Hi, I’m Joe V. The V is for Vadeboncoeur, but no one ever really calls me that (except my business card). That card also calls me the Global Director of Product Development, Marketing and Creative Design for Trek Bicycle. Yep, I am sometimes not really sure what all that means either. I do know that I dig bikes, oatmeal, motorcycles, burritos, the weird things I see along the way, my family and my job. I get to travel the world helping make great bikes, so it’s a pretty great gig.
There is a funny thing about physics. Round things spin. You can make other things spin, but round things spin best. It is because they are round. You know, no corners. corners are dangerous, but they are fun. Spinning things to not have corners, but they can go around corners. That is how you combine fun things with spinning things. The combining of those 2 things is what amplifies the fun quotient of corners. Basically the formula goes like this:
Spinning wheels + Corners = Fun X 4.673
That is why science is so great, because you can prove things with math. That all may be way beyond the comprehension of the thinking members of the audience, but to those of us that love anything with 2 wheels, we are all just nodding our heads yes. (Admit it, you totally get what I am saying.)
Even my dog Marti agrees, of course he will agree with anything as long as you are taking him for a ride or throwing a ball for him. Seriously, you think I have a one track mind...
Seriously. You want to talk about a one track mind.
Somewhere along the way, I figured out that the thing that I really love to do is be on a 2 wheeler. I know that surprises you, but I basically go through life figuring out how I can go from one 2 wheeled adventure to the next. I spend my free time researching the next great 2 wheeled opportunity. Of course, I have to fill my time in between summers with some winter sliding type activities, and you need a vehicle to transport the 2wheelers somewhere to ride (I am spending an inordinate amount of time these days researching how I can build a cool adventure vehicle for more elaborate transporting of 2wheelers to exotic destinations to ride them...), but really it all boils down to when I can next ride a 2wheeler - and beer.
I have been remiss of late and not taunted you all with some sort of exotic escapades of 2wheeling. Trust me, it just means that I have been really busy with planning and building and basically thinking about riding something. So, here goes.
That is me racing a local harescrambles early in the season. I like anything with 2 wheels, so I do not stop at just bicycles. I have not raced a ton this year, but every time I do I really dig it. Balance, turn, jump, tree, ditch, trail, crash, go etc... It is all the same and equals fun on 2 wheels.
I took a group of people to ride Strada Bianchi this year. Wow. Tough and amazing all at once.
This is how a lot of the roads are along the route for Strada Bianchi. Exposed, crazy steep, super windy...hard.
Early season gravel road ride = tough. Soft ground, muddy, sloppy, slow.
Come on, play with me. But, I am absolutely shlagged after a 50 mile gravel ride in early season.
The day before Flanders, I went of my own ride from Odenaarde. Out in the Candyland that is the Belgian roads that the area holds. If you have not ridden the roads of Flanders, then you really need to.
I am fortunate to live in one of the places in the world that we actually have lots of off road riding, and it keeps getting better. It is all XC riding, but still crazy fun. Sometimes, those of us with our bars a bit wide are not really who the trails are designed for.
But Wisconsin is not all flat. there are some amazing vistas. This is a trail system call Levis Mounds. Great steep technical trails.
There are some great places to ride in Wisconsin. This is another shot from Levis Mounds. Lots of vertical, with some technical and even some exposure that makes you think twice at times. There is an IMBA epic route there that is really long. I have not done the entire loop, but plan to get back to try it.
I work for a great company. At a global senior managers meeting this spring, we start our day every day with a group ride. That is me and the global marketing manager Dean Gore going out early in the cold. Dean is an ex national champion crib rider, and still cannot ride on the small ring - ouch. Kohler, Wi. Great roads with a bunch of different route opportunities. We usually consider it a success if we can get lost and struggle to get back in time for the start of the meeting.
I have been riding a bunch up in northern Wisconsin near Cable. We have a place up there in the Chequamegan National forest. There is over 100 miles of singletrack accessible there. This is a picture from a great spring ride of about 30 miles all singletrack, Me, Matt Pickersgill, my daughter Hanna and Liz.
The trails near the cabin in Cable are crazy fun. Lots of sections like this.
Typical post ride POV for us. Pizza at Rivers, beer, hoping for sun and warm, puckered.
One of the things that always gets me, and catches me out, is that I forget to bring the proper stuff with me. I own a cool tailgait cover, but of course it was at home on this trip. Towels will suffice though. Yes, we killed Hanna.
Throwing in the random "Jens came to Ali and Thomas's wedding" picture. (Yes, he and I destroyed every one at bag toss. We are definitely the champions at that.)
I often times get to go to some part of the Tour de France. This year was another start outside of France. I was at the first stages in Holland. That is always exciting, and as I always say - every cycling fan should do that at least once. It is a great experience as you cannot imagine the crowds and the excitement.
This year is extremely exciting for us, as we have one of the big Dutch stars on the team - Bauke Mollema. Starting the tour in Holland, with Bauke on the team was pretty exciting. The Dutch love the tour, and they love Bauke. We love Bauke.
What was really cool for Liz and I, was that we got to learn about riding in Holland. There are amazing roads, and amazing bike trails. EVERYWHERE! Truly, it is amazing. I just cannot believe how you are able to get around by bicycle there. Every cyclist, whether you are a road or mountain or urban rider, you should go and experience riding in Holland.
Apparently that is the only windmill in Holland with a road going through it. We rode through it.
A view behind me of the miles and miles of paths that are created for cycling in Holland. It truly is amazing.
Year after year, my absolute favorite days of riding each year, are my days of riding with my friends Lloyd and Ben Grace in Chatel France. We do some big mountain Enduro type riding, sometimes at bike parks, sometimes with hours and hours of hiking with our bikes on our backs. But, damn is it amazing and fun.
This year we were slowed up (a total of about 3%) because of Lloyds broken hand. He was bothered by it, which I fear made it not as much fun for him, but it slowed him enough that I could sort of keep up with him (good for me). I only had time for 2.5 days with them this year, and Ben could only make it for 1. But, OMG was it fun. A short town loop the day I arrived (wish I had that for my town loop), an all day adventure in the Chatel/La Chapelle valley area (which we do not normally do, but should do more), followed by an all day adventure over to Avoriaz and Morzine - WOW! I am already jealous and already missing the guys and Louise and the riding...
