Thursday, March 29, 2018

San Dimas Stage Race: How Bad Do You Want It?

"At this point, it's whoever wants it more," I faintly heard Dave Towle exclaim, as we barrelled toward the San Dimas Stage Race road race finish line.

Veer right. Glance left. Look back. Pfffff. No time to wait. Go, go, go! With a sense of tunnel vision setting in, I heard one voice, one voice only, as I anxiously anticipated a surging peloton.

This is San Dimas Stage Race, a highly-anticipated event in Southern California, which hosts a plethora of elite athletes. However, for me, this race had nothing to do with being in San Dimas. Rather, it involved extensive deliberation, years of contemplation, consistently seeking motivation, and exploring a sense of drive for competition and cycling.

Since graduating from the SoCal High-School Mountain-Bike League, a division of National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), which caters to high-school mountain bikers, I have ebbed and flowed in the sport of cycling. At first, endurance mountain biking was a kick, before I caught the gravel bud. While road riding was appealing, my motivation to toe a piece of white duct tape that masked rock-hard asphalt was absent. After numerous years of balancing both mountain and road racing in high school, before cruising overseas to indulge in competition at the highest level of the sport, I was ready for a breather.

Was all of this worth it? Why was I breaking myself down, hitting the deck, saddling back up, and gunning for pieces of white duct tape? Was this for me, or for someone else?

While cycling has been, and always will be, a priority in my life, the appeal of adventure and social gatherings, via bicycle, seemed to snatch me from the start line. For the past four years, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, which is nestled along the Central Coast of California, has continued to foster this mindset. However, looking back, what I didn't fully understand at the time was that the batteries, both mental and physical, were being recharged.

"At this point, it's whoever wants it more!"

With assistance from my family and friends, GU Energy Labs, Art's Cyclery, and Cal Poly Cycling, this recharge provided a constant kindle of energy. As my legs continued to tick over, adventures were bagged, intense rides and enjoyable "races" were tagged, and the interest in signing waivers, plopping down an entry fee, and pinning a number to my jersey, remained present.

In 2018, well, this year has been different. With one final opportunity to fully partake in the collegiate road-racing calendar, I caught a bug. To travel the West Coast with the Tenderness Boys, a self-proclaimed group of Central Coast cyclists that are capturing sunshine on coastal spins, before spitting it back out during heated races, has been a blast. Between collegiate competition and open-category crushing, there is no lack of racing up and down the coast of California.

While the racing circuit has been a go, it's never simple to reclaim ideal fitness for competition. Plenty of early mornings, late evenings, and hill repeats in pissing rain were necessary, all while flanked by my best friends, friends who I have forged lifelong friendships with. It's these behind-the-scenes moments that may be difficult for spectators to understand when a peloton of cyclists are sprinting for a finish line on a 70-degree day in Southern California. With just a few feet separating a pack of cyclists, what is the difference?

"At this point, it's whoever wants it more!"

Locked in, jamming forward, I looked down, then forward, under my right arm, then forward, as I ticked through the gears, searching for every ounce of energy. With just one voice in my head, I wanted this one, I wanted this one bad. While the surging peloton was committed, a swarm never came. After nearly 55 miles of racing and reading the pack, I knew that striking out early was my main tactic to prevent an initial kick. So, there I was, free in the wind, leading a pack, headed toward a piece of white duct tape that covered rock-hard asphalt.

Wow, just wow. Photo: Troy Templin.

As I crossed the line, a major victory was achieved, taking the top step at the San Dimas Stage Race road race. This was a big one, one that I wanted, and one that was achieved.

At the end of the day, some may see the pain and anguish, grimaces on faces, and cramping muscles, while others see smiles, yells of excitement, hugs, and high fives. What isn't seen is a substantial support system, even for a young buck decked out in an all-black kit, the necessary workload, or the amount of both mental and physical energy required.

While winning push-bike races provides a surge, a smile, and a sense of relief, it's just that, a simple race. For me, more than anything, this served as a quality reminder of those that have supported me, offered words of encouragement, and flanked my sides through thick and thin. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Report: Ojai Gravel Mob by Jacob Gerhardt

Jacob Gerhardt, who contributed this piece, is a professional cyclist for Team CLIF Bar. With a schedule that is mostly comprised of criterium racing, Jacob can be found traveling the world with his teammates. When he is not on the road, Jacob resides along the Central Coast of California, an ideal landscape for logging miles and bagging adventures, all while finding a quality balance. 

