May 28, 2015 in News
July 14, 2014 in News
Well, race day has come and gone. Where to even begin…
The day started with a killer breakfast, followed by a surprise appearance by the Big Wolf himself, Micah Goulet, founder of the STL Wolfpack Hustle and the whole reason Courtney, George, and I can ride like we do. In typical fashion, Micah was on his work bike, lookin all grungy after driving overnight from SF after a full shift with the rad dudes of TCB. And in even more typical Micah fashion, he had a broken spoke (he’s like 9 feet tall, served a few tours of duty in the Middle East, and could probably beat up Sasquatch if he wasn’t so nice, so it was amazing there was only one broken spoke).
A quick ride to DTLA solved the spoke problem, and we rolled up to City Hall and settled into the pre-race ritual. Courtney had a solid qualifying run, seeding herself into 8th place. George and I went out with group 11, and slotted ourselves in at 46th and 28th respectively. Micah also got himself in at 68th, riding on his work bike.
The women’s race was full of fireworks. Jo rode outstandingly for the team nearly lapping the whole field, while Bea and Erin held it down in the main field. However, I think the real big winner had to be Courtney Cushard, who finished top 10 in the field sprint. Did I mention this was her first time ever racing a fixed crit? Oh yea, this was her first fixed crit, and she spent the whole time driving the pace, and following attacks. I damn near lost my voice cheering her on. I don’t care what anyone says, women’s crit races are the most exciting races, with so much strategy.
The Men’s Track final rolled around and a the big guns were out to slay. I had an alright start, and settled into the groove. But lap 10 came around and the leaders detonated the field with attacks for prime laps. George and I unfortunately wound up on the wrong end of the separation, but we put our heads down and jumped into no mans land like our lives depended on it. We each were jumping from dropped group to dropped group up Until just the last few laps of the race. Unfortunately, the pace bike called is off with just a handful of laps to go.
We woke up Sunday feeling totally cooked, but George and I decided to finish off whatever muscle fibers remained in our legs. We got the call from Deg, who told us about a Kushtown ride with some of the racers from Texas heading up into Griffith Park. We met up with the group and went out to slay some climbs and descents. The ride was simply amazing, with great riding, great riders, and amazing views. Honestly, I am hard pressed to think of anything as simultaneously fun and terrifying as ripping a mountain descent at 35 mph on a brakeless track bike.
After 2 hours in Griffith, everyone’s legs were annihilated. George and I made our way to city hall, met up with Courtney and Micah, and rolled out with Roadblock to the beach. It was a nice chill ride culminating is good bear and good company at the beach. A fitting end for a fantastic weekend.
I just want to thank everyone who helped to make this weekend possible. Roadblock for doing so much for this scene and dreaming up these amazing races, Castelli for making me look fast in some amazing gear, JW and Aventon Bikes for building a lethal crit weapon and doing it for less money than anyone else, Micah Goulet for dragging me out of the velodrome and into the streets, my Penrose Velodrome family for always pushing George, Courtney, and I to be the fastest we can be, and most importantly, all the riders who showed up to watch and race. This is a grassroots sport, and it’s all done by and for the riders. Thank you all for showing up and showing us a good time. If you raced, congratulations for getting out there and giving it your all. If you just came to hang out, thank you for showing up and supporting the most real, gritty, no hold barred racing in the world, and get training because I expect to see y’all in qualifying next year.
It’s been real LA, and I am more motivated than ever to keep throwing down.
Until next time,
July 11, 2014 in News
As many of you know, the Wolfpack Hustle has branched out, forming groups in a number of other cities, one if which is Saint Louis, MO. Looking to expand on Wolfpack A’s Unified Title, Redhook Crit, and other fixed race success from last year, the team was expanded, and for the first time now includes some of the fastest riders from the STL chapter.
With the 2014 Redhook in the mirror, the STL crew turned our focus toward the Civic Center Crit. George Jordan, Courtney Cushard, and myself all decided to step up, and make the trek out to LA.
I got into town Thursday evening, and made my way over to Wolfpack HQ, where I got to see the magic happen (read: build my bike, eat food, and drink beer). Anxious to get the legs moving after a long flight, I hopped on my Aventon and spent an hour riding up and down the slopes in Griffith park. I immediately regretted leaving my 16t cog at home.
