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The 2014 Belgian Waffle Ride: Bikini-clad Carnage Edition

EQUIPMENT (* indicates casualty of battle):

  • 1 Orbea Avant M10D road bicycle, 53cm, pink and black (*)
  • 1 Specialized Tarmac S-Works SL4 SRAM Neutral Support road bicycle, 56.5cm, red
  • 1 53t SRAM Force 22 front chainring (*)
  • 1 pair ENVE XC 29er tubular disc-brake wheels (*)
  • 2 Challenge Tires Parigi-Roubaix 27mm tubular tires
  • 1 CaffeLatex rescue inflator
  • 1 700c 23-25mm tube (*)
  • 1 GoPro Hero 3+ Camera
  • 1 Apple iPhone 5S, 32gb
  • 1 LifeProof Nuud iPhone case
  • 1 Orbea Odin helmet, L, black (*)
  • 1 Castelli Entrata jersey, M, black (*)
  • 1 pair Castelli Inferno bibshorts,  M, black (*)
  • 1 pair Castelli Rosso Corsa socks, XXL, white
  • 1 pair Smith Pivlock V2 Max sunglasses, neon yellow
  • 1 pair SIDI Wire shoes, 46, white (*)
  • 1 pair MANUALFORSPEED waterbottles, zebra pink

PROVISIONS:

  • 72oz Skratch Labs, fruity, delicious
  • 72oz water, it wasn’t organic
  • 30oz Coca-Cola, it was fizzy
  • 16oz Coors Light
  • 10oz Sugar-Free Redbull, consumed in conjuction with Coors
  • 2 Red Velvet-flavored Pop-Tarts
  • 1 bag Sour Patch Kids
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 (shockingly tasty) Powerbar, peanut butter and jelly
  • 7 fistfuls of pretzels and M&Ms, devoured at warp-speed
  • 3 Bonk Breaker bars, sample-size

COURSE:

137 miles, (220km), 11,000ft (3350m) of climbing. Pavement, dirt roads, singletrack, water crossings. Sandy washes. Faux-Classics nomenclature applied to suburban San Diego hills (see: Muur van Dubbelberg and Zwartenberg). Steep climbs. Really steep climbs, especially after 125 miles of riding (aforementioned Dubbelberg averaging 11% over 1km). Road bikeable. Recommend chunkiest tires available.

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“We came here to live life, and nobody was watching.”

“I think hanging it all on cycling really damaged his psyche when it went to shit,” I said.

Burke replied, ”Well, yeah, that’s being a bike racer.”

“Damn…feel you there.”

It resonated in my soul.

Living in the upper 5% of American bike racing is a case study in life at the margins.  The ever-changing mass of 400 some-odd elite cyclists, men and women, ranging in age from 18 to 40, is a metaphorical transient encampment of aerobically-hardened, passion-driven, and slightly mentally-unstable individuals attempting to break through the ceiling to the ultimate echelon of cycling. Most won’t. Even the supremely talented. The careful mix of genetics, luck, work, and sometimes (not always) moral ambiguity (see Lance et al.) is an elusive recipe. If it hasn’t been nailed by 21 years of age through a careful (money-lubricated) pipeline, nearly any chance of cracking the “Big Leagues” is lost, though there are exceptions (Phil Gaimon is the most recent example). For the rest of us, it’s a Sisyphean quest with near-lottery odds of success. Some are happy to continue pushing the rock uphill Stateside, even as the number of domestic pro/elite cyclists making anything remotely close to a living wage dwindles into the teens. Racing at a high level in the hardest sport in the world requires complete devotion, even in its relative backwaters like Utah. The rest of life usually ends up falling by the wayside, sacrificed to endless weeks of 20 hours in the saddle, recovery, scrounging for ways to pay rent, and how to drag your exhausted, starving carcass to the next race a state away if the team isn’t footing the bill. Existence becomes bike racing. It is the ends, the means, the destination, and the journey. When it suffers, so do you. The converse too, rings true. There’s no feeling like showing up to a race with what we call “form” – when your body is firing precisely on every cylinder, and when you know you can lay waste to the rest of the field with ease. It’s a perfect example of the extreme polar opposites most cyclists perpetually find themselves in. Moderation never has been a mantra for those on the fringe.

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RECIPE: BlendTec Oat Waffles

Waffles. Bliss. Waffles. Bliss.

oatmealwaffles (1 of 1)

Interchangeable terms. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar, or they’ve never had a good waffle on a nippy spring day while sipping tar-black coffee before a ride. Or during a ride. Or after a ride. Crispy exterior, fluffy interior, slightly-sweet dough…Anyway, we’re neck-deep in Belgian Classics season, and there’s no better way to enjoy a magical time of the year than with the Battlefield of Europe‘s greatest export. 

