams in 3rd.

Just before Turn 3, the cagey veteran Aaron Wimberley, riding for SPY-Giant-RIDE, threw his bike off the front, and the gap he opened up caught the KHS blue train completely off guard. Aaron was a closer and everyone knew it. By the time KHS closed the gap, they had sacrificed more riders, putting Rahsaan in 3rd position and Corey in 2nd. In the last turn Rahsaan gave Corey room and took a run, a hard one, with every muscle in his legs about to rip away from the bone.

Fearing a last minute move to the left that would box him in and give Corey the win, Rahsaan slung himself into the wall of onrushing wind and took the hard, stiff, unrelenting, in-your-face headwind approach around Corey’s right. The gamble paid as he shot to the line clearing Corey by a bike length. Justin, who had been slotted in behind Rahsaan, got boxed in as Corey shut down the left-handed alley approach.

This win wasn’t just for Rahsaan and his family. It was also for Roger.

The amazing race (805 Criterium Weekend, Part 1)

July 2, 2013 § 4 Comments

With only a handful of minutes to recap this fantastic weekend, I’m going to be succinct because there’s so much to say.

— Thanks to Mike Hecker for putting together an event that will surely grow to be the best bike racing in Southern California.

— Thanks to the City of Buellton. You have a lovely town, friendly people, and an egg-frying dry heat that will separate the wheat from the chaff in one or two laps.

— Thanks to the City of Lompoc. You too have a lovely town, friendly people, and a challenging course that is hard and safe and windy enough to blow a fleet of tall ships all the way to Japan.

— Thanks to Gordie and to Steve Hegg. You guys are a ton of fun and great announcers.

— Thanks to the Firestone Walker Brewery. You make great beer, and the beer garden added a wonderful relaxing touch that just drew people in. The location in the heart of each crit course made it spectacular.

— “Tough guy” / “Tough gal” bike racers who missed this event: You’re not that tough. This was real bike racing on brutally hard but short courses that included wind, heat, slight elevation, and something more complex than four turns around a square. The crowds were enthusiastic, the prize money amazing, the ambiance of the host towns fun beyond belief…this is what bike racing is supposed to be. Show up next year and show us what you’ve got.

— Thanks again to Mike Hecker for putting together two fast, hard, safe courses. There wasn’t a single crash in two full days of racing.

— Thanks to the myriad sponsors who kicked in cash and prizes. Legit prize list for the pros on Saturday? $7,500. Compare that to the nickels and warm spit you’ll win in Ontario’s pro race.

–Props to Alan Flores, my SPY-Giant-RIDE teammate who dismantled the field in the 45+ Old Dudes’ Race. Props to John Hatchitt for playing henchman, and to teammates Taylor Fenstermacher, Andy Schmidt, Bill Lupo, and Jimbo for coming out and busting things up.

–Hats off to Thurlow Rogers and Mark Noble, two hellacious bike racers who proved their mettle over two hard days of racing.

–Kudos to Phil Tinstman and Chris Walker who busted loose on Lap 2 of the 35+ and held it for 70 minutes. Only 20 riders finished their race, so viciously hard was the course and the competition.

–Hats off to Rudy Napolitano, general buttwhomper, winner of the 35+ race on Sunday and 3rd Place finisher on Saturday after attacking 10,000 times and generally shredding the field.

–Props to Surf City Cyclery racer John Slover who made the split and the podium on Saturday, and rode two great races on Sunday as well. Props also to Charon Smith, the man who’s not afraid to go out and compete even when the cards are stacked against him. I wish every bike racer had that guy’s guts, kindness, and good grace. He’s as honorable and friendly in defeat as he is in victory.

–Ben Jacques-Mayne thrashed the field on Saturday and won the pro race on Sunday by lapping the field. Amazing rides by Mr. Forbes from Arizona, Brandon Gritters, and a host of other pros.

–Super performance in the 35+ by Derek Brauch, the dude who does a little bit of everything. He rode off with the split and stayed with the leaders until the very end, when a devastating Rudy Napolitano Tailwind Acceleration peeled the skin off of his face and relegated him to a still-impressive 6th Place.

