Monday, September 28, 2009

TD Bank Mayor's Cup - Boston, Mass September 26th, 2009

The City of Boston, with sponsorship from TD Bank and Boloco restaurants, put on the biggest bicycle race in Boston in over 20 years, maybe the biggest ever.  With $40,000 to be split evenly between the men's and women's Pro/Am fields, this one was sure to draw the best competitors from across the country and the region.  And being the last big race of the season, it was sure to be a fitting send off to the 2009 road racing season.

Race promotor Nicole Freedman, a former Olympian originally from Wellesley, Mass, is the "Bike Czarina" for the City of Boston.  It is her job to make Boston a more "bicyle friendly" place.  That's a tall order in a city of crowded narrow streets originally laid out 300 years ago by cows on their way to pasture.  But she has Mayor Menino's full support as he is a bicycle enthusiast himself, and the TD Bank Mayor's Cup is just one of many efforts she is heading up.  If being the Bike Czarina and race promoter wasn't enough, she also competed in the race against the best women racers in the country.  She might not be training like an Olympian these days with all the work she has to do, but she was strong enough to take second place the previous weekend in Portsmouth, NH.  It is difficult enough to prepare for a race when the race is the only thing on your mind, but to toe the line and go head to head with the country's best while dealing with all of the race-day headaches that come with promoting a race is an almost super human effort.  Still, Nicole held her own while the Colavita and Tibco professional teams set a blistering pace.

The weather was perfect and the venue couldn't be beat.  The 0.7 mile lap around City Hall Plaza saw lots of race fans and lots of curious pedestrians just trying to get from one historic site to the next.  Famed race announcer Dave Towle flew in from from Interbike in Vegas to be at the start/finish line which was at the top side of the plaza and I was honored to trade pulls on the mic with him until the racing started, at which time I went to the backside sprint line near the Union Oyster House to announce for the many spectators in that area.  The original plan had been for Dave and I to trade pulls all day long despite being a quarter mile apart, but the sound system wasn't set up ideally to do that so we ended up doing our own things during the races with me heading back up to the start/finish line to help with the call ups and other announcer duties when possible.  It's a good thing I brought my bike or I would have ended up jogging a couple of miles throughout the day and I don't like to run unless I have a bike on my shoulder.

It sure was fun to work with Dave Towle.  If you have never heard him work a race before, he's kind of like Richard Fries but much much louder.  He used to race, but I doubt he was much of a climber, the guy is built for basketball, not cycling.  Tim Johnson, pro road and cyclo cross star from Beverly, Mass, was present to cheer on his wife, Lynne Besette, and he also grabbed a mic to add some color commentary when he could fit in a word or two with Dave.

The racing?  You want to know what happened, in the race not just who did the announcing?  Well, for those of you with twisted priorities, it went pretty much like this:

Racing started with the 5 heats of 10 kids each sprinting about 150 yards from the last corner to the start/finish line.  The cute factor was through the roof until a slight mishap just after the start line caused some tears in the final heat.  Oh well, that's bike racing.  Everyone was fine and finished the race. 

The women took the line at 3:00 with a mix of national pros and the best of the locals.  Notably missing was Rebecca Wellons who had preregistered but must have made the decision to get an early start on defending her New England cyclo-cross series championship title instead of duking it out on the road with the professional teams.  But we did have a who's who of women's cycling present including Tina Pic and Rachel Heal, both riding in the the final races of their professional careers, both with the Colavita team.  Tina has been at it for about 20 years and has several hundred wins to her name.  But after Boston she plans to become a manager of the Colavita team, as does Rachel.  Also present was Brooke Miller (Tibco).  When Dave and I were postulating ove the mic how Tina's impending retirement might alter the outcome of the race, Brook was nearby and let us know that there would be no retirement gift for Tina today, Tina would have to fight for the win, just like always.