Nestled deep in the hills above Ventura, California, the city of Ojai is a haven for local ranchers, big-city transplants and passerby motorcycle crews alike. With Sisar Mountain to the north and Sulphur Mountain to the south, this high-desert landscape is the setting of a story narrated by jagged rock formations and budding cacti on a pastel canvas. It almost makes you forget about its proximity to the ocean and the bustling cities below. The ocean - a softer touch and innate contrast to this land of hard-fought adventure. When Pacific waves run perpendicular to Highway 33, you're almost there. Twelve miles east of Ventura lives the town of Ojai. A perfect, untapped well of adventure that will be the setting of this next great adventure experience - The Gravel Mob.

Bountiful. Photo: Peloton.
  
Rolling into Ojai the night before the ride, myself and my teammate from Team Clif Bar, Miles Lemon, found ourselves at the Deer Lodge talking with locals and partaking in some delicious grub and, of course, our fair share of booze. After walking the streets and visiting some of the local establishments, we set up camp at the Lake Casitas campground.

Menso de Jong, from Team Clif Bar. Photo: Peloton.

The 6 a.m. wake up came too soon and the cold was a bit shocking even for a California winter. We made our way into town and got our numbers and instructions at the Mob Shop, before cruising across the street for a cup of coffee at Beacon Coffee Roasters, where we filled up with coffee and pastries that would fuel the next 4.5 hours.

Lining up with close to 200 gravel riding enthusiasts, there were two loops, an option for a shorter 30-mile loop or the full length 58-mile loop. After an 8-mile neutral roll, we lined up for the “official” start of the Mob. As the group began to climb Sulphur Mountain, it quickly thinned to a lead group and a scattering of individual riders up and down the mountain. The initial climb, Sulphur Mountain, gave expansive views of the ocean and town of Ojai. With nine miles of consistent fire-road gradient, the chill of the morning was quickly gone, as was the front group of riders.  Finishing with a steep paved segment, the group came to the first feed zone. With a quick refill of water and food, the ride continued down the backside of Sulphur Mountain, weaving in and out of the oak canopy on a well paved, flowing downhill. After crossing Highway 150, at the base of the valley, the ride turned uphill once again on a rough singletrack, and the final monster climb began.

Rippers. Photo: Peloton.

At eight miles, the Sisar Mountain climb proved to be a challenge to all, with only a handful of competitors breaking the one-hour time mark on the climb. After summiting, the ride proceeded along the ridge including a singletrack descent, which eventually connected with Highway 33, a handful of miles from downtown Ojai. The route then weaved through town and into the parking lot of the Ojai Mob Shop where riders were greeted by a taco stand and homemade tortillas. After refueling on tacos, riders were treated to a raffle with varying prizes.

Given the geographical situation of the city of Ojai, it lends itself to extremely steep, rough, and remote terrain, making it an ideal stop for gravel riding enthusiasts of any caliber. Be prepared to put in miles of climbing in order to be rewarded with epic descents. The Ojai Gravel Mob provided a much needed break from the high-energy, fast-paced world of criterium racing that is the meat of what I train for and race when I saddle up. I will definitely be back and more prepared for the adventure that is the Ojai Gravel Mob.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Photo of the Week: March 26-1, 2018

Everjourney values the art of photography, a next-level craft. While not an original idea, Everjourney is eager to share weekly images that capture the essence of cycling, be it adventure, freedom, or flair. For additional images, give us a follow on Instagram, @EverjourneyProject.

The man himself, Austin McInerny.

In San Luis Obispo, the Cal Poly Cycling conglomerate is consistently hyped on Hawaii Friday, which offers a sense of enjoyment and relaxation. After doing a bit of research, a solid foundation was set in the 1990s.

From 1994, Austin McInerny, Executive Director of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), shared this image. Captured at the Flume Race in Tahoe, the Clown Mountain-Bike Team raced in Hawaiian shirts to recognize that racing had become a bit serious. Everyone, relax and enjoy the ride. Some things never change.

