Ice Ice Baby

Part I

In the not too distant past, the Clark Kent to my Bobke Strut earned a living by being a state government employee, more specifically a librarian. The job had its ups and downs, as any means of employment usually does, but one of the awesome perks was my department had a sweet travel budget.

Sweet travel budget=conferences galore, nationwide. I’ve been to San Francisco, Washington, DC, Miami Beach, Minneapolis, and Chicago among other places.

And then there was Baltimore. ‘Going to conferences’ is frequently synonymous with hitting the local bars ASAP as soon as one’s sessions conclude. As luck would have it, there were quite a few bars to frequent in the immediate vicinity of my conference venue.

The gods must have surely been smiling down upon me, for somehow I stumbled across a drinking establishment with this sign inside:

The sign denoting the Vanilla Ice VIP area

Now, I thought Mr. Robert Matthew Van Winkle had retired that persona, but apparently not. And then…sweet Jesus…I peeked into the VIP area and saw this:

The sign denoting the Vanilla Ice VIP area

Now that’s fucking awesome.

In case you wondered, no, I did not happen to encounter Mr. Vanilla Ice in person as I was there a tad bit too early. Besides, it would have ruined the day in which none other than John Waters gave the keynote speech at my library conference. Several hours after he uttered his last word to the throngs of assembled librarians I was still in shock. John Waters knows how to spin a yarn, and he regaled us with stories of Baltimore and his film-making career for approximately an hour. Suffice it to say, I didn’t think I’d ever see the day at a library conference where a speaker was telling stories about being teabagged. Now that’s how you deliver a memorable keynote address.

I’ve always wondered if the party(ies) responsible for booking John Waters only knew him through his later films such as Hairspray, or if they were consciously aware they were also unleashing the creator of Pink Flamingos on the audience. Waters told a story about such a scenario, where a person rented Hairspray, liked it, then rented Pink Flamingos and tried to sue him for obscenity.

Of course, I had to get a book signed afterwards.

Vanilla Ice sculpture

Part II

And speaking of Ice, in a quirk of cosmic fate the weather in my neck of North Carolina happens to be the same as Tabor, Czech Republic - the iciest, snowiest ‘cross Worlds since Poprad, Slovakia in 1999. So I thought, time to bust out the ‘cross bike and take in the snow and ice right outside my door.

About one hour later I returned home, with a bit of Mother Nature as a souvenir.

Despite the ice on my shoe covers, the feet were toasty warm
An icy drivetrain
Oodles of ice
Who needs functioning brakes
Ice Road Bianchi

Part III

Me 'n' J.G. banner

And speaking of Ice, the freakiest man in cyclo-cross, John Gadret, is back at it. He blew off ‘cross season last year in order to focus on his road career and, uh, that didn’t quite work out. So he’s back, and will be seeking World Championship glory tomorrow in frozen Tabor, the one time out of the year he can ride sans his usual AG2R La Mondiale chocolate madness kit.

Now John Gadret has what one would call a love-hate relationship with racing ‘cross bikes on ice. You see, he would love to knock the lights out of his pit crew at said Poprad ‘cross Worlds in 1999 because he hates losing out on a certain silver medal in the U23 race. It turns out that a young JG was solidly in second place on the last lap in Poprad, so solid that all of the French pit crew at the second pit area bolted their positions to congregate at the finish line in celebration.

Unfortunately, Gadret flatted, rolled into the pit area, and was a bit freaked out to find nobody there. So freaked out, in fact, that by the time he bummed a wheel from neutral support and got back in the race he dropped to fifth place.


Bart Wellens won gold, fellow Belgian Tom Vannoppen won silver, and an incredulous Tim Johnson, unaware of Gadret’s mishap when he crossed the line, nabbed bronze, the first-ever ‘cross world championship medal for an American.

Let’s see what my favorite “hairless spider monkey” can uncork tomorrow in Tabor. My guess? 24th place, about 3:30 down on a raging Zdenek Stybar.

Iran-Canada Affair

Nigel Tufnel: “It’s like, how much more black could it be? And the answer is none. None more black.”

That was my overriding philosophy governing attire back in the early 90s. None more black. And when you try to cross international borders looking like a homeless Johnny Cash, The Man tends to get a wee bit uppity. Even when that border is the benign line separating upstate New York from Canada. But I didn’t know that then. Why? Because I was brash, 23, and oblivious.

So it’s October 1991 and I had the grand plan to witness in person the sole UCI World Cup held in North America: the GP des Ameriques on the legendary Montreal Mont Royal circuit. It was all so simple: drive to my friend’s house in Cornwall, Ontario on Saturday, watch the race on Sunday, drive back to New York on Monday. Simple, that is, until I hit the US/Canadian border. Everybody I’d ever talked to about travelling to Canada says it was a piece of cake, you just get waved through.

