Category Archives: Crushing Souls

Open Letter to Austinbikes

Dear Sol, Eric and the rest of the Austinbikes team,

I admit that I foolishly scoffed at the idea of custom insoles when you first threw the pitch. I thought they were too expensive for a guy like me and wouldn’t offer much in terms of a competitive advantage. I thought they were just another luxury item marketed to the disposable incomes that seem to hang around our sport.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. I will gladly cop to my folly. After getting Cyclesoles made by Sol in January, I was able to string together the necessary results to earn my Cat 2 upgrade by early May. I then continued on to win the Texas State Cat 2 Criterium and Time Trial championships during the summer. I’m not trying to imply that Cyclesoles magically made me a contender; that would be a translucent claim that any bike racer could see through and would not do anybody any good.

Cyclesoles simply fixed a biomechanical problem that has nagged me from the day I decided to first throw a leg over the top-tube. I don’t have to think about my knees anymore. I haven’t had to take time off the bike to stay ahead of knee problems while they flare up. I haven’t had to coddle myself during training to ensure that my knees stay happy. In this regard, it has freed me to train more consistently: I have been able to flog myself day-in and day-out over the last 9 months to make the best use of training time I have available. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. Cyclesoles got me back on the bike and kept me on the bike; they saved my season. These are the single best bike-related investment I have ever made.

Once again, thanks.

-Matti von Kessing
Texas State Cat 2 Crit, ITT and TTT Champion
Now, a little bit of background information:

Cyclesoles are a fully custom footbed made out of heat-moldable foam that are shaped to the foot while in the riding position on the bike. The bottoms of the insoles are then ground down to match the sole of the cycling shoes. In this way, they offer a completely rigid platform for the foot that does not deform under power and will not collapse over years of use, which is one complaint of other heat-moldable insoles.  Finally, the insoles are covered with an anti-microbial fabric woven from unicorn hairs or bamboo or something. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it looks so dope…like having Wall Street executives in my shoes when I ride. The whole process takes around 2 or 3 hours.

Custom footbeds...lots of arch.

Going from off-the-shelf insoles to the Cyclesoles was a HUGE change for me; they took some getting used to. I had some discomfort during long rides until my feet grew accustomed to having something other than empty space under my heel and arch. The little button between my toes was like a burr on a tooth that I couldn’t stop feeling, just because it was there. Not bad, just there. But, after a week or two of riding, the Cyclesoles became invisible. Now, I don’t even know they are there.

Sidi, Specialized and Cyclesoles footbeds.

If you have ever had knee problems on the bike and find yourself in Austin, make a trip to West Lynn and drop in on Austinbikes to say “hi” to the guys there. Tell Sol about your problems. You’ll be glad you did.

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The Euro New Year

September is lazily rolling to a close and calendars everywhere are running out of pages: the last monument of the World-tour calendar, the Giro di Lombardia is a few short weeks away and the Texas State Championships concluded the official TXBRA calendar last weekend.  The end of one calendar year always brings with it the start of the next; a time of year I like to think of as the Euro New Year.  Racers everywhere are getting ready to hang up their race bikes for a couple of weeks before starting to build toward the fresh spring races; only a few more Driveway races remain to entice the Austin-area peloton to continue throwing legs over the top-tubes to ride out whatever fitness remains from State.

For some, the Euro New Year means a much needed vacation from the bike, after close to 9 months of sacrifice, to let the mind recover; time spent with our ladies and our friends (or our lady-friends, if you’re following me) enjoying beers and other divine treats that were feared and avoided during the season.  Others will ride the fitness wave into Cross season and get exposed to crazy things like hecklers, cow-bells, barriers, high-side primes and run-ups.  Personally, I’m in the former camp and not the later, although I will be doing my best to mix the former with the later by making appearances at the cross races (ladies, friends and beers in tow) to heckle the suffering masses.  Regardless if the plan is completely removed from the bike or is a simple change from calipers to cantilevers, the basic goal is still the same: immerse a tired mind in something relaxing; bring fun back into the equation.

