Did you know that Bicycle Roots fielded a cyclocross team this season? Even though we’re a brand new shop, it’s important for us to participate in local cycling culture- and that includes racing! What follows is a race-by-race account of our team’s exploits this season, with course descriptions, race results, and of course, lots of pictures.

This season featured more than the usual range of challenges. Hurricane Sandy left several races cancelled, rescheduled, or relocated. And our team members started the season off with a minimum of preparation, having spent the summer working long hours at the shop, when they could have been out training instead. But each team member pushed himself to the limit and never shied away from a challenge. While there were no podium finishes, they are all champions to us!

The members of our cycling team are:

  • Bicycle Roots Service Manager Joe Lawler (hereafter Joe L.)
  • Bicycle Roots Mechanic Joe O’Brien-Applegate (hereafter Joe O.A.)

They were joined on occasion by:

  • Bicycle Roots Salesperson Mauricio Alvarez (hereafter Mauri)

Joe and Joe raced on matching Specialized CRUX E5 bicycles, in Limited Edition “Team Stumpjumper” Pink. This bike is a tribute to Team Stumpjumper, Specialized’s first mountain bike team, which rode pink Stumpjumper mountain bikes (fitted with drop handlebars) in the 1980’s.

Here’s an original Team Stumpjumper from 1985:

Pink Stumpjumper Team

Off road racing technology of yesteryear

And here’s a picture of The Joes’ pink Cruxes on their way to a race:

Team Bicycle Roots in transit

Team Bicycle Roots in transit. Their “Pretty in Pink” race equipment prompted non-stop questions about their bikes… and their manhood. The team van is followed by Recycle-A-Bicycle manager Patrick Tomeny, in the Power Ranger getup on his 250cc motorcycle.

See the resemblance?

After racing the bike all season, here’s The Joes’ review of the E5 Crux:

The E5 Crux has excellent power transfer; the rear end is super stiff but it doesn’t beat you up. It’s designed with a lower bottom bracket height than many other ‘cross bikes out there, lowering the rider’s weight and allowing the bike to handle better in the corners. This allows you to take corners at speed and ultimately improves race performance. It’s also designed with a just-right headtube height, so that even taller riders can raise their handlebars to the right height. A cyclocross bike shouldn’t be set up as aggressively as a road bike, especially since you’ll ride in the hoods of the bike for most of the race.

The E5 Crux features a BB30 bottom bracket, which not only adds incredible stiffness, but which also makes it easier to take the cranks apart and clean them after every race. It’s also the only alloy Crux bike which provides for full length cable housing. The full length housing keeps the mud out of the housing and off of the cable, which keeps the cable cleaner than if it was routed externally, and allows braking and shifting to work better, for longer, with minimal maintenance.

The upshot of all of these design features is that the Crux is a bike that’s there when you need it. It will push when you push it. You always know where the bike is going to go, so you won’t lose your line in a corner. And even if you screw up, let’s say, while bunny hopping over a barrier, the bike won’t break on you. Even if you pull a Joey, you can count on this bicycle.

And when it comes to racing, the Crux is a major improvement over the bike which used to be the only arrow in Specialized’s cyclocross quiver, the Tricross. While the Tricross is comfortable and capable both on- and off-road, it’s better as an all-around or even a touring bike than it is as a racing bike.

As a veteran mountain biker who had never raced cyclocross before, Mauri eschewed a dedicated cyclocross bike. He raced on his cross-country mountain bike, a 2008 Jamis Dakota Elite. Even though his bike had wide tires, a suspension fork, and other trail-friendly features that slowed it down on cyclocross race courses, Mauri put tremendous heart into all of his races and managed to beat out several more experienced competitors riding lighter, faster racing bicycles.

And now… the races!