Me? I was asked to park my car and answer some questions inside their Canadian border bunker.

“Come with us, sir”

Perhaps it was my black hole of a wardrobe: black Doc Martens boots, black jeans, black t-shirt under a black sweater, black beret (don’t ask…I found it on the side of the road while doing a training ride in Telluride, CO that summer and should have taken a cue from the previous owner and just left it there to rot). Perhaps it was my grooming habits straight out of Barfly: I had about a 2 week growth of stubble; stringy, greasy hair; ramblings about a need for fuel and drinks for all my friends. Perhaps it was my passport. My Canadian friend, Denis, said to show the border patrol a passport since they tend to grant it more weight than a mere drivers license for ID purposes. That was object #1 of interest to my Inquisitors, particularly the lengthy trip to Ireland with a sidetrip to London taken 2 years prior. They took my passport, typed who knows what for lord knows how long into a computer, and proceeded to grill me.

Canadian Border Patrol: “Do you have any felony convictions?”
Me: “Uhh…that would definitely be no.”
CBP: [typing some more] “Are you sure?”
Me: [thinking to myself, “What the fuck is on that screen?”]

I had to explain my foreign exchange student visit to Ireland. I had to explain that, no, I didn’t steal my father’s car. And, yes, he knew that I was using his car for a weekend trip to Canada. I had to explain that the teenage cycling friend of mine, Dave, who was accompanying me had his parents’ permission. And then the kicker was when they asked for my friend Denis’ phone number so they could verify “my story”.

CBP: “Hello, is this Denis?”
Denis: “Yep.”
CBP: “I’m agent so-and-so with the Canadian Border Services Agency. Are you expecting an American friend this weekend?”
Denis: “Peter, is that you? You’re too fuckin’ funny.” Click.
Denis thought I was punking him and he hung up on the border agent. I asked for the phone and called Denis back. This time he stayed on the line, I handed the phone to the agent, and they set things straight.

Finally, about 1 hour later, I entered Canada. Their suspected IRA mule was clean.

The World Cup event the following day is largely a blur. I remember seeing Sean Kelly tooling around before the start. I got a good glimpse of Greg LeMond on the start line. Watching the Director Sportifs inflict innumerable dents to their rental team vehicles in a real-life game of bumper cars while jockeying for position on the narrow Mont Royal ascent each lap was a hoot. Top-to-bottom, it was probably the most star-studded single day race field I’d ever witnessed. Denis, Dave (my American partner in crime), and myself watched a good deal of the race on the ascent of Mont Royal as well as a section of road near the base of the climb where the peloton made their way back into the park having climbed and descended the Mont. It was along this stretch of road that my other international incident occurred.

We were trying to worm our way up against the snow fence to see the peloton approaching approximately mid-race but were finding the tifosi to be rather firmly afixed to their prime vantage points. So…I noticed behind me a set of stairs leading up a steep bank to an exquisitely manicured lawn about 6 feet higher than the sidewalk along the parcours. Set further back from the lawn stood an equally exquisite domicile. What’s the harm in just standing on their walkway for a couple of minutes?

While standing innocently and benignly on the walkway, just as the helicopters and motorcycles signalled the peloton’s imminent arrival, a squawking voice—heavily accented—blurted out of some heretofore unseen loudspeakers,


WTF??? What did I do now? So I quickly glanced around behind me and happened to read a sign letting me know that this building was the Iranian embassy. I was trespassing on the sovereign territory of Iran and someone was none too pleased. And that voice could be the same guy flaunting his microphone technique in the Strait of Hormuz—”I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes.”

I fled the premises lickety split.

Belgian strongman Eric Van Lancker (Panasonic) crossed the line first, outsprinting Dutchman Steven Rooks (Buckler) and Irishman Martin Earley (PDM) in a small group finish. To me, the hero of the day was Martin Earley who remained off the front for nearly the entire race. He went with the early move and survived all day in a fluid break which saw all of his original companions dropped and replaced by fresh legs as the race progressed. If I recall, also, Eric Van Lancker credited his STI shifters with assisting with the winning sprint. Rooks and Earley had to shift mid-sprint on their downtube shifters while Lancker could simply flick the rear shifter while in the drops sprinting full-out.

A smattering of photos from my day in Montreal: October 6, 1991…

The snaking peloton nears the end of a lap approximately 1/3 of the way through their 155 mile journey. The aforementioned Iranian embassy is about 300 meters to the right of this photo awaiting my imminent transgression.
Martin Earley (left) and Dag-Otto Lauritzen (right), off the front, make their final ascent of Mont Royal
Moments later, the peloton rockets up the climb.

