I know, I know! It’s long overdue but Matt and I have been swamped, to say the least! We have been practically on a dead run since January and with Matt wrapping up his PhD at Harvard we can finally play a little catch-up!
In our latest newsletter we’ll share a recap of the National Championships in Madison, WI, our special trip to the World Championships, my summer of shredding with the Cycle Loft MTB team, Matt’s graduation as well as his adventures with the Ride Studio Café Endurance Team and his upcoming two-wheeled trip from Portland, OR to Boulder, CO! He leaves on MONDAY! Plus we have an exciting new sponsor to announce, so hang on tight! We've got lots to do.
Since we’ve last posted a newsletter, I was represented in a preview article as one of the USA hopefuls for the World Championships, I’ve tackled the National Championships, was included in a photo exhibit that would open in Louisville at Worlds, was part of a photo feature in the Boston Phoenix, was written about kindly in a local blog and then made it to the World Championships, in one way or another.
After arriving home from Belgium, we had two weeks at home before heading to Madison, WI for the Nationals Championships.My overall season had gone well enough, but I did not have the strong results I had hoped for in the big races or in Europe to make the USA World Championship Team. Nationals would be my last chance of the season for that and I was hoping that two weeks at home would give me a chance to recharge the batteries before the big race. Matt spent those two weeks recovering from the aftermath of his shingles and working hard on his dissertation. We were finally able to catch up on the Christmases we missed with family too.
We were welcomed by the Rapha Focus Team to set ourselves up in their camp for the weekend of Nationals as if we were family. Everyone offered help, a trainer, a spot to warm up and a place for Matt to set up his mechanic bench. I was able to spend the three days leading up to the race doing my training in the warm tent while the outdoor temperatures ranged anywhere from the upper 30’s and mostly frozen, to upper 40’s and a mud fest, to below 20º with deep frozen ruts. I inspected the course on Friday and Sunday and felt prepared for the varied technical conditions and arctic weather. I was particularly looking forward to the one set of steps in the middle of each lap. It was about 20 steps long and I knew it would play to my strengths off the bike.
I was able to hit up my favorite little baker in Middleton, WI, the Bloom Bake Shop. I loaded up with vegan and gluten free treats for the Rapha Focus staff and the Trek CX Collective who had helped set me up with new cycling shoes just a week before the event. I managed to save one cupcake for myself too!
The surprise of the weekend was some scheming by Matt to get my best bro Steve out to the event on his way home from a business trip to Chicago. We were able to get some downtime in the evenings and it was so great to have Steve to help out and join us for meals. We even got Matt to watch My Cousin Vinnie for his first time.
Come race day, I had all the help and support I could dream of and despite the 18º high temp of the day, I was warmed up and ready to race. I had a clean start and worked my way into a top-10 place early on. The conditions of the course began to change as the weather warmed up a smidge and there were some very slippery corners and muddy sections to manage. I was thrilled with the conditions and began to work my way up to 4th place. I ran smoothly up the steps each lap, closing any gaps to the riders in front of me.
A small crash into some leftover snow lost me some time but I was feeling solid fighting for the top 5 until the last ½ lap. During the last lap of the race the temperature began to drop dramatically and the wet sections of the ground were freezing up. I couldn’t really tell this until I had two crashes that knocked me back to 7th place where I finished with a gigantic bruise on one of my hips. I was pleased with my effort and I felt great racing so I wasn’t too upset about my bad luck.
As predicted, the stairs were my favorite part of the course. You can see why here. For video coverage of the entire race, start here.
A few days after the Nationals, the US Team was announced for the World Championships. I knew that finishing outside of the top 5 at Nationals had knocked me out of contention and that was confirmed by the Team announcement. It would be unfortunate to miss the World Championships as they were being held in the USA for the first time ever in Louisville. However, Matt had already been selected to be one of the mechanics for Team USA at the event and I thought there may be a slight chance that they would still need a soigneur (massage therapist/care taker) for the team. Matt sent a note to the director on my behalf and immediately they accepted me for the position... and in the blink of an eye, I made the World’s Team after all!
Being selected to be on the staff for Team USA was a huge honor and Matt and I were ready to resume the roles that got us into elite level cycling in the first place. I hadn’t worked as a soigneur since 2005 when I began my own racing seriously, but like riding a bike, you never forget.
