1. Cyclocross, Cyclocross, Cyclocross. That’s all I could think about. Even though I recently bought a Specialized Crux Pro, I saw at least 6 different bikes I’d be stoked with. LaPierre, Stevens, Focus, Ridley, Scott, Van Dessel. On the custom artisan side of things, The Argonaut custom bike in the Enve (formerly Edge Composites) might have been my favorite, only slightly ahead of the the Gold Speedvagen.

2. The Lion of Flanders lion symbol is all played out, folks. I’ll admit, I thought it was cool. It’s totally medieval. But for the most part, none of us are Belgian, as much as we want to be associated with toughness, cobbles, and trappiste ales. Ridley can own it because they actually are a Belgian bike company. Ritte is trying really hard, and their bikes look good, but I’m not sure I can think of anything less Belgian than a bike company based in Santa Monica. There were dozens of other cases of misplaced fire breathing lions icons gratuitously peppered on various head badges, banners, logos, etc. Time to find a new coat of arms folks. This one is already taken.

3. When you bump into Eddy Merckx and he is stuffing a sandwich in his cheeks, he’s just a regular guy, just like you and me. Bullshit. He is still Eddy Merckx. And even though I didn’t have my mouth full of panini, when I awkwardly stepped in front of him as he was trying to retreat into the inner bowels of the Merckx booth, I was tongue-tied because I was in the presence of greatness.

4. Alessandro Petacchi doesn’t look as big  in real life, and yet he is still larger than life. Ale Jet looks lean and thin, more liking a climbing all-arounder than a dominant sprinter. It was cool to see him casually hanging around the Willier booth. All smiles, just hanging around.

5. Cavendish this. Cavendish that. Everything was all about Mark Cavendish. There were more Cav impressions spread throughout the show than any other cyclist, methinks. It was cool to see one of his sprinting missiles in the PRO booth. A Scott Addict with his new signature PRO stem and bars. Very impressive.

6. Long live the show special. Chrome messenger bags, Chrome shoes, Look Keo or Quartz pedals for $40 a pair. There were ample opportunities to whip out your credit card and bring a little piece of Interbike home with you.

7. A lot of people were happy to say this was the last year of Interbike in Vegas, but the sad thing is what will happen to Cross Vegas? Seriously one of the coolest cyclocross races I have seen. Will there now be a Cross Anaheim event? Tons of spectators, huge international field, UCI status. How long will that take to build up in Anaheim?

8. Can’t figure out why Edge Composites changed their name to Enve. Their new logo just looks like jibberish. Branding fail, big time.

9. Skipping lunch and just doing the buffet lines at Power Bar, Hammer, Clif Bar, etc will only get you so far.

10. Shimano DI2 is still hot. It’s now over a year old in the eyes of the public, and yet there was as much buzz this year, almost as if it were a new product. Maybe people were waiting to see how it worked after a year in the marketplace, but it seems the industry is embracing it bigtime. The winner of Cross Vegas, Francis Mourey, was riding a DI2-equipped LaPierre. Sick.

I really like bikes. It never gets old. Any one of these topics could surely be mined a little deeper as a separate post. Hopefully when I get a little time, I’ll dive a little deeper. More photos coming later.

Mud and Cowbells. Gin & Trombones. Dump Trucks & Hay Bales? The first two are examples of cyclocross speak. Mud and Cowbells is one of my favorite cyclocross related blogs. Gin & Trombones has to be the best model name for a cross bike ever. The last example, doesn’t seem to fit. I can pretty much promise you this: if you show up to the venue of a cyclocross race, and there are as many dump trucks, backhoes and bucket loaders in the parking lot as there are cars, chances are you are are going to be racing at a construction site. This is what was going through my mind as I rolled in to the Raleigh Cross #2 event. Held at the “This Is The Place” park, my instinct told me it was going to suck. My instincts are pretty good, after having sucked at cyclocross many times before. The thing I have learned over the years is the first cross race of the season is a shock to your system. It’s not like any criterium, time trial, road race, or mountain bike race you have done in the last 9 months leading up to cyclocross season. It hurts way more, and no matter what sort of form you thought you had, after the gun goes off, you feel like the biggest pussy until you settle in and claw your way into the midway point of the race. Then it just plain sucks, because you are only half way done. I’m not going to bullshit anybody, this course was not very fun, but I needed to shock the monkey and get that first one under the belt. I teetered between 3rd and 4th, then moved up when the early leader had tire problems and had to stop for a wheel. I punched it as best I could and held on for 2nd place, not knowing who the guy was who beat me and not really caring. Just had to get that first one out of the way.

Raleigh Cyclocross Race, Salt Lake City, Utah

Dry, dusty, and not much fun.

As painful as it was to hear updates from Darth and Esteban while they were having THE epic moto adventure of the year, it was damn good to know they were shiny side up and not encountering any major issues. So I welcomed the occasional photos of their shenanigans, even though they were painful reminders that I was missing out on something grand. Last September, we all did a ride that took us over some of Colorado’s famed high passes. We knocked off Cinnamon Pass and Engineer’s Pass, and would have done Imogene had it not been for a mountain trail running race that closed Imogene to all motorized traffic. This caused us to change our plans and hit Engineer’s Pass instead. Coming down that pass in the dusk to dark was one of the most challenging rides I have ever done on a big bike, and when we finally hit pavement above the jeweled lights of Ouray below, all I could think about was a steak, a beer, a hot shower, and a warm bed. We had a surreal ride into a town that had not a single hotel room available because of the aforementioned running race. I vowed to return to Ouray on a moto trip someday under different circumstances; at a time when it was not so booked solid, and via a route that was not as white-knuckled. Darth and Esteban chose to up the ante and tackle Imogene, as well as Black Bear Pass. The beta on Black Bear is that it you screw up, you die. The rocky trail is exposed to the point where if you go off the side, you can forget it. Below is a photo of Darth’s encounter with the Orso Negro. No report on how or why this happened, only that it looked worse than it was. I’m hoping to get a few journal entries from the boys, because other than the photos below, we don’t have a narrative from the trip, other than they are back and the horses are safe in the barn.

Damage to headers on BMW F800 GS

Darth hit something with teeth on Black Bear Pass

Esteban Frito up high in the Rocky Mountains

Esteban aboard the big KTM 950 Adventure. Photo courtesy of Nathan Rafferty.

The top of Imogene Pass

Darth Nater on top of Imogene. Photo courtesy of Nathan Rafferty.