Probably the most picturesque coffee spot you could ever have. This is up above Chatel, after about 2 hours of amazing riding to get there. (I cannot tell you why there is an amazing coffee place up in the mountains like that - but I am not questioning it.) That is Chatel down in the valley, and we need to go all the way around to the other side yet.
That is me leading Loic (chef from my favorite restaurant in the whole world - La Fiacre in Chatel) and Ben Grace up a little climb way up high in the mountains above the goat village.
More view of what the trails are like in the Chatel area. Natural and scenic. Sometimes amazingly steep, other times not so bad. Always exciting. Always, bring a bigger bike than you think you will need. You will need it. (only 350ish days until I can be there again...)
More of the same. Wow.
Lloyd and I way above Chatel. Sometimes you get there via chairlift, other times you pay for your gravity. In the end, it doesn't really matter. But, lifts sure allow you to cover a lot more ground on the day.
Yes, this is how you feel when the whole schemer is all said and done. I just cannot wait to get back. I have been saying now, that if I could live where I could do this all the time, I wouldn't really need to be racing motorcycles or doing just about anything else.
That is a smattering of the 2 wheeled stuff that I have done this year. So, I guess it has not been all that bad. I haven't raced my motorcycle as much, but as you can see there is normally a 2wheeled adventure happening somewhere.
If you remember, I had a set of goals for the year. Some work related, some personal. Some achievable, some just sort of there. Thought that we should take a look at how I am doing against them. If you are interested in taking a look back at the original post - it is here.
So, here we go.
1. Take Liz on a non-cycling vacation. I tend to be one track minded - 2 wheelers. She has tolerated that for a long time.
- I haven't really succeeded on this. We have been pretty focused on the new place up in the woods, and as a result riding our MTB.
2. See Pearl Jam. Rumors of a 25th anniversary concert.
- There are opportunities for this, but I still have not pulled the trigger. November in South America. Maybe, I could even combine this with number 1 and get all that done together?
Got One! This is our group after Strada Bianchi in the center of Siena!
4. Make a decision on our house. Keep it or sell it. - Done, keep it.
5. Ride Moab or Whistler or Fruita or something iconic - Not yet, time to get planning.
6. Do a MTB trip with Lloyd. - planned in July.
7. Learn to take tight switchback turns on my Slash. This was on my goals last year, and I failed. So...it remains. - Still failing.
8. Wave at all cyclists that I see. - I am doing pretty well at this one.
9. Drink more water. I should be drinking 116oz per day. - Check, I definitely need a bathroom a lot these days.
10. Get rid of all the junk in our basement. - Fail.
11. Do a road bike trip. I do like riding my road bike, and more importantly it is what Liz really really likes. - Fail. Year is not over, but nothing planned, so not looking good.
12. Master small and medium double jumps on my mountain bike. - I wish I had not put the word "master" in there. I am passable at best.
13. Learn to wheelie on both my favorite mountain bikes and my motorcycle. I have said before that this is a genetic skill. I am going to take the year and learn to wheelie, or at least just about kill myself trying. By the end of the year, I will either wheelie or it will be a lost cause. - feeling like a lost cause.
14. Take Liz and the girls to New York City. Liz has been all over the world, but not to NYC. - It is on my mind for the fall, but I have not been able to get it organized.
15. Change all my mountain bikes to 1X drive systems. Time to move into 2012. - check. Got this one done. I have owned my last front shifting mechanism for a MTB.
16. Ride Copper Harbor. - This is coming in August.
17. Ride at least 3 MTB Enduro races. - 3 on the calendar, so with any luck.
18. Ride a race with Noah.- I do not think this will happen, as he is not riding much.
19. Ride a race with Russel. - This should happen at the end of July.
20. Drink only great beer. - check.
That is a 51k IPA in a Pope wannabe glass. Think about that for a minute.
21. Ride the State Championship CX race in Wisconsin. - Something always seems to come up. But, I am going to try.
22. Read 5 personal books. - Already past this one, so no worries.
23. Read 3 professional books. - should make this as well. I am 2 in, so only need another.
24. Get more involved with my community. Give time, get involved with a local cause directly. Find a good charity that we can align with. - I haven't really succeeded here. I am involved with a couple of things, but none are the thing I am looking for.
25. Preseason off-road training camp in late March before South Carolina GNCC . - failed.
26. Ride the Loose Moose Enduro. - Got this one in. I was a complete tourist, but I did it.
27. Finish on the podium at Ironman GNCC in my class. In 2011, I was 4th at Ironman GNCC, then 5th at the first Loretta’s and won the 2nd Loretta’s race. In 2012 I notched a 6th at Ironman and then 5th at Loretta’s. In 2013 I came 5th at Ironman. In 2014 I was again 4th at Ironman. Close, but not quite there.
28. Learn to use the rear brake while using the throttle on my 250F. I am still struggling with this skill. I think it is imperative for me to get this skill if I have any hope of winning a GNCC race. - I am doing much better.
29. Master flat corners on my 250F. - I am doing much better.
30. Get one of those really cool Bluetooth phone devices that allow you to walk along in the airport talking to yourself out loud. You look so cool while doing that. - fail on purpose.
32. Get a Babelfish installed. This whole multiple language thing has me baffled. - haha.
Having a really hard time finding one at a reasonable price.
33. Put together the plan to climb Kilimanjaro with Liz. - Lots of Liz vacation type things in here, but this one is the biggie.
34. Help Ali and Thomas build a garage. - They are doing it, I just need to find a Saturday or 2 that I can help.
35. Finish my first Birkebeiner ski race in 10 years. - Got this one done.
Kinda barely standing, but I did it.