Thank you for sharing, Austin. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Man Down... Together Again, Hit Me With A Cookie

Click, clack, tick, tick, tick, swshhh, swshhh... "Five, four, three, two, one, go," exclaimed the chief referee, as we departed on a brisk jaunt around Crockett, California, for a four-man team time trial, or so we thought.

Often, cycling, as a sport, is considered rather individual, avoiding the true essence of what it means to be a piece of a team. However, unlike traditional stick-and-ball sports, which require a strict set of regulations, a playing field, or court, and individuals that impact the success of a team, a sense of flow is imparted between teammates, within cycling. Considering flow, the team-time-trial event requires a great deal of precision. Similar to a relationship, communication and trust are essential.

Not quite the team time trial, Colin and I cruised together during the road race. Photo: Jordan Chang.

On this occasion, Saturday, March 17, in Crockett, California, marked a test for Cal Poly Cycling. Within the Collegiate Men A category at the UC Berkeley collegiate weekend, Brad Wiggs, Colin Patterson, Raymond Lee, and Sean Bird rallied, for the most part.

With an early morning of racing, as with any racing, comes a certain set of challenges. Registration, hit the porta potties, create a righteous atmosphere with cranking music, pin your race numbers, kit up, apply layers, helmet, sunglasses, shoes, click, click, bang, bang, hit the porta potties, rally to the start line. Deep breath, breathe deeply, phew. Go time.

Racing isn't a simple task, which is why it's necessary to have a solid group of mates in your corner. Along with Brad, Colin, and Ray, plenty of communication and trust has been garnered, through the years. Considering the amount of time that we spend together, it's amazing that some of us, well, at least one of us, have significant others.

For this morning event, as we prepared ourselves, it was noticeable that time was of the essence. With registration taking ample time, the usual routine of preparation was shortened. As we hunkered down and began to focus, three dudes, lacking a fourth, rolled to the start line. With an 8:03 a.m. departure, I peered down at my clock, which read 8:02:13, prior to looking around. "Brad!" Colin yelled. Damn, we were missing Brad.

Just a lone wolf, that's Brad Wiggs. Photo: Jordan Chang.

At this point, the chief referee continued his morning instructions. As we looked right, then forward, before hollering in Brad's direction, seconds ticked past.

8:02:47

Well, here we go, down one man, it was time to begin a team time trial. Although not ideal, it was understood that only three individuals needed to finish together. Our time would stop, upon the third member of our team crossing the line.

8:02:55

"Five, four, three, two, one, go," mentioned the chief referee in an elegant manner.

Tick, tick, tick, as we climbed on our gears, legs began pumping, blood was flowing, and an initial kicker of a climb was being checked off the list. As Colin, Ray, and I glanced back, Brad, a lone figure, appeared, racing up behind us. As we cruised up the first roller, waiting for our fourth and final teammate, smiles and laughs dotted the air.

Together, again, here we were. With one task at hand, it was time to get on with it. Click, tick, tick went the gears. After getting up and over the top, I flicked my elbow, eased to the back, and recognized the familiar figure of the one-and-only Brad Wiggs. As I settled in behind him, no words could be mentioned. I simply smiled and laughed.

"Yup, we're on, go, go, go!" I yelled, as we completed the first hairpin turn.

"Nice pull, Ray," we hollered, as Ray, our fourth man peeled off.

"Get up, get up, come on now, brother," Colin and I considered, as we pedaled with Brad.

As this team-time-trial event reached its end, this morning had gone well. With an array of open communication and contact, we were riding well. How well? Only time would tell.

"Damn, go," said Colin, as he peeled off the front, during the finishing climb. With a plethora of thoughts cruising through my mind, I glanced over to witness Colin yanking his chain into the big dog. At the same time, I shook my head at Colin's saddlebag, a hamburger, which I had been staring at for the last 20 minutes. What a guy.

With the finish approaching, Brad, Colin, and I cruised in together, upping the pace and delivering a steady sprint. Pfffff, pfffff, deed done. With a quick cool-down spin of the legs, a musical atmosphere was redelivered, clothes were changed, and a sponge-bath commenced, as Ray appeared from the registration tent.

