Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Summer in Basque Country part 2: The Racing

The races in Basque country are hilly. Mountainous in fact. When I first arrived, I looked at the race profiles and thought "really? Only 70k? That doesn't sound very far." When the road goes up and down though, it's long enough. Still, the races are pretty short. Usually only about two or two and half hours with some of bigger races being three. This allows them to be vicious and punchy, with tons of attacks and accelerations. As time went on I learned when to react and when to sit in. I was amazed how serious the racing was. Closed roads, full race caravans... In the first few races my seat was too low, which affected me a lot. I went to a bike shop and fixed that but shortly after I crashed hard. I feel like I never reached my full potential due to that injury but nevertheless I raced hard and learned a lot.

After racing in Basque Country for a while we went to Belgium for a week. I did a small Kermesse and a really big one called the Johan Museeuw classic. I was amazed at how incredibly fast the races there are. I had fun seeing some of my friends from 'Cross season while in Belgium, it felt good to be in a familiar place where I knew at least a little bit of the language.

One of the cool parts about racing over there is how team orientated things were. We trained together, raced together, traveled together and sometimes slept together. We had races where we'd have vague jobs to do for the team without compartmentalizing individuals. I did two big tours, The tour of Bizkaia and the Tour of Pamplona.

As the racing went on I got in more and more breakaways. None of them made it to the finish, but I kept going for them. Eventually, in my last race in Basque country, one did. I got away with one other rider before the big climb of the day with 4 riders up ahead. When the lead group of six riders caught us, the rest of the field was no where to be seen. I finished 10th that day.

To conclude my trip, I traveled to the UK to race the tour of Wales. The final stage was wet and miserable, just the way I like it. A group of riders got away and once I realized they wouldn't be pulled back I attacked. One other rider stayed with me and we worked together for a while, but he wasn't strong enough and was quickly dropped. I was solo with about ten seconds on the field for a while when two riders bridged up to me. We worked together well and the gap up to the front group slowly ticked down. When we caught the breakaway, we had a minute and a half on the field. The group worked together well up until about 10k to go. I had no idea how long it was until the final climb and started to get nervous. I should have attacked right there and then. Just as we hit the climb, the race leader came blazing by us with others in tow. Away in the break away all day only to be caught with 4k to go.

That concluded my final junior race. The last one I would ever do. I enjoyed my next week in Scotland, sight seeing and exploring, then flew home.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My summer in Basque country part 1: The culture

As promised here is the first of a several part series on my experience this past summer in Basque country with the Basque Junior team Beste Alde Orue Eskola.

First of, you may ask the question; why Basque Country? Most people haven't even heard of this place, let alone thought of racing there. To answer this I have to go back to the fall of 2013 in Belgium, specifically the Chainstay in Oudenaarde. One of the other people staying there at the time happened to be the father of a Scottish Junior who had done an exchange program with Beste Alde. He talked about it very favorably and I liked the idea of racing in the mountains with big junior fields so I contacted the coach of the team and things went from there. More specifically you may ask WHY Basque Country, not just why it happened. I'm a climber, I prefer mountainous terrain and really hard races that are very hard to find in the US, especially if you're not a pro. I also knew firsthand from the previous year in Belgium how much racing against European Juniors teaches you. Especially when the fields are 100-200 riders deep. I decided on the time frame of the end of June to the beginning of September, which had me miss US Nationals but do a lot of very high level races like the Tour of Bizkaia, Tour of Pamaplona, and Tour of Wales. The purpose of this trip was to learn how to race in such big fields, learn how to climb better, and grow as a rider and person.

While I was in the Basque Country I lived with a host family. They were my friends, replacement family, and support crew for the summer. When I crashed and got road rash, Begonia (The mother) took care of me with love and I didn't have to cook a single meal while I was there. Josu (the father) drove me to many races and taught me about Basque Country despite his limited knowledge of English. Txomin and Jon (the sons) were great friends and made sure I was included when everyone was rattling off in Basque and I didn't understand what was going on. They are incredibly generous people who welcomed me into their home without reserve. Their house was located in a incredibly scenic spot, right outside the small town of Abadiño which is just outside of Durango. Every morning I woke up to a view of the Pyrenees.

The Community in Abadiño is very tightly knit, most everyone knows everyone. In general throughout Basque Country, there is a lot of Holidays/Parties, or "Fiestas" during the summer months. There was quite a few times where I was unable to go shopping because I forgot there was some Fiesta that day and all the shops were closed. Family, extended family, friends, and Neighbors all gathered for Birthday parties. While I was there I attended Jon's Grandmother's Birthday party. There was a lot of wine snacks, and a cake. What made it different from the US is how many people were there celebrating this woman. A good portion of the veggies at the party were grown in gardens around town. Pretty much everyone with enough space grows their own vegetables.
A lot of the food is vegetables, cured red meats, bread, and sea food. The food was incredible, similar yet different from the food I eat on my own farm. Much to my delight the first meal I had while there was Cured Coppa, one of the specialties of one of the Restaurants we supply. My generous Host Mother cooked me a lot of amazing dishes, one I had a lot was two slices of ham deep fried in butter with melted cheese in between. Yes it's as good as it sounds. 
All in all, Basque country is a fantastic place full of amazing people, food, and places. I had the time of my life over there and will remember the experience for the rest of my life.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chequamegon Short & Fat 2014

I'm still working on my blogs for the summer, but I thought I'd do a quick update on how the Chequamegon went. This was my sixth time doing the race, and I really wanted to win it. I've been 100 something, 15th, 7th, and 3rd the previous years. This year I decided to take a risk and ride my 'Cross bike. I pre-rode the course on it and decided that while it was rough on the rocky sections, the extra speed on the hills and gravel was worth it.  I opted to run my HED Ardennes with Challenge Chicanes.

