Christmas was about a week ago now, and after spending quality time with my family in cold-as-usual Rochester, NY, I went for a night ride in one of my favorite parks. There was just enough snow to make it fun, and after a couple hours I came to a clearing that looked out onto a pond. I ate a PowerBar and took a moment to reflect on the past year and all the cycling-related adventures I’ve had.
I thought about this amazing group of people I shared those times with and smiled. When I got home, I took some time out to find words to describe the year we’ve had at Gripped Racing. It’s been filled with challenges, massive climbs and banner achievements — all the things that make a season worth celebrating.
Through it all Gripped has remained a tight group of friends who support and encourage each other. In this post are some words and photos from our 2012 season. Part of the mission of our team is being “…dedicated to having fun in the great outdoors while promoting a healthy lifestyle through training, racing and encouraging friends to join in our adventures.” I’m very thankful for the people on this team and all they do to make it special. I hope you find something positive in reading this short story, maybe even some motivation to get out there and train hard this winter. Either way, thanks for stopping by. Here’s to 2013!
Laying the Foundation – January ’12
This is a photo of Jared leading a group of us on a memorable training ride that wound all over Mount Weather and Paris Mountain and Blue Mountain. This was one of those days when we took the hard way at every turn, we kept ticking out a solid pace and very little talking occurred — a sure sign of an honest training ride. I thought back to this ride many times as the season wore on, and it was a reminder that the hay was in the barn.
A blog recap can be found here.
This photo is one of my personal favorites from 2012 – Alex Rapavi digging out the climb from Snickersville towards the headwall at Mount Weather.
Rapavi did a ton of racing in 2012, much of it early season. He has been on the team for four years now and is constantly encouraging others, supportive and fired up about racing. From Alex:
Best Moments came early in the 2012 season. I put in some work over the winter months (to include rehabilitating my reconstructed left shoulder) and felt ready to go. I ended up top 20 in a crazy fast Cat 3/4 criterium in Virginia Beach. I initiated a break with three others from the gun – and while we were caught, I couldn’t believe the speed for such an early season race – over 26.5 mph average. The following day, I headed up to Williamsburg, Virginia to race in the William and Mary Tidewater Classic. The course fit my racing style – flat to rolling with some steeper punches. In the last two kilometers, I saw a lead out train developing so I shot to the front and jumped in, roughly 20th wheel. The group got very strung out, but I felt great. So with about 500 meters to go, I wound it up and uncorked a solid uphill sprint, gunning past over ten dudes for a 9th place finish/85. I also placed 5th/10 in a tough regional CAT 1/2/3 time trial in central/upstate New York – a rolling, very windy course. I had one of my best times and average speeds – over 27.1 mph.
Worst Moments were, without question, at Morgantown (agony of defeat moment in a downhill switchback after hitting pea gravel), the Turkey Hill Country Classic (sitting fourth wheel into the last lap and involved in a crash), and at the Salisbury Road race where, on the bell lap, I had the misfortune of running over a good friend of mine who went down for no apparent reason on a climb. Such is the life of a roadie. It is what it is.
Absa Cape Epic – March
Another impressive memory was not only the training done by both Rob Russell and Charles Buki but their performance at the 2012 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa, a grueling 8 day race across the Southern tip of Africa that will test every riders desire to finish, let alone place well. So impressive is the canvas this race is painted on that photos from the event found their way into scores of magazines including Sports Illustrated. Here is Rob leading Buki up yet another climb with Table Mountain and the coast in the background.
Some words from Rob:
“In my second full season with Gripped, I took full advantage of the camaraderie and dedication of my teammates during many long and sometimes cold days of winter training, in preparation for the Cape Epic in South Africa. Riding for 4-5 hours on the C&O tow path is mind-numbing alone but bearable with good company. Luckily, we had the warmest winter in memory so the transition from late winter in DC to late summer in Cape Town was as good as we could have hoped. The race itself was unbelievably long, unbearably hot/dry at times, and cold/wet at others. But we survived all 550 miles and 55,000 ft of climbing in what was truly an epic adventure that I’ll never forget. Huge shout-out to Charles Buki for being a great teammate for the event.”
After 53 hours R&B rolled across the finish line having left what they had to give out in the wild and rugged South African countryside, 308th place overall.
A blog post can be found here (part1) and here (part 2). Rob also went on to take his first MTB victory at the Greenbrier Challenge/MD State Championships, leading the race from start to finish.
