Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sea Otter Classic 2016: GU Energy Labs Edition

Holy buckets! That was fun. With the rapid pace of the cycling industry, some may consider Sea Otter Classic 2016 old news, but memories of the event, which took place from April 14-17, continue to flood my mind.

With Sea Otter, it is what you make of it. Communicate, get involved, compete, and let loose for optimal enjoyment. Float around, focus on the traffic, and complain about the crazies for a negative experience.

For me, with this being my first Sea Otter, I approached it with an open mind. Fortunately, as the event approached, I was in contact with GU Energy Labs about working in their rocking booth. After assisting GU at Interbike Outdoor Demo 2015, I had been waiting for another opportunity to support the swift and upbeat company.

Friday, April 15:
Hurry up, wait. Drive. Hurry up, wait. Drive. Traffic. Park. This is why camping is rad! Entering the Laguna Seca Raceway was done and dusted for the weekend. Let the festivities begin.

Festival camping...
After entering the Sea Otter compound, the venue was still awaking at 9:15 a.m. on Friday. However, this provided me with the opportunity to meet Celia, Russ, Brian, and Roshelle, four rad GU employees! After noticing their smiles, energy, and positive outlook, I knew that Sea Otter was going to be a hit. Brian also had the main GU booth jamming to a classic rock playlist. Booyah.

The GU booth was constantly flowing.
It was a pleasure to work with Roshelle (left).
Friday included communicating with GU consumers about its nutritional benefits. Mother and pops were in attendance at Sea Otter, which provided us with the opportunity to chat. I was also greeted by an obnoxious cyclist seeking free schwag... that happened to be Yuri Hauswald, Community Development Manager at GU and cycling industry extraordinaire. After seeing Yuri, I jumped into his arms. We shared a smile, laugh, big high five, and a quick chat. Oh, it is always a joy to see Yuri.

Casual Salty the Yeti spotting.
Friday was also the day that Celia and I enjoyed conversation with a woman stoked on GU product. She casually mentioned that she was over her co-workers bringing salads for lunch. "Bam, check out my recovery smoothie," she would tell them. GU Recovery Drink Mix is her meal substitute. Gets the job done and gets the co-workers jealous. Ba-da-bing.

Saturday, April 16:
Early to bed, early to shred. Saturday included a 5 a.m. alarm for a 7:30 a.m. Gran Fondo start. It was insane to roll the Gran Fondo with my pops, Yuri, Blair - President at GU, Eric Benson - Owner at Art's Cyclery, Jason, and Von. New and old friends joined together for a great day in the saddle.

Unfortunately, Brian Vaughan - CEO at GU, was not in attendance. A startling crash on Friday did not allow him to start on Saturday. After many rides with Brian, I felt his missing presence throughout the day. Fortunately, we still had the opportunity to share many wonderful conversations at Sea Otter. 

During the Gran Fondo, our crew pedaled through rolling hills, over five hours, while holding stops to Formula 1 standards. Time seemed to evaporate, as we enjoyed a quality day on the bike. At one point, when Yuri was peeling off the front, I looked over and mentioned "it is good to be on your wheel again, Yuri," before pulling through. Friendship is powerful and not to be taken for granted.

Yuri, Eric, me, and my pops (left to right). Post-Gran Fondo.
Saturday afternoon involved recovery at the GU tent, many stories, and maybe a little celebration... While Gran Fondos are informal, GU placed five riders in the top 10.

Post-Gran Fondo. Mother and son. Much love!
An outstanding group of GU employees led to a quality Sea Otter weekend.
As the evening concluded, Jeremy Powers (J-Pow) happened to be strolling around. Owwwww! A fitting end to a wonderful day.

Jeremy Powers (right).
Sunday, April 17:
Up and at it. Sunday morning included closing shop on the weekend camping plot, before venturing down for a quick 1:30 hours at the GU booth. During this time, GU tattoos were applied to calf left and calf right for my afternoon collegiate road race. Awww yeah!