The morning of the race was very frosty and cold. I warmed up for 50 minutes with heavy clothes, but my legs were still stiff at the start. The plan was to make an attack at the second, larger gravel hill. When I made my attack I remember thinking that that attacked wasn't fast enough. I doubted that anyone was dropped but when I looked back, only one rider was on my wheel, Fletcher Arlen. We worked together for a while, trading attacks, until he made one that stuck in the rocky section after the Birkie. I was at a slight disadvantage because of my 'Cross bike. However I just got on top of a gear and started to close down the small gap. Once I could see him I decided to let him dangle until the finish so he'd be tired coming into the finale. We hit the gravel and I attacked! The Cross bike was a huge advantage on the gravel, and all the road racing helped. 




After the Short and fat I tried doing a few races but felt extremely tired from my big summer. After having my friend Gavin over for one last week of base training, I am now taking a few weeks to a month off the bike. I might do some racing later in the season, but I'm not promising anything. I also have been working on blog posts recapping the summer in Basque Country, so look forward to that soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Lesson in Pain

It's been a surreal first three weeks in Basque country. I have not been active on my blog simply because things have been more about adjusting to life here and trying to experience as much as possible. Last week was probably the biggest race in the schedule for this year, The Tour of Bizkaia. This was a world caliber junior race, the level was very high and the courses were very hard. Consisting of 5 stages over 4 days, with 2 mountaintop finishes, over a dozen cat 2 and 3 climbs, and one double stage on the last day with a Road race in the morning and a 12k Time Trial in the afternoon.

My entrance to the race went pretty well. I felt good for stage 1,  besides the rather eye opening experience of going 80kph down hill with hundreds of other riders packed around you, it was rather uneventful until the finishing climb. I was ran into by another rider at the base of the climb and nearly went down, we hooked bars and he crashed. Because of this, when the gaps started to open I wasn't in the first group. I trailed in the next group back for the rest of the climb and finished pretty happy at 55th place out of 200 some riders, confident for the next day.

After the 1st stage the race got a lot harder. No one was holding back for a final climb, so the whole day was very fast and hard. On stage 2 the lead group finished with an average speed of 41kph despite two cat 3 climbs that day. At some point my seat slipped down without me noticing and I paid for it dearly. Between that and getting hit by a car recently my back started to hurt, and a lot. I fiddled with my position over the final three stages but never quite figured it out and became familiar with an ever constant pain, both physically and mentally. You see, I've never actually quit a race. I've been pulled out, but never taken myself out of a race. This is something I take great pride in and it was the stage for a battle between myself and I over 7 hours of collective racing

I did a lot of solo riding over the week, no resting, nothing to distract myself from the pain besides the occasional cheering from spectators. For the last 30k or so of stage 3 I simply repeated the line "pain is temporary" out loud over and over again. I'm sure from an onlooker I may have looked a little bit insane. In the moment, there was many times I would have gladly been kicked in the balls if it would have some how transported me to the finish line. The physical pain itself wasn't the hard part. I'm pretty used to that. It was the idea that I was enduring this pain as the victim, not the aggressor. Pain can feel rather good when you're doing well in a race, but when you're dropped it serves only as a reminder that you're not good enough. I told myself I was going to quit many, many times over the weekend. In the end however, I just couldn't bring myself to end it.

Now that it's all over, I can look back at it with pride. Sure, I did terrible results wise, even if you consider the caliber of field. However I made mistakes and I'm learning from them. The biggest thing to me is that I didn't quit. I endured. For now, that's enough.

Don't think I haven't had any fun though! The past weeks have been just that almost exclusively, racing or not. Over the next week I'm going to catch up on my experiences, but I think this will be all for now.

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Plans for the Summer.

Up until now I've been fairly vague about my plans for this summer. Some of you may be wondering if I'm doing anything at all... While I'm in the USA I'll be guest riding for various teams and I'm riding for Focus bikes, HED Wheels, Enzo's Cycling Products, and Lazer Helmets across the board.

So my plans...I am very excited to announce that from June 22nd to September 1st I will be racing with a Spanish team called Beste Alde Orue Eskola in the the province Basque country (which is in Spain). We will also be racing in Belgium, and the UK for the Junior Tour of Wales. I will live, race, and train at the foothills of the Pyrenees for 2 months. Obviously this is a huge and very exciting opportunity for me, the caliber of racing I'll be attending is really high and will be on closed roads with 60-120, 17-18 year old's everyday. Plus I will get to do lots of climbing, my favorite type of riding. This year really is a dream come true for me, I've wanted to race in the Pyrenees ever since I watched The Tour de France for the first time.

