Friday, December 09, 2011

Rocking the Round Hill (VA) with a Neo-Pro

In looking back at this blog I  realize I post a lot about not being in DC.  Last year I spent over 80 nights away from DC for both work and bike racing, which could lead some to believe I do not like it here.  That is absolutely not true.  Riding in DC is some of the best I have found in the country.  We have beautiful roads, respected routes and a great community of fellow bike racers.  The Mid-Atlantic racing scene is also one of the best and most consistent in the country.

I also don't write a lot about local races and riding.  A quick review of Gam Jams on a Monday morning following a race weekend will prove how well covered the local scene is already.  It will also serve as a reminder of the painful moments my subconscious tried to forget as well.  Therefore, my own particular insights about these races probably would not provide extra value and might distract from my own joy of reading about other people's impressions of our experience. 
Now that the race season has subsided and I am back to long training rides I have headed back out to one of my favorite local haunts about an hour drive from DC in a town right under the Blue Ridge -- Round Hill.  For various reasons, I have become a regular in the area and I know I'm not alone.  In the past I have seen a host of MABRA's finest-- Joe Jefferson, the now west coastal Chuck and a bunch of team rides from NOVA-based squads on those back roads.  So the secret is definitely out.
One of the real joys of riding there is that I am joined periodically by Neo-Pro Curtis Winsor, pictured here in white (in full high school prom night glory).  When he is home and away from his efforts to conquer the cycling world I often join him for way too many long hours in the saddle.  He does have a tendency of getting us lost and convincing me to go for "just a little bit longer" which almost always turns into one more mountain or one more hour.

I need to brag a little bit here about my friend Curtis.  I have been riding with him for about 2 years and since then he has gone from elite ametuer to faux pro and now to an official neo-pro with Kenda/5-hour Enegry Pro Cycling presented by GEARGRINDER.  It has been incredible to be along for the ride while he has made this journey and I cannot say enough good things about his attitude and how grounded he has remanded.  Granted, his epic rise does mean I win fewer and fewer town/county/state-line sprints against him; but, I have grown comfortable with that fact.  And more importantly, it will not dissuade me from trying, again and again. 

Bike racing is, at it's heart, a social endeavor-- a shared suffering.  Growing up as a swimmer I realize the privilege we have in bike racing of being able to talk to others while we are training or competing.  It was always difficult in swimming to realize you were going to be staring at a black line on the bottom of a pool for hours without the ability to share thoughts or jokes with those who are nearest you.   

Winter training is about that aspect of the sport-- rolling out with your buddies for long rides.  In the race season, which now seems to be ever expanding with the inclusion of CX, I get so focused on getting to races on time, on prepping equipment and all sorts of things unrelated to just enjoying the company of people who share my interest.  When winter rolls around it's great to re-enter that world.  I have been admittedly isolated in the last couple of offseasons, much to my detriment.  I spent a lot of last offseason riding solo.  Too much time out alone will likely drive you crazy and I'm sure it did for me . . . to a small degree. 

So this winter, I have promised myself that I will be more present.  So if you see me out riding or on a group ride please just ride up and chat.  I can always use the company.     

Sunday, December 04, 2011

New Orleans and New Sarpy

I've had a long standing love affair with the Crescent City and I got the chance to be there for a week. There is something really special about New Orleans- it's a perfect mixture of life, food, decadence and rust. I enjoy cities that are lived in, ones that have history which is evident from the moment you walk in. I get really annoyed with places that are so clean and so perfect that you wonder if you have to take your shoes off when you cross the city limits. New Orleans is a special place and you know it just by being there. You see it even more when you get passed Poydras and head out into Southern Louisiana.
While the pavement might not be perfect, New Orleans is a really rideable city and one that I have gotten used to riding in. It also has a growing cycling community with well attended local weekend rides. By virtue of living in Mississippi for a couple of years I came to know the racing scene and a bunch of the elite guys who are legit hammers. I wanted to test out my legs on the river levee which is an about 25-mile stretch of paved bike path along the Mississippi River which heads out to New Sarpy, which is a small town on the river. The path is not nearly as congested as you would guess and it's a good place to get in a strong ride out into the swamp. Just don't expect any elevation change but do expect a strong headwind at some point.
I love eating in New Orleans. My experience is that food is a celebration down there and not something which you just do. I had to have a couple quick meals and hit up one of my favorite sandwich shops Mother's which is perfectly located right across the street from the courthouse. Just remember when someone asks you if you want debris on your po-boy that means a whole bunch of dressing and not road trash. And everyone at Mother's refers to you as "baby" and they don't take tips. Just accept those facts.
I also got to try out a place I've wanted to try for a long time- Upperline-- which is just up the road off St. Charles uptown a bit. It was delicious meal and the bartender made a great sidecar which is always a plus. And who can complain about a $45 prix fix three course menu? I enjoy places where the owners and managers are there and take an interest in your enjoyment. Just thinking about it now makes me want to go back down.