Pictures of camping and stuff

The last two weeks have been great. After North Star I got sick, took a week of rest, then went to Steamboat to camp, hike, and ride with Adelaide. My brother Galen and his girlfriend Joslynn moved to Boulder that weekend as well, and we’ll be moving into a new apartment with them in mid July. Meanwhile, they’re sleeping in the living room. I did a bunch of great training last week then we all went up to the Estes Park area for climbing, hiking, and more camping.


Adelaide and I before a hike in Steamboat.


Strawberry hot springs.


Bike to work day spoils.


Galen cooking dinner up in Highway 7 near Estes Park.


Adelaide and I getting to camp after riding up from Boulder, eager for that dinner.


Galen warming up on the first boulder the next day.


Jos climbing. Galen spotting.


Galen resting while attempting a V9.




Adelaide and I did an even longer hike than the previous week. I got tired and grumpy after twisting my ankle and had to be fed apples and nuts like a 5-year-old.


Dinner that night was the best in a long time. Beans, rice, avocado, lettuce, salsa, peppers, mango, cilantro, and chips.


Jos making easy work of a 5.10.


Adelaide being proud.


Adelaide belaying with Joslynn shouting directions to me (climbing).



Last but not least, I just got a job at Amante!


I used to wonder why so many guys would quit the sport after a season of making it onto a pro team. This would inevitably happen after getting booted from that team back to the amateur ranks. I would think, “Why give it all up? You’ve obviously got what it takes to reach that level so why not continue and get back there? You’re throwing it all away!” I thought it was a shame when my friends would drop out of the sport like this.

But now I understand why. Year after year we have this goal in our mind: to be a professional and get paid to ride our bikes. And when that goal is attained, if you’re lucky, talented, hard working, and smart enough to get there, you feel like you’ve finally made it. Your life mission has been accomplished and all your struggles were suddenly made worthwhile. Of course this isn’t true at all. The sport (and life in general) is only worthwhile if you’re enjoying the moment, not some pie in the sky end goal. And I knew that, but still the deep down thing I wanted and thought I needed was to earn a pro contract in order to validate all the years and miles.

When I signed with Firefighters Upsala CK after 8 years of dreaming about this single goal, I felt like my cycling career had been a success. Now I could focus on the next goal, which was…well I guess still really the same: train hard and try to win races. But at least I had accomplished part of my dream. It was a milestone, something concrete I could look at and say, “I accomplished this. And damn does it feel good!”

That feeling of elation and satisfaction that I had last November quickly began to crumble as the fall suddenly slammed into the back of winter. This team, with the supposed multi-million dollar budget, didn’t quite have everything in line like they said it did. In fact, as the racing season approached and bikes went undelivered, salaries went unpaid, and team training camps were cancelled without the slightest bit of communication from the management, a doubt grew within me and I took my first unveiled glance up at the impending shit storm. As I stared up into the sky wondering what was raining down upon me, I was still so much in awe of being on a “pro” team that my gaping mouth quickly filled with excrement without me even realizing it.

After swallowing more than my fair share of said bullshit by mid April, Adelaide bailed me out of the hole I was living in, which was possibly the only disheveled place in all of Sweden. She bought me a ticket home in an attempt to save my mental and physical health and salvage the rest of my season. Luckily Team Horizon Organic/Einstein Bagels stepped in and offered me a spot to guest ride at some later season races in order to fill in for a couple of their injured riders. If it weren’t for those two things happening—Adelaide getting me home and Horizon giving me a chance to race—I would have quit the sport.

I was on the edge. I was so depressed, crushed, and let down from being ignored and lied to over and over again that I didn’t feel like continuing. Everyone has moments like these, though for me they’re never that serious. It was the first real time I’ve contemplated moving on and never looking back. To give up a dream I’ve had for almost a third of my life would have been devastating. Cycling was almost ruined for me, my way of life almost snubbed out. There are others on the team who will almost certainly quit at the end of the year.