My kitchen is the Belgian Expeditionary North American Waffle Laboratory (BENAWL). The team of experts in the BENAWL has experimented with making waffles out of anything carbohydrate-based (and sometimes not, see the disastrous “Atkins Waffle”). I’m not a gluten apologist by any means (note: I’ve never met any gluten-paranoid hypochondriacs outside of the US), but variety is the spice of life. And waffles. Wheat flour, rice flour, cooked rice, corn flour, sourdough starter, tapioca starch, rye flour, yucca flour, gummy bears, xantham gum, corn, Froot Loops, bacon, bread, carrots, basil, potatoes, pumpkin, vegetable pulp…all hot-cast into a nook-pocked leavened quick bread ready for a bevy of toppings.

However, the BENAWL has a new apparatus allowing for an even more terrifying degree of experimentation. That apparatus is the BlendTec, capable of turning virtually anything into flour, paste, butter, or liquid ready for incorporation into a waffle dough. Dried broccoli flour? Is that a thing?

I’ll start with the basics of Alternative Waffle (henceforth known as AltWaffle) creation with a BlendTec. No BlendTec? A food processor should work, but I take no responsibility for disaster. Welcome to AltWaffle 101: The Oat Waffle. More exciting than a standard flour waffle, I prefer the oat version for a quick waffle as it gives the dough a little more texture and flavor.

A quick explanation on the following recipe – I prefer using honey as a sweetener and butter as my fat. Lower glycemic index, better browning. You can sub for standard sugar and oil if you want less miraculously-awesome results.

Note: This recipe ALSO works for the lesser quick bread known as “pancakes”. Just pour the batter onto a hot, greased pan. Duh.

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Friday Night Lights

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Velódromo Martín Emilio “Cochise” Rodríguez.

Sticky subtropical Friday nights. No play-calling, snaps, or the crunch of pads and helmets in collision. The atmosphere is the vibrant hum of track tubulars inflated to 180psi, the whistle, and the lap bell.

A violent crash. Whirring tires, spinning cranks, and the sprints go on.

They ask me about the track back home. I tell them the closest velodrome is 1300km away from my city. It’s inconceivable to them that cycling, in all its forms, is not woven into the fabric of our culture, and my heart sinks a little. For them, it’s like meeting someone in the US that hasn’t set foot in a McDonald’s.

Cycling (bike racing!) is normal here. Normal for everyone, not only the wealthy, the privileged, and the elite. It’s not kooky, it’s not weird, it just…is.

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A Gringo Cyclist’s Colombian Cheatsheet

I’m diluting what’s become an overwhelming torrent of sensory overload during the time I’m spending in Colombia (think 5 year-old in Disneyland), so I present to you…the Gringo Cyclist’s Cheatsheet.

I’d love for Gringos to come visit Colombia for the real reasons it’s paradise, and why its people deserve all the love the world can offer. The culture, the cuisine, the cycling, the history, and the warmth. Gringos (read: Americans, and to a lesser extent, Europeans) in Colombia get a bad rap, and it’s not undeserved. Most I’ve encountered, read about, and heard about, are in Medellin for two reasons: Cocaine and sex. Exploitation – a conquistador attitude for the modern times. It makes me a little ill, and I usually avoid other Americans and Europeans at all costs. It’s why I don’t live in El Poblado, Medellin’s richest, safest, and most expat-heavy barrio. I’m quite happy in the middle-class burg of Laureles-Estadio, showering with cold water, frequenting tiendas, frightening locals with my terribly accented Spanish, and gorging on kickass street food on the weekends. Read on for tips on how to survive, and possibly thrive.

A Cheatsheet for the Gringo Cyclist in Medellin, Colombia:

  • Get used to this guy. He’s hard to catch. He’s hard to drop. He’s faster than most Cat 2 road racers in the United States on his 20 year-old department store mountain bike – and he’s just going to work.

  •  Altitude is real. Dwell around sea level? Welcome to suffering. Medellin sits at 5,000ft above the ocean, and most rides only get higher. Do yourself a favor, stay more than a week, and acclimate.

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Provisions of the Paisa, Part 1: Breakfast.

The first of three parts on an oft-neglected topic of pieces on Colombia: Food. 20140214-IMG_2626

Food. The cyclist’s greatest nemesis, and greatest friend. It’s no secret it’s a subject of great interest for much of the pro peloton – often, the saying is muttered “Eat to ride, ride to eat”. Why do I take such a big interest in food, cooking, and the techniques that follow? Bike racing is hard. Humans aren’t designed for intensive aerobic output for 24 hours-plus a week. It will suck the life out of your withering carcass without proper care. Before I started racing, I had creative outlets – photography, writing, design, et al. I found crushing myself on two wheels, and those fell by the wayside (see: lifesucking). Something functional to my newfound passion – but still stimulating – took their place. Cooking. Discovering others’ cooking. So, without further adieu, an initial introduction to la comida of my temporary (and beloved) home – Colombia.

Eating habits differ substantially from Americans. Like many Latin and European countries, priority is on lunch, typically the largest meal of the day. Many nutritionists say the American fondness for skipping lunch with a heavy supper is a source of our waistline woes. Following lunch, breakfast (Desayuno), tends to take some form of precedence. amongst racing cyclists in Colombia, a substantial waking meal seems to be standard.

Huevos en Cacerola

Huevos en Cacerola – Fried Eggs.

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