–Knife fight in the mud between Aaron Wimberley and Mike Easter for ascendancy in the SoCal Cup. Aaron had difficulties reading his gas gauge on the way up Saturday and ran out of fuel, thereby missing the Saturday 35+ race and ceding points to his rival. However, on Sunday he dogged Easter’s every move and wrapped it up with a slim one-point lead. Don’t think Easter is going to let it go as easily as all that…

— Big win on Sunday in the 45+ race by big German Armin Rahm. Armin got away with the elite break that included Thurlow, Brett Clare, Slover, Steve Gregarios, and another rider or two, then smoked the breakaway in the sprint.

— John Abate won the “mismatched kit and bike award,” riding now for SPY-Giant-RIDE but still pedaling the green Masi of his former team. The color clash must have added fuel to the pistons, because he finished the 35+ race on Sunday with an awesome 4th Place. He bridged the gap from hell, leaping out of the charging field to finally hook up with the loaded break that included Rudy et al.

— Chris DeMarchi showed his impeccable form and strength on Saturday and Sunday, finishing solo between the break and the field on Saturday, and riding herd on the pack as he blocked for his teammates in the break on Sunday.

— Suze Sonye…wow! Third in the pro race on Saturday, top step on Sunday. If she’s not the best racer to come out of SoCal, who is?

— Michelle Ignash scored third for Helen’s on Saturday in the women’s 3-4 and won the same event on Sunday.

— The list goes on and on of all the racers who rode hard and did well, and by failing to list them all here I’m sure I’ll offend those who performed valiant deeds of glory only to go ignored or unnoticed in this blog which, on a good day, may have as many as three readers.

— Hats off as well to the flailers and wankers who got shelled, quit, gave up, collapsed from heat stroke, or bailed out early so they could swap the pain for the good, cold beer.

Hope you’ll put this race series on your calendar next year. It’s a winner.

When the whip comes down

June 6, 2013 § 11 Comments

If your computer shook and blew a little smoke out the back this morning, there’s a reason. The record for the most iconic climb in SoCal fell, and not by a little. Josh Alverson took eleven seconds out of the fastest time up the 1.9-mile Palos Verdes Switchbacks.

This is a climb whose top times include monster riders like Kevin Phillips, Tony Restuccia, Derek Brauch, Evan Stade, Pete Smith, Jeff Konsmo, and one-off wankers like G3, Tri-Dork, and Stormin’ Norman who can pull some amazing stuff out of their shorts when they have to. Out of 15,567 efforts by 1,983 riders, Josh’s time reigns supreme. Hats off to this madcap, funny-talking moto hammerhead!

The first time I met Josh was on a Donut Ride. He was wearing a Bike Palace kit and hadn’t gotten the memo that you’re not supposed to attack out of Malaga Cove, attack onto Paseo del Mar, attack out of Lunada Bay, attack in Portuguese Bend, attack at the bottom of the Switchbacks and then drop the field. I would have personally delivered the memo had I not been languishing several miles in the rear.

Josh now rides for Spy-Giant-RIDE, and along with teammate Eric Anderson and Big Orange wanker Peyton Cooke, they made an assault on the Switchbacks after doing the NPR and Via del Monte. The arrangement was as follows: Peyton led from the bottom to the first left-hander. Eric took over from there until the steep section after Turn Four. Josh soloed to the finish.

News reports indicate that Peyton went so fast and so hard on his section that he almost fell over when he swung over. Eric, a fierce and unpleasant wheel to be on even in the best of times, buried it for the next three turns, fading just before the juncture with Ganado. Josh sprinted/sat/sprinted/sat/sprinted all the way to the finish. Strava link here.

Kudos, all three of you!

Now go get jobs.

Big words on a badass bike

February 14, 2013 § 13 Comments

Team SPY-Giant-RIDE has spent the ‘cross season and now part of the road season (for some) on their new Giant frames. What better time to give feedback and encourage everyone to go buy a dozen or so?

Of course, if people don’t like them, they can kiss off. Negative reviews won’t be posted here, which is no problem because there haven’t been any. However, if you’re looking for an objective report, you’ve got the wrong guy, the wrong blog and, sad to say, the wrong industry. As in all things, follow the money!