We arrived the Wednesday before the event to get acquainted with the other staff members and get our schedules for the rest of the week and weekend. I would be working with Head Soigneur, Bernard Condevaux taking care of the 12 riders that were staying at the team hotel. The roster had 22 athletes but many were staying with family or friends rather than the team hotel.
Each day we met for team breakfast, posted our massage schedules for the athletes to sign up, ran errands for groceries, did laundry and then headed to the venue for the training block on the course to make sure the athletes were all set. The mechanics seemed to be working around the clock on bikes of all shapes, sizes and conditions. The course was in terrible condition due to the rain, snow and freezing temperatures. A single lap of the course would leave bikes looking like this:
Each afternoon, we would return from the training block for team lunch and then begin massage sessions, take a break for dinner and staff meeting and then resume massages before heading to bed for the night. It’s not at all glamorous, but it’s pretty rewarding work to help a National Team get ready for the World Championships as the host country. It was nice for me to work on my fellow racers since they never really get to see what I do when not racing and I imagine it may have been unusual for them to experience getting massage from a competitor, but I tried to give them all a little extra TLC and make sure their legs and bodies were relaxed and ready.
We ended up getting potentially stressful news on Friday that the Ohio River was expected to begin flooding Saturday and would reach a critical level by Sunday. The course and venue is literally ON the Ohio River. A mad dash was made by the promotion staff to have professional barricades and sandbag walls put up all along the lower section of the course. The UCI commission chose to condense the weekend schedule to hold all four of the Championship races on Saturday rather than risking cancelling the elite races on Sunday.
The staff buckled down and got things ready one day early while the athletes generally remained calm and cool about the whole thing. The mechanics worked late into the night prepping all of the bikes while the soigneurs prepped all of the team supplies.
Race day started with a super early departure as the compressed schedule meant cramming four races into one day rather than just two. The athletes rode their bikes the two miles to the venue while the staff took the vans. Bernard and I had set up pastries, hot tea and coffee for the mechanics, snacks and drinks for the riders and post race lunch. The four races ran essentially back-to-back starting at 9:45am and ending at 5pm. One of us would go to the start of a race to collect jackets from the riders while the other remained at the team box to greet the next group of arriving racers. At the end of each race, one of us would get to the finish line to hand jackets back to the cold, wet racers. We did this back and forth dance all day while the mechanic made similar but much more harried trips all day to the pit and back carrying bikes, wheels, tools and covered in wet mud.
I spent most of the day between the team box (which was a construction pod with a heater, some chairs and a table) and the start/finish line about 150 meters away. I didn’t get to see much of the course at all, but I did get to see the near constant, streaming lines of people entering the venue as spectators. A large crowd from New England showed up and I was able to pop over and say hello through the chain link fence. I was able to catch a bit more of the men’s race before heading to the mad house of a finish line to hand out their jackets. Possibly the coolest part of my day was walking back along the finish strait where people recognized me as a racer and began to cheer and give me high-fives!
That night we headed out to some of the events that were being held to celebrate the Championships, including the now infamous Foam Party. Because of the change in schedule, everyone now had Sunday completely off and the parties were all re-scheduled to Saturday night. Despite being exhausted from the long day, we rallied and headed out to a fairly quiet event hosted by SRAM before having some coffee, grabbing the team director and heading to the Foam Party at a bar downtown.
We had heard that the bar was at capacity and there was a line on the street to get in, but we walked up to the door to see if we could get some VIP treatment and got lucky. I had posted a Tweet and luckily it was spotted and a local friend and the US men’s National Champion Jonathan Page were at the door to grab us and whisk us into the party. Our team director seemed pretty psyched about our savvy line cutting and entrance and was happy to not have to wait in the cold outside.
The party was packed with bike racers and fans from around the World and two of the DJ’s were US racers. We saw some friends at the front of the DJ booth and managed to squeeze through the dancing crowd to a premium spot overlooking the entire bar.
Some dancing, hanging out, spotting Euro Pros in the crowd and chatting with friends was the perfect way to wrap up the crazy week! It was a late night and everyone was thrilled to have the next day off to sleep in and then explore the city.