The Westwood Velo Paolo Zenoni Memorial Cross Race

Westwood Cycle is a large bike shop in New Jersey. They sponsor a prominent cycling team, called Westwood Velo. Westwood Velo organizes this race as a memorial to Paolo Zenoni, a beloved rider who died in a tragic cycling accident in 2011. This race is located in Bear Mountain State Park, so it’s relatively accessible to riders from New York City. The course features varied terrain, including muddy grass, a killer hill, and plenty of stairs to wear out the riders. It’s one of the tougher races out there, as riders gain and lose lots of elevation in each lap. Of course, this also makes it fun.

In the photo below, Joe L. runs up a steep grade while his competitor dismounts after attempting to ride up the grade and giving up midway. It’s hard to see in the picture, but the rider on the right is also racing a Specialized E5 Crux in Limited Edition Team Stumpjumper Pink. He’s got one of the few such bikes in all of New Jersey.

sometimes running is faster than riding. racer on the right is about to get off and run. gotta beat the other pink crux. there was another pink crux in this race, not team bicycle roots- but one of the only ones in jersey

Sometimes running is faster than riding

Joe L. finished the race two places ahead of the rider on the right, but the event judges confused to two riders because they were riding the same bike! This means that even though Joe L. officially placed 52nd in this race, he actually placed 50th.

Official Results

  • Joe L. – Men Cat 4 – 52 out of 68

WhirlyBird Cross at Bensalem High School

This was Joe O.A.’s first Elite level race ever, and also his first race of the season. It was Joe L.’s first Category 2/3/4 race. Housing for the team was graciously provided by BMX legend Brett Downs in Hollywood, PA.

Competing against Elite racers at Whirlybird gave Joe O.A. a real change of perspective on how fast is fast.

He didn't look nearly this good by the end of the race

He didn’t look nearly this good by the end of the race

The rules for UCI races are also different than the rules in amateur races. For example, one of Joe O.A.’s competitors got pulled from a race for taking a beer handup from a spectator, something which would not have been illegal in another race category.

The key to doing well is a good remount

The rider on the right got pulled from the race for taking a beer handup at this very spot on a later lap, while mounting his bike after the barriers

Here’s Joe L. mid race. The rider for King Kog behind him washed out in the second or third lap of the race while taking a corner too tight, and Joe L. almost ran him over. Joe L.’s retro jersey is a reissue of the one worn by Team Stumpjumper, the guys who rode pink mountain bikes to victory in the ’80’s.

Taken at Whirlybird, mid race, while racing in the retro Specialized Team Stumpjumper jersey. There's also a rider from King Kog behind me that I almost ran over on the second or third lap of the race (he took a corner too tight and washed out).

The racers take a corner

Both Joes raced in more advanced fields than they had ever taken on before. And both Joes got their asses handed to them. But what they lacked in performance, they made up for in style. Their matching pink bikes were a crowd favorite. And even though Joe O.A. did not finish well, he did earn prize money for finishing 22nd out of 26 competitors. Here he is with his first prize check ever:

Joe OA kissing his first prize money check

The sweet taste of money

Official Results

  • Joe Lawler – Cat 2/3/4 Men – 63 out of 92
  • Joseph O’Brien-Applegate – Cat 1/2 Men – 22 out of 26

Providence Cyclocross Festival

The Providence Cyclocross Festival is one of the biggest cyclocross races in the Northeast. It’s an entire weekend of cyclocross awesomeness. It attracts international pro racers. And, most importantly, it has a beer tent.

Joe is jumping the barriers by the Harpoon Beer Tent

Joe O.A. jumps the barriers by the Harpoon Beer Tent

This was Mauri’s first cyclocross race ever, and for his first race, he did really well. Even without a cyclocross bike. Even when he blew his fork out on Day 2. In both of his races, he didn’t come in last, and he even beat out a handful of other racers each time.

Here are some pictures of Mauri racing, and of course, drinking:

Mauri running up the side of a gravity pit of despair

Mauri runs up the side of a gravity pit of despair. Note the three racers behind him.