In my case, it’s a short trail. I paid hard cash for my ‘cross frame, and if it sucked I’d just keep quiet, being a polite “team player” type dude who likes to keep his opinions to himself. Bottom line: Nobody gave me squat to ride my ‘cross frame, and in fact I had to forgo the youngest child’s last payment on braces to build it up.

The braces were supposed to have come off in September of last year, but it was ‘cross season and I do have priorities. I got the lower ones off with a pair of wire cutters and a chisel, but apparently didn’t do such a great job as he’s now implored me to wait until we can afford another visit to the orthodontist, which is now looking like May or June of ’15.

What the team has said

First off, I’d be crazy to let a bunch of bike racers say anything in their own words, mostly because the typical lexicon is more filled with “fucks” than a letter to Penthouse (youngsters, ask your grandpa what those were). So I’ve edited the hell out of these quotes, in some cases making them up entirely to paper over the garbled, unintelligible prose. After the fourth “Fuckin’ A stiff as shit, dude” I kind of got the gist that they liked it and it was stiff.

Second, with regard to the road frames we’ve only had a few races to test them out, so despite the fact that these wankers are threatened on pain of death not to say anything even remotely uncomplimentary, the guys have been reticent to provide extensive comments other than what they’ve gleaned from a thousand miles of riding or less.

A few wankers have even refused to comment at all on the lame grounds that their frame hasn’t been built up yet and they’ve never ridden one before. We’ll address internally this unwillingness to lie and prattle, and can promise you five-star encomiums in the next round of reviews.

Greg M.: This machine is second to no other bike in the world for weight agility and style!!! I love it so much I’ve added two exclamation points to the one that I normally put at the end of everything, including sympathy and condolence letters (Sorry to hear about the massacre of your entire family! Condolences!). I love it so much I’ve leaned it up against the SPY truck and taken 458 photos on Instagram, annotated them, flooded your wall, clogged your inbox, and gummed up the Internet. Took like freakin’ days to do. However, I hope this twelve-word review suffices!!! Giant rocks!!!

John H.: I am the worst at this shit, dude, I’m a bike racer which means I race bikes not some pinhead blogger. You would know this except I drop you every time we race together. Anyway,  I have been racing Specialized’s top ‘cross bike for the last three years and was very happy with it until I got on the TCX. Kind of like how you think go-karts are totally badass until somebody sticks you behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Or how you think magazines are awesome ’til you get your first hot date. Not only is it super light and stiff but the thing goes wherever you point it. I’m glad I’ve never pointed it at a hot chick. I’m talking about the bike. The acceleration is amazing and handling is second to none (still talking bike, you wanker). I don’t have my  road bike yet so I’ve been riding 4-5 days a week using the TCX ‘cross bike on the road and I have to say it is as good if not better than any road bike I have ever been on. The Giant TCX gave our team a huge advantage in our success in ‘cross this season. The wankers from other teams were flailing around in the mud on their 75-lb. wankmobiles while we sliced and diced our way to a couple of state championships and numerous event wins. TCX stands for “Total ‘Cross eXecutioner,” or something like that.

Aron G.: The Giant TCR is stiff, responsive and a beautiful piece of handcrafted technology that is second to none! So happy I’m riding a Giant this year, and all the wankers on other teams are flailing on Pudknocker Specials. Jam on the pedals and this bad boy takes off like a lump of snot getting shot from an elephant’s trunk. In a fast sprint finish your kick goes straight from the pedal to the wheel. Well, there’s a chain and some gears and a bottom bracket in there somewhere, but with this bad boy you’d never know it.

Jim M.: While I eagerly await the arrival of my TCR road frame, I can say that I was happier than a bacteria in a public restroom with my ‘cross TCX, which I was able to ride and race on several times this fall. In past ‘cross races the spectators often screamed “Wanker!” and showered me with beer (warm beer, I think, at any rate with warm yellow stuff). Not on my Giant. They frickin’ showered me with awe. While I didn’t think a ‘cross bike should, or could, be as light as a road bike, damned if it wasn’t LIGHTER than any road bike I’d ever had. I was floating through the mud pits and tar pits and tiger pits and slag heaps and sand dunes like debris from a tsunami.  From a riding and racing standpoint, it seemed unfair that a bike that good should belong to me, but I knew right out of the gate it would make me a better rider, which it did, as in my first race I only got lapped twelve times instead of the usual eleven. After that, it was Katie bar the door. I got some great results, and from the nimble handling, the quick acceleration and the screaming good looks, the bike just performed like all get out. My girlfriend was jealous, right?  It won’t gather dust this road season, either, as it has replaced my mountain bike for anything off road and will get lots of use in the coming months.  Can’t wait to race on it again in the fall!