The Collegiate A Road Race at Sea Otter, which was hosted by Cal Poly Cycling, was sweltering and speedy. Over three hours, I went through eight bottles and was reminded that A's fields do not mess around. However, my afternoon was brightened when Colin Patterson, a Cal Poly teammate, bridged up to me and took victory in the Collegiate B Road Race. Solid work, Colin!

In the afternoon, I managed some final hangout time at the GU booth. After early mornings and plenty of riding, I could not help myself. Celia, Brian, and Bridgett provided another hospitable and upbeat environment during Sea Otter's closing stages.

Reluctantly, I said my goodbyes and proceeded to finish packing the trusty Honda Pilot for another road trip home. Cal Poly teammate Ray and I shared Sea Otter tales on the drive home.

Sunday night taqueria stop.
With that, Sea Otter 2016 was a wrap.

To GU, thank you very much for welcoming me with open arms. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities that you have provided me, in addition to the humbling support. 

To my Cal Poly Cycling mates, thank you for the campfire conversation and road trip memories. I look forward to many more adventures in the near future.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Interpreting Thereabouts: Bike Safety

Politics and law are not my forte, but when a motorized vehicle strikes a cyclist how does punishment not ensue?

Oh, the morning had started so well. Donuts, beachside breakfast, and a soft pedal to spin out the legs.

However, this morning, while pedaling with roommate Ryan, I was hit by a car... I can report that it was not joyous. 

Recently, the cycling industry has been promoting increased safety. Cars are supposed to provide a minimum of three feet when passing cyclists. While all of this is good and well, it sure hits closer to home now (no pun intended).

During the accident, I was traveling along a four-lane road that was headed towards San Luis Obispo, California. Two lanes were traveling in my direction. Beside the two lanes was an adequate bike lane, which Ryan and I occupied in a single-file manner.

Then, everything began to happen rapidly and instinct took over. Quickly, a minivan pulled alongside me without completely passing. Slowly but surely, the minivan began veering right. It now occupied a portion of the bike lane. "HEY, HEY, HEY," was all I could think to yell, but that did little to slow the vehicle, as it was now attempting a right-hand turn into a driveway and through me.

It was like the driver never saw me...

In the word of Alex Howes, as quoted in a recent VeloNews article, it pays "to be a very capable bike driver."

As the car began its right-hand turn, I was pinched and began leaning on the car. For the first time in my 10ish years as a cyclist, I made contact with a car when my left shoulder, elbow, forearm, and hand touched. All the while, I kept on yelling and leaning, yelling and leaning. Eventually, the driver completed her right-hand turn and I rode away from the incident. Fortunately, I never hit the ground and I was not injured.

While my mates won't call me a fearless descender, I like to think that I can handle my bike. Mom, thank you for driving me to all of those early-morning criteriums. Jozef, thank you for teaching me how to tap, lean, and be comfortable on narrow Belgian roads, while riding in a peloton of 100+ antsy cyclists.

This isn't my first rodeo, folks. Fight, don't freeze, and ride it out. 

After having a swell discussion with the driver, Elizabeth, a witness suggested that I call the police and file a report.

For those that know me well, I tend to have a mellow personality. I do not blow things out of proportion and I keep my cool.

Keeping this in mind, I calmly spoke with local law enforcement about the incident. However, according to the officer, because I had no serious injuries and financial damage did not exist, he could not intervene in the situation. If we wished, the driver and I could exchange information.

What about that law that requires drivers to pass cyclists by a minimum of three feet? Must injury and financial damage occur for a report to be filed, or for punishment to take place? More than anything, I am concerned about the next cyclist that this woman is going to pass.

After reflecting on the incident, I am grateful to not be injured. I look forward to playing my part in attaining increased bicycle safety measures and you should too. Unfortunately, cyclists are still second class, but I know the day will come when justice is fair.  

