Friday, September 25, 2015

Who's That Then?

Star City's Wednesday night cyclocross race was held at Pioneer's Park this past week. I had to skip it again this year (injury). It's too bad, because I've always wanted to do one of these mid-week training races. Pioneer's Park is a good venue for it, and the folks in Lincoln know how to make a fun cyclocross atmosphere. Oh well, maybe next year.

I was a little surprised when I saw the results: our local man-child Dillon McNeill -- one of many promising youths in Omaha Devo -- won the M 1-2-3 race.

But then I saw the podium photo and instantly I knew what was up. Mark let him win. It was the only explanation.

from left to right: Ryan Long (3rd), Dillon McNeill (1st), Mark Savery (2nd)

No disrespect to Dillon, but the reason why I knew that Mark let him win was because Dillon is covered in mud. I mean, look at him. He looks like he just emerged from the sewers of Shawshank prison. Now, the only way one gets that filthy is either by crawling through a river of shit, or sitting second wheel throughout a muddy cyclocross race. In either case, one ends up looking like young DMac above.

And then there is Mark: his kit is practically spotless. Obviously, he was leading the race while showing his young padwan the best lines through the turns. This tutelage should come as no surprise; Mark is training Dillon for the Trek Cyclocross collective for which he also rides.

Anyway, when I saw the podium photo above, my mind instantly arced from Shawshank Redemption to Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail.

The Scene: "Bring out your Dead"
Backdrop: The mortician is collecting the dead as King Arthur and his trusty servant Patsy ride by.

PATSY:  [clop clop, clop clop]
MORTICIAN: Who's that then?
CUSTOMER: I don't know.
MORTICIAN: Must be a king.
MORTICIAN: He hasn't got shit all over him.

He hasn't got shit all over him -- that's how we know who the king is. And in the realm of our local cyclocross kingdom, it remains to be Mark. At least for the near future.

Happy  Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 18, 2015


I showed up for cyclocross practice on Wednesday night. I knew ahead of time that I was nowhere near being fully healthy, but I wanted to get a gauge of how far off I was.

I cannot mount my bike with any speed. The act of planting a foot and rotating my hips to swing the other leg over the bike is painful. Jumping off that leg is out of the question, as is running. As for spinning, it was clear from the first bumps that though I could ride the track, it wasn't a pleasant experience on my hips. At first it just felt achy, but later in the evening my sit bones and hip joint felt super fatigued. My ribs felt fine from the bumps. Only when I started breathing heavily did I feel any discomfort there.

The good news is that my healing has progressed a lot already.

Mostly, I just enjoyed being part of the scene again. There were close to 30 people at Roberts on Wednesday. Omaha's CX scene is hot.


I think a lot about cyclocross. Of all bicycling racing, I enjoy it most. I think its because it demands my full attention to the constantly changing aspects of the race and course. When I race cyclocross, my brain is fully engaged on the current state while scanning the next 50m of the course. There is little strategy other than that. There are no team tactics, and things like drafting play a minimal role. It's simply an individual race that tests the competitor's fitness and their bike handling skills.

Cyclocross is a race of attrition. I've had a lot of experience racing like this. Long before I was into cycling, I was a competitive runner. Running is all about attrition. From there, I went into non-drafting triathlon; triathlons are triple-attrition events. Then I got into road racing. Cat 5,4 and 3 racing are all about individual survival; team tactics are rare, if ever exercised.

It was only this past year when I raced with Harvest that we actually tried anything together. Team racing has all been new to me, and quite frankly, I struggled with it.  Not because I didn't want to be a team player, but because it doesn't come naturally to me. You'd think it'd be easy to grasp the concepts of team racing. But in the heat of battle, when my brain is taxed, it seems that my racing IQ drops about 20 points. In its place, instincts of survival and attrition kick in. I have a way to go before team tactics becomes intuitive.

In the meantime, there is cyclocross. It comes naturally to me. I like the style of racing, I like the fitness involved, and respect the bike handling skills.

I'm looking forward to being healthy again. I dream of going full throttle and feeling the hurt of lactic acid burn in place of a bruised hip and tender ribs. I'll be there soon enough.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Some More Firsts

I earned some more firsts at the Gateway Cup this past weekend: two crashes in one race, one Did Not Finish (DNF), and two Did Not Start (DNS). These are not the firsts that I was seeking.