DMac: The Giant TCX is an awesome ‘cross bike and played a key role in my 35+ state ‘cross championship campaign. The frame is very stiff for climbing and super stable in corners, it handles smooth over rough terrain with great power transfer for sprinting and has a superior ride quality off-road and on-road. Plus, if you turn it upside down and put flowers in the chain ring it makes a bitchin’ objet d’art. That’s French for “coffee table.” Best of all, when I went back to Alabama, where I’m from, all the folks there (who are all related, weird, I know), just drooled even though they didn’t know what it was or what it was for. I told ‘em that it was a football training device that the Tide was gonna use in ’14 and I got taken out to more free fried catfish dinners and fed more deep-fried Coca-cola than you can imagine.

Joe C.: My new Giant corners like it is on rails, BIG difference from my Parlee, which suffered from having a really stupid name. Dudes were like, “What kind of bike do you ride?” and I’d be like “Parlee,” and they’d be like “Parlee what? Francais?” and then everyone would guffaw and it got to pissing me off so I took to busting out their teeth and pretty soon it was ten of them and one of me and although I was good for wiping the floor with nine, the tenth was always some goon with a two-by-four and to make a long story short I spent a lot of freaking time in the hospital no thanks to that dogdamned Parlee. So now they’re like “What do you ride?” and I’m like “Giant” and they like back off and buy me free beer. So there’s that.

Erik: I’m two rides in on the Giant, but small sample sizes don’t mean squat to me, hell, I’d judge a person’s character based on the way he wiped his nose. The Giant and I, we’re like a dude and the perfect chick, it’s really amazing how connected I feel to the road. We talk to each other sometimes but don’t tell my wife that. I’ll go out in the garage and say “Hey, baby, how bout a little chain lube?” and darned if she doesn’t purr. I’m not kidding. Between the stiff, responsive frame and the Zipps, I really do feel in control and that there is not a wasted bit of power. Pretty awesome. Can’t wait to race it. After a few more months I’m going to see if the wife is cool with bringing it into the bedroom just for safekeeping and stuff.

Ryan D.: Racing crits is much less hectic, the turn in is so gradual and predictable leaving me more confident instead of clipping the curb and busting my forehead open on some fire hydrant. You do that seven or eight times in a season and you start forgetting little things, you know, like your name and stuff. The seat mast soaks up tons of harsh bumps which makes it easier to flip over the guardrails, bomb down the side of the mountain out of control, whacking the huge boulders, and still get to the bottom without feeling like you’ve flipped over the guardrail, bombed down the side of the mountain out of control, and whacked every huge boulder in sight, even though you pretty much just did. It’s stiffer than anything I’ve ever ridden. It has sexy lines, which is actually a big deal when you spend a lot of time by yourself, as I do. The sloping top tube and massive seat mast lets guys run smaller looking frames, because no one likes a massive triangle and tiny seat post except some wanker named Merckx. What the hell did he know, eh?

Mongo from Bakersfield: What I like most about the TCX is its responsiveness to my pedal input and the fact that it gives me a great excuse to leave Bakersfield, which is one of the ten top places in America to be from, preferably permanently. When I push the pedals, the bike goes. Coming from a steel ‘cross frame I was expecting the carbon ride to be harsh, but I’ve found that the integrated seat post and rear triangle absorb a lot of the shock on demanding ‘cross courses and even normal roads in Bakersfield, where the roads are paved with large chunks of glass, nails, gravel, and human bones. The shaped downtube is really easy to grab and throw the bike on my shoulder or at the gangs who try to shake you down when you’re training in Bako. The low frame weight makes it easy to traverse barriers and barbed wire fences no matter if you’re a Brent Prenzlow minimalist or a Bart Wellens dive bomber or a Jim P. Bakersfield refugee running for his life. I’ve raced the TCX in road races where it handles and climbs like a dream. Its higher bottom bracket makes it a great crit racer as well, and I use it to position myself at the back of the field to make sure no one quits.