Courtney Cushard landed his morning, and we met up for coffee and breakfast. After throwing her bike together, we went out and spent the afternoon just cruising around, acting like foo’s on Instagram (follow the chaos @z_slavens and @cake_pants). George is arriving later this evening, at which point #geoffreybombersmashfest will commence.
Anyway, we are all just stoked to be out here, racing for a great team of smelly punks who just wanna have fun on bikes goin’ fast. We will all be out at the Wolfpack retrospective party this evening at 1739 on Vermont. Come on by, say what’s up!
Competitor Profile: Team Blake’s Josh Rovner
Five years ago Josh Rovner left his job in film to become a bike courier. Today, at 25, he is not only a messenger for Clementine Courier, a small messenger-owned and operated company in New York City, but he is also an impassioned competitive racer.
“I hated my job to enough to decide I was going to start working because I was enjoying what I was doing, not because of money or what I thought could be a career path,” Rovner says, “and I just remembered what I really liked; I just always really liked riding a bicycle, so I was like ‘Yeah, I think this might be a pretty good fit for me.’”
Rovner’s voice rings cool and bright as he recounts his path into racing from the middle of Wisconsin, halfway through the Tour of America’s Dairyland. It is day six at one of the country’s most challenging stage races, consisting of 11 days of criterium racing, and the background rumbles with encouragement and cheers as the narrowing field ascends a grueling climb in the last race of the day.
Rovner is there with Lupus Racing, an elite racing development team of Cat 1/2 racers, where he will compete in 10 races over the 11 days.
“I’ve crashed two of the five days, and I’ve got five days to go,” he says. “I’m not broken and neither is my bike so I’ll keep going. Every day is a new crit.”
His love for racing bikes is effusive, even over the phone. The New Jersey native found himself first racing bikes at 21, one year into falling into courier work. The transition was as natural as his move to the Big Apple; it started with alleycats, then came Cyclocross. This year he is in his second season of racing road, and active on the National Crit Circuit (NCC).
“I moved up the ranks pretty quick,” Rovner says. “I started because of my friend Sean, “Maestro”—he’s this messenger in San Francisco and he owned a bike shop with his wife Gina called King Cog—he wanted to start a bike racing team. He totally got me into it.”
Now he is hooked, and his days and nights are filled with hours on the bike, whether it be working, training or racing.
“It can totally consume your entire world,” Rovner says. “It can consume your time, whether it be training, or eating right; it can consume so much mental energy—and it can be really discouraging or really positive, but in one way or another people become totally obsessed with racing bicycles, and it’s addictive.”
Rovner won’t pretend he’s not competitive, but there’s more to racing than that, he says.
“You can develop relationships based on racing bicycles that are stronger than a lot of other relationships in your life.”
Those relationships are what drew him to the crit last year, where he knew he’d be able to take to the course with friends he’d met in other cities, and have a chance to get a little more time in on the streets of L.A.
“I was out for the Westside Invite when it was in L.A. [in 2012] and we did this crit downtown through one of the tunnels. I thought it was super neat and when I found out Don [Ward] was throwing this race I thought it would be super fun for us to all go out there.”
Rovner came out to the Civic Center Crit last year with Austin Horse, and Stephan Hoffman, fellow NYC bike messengers. This year the trio is returning, and will race under Team Blake as ode to their friend, Blake Bedoya.
“It’s kind of our tribute to him just getting really positive and having a really healthy perspective on racing bikes,” Rovner says, “especially because it’s something that people can lose track of. It’s a world that people can get totally caught up in and Blake is a grounded dude, so we thought it would be pretty funny just to put his name on a jersey and his face is on the back of it.”
Rovner and his Team Blake teammates strive to keep the big picture in mind when they get in the saddle. The discipline, the adrenaline, and the places racing takes him are all a part of why Rovner is hooked on racing, but there is one greater element to it that really makes the magic in racing.
“Racing bikes is about people,” he says, “It’s not so much a physical game as it is psychological, and it’s totally intriguing. I don’t need to be stronger than you, I just need to be smarter than you. Understanding people gets you a lot farther than being faster. That being said, you have to get to know people to do that.”