The after call ups, the women took the course for what was planned to be a 60 minute race.  They must have picked up the pace considerably after the officials calculated the number of laps to be completed because the race ended in about 50 minutes.  It is unlikely that anyone out there minded, especially the less experienced local racers who were hanging on while the pros set the pace at the front.  It was a less tactical affair than might have been expected  The professional teams set a quick pace and gobbled up the prime money but no breaks got away and the field stayed together.  Strong local riders like Anna McLoon and Danielle Ruane made their way toward the front on occasion.  With two laps to go, the Colavita women used their superior numbers (5 women in the race) to set the lead out train for Tina Pic to go out in style.  With half a lap to go, the train was down to just Tina and one teammate left in front of her.  At the speed they were going, no one was going to come around them, not even Brooke Miller.  Tina was delivered to the final sprintand pulled away in the finishing stretch where she won over Brooke by a couple of bike lengths to cap off her career.  Jennifer McCrae (Type 1) was third.  The prize list paid 20 deep so there was still plenty left for the locals in the 51 rider field.  The top local rider was Mary Zider (Specialized) in ninth place.

There was a very entertaining mascot race between the mens and womens events.  Wally the Green Monster, Pat Patriot, the Greenpeace Whale and others raced the same finishing stretch that the kids had raced earlier.  Although Wally was apparently the crowd favorite, the Greenpeace whale had the strongest legs (go figure?) and won despite having a considerable portion of his tale caught between the back wheel and frame of his bike.  That must have hurt worse than getting tangled in fishing gear.  U2 once said - " A women needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" (Yeah, I know a whale isn't a fish, but close enough for blogging). The photograph of Dave Towle interviewing the victorious whale is priceless, but not copywrited if anyone cares to use it (see below).

After the mascots finished warming down, it was time for the men's call ups.  It was a group with local flavor.  The three McCormack brothers who are originally from Plymouth, Mass, Jake Keough from Sandwich, Mass, Jon Bruno from Boston, Ted King from NH, Gavin Mannion from Dedham, Mass, and Dan Vallaincourt from Saco, Maine all drop their Rs when speaking.  The only guys from out of town that started on the front row were Kyle Wamsley and Bobby Lea.

When they took off, they immediately wound it up to over 30 mph average speed.  It didn't take more than 3 or 4 laps at that speed for the first casualties to start popping off the back.  Then the prime bell rang for the first of the $500 cash primes.  The field got strung out and the remaining racers from the 120 rider field became a single file train that took a long while to pass from engine to caboose.  Various small attacks went noodling off the front but nothing stuck for long during the first half of the race.  The first rider to stay out off the front for more than a lap was Jeff Buckles (Richmond Pro Cycling).  Hopefully he pocketed a couple of primes on the top side of the course but as I recall, he happened to time his solo break in between primes on the backside line. 

Buckles was re-absorved by the field but right around the halfway point Wamsley (Colavita), Ted King (Cervelo), Toby Marzot (Mountain Khakis), Sean Milne (Team Type 1), Clayton Barrows (CRCA), Bobby Lea (OUCH), and Jeff Buckles went off the front of the field one or two at a time, but quickly consolidated into a lead group of 7.  With all the firepower needed, and the help of teammates blocking in the field, the writing was on the wall and this move was meant to stick.  The Bikereg, Metlife, and Champion Systems teams tried to bring it back, as did Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies) but the well oiled machine stayed out of reach while the blockers in the field didn't allow too many riders to chase before throwing wrenches in the works.  With lap times around 1:30 or less, the break was averaging over 30 mph and maintaining a lead of about 15 seconds until the fire in the field finally fizzled.  They had brought the gap down to about 34 seconds, but it quickly grew again to 45 seconds (half a lap) with a bout 15 minutes left to race. 

It looked briefly like the break of seven could catch the back side of the field if it collectively wanted to.  Apparently not enough of the group of 7 wanted to see that happen, or it was just too late in the race, and the breakaway group maintained their place about a half lap ahead of the field for the remainder of the race.  Kyle Wamsley hit the last half lap as hard as he could and no one from the break stayed on his wheel. He ended up pulling away for the victory by a few bike lengths over Sean Milne and Clayton Barrows (CRCA).  They were followed in by Ted King, Toby Marzot who had the ride of his career so far, Jeff Buckles and Bobby Lea.