"So, we won by ten seconds, yeah," said Ray, in a casual manner. 

With grins appearing, similar to young groms who learn to pedal for the first time, we were back to the basics, stoked to have tallied a morning victory. High-fives were slapped, cheers of joy went around, and celebratory breakfast cookies were snagged at 8:45 a.m.

Oh, as the days lengthen, the task it never easy, but it's all made that little bit sweeter with Cal Poly Cycling, a team of solid men and women. Collegiate cycling, you're doing just fine. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Photo of the Week: March 19-25, 2018

Everjourney values the art of photography, a next-level craft. While not an original idea, Everjourney is eager to share weekly images that capture the essence of cycling, be it adventure, freedom, or flair. For additional images, give us a follow on Instagram, @EverjourneyProject.

A Central Coast ripper, Jacob Gerhardt is the man.

Back in December, while logging off-season miles, a collective of individuals completed three days of gravel, beginning in San Luis Obispo, California. For day two, more than 100 miles and 7,500 vertical feet were bagged, all with the guidance of Jacob Gerhardt.

For more information on San Luis Obispo gravel, hop to our Sunday Service: Tale Two piece, which outlines an exquisite three-day adventure.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Video of the Month: March 2018

While showcasing the adventure and freedom that cycling has to offer, Everjourney is eager to continue providing neat content, all while inspiring cyclists to take to the road, mountain, or any other imaginable venue.

A few years back, while Lachlan Morton was building for the 2014 professional cycling season, he, and brother Gus, pedaled from Port Macquarie to Uluru in Australia. A true inspiration for lifestyle riding, enjoy this documentary from Gus and Lachlan Morton.


Through the outback, Lachlan and Gus, side-by-side. Photo: Thereabouts.
Through the outback, Lachlan and Gus, side-by-side. Photo: Thereabouts.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Photo of the Week: March 12-18, 2018

Everjourney values the art of photography, a next-level craft. While not an original idea, Everjourney is eager to share weekly images that capture the essence of cycling, be it adventure, freedom, or flair. For additional images, give us a follow on Instagram, @EverjourneyProject.

The places we play, well, they need to be cared for. Keep it clean.

For the past few years, GU Energy Labs and CamelBak have partnered to clean the Death Ride course, post-ride. Every summer, the Death Ride tackles 129 miles, nearly 15,000 feet of climbing, and five mountain passes. While the event has the potential to provide plenty of wear, numerous riders consistently cruise the course on back-to-back days, all while cleaning the local landscape.

More than anything, to continue enjoying the places that we play, keep it clean.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Photo of the Week: March 5-11, 2018

Everjourney values the art of photography, a next-level craft. While not an original idea, Everjourney is eager to share weekly images that capture the essence of cycling, be it adventure, freedom, or flair. For additional images, give us a follow on Instagram, @EverjourneyProject. 

A Saturday morning group ride visited the Templeton Farmer's Market, while catching a brief bottle refill.

While the city of San Luis Obispo, as well as its neighboring communities, may serve as home base, a headquarters of sorts for daily spins, North County San Luis Obispo offers a gateway to gravel, true exploration, and the ability to escape a sense of hustle-and-bustle. In North County, there seems to be a sense of ease, especially with the rising sun and brisk morning air. Eventually, this gives way to a prominent tourism industry, which is dominated by North County viticulture. 

On this Saturday morning, while in Templeton, California, Ryan Mostofi, a centerpiece for Cal Poly Cycling, snatched a bottle refill, amidst the morning Farmer's Market. Soon, Everjourney will be selling additional water-bottle designs, all under the More Sending, Less Pretending moniker. Be sure to stay tuned to our shop tab.

This shot was captured by Adam Evard, a current student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Adam has contributed a plethora of images to Everjourney. He's a real one. Give him a look: @aeevard.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunday Service: Tale Two

Well, well, well. What is up?! With the second rendition of "Sunday Service" hitting the web, this piece outlines an array of gravel options in San Luis Obispo County, which were completed from December 1-3, 2017. Throughout the past few months, this weekend proved to be unforgettable, with memories consistently seeping back into view. As insane memories were bagged and quality loops tagged, do not relinquish an opportunity to pedal Central Coast gravel.