36. Make 3 dance videos while traveling. - Not doing well with this one.
37. Make my bed every day. - I would say that I am over 50%, but everyday is tough.
38. Cut as much sugar out of my diet as I can. Sugar is the new boogieman. - trying, but Sugar is really good.
39. Build a little 2-stroke for tight woods races. - Did this, it was not my style of riding, so I sold it.
40. Go to a World Cup DH race. 41. Go to a World Cup XC race. 42. Go to a WEC MTB Enduro. 43. Go to Flanders and Roubaix pro races. - got 50% of this in.
It is Belgium. You gotta eat frites.
There were a bunch of work goals as well. I am proud to say that I am doing much better there. But, these personal goals are tough. They are almost all things that take all year to get done. If I had to guess, I would say that I am going to get about 50%. That is not so great, so I better get going.
Those are all things that I could have done this weekend. In fact, I was signed up for the Limestone GNCC, but because it is raining like crazy down there I did not want to shrag my motorcycle before the season really starts. It is ok for the pro's, but for me I have to rebuild it myself to race it again next weekend.
Ben Coates (road bike product manager here at Trek), along with Michael Mayer (road bike marketing manager) rode the Liege Bastogne citizen granfondo today. But, they did not wimp out and ride the half or something like that - they belied up to the full monty. 270km of leg breaking hills. Known as the hardest single day race of the year, I bet it was really tough.
To make matters more concerning, I have skipped out on a couple of other race opportunities, where I just did not want to drive across the country. Maybe I'm just getting old?
No, I shied away from all of those things and just went and rode my MTB. Because, I just cannot get enough of that thing. Damn, it is just so much fun. I loaded up and drove to Levis Mound, about 3 hours from my house. Levis is pretty technical, at least by midwestern standards, and I love that kind of riding. (And I am not talking about some Eric the half a bee either!).
Up on top of Levis Mound. You can kinda see forever from there - at least for the midwest.
When I arrived early, it was cold. There was just one other vehicle in the parking lot. I went in to the bathroom, and there was a guy in there cleaning. We chatted for a bit, and then just as he was leaving he asked if I was riding alone - so we ended up riding together. He was Dean Glaze, a local from Neilsville that rides there every day. He knew the trails like the back of his hand, and it showed.
The dirt is sand mostly, but in the sand is a ton of sandstone rock and roots. But what makes it technical, is that there is actually a lot of vertical. Up and down and on the edge of the steep hillside. Trail names like Cliffhanger and Sidewinder are just as fun as the name implies.
My guide, Dean Glaze. Levis is really pretty technical, for everything else we have around here. You could tell he was a local, because he knew the fast line through every technical area.
If you have not ridden at Levis Mound, you need to. If you like technical riding, it could be the best area in Wisconsin. No flowing berms or jumps (other than natural stuff) - just rocks, up and down and roots and lots of them.
You probably did not think we had terrain like this in Wisconsin.
Another great view of the terrain and trail.
It is a glorious time. It is glorious because it signifies getting back on to a dirt bike! I have been using the hashtag #dirtbikesrule. If you feel like I do, you should post up. Here are a few more from the spring.
Liz and I playing hookey one weekday. No one there other than us.
Sometimes the trees, are just a wee bit....
Hero dirt at this time of the year. (Maybe I need more pictures with my bike leaning against something.
This picture has nothing to do with the first few paragraphs of this post, but I wanted to put something about Frites in the title, so felt compelled to show this picture right away. I cannot say it, so I think I will just call it Snackeroo Frite Stand.
I was reminded about one of my rants in the past, this week. I really hate how languages change the spelling of other country cities or countries. In English, we call Deutschland - Germany. This does not make any sense. People from that country do not call it Germany, they call it Deutschland. We call it Holland, but they call it Nederland. The list goes on and on. It is appalling, and actually a little bit offensive.
This is not just an english phenomenon either. All languages seem to do it. The Dutch spell Paris - Parijs. The French call Deutschland - Allemagne.
Now I get it when the place you are trying to describe uses a language with different letters or symbols than your language. And I have no expectation that people in another language can pronounce everything in different languages. All of that is fine. Say it differently, I get it. But, to make up an entirely different word is just plain stupid.
Ok, I have ranted. You knew I was going to.
The quantity of frites that you can eat in a few days in Belgium is immoral.
Belgians really really like Frites. I kinda think that maybe even more than beer (although no self-respecting Belgian cycling fan would ever admit it.) I know that when I am there for a few days, I almost cannot stop myself. I just keep eating them.
This week I was in Belgium, of course because it was RVV time. (Ronde Van Vlaanderen) Quite simply, the greatest bike race of the year. Period. There is no debate to that statement. Cobbles, Frites, Beer, Bergs, wind, Frites, rain, more frites and more cobbles. Ahhh, the life.
Those are some very confused Norwegians/Kristof fans.
Biggest Bike race of the year, and that is what she will be doing. Frying frites. Look at all those in the background! ahhh....
This year was a fun race. Not quite the same as other years where we have won. But, it is still Belgium and it is still RVV. Next year, we will be back.
Surrender the Frites.
Lets go for a ride. Oudenaarde
We will be back. The Koppenberg awaits. Only 360 days till the best bike race of the year.
Chaos of a city street in Tokyo. This crossing is actually called the scramble. All pedestrian lights turn green at the same time. Hundreds of people go in all directions at the same moment. Brilliant.
Someday, you will have to come back and do something really cultural in Japan. I had heard that a few times in my travel, as I on some trips I go from work thing to work thing (I don't normally write about those trips). But, I am never one to shy away from something fun. Duh. So, I had a bunch of miles from years of air travel, and why not? Sumo it is. Liz and I loaded into a Delta bus and flew from Madison to Tokyo (that is a long way, btw... Liz let me know that. I have done it a few times, and somewhere in there it just becomes less than what it is, not really a thing any longer.)
Anyway, It's Japan. Weird foods, funny little tiny cars, driving on the left, people are smaller than in the western world, more polite, more formal, interesting countryside etc... It is one of those places, that is just a lot different than Wisconsin. Trust me - a lot.