We met up with some friends and headed off to brunch, an art gallery connected to a hotel lobby and then to a tea house/café for some more brunch snacks before heading back to the hotel for a short nap. Afterwards we joined the remaining members of the US Team for dinner out at a local Indian restaurant and watched the Super Bowl back in the hotel room.
We finished our packing after the football game and got a few hours sleep before the trip home. Matt and I were booked on separate flights because I was not on the original staff list for the team. There were snowstorms and fog delays everywhere. Matt managed to run to his connecting flight to Boston while I got stuck in Chicago for nearly four hours. The good news was that Matt got home before I even left Chicago so he could feed and pet the cats before heading back to the airport to pick me up. Pretty perfect way to end the whirlwind season this year!
Following our return from Louisville, Matt entered a five-month hibernation period we referred to as "Dissertation lockdown." After nearly eight years in the Immunology program at Harvard, Matt was finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Over the course of the next few months, Matt was more or less chained to the computer where he wrote his 200-plus page dissertation. In late April, Matt defended his dissertation following a public defense with an audience full of friends and family. And in May, at long last, Matt earned his PhD!
With Matt completely occupied for the past few months, the MMRacing marketing, mechanical and logistical branch effectively went on hiatus allowing me to take a bit of respite from the cyclocross season mayhem. The change of pace allowed me to approach the summer mountain bike season in a different way, accepting a unique opportunity to ride with the Cycle Loft Mountain Bike team.
I usually spend my summer training and racing without sponsorship as I gear up for ‘cross season. Rather than pursuing the very busy planning and management of having my cyclocross sponsors extend their support through the summer, I accepted a unique opportunity to have a more low-key, locally involved season riding with the LBS (local bicycle shop) and some very nice teammates to boot. I’m especially excited to host some beginner women’s mtb rides and clinics!
Of course, I spoke with the amazing folks at Seven Cycles about this opportunity beforehand, as I will be riding a Trek bike this summer. In classic Seven Cycles form, they are super supportive, kind and thoughtful and we’re collectively focusing our sponsorship energies on a second Mo Pro 2 for the 2013 cx season so I will have a matching set. Now THAT’S why we hashtag them #bestsponsorsever.
In his "free" time, Matt founded the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team and pulled together an amazing sponsorship package that includes Seven Cycles, SRAM, Zipp, Clement and Rapha. The team of Matt, David Wilcox and John Bayley, have already tackled two of the toughest 200-mile dirt road races in the country, the Dirty Kanza 200 (where David and John crossed the line together in 3rd place) and the third edition of the Green Mountain Double Century (where the trio crossed the line in first after 17 hours in the saddle). The team is gaining momentum and have a lot of exciting things in store for the future.
Matt is also gearing up to find some post-graduation bliss by riding from Portland, OR to Boulder, CO aboard his new (and absolutely amazing) Seven Cycles 622 SLX, easily the most advanced ti/carbon platform to be made at Seven. Matt will be documenting his journey daily. We'll keep you updated as to how you should follow him but for now, just look for the #PDX2BLDR hashtag on Twitter to follow along!
Finally! Matt and I are really excited to announce our new partnership with Grimpeur Bros. Grimpeur Bros are specialty coffee roasters that truly embrace the connection between coffee and cycling. We're so grateful to add Dan and Nigel to our amazing family of sponsors. Plus, you guys, COFFEE! Look for a special Grimpeur Bros/MMRacing blend coming this fall. I wouldn't be exaggerating to say it will be the best coffee you've ever had.
There's still so much more to tell! But we've got to wrap it up. I'll be heading to Windham for what promises to be some incredible mountain bike racing while Matt joins his Ride Studio Cafe teammates for a shakedown ride of his touring equipment from Arlington to Mt. Greylock, 160 miles away. We'll be having our end-of-year party and raffle a little late this year... so late that we'll just call it a 'Cross Season Kickoff Party! Be ready!
Thanks for reading! And thanks for the amazing support of Bob’s Red Mill, Seven Cycles, SRAM, Castelli Cycling, Mavic, TRP, Zipp, Soul Run, FMB, WickWerks, SwissStop, Fizik, Mad Alchemy, Vitacoco, Thule, Smith Optics, ProGold Lubricants, ClifBar, Grimpeur Bros. and Lululemon.
If you just can't get enough MM Racing, you can follow us on Twitter.
Matt: @mm_racing, Mo: @meaux_marie.