“I Just Like To Ride My Bike … Fast.” -Pam Frentzel-Beyme pictured at Greenbrier, May
While Rob and Buki were tearing it up in South Africa the team was tearing up the Mid-Atlantic race scene and spending more time on the podium than anyone was our very humble (yet very fast) Pam. She began 2012 with a stunning winning streak and didn’t let off the gas all season. She won her first 3 races (Bakers Dozen Solo Female, Greenbrier Challenge/MD State Championships, 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey) followed by 6 more races that found her in the Top 5 including the exceptionally hard BC Bike Race in her hometown Vancouver, British Columbia Canada. The BC Bike Race is 7 straight days of challenging singletrack through the rugged BC backcountry. Some words about the season from Pam:
Best racing moment – Hard to pick one because I was pretty happy with my season and there was something cool about every race I did, but beating my time at Massanutten Hoo Ha by a huge margin to come in 2nd to Sue Haywood was great. And shaving almost an hour off my Wilderness 101 time from last year. Now if only I can do the same thing again next year!
Worst racing moment – Again, the season seems far enough gone to not really remember anything bad about it. There were some tough times at BC Bike Race…a crash and resulting flat (or flat and resulting crash!) that set me back quite a bit, going off course on a downhill that I had to walk back up and quite a bit of rain early on led to some very dark moments for sure. But pushing through those tough times and dark thoughts are what make racing so rewarding.”
It’s no surprise Pam will be racing 2013 as a “PRO” or so it will say on her racing license. We couldn’t be more proud of Pam and hope she doesn’t get picked up by PRO team like the Luna Chix (the highest ranked women’s off-road cycling team in the world).
Read more about Pam’s streak here.
Battenkilled It -“The Toughest 1-Day Race In America”
The Tour of The Battenkill has been hailed as “America’s Queen of the Classics” thanks to it’s 10 sections of unpaved roads that are about as close as Americans get to the cobble stone classics of Europe. This race has a storied history as being tough, brutal and unforgiving. Held in Upstate NY about the same time as Paris-Roubaix it gives hearty racers in the US a chance to test their gear, their legs and their fortitude. For a few of us on Gripped the allure was too much to ignore.
In 2011 Colin Clark gave it a shot for the first time and found himself finishing 5th in Cat 4. Collin was new to the team in 2012 and despite his relatively young age as a racer (mid 20’s) he comes from a racing family (local legend Craig Clark is his father). He is not only physically strong but he’s a great tactician as well. Jared and I gleamed as much info off Collin as possible as we trained all Winter specifically for B’kill. With additional help from Andy Cicero of “Rise Above Cycles” we spent many long, taxing hours around Leesburg on unpaved roads. “Vitamin G” (for Gravel) became a dietary staple. Group rides yielded as many as 6 flat tires an outing. This is my face after a long day in 20° temps.
With a mountain biking background I didn’t worry about the gravel roads nearly as much as the other racers. I had been taken down by a sloppy racer in Baltimore the year before and spent a week in the hospital from his mistake so my plan was to start on the front and stay on the front. However the morning of the race I mistimed my warmup and started dead last. Such a rookie blunder.
With a good balance of determination and luck I made my way to the front and helped organize the pack to chase down a solo break. Because I had gone over the course I knew once we hit the final climbs I had the reserve fuel for a sprint finish. When you put so much stock into an event where so much can go wrong it’s a big risk with odds stacked against you. You risk disappointment, a loss of motivation and maybe even a bit of lost passion for the sport if things go really wrong. But every once in a while, maybe only once in a lifetime, things can go right. It was my turn for victory. For the rest of my life I will remember the last few kilometers, the desperate speed of the lead group headed towards the finish line and that last right hand corner then 300m to go
and I will always remember the feeling of passing that finish line first. Which is a good thing because there is no photograph of it other than the finish line camera.
My first road race win and no finish line shot – kind of a bummer but considering we were about 10 minutes ahead of schedule I could understand. What mattered most was having friends and family there to share such a moment, knowing I had spent the Winter training for it, planning for it and finally nailing it. They give you a bottle of locally made Chocolate Milk – with your name engraved on it. That was the sweetest tasting milk I’ve ever had.
Jared (left) was top 20 in his C3, beat by a man later found out to be a doper. Andy (C2) had a bad race and pulled the plug, while to his left Colin finished mid-pack in his C3 race. For myself, needless to say that was my greatest moment of 2012, here’s to trying again in Cat 3, 2013. You can read more about the race from Jared’s perspective here, and from my race here.
The team had plenty of hard times as well. During the Bakers Dozen Scuba Steve (below on the left) had a nasty fall and broke his wrist which ended his 2012 racing season. Soon after Jason Harris (right) hit gravel going about 55mph and slid his motorcycle into a ditch. His ankle was broken in the fall and he spent months in a cast.