Racers’ personalities bare themselves when every competitor gets up close and personal in the peloton, where strengths and weaknesses become evident. As the body of racers that is the peloton travels through the course, the sprinters, climbers, power breakway riders show themselves. Those working alone and with their teams are exposed over the inches and seconds as the lap count creeps upward.
“Understanding people’s personalities, especially in the peloton, is what drives bike racing,” Rovner says. “Not only do i get to know these people on the bike and how they ride and what they’re good at, but I get to know them off the bike too, and you become completely sympathetic for these people in a way that when they’re suffering alongside of you—I don’t know if you can form that relationship not in that circumstance.”
At the first Civic Center Crit in 2013, Rovner competed in the road category, which was single-handedly turned on its ear by 14-year-old Sean McElroy.
“When you don’t know racers you don’t know what they’re capable of,” Rovner says of young dynamo. “Nine times out of 10 if you’re riding off the front of the race solo, you’re gonna get caught. When I watched [Sean] ride off the front I was OK with him riding off the front. I don’t think he will be allowed to do so this year.”
April 3, 2014 in News
It is 1:00 pm on Friday in San Diego and I am crying big, salty, tears for the second time in an hour as Matt drives me to the airport. He asks me what’s wrong again and I tell him I’m not sure. It’s the stress of flying alone, maybe, or the weight of a race I want to pretend I don’t care about only I really do. It’s the private terror of racing a fixed gear bike without brakes through tight Brooklyn corners infamous for demanding blood and sweat in exchange for glory, maybe. Or maybe it’s the thought of the magical unicorn of the custom Cinelli prize bike that everyone and their mothers have been staring at via Facebook for the last two weeks (seriously, even my dad knew about it). We pull into the loading zone of terminal 2 at San Diego International Airport. I take a deep breath, wipe my eyes, grab my bike box and cool kid Chrome backpack and walk into the airport.
On the plane I zone out on Dramamine– I am a very motion-sick bike racer– while news footage of the missing Malaysia flight 370 runs on the screen imbedded into the back of my seat. I ask the girl next to me if she’s going home or away from home and she tells me she’s on spring break vacation. She asks me what I’m doing in New York and I tell her I’m flying out for a big bike race. “Oh, that’ll be fun,” she says. “Yeah, we’ll see,” I say with a half smile. I’m thinking about road rash.
I arrive at JFK around 9:00 pm EST. Don, a.k.a. Roadblock, greets me and carries my baggage, giving my wimpy cyclist/girl arms a little break. We catch a sketchy unmarked cab to Flatbush where we’re staying in something called an airbnb, which everyone but me has heard of. It’s actually someone’s vacant apartment (completely empty except for a chair, a lamp and some air mattresses). I’m wired because I’m on California time and consumed too much caffeine as per usual, so I eat a shitton of the pasta Don made and left on the stove, bounce around the empty apartment and then end up going out for onion rings with Roadblock and fellow Wolfpack Hustler/temporary roommate Zach Morvant. I fall asleep at 3:00 AM on an air mattress in an empty room under a single sheet. At 4:30 AM, some asshole decides to park out of my window and blare Jamaican techno for half an hour. At 5:45 AM I discover that the heater is broken because it sounds like a tea kettle whenever it kicks on. I contemplate no showing for the race due to sleep deprivation but manage to go back to sleep and get up on time anyway. It’s pouring rain. I live in San Diego. This is more rainfall than we get in a year and I have no idea how to ride in the wet. My insides feel like a washing machine.
When we arrive at Red Hook, we’re ushered to the athletes’ area in the cruise terminal. I gravitate towards Kelli Samuelson, who I know from the So Cal race scene, and her friend Stefania Baldi, an Italian woman who I meet in the reg line. We talk qualifier tactics, which I will later fail to follow anyway due to adrenaline enhancement of my already-impulsive personality. We’re surrounded by a bunch of skinny dudes in skin-tight clothing. I’m fairly convinced I’ve seen every possible bike-related pun on the backs of their kits. It occurs to me that this is really a showcase-in-race-form of the biggest brands, and some of the best athletes, in the underground scene.
