Have you ever been experienced? Well, we have. With apologies to Jimi, we had a great experience with our cross team this fall. Gus, Laurel, Katie, Callum, Paul, Chris and I slogged it out week in and week out all fall, and Chris and Paul continue to do so through Nationals in a couple of weeks.
Our goals for the team were modest and simple: to have a good time racing with a tight group of friends, to make sure the frames and forks we planned to sell were everything we wanted them to be, to make the bikes available for a large group of people to see and ride, to finalize our spec for the complete builds, and to evaluate the necessity and feasibility of disc brakes. Just like a lot of other "factory teams." Unlike a lot of other factory teams, ours was really organic, just made up of people we would want to be on a team with in any case irrespective of anything but general bike racing. We also stayed pretty well below the radar on the "hey, look at how great we all did" bit. We just never felt like that was really the point. Inasmuch as I played the role of team director (which primarily consisted of putting up the tent, making sure the toolbag got to the race, providing mechanical assistance and monitoring the health and well being of the bikes, and beer selection - with the undying assistance of my wife, without whom none of the logistics would have worked at all), the point of the team was never about results. It was about accomplishing the sort of product management goals that we needed to hit, and having each team member have a great time racing bikes, and feel like he or she was doing it in the best team environment possible.
As it turned out, our cup sort of ran over with results. We had podiums at Tacchino, Granogue, Hyattsville, DCCX, Ed Sander, Psycho Cross, Kinder Kross, UVA Cross, Vint Hill, and Capital Cross, and we had a MABRA champion at Taneytown. Every person on the team (myself included, in an absolute shocker) stood on the steps at one point or another during the season, and the top step looked like a Van Halen show about a half dozen times. A pretty bit of riding by all involved. More importantly, mission accomplished on everyone having a good time and the team being fun. Our tent was the life of the party at a bunch of events, especially when Mike was there to play beverage tender.
As far as figuring out the bikes, complete mission accomplished there. Each of us crashed a bunch and proved that yes, carbon bikes can be light and fast and bulletproof all at once. Callum and I took the lead on catastrophe testing, with him going through 6 to 8 derailleur hangers (he has to learn to fall to his left) and me riding down the drop in at Sander on my head, then inadvertantly kicking my bike into a tree and some other fun stuff. In the performance department, everyone was pretty much of the "cold dead hands" persuasion as far as under what conditions they would trade bikes for another. We wound up making one tiny change in spec'ing a seat post clamp-mounted rear brake stop rather than the seat stay-mounted one that the bikes originally had. In the smaller sizes, I hated the cable run to the rear brake, and the clamp-mounted stop solves that easily.
We had a pretty funny thing going on early this fall about "Behind The Music" supergroup cliches, and how we'd come together and initially it would be this crazy energy and productive output, but that ego, booze, drugs, and groupies would inevitably drive us apart, but that we'd always have the music... the music. Well, it turned out that a leaf covered rock on Beach Drive played the role of "ego, booze, drugs, and groupies" when Paul went down and broke some of the more relevant bones just before Schooley Mill. We had sort of an "everything that possibly can go wrong will go wrong" comedy of a day there, but took no time to pull it back together and though I can't remember any of us actually getting on the podium at Rockburn the next week (although I can agonizingly close to my second "the sun shines on every dog's butt once in a while" moment of the season), I remember that as one of the more fun days of the fall - especially when beslunged Paul showed up to play cheerleader. Callum might remember this day in a less rosy light, as the elite race there was about 342 laps of pure, brilliant hell - the phrase "only 5 laps to go!!!!" will remain my peak of beautiful irony for the year.
So to borrow a phrase from a decidedly less rock style (although I don't know if you can really pass Sinatra for having lived a rock'n'roll lifestyle - except for leaving too many hotel rooms intact that guy mastered the art), it was a very good year. We're already looking forward to next fall's reunion tour. Next stop Budokan? We actually are already HUGE in Japan (seriously), so maybe so...