Grab Your Bowling Balls!
Jessica Kelleher arranged a very fun team bowling night at the White House
and then moved back to her home town in Colorado where she proceeded to leap into the deep end of the suffer pool by racing straight away (Silver Rush 50-Miler) without acclimatizing to the altitude. We’re stoked Jess will continue to represent GR in the MidWest while Jason Chiodo will head up the West Coast side of the team.
New to the squad in ’12 was Joe Praino. He might look familiar because he’s won 2 trips to the Tour de France in 2 separate contests! Joe clearly has good luck and brings both energy and enthusiasm to the team. For fun he jumped into the Sleepy Hollow triathlon and took 5th in his category (above). From his ’12 season:
My best result came in my favorite race, Lost River Classic. The course fit my climbing style and I ended up with a 6th place result after leading out the sprint up the final climb. It will definitely be a target on my calendar for 2013.
My worst result came in my first and last Cross race of the season at Charm City. I decided during the race that I would not focus my training efforts on Cross in the fall. It was an untimely decision based on the fact that I was in the middle of the race. However, in true Euro-Pro fashion, I jumped off the bike and did a little DJing during the race. It was a fun way to end a fun season.
It’s important to remember some of the good we did as a team. In ’12 we raised over $4,000 for charities including Companions for Heroes. We also helped establish an insurance fund so that veterans who have a dog placed in their home will not become financially strapped should sickness or accident befall their pet. Of this we are all very proud and look forward to our continued support of this wonderful organization.
In 2011 I met Kevin Carter the day before the start of the Shenandoah Mountain 100. He came recommended from a kayaking friend and when I asked Kevin, “Do you have a goal for this race?” he answered without hesitation, “Yes, I plan to make the top 5″. I knew the competition for the podium, I knew they were nationally ranked riders – professional riders, I doubted he’d make the podium but handed him a spare jersey just in case. He finished 4th.
Kevin has gone from “who’s THAT guy?” to “Oh no, Kevin just showed up”. Meaning he is going to be on the podium if he gets through a race without a mechanical. Kevin is an engineer of bike racing and training. Which comes from his background as a pro triathlete and pro hang glider racer …. right. Who races hang gliders? Photo of Kevin and his wife Melanie
Must take a blend of steel nerves, brass balls and a thirst for thrill that few people can obtain and still be a functioning member of society. Kevin not only functions, he thrives. I’m not sure which he enjoys more, talking about power to weight ratios or putting power to pedal and riding but either way Kevin is not only fun to be around but he’s supported and encouraged everyone on the team to race at a higher level by questioning the trends and striking out on unpaved trail with such wild ideas as mounting mountain bike cleats to uber-lightweight road shoes (hey there’s some rotational weight savings there!).
A a few phrases coined by Kevin include his “400 Watt Girlfriend” which we hope his wife doesn’t mind hearing about. We all want one, I can assure you. Or finishing “Kevinth Place” which for him is anywhere off the podium. Kevin started the season on fire with a 1st at Bakers Dozen Solo Male, 3rd at Monster Cross, 2nd at the Lumberjack 100 and 2nd at the Dragons Tale (above) and also 2nd at the Cohutta 100 – both only behind National Champion Jeremiah Bishop,. Aside from some bad luck Kevin continued to rock his season of Ultra Endurance races with a handful of podiums including a 4th at the Wilderness 101.
Best Moments – Building outstanding fitness and the style of course at Lumberjack 100. Having it all come together for a great race there. Swapping stories with team mates and helping others fix problems with gear/find new solutions to gear issues and help forge new directions with training and gear.
Worst Moments – struggling with the demands of work and watching all the great fitness go bye bye.
Because of sickness and increased work demands, Kevin’s second stab at the Shenandoah 100 in a GR kit found him in the top 10 but off the box with 8th. This will likely serve as fuel for his Winter training but with a new Cannondale Scalpel 29’r coming direct from the factory, complete with matching Gripped paint job we hope Kevin will have all the fuel he needs for 2013.
Shenandoah Mountain 100 September
Speaking of the Shenandoah 100, one of the toughest races on our calendar, no recap would be complete without a few words from those who took on the challenge. This from Jared:
With a baby on the way this fall, I was motivated all year to have a good ride at SM100 since it might be awhile before I do a race like this again. The stars did not align for great weather, but I’m really happy about having been out there on one of the more challenging iterations of the event. The highlight for me was making the turn onto the “Death Climb”, knowing that Jason and I had dispatched it only a few weeks earlier on a scouting mission. Having the positive vibes from having been on it made it a little more manageable with 5 hours already in the legs. Little did I know that Chestnut Ridge would be like riding up a flowing river! Sharing training and stoke with Jason leading up to this race was instrumental in having a good day out there, I’m fortunate to be on a team with guys like him.