Mauri decided it was easier to run than to ride up this slope

Mauri decided it was easier to run than to ride up this slope

These barriers were next to The Harpoon Beer Tent, which was full of hecklers

Mauri hops the barriers next to The Harpoon Beer Tent, and smiles at his hecklers

Here is Mauri finishing his first cyclocross race ever

Mauri finishes his first cyclocross race ever. On a mountain bike. Like a boss.

Mauri celebrating in the Harpoon Beer Tent after completing his first race

Mauri celebrates the completion of his first race with a well-earned beer in the Harpoon Beer Tent. Cheers!

Mauri also committed a delicious faux pas, which we will never, ever let him forget. It went like this:

During Men’s UCI race, Mauri and Joe L were standing in the freezing cold, waiting in line for hot chocolate.  Renowned frame builder Richard Sachs lined up behind them to get some cokes for the other members of his titular racing team.

Joe L. said hello to Richard Sachs, and the two of them started to talk. Then Mauri introduced himself.

Mauri: You were the guy riding that Richard Sachs earlier, in the Master’s race.

Richard Sachs:  Yes I was.

Mauri: You did really well.

Richard Sachs: Thank you very much.

Mauri: By the way, what’s your name?

Joe L.: Mauri, that is Richard Sachs.

It was at that point that Mauri introduced himself as Mauricio Alvarez, taking care to roll his “r”s grandly. He handed Richard Sachs a business card, told him how honored he was to meet him, and invited him to come visit our shop should he ever be in Brooklyn.

We’re still waiting.

At the Providence Cyclocross Festival, Joe O.A. got another lesson in how fast fast is. He raced against Tim Johnson, Ryan Trebon, Jeremy Powers (JPow), Dan Timmerman, Jamey Driscoll, and Dan Chabonov, the three time champion of the Red Hook Crit. Ben Berden came all the way from Belgium just to kick Joe’s ass.

Here are pictures of Joe O.A. before and during his ass-kicking:

JOA is scoping out the course before his race

Joe O.A. scopes out the course before his race

Joe is trying to suck more air, but he's having hard time

Joe O.A. tries to harvest enough oxygen to keep going

Joe can't breath

Joe O.A. tries to suck enough oxygen out of the atmosphere to catch up to Tim Johnson and JPow. Good luck with that one.

Joe O.A. rides up the incline that Mauri had to run. Skills!

At Providence, Day 1, Joe L. did his usual and placed in the top 25 out of 90 to 100 racers. By this point, The Joes were showing evidence of how they would perform all season, Joe L. tending to finish in the 25% percentile of the Men’s Cat 4, and Joe O.A. in the 75% percentile of the much more challenging Men’s Elite.

Here are some pictures of Joe L. looking fast because his field is slow:

JL running up the steps

Joe L. runs up the course’s steps

Joe L. rides over a big flyover

Joe L. rides over a 10 foot flyover

JL decided to ride up the 2x4 planks, but the rider on the right has to dismount, because he can't ride it

JL rides up some 2×4 planks, while the rider on the right dismounts to run instead

Official Results – Day 1

  • Mauricio Alvarez – Men 4 35+/45+ – 93 out of 118
  • Joe Lawler – Cat 4 Men – 15 out of 96
  • Joe O’Brien-Applegate – UCI Elite Men – 60 out of 78

Official Results – Day 2

  • Mauricio Alvarez – Men 4 35+/45+ – 74 out of 78
  • Joe Lawler – Cat 4 Men – 26 out of 72
  • Joe O’Brien-Applegate – UCI Elite Men – 61 out of 61

Uncle Sam Cyclocross Grand Prix

Once again, our team enjoyed a trip out of New York City while their coworkers slaved away at the shop. This time, they were housed by Joe L.’s friend Abby, who has chickens in her yard. (Jealous!) Abbey is also involved in Troy Bike Rescue, a not-for-profit organization with a mission like that of Recycle-A-Bicycle.