As a side note, how does this relate to Thereabouts? Well, that sure was one hell of an adventure and Elizabeth, oh Elizabeth, she was quite the character. Haha.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

My Interpretation of Thereabouts

Why didn't I ever think of that idea? Unfortunately, this concept is a recurring theme.

As many know, I am hooked on Thereabouts, which is a Lachlan and Angus (Gus) Morton concept. Focused on cycling passion, adventure, family, and meeting new characters, Thereabouts #1 and Thereabouts 2 have made me realize there is more to cycling than burying your head in a stem.

Therefore, when legendary roommate Ryan Mostofi mentioned that I should actively blog about my Thereabouts experiences, I couldn't pass. As an additional plug for "Sean Bird's Cycling Blog," these pieces will be casual, short stories that reflect my personal cycling adventures, all while highlighting the spirit of Thereabouts.

Without further delay, meet exhibit one.

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Date: Saturday, April 9, 2016
Location: San Luis Obispo, California
Ride Details: 77 miles on Highway 1, Old Creek, and Highway 46, with a stop in Cambria. Strava file.

Early to bed, early to shred. On a Saturday morning, a 6:45 a.m. alarm for a college student. Damn straight. #CPCycling

The crew was comprised of myself, three Cal Poly Cycling buddies, and a local stud in Don Hull. To start, we rolled north on Highway 1, which was uneventful and casual. However, Mr. Hull filled me in on plenty of his stories from a recent visit to Belgium with Carmichael Training Systems. After racing in Belgium between high school graduation and beginning college, it was neat to compare notes. Baller.

A right-hand turn on Old Creek Road sent our squad up, up, and up. At the top, Adam Evard gave me a quick shout. "Well, I just set my PR by 1:30 minutes. Always a pleasure to ride with you, Mr. Bird." Booyah. I love it. Way to rock it out there today, Adam.

Next, we flowed down the backside of Old Creek Road to Highway 46, before heading west to Highway 1. Funny Surfer Dude became the topic of discussion, but Mr. Hull pegged it on the descent and the rest of us chased, chased, chased. At the bottom, we split. Then, there were four Cal Poly Cycling gents.

We chugged and plugged to Cambria, before stopping at a park to fill bottles and discuss Ass Savers... Also, we stopped at a Chevron gas station. This is where we met our first character.

While at the Chevron gas station, I was pleasantly surprised/downright stoked to see a can of Coca-Cola for $0.84 including tax. What a deal. Has anyone else been paying $2 for a 12-ounce can of Coke lately? I'm over it. I expressed the good news to the crew and the cashier had a laugh. Well, then we started chatting. He mentioned that his "boss do not like to gouge people," (said in an Eastern European accent) which was fine by me.

While pedaling south out of Cambria, Adam and I began discussing the Thereabouts lifestyle, which is very common for a Cal Poly Cycling ride. There is more to cycling than burying your head in a stem. Laugh, talk to people that you wouldn't normally speak with, share stories, eat donuts, and enjoy the ride. Live life, people.

As we began moving down Highway 1 for San Luis Obispo, I chatted with Colin Patterson about the van life. Oh, the van life. Yes, so much yes.

In Cayucos, we caught rain. "I love riding in the rain," I mentioned to Adam O'Camb. It reminds me of some gnarly experiences racing in Belgium. 

In Morro Bay, I did my best Peter Sagan impression of shifting around on the bike and acting uncomfortable, which drew a few laughs. Mission accomplished. This also made me think of riding with my pops, who is my favorite ride partner.

Today, that was about it. A few more jokes, laughs, and smiles had us back in San Luis Obispo.

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In the future, I plan to keep these posts slightly shorter, while including photographs. However, when a journalism student gets in a flow, watch out.

Thank you very much for reading. Let me know your thoughts on Thereabouts and what it means to you.

Always keep it fun and lighten up. Get outside and live with no filter. Shaka.