In retrospect, perhaps I was too presumptive and angered the cycling gods when I counted all four Gateway cup races among the 20 new races that I did this year. I suppose it could be bad luck to presume that one will successfully complete any bike race until you actually cross the finish line and step off the bike course.

It's too bad too, because the Gateway Cup is an exciting cycling venue. With four days of racing on courses that vary from Lafayette square's nighttime race, to a flat and fast four corner wide-open Tour de Francis Park, to racing on the historic "hill" of the Italian quarters of St. Louis, to a very technical Benton Park course featuring about a thousand turns, this weekend has a little something for everyone. And at the the crossroads of the South and the Midwest, the Gateway Cup pulls from a wide region of racers. That, plus lots of corporate sponsorship has made this race a bicycle festival for 30 years running. Perhaps this is why it is included in the national criterium race calendar.

Regional races bring exposure to different racing styles, nearly all of which are positive. However, there is one practice that I hope I never experience again, and that is the amount of touching and man-handling that was going on in the peloton. It happened a lot. Basically, it seemed that some in the peloton are more preoccupied with redirecting the riders around them by touching, placing hands, or worse -- pushing them out of their line -- than managing their own bike. This is shit riding. Being intentionally touched is annoying at best. But being pushed is outright dangerous, and is specifically prohibited by the rulebook's section 1N9: "Pushing or pulling among riders is prohibited." Regardless of the degree of contact made, the act of doing so is just wrong. Even if the intention is to let one know of your presence, it is still stupid. For one, your voice is just as effective. For two, using one's hand requires taking it off their handlebar. A small bump, a touched brake, a hazard in the road, etc... at that moment could be disastrous for the rider and everyone around and behind them.

In short, simply ride your own bike. If you must, use your voice. Otherwise, ride in a predictable manner, have a conscience for those around you, and all will be good.

Now, I wasn't pushed on Saturday. That is not why I crashed. I crashed because someone up near the front of the group rode the peloton into the barriers of a wide open, four-lane turn on the final corner of the first lap. This is also stupid because those up front were not paying attention to their surroundings. This is always important, but especially so when more than half the field depends on you to do so.

Fortunately, I got by with a scraped knee after going over the handlebars.

After my shifter was adjusted, I got pushed back in after taking a free lap, and then road like hell to get up to the front so I didn't get caught in another melee like that. But alas, it wasn't meant to be. On the very same corner of lap three, some jackass rode the peloton right into the barriers. Again. But I was prepared for it this time. I had pre-positioned myself on the inside line, allowing myself room to move further inward if this should happen again. So when I saw the stack of dominoes falling sideways towards me, I thought I might be able to get by. Nope. Instead, I was hit from behind and dragged down onto the tarmac. Several riders quickly piled on top, each one grinding the pack further across the concrete. All the time, I was thinking, who's screaming? Then I realized it was me and shut my mouth when we came to a stop. My right hip, right arm, upper back and both shoulders, right cheekbone and earlobe got road rash. But it was my left hip that hurt the most. I could hardly stand up straight, walking was worse. My bike handlebars, housing, and cabling didn't fare very well, either. Needless to say, I was done for the weekend.

The medics cleaned me up and advised me to get an x-ray for my hips. At Urgent Care, the doctor's initial exam revealed previously undiscovered tenderness in my ribs. He was concerned that the rib pain was above my spleen, so they ordered CT scan as well to be sure that I wasn't bleeding internally. Fortunately, everything but the rib (fracture) turned out negative. Negative in this case is good.

These weren't the firsts I was hoping for this past weekend. But that's bike racing. I'll heal up.

Speaking of healing, since returning from St. Louis, I have already begun rehabbing my hip with Edge Physical Therapy/Mike Bartels. Apparently, my hips are as crooked as FOX News (my words, not his). But Mike knows what he's doing, and I'm sure he'll get me all straightened out soon enough.

I am also happy to report that I've been able to ride my bike since without much trouble. In fact, it's harder walking up to my bike than the act of pedaling it. I had nothing but smiles when I discovered that.