The Uncle Sam course includes a good mix of all different conditions and course features. It had off camber turns, long straightaways, two big ass hills, barriers, a singletrack mountain trail section with exposed roots, and even a dip onto pavement. Joe L.’s rear rim was already cracked from the 2011 race season. And now he cracked his front rim after he hit  this pavement at the wrong angle. He later fixed the wheel’s carbon rim with epoxy, and no, we will not do this for our customers.

Saturday, the first day of the race, featured good weather. And of course our boys squandered the dry weather and sunshine, and missed an opportunity to preride the course. Instead of getting to the course early for a preride, they went to a local farmer’s market for Belgian Waffles. But those waffles didn’t taste to good during Joe L.’s first race. On the first lap he attempted to run up a hill which was so steep that he ended up falling backwards off his bike. And then, to break his fall, he threw the bike and ran- effectively running into the registration pavilion.

Always. Take. A. Preride.

JL running up the hill after he fell backwards

Joe L. runs up the hill after falling backwards, throwing his bike, and then retrieving it

At Uncle Sam, Joe O.A. finally started getting the hang of things and keeping up with the other rear pack riders in his field. Here are some pictures of Joe O.A. kinda keeping up:

JOA running over the barriers

Joe O.A. runs over the barriers

JOA going over the barriers again

The barriers again. Note the rider at the far right. Though he has the style of a lame gazelle, this mount is not as painful as it looks.

This is how you properly shoulder a bike, though sometimes it's too much effort

This is how you properly shoulder a bike, though there are times when good form requires too much effort

Following the races on Day 1, our racers went into town and got some incredibly cheap hot dogs for 25 cents each. They followed this with a trip to Stuart’s, nominally for ice cream, but actually to watch the sedentary, car-driving customers and feel good about themselves in contrast. A weekend getaway with hot dogs and ice cream… Did I mention that the rest of the Bicycle Roots crew was slaving away in the shop at this time?

At the Uncle Sam Grand Prix Mauri wore a skinsuit for the first time ever. Do you think it suits him? (Heh. heh. heh.)

Mauri riding his third race ever. In his first skinsuit ever.

Mauri rides his third race ever and progresses from T-shirts to skinsuits. Sleek!

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Mauri runs over the barriers like a Keebler Elf

The weather changed for the worse on Day 2 of the Uncle Sam Grand Prix, becoming miserably rainy and cold. Most of the course became peanut buttery. This made the course 10 times harder than it was before, especially in the off camber sections at the bottom of descents. These sections turned into a slip ‘n’ slide. Of course, our team enjoyed it. But then again, these boys have a sick sense of fun.

On Day 2 Joe L. fell again, on the same hill that had knocked him off the bike on the day before. This time he slid into home plate through the mud.

JL sliding into home plate. He forgot he's not playing baseball.

Joe L. forgets he’s not playing baseball

The pudding-like course made Day 2’s race an extremely muddy one. Joe L.’s SRAM Red cassette actually clogged up with mud, so he borrowed a back wheel from the pit crew mid-race in order to finish his race without his drivetrain skipping.

JL running over the barriers

Joe L. runs over the barriers, at this point in the race still riding his own Zipp wheel with a SRAM Red cassette

Was at the second day of Uncle Sam, in Troy, NY. Much more slippery than the first day! My SRAM Red cassette actually clogged up with mud, so I borrowed a back wheel from the pit crew mid race in order to keep my drivetrain from skipping the entire race.

Later, when the Red cassette was so mud-clogged it couldn’t function, Joe L. finished his race on a loaner wheel

JL's bike after the race. His rear cassette got clogged with mud and dirt and he swapped it in the pit- where the pit crew kindly cleaned it for him. This picture was taken after the race, after he got his clean wheel back, which is why the wheel is clean but the bike is dirty. Sometimes a rider can collect 5 lbs of mud during a race.

Joe L.’s bike after the race. While he was slogging it out on a loaner wheel, the pit crew was cleaning his original wheel with the clogged cassette. This picture was taken after the race, after he got his clean wheel back, which is why the wheel is clean but the bike is dirty. Sometimes a rider can collect 5 lbs of mud during a race.