I’ll have to give up bike racing someday, or at least be less downsize the amount of time and energy I invest in it, but I want that day to come on my own terms. I want to say when to stop. I hope that all future team owners, managers, sponsors, and anyone up at the top realizes that this is not just a hobby or a game to play for their temporary entertainment. This is our livelihood. More than that, it’s what we wake up for in the morning and what we dream about as we go to sleep at night. I’m all for someone having big ambitions. We need them in the sport because they’re just like us riders: full of self-confidence and certainly a bit delusional, otherwise they’d never take the chance. But please, be honest about it during the process. Truthful communication, and a lot of it, will go farther than the biggest team budget or best equipment sponsor.

I decided to leave the team last week.


And now it’s back to square one.

(Not really)

North Star Grand Prix Stages 4-6

As social animals, we’re hard-wired to take pride in group efforts. While personal results are what many of us strive for in cycling and life in general, it’s always heart warming to be part of a team effort, especially when it ends in a huge success.

Stage 4 Friday:

The Uptown Minneapolis crit was packed with spectators. It’s usually the rowdiest event I compete in and this year was no different, with somewhere between 30,000 and 300,000,000 people in attendance. A bad crash in the women’s race delayed our start to 8:20 PM and also shortened the race from 40 to 35 laps. I expected a dark finish.

I got off to a perfect start with a line up at the very back, which meant I had no chance of getting in the early breakaway that won. Wait. That’s the exact opposite of a perfect start. Man I’m so dumb sometimes!

The rest of my race unfolded as follows:

1) I slowly made my way to like 60th wheel 20 minutes in.

2) Got stuck behind a large crash and went to the pit.

3) Did four or five more laps before I jammed my brakes on again in corner three to avoid another pile up. Went to the pit and in the process jumped ahead 20 spots from where I’d been before the crash. I hate it when people do this when those people aren’t myself.

4) Karma came back to get me a couple laps later. I managed to keep upright again through the second to last corner when the guy in front of me rolled his tubular. I thought the danger was over as I clipped back in and slowly started rolling forward, but someone came from behind and crashed into me, bending my derailleur hanger. I went to the pit for the third time that night.

5) I finished 8 or 9 laps later in 38th place with the same time as the main group. Got to bed well after midnight once Nick, our host Chad, and I were done doing bike repairs. Faith made sure we had plenty of burritos for the van ride home.

Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant) won.

Stage 5 Saturday:

As the second and last road stage, I intended on making my mark on the race today whether it liked it or not. Of course I failed and was pretty much just pack foder. The course was 100 miles with some steep but short climbs. I had good intel that the break would go away early (as did everyone else), so I made sure to attack early and often in the opening miles (as did everyone else). The goal the team had set out for ourselves was to get in the move and scoop up the KOM points, since there were 30 on offer today and whoever won the majority of them today would likely win the overall by the end of the week.

I followed the first move that went. I don’t remember how many I went with afterwards, but my normalized power for the first 40 minutes of the race was 370 and the max was 1,568, which is a lot for me since I’m a pretty lousy sprinter. The entire team covered move after move and attacked non stop. We had a guy in every attempt for the first 30K until Fabio ended up finding the successful one. He would go on to take all the remaining KOM points, the KOM jersey, and second place on the stage behind Tom Devriendt (3M) since the breakaway held off the field by a half minute.

The rest of us back in the peloton helped each other stay close to the front and Mac grabbed plenty of bottles from the car to disperse among us. After that first hour of attacks, the middle two-thirds of the race were tame and boring, though I was definitely feeling it in my legs. I thought I came here in good shape, but I was currently learning the hard way that by June, there’s no substitute for race days, of which I’ve had few this year.

As we entered the final hour and a half of racing, the clouds opened up. The rain was heavy and cold and I immediately began shivering. Everyone’s moral took a turn for the worse and we talked about how they might (hopefully) cancel the finishing circuits. I knew they wouldn’t. We all did.

I quickly ate the rest of my food to help stave off the cold, but within 20 minutes I was shivering uncontrollably. The rolling hills approaching the finishing circuits shed more riders and finally a couple guys crashed at the bottom of a hill. It was incredibly hard to see with the dark skies and thick wheel spray, but I kept my sunglasses on since it was impossible to see anything without them. There were still 20 miles left to race.

I was way too far back by the time we entered the technical finishing circuits, and was on the verge of giving up and letting the gaps go unclosed once I’d completed the first of four, 2-mile laps.