The evening started off on our arrival with a stroll to the pub across the street from the hotel to get some dinner. It was a good local place that people were eating something after work on Friday. There were couples there that look like it is their usual place after both being at work all week. Kind of the place to get caught up after a busy week. We sat up at the bar, and took a look at what the guy next to us was eating (Soup with some sort of big fish parts in it). After trying to figure something out from the pictures in the menu, we broke down and asked for an english menu. The waiter pulled it out, blew off the dust (clearly it had not been looked at in a while) and we looked through discovering that they really do eat every single part of the chicken. I did not know that you could successfully sell something that advertised itself as chicken skin...
Our Saturday morning started with a visit to the Tokyo fish market. This is the fish market to mark all other fish markets by. In Japan, if it lived in the ocean it is food. Sometimes you are not really sure if it was really alive, and it is still - food. The fish market is a huge warehouse with row upon row, hundreds upon hundreds of small fishermen spots selling their daily catch to wholesalers and restaurants from the area. The sheer magnitude of ocean life that is for sale for eating is amazing. As I said, if it was alive in the sea - in Japan that equals food.
I saw huge fish being divided into smaller pieces of fish. I saw buckets and buckets of fish and crabs and sea urchin and abalone and seaweed and shark and shellfish and barnacles... you name it, it is food. It was an amazing experience being there when that was going on.
Tokyo fish market. Fish stuff everywhere.
Minutes before, this was a huge Tuna. Just the head now.
Next up was a huge temple in the city, followed by a boat ride on the river ending in the palace grounds... wow, what a day. Of course, no visit to Tokyo is complete without seeing the basement of a good department store. The basement is where the food court is, and you can find amazing delicacies. $300 cantaloupe, perfect strawberries - 10 for $100 - and a bazillion other over priced foods. We didn't eat, we just walked around marveling at the selection and the price.
The day ended with a little local teppanyaki place, where the food comes out in courses and just never seems to stop.
Beautiful temple in Tokyo.
Day 2 started with a trip to the National Museum in Tokyo. I have to admit that I am not great with Japanese history, so the museum was quite helpful to understand all of the different times in Japan.
But, the highlight of Day 2 was definitely the Sumo. When I was originally invited, I was just not sure what it would be like. I was also not sure if it would have any appeal to Liz. Big sweaty guys smashing into each other. But, like everything seems to be in Japan, there is way more to it than just that. In fact, the whole thing is less about 2 big sweaty guys smashing into each other and more about the tradition and the ritual. It is so filled with ritual, it is almost religious.
The "sides" come out dressed in their formal traditional dress, replete with colored skirt. They parade out in order of their names and they form a circle in the ring. They first face out and follow a ritual to the crowd, then face each other and bow and salute and present to each other. Then they leave in single file. The matches happen one after another, where the referee calls out a competitor from each side with an almost opera sounding chant. The 2 wrestlers bow to each other, do the lifted leg thing balancing on one side, lifting the other leg, then touching the ground. They then pull off to the side and wipe their faces, talk to their trainer on the side and grab salt to throw into the ring - purifying the ring. They then go through the stretching and leg lifting ritual once more. Then all of a sudden, when the wrestlers decide to, they smash into each other trying to push each other out of the ring.
We read before the night that there are 3 ways to loose a sumo match. Touch the ground with something other than your feet, leave the circle or loose your diaper.
Not from our match, because everything I took was blurry. This is really what it looks like though.
The top wrestlers go through the bowing and leg lifting and leaving the ring to throw salt back in and belly slapping multiple times before the match. Sometimes the matches last just 10 seconds, sometimes a minute. Either way, there is way more ceremony than there is actual wrestling.
I am amazed that Japan loves this entertainment. Japan is a country of 130lb men and 110lb women. The top Sumo wrestlers are north of 400 lbs. These days, the wrestlers come from all over the world. But, even the Japanese wrestlers weigh 400lbs. It is truly incredible.
Try the leg lifting thing. It is harder than you think.
I never learned how the Mawashi or the wrestlers belt came to be, but it dates way back to the origins of the sport.
Until the next time.
kinda life size.
Nothing goes to waste. Not sure what kind of fish that one with the big eye is.
31,557,600 seconds 525,960 minutes 8766 hours 365.25 days (scientific year - the whole leap year thing is just dumb. I mean, what is that anyway?) 1 year
Just think about it; that is a lot of seconds. But, if you want to feel a little less significant or a little less sure of what it all means, think about this: If you equate the 32 million or so seconds into the length of how long the universe has evolved.....then mankind existing from whatever means we sprang would equate to the last 9 seconds or so of the Universe evolving! So there you have it. You can stop here if you want - go for a ride, or ski, or have a coffee, maybe a burrito.
Before we go any further, I should let you know that I kinda get carried away with this whole goal thing. I like to take the time over the Xmas holiday and write out a few goals. I mean, Santa is a fat man anyway. Just a few, say about 50. They are not all important, but they are all fun. But at this point it is a look back that comes first.
Here are some memorable things that happened to me or the people around me over the past nearly 32 million seconds or so.
- Ali and Thomas bought their first house. This is the kind of thing that, as a parent, will make you feel old. In spite of that, I am pretty proud of them for buying their first house. - Hanna graduated from University and had a 2nd successful trip to Ethiopia. The whole Ethiopia thing made me nervous, but I am really proud of her for chasing her goals.
- Liz and I did some amazing riding in the Yorkshire area. We did a couple of days of road riding there then a couple of days of MTB riding in Dales National park. We stayed at the Red Lion in Burnsell with Brian and my friend Guy from the UK.
- We acquired a cabin in northern Wisconsin. It is quickly becoming my favorite place in the world. There are 100 miles of singletrack there and tons of XC skiing. This past year we spent our first Christmas there with our whole family. My mother came up to spend time there as well.
- 2014 I did my first Enduro. It was probably the most fun I have had on a bicycle all year. I cannot wait for next year.
- I had a really successful motorcycle racing season. I won a lot of races, and ended up winning my class overall at the WIXC.