Beginning on Friday, December 1, five wanderers began a journey to explore the most exquisite gravel in San Luis Obispo County on back-to-back-to-back days. With Lee Bird, John Saliamonas, and Frank Schroeder making the trip from Southern California, Sean Bird and Adam Evard served as San Luis Obispo tour guides.


Lee Bird, along West Cuesta Ridge, above San Luis Obispo. In the distance, ocean views of Morro Bay are prime. Photo: Adam Evard.

Above Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo's college campus, a stark ridgeline meanders north, heading toward Morro Bay, along the Central Coast. Outlined in "Ride the Ridge," West Cuesta Ridge has proven to be a prime location for mid-day loops. From West Cuesta Ridge, which is accessible from Cal Poly's campus, miles of buffed out fireroad began a four-hour loop.

While rolling out West Cuesta Ridge, the landscape changes multiple times, providing an alpine feel. Eventually, as the fireroad nears its end, it is possible to drop down to Cerro Alto Campground, which is just inland from Morro Bay. A five-mile singletrack descent provides access to Cerro Alto. While a rush on cyclocross and gravel bicycles, it's certainly worth a go.


Descending into Morro Bay is no easy task. Here, Adam Evard captured Lee Bird in action.

After entering Morro Bay, when there is dirt, and you're on a cyclocross bicycle, the only option is to avoid pavement at all costs. Morro Bay offers a neat collection of singletrack trails, which pop out on Turri Road in Los Osos. Once on Turri Road, it was all asphalt back to San Luis Obispo to close out day one of gravel camp.


All aboard! Lee Bird (left) and Sean Bird (right) ride into Morro Bay. Photo: Adam Evard.

To begin day two of gravel camp, on Saturday, December 2, Jacob Gerhardt, a San Luis Obispo local who was raised in North County San Luis Obispo, as well as Stephan Hoffman, two rippers from Team CLIF Bar, joined the train. Additionally, Mark Yaroshevsky, a first-year at Cal Poly, was not backing down from the challenge.

While exploring prime gravel in North County, Jacob served as an ideal tour guide, leading the way and calling audibles, all while providing an understanding of the landscape. More than anything, day two, at 105 miles and 7,500 vertical feet, certainly left a serious dent; however, Kiler Canyon Road, Peachy Canyon Road, Klau Mine Road, and Cypress Mountain are insane offerings along the Central Coast. 

Outside of Paso Robles, these fireroads allow for remoteness and a sense of peace to be acquired within miles. After climbing Cypress Mountain, ocean views that look down on Cayucos and Cambria are absolutely stellar, breathtaking, and world class. Not to be taken for granted, day two of gravel camp, although a biggie, was top notch. 

With day three to complete, prior to wrapping up and heading home, the original crew of five headed south, aiming for Pozo. In brisk, windy conditions, tackling Hi Mountain Road, a steep, rutted, remote fireroad past Lopez Lake Recreation Area was no easy task. However, after coming out the other side, a lengthy jaunt back, all in paceline formation, was in order. From Pozo, to Santa Margarita, and back into San Luis Obispo, all that was left was a Lincoln Market and Deli lunch, before three amigos from Southern California departed and the SLOcals reclaimed their landscape. 

On day three, the crew headed south, taking on Hi Mountain Road in brisk conditions. Photo: Adam Evard.
Frank Schroeder rode in his zone on Hi Mountain Road. Photo: Adam Evard.

Throughout the past four years, riding in San Luis Obispo and San Luis Obispo County has been a treat. While I am certainly biased, the locals, as well as the local landscape are unreal. Certainly, this location, along the Central Coast of California, is world-class cycling. With gravel, mountain, and road options, San Luis Obispo is a destination. We'll see you soon. 


Frank, Lee, Sean, and John completed all three days of gravel camp. Photo: Adam Evard.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Instagram: Follow Along

For Everjourney, a project motivated by the adventure and freedom of cycling, Instagram provides a quality platform for expression. With an array of content, including gravel, mountain, and road shots, as well as radical racing and relaxed recreation, Everjourney is all about the bike.

To follow along, give @EverjourneyProject a gander on Instagram. Yip, yap, yew.

Senders only. Christopher Blevins and Anders Johnson, brothers of steeze.