A little after 1 PM, they corral us into Parc Ferme, check our cleats, bikes and numbers, ziptie a timing chip on us and let us stew in our own nerves. I think I’m going to puke. Kacey Manderfield is the women’s race director, and she is smaller and daintier than I expected for being such a damned good track racer and a past Red Hook winner. She explains to us that we have 20 minutes to lay down our best race time, which will determine our staging for the final. After a delay, they roll us out into the freezing rain and onto the line. Trimble counts down… 10. 9. 8. I am not ready… 3. 2. 1. Go!
Everyone’s confused and freezing. Someone attacks hard and takes a blisteringly fast lap. I can’t see, and I pedal hard to catch up, try to set a good time. I know we don’t have to worry about “qualifying” but nonetheless I want a good time. I can barely see. The course consists of a chicane shortly after the start finish, a straightaway over a ton of rough, uneven road with a lot of puddles. This leads into a long, sweeping turn that puts us facing the opposite direction and into the wind, a gentle left and a long straightaway before the final, brutal hairpin turn. I end up spending all 20 minutes riding, partly because I want to learn the course and partly because I can’t figure out where to exit. I can hear the top 3 lap times and my name isn’t mentioned.
Finally, we pull off and go back to the warmth of the cruise terminal. My clothes are soaked and I’m all too happy to strip out of them and go back to the wool dress I arrived in. Kelli nudges me when qualifying times go up.
I have to go halfway down the line to find my name. I’m 14th out of 31. I’m completely demoralized. How can I possibly expect to podium when I lay down a completely average qualifying time? Kelli and Stefania reassure me during my lunch break. Kelli’s optimistic; she and Stefania set down damn good qualifying laps (6th and 5th, respectively). I relax a little while eating pizza around the corner from the race with the girls. We joke and chat. Stefania speaks limited English, I speak no Italian and Kelli does her best with her own limited knowledge of the language, so we communicate through a mixture of words, expressions and emphatic hand gestures. Despite living on opposite ends of the globe and being separated by a linguistic barrier, we share the same interests: bikes, boyfriends, food, and a little bit of homesickness.
During the 3 hour break between women’s qualifiers and the actual race, everyone’s asking how I did. I talk it over with the other WPH guys and text Matt about it. Fabian (who could probably light up a dark room with his personality) seems to think it’s rad because he qualified 14th too– out of almost 200 dudes. I tell Matt that I’m not worried, because “fast laps don’t win races, fast racers win races” only I’m pretty much trying to convince myself as much as him. He handsomely reassures me and tells me I’ll do great. I have no big expectations. Eyes are off me for the moment and I’m not in the spotlight. The Wolfpack Hustle guys are nervous as they slip away to their own qualifying rounds.
I reluctantly kit back up at as we creep toward our start time– this time in the red-yellow-green champion kit from the Wolfpack Hustle Unified Title Series. Twice on the way to the bathroom somebody stops me and tells me they like my kit. I lovingly refer to it as my piñata suit. When we return to the staging area, I’m jittery again. The rain has gotten worse and, because of the incoming storm, they’ve shortened our race to a mere 14 laps– a mark against me, who needs a long, brutal race to do well.
When it’s time to go, Kacey hops on her bike and leads us back into the freezing rain. It’s a shock to my system. I feel like a lamb being led to slaughter. We stand in the icy rain as they call up the fastest lap times– Ash Dubon, Liz So, Katie Arnold, and so on. I position myself on the X labeled ’14’, right next to the ever-lovely Veronica Volok. It’s not too bad… I’m in the second row, directly behind 4th place Carolynn Hatch. The countdown begins again. 10. 9. 8… …3. 2. 1. Go!
The first lap is fast because there’s a prime at the end. I follow along, cold, unsure of what’s in store. Liz So leads us whipping around the course and takes it deftly. We slow down after the finish line.
In the face of intimidating races, I am never quite sure how I will respond. Sometimes I am timid, and I flounder and fail. And then there are times when I blossom. This is one of those times.
I know I am fast over an extended period of time. I finished the 2013 L.A. Marathon Crash Race with the lead pack– the only woman in sight. I refuse to be complacent, so I push my way to the front and take a monster pull. I push hard, hard, hard, now taking the course on my own terms, taking sweeping lines and forcing the race into single file. One of the Rockstar Games riders rolls to the front, sensing my strategy and takes a pull. We trade for a while, flicking an elbow for other girls to pull through and keeping it fast enough to shed the deadweight for lap after lap.