- I finally was able to visit my Dad in Asheville. I love that town and it was good to spend some time at his house with him. - I still have not ridden the whole of The Whole Enchilada in Moab. This year I came close, but it was still just too early. We rode the lower half in April. - In 2014 I was able to get to three Pearl Jam concerts. Leeds in the UK during the TDF, Minneapolis in October, and the best PJ show of the whole tour (I am told) - Milwaukee in October. I cannot wait to find more to go to. - This past year I had an epiphany about my eyesite. I figured out my eyesight problems and now I can see again. It makes riding my motorcycle and my bicycles much more successful. You can read about the epiphany here.
- We took in a rescue of a great dog. Marti is a Portuguese Water Dog and is a fabulous dog. He and Stella are hilarious together.
- I was able to ride for a few days in the spring in the candy store of western Belgium. It is incredible riding. I topped it off riding the Flanders citizen ride.
- While I was there in the spring, I was able to be with Luca and the team when Fabian won Flanders. That was really exciting.
- I had a goal of winning my first cyclocross race this year, and I managed to win 3 of them.
- Liz built up a new MTB. It is perfect for her and Wisconsin trails.
- I was at the Jens Hour Record. It was the perfect hour.
- I built up a new Slash this past year. It has become my favorite MTB. To top it off, I took it to Chatel (my favorite riding area in the world) to ride with my friends Lloyd and Ben. We had an amazing 3 days riding in the Alpes this year.
- Last but not least, Liz and I met Elvis at the Ronde in Flanders this year. Who knew that he was hiding out there.
2014 was a pretty good year. There were things that happened that were not so good, both on a personal level and a professional level. But, when I look back, it was a good year. Time passes and I just think you want to make the most of it.
As great as 2014 was, I think that 2015 will be even better. A person has to have goals, and I have a few. So without any other fanfare, here are SOME of my goals for the next year. All serious of course.
1. Take Liz on a non-cycling vacation. I tend to be one track minded - 2 wheelers. She has tolerated that for a long time. 2. See Pearl Jam. Rumors of a 25th anniversary concert. 3. Ride the Strade Bianche citizen race. 4. Make a decision on our house. Keep it or sell it. 5. Ride Moab or Whistler or Fruita or something iconic 6. Do a MTB trip with Lloyd. 7. Learn to take tight switchback turns on my Slash. This was on my goals last year, and I failed. So...it remains. 8. Wave at all cyclists that I see. 9. Drink more water. I should be drinking 116oz per day. 10. Get rid of all the junk in our basement. 11. Do a road bike trip. I do like riding my road bike, and more importantly it is what Liz really really likes. 12. Master small and medium double jumps on my mountain bike. 13. Learn to wheelie on both my favorite mountain bikes and my motorcycle. I have said before that this is a genetic skill. I am going to take the year and learn to wheelie, or at least just about kill myself trying. By the end of the year, I will either wheelie or it will be a lost cause. 14. Take Liz and the girls to New York City. Liz has been all over the world, but not to NYC. 15. Change all my mountain bikes to 1X drive systems. Time to move into 2012. 16. Ride Copper Harbor. 17. Ride at least 3 MTB Enduro races. 18. Ride a race with Noah. 19. Ride a race with Russel. 20. Drink only great beer. 21. Ride the State Championship CX race in Wisconsin. 22. Read 5 personal books. 23. Read 3 professional books. 24. Get more involved with my community. Give time, get involved with a local cause directly. Find a good charity that we can align with. 25. Preseason off-road training camp in late March before South Carolina GNCC . 26. Ride the Loose Moose Enduro. 27. Finish on the podium at Ironman GNCC in my class. In 2011, I was 4th at Ironman GNCC, then 5th at the first Loretta’s and won the 2nd Loretta’s race. In 2012 I notched a 6th at Ironman and then 5th at Loretta’s. In 2013 I came 5th at Ironman. In 2014 I was again 4th at Ironman. Close, but not quite there. 28. Learn to use the rear brake while using the throttle on my 250F. I am still struggling with this skill. I think it is imperative for me to get this skill if I have any hope of winning a GNCC race. 29. Master flat corners on my 250F. 30. Get one of those really cool Bluetooth phone devices that allow you to walk along in the airport talking to yourself out loud. You look so cool while doing that. 31. Do all of my Christmas shopping from Sky Mall catalog. 32. Get a Babelfish installed. This whole multiple language thing has me baffled. 33. Put together the plan to climb Kilimanjaro with Liz. 34. Help Ali and Thomas build a garage. 35. Finish my first Birkebeiner ski race in 10 years. 36. Make 3 dance videos while traveling. 37. Make my bed every day. 38. Cut as much sugar out of my diet as I can. Sugar is the new boogieman. 39. Build a little 2-stroke for tight woods races.
40. Go to a World Cup DH race. 41. Go to a World Cup XC race. 42. Go to a WEC MTB Enduro. 43. Go to Flanders and Roubaix pro races.
The rest of my goals are work-related, and although they are really important, they are not to be published outside of appropriate circles. Trust me, there are more than 50 when you add them together.
If you have read this blog before, then you know that I am kind of a goon for racing. I kinda really like it. Racing is cool because it is unpredicatable. Racing is cool because the heroes that do it are not like you and me. Racing is cool because the people that do it are amazing athletes. Racing is cool because it reminds us that no matter how fast you are or how good you are at something, there is always someone faster or better at that same thing.
Here at Trek we race for all those reasons, but mostly we race because we are absolutely over the moon about racing and just how cool it is (I know that is a bit of a circular reference, but this is my blog not yours).
I have been really fortunate throughout my career because I have been given the opportunity to be very close to our racing efforts. I always wanted to be a racer, but was never even close to gifted enough on a bicycle to even be considered. I am a modest rider, but modest abilities will not get anybody anywhere close to being a professional. So, when I get to be part of a professional team, I feel really really privileged.
2014 was Trek's first season owning a World Tour license. That is a really big deal. We are racing at a level with the best teams in the world. We are participating in the Formula One of cycling. It makes me really proud to see the Trek Factory Racing team in a race whether we win or lose. Of course winning is really much better than not winning, but that is only a part of the story.
Let's take a look back at where we came from and what we accomplished in our first season.