I've had a fairly late start to the season as I've been plagued by a recurring hip injury that started at my crash in the Namur World Cup last December. It was a long and frustrating winter between that and the record breaking sub zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures but my confidence is high and I'm feeling stronger than ever. My racing season started with an excellent trip out to Colorado to get some quality training and racing in. I guest rode for Natural Grocers in Colorado. Soon after getting home I raced Kenwoods, on my HED Jet 5 wheels, where I placed second in the  1/2 race. Last weekend I went out to the first Minnesota series XC Mountain bike race, the Wooly in St Croix. Unfortunately a crash wherein I broke my lazer helmet forced me to take the last two laps easy as to not injure myself for my upcoming trip, but I still had tons of fun riding some really great singletrack on my beautiful new Focus Raven 29'er.

This weekend I've opted to go to the Memorial Classic in Minnesota instead of my usual staple of the Snake alley weekend. I'm sad to miss such a classic as Snake, but it just makes more sense to do an Omnium with two road races and a TT with my upcoming schedule.

The Basque country is a rather confusing conglomerate of provinces in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast, and is  home to the Basque people, who (mostly) speak Basque (Euskara). Basque country is thought to have been home to some of the oldest civilizations in ancient history.

 "According to some theories, Basques may be the least assimilated remnant of the Paleolithic inhabitants of Western Europe (specifically those of the Franco-Cantabrian region known as Azilian) to the Indo-European migrations. Basque tribes were mentioned by Greek writer Strabo and Roman writer Pliny, including the Vascones, the Aquitani, and others. There is considerable evidence to show their Basque ethnicity in Roman times in the form of place-names, Caesar's reference to their customs and physical make-up, the so-called Aquitanian inscriptions recording names of people and gods etc."

While racing in Spain, I'll be staying in the city of Durango (Which was the first place in the world to be attacked by Nazi Germany's Airforce in 1937 during the Spanish civil war) in the province of Biscay. I'll end this with some pictures of the mind blowing landscape and architecture. As most of you know I am Home schooled and these trips are a big part of my education in seeing different cultures and learning new languages (I am currently learning Spanish and I'm sure I'll pick up some Basque). In short, I am very excited for this opportunity to become more worldly and create memories that will last a lifetime! Thank You to every one that has supported me in making this happen.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cycling Through My Thoughts #2; Hop, Skip, and a Smile Away.

Welcome to the second post in my new weekly writing series. This post was supposed to be out yesterday, but between packing and pig chores I didn't have the time. However, now I'm glad it waited another day because I have a good story to tell. Today I flew to Boulder, CO. It feels great to get out of cold, snowy Minnesota for some good altitude training, and I met someone extraordinary in the Denver Airport of all places.

After my flight from Minneapolis I got my bags and went looking for a place to eat in the airport before I headed towards my final destination, since it was about two hours past my normal lunch time. There was only one restaurant on the first floor of the wing I was on, so I went there. I picked a seat where I could pull up my bike box close by and sat down. Sitting at the table across from me was an older couple and they asked me what the box was for. I told them I was a Cyclist and we started chit-chatting for a half hour or so while I ate. The husband said he used to be a Football player, which didn't surprise me since he was about 6ft 4inch tall. After a very nice conservation, I officially introduced myself and asked him what his name was. "Winston Hill", he said. Only then while I was shaking his hand did I notice a NFL pin on his suit and a Superbowl ring on his hand! I asked him how long he played for, and he pointed up to a plaque on the wall and said "sixteen years". "Wow that's a long time for that sport!" I said. Just goes to show, with a smile on your face and a friendly disposition who knows who you'll meet. Maybe a NFL Superstar will buy you dinner...












I'm all settled in at Boulder and rode today. Man there is nothing quite like the first ride of the year in Shorts and Jersey! Keep an eye out on my twitter (@bikerboy_weiker), I'll be posting plenty of updates and pictures. Expect another Cycling Through My Thoughts next Tuesday, Cheers!

~Josey

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hashtag Transformation Tuesday

Hello everyone, hope all is well with you. I have been training away, doing base work in preparation for the coming season in which I have some very exciting news I should be able to share with you soon. Other than riding there has not been much going on so I have little to write about, partially due to this and partially due to a need for regular content on here I have three things to announce. First off, thanks to a friend I now have the domain www.joseyweik.com. Right now it just directs to my blog but I do have plans for that in the future. Secondly, I know have the specifications of my equipment on my blog. Thirdly, I have started a new weekly series (every Tuesday) on my blog. In it I will write a few paragraphs on a video, picture, quote, or idea. This may be cycling related, or it might not be. Also at the end of each of these I will include a picture of were I am that week. Right now I'm calling it "Musings from the Mind" but that sounds a little cheesy, so if any of you have suggestions please feel free to tell me. Check out my first post here. No this is not a April fools joke!