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Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Here is our own Skip Brown, just after a top-ten finish at a World Cup race at the Georgia International Horse Park in 1997, the year after this same course served the Atlanta Olympics. Skip and Matt O drove down from Boston in the Seven van, raced and drove home. For a while there was an annual 24 hour race on the course (24 Hours of Conyers). It also featured in the documentary 24 Solo. Skip rode a double-butted Ti Sola that day, a very early iteration of the bike we are still making today. A few years later, we would get to watch Mary McConneloug ride another bike in this line at both the Beijing and Athens Olympics. Some of THAT history is captured in the documentary Off Road to Athens, well worth a watch.

Matt Roy and the Art of Endurance

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Matt Roy is a different kind of bike rider. Most of his exploits transpire in the middle of the night, alone or with a single partner, down a road not likely to show fresh tire tracks. He’s an ultra-cyclist and the other half of MM Racing with his wife and current single-speed cyclocross World Champion Mo Bruno Roy. High points of this season, for Matt, included completion of a full brevet series, 200km, 300km, 400km, 600km and 1000km. He rode from Bremerton on the western shore of Puget Sound near Seattle, down the Oregon coast and up to Crater Lake in Oregon, and then beyond that to Klamath Falls, a three day, 625-mile odyssey¬† undertaken with close friend David Wilcox.

Riding a bike for three days is not a thing that most cyclists, even the most ardent feel inclined to do. The thing that’s hard to fathom is how you avoid the late night crisis of confidence and keep riding. Matt says, “Part of it is built on desire. Part is practice. You build up to it in palatable chunks, basically four hour units. You can ride for four hours, and then stop and assess what to do next. On the way to Crater Lake we were super-tired, but we were never not having fun.”

He laughs when he says, “All great art requires suffering. Seriously though, there are peaks and valleys both mental and physical, but if you didn’t fall asleep on a picnic table in a park at 2AM because you were so tired, they wouldn’t be worth doing. What keeps me going is that you see so much cool stuff over the miles. Nature changes so much from place to place, from urban to boreal forest to farm land to rushing rivers.”

If the Pacific Northwest provided Roy’s high point, the Green Mountain Double Century served as counter point. He was riding the GMDC with the aim of setting a new solo rider course record. He was, he says, “racing to prove something to myself,” and after 13 hours of hard work he was on track for a 15-16 hour finish. In spite of the rainy morning, the roads were fast and dry.

And that’s when it happened.

“I had just gone up Tate Hill Road,” he says, his tone foreshadowing the crash to come, “basically a wall of a road, so steep, and I was thinking ahead to the next flat section, the next 30 miles, bombing down Chunks Brook Road, and I just hit something. My right hand came off the bar, and I swerved into the sand at the edge of the road, and the front wheel went out and I flew. I ripped both levers off the handlebar. I laid there. I was sure I had broken something. My elbow was wrecked.”

At this point, Mo says, “I went into paramedic mode. I saw his elbow and knew it needed a dozen stitches. We cleaned him up, put him in the car, but the thing about GMDC is that it gets into all these remote corners of the state. Phones don’t work a lot. Eventually we found our way to the hospital in Bennington. It took them an hour to clean out his elbow, and he ended up with 16 stitches, four of them internal.”

The crash left him with severe whiplash. Some weeks later he saw a chiropractor who performed a “life-changing adjustment.” His elbow had hit the ground so hard in Vermont that 1000km into his west coast ride, a small abscess formed and later gave up a further small handful of rocks and soil. Can you imagine it? And he was “never not having fun.”

The crash cancelled a lot of Matt’s plans, but if anything, that seems to have made him more intent on finding a different way to ride.

He says, “I have this amazing bike (Seven Evergreen PRO), and I want to sort of throw as many stupid ideas at it, as I can. I rode the length of the aqueducts between Waltham and Wachusett. I want to do more adventurous, absurd riding, rather than structured events. I’m finding those unique adventures far more attractive now. I want to make some wrong turns, plan less. Mo and I have both said, ‘Let’s make more mistakes.’”

We should all fail so beautifully.

GMDC photos by Dave Chiu.

Being World Champion – Mo Bruno Roy Interview

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Mo Bruno Roy Red Mill kit Mudhoney PROSeven-sponsored rider and good friend Mo Bruno Roy won the Single-Speed Cyclocross World Championship in Louisville on October 25th. We wrote about it first here. We had Mo and her MM Racing teammate/husband Matt Roy in the other day to talk about the race, where she is in her career, and what she wants out of riding her bike. This is what she said:

Seven: Did you believe you could win this race going in?