1. First, launching a team is a huge effort. We purchased the license in September 2013, and had to immediately work with the UCI to get that it confirmed. We had to build a service course in Belgium to manage the team's vast equipment inventory and needs. We had to design a complete kit, car graphics, bus graphics etc... We had to build bikes and wheels and outfit the team. All the riders and staff had to be hired. And we did all of that in time to have our first team camp in November last season. It was a major undertaking, but we pulled it all together.
2. Our early season results were really phenominal. Right away, Julian Arredondo and Giacamo Nizzolo produced exciting results at the Tour of San Luis. We were on our way.
Julian looking confident early in the season.
3. Our spring classics campaign was very succesful. The team helped Fabian Cancellara get to the podium at Milan - San Remo, Flanders, and Roubaix. Flanders of course was the top step. I am super proud of that, as I said that I wanted to win Flanders all the way back at Team camp in December and the team pulled that off.
4. At Fleche and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Julian Arredondo showed that he was a man for those races, and announced with a fantastic showing that he would be a factor in those in the future.
5. We were one of the most aggressive teams at the Giro d'Italia. Julian Arredondo took the mountain climbers jersey, Giacamo Nizzolo was present on the final of every single sprint stage. It was a hard race, and we were big players there.
6. We put Haimar Zubeldia into 8th place at the Tour de France this year. I am really proud of him - without losing so much time on the difficult stage on the cobbles, he had a real chance to be in the top 5.
Haimar putting himself into 8th on the final TT at the Tour de France!
7. Jens Voigt closed out his career with the team by taking the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France. In his trademark bold fashion, he rode to the most aggressive rider at his last two races in Utah and Colorado. Then he capped off his whole career by setting a new standard for the hour record on the track. His effort has reignited interest in the record by riders from all over the world.
Jens at speed at 42 years old. Setting a new Hour Record standard and closing out an amazing career.
All-in-all, we had an excellent first season. I am proud to be part of the team. I am proud of the organization there, and all the effort they have put in to being one of the best teams in the world.
But, we are not done and we are not satisfied with where we are. We have goals and hopes and expectations. I have hopes and expectations for sure.
We want to win more monuments. If that is Flanders and Roubaix again, good. But, we will not be stopping there. We will target all of them this year and will do our best to take a couple of them home.
We want to be one of the dominant teams in March and April. We have the horsepower, the ambition, and the drive to do that.
We want to contest for the red jersey at the Giro.
We want to be racing for the top 5 in the Tour de France.
We want to finish in the top half of the overall standings at the end of the season. That will mean that we will race a lot harder in all the other races we are participating in.
So 2015 begins.
We had some key riders retire this year.
Jens Voigt ended one of the great cycling careers of all time. Jens will remain part of the Trek family and part of the race team. Watch for more announcements on that in the press.
Danilo Hondo retired and we were proud to have him finish his career with the team.
Andy Schleck retired early due to a series of injuries that he just could not get past, and we were all sorry to see that happen. I wrote a recent blog entry about that, and I would be honored if you went back to read that here. I do not know exactly what the future holds for Andy, but I hope it can still be in the Trek family.
With those spaces, we have made some really exciting additions to the team. Bauke Mollema comes to us from Belkin. Bauke is a legitimate top 5 Tour threat. With the combination of him, Haimar Zubeldia, Frank Schleck and Julian Arredondo, we go the the Ardennes classics and the Tour de France as legitimate players.
Marco Colledan comes to us ready to help the sprint train that we will execute with Giacamo and Danny van Poppel.
Gert Steegmans was a big addition for us. Gert will further strengthen the cobbles team and then go on to be part of the sprint train we are building as well.
It is time for a new season!
The team is currently at our big preseason camp in Calpe, Spain. There is a chaos of bike fitting and clothing fitting going on. There are team planning meetings and organization going on for two weeks. The directors meet to determine race schedules and goals. The riders meet with trainers to detail their race plans and training plans. There is baseline testing going on that includes physical testing and basic performance testing. This is the first time the riders ride together on new bikes.
The team goes out for 3-5 hours of training every day. While the team is out, the staff is going full gas to make everything ready behind the scenes. Clothing that has to be sorted out. Home bikes, race bikes,multiple shoe pairs requiring custom insoles that are fit to the rider and made by hand. Pictures of all the staff have to be made. Briefings for any new staff or riders. Sponsor presentations, etc... It is really busy, to say it bluntly. But, man is it exciting.
That is me trying to be inspirational. Not sure how it worked, but in spite of that I am really excited as we go into the new season.
On Sunday night, sort of the opening night of camp. The team's General Manager, Luca Guercilena, and I made a presentation to the team. Mine was to explain how Trek and I view the team, and how we view the goals for the team. It is a pep talk and a laying out of expectations. I think it was good. But, Luca then stood up after me. He explained that each of the riders in the room was a hero. He explained that even he was in awe of what they can do on a bike. But, he told the riders that they could probably find inspiration in other sportsmen. With that, he showed a few videos from amazing sporting events over the years. His presentation really got the gang excited and showed them that they are capable of exceptional things. I know that I was inspired after hearing his speech.
January and the race season will be here soon enough. Watch out world, here we come.
Luca looking suave for his staff photo. Just getting all the photo's taken takes a couple of days.
Getting your proper fit is really important to your performance.
Lots of different performance and physical analysis of pedal stroke and flexibility.
Inspiring on the Galibier in 2011. No more words necessary.
I was running through an airport, trying to catch my flight, when my phone dinged at me. A Whatsap message from Andy - Give me a call if you can. I replied, that I was getting on a flight, could I call him later. He replied immediately. I was kinda hopeful about the conversation, but it was a bit foreboding. It turned out that foreboding was accurate. "I think it is time to hang it up." I was shocked as I really did not see it coming. I thought maybe I was going to hear the knee was coming around. I thought we were going to have a conversation about how he could work himself back into form in a year, etc... It took me a long time to digest the facts of the conversation; the knee was just not going to come around.