At around lap 6, as we cut around the hairpin, I hear someone cry out, and the sound of metal colliding with concrete. I don’t stop. I don’t look back. “Go, go, go!” I yell to the girls who made it out with me. I want to get as far away as possible from the crash. The pack is whittled down to about half its original size. The midrace prime is called at lap 7. Figuring I won’t win, I decide I at least want to go home with something cool, so, right before the hairpin I push my way to the front and then sprint out of it first. Nobody comes around me.
At lap 10, we enter the chicane in a long line. “Stay right, we’re passing,” I hear someone call to a lapped rider in the turn. She turns her head in response and drifts towards us. I shy away, but the girl behind me is not so lucky and has nowhere to go. She hits the barricade to our left, bounces off and hits my left leg. You’re going down now, my brain says, but years of riding in tight formations have apparently paid off, and my body says, no, not this time, and pedals out of it. The girl hits the barricade again with a loud crash and I push the pace again.
As we come around the course again, the marshals are waving desperately to us. The motor pulls up. We’re neutralized– Kacey sends us back to the cruise terminal to get warm. Inside, my teeth are chattering uncontrollably. My male teammates are there, wrapping me in a towel, asking me what happened, if they can get me anything. I change out arm warmers but have nothing else to wear. I’m soaked to the bone.
We sit for 20 minutes, cooling down, before Kacey announces we’re going to restart only the break and the chase with 3 to go, giving the break a head start. My heart sinks. How am I going to win a 3 lap race? Everyone’s recovered and my big motor isn’t going to help me over such a short distance. On top of that, my body is trembling. Some of the girls drop out, unwilling to face the brutal weather, and I consider it as well, but I endured a 5 hour flight and took off work to come out and I’ll be damned if anything stops me from at least finishing the race.
We restart and I again set the pace, cautious, waiting, always staying top 3. At some point, Kelli, who has been desperately chasing after being caught behind a crash, catches back on. I keep my head in the game, watching, waiting. Ash attacks, flying forward from the left, but I’m ready for it. I knew she was back there. She doesn’t escape. She’s now forced into the front and has to pull for much of the final lap. I realize, on the straight away coming into the hairpin, that I’m in 4th position– not good enough. Recalling my earlier prime lap, I decide to make a move that could either be idiotic or genius. I do what Don will later refer to as “beasting” and put in a monster effort to come up the left side of the straight away, around the pack, and push my way back over to the right just as we enter the hairpin. I take it wide and shallow, carrying my speed through.
Liz So takes it tight and narrow, coming through on the inside and pulling ahead! We start our sprint as soon as it’s safe coming out of the turn on the wet roads, but I have more momentum from taking the gentler line through the hairpin. I accelerate into her draft and slingshot off of her in an attempt to come around before we cross the line. I don’t think I have it… … But I do!
I can’t help but pump my fist into the air. I ride around the course, grinning like an idiot, blown away. I didn’t even think I’d place.
Don is bouncing off the walls, excited. When I call Matt, he’s ecstatic as well as relieved– my timing chip had malfunctioned at one point and, with the phone app being the only way for him to track me from the west coast, he was convinced that I’d crashed because I was listed as DNF. On the podium, I worry I’ll cry for the umpteenth time this weekend, but this time it’ll be happy tears. They present me a beautiful Vigorelli. I’m floored.
In forty years, if my health allows and I survive that long, I will tell Matt’s and my granddaughters– who I am convinced will race bikes in tradition of the family– about the blue-and-white bike frame hanging on the wall. I will tell them that I was there at the inaugural women’s Red Hook during a time when we had to fight to see real women’s races. I will tell them that, somehow, I won.
Time is an odd phenomenon. It can seem slow, or it can pass you by in a blur. It’s more the latter when I think of the past 2 years Wolfpack Hustle has been stomping through the streets of San Francisco.
Our very first ride drew quite a few people out of the woodwork…you see, unlike the night ride scene in SoCal, San Francisco is sparse in that department. What’s even more interesting is the turnout we had despite the fact that the first ride was not under the Wolfpack Hustle moniker (It had no name for the first four rides).