I'm unsure what this all means for my cyclocross season. I suppose I should just chill out for a while. I was sorta hoping that my road fitness was going to carry over to give the World Champion Mark Savery a run for it and everything. Now I'll just spot him a head start and see what happens later on.

Yes. I like that plan. Oh, hi Mark :)

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday

Friday, September 4, 2015

Lots of Firsts

I've had a lot of firsts on my bicycle this year. I'm not talking about podiums, although I did win a race outright, and also stood atop the cat 3 podium at the Tour of KC this year. But individual glory is not what I set out to talk about today. Nobody wants to read about that anyway, right?

One of my firsts this year was in having a taste of what it's like to travel with a team as a roadie. I think this is legit too, because I was one of seven on a team that traveled a lot. We had full squads for the Old Capitol, the local Omaha weekend, and Gateway Cup, and all other races had at least four of us.

Traveling with a bonafide racing team has been a tremendous privilege, and I am glad to have experienced it. Especially when we did it right. I'm thinking of those races when we traveled in the Trek Bicycle Stores sprinter van, and when we rented a house so we could all stay under one roof. With only one vehicle or one place of lodging, you can forget about having any privacy. I think I wrote about it sometime earlier this summer, where I described it as the closest thing I've experienced to a family road trip in our 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix station wagon back in the day. Gawd, those were the days. Anyway, I used to wonder what traveling with a racing team was like. I think Shim summed it up best at one of our early team meetings when he said that his motivation to join the team was that he wanted to have the experience of racing for a real team before he gave it up. I shared that sentiment. I'm glad to have lived it.

I also raced at several venues that I've never raced before. Here is the list of raced I did for the first time:
01) Chris Lilig Memorial Road race
02) Old Capitol Criterium
03) Snake Alley Criterium
04) Melon City Criterium
05) Tulsa Tough Brady District
06) Tulsa Tough Cry Baby Hill
07) Tour of Kansas City Cliff Drive Classic
08) Tour of Kansas City Stadium criterium
09) Tour of Lawrence
10) Tour of Lawrence Downtown criterium
11) Nebraska Omnium Ashland Criterium
12) Bicycle Blues and BBQ Road Race
13) Bicycle Blues and BBQ Clear Lake Criterium
14) Sakari Road Race
15) East Village Criterium
16) Bellevue Arrows to Aerospace Criterium
17) Gateway Cup Tour de Lafayette
18) Gateway Cup Tour de Francis Park
19) Gateway Cup Giro Della Montagna
20) Gateway Cup Benton Park Classic

20! Wow, until I just typed that out list out, I had no idea it was that many. They were all good races. I cannot say enough about the promoters and the officials that give us the opportunity to have these moments. But one stuck out above the rest, and it was also a first experience, so I will share it. After the Flyover series was complete, I received an email message from someone I had never met, stating that if  I was the Brady Murphy who participated in the race series, then there was a check for $225 waiting for me for finishing in the money in the series Omnium. Upon receiving this email, I felt like it was some sort of scam. I mean, who else but Nigerians send requests stating you've won something and they want to send you money? I wasn't even aware that I was in the money. That's a true story. My goal was to get upgraded as quickly as possible to race with the team. I wasn't even keeping track of the Omnium points. But it turns out that I did enough to earn the final paying spot. This cash basically fell out of the sky and into my lap. All I had to do was reply to the email with my address. Three days later, I deposited a check that had no strings attached and didn't bounce. Seriously, who does that? I have nothing but positives to share about the Midwest Flyover. They've got their act together. We Midwestern folks have a good thing going there.

There were other firsts as well. Like the times I wanted to choke each and every one of my Harvest teammates for their unique personalities and quirks. Haha. I'm sure the feeling was mutual. But again, I suppose it goes back to what I said earlier, where the proximity to each other is not unlike the feeling of a family road trip. On top of that, throw in a bunch of naturally occurring testosterone, carbohydrates, and of course, proper Skratch Labs hydration, etc, and you've got yourself a potential for a hot mess on bicycles. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I learned that I could also chill out some more at times.

Anyway, good times. Speaking of time, I gotta get packed and hit the road for the Gateway Cup in St Louis.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.