King Harold: All these peachfuzz wankers are crowing and yammering about Giant like a teenager who just discovered puberty, but listen, I been riding Giant since these punks had a tail and were swimming around in a warm hairy bag, and I know from past Giant frames it’s the best bike you’ll ever ride. They corner, climb and sprint like nothing you’ve ever ridden before, including that $150 hooker you got in Vegas for your 18th birthday. I can only imagine the new bike will ride even better because I don’t have it yet. But I almost don’t need to. It will kick ass.

Chris W.: The bike is incredible. I wouldn’t have believed anyone if they had told me it was this solid. I would have been like, “Oh, bullshit. You’ve been reading too much Bicycling Magazine.” ‘Cause you know, bikers are so full of crap and suckers to boot, and think the latest thing is like the reinvention of the wheel. But my Giant TCR, man, it is the bomb. It doesn’t flex yet it doesn’t beat you to death. Giant knows what they’re doing. Love this bike.

Bull: I love my Giant TCX; it allows me to ride anywhere I want to go with speed and amazing handling, like last week when I was at the liquor store picking up a case of MD 20/20 for the wife and kids and the cops show up, in fact I’d paid for it but there was a misunderstanding about the credit card because I do sometimes go by the name “Susan Smith” and I have lived in Philly before, anyway, there I was and I didn’t have time to explain to the guy with the gun and the radio and mace and the handcuffs and the squadcar so boom, I hopped on the TCX, swung the MD over my shoulder, and hit the gutter going the wrong way down the 405. Lost ‘em. Love my Giant.

MMX: This year I got the new TCX toward the end of the season and made up my mind that beginning in March I would start properly capitalizing the pronoun “I” and other proper nouns and win some ‘cross races. For the two years prior to this ‘cross season i had been riding my Blue top of the line Norcross (jonathan Page signature bike, our mutual team rider), which i felt to be an incredible bike. In fact, one of the main reasons for the SPY and BLUE relationship had to do with their initial sponsorship of me and our joint sponsorship of JP. When i got the TCX, with its ISP (which stands for Internet Service Provider), and the SRAM components (which stands for Super Rad And Mombasa) and ZIPP wheels (which stands for Zowie I’m Pedaling Perfectly), it weighed 15 pounds and a couple of ounces. It was light. But, what was so impressive about it was the stiffness of the bike and how this enabled me to slice through sand, power on grassy sections, and get power out of the bike with my low cadence. It was fun watching the wankers on my wheel at that beach invasion ‘cross race on Pendleton melt and collapse and fade and crumble in the bitter headwind followed by the sandy wall climb and the sand pits at the bottom of the 40 mph descent over ruts and rocks and land mines. I really wish i had had the bike for the whole season and can’t wait to race on it next year. I can easily see myself racing this bike on the road, as it is as light as my road bike and as responsive and comfortable. Plus it’s light enough to pick up and smack somebody over the head with when they show up wearing Oakleys or Smith or some other Italian effete multicorp dork pair of eyeglasses.

i was riding the 2012 GIANT TCR ISP bike this year and really enjoyed all the capital letters. I again wondered how getting the new bike would even be anything but a waste of money because my current GIANT was so good and how many more capital letters can you cram onto a downtube, right? Right. Being the leader of the team and the dude who’s going to stomp some heads for the wankers who didn’t get around to writing reviews after all the swag I’ve showered them with, the ingrates, i had to get the team bike, right?! So, i did, with the SRAM red stuff and the ZIPP 303’s. From the minute i got on this new 2013 version i was startled at how much faster it felt, and not just because I got 300 new KOM’s on Strava that day. I felt as though my 11 was a 12, as though i had a tailwind and even though I’ve occasionally had problems counting correctly. I got the perfect fitting bike, thanks to the fit
from Studio DNA and our team mate Nes Rodriquez. The bike rides better
with the new SRAM and it feels stiffer and more comfortable, which is hard to believe. In fact, I don’t have to believe. I rode the dang thing across a 2 mile crosswind gap at Poor College Kids to bridge to the leaders. On another bike I’d have needed a stoker or an engine.