The first ride. 1-30-2012
Much like the original WPH from L.A., we relied on nothing more than word-of-mouth and Facebook to promote our ride. With new social media outlets such as Instagram and STRAVA, news of our ride was spreading. New riders documented their experience with our group in shared photographs and hashtags. Once secured STRAVA segments would be swept by our crew in considerable and definitive fashion. CAT 1-2 racers would show up and describe the ride as a “high-intensity interval training” ride.
One year anniversary. 2-4-2013
Just like any group ride, we would have riders show in different frequencies. Some would show up, love the ride, and never return. Some would ride intermittently. And some would get hooked, and be there week in and week out. Two things were remaining consistent: bikes were being ridden, and fun was being had.
Year two. 1-27-2014
If you’re ever in town, please swing by on a Monday and say hello, hopefully with bike in tow. We meet at 7:45pm on Patricia’s Green on Hayes and Octavia, every Monday, rain or shine.
Wolfpack Hustle SF
Longtime Hustler Chris V decided to make the route for last Sunday and in my opinion, he nailed it. Like it was your mom… The wind was absolutely horrible, yet helpful at times, and according to the weather channel, it got up to 70 m.p.h. but that didn’t stop us from hustlin. The route took us around the park and into North City and then all the way down St Charles Rock Rd into downtown. From there we killed it down Broadway to arsenal and took that all the way til it ended and then we crushed Manchester flats to Handlebar. See everybody Sunday night….
On Sunday night we did an old but super fun hustle. We head down to Broadway from Coffee Cartel and head South all the way to Jefferson Barracks Park, turn around and come back, hitting up Chouteau and all of its hills. Not a long hustle but that means you have to hit it a little harder to get all you can out of it. And that’s exactly what we did with lead pack averaging over 20 mph. KILLIN IT!!!! Wolfpack owns Broadway! Andrea came out for her second hustle and Owen came out to his first. Both of them kicked ass! I hope they come out again this week. See y’all Sunday
If anyone reading this hasn’t done a WPH Marathon Crash Race, you won’t understand the rush that comes from blazing through the pitch black city streets at 20+ mph with some of the fastest people who can ride a bike. It was 3:30 a.m. and it was downright chilly in STL. All the usual suspects and a few new faces gathered to crash the “Rock N Roll Marathon”. We had a couple out-of-towners come down from Chicago for the race with OG Hustler Zach. Kayce made the announcements through the sickly sounding megaphone and after a quick jaunt through the start/finish line (which that prick cop hated), we waited for the light to turn green and we were off. The race was fast with a lot of turns which made it easy to get lost if you weren’t with someone who knew the course (even though we had turnsheets). Max ended up way off course and almost visited Penrose Velodrome in north city, Zach went down on Forest Park Parkway, Kayce was holding out money on Washington Ave for people to grab mid-race right from his hand, there were at least 3 flats, and when it was all said and done, Rob Varmer ended up winning it all by a margin of at least 6 minutes. Kayce then divvied up the prizes that were donated by Jeremy @ Cherokee Street Bikes. The sun was coming up and we were all freezing, exhausted, hungry, and had to avoid hundreds off runners about to run our race course.
Rob Varmer (1st overall, 1st fixed)
Chris Vela (2nd overall) (fixed)
Andy Grueninger (3rd overall, 1st geared)
Tom Brockus (4th overall) (fixed)
Zach Slavens (5th overall) (fixed)
Courtney Cushard (6th overall, 1st womens) (geared)
Jack Helvey (7th overall) (geared)
etc, etc, etc…..
A huge Thank You to everyone who came out to race and especially to Kayce, Chris V, Jack, and Chris Green for putting this all together. And a Super Huge Thank You to Jeremy @ Cherokee Street Bikes for donating the prizes. You all kick ass!!!
This was a ride I had never done before but I’m glad I did. Manchester is a fast fast fast road all the way out to the county with plenty of rolling hills. And if there is one thing Wolfpack STL loves, its LOTS-O-HILLS… It was a smaller Hustle with only 9 at the start but that didn’t stop us from killin it all the way out to the county and back.
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