We are all going to miss Andy. Andy was the promise that was always there, just below the surface. Andy was the most gifted professional cyclist ever, but Andy just never could put it all together. He has the most amazing motor - maybe the biggest ever - with a perpetual young boy POV on the world. He was always the kid that could just do it and could always make things happen when he wanted to. He did not understand the world of preparation and the world of science. He was all "ride and then do it." Andy's will was enough, when combined with his absolute raw gift for cycling, to make him one of the best there ever was.
When Andy was the young newcomer, the press loved him. He was the future. He was young and good looking and funny and spoke many languages and he had a brother that was his partner in cycling. Life was good. Andy represented everything that was great about cycling. He represented what could have been. He represented the pure joy around cycling and winning that we all felt robbed of through the 90s and early 2000s.
And for many years the results came. He impressed at so many races, and won early in his career. It just seemed so natural that he would go all the way to the top. He was a champion already when he started.
Then later when the promise was a bit dusty and his focus appeared to be elsewhere, he somehow lost the following and admiration of the press. The press was hard on him. I suspect they were hard on him because, like all of us, they wanted him to grab the brass ring to somehow miraculously take that next small step and realize the destiny that we all thought was his.
Frank, Andy and Gilbert at the finish of Liege 2011
The fans never left Andy, though. As fans we all wanted him to get it all sorted and win. We wanted the tall boyish kid to climb up on that top step. We wanted to see him smile there and we wanted him to be dismayed at what all the fuss was. We wanted him to get the glory that chaingate and clenbuterol had robbed him of. We wanted him to learn to suffer against the clock, just enough to not let Cadel Evans beat him. We knew it was just there below the surface, and we thought if we just willed it to happen he would eventually find that next gear.
I first met Andy in 2009. There was talk of a Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project and it was my job to keep tabs on that for Trek. Slowly during 2010 it looked like it would become a reality. As the Luxembourg effort came together, and we put a deal together to be the technical provider for the team, I had more opportunities to spend time with Andy and Frank.
On our first outing to put them all on bikes, we met at a small hunting lodge in Luxembourg. The Schlecks were still under contract elsewhere, so we could not ride publicly. But we did a small private ride together with a few more that would become the core of the team. Andy was a complete class act during that event. He was polite and curious about the bike as he compared it to his current bike. After the ride, he was the last to leave as he wanted to get to know the guys from Trek. We told stories about racing and stories about our lives. The stories stretched out to dinner and we became quick friends.
Andy and Frank. They were mostly inseparable.
Over the years, that friendship has built and it has been shared through some interesting times. I am a lot older than Andy, but I could never have the experience that he has had with being so close to the top of a sport. He has seen tremendous success and shown tremendous promise, and he has suffered some of the most amazing streaks of bad luck and bad consequence that we have ever seen. I am proud to have been there with him through those times. I am proud of the friendship that we have built. We have been through some great times together and some tough times. But through all of those times, we have remained friends. For that I am grateful.
The world of cycling is going to miss Andy Schleck. The Contadors and Valverdes and Froomes of the world are just not the same and cannot inspire the same way. The world of cycling may be just now realizing that. Those of us close to Andy know that deep inside. Those of us that know Andy, and many of his fans, were already missing him from the moment he called us to say he had reached the end.
I know I will miss his humor on the bus. I will miss him giving it to me about the lack of hair on my head. I will miss looking forward to our time together at a race. I know I will not miss how bad I have felt for him when things have not gone well for him. But, I know that cycling is better because Andy was there.
Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.
You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care. About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there." With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you'll want to go down. In that case, of course, you'll head straight out of town.
The celebration is ready!
It's opener there in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don't worry. Don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening too.
OH! THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
You'll be on your way up! You'll be seeing great sights! You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
The Waiting Place!
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed. You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
A big stage
Except when you don' t Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so but, sadly, it's true and Hang-ups can happen to you.
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.
Past is Past
You can get so confused that you'll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
NO! That's not for you!
Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying. You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
Its all a blur now.
With banner flip-flapping, once more you'll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you're that kind of a guy!
Except when they don't. Because, sometimes, they won't.
You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
An embrace from Dad after the race.
Staff celebration after the race. We will miss these Jens moments.
So... be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Voigt or O'Shea, you're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!
Yip Yip. Back in Chatel again. Mountains, good friends, Pizza, Mountain bikes, Cookie the dog - acting like I own the place.
Its great to be back in Chatel riding with my friend Lloyd. We mostly stayed dry, in spite of that sky.
On last year's trip to Chatel, when we were coming back after the last ride, I said to Lloyd, superguide extraordinaire, "I'm coming over for a whole week next year so that I can learn to handle steep switchbacks better." "Practice" said Lloyd. I did not. Unfortunately, I also could not stay for a whole week. Work just gets in the way of having fun. But, I do love Nutella.
So, I am here again, and I still suck at tight steep Alpine switchbacks. I am still really excited about a nice bit of singletrack high in the Alpine backcountry. I am still in love with Chatel. I still love being with my friends Lloyd, Louise, Ben, and Daisy here. So what if a high alpine switchbacks are kind of a wiff for me?
Lets get started.
Welcome to Chatel.
In the morning, I had to drive from Friedrickshafen (where the Eurobike show tempted me with all manner of baubles and shiny objects) to Chatel. Driving in Europe is not the same as driving in the USA. Smaller roads, speeds are not consistent (which is why Europeans are not so bothered about cup holders in their cars), and no Pearl Jam on the radio (the last part is the only really difficult part of driving there). It is about a 4 hour drive, and it took all of that (of course I just played some PJ on my phone, I am short - but I am not left handed).
You get off the big roads in Monthey Suisse to get onto a smaller road over to the French side of the mountains. That is where the adventure begins. You will see a sign announcing the Porte du Soliel and when you drop over the pass into Chatel, you will imediately understand why you made the trip. As I tooled through the town, I remembered my wife Liz' words, "make sure you bring me some Chatel dotted pottery", so I whipped around and ran into the pottery store to get that done. Six espresso cups made mine. The salt shaker is another story altogether that Louise will need to come clean with.