MBR: I was hoping I could. I was planning to, but I didn’t realize what it would take. Single-speed racing is full of shenanigans. People hand you bourbon shots and beers while you ride, and you can take shortcuts based on your willingness to engage in the fun. At Worlds you could skip the flyover if you chugged a beer. If you were willing to throw your bike over a four foot wall and climb over after, then you could avoid running through the sand pit.

At the start this year, none of us had shoes on. We had to slide down this giant slip n’ slide and then get on the bike and start racing.

Having said all that, I raced full gas the whole time, because honestly I didn’t know what was happening. There were racers everywhere, people I knew hadn’t passed me ended up in front of me. Maybe they cut the course. Maybe they found some other way. I took the hole shot at the beginning, and Matt says I had 30 seconds at that point, but then there were all these women in front of me. My plan had been to race hard the first two laps, and then relax and have some fun, but when I realized I wasn’t in front I went 100% to the line.

Matt: Don’t forget the feats of strength the day before. The whole thing starts the day before the race. They broke everybody up into groups of 15 led by a “colonel” who took the racers all over Louisville to stuff like a 100 meter cross course, a mass start hill climb on which you could score extra points by stopping to pick up a rubber chicken. There were trivia questions. All of it scored points to qualify for the race. It was just a big bunch of strangers roving the city in search of fun.

Seven: So it’s a whacky event. How does that make you feel about being World Champion?

MBR: The thing that is so attractive to me about Single-Speed¬† Worlds is that there are very few rules. Ride a single-speed. Wear a costume. Don’t be a jerk. It’s just chaos, a bunch of really nice people having fun on bikes. I have taken racing seriously for a long time, and I needed to remember what it was like to have this much fun, so yes, I am totally proud of being World Champion. It also makes you appreciate the rules that govern the other elite races, that give those races structure. We complain about those a lot, but you can see what craziness takes over without that structure. I happen to be at a point in my career when I’m ready for some more craziness, so this is great for me, but I understand other people want to take it seriously. Honestly, this very well might be the highlight of my career.

Seven: This was all part of “taking it easy for the season,” but most people don’t associate World Championships, albeit whacky ones, with taking it easy. What is it you have really been trying to achieve in 2014?

MBR: World Cup racing is super hard work. You have to plan your whole life around it. There is so much expectation involved, and that ratchets down the fun level, or it changes it. You have fun, but it’s fun after you’ve finished, not right away. Sometimes it’s a long time after. So taking it easy, for me, means having fun WHILE I’m racing, actually enjoying each event, and single-speed races retain a part of the older spirit of cyclocross when events were weirder, and we were all less focused on results.

I think we need more of that spirit, and less of this sense that every race has to be pure and exclusive and elite. I have maybe been naive up until now, in thinking that bike racing was for everyone. Within the larger bike racing community we are more exclusive than I thought we were. So planning my season, I wanted to get back to a more open-minded approach to racing. I don’t think wealth should be a limiter, and that’s easy for me to say as a sponsored rider, but whether you show up on a mountain bike or need to zip tie your shifters to qualify for the single-speed race or whatever, we have to share this with as many people as we can. Honestly, if someone had suggested bike racing to me when I was a kid, there just wouldn’t have been any way, because we didn’t have any money, but cycling is really a community activity. We need to be drawing everyone into what we’re doing, and I don’t think there is any better way to do that than by making it fun, keeping it fun, and having that be our priority.

This isn’t some crusade for me to save bike racing. I’m just one person, but just like I ride a bike to work and to run errands, I can only try to be an example. As you get older, living your principles seems to become more and more important, so I’m happy with where I am and what I’m doing, and I hope it helps the communities that I live in, and either way I’m having fun, so it’s a win.

 

At the Races with The Drifters

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Zen and the Art of Cyclocross Racing has not yet been written, but if it had been, Seven’s own Brad Smith and his Drifters team might well be the protagonists. Three friends with a tent and a dream, Brad, Greg Ralich and Tony Fiandaca make an art of showing up, racing hard and having fun. There is a slack grinned style to what they do, an attitude that we think bike racing might just be desperate for. We caught up with the guys for a quick end-of-season update.

Seven: What are the Drifters trying to do? What is your evil plan? What is “drifting?”

Greg: We don’t try to do anything. We just do it. What is it? Tough to say. The indescribable only manifests itself in a singular choice moment. The moment in question is when physics says no, but your body says yes. When you lose your grip, you’re out of control, but you push harder. “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose” …Mariah Carey said that. This is the best way we can describe drifting, and occupying this mindset at every possible opportunity is what makes us The Drifters.