Tag: Dan Chabanov
The big news is that I didn’t freeze my butt off. It was nearly balmy, and for those of you who remember NBX in past years as the coldest, most miserable race of the entire season, this sunny, dry, warm weather was just, well, odd. Didn’t seem like cyclocross, somehow.
So the weather was nice and the hotel was its usual, with the exception of a little Peyton Place sort of thing that will not get discussed any further here. Richie and I shopped at Dave’s for our dinner to bring back to our room—a little ritual of ours; the calm before the storm and we relish this little time. Richie decided to race (darn) so that meant up and out to the course really early, 7:30 am.
I sit in the car, I read a book for review, I walk the dog, I find the coffee truck. I pit for him. I’m the only one. I cheer dutifully. Pit 1. Pit 2. Cheer, cheer.
Yay! It’s lunch time! Eat the world’s spiciest taco (but good.) Then to the pit for Elite Women’s race. Libby got a mechanical early on and decided to call it a day. Britt soldiered on. Everyone did well Saturday. On Sunday, Dan came into the pit on the first or second lap. After the world’s longest pit change (because his pit bike wasn’t operational and we had to put a wheel on his racing bike—will not be discussed here) Dan got back on and in full Russian Frownie Face, back into the race. I wasn’t optimistic about Dan’s mental competitiveness at that point, but hallelujah, he tried really hard. Of course any moaning he was planning on doing after the race was truncated by Sam’s mishap. With one lap to go and Sam in fourth place!!—he and the metal barrier had words, with the result being that Sam, with a puncture wound a half-inch deep, went to the hospital. Thankfully, his best friend’s mother lived a scant five minutes away, and even, better, worked at the hospital. This allowed Richie and I to drive Sam’s car to her house and his father to get on the plane, as intended, to Serbia.
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Anthony Clark won on Sunday and I couldn’t be happier. He deserved that win, and the Verge series title. I don’t know anyone who works as hard and as humbly as he does. And it doesn’t hurt that the photo of him crossing the finish line is just about the best winning-a-race photo I have ever seen.
Week 6 of being on the road and all that denotes
There comes a time in the ‘cross calendar when the weather stops being perfect and turns cold. Or, god forbid, rainy and cold. This past weekend at Highland Park was cold. Not the numbing cold of NBX (that wind off the water in the shady pit…) but in the low 30’s at 9:00 am when Richie likes to arrive at the venue for his 12:00 start. Brrrr.
I set up the tent-thingie near the lake, but quickly realized that we really wanted sun, not shade, and so I angled the new camp chairs outside of the tent, in the sun. I bought the chairs last week, thinking that as long as we have a tent-thingie now, we may as well have a few chairs to sit on too. Where this dissipation will end, I cannot say. Will a Hibachi be next?
Highland Park is a racer’s race. The spread-out course seems designed, not for spectators, but for the racers. The loudspeaker pretty much only reached the finish line area and nowhere else. These are not complaints. It was nice to just work in the pits, sit in the sun in between, and tend to the needs of our racers. I needed a low- key weekend. Because at this point, I have to admit I am weary. All the driving and packing and unpacking and trying to get work done in between grinds down the sparkle, so low-key was a respite. And another respite was that my order from The Feed arrived just before we left for Highland Park.
The Feed is a company that sells energy food for athletes. You go to their website, select what you want from a billion choices and then they box it up and send it to you. They are, hallelujah, a sponsor and so every month during the season everyone on the RS team gets a coupon.
I avoid wheat, so when I get my coupon, I activate the gluten-free filter on the website and go to town. Epic bars are my all-time favorite so far. For me it’s not about energy before the race, it’s about lunch. When I’m working in the pits, I often don’t have time to go find food, but with Epic bars, that’s not a problem. I pull one out of my back pocket (where I have tucked it for just such an occasion, and it also warms up nicely—oh don’t give me that look) and tear in. Epic bars are essentially pemmican—dried meat and nuts and berries—which may sound like Little House On The Prairie-subsistence-food-awful, but I’m here to tell you that pemmican is really good and I don’t feel a bit sorry for the early explorers anymore.
Having The Feed food makes things so much simpler on the road. So much so that when my first order (for September) was miscued and didn’t arrive until the middle of October, I felt very put out and had to remind myself that this is a gift and be grateful, you ninny. But that’s how much I depend on it.