When I arrived at Chez Grace, Lloyd already had our bikes ready to go. I did a quick change, and after a brief stop to press my maw against the glass at the salon to startle Ben (not sure that his boss appreciated the spot I must have left on the glass), we were out on the trail for Day One. Up a chair lift, and we were into the backcountry, just like that. We dropped down into the goat village and over to Morzine and life was good. It felt really great to be out on the trail with my friend Lloyd and back into the Alpes.
Somewhere along the way, Lloyd said something to some other guys to give them some advice "Go left and it is a nice little bit of single with a road out around the steeper bits. Go right, and it is death defying steep." Of course, we were going right. When we got to that bit, I wasn't sure if it would be safer to ride or walk. It was that steep. When we got to the bottom, Lloyd said "Oh, that is not that steep - no rope was required to get down it." (Yes, it is pretty much like that)
I cannot remember exactly the trails we rode on that day, but there were many. We hid behind buildings while dodging rainstorms and snaked our way from one valley to the next. The riding there is always an adventure. There were some absurdly steep sections that even without the slippery wet stuff we were on, I do not think I could ride. Did I mention that the Alpes are steeper than other mountains? Lloyd crashed hard into a bermed turn, smashing a helmet and his hand, and we feared the worst for our first day. In the end, he was fine.
We finished up our day with a couple of runs at the bike park in Chatel, where we saw all the super large jumps and gaps - but we rode like old guys and just looked for the flowwing trails with some steep and berms.
Apparently you drive your McClaren to the bike park in Chatel. Damn, I would have driven mine there had I known.
I'm so serious!
I'm up early, I cannot sleep. Could be jetlag, could just be I'm hungry, couldn't possibly have anything to do with I am in the Alpes and I am going on an epic all day adventure on my Slash! Nah. We breakfast-ed it up with some oats.
Lloyd knows that I need oats to start my day. After all, it is a grainy goodness that does a nice job scrubbing your innards and powering you up for the intergalactic space jumps. If you have not checked it out, do it now. Dig up the recipe for #joetmeal - it rules. Or, check the post out by following here or here. (check them both - its worth it.)
After breakfast we head out directly, as it is going to be a big day. We are meeting up with a couple of guys visiting in town who are also in Europe for Eurobike. We all converged on the main lift in town, and headed up from there. At that time, I did not know that we were going to be on quite the adventure that we were about to take on. Rest assured, it was big.
Up a lift to the top at Super Chatel, across a ridge trail (big fun) and down to another lift, up, a hike a bike on a trail that was bike over the shoulder stairstepping up a bunch of rocks over a peak that got us above the clouds and had huge exposure on both sides, down to the village of Vionaz in Suisse, transport to Champery, lunch there, up the tram to the top of that area, down a kick butt series of trails to a double track climb that was long and mostly pushing for an hour or so at that altitude, to the most killer ridge trail (known to Lloyd and I as "Hanna's Trail" as my yougest daughter, Hanna, rode it before me), back down to Champery, back up the tram, down some really fun singletrack to Morgin, up over the pass back to Chatel. Holy crap.
Wow, what a day. Nine hours out on the bike. We finished at a pub in Chatel where we had a beer to celebrate, and then we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the world - Le Fiacre in Chatel. (In the future, I will probably put up a whole list of great restaurants. Keep tuned, I am sure that you just cannot wait for that.)
Above the clouds.
We are heading over there.
Sometimes we had the lifts to ourselves.
Hanna's Trail. She rode this long before I did, and now finally I have as well.
I cannot wait to do another ride like this one. I have become such a huge fan of the big day out in the Alpes (I know, I am soooo Enduro.) Regardless, it is amazing fun. A few years ago, I only wanted to ride buff singletrack (that was before I was an enduro hack - so enduro you know). Now, I cannot wait to be out in the Alpes with a pack on looking for great singletrack with a huge view. I am a convert.
Artsy, but dang is that thing a machine.
For this trip, I shipped out to Lloyd's place a new carbon Slash with a custom color thrown on it. It is sexy. Equipped with XTR shifters, brakes and rear der, an XT crank, New Bontrager Line wide Enduro wheels, a 160mm Fox 36 (sweet - sweet - sweet) and a ReAktiv rear shock that is just the bomb. There is no bike that I have ever ridden like this thing.
If you have not yet checked out the Slash Carbon, you really need to. (Yes Lloyd, you need one of these not just a longer travel Remedy)
Ben is living with my bike now, and he took this picture of it yesterday. My bike is happy, I am happy for my bike, but I am not there with it any longer so I am not happy for me.
A sweet bike park.
(I know, I could pretty much just stop there)
Pila bike park outside of Aosta Italy, might just be the most glorious riding area in the world. Unlike most bike parks, it is not just jumpy jumpy trails. They have those, but it is actually filled with a ton of really cool singletrack through the woods. Kilometer after kilometer of singletrack that just keeps on going and going. If you stack the trails from the top all the way to the bottom, there is about a 20km long ribbon of trail laid out in front of you. (That is a big number, if you are having trouble with the math at home.)
In the middle of the ride, Ben's brakes went away. So, we took it to the shop at the lift. It was a cool quaint little set up. Two old Italian guys working under the lift building and repairing bikes for people to keep them on the trail. They struggled with trying to bleed Ben's brakes and spilled mineral oil all over his bike. It made it so that the brakes really didn't work for the next run. Ben flew off the trail into the weeds, I was right behind him. It might have been the most funny thing I have ever seen. Later on the lift, Ben made the famous quote "I don't want to make it an issue. It's not really an issue... It's just that I cannot stop! What a bunch of Monkeys." We never laughed so hard.
The brakes came around after he burned off all the mineral oil and washed it off so he could hold on to the bars, but it made for some good comedy along the way.
We rode as a group, and we got faster and faster by the end of the day. Maybe it was just me that got faster, as Ben and Lloyd are both much faster than me to start. But, by the end it was a freight train down the trail over and over. I hooted and and had a giggle of a time all afternoon.
I felt like I never wanted it to end. I wanted to keep riding and riding. I wish that we could have had another day there. I just do not want to stop riding my Slash in the Alpes.
Ben's favorite bike shop.
Ben was born with the Wheelie Gene. It just pisses me off that I missed that one. I pretty much blame my parents.