Each lap had 19 corners, I could hardly see from all the wheel spray, my brakes were barely functional, my legs completely and utterly zapped of strength, and my motivation for a stage placing was gone since the breakaway was going to stick. But everyone was in the same shitty situation as I. We were all cold and tired and didn’t want to crash on the slick pavement as the rain continued pissing down. I decided to harden up a bit on lap two and did everything in my power to stay in contact, including some risky chops that I later realized weren’t worth taking.


Wet corners and chilled bones. Photo: Velonews

Sprinting out of those corners the final two laps and closing down gaps to finish 55th was, at the very least, character building. I was the last rider to come across the line with the same time as the main group. Looking at my power back home after the race showed that I am indeed not as strong as I thought, and the last 30 minutes of racing weren’t even that hard. Hard being a completely subjective term.

We were all ecstatic to hear that Fabio was in the KOM jersey and took 2nd on the stage. Faith and Nick rewarded us with a round of hot chocolates before the long drive home.



Photos: Velonews

Sunday Stage 6:

At 26th on GC and not currently enjoying great form for such a demanding crit, I knew my personal race was going to take a backseat to Fabio’s and Chris’. Stillwater is 23 laps (which is also roughly the average gradient of the first part of the climb) and 70 minutes of pure anaerobic blood lust. If you want to see pain, there are few places better than standing near the top of Chilkooht hill. The crowd was big, loud, ambitiously drunk, and ready to see some grown men crack! (Not to be confused with grown mens’ cracks).

Our primary goal was to keep Fabio’s KOM jersey. All that we needed to do was make sure neither the 2nd nor 3rd placed KOM guy won all the sprints. Also, if Fabio scored just four points, he would seal it up. The easiest and quickest way to get the jersey was to have a break up the road early on that soaked up the first KOM sprint points.

Our secondary goal was to position Chris for the final lap so that he could take a shot at the win the last time up the climb. He’s been top 10 and top 5 there for five or six years now, so we knew the finish was good for him. Normally this sort of finish and race would be great for me as well, but I knew that I was lacking the form needed for this sort of effort, and even lasting to the finish with the lead group of 20 guys would be a tall task for me.

The race started with a searing effort from the base of the climb. Like all the other crits, I was near the back for the start but today wasted little time moving up into position. By the third lap I was where I needed to be, and attacked near the top of the climb. I made contact with the lone leader (Team 3M) a lap later at the base of the climb and we powered up it under a thunder of cheers and screams. At the top of the course we were bridged to by Ben Jaques-Maynes (Jamis) and one other guy. The 3M guy let a gap open to them a minute afterwards on the descent and I didn’t have the legs to close it. I cursed at him, we sat up, and the pack consumed us shortly afterwards. I was completely gassed by the effort and got shelled two laps later. I pulled out of the race after coasting for a lap and spent the rest of the hour in the parking lot sitting in a chair by myself, incredibly depressed but somewhat content to have done something of at least a little value for the team to help retain the KOM jersey.


Travis McCabe (Smart Stop) won the stage and Ryan Anderson (Optum) took the overall. Photo: Velonews.

Fabio kept the jersey and ended up 12th on GC, Chris was 5th on the stage, Mac had a great ride for 31st, surprising himself but not the rest of us, and Emerson stuck in to the bitter end. Kit, who’s eye had swelled shut the previous night from either a scratch or bacterial infection, held in as long as he could and made sure to squirt eye juice at anyone who got in his way. We also finished 4th out of 24 squads in the team classification, which doesn’t earn money or bragging rights per-say, but shows depth. This week was a huge success for the team and I’m looking forward to the next race I get to do with them.


Fabio in the Sports Beans King of the Hills Jersey on the final podium with the rest of the jersey winners.

As for my own North Star GP, I was pretty let down. Last year I was one of the strongest in the race (until I got sick and DNFed, LOL!). This year I was only “okay.” It might take me the rest of the season to get back to where I was in 2013, or I might not get back there until next year. Who knows. The stress of being a part of the fiasco that is Firefighters “pro” Cycling, the lack of racing, the lack of knowing my future, and just the constant let down and battle with the management has destroyed my legs and my season to date. There will be more news about this in the next few days.