The first time i rode the new GIANT TCR ISP 2013 i was tired from a heavy block of training, even though it was only 250 miles that particular day with 11,000 feet of climbing. But i took it out on a saturday and did the Swami’s ride with you, Wankmeister. Remember how I dropped you immediately, then towed your sorry ass around all day while you begged me not to drop you in exchange for some free blogging? Yeah, that day, you wanker.

Instead of dragging myself, i was ripping despite being tired, driving the front, going off the front, and watching you cry and beg and suck your thumb like a swaddling infant. Afterwards, you and i did a big loop for 80 plus miles and i got 10 KOMs over the last 20 or 30 miles. You were nowhere to be seen when the hard work came about. It was unbelievable. The bike i mean. Not you. Now, two months later, i still have the same feelings about the bike. is my 11 a 12? Are there counting classes for people like me?

Overall, for me, the new GIANT team bike is the best looking bike i have
ever owned, the most comfortable and the most powerful in terms of stiffness and translation of wattage. I couldn’t be happier i got the new bike. It is simply amazing. I’ll be riding it this saturday at the RR, and once we get into march I’m going to take no prisoners on the capitalization thing. You watch.

Alan F.: The Giant I currently ride is a 2012 TRC Advanced, no ISP or SL. You might think I feel slighted to be riding around on something less than the others, but I don’t. I’ve been doing this for decades and could race on a Huffy with cement wheels and still keep up with you wankers. Plus, I’m not emotional about my bike. It’s a bike. A tool to inflict pain and devastation on those who have not prepared properly. I have no idea when I will get a team bike, but when I get it, rest assured I will push down hard on the pedals. What I can say about my 2012 Giant is that it kicks ass. It is a very balanced bike, the massive proprietary carbon stem with 1 and 1/4″ steering tube makes the front end as stiff and stable as the rear. Giddy up!

DJ: The early Giant composites sucked big donkey balls. Sorry, they did. You want PR bullshit? You got the wrong guy. The fork/headset were flimsy noodles. I had one, and I disliked it big time. It wobbled like heck, drifted like sh*t. Don’t ask why I used an asterisk. And I was coming off a Trek (model lost to memory, but it was a high end one). I seriously questioned Giant and their funny compact frame. To their credit, Giant heard that feedback (the rep told me I was not alone in my opinion) and immediately remedied it with a significant redesign. More carbon, bigger diameter steering tube, etc. So I like to think that Giant is me. Also, if you get a minute, I’ll tell you about the time I designed the space shuttle. I rode Giants for 10 succeeding years, and loved all of them. Their current frames with the square downtube are the bomb. They corner like they’re on rails, track true at speed, they’re stiff and light, and they still feel great on a long ride. You could ask for a better frame; you could pay more for a frame; you could start your own frame company…but you’d never get close to a Giant. They are more than functional: They follow input from the riders, hacker/wankers like me and pro/am world class studs and studettes from Rabobank to continually improve. If you think you’re getting some mass-produced item made from slave labor, you’re wrong. You’re getting a handcrafted precision frame made by expert, expert, expert craftspeople. That extra “expert” makes them even better, by the way. Even though we got a deal I was bummed to switch to Blue last year. It was like switching from titanium to overdone linguini. To put it all in perspective, when I heard SPY was going to Giant in 2013, it was full wood! And when my trailer house is rockin’…!

Lars the Norseman: The Giant TCX is so insanely light I contemplated using it as my road bike of choice in 2013! Then I saw Wankmeister doing that very thing, along with Mongo from Bakersfield and I was like, “Whoa, don’t want to be associated with those wankers, no matter how awesome the bike!” The Giant TCR is easily adjustable and gives me the confidence to dive in and out of corners in crits, and it’s stiff enough to withstand my 180-pound frame wrenching it from side to side when attacking or climbing. These are two phenomenal machines, well made for invading smaller countries and plundering them.