Yes, week 6 is a grind, but with the right food and the right company (oh, and a little whiskey, thanks to the lovely foresight of Dan Chabanov) it ends up just fine.
‘Cross done right.
Richie and I live in the country. Not the suburban-we-have-a-big-yard-with-some-woods-behind country, but real country. Our town encompasses a little over 37 square miles, with a population of 780. Doing the math, that makes 21 people per square mile. By contrast Amherst, a nice medium-sized town, has 1400 people per square mile. All this is to say that we mostly have no idea what day it is or when there is a holiday or anything. We work for ourselves and at home. Calendars are not really part of our lives, except for ‘cross racing season and even then we just block out the days we’re gone and I use that info to set things up with my neighbors, who take care of the birds.
Charm City race is on Columbus Day weekend—a three-day holiday that completely eluded us. Until that is, we started driving. We figured, oh about seven hours of driving, and so we decided to start about 11:00 or so on Friday. (I can see you rolling your eyes…yes, I can.) We’re not prompt, so we actually left at about noon. Perfect timing, as we found out, to hit New York City right at 5:00. I was okay with the New York thing, thinking we were stupid to leave so late, but when the traffic snarl extended past New York and through New Jersey, pokey, pokey, pokey, it finally dawned on me that something else was going on—and that something was a holiday weekend. So, it took us eleven hours instead of the planned seven. And then we had to drive home on Sunday. (But that took only nine.)
Even with the god-awful drive, though, Charm City charmed me. Yes, it’s true the team did really well, and that helps with the bonhomie—BrittLee was on the podium both days and Dan and Sam either in the top ten or close. A racing team thrives on these kinds of results—it is like pouring oil on the machinery. But I saw something else happen, something important, that these excellent results were the place-markers of. I saw a determination in those kids that I’ve never seen before. I saw them grab confidence and never let it go. I saw them believe in what they were capable of—and act on that belief. It made my heart swell with pride.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with Joe Pugliese when he was at our house photographing Richie for Bicycling magazine this summer. Joe has photographed bazillions of famous and successful people, people like Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey, so during lunch I asked him if he noticed any particular quality these people had in common. He said, “confidence, they have a lot of confidence.” We went on to speculate whether they have confidence because they are successful or their confidence made them successful. Either way, we decided, the confidence was fundamental. And that’s what I saw happen this weekend: the kids seized confidence.
But the charm of Charm City was more than successful results. Charm City has a vibe—perhaps it’s the MAC series—that made it a real pleasure to attend. It lacked the feeling of hype, of frantic-pushy commercialism, of bigger, bigger, bigger, that I have felt at other races. In addition, the course was laid out so that we pit-people could see plenty of it, and let me just say that is a big perk when you spend most of your day in the pit. There were gobs of relaxed families and dogs (Buddy appreciated that) soaking up the perfect weather, and really good ethnic truck food. The little kids’ racecourse was set up in the infield, so it was easy to observe as I trudged to and fro from the pits. Watching tiny tots haul their bikes over the six-inch barrier, determined and inspired (and hilarious) makes you realize what these race days really should be, and are here—a celebration. And parking. Was not a problem. At all.
photo by Erik Annis
This weekend, the NBX Grand Prix of Cyclocross, is the last cyclocross race of the regular season for Richie and me.
The kids—that’s what I call them (probably not to their joy) have worked hard, achieving proud results. Dan C. got a UCI fifth place and was on the podium numerous times in local races. Dan T. has won himself many second places in hard-fought UCI races. He’s bummed that he hasn’t stood on the top podium this season (yet) but that’s only because he’s a competitor with a capital C. The rest of us are in awe. BrittLee has regularly finished in the top ten of her elite women’s races, often scrambling to best a place or two just before the end.
Richie and I like to put team memories and sponsor loyalty above race results, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want the kids to kick ass. I once read an interview with the founder of Bikram yoga (a controversial person to be sure, but I appreciated this sentiment) and he said that he loves watching the students push themselves beyond what they think they can do, because then he sees it—that moment when they fall in love with themselves.
A person should not try to take away someone’s right to fail, and when its converse, the right to succeed, is initiated, well…you suffer, your body wants to stop, your mind doesn’t let it, and at the end of the race, you have done better than you ever thought possible. How is it that I can be so strong, you ask yourself? How is it that I can suffer so much to achieve my goal? I must be wonderful.
And you are.