To end things on a high note, I’m back in Boulder, it’s sunny and warm out, I’m eager to go train, and I’m sick! Oh wait, that’s not a high note! Silly Kennett!

North Star Grand Prix Stages 1-3

I’m racing with Horizon Organic/Einstein Bagels here at the North Star Grand Prix, formerly known as that race where you can make off with 1 billion Nature Valley bars. I forget what the name used to be.

Racing this weekend:
Fabio Calabria
Chris Winn
Kit Recca
Mac Cassin
Emerson Oronte

Nick Traggis
Faith Clauson

Wednesday: Stages 1 and 2. It all has to start with a damn time trial for some reason. Why? WHY??? For the love of humanity why does it always start with a time trial?!?! At least it was short and we were on road bikes. I was 42nd, which was two places worse than last year and like 32 places worse than I’d hoped for. I chalk that up to me not being fast enough. Mac had the best result for the team with 15th, and just four seconds shy of the best amateur jersey. So close yet…so close.

Tom Zirbel (Optum) won (by a lot). And no one was surprised.

The second stage of the day is the dreaded downtown St. Paul crit. It’s dreaded because there are generally quite a few crashes and it’s lined with Rastafarian spectators (get it?). Personally I didn’t have any close calls, mainly cause I rode like a wimp, took the corners like a bulldozer (wide and slow) and never factored into the race. I did a terrific job chopping 300 cars on the highway during the drive to the race when I snuck up the exit lane and cut back into the long line of stopped cars to the left (that was an accident by the way). But that was the extent of my nastiness for the evening. And crits are all about being nasty and chopping the shit out of your close friends competition.

I got a solid warm up on the trainer while watching the women’s field crash, I mean race, through corner Two. Every other lap had a pile up. It was great for my nerves.



Photo: Velonews

It took me half an hour to move up from near the back where I’d lined up and into 30th position with Chris and Fabio. I lasted there until seven or eight laps to go and drifted backwards again to finish 48th, thankfully without a time gap. None of us crashed but Kit did flat with two to go and was docked some serious time. My crit skills are lacking from lack of crit racing, and my top end is still lagging quite a bit. I’m happy with how my form has come along since coming home but I’m continuing to see that I still have a ways to go, which is frustrating. Usually I’m at my peak this time of year.

Ian Crane (Jamis) won! He’s on fire this year.


Photo: Velonews

Faith brought us Chipotle afterwards and we sat in the dark parking lot and argued about who’s burrito was who’s. I quickly ate mine and hoped that someone might not want theirs and give it to me. I was not in luck.

Thursday: Stage 3. The Cannon Falls road race goes one of two ways: it’s cancelled because of T-storms or tornadoes, or it’s not cancelled and is one of the best races of the year. This year was the latter. It was “off of the hook,” as the kids say. While a flatter rolling course doesn’t typically cause much drama, last year’s race, as well as this year’s, had some major action right from the start.

With a complete course change from last year, the dirt section began at mile 4. It was false flat downhill and thankfully there was a freshly laid, thick and loose layer of gravel. Eric Marcotte of SmartStop drilled it at the front, which caused mayhem behind. I was close enough to the front to avoid the crashes, but behind guys were dropping like it’s hot. Thick dust made it hard to see and huge chunks of gravel barraged bikes, shins, and faces. I got all drifty numerous times but kept upright just fine and dandy. I countered an attack by Emerson once we got onto the pavement and right then the officials neutralized the race, which pissed off all of us in the front and caused joyous celebration for those behind.

North Star Grand Prix Stage 3

Marcotte in the gravel. Photo: Velonews

Crashes and flats had caused a large split in the field, with only 50-60 making it through unscathed. After 10 minutes of being stopped in the middle of the road, we began again.

Steve Fisher (Jelly Belly) smartly slipped off the front a mile from the first KOM and got full points. I had my eye on the jersey so I was kicking myself for not attempting the same maneuver. I jumped across to an attack at the top and rotated through a few times before we were caught. That was the first taste of the cross winds for the day and it was obvious that the race was going to be heavily influenced by wind. I attacked again a short while later when things calmed down but I went nowhere. I followed another four or five moves in the course of the next several miles, hoping and praying to get away without too much effort. It was not to be, so I decided to wait until the next KOM to make another attempt. I didn’t have to wait long, as it was coming up in just two short miles.