Enjoying a drink or two while not sweating my ass off.
Notice the relaxed posture, the beverages (Belgian style, of course) and the lack of form-fitting clothing; this man is ready to celebrate the Euro New Year. 

As I’ve mentioned, during the weeks around the Euro New Year, it is customary to relax one’s lifestyle slightly; possibly even smiling during what rides there are.  Oddly enough (or predictably if you are of the initiated) this period of relaxation brings with it an inner consciousness, resulting in an almost automatic reflection on the past year and projection of riding goals into the coming months.  The hours that were once dedicated to endeavors such as riding and racing will be dedicated to talking and thinking about these endeavors; a minor difference indeed, but a very important one.  So vitally important because reliving past successes give us an idea of what greater success will taste like, while every failure is used to stoke the motivational fire that cooks that wonderful fire-grilled success pizza.  Hopes and dreams are born during the Euro New Year.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  -Maria Robinson.

I got this quote with my check at Blue Dahlia Bistro (kind of like a fortune cookie…except at a French bistro, and the bill isn’t a delicious cookie) and found it very fitting to the New Year.  It is impossible to change the events of last season, but ripping legs off next season is the fastest surefire way to forget about them.  So, to all my friends, “Happy New Year!”  Or, as they would say in Flanders, “Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!”

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Driveway – September 15th

Two weeks ago, somebody anonymously sent me a comment about my September 1st post: “Dude, you’re doing a WEEKLY TRAINING CRIT. Get real!”  At first, I was taken aback by this, but it has had a couple of weeks to sink in now.

My objective, by writing this, is not to say anything negative about Holland Racing or the amazing, weekly event that they have turned The Driveway Race Series into, but rather put onto paper (does anybody use paper anymore?) something that I have been trying to avoid admitting over the last 2 weeks: the fact that The Driveway is still a weekly training crit.  There, it is out on the internets and I can’t take it back.  It kind of feels better to get it out.

Granted, Thursday night is bigger than almost all weekend races while being faster than most (where else can you race in a 90-starter field every week); a Thursday at the Driveway just can’t match the pure aggression of a full P/1/2 field that is racing with 100% tactical savvy.  The stakes are lower.  This week, a number of the racers that animate the race skipped in favor of making the trip to Philly to race the Univest GP.  I thought about these as I circled the non-technical Speed Loop 27 times on Thursday night, seemingly in slow motion compared to other races.  The Pickle and eRacign Stigma crits were fast and technical.  The Chappell Hill road race was just wicked fast.  I get a chance to dig deep, but I don’t get absolutely shredded just trying to hang on in the “A” race like I did in those P/1/2 races.

In the break with National Elite Criterium Champion, David Wenger.  He doesn't really look like he's suffering.  Me on the other hand...

As a training race, like with any form of training, different people are going to approach it differently.  Some need added intensity of a race to motivate themselves to come out and get a workout in.  Some are just sadists that like to crush everybody with attack after attack every week, paying no attention at all to the result at the end of the night.  Without a doubt, there are some that come out to the Driveway every Thursday fully kitted out for a full-on race.  They are going to carefully ration their efforts while trying to make a conscious effort to improve their racing from week to week.  I admit that I fall into this group.  I don’t wear a skin-suit to train; I wear it to race.

Full race kit.  I just need to get my rear-wheel back and I'll be fully aero.

Results at the Driveway are there as a weekly reminder that improvements are being made.  When each weekend race offers a chance for me to get annihilated by the cream of Texas racing, any little sign of progress is welcome, even if it has to come during a “training crit.”  One only has to look at a list of Driveway results from the year to get an idea of that progress: 6th, 7th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 17th.  Those are just the top-20’s.  Undoubtedly, there are a few DNF’s and pack finishes sprinkled in there from the beginning of the year when I was getting dropped from the P/1/2/3.