Post-race we scored the best bagels of my life at a tiny shop near Mont Royal. The following day I crossed back to New York without incident via an interaction with American border patrol guards lasting maybe 15 seconds. Good thing…because I had a shitload more than my legal allotment of beer in the trunk.

Cyclocross World Cup-Koksijde…The full story, Part 2

Cyclocross World Cup-Koksijde…The full story, Part 1

Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent…Night Two–the full story

Everyone who loves professional cycling should spend at least one evening in the Kuipke.

The evening’s race schedule:

6:30pm UIV Cup: Flying 1 lap TT (166 m) and 200 lap madison
8:05pm Pro team introductions
8:30pm 60 lap points race
8:50pm Madison miss-and-out
9:10pm Flying 1 lap TT (166 m): Team 13 first…Team 1 last
9:30pm Madison: 40 minutes + 10 laps
10:15pm Break…cheesy singing performed by Gary Hagger, definitely time to re-load on beer and brats.
10:35pm Derny heat #1 (teams 7-12): 60 laps
10:50pm Miss-and-out
11:05pm Derny heat #2 (teams 1-6): 60 laps
11:20pm Flying 500 m TT: Team 13 first…Team 1 last
11:45pm Supersprint: Madison miss-and-out until 6 teams remain + 10 laps
12:00am Derny final
12:15am Scratch race (everyone except those who just competed in the derny final)
12:25am Madison: 30 minutes + 10 laps

Cyclocross World Cup-Koksijde

World Champion Erwin Vervecken emerged from his camper fully kitted out and proceeded to check the tire pressure on one of his four bikes. No pressure gauges for Erwin…it was assessed simply by pressing his palm down on the tire and letting the mechanic know whether air needed to be added or released. World Champions do not pump their own tires, or even let air out…truly the essence of PRO.

I’ve returned from Belgium and will have much more to say about the World Cup at Koksijde as well as the 6 Days of Ghent. I’ve got about 120 photos all together from both events plus two short video clips from Koksijde.

2007 Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent…Wednesday Night

As Mac Canon previously stated, “50 degree banking, baby!” The electronic screen above the track shows the results of the UIV Cup flying lap TT still in-progress.

Pictured are 1 of 2 American teams taking place in the UIV Cup, an espoir precursor to the pro event, at the 6 Days of Ghent. Fore is Guy East, rear is Austin Carroll. Unfortunately for these guys, Austin Carroll ate it hard near the end of their 200 lap madison and he was taken away in a stretcher with a separated shoulder. At this point I was purchasing bratwurst and beer and I totally missed the incident. And as you can see, if you’re not racing the pro event you don’t get a bunk to set up shop. It’s uber low budget all the way…folding chairs, duffle bags, and rollers out in the open on the infield.

The pros are taking processional laps for approximately 25 minutes as all 13 teams are introduced. They form a tight double paceline with the teams in reverse order (ie…team 13 at the front down to team 1 at the rear). The announcers run down the palmares of the team on the front, once completed that team pulls up high on the track and waves to the crowd for one lap, then they drift to the rear in order for the next team to get their due. At this point it’s pretty early in the intro laps…the team in the solid red jerseys near the rear of the double paceline are Team #2: Iljo Keisse (the local Gent hero) and teammate Robert Bartko (a German with tree-trunk legs). Behind them in white are Team #1: the Swiss duo of Bruno Risi/Franco Marvulli. It’s only 8pm-ish…the stands didn’t fill up until the first madison, the fourth event of the evening, got underway at about 9:30pm. Racing went until 1am.


Greetings from the Ronde van Vlaanderen Museum in Oudenaarde. My efforts to hot wire this rig and rage throughout the Flemish Ardennes proved unsuccessful. And those Freddy Maertens Flandria bikes on the roof were awesome. First generation 1970s Dura-Ace, awesome PRO graphics, I started hearing voices, “take me to the Koppenberg, the Paterberg, the mud, the cowshit, the rain…just get me off the roof”. Instead, I just rode the computer simulator in the museum up the Muur. I nearly hocked up a lung trying to hold 350 watts.

Who knew there were different kinds of pave stones. There was a fascinating old b&w video about how Belgian miners made cobbles.


I’m in Gent, Belgium this week. First up on the “things to do before I die” list is catching a night of the 6 Days of Gent. That will be Wednesday evening…I’ll be drinking beer in the center of the track all night. Next up on the list is a ‘cross World Cup in Belgium…so it’s off to Koskijde on Saturday. Tomorrow my mission is to ride from Gent to Oundenaarde and back so I can ascend the Koppenberg. And not pull a Skibby.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Another year.
Another sunny day (23 consecutive years and counting).
A new course record.
Another CorestatesWachoviaFirstUnionUSPROCommerceBank extravaganza.