Here are some pictures of Mauri getting dirty:

Uncle Sam 2

This was Mauri’s second time racing in a skinsuit- and he got it filthy!

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Whoever thought he’d be so happy to be so dirty and tired?

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Better get a toothbrush

Official Results – Day 1

  • Mauricio Alvarez – Cat 3/4 Men – Did not finish
  • Joe Lawler – Cat 3/4 Men – 44 out of 62
  • Joe O’Brien-Applegate – Elite Men (Pro/Cat 1/2/3) – 15 out of 22

Official Results – Day 2

  • Mauricio Alvarez – Cat 3/4 Men – 47 out of  49
  • Joe Lawler – Cat 3/4 Men – 36 out of 49
  • Joe O’Brien-Applegate – Elite Men (Pro/Cat 1/2/3) – 11 out of 14

Independence Cross Men

Independence Cross (formerly known as “Beacon Cross”) is one of the best races in Southern New Jersey. The race features a very fast paced course, with sandy singletrack through the woods, a massive beach run, and a set of even bigger stairs to run up, which are actually stairs for an ampitheater. This race is also part of the New Jersey Cyclocross Cup. This was one of our team’s favorite races of the season, even though it was also one of the toughest.

Joe O.A. was sick during Independence Cross, and he had to quit the race. This left Joe L. to storm the beach all by himself:

storming the beaches of south jersey by bike

Who put all this sand here?

Official Results

  • Joe Lawler – Cat4/5 Open – 18 out of 45
  • Joe O’Brien-Applegate – Men Pro/Cat 1/2/3 Open – Did Not Finish

Bubble Cross at Bubbling Springs

Bubble Cross was  the first of several races which were delayed by Hurricane Sandy. This one was pushed back by a week.

This race was almost as fun (ahem… I mean difficult) as its name suggests. The course featured every type of terrain imaginable. The racers started out on a gravel straightaway. Then they turned right and jumped into a sandbox in a childrens playground, then rode around a swingset. Then they hopped a couple of stairs, and did a big U-turn into an immense sandpit of dispair, which is actually the beach of a manmade lake. This sandpit was followed immediately by a singletrack climb through the woods, which then led back out to the grass, with lots of off camber twists and turns similar to those seen at Whirlybird. Then the racers were led back into another sandpit, before hitting more grass, with lots of off camber twists and turns (again). Then they looped back onto the gravel for the next lap.

According to Joe L. it was the most fun he ever had racing in sand.

Riding through the sandpit of despair

Joe L. rides through the sandpit of despair. Photo by Robert Mecea.

Official Results

  • Joe Lawler – Men C (Cat 4) – 12 out of 46
  • Joe O’Brien-Applegate – Men A (P/1/2/3) – 16 out of 21

Super Cross Cup

The Super Cross Cup was another race that was totally screwed up by Hurricane Sandy. Staten Island Cross- a race that was supposed to precede it- got cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy and all of the entrants got registered for Super Cross Cup weekend instead. But then Super Cross Cup itself almost got cancelled, and ultimately was ultimately pushed back 3 weeks.

Before 2010 Super Cross Cup was in Southhampton, NY, and was well attended by pro racers. In 2010 the race was moved to Eisenhower Park, in East Meadow, NY. For 2012’s post-Sandy Super Cross, not only was the race rescheduled, but it was also moved to a different section of Eisenhower Park than the one that had held the race in the previous two years. In the opinion of our racers, this move was an improvement.

Because of the events of the previous month, 2012’s Super Cross was not well attended. But those who skipped out missed a really good race. They also missed this:

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Race sponsor Red Bull showed up with a military truck converted into a DJ’s soundsystem booth. Photo credit: Percy Zahl

Joe O.A. capitalized on the poor attendance in order to win prize money for the second and third time, earning a prize check on both days of the race.