This week, my teammates from CREDO did well.  Adrian, Michael and I finished 13th, 11th and 6th.  Adrian won two primes and took home the mohawk for most aggressive rider while I got to haul a case of Honey Milk home with me in my backpack from winning a prime.  I spent a couple of laps off the front, mid-race with Wenger in a break-away to get my legs warmed up for our second attempt at the “speed loop lead-out.”  Adrian and I didn’t actually get to execute this week because he got pushed off my wheel during the penultimate lap, but it is better that we try and fail during a weekly crit than make mistakes like this one during a bigger race.  While living in Corpus, I had to wait for weeks and drive countless hours in between opportunities to make up for mistakes that I made previously.

September 15th pack sprint.

As the Driveway fits into my training plans,  I will continue to try my ass off to pull around Phil Wikoff in the sprint while he is sitting up.  Next week, Phil.  Next week my 100% effort will overcome your obvious indifference to 5th or 6th place.  I just feel fortunate that I get to race like this weekly.

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Belterra Race Report

May 21st, 2011

Belterra. More like Puketerra.

Wow, what a deceptively difficult course. Trying to tackle that long, quad-burning hill capped off with the sprint up the kicker in 95°F heat and 90% humidity was the perfect puke-storm. Add in all the red candy water that people could drink and it was like being at a junior high science fair. Little volcanoes spewing liquid hot red-tinted magma all over their bikes. I counted stories of at least four people, including our own hydraulic ejector, Adrian. At least Adrian did everybody a favor and pulled over (we give him props for gently putting his bike down in the grass, drive-side up, before collapsing) and proceeding to throw up the contents of his stomach into the median.

What is Adrian doing throwing up in the median? How did the race come to this, you ask? Let’s go see.

The race started for me as almost every other race I do, with an attack off the front in the first ten mintutes of the race to test the legs and wills of the peloton. I discovered just how difficult the course was on my first time up that hill on my solo attempt. Oh God, it was hard, and the pack was determined to chase me down, so I resigned myself to ride with the group for most of the race and we fell into a rhythm. I felt good because I was prepared for the race by people that had done it in the past. I knew I needed to be one of the first through each turn or risk burning too many matches catching up as the pack sprints out of every corner. Unfortunately, everybody I was racing against had the same advice, because there was a mad reorganization as the pack jostled for position coming into every turn. People sprinted up the hills on the two ends of the course to hit the hairpins first, and there was a high-speed shuffling of the deck as everybody tried to get situated for the 90 degree turn in the middle of the course. Position was everything in this race and my super secret strategy just turned out to be shared by almost everybody. Thus was the story for most of the race.

Toward the end of the penultimate lap, Chad Hardt got brave and made his bid for victory and the pack sort of stared (some yelled like babies) as he opened a gap on the field. He was first through the 90 degree turn starting the last lap and still the gap opened. It looked like the pack was just going to let him go, as nobody wanted to blow themselves up to make the chase. The little voice inside my head started yelling that nobody was going to chase, “Follow that move!” Adrian had the same thought, evidently, and exploded from the group to bridge the gap as the pack just started the grind to the far turnaround. CREDO Racing was off the hook for the chase; our bets were officially hedged. I created our backup plan as I rode up to Shaun and told him to get on my wheel and stay there.

As we hit the kicker (and passed Adrian puking in the grass) at the far end of the course, somebody slammed into me and pushed me to my left about a foot. Adrenaline fueled rage filled my vision and I was ready to rip somebody’s freaking head off. I turned yelling “COME ON! Learn to race your…” as I realized Shaun was the rider that had bumped me, just reminding me where he was, and that he was ready to go. Shortly after, he stood up and powered up the hill; 1st wheel through the turnaround. Time to go. I chased, made the turn and then yelled to Shaun to jump on the train as I started my sprint from the far end of the course. Shaun wound up his engine as I was closing the gap between us with my jump and then took shelter behind the wattage cottage as I passed him. This was the race. We built up a ridiculous amount of speed as we powered down the hill with Chad in our sights. I focused on Chad and just tried to rip the crank-arms off my bike. And then we passed him. Actually, we passed so close and so fast, that I would venture to say we buzzed him.