As it was getting dark at City Hall Plaza, the podium ceremonies for the women's and men's races were held and champagne was sprayed by all six podium finishers.  The Mayor himself handed out the Mayor's Cup trophies to the winners and the sponsors handed each winner an offical Hub on Wheels winners jersey.

TD Bank is signed on as the title sponsor for two more years and the race is the centerpeice of Nicoles efforts to to make Boston a better place to ride a bike so, it looks like we will all be back next year.  There is talk of the race becoming part of the National Racing Calendar (NRC) series which should bring even more of the best riders to Boston. 

Here are pictures from the event.  They are not quite Graham Watson or Chris Milliman quality, but Rose did a fine job in her second assignment as startfinishbikenews race photog.

The women's call up.

The first few laps

The women's field

Lynne Besette at the front

Wally the Green Monster

Dave Towle interviews the Greenpeace Whale

Men's call up

The Women's field

Yeah, they were going that fast!

Kyle Wamsley pauses for refreshment, but not for long

Wamsley recieves the winner's jersey

Mayor Menino and Tina Pic

Tim Johnson, me (with a face made for radio), Dave Towle, and Brooke Miller

After the race there was a concert on the plaza by the Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra and I got to do the on-stage introduction for them.  I am not usually a big fan of classic rock (Queen, Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac), but these guys were incredible.  I am a fan of the Who, and they do them better than the Who did, really.   They take the hardest songs of the era and sing/play them perfectly.  The more dramatic, the better for this group.  Queen was a perfect fit and they played several of their songs, but sadly not the bicycle song (it would have been appropriate).  Too bad I had already put the camera away, the 16 of them are very photogenic.  See them if you can.

Monday, September 7, 2009

We Are Motorhead and We Play Rock and Roll

Are you looking to increase your core strength for cross season but tired of the same old workout? A couple of months ago, solobreak ( posted a link to Jospe ( ) and his core strength training routine. It seems to involve lying down with a big rubber ball and a lot of clenching. I have been planing on starting this routine for a couple of months now but haven't been able to make myself get going with it yet.

But, now I've got a better workout and it's guaranteed to keep you from getting lapped by your cross nemeses this season: Go see Motorhead and stand within about 50 feet of the stage. Last night at the House of Blues in Boston I began my new core strength training program and it was incredible. It's the best all over body workout you can get if you survive it. From the time Lemmy Kilmister says "We are Motorhead and we play Rock and Roll" until the house lights come on, you'll be getting pushed and bumped around in a sea of humanity in black t-shirts while your upper body, including those all important core muscles, gets the workout of its life.

Motorhead was one of my favorite bands in my college days. Loud and fast, Motorhead was punk enough for me and metal enough for my metal-head friends so it was one of few places we found common musical ground. And, as a bonus, it scared away most people we didn't like. The faint of heart usually turn tail and run when Motorhead is played at adequate volume. If you aren't familiar with Motorhead, dial up "The Ace of Spades" on itunes and you will see what I mean. 21 years later, I still had never seen them live until last night. It was absolutely the best rock and roll show I've seen in years.

From the core strength training point of view, what you need to do is:
  • Get a ticket for admission on the floor for a Motorhead show and get within 50 feet of the stage.

  • When Lemmy hits the stage, core strength training class begins and doesn't let up for about 2 hours (unless you need to get out of the scrum for a beer).

  • Keep your arms up and your eyes open.

  • Don't stand with your feet shoulder width apart like most exercises, you need to be ready to push back and you can't do that with your feet parallel. You need to be "en guarde" with one foot forward

  • Use your stomach muscles and uppper body to push anyone who bounces into you. Start every push with your stomach muscles and give it everything you have.

  • After warming up for a song or two, take a few laps threw the pit of despair to add an aerobic workout. Keep your head up. Bounce off anyone who gets in your way.

  • Pick up anyone who falls down to strengthen your lower back muscles (and because it keeps people from being trampled).
Next August I think I will spend the month following Motorhead around whatever country they are in so that by cross season my stomach and back muscles will be in top shape. By cross season I should have abbs of steal and eardrums of mashed potatoes. But if Lemmy can do it constantly at 63 years of age, I can do it for a month. And remember, as always, that which does not kill you makes you stronger (how old was Neitche when he died?).