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!


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 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!

Cycling Through My Thoughts #1

This is my first post in my new series. Today I'm writing about a remarkable video by a Youtuber called Zefrank1 which illustrates on average how many days you have and what you will do with them in a very peculiar medium, Jelly Beans. I'll ask you to watch the video before reading any further.

The first time I watched this video, I almost felt panicky. Seeing how many days you'll likely have is eye opening and scary. The second time I watched it I felt sad, how many people go through their life just getting by? Or worse, suffering. The third time however, I realized something.
What if for the 8,477 days you're asleep you're looking forward to a great day? What if the 1,635 days you spend preparing and eating food cheers you up because you're eating healthy, wholesome food? What if the 3,302 days you spend working are making a difference or doing something you are passionate about? What if the 1,099 days you spend commuting are exciting because hey, who knows what you'll see where ever you're going? What if the 2,676 days you spend watching some form of television are educating you, or just don't exist because what a waste of time, right? What if the 1,576 days you spend taking care of household chores are... okay, I can't spin that one positively. What if the 564 days you spend taking care of loved ones completes you as a person, because you care about them? What if the 671 days washing, grooming, and other bathroom related activities are seen as taking care of yourself, not as a chore? What if the 720 days you spend doing communal activities brings you closer to other people?

Well then the 2,740 days you have left doesn't seem so small anymore does it? Let this remind you that our days on this planet are limited. We should strive to spend as few of those days as we can being bored, sad, angry, vindictive, whining, or hating. We should remember each time we linger on each of these emotions that in the words of musician Todd Snider; "Life's too short to worry, Life's too long to hate. Life's too short not to love everybody and Life's too long to wait!". Carpe Diem.