As Shaun and I crested the last speed-bump of a hill, the 90 degree turn came into view. My legs were fading and the puke was coming, but I did everything I could to crank out more watts to get Shaun to the turn first. We hit the turn and I went wide, giving Shaun the entire road, and Shaun Dean capitalized on an epic, leg busting lead-out to dance his way up the hill on his way to victory. I looked back and savored the gap as I more leisurely climbed my way to the 2nd step on the podium. The faint taste of vomit in the back of my throat never tasted so sweet.

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Ronde von Manor Race Report

Today at Manor, the break-away Gods smiled down on CREDO Racing.  I ended up coming away with 2nd place out of a 2 man breakaway that lasted the last 45 minutes of the race.  We completed 5 laps of the 12 mile course in just under 2:28 and came in a full minute over the peloton.  The attacks started rolling off the front shortly after the hill on the first lap, although with a fresh peloton, the breaks were chased back with mucho gusto.  I opened my legs up following a break-away attempt on lap 2 but decided to very quickly sit up when I pulled off the front of the group every time I pulled through.  The break wasn’t right.  It wasn’t motivated enough and the timing wasn’t right.  The feng shui of the group’s kits weren’t meshing.  We returned to the peloton and sat in for another 2 laps, taking much care to stay in the wayward side of the peloton on the cross-wind sections.

On the 4th lap, I positioned myself top 10 coming into the hill.  Somebody attacked the hill solo, and then the hill spoke to me.  “It’s time.”  That was all that was needed to be said.  I went to the front and started drilling the pace.  The top of the hill came, but I didn’t care.  False flat and next hill came and went with the pace pegged; the peloton was showing the first inkling of being held together with a rubber band.  People were hurting; the elastic would stretch and come back together.  Then we made the right hand turn onto the unpaved section of road, and again, I heard the voice.  Not so much a voice this time as a message written in the oil soaked dirt; “Hammer time.”  I have no idea why a pop rap artist from the early 90’s was sending me messages during a race, but I got the point.  I dropped the proverbial hammer and for the next 10 minutes I didn’t look back.  I was seeing red.  Somewhere in there, I heard a rubber band snap.

When I finally emerged from my rage, there were only 4 of us, so I figured it was about time to start working as a group if the break was going to survive.  We did one rotation and the junior from 787 that had found a way into the break decided not to pull.  After explaining the case of a socialist work structure being the model that tended to maximize results in a committed breakaway, all I got from him was a non-committal response.  He then planted himself firmly on the last wheel of the break and continued to skip pulls.  At that point, I was a little bit oxygen deprived, so I couldn’t think of anything cool to say.  Christopher points out that it would have been bad-ass if I responded with “I’m sorry you feel that way.”  I tend to agree with him.  On my next pull, I forced my will on the group in the most direct way I could think of at the time: I rode faster.  Four became two, and that was how it stayed for the remainder of the race, trading pulls with Matt Gossling of Team Party Time, although at that point my socialist mentality was thrown out the window.  I was just happy to have somebody with me that was willing to bury himself.  If I had to say, the work split was probably 70-30.

With 3k to go I started to let my compatriot take longer pulls…which also meant the pace dropped.  I fell back and he thought I popped.  He took the bait and started to pick up the pace a little bit, assuming he was going to go the rest of the way solo.  At that point, I poured everything I had into my legs and tried to jump him.  He caught my wheel and no matter what I tried: attacks, swerving like a mad-man, throwing bottles at him, he just held my wheel.  In the end, at 1k to go, he pulled alongside me, gave me a fist bump and we rode side-by-side until 200m.  It was a match sprint and my tank was empty.

In the end, CREDO Racing walks away with a well earned 2nd place.

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