While I just barely missed my goal of riding in under 9 hours, I felt like I left it all on the course while still riding safely on the wet rocky descents. As I trade in bib shorts for baby bibs for awhile, I will look back with great satisfaction and fond memories for this day.
And from Pam:
“I don’t have any words from SM 100…I’ve tried to forget about that one!”
My season had already been long but I’d never done SM100, so I joined JB and Jared and camped at the race site the night before the race. It was hot, humid and loud, even with ear plugs. It rained the days leading up to the race and it was very likely to rain on race day, so my motivation was low. It turned out to be a sufferfest, extremely painful, difficult, and long. I finished in close to 11 hours, probably my worst day on a bike sine the 1995 24 Hours of Canaan. Lesson learned: you need to be 100% mentally and physically prepared for a 100 miler or you will suffer. A tough way to end a season but looking back, it was one of the best ever.
From the editor:
For myself the 2012 Shenandoah Mountain 100 was the end of 8 years of trying for a good result. I had broken 9 hours once before (8:51) but I knew I had it in me to get much closer to 8 even. I’ve been plagued by bad luck and bad physical problems (cramping) on this course and last year had suffered through the worst day on a bike in my life, finishing just shy of an embarrassing 12 hours. I wanted to quit so bad … but didn’t. In 2012 I set out out to hammer myself into distance-racing-form. I took my road fitness from Battenkill and put it into my first Bailey Hundo and came away smiling with 8:01. Then I gave the Wilderness 101 a shot and felt solid at 7:47. A couple efforts at the Wednesday at Wakefield races kept the top end tuned. By the time I lined up at the SM100 I had pre-ridden the course tip to tail three times. Having team mates to train with made those training rides very special (huge thanks to Jared and Rob who trained with me all season).
Figures a tropical storm would soften up the route before and during the race enough to give even the all-time course King, Jeremiah Bishop 30 minutes more than he bargained for. Similarly, I felt I had pulled out an 8:15 but it was 8:41. I rode well, put in good work with others and was a gentleman when passing. I achieved my goal of a personal best and knew I gave absolutely 110% in doing it through horrendous conditions. Sure it was annoying to have a disrespectful 19yr old whom I had given not one, but two of my last water bottles to after I repeatedly passed him, punk me in a sprint to the line. But I was still top 25 Open Men and that will probably be a lifetime achievement – and much desired redemption from years past. I look forward to doing something different this coming Labor Day weekend but I’ll always respect and admire the SM100.
Best – Battenkill. Followed closely by my first win at Wakefield in about 6 years. It’s a small race but it always means a lot.
Worst – getting hit by a car in Georgetown and breaking multiple bones in my left hand (the car drove off clueless). Luckily I had already pulled the plug on my season but I missed all the killer surfing from SuperStorm Sandy.
To wrap up the year I want to give a shout out to Tim Abbott. He’s been on Gripped Racing since I started the team in 2007 and continues to be s source of positive energy every year. About a month ago we had a team dinner at Dogfish Alehouse and presented him with a jersey signed by the team. Thanks for all your dedication Tim!
I love racing for Gripped because I like being a part of a great group of people are super passionate about a sport I love and who have been willing to provide inspiration, encouragement and advice. And racing bikes is so much more fun with good friends to share experiences and trade stories with! -Pam
I race on Gripped because I enjoy the camaraderie. Though everyone has slightly different interests and focus to their racing goals, we have a strong team bond. I’ve formed friendships that transcend the sport. -Jared
I truly appreciate being on this team of great friends. I’m in for the long-haul with GR . . . there is no better team. Period. -Alex
I joined Gripped Racing at the beginning of 2012. I joined because of the people, culture and vibe around the team. It was a great move and I really enjoyed racing, training and spending time with the team during the season. – Joe
A final note, in 2013 our headline sponsor will again be Dogfish Head Alehouse. We value and appreciate our relationship with the excellent folks who own and operate the Alehouses. One of the most common things we hear at races, “while racing the Whiteface 100 in Lake Placid, as I passed a fellow rider he commented, ” Dogfish, I love that beer”! -Michael Norton. The Dogfish will again be the highlight of our kit. If you see us at a race don’t hesitate to say hi, we might even have some cold 60 Minute to share. See you out there! Happy New Year and Cheers!