Brent G.: As a guy who gets to RIDE a ton of bikes I have a pretty good feel for what is available out there. I have this test I do on all bikes. I just ride loosely sitting in the saddle with my hands on the hoods and attempt to create speed wobble by shimmying my hands forward and back. Yeah, I crash a lot doing that. But I wear a helmet and have good health insurance. Many bikes are like wet noodles, although very few wet noodles are as serviceable as a crappy bike. The Giant TCR is far and away the stiffest! That is the reason this is the only bike I can sit on the top tube and descend at 60mph and feel like it’s 40. Until I crash and hit my head again. Then it doesn’t even feel like 60. More like 100. That “hands-off” test also relates to how stiff the front triangle is in relation to what the bike is going to do when you lean in into a serious turn. With the 11/2 to 11/14 bearing and massive head tube, this bike has zero hesitation once you give it some input. It just does exactly what you tell it to do, and one of these days I’m gonna tell it to do the laundry. With all the rigidity, you might be one of those “my jockstrap is half-empty” types who might worry about ride quality, and that is where this bike with the ISP seatpost stands on a platform that only few bikes I have ever ridden do. The ISP post is a dream and makes for the most comfortable ride you can get. 100 mile days just click off on this bike with less discomfort once you’re off the bike than many others that end up breaking your spine after a 60-mile ride. The Giant TCR ADV SL ISP is in my top 2 bikes ever ridden for quality and capital letterization and additonal exclamation marks!!! It ROCKS!!!

David A.: I have never loved and respected a bike like I do the Giant TCX ‘cross bike. Please don’t tell my wife or children. The confidence this bike gave me throughout the 2012 ‘cross season was second to none. The lack of confidence it inspired in the wankers who fell off the pace and got dropped was inversely proportionate. I knew that I only had to point it in the right direction to get to the finish line and it would do the rest. Halfway through most races I stopped even pedaling. Just a few whispers and a pat on its fanny and it would take me to the line, usually in first place. I treasured the way it would track through stutter bumps and it would make a very  challenging section a breeze and look great in pumps or in tennis shoes. Thank you Giant for creating such a noble steed!

Steven D.: It would be a lie to say “good or bad” because I don’t have it yet. However, bike racers are notorious liars, so why wait? I know this bike is going to be awesome beyond belief, and when I get a chance to throw a leg over I will unleash my literary penmanship, and give Giant the review it deserves.

G$: The most perfect thing I’ve ever touched. I’m totally in love. Fast, tight, gorgeous, goes forever, always gets you to the finish with a massive rush. I feel like I’m in heaven with this baby. Solid when you’re going fast, steady when you’re grinding it out, pounding on the front, easing on the back…technical or straight line!…At 50+ mph you appreciate when your baby has your back!! I would groove 24/7 if I had the stamina! Oh, this is supposed to be about my new bike? Oops! I love my Giant, too. Same as I just said earlier about my, oh never mind.

Wankmeister: I ride and race  my GIANT TCX ‘cross bike on the road and had my best result in like a hundred years in a hard hilly race a couple of weeks ago. It scares the crap out of the competition. They think it weighs 300 pounds and you’re there with them on the climb and they’re like, “Whoa, dude’s a beast!” but actually the thing is lighter than their rig and their girlfriend. It’s stiff, pretty, handles well, blah, blah, blah. You get that by now after reading all these reviews, or you are a congenital idiot who wouldn’t know a good thing if it came with free hookers and a suitcase full of unmarked $100 bills. In truth, though, the GIANT TCX is most rad for its Leg Throwoverabilityness. This is the quality of a bike that allows you to pull up at a light and casually throw your leg over the top tube and rest comfortably there. Frankly, I spend almost all my time posing at intersections and this bike is Pose Nirvana. It’s how I met my wife. I fucking look like a pro, all loungy and relaxed and cool with my SPY shades and stuff. Plus, the shape of the TCX top tube is flatty instead of roundy, which lets your lower thigh rest comfortably on it. The roundy ones make you slip and pretty soon that tube is wedged up where the sun don’t ever shine. Well, not often, anyways. So, for mega plus pose leg throwoverabilityness, this is the best bike ever.

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