My positioning going into the ‘climb’ wasn’t great and I had to come from way back out in the wind to latch onto the move as five guys attacked part way up the climb. Steve was there again and I realized I wasn’t going to be able to sprint for any points with 250 meters to go. I’d used up too much to just be there and was quickly dying. Three of the guys vied for the points while me and another guy got dropped, though we powered along and made contact a few hundred meters later.

The wind at the top was strong and blowing fiercely from the right. We worked together and our group turned into an echelon as guys behind began bridging up. Within a few minutes it swelled to 15 riders. Things behind were chaotic as the field blew up in the wind.

I fell out of the rotation and was guttered for a few minutes, wishing I’d stayed up front and somewhat protected from the wind. I decided to move up and came around Marcotte just as he crashed hard in front of me. If I’d stayed on his wheel for a quarter second longer there’s no way I wouldn’t have gone down. I got back into the rotation.

By now I’d been in and out of the red for quite some time, and the front group of 40 was getting too big to find shelter from the crosswinds unless you were up front, which I no longer was. I’d been guttered off and on and had to close gaps, so my legs were building with more and more acid. I was on my limit and all it took was a few more sprints in the gutter to dislodge me from the front. By then the group was blowing up everywhere. 20 or so guys formed the front echelon, while a few smaller groups chased. Myself, Luis Lemus (Jelly Belly) and Benny Swedberg (Cal Giant) rotated for a few minutes and were soon reinforced.

With a large number of riders coming up from behind, we eventually caught the leaders 15 minutes later. I wasted no time, taking advantage of the momentary lull, and attacked with three others, once again including Steve. It only lasted for a mile or so and I wasn’t a huge help since my legs were already trashed from chasing and my pulls were weak.

The group was back up to 70 or more riders at this point and I continued following moves off the front until the first feed zone at mile 39 ( yes all this took place in the first 39 miles). I noticed the wind was strong from the left as we went up the short but exposed climb and I had a hunch that whoever was at the front might be dickish enough to attack in the feed zone. I started to move up as we climbed and decided I didn’t need water after all, but it wasn’t in time. Sure enough, Optum attacked and the race blew apart once again with Jamis’ help (I would have done the same had I been up there I guess). The race situation was now 14 off the front including many of the GC contenders and the strongest guys, a group of 8 chasing, my group of 30, and 90 guys behind in various groups. We caught the group of 8 and continued drilling it for miles afterwards, keeping the gap to the leaders at one minute for well over an hour but never getting closer than 55 seconds.


Race blowing up in the wind. Photo: Velonews.

Fabio and Emerson were with me in that large chase group and Emerson did way more than his fair share of work. The Belgian 3M squad kept the momentum high with five of their guys all angrily pulling, as well as guttering at times. I pulled off and on, doing more work than I needed to but less than Emerson. I was on the verge of telling him to ease up and save himself but decided to keep my mouth shut since it was actually safer to be near the front and in the rotation since even our chase group would attack itself when the wind really picked up. When the gap went up to 1:35 I stopped pulling altogether, figuring that guys would begin attacking out of frustration and split the group.

It didn’t take long. I made it over the roller that spurred that attack and I went cross eyed, suffering in the gutter for the millionth time that day before a series of corners lead us to the first head wind of the stage. Everything else had been cross wind or cross tail. Peace at last! Our group was down to 25 by then and  I just sat on for the most part. The gap was over 2 minutes now and the chance of catching the leaders in the final 20 miles was slim. I’d done enough work and attacking anyways.

Fabio was my last teammate in the group and he took 3rd in our group’s sad sprint, which was for 16th place. I came in 22nd after 97 miles of balls to the wall racing. No one from our team crashed and everyone made the time cut. It was a very hard day. That’s all I have to say about that.

Ryan Anderson won and took the leader’s jersey. He was my pre-race pick for the overall so I’m feeling pretty smart about that prediction.

We ate burritos during the car ride home. I have to say that Faith’s cooking and Nick’s and our team’s general stage race preparedness is pretty fantastic. Tonight we have another crit. Tomorrow a road race. And Sunday a circuit race.