Here are some pictures of food and beverages:

Pre race BBQ thanks to the Ride Brooklyn team

Pre-race BBQ thanks to the Ride Brooklyn team

Obligatory photo of the Wafels & Dinges cart. We live for this the racing is just an excuse.

Obligatory photo of the Wafels & Dinges cart. We live for wafels & dinges, and bike racing is just an excuse to follow this cart around. Photo credit: Percy Zahl.

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Recovery drinks post race. Seth Holmes (third from left) raced his first race ever and placed 18th.

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Post race recovery drinks with the Ride Brooklyn and Bicycle Roots teams

On Day 2 of the race, Joe L. sprinted to 2nd place in the initial hole shot, before the first corner. He took this corner wide, where the course was dry. Meanwhile, after the hole shot, the rider in first place took a tight and slippery inside line, which made him slip and almost run into Joe L., who was trying to ride around him. This allowed Joe L. to take off in first place.

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The hole shot into the tight slippery line. Photo credit: Percy Zahl.

Joe L. maintained this position and a significant lead through the first two laps, until Chris Foster from Cicli Devotion (who ultimately took first place) caught him. For the next three laps, Joe L. jostled with a rider from Kissena for second place.

Then both of  Joe L.’s legs cramped (he should’ve taken his Sport Legs!), and all hope of a victory was lost. He pushed through the pain and ultimately took 9th in the race.

jl brings intense concentration to the race

Joe L. brings intense concentration to the race. Photo credit: Jim Rutkowski.

JOEL1

Joe L. brakes on the descent. Photo credit: Percy Zahl

trying to breath

Joe L. tries to breath and stay in the top ten. His look betrays the agony in his legs. Photo credit: Percy Zahl.

one of the few corners on the course that you could ride through at fullspeed

Joe L. takes one of the few corners on the course that could be ridden at full speed. Photo credit: Jim Rutkowski

Joe O.A. didn’t have as successful of a race on Day 2 as Joe L. did. He ultimately got pulled from the race because the pros were lapping him. Here are some photos of the difficult course he was dealing with:

A panoramic shot of the barriers

A panoramic shot of the barriers. Click the image for a full view in a new window.

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Myles the race organizer rerouted this section halfway through the day, to make it harder. Because it wasn’t hard enough already. When questioned, he responded, “Gotta make em run.”

After Joe O.A. got pulled from the race, he got off his bike and lay down on the pavement for 20 minutes.

This is how JOA finished his face. They pulled him out because the pros were lapping him. So he got off the bike and lay down for 20 minutes. He left it all on the course.

Joe O.A. leaves it all on the course

Official Results – Day 1

  • Joe Lawler – (Cat 4 Men) – 7 out of 36
  • Joe O’Brien-Applegate – UCI Elite Men – 22 out of 25

Official Results – Day 2

  • Joe Lawler – (Cat 4 Men) – 9 out of 27
  • Joe O’Brien-Applegate – UCI Elite Men – 19 out of 22

After Super Cross the pink Cruxes were once again covered in mud and grass. For a racer, the most important part of cyclocross season is keeping his or her bike clean and working properly. Without a bike that works well, you might as well not race. Keeping one’s bike in good condition is therefore just as important as racing well. Good thing our racers are also mechanics!

Here are some pictures of post-race filth, and of post-post-race clean up:

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Things like this will kill a bike, if not taken care of right away. Our professional mechanics made sure to not take care of them right away.

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This is what happens if you don’t hose your bike off after the race. The crusted-on mud is much harder to clean when it’s a day old. It will also dry rot your tires.

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More crusted on day-old mud

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These were the bicycle droppings that covered the shop floor after the bikes were cleaned. Gross!

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Another close up of the bicycle droppings

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Post race tune up time

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Joe O.A. cleans his cranks

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A Crux, after all the mud was removed. You can actually read the logos again!

That just about sums the ‘cross season that was. We came, we raced, we got dirty.

Now it’s time for us to put together a ROAD team. If you are a road racer or potential racer who wants to help us start something big, email us at info@bicycleroots.com for more information. And keep riding!

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