tim johnson does tokyo...on tv

For the past three years, I’ve been bookending the cyclocross season from opposite sides of the world. It starts in the mid-fall in Massachusetts and ends in Odaiba, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Oddly, I watch the same guys race in both locations; first through dirt and grass and a New England fall, then through sand and a relatively warm Japanese winter.

Except this year, I caught the tail end of Holy Week in a dry Providence, Rhode Island and finished off the season of mud and cowbells on a slushy, snowy Tokyo beach.

To be honest, I spent the snowstorm on Saturday in the comfort of my own home while Chandler apparently raced through it. I dug out proper rubber boots for the following day and made plans to meet up with Tim, [his wife and former pro] Lyne Bessette, Chandler, and his pregnant wife, Jenny. As usual, fun times and general ridiculousness were expected.

I did not, however, expect to end up on Japanese TV.

When I finally caught up with Tim, he had a three man video crew following his every move. I had initially assumed that it was part of Cyclocross Tokyo; that maybe they were getting footage for a promotional video. How wrong I was. Tim had apparently agreed to be a part of the show “YOUは何しに日本へ?” [roughly translating into “Why Did You Come to Japan?”], in which a TV crew will select and follow a foreign visitor for a few days. They’d been with Tim, Lyne, Chan, and Jenny since the four had landed at Narita airport.

“So this is like ‘Tim Johnson Does Tokyo’?” I asked.

“Kinda,” he said.

In hindsight, the whole situation is more awkward than I’m currently comfortable admitting to myself. Even after I was informed of the reality of possibly ending up on national TV, there was a race to watch and the likes of Katie Compton, Wendy Simms, and Lyne Bessette to cheer on in the elite women’s race.

We speed walked through packed snow and slush, from the podium to the start line, and cheered as Lyne tore up the almost un-raceable course. Spectators yelled encouragement in Japanese as the American and Canadian athletes sped by, racing through slushy sand and heavy mud. It was the most exciting women’s race I’ve watched, in Tokyo.

Katie predictably took the win, and after congratulations were dispensed, the five of us, plus the TV crew, wandered around the course until the elite men started [Tim’s shoulder injury from World Championships kept him from racing this year]. The five of us screamed and cheered at Barry Wicks while being video-ed by the TV crew. It was awesome, albeit slightly awkward.

The men’s race ended with Zach McDonald taking the win, with Yu Takenouchi and Barry Wicks rounding out the podium. We watched Tim present the awards to the winners before calling it a day. Like every year, I came home exhausted, legs worn out, but happy and giddy. Road season is calling, but there’s nothing like ‘cross on a Tokyo beach in February.

[Tim also gave me an adorable bottle of maple syrup. So you know what that means: MAPLE SYRUP CHUGGING CONTEST!!! Also, more pictures here.]

hats, caps, and mr. hansen

Headed to Narita airport yesterday to do brunch, lots of coffee and a 8-hour-ish layover hang out sesh with one of my favorites.
Adam even posed for a message to Josh:

And, as if that wasn't cool enough, he gave me a super exclusive 2014 team issue Lotto-Belisol cap. These are fucking amazing.

Thanks so much Adam, and see you soon!

nyc, mon amour

I'm back in Tokyo after a pretty awesome fucking week in NYC. I miss all of these everythings already.

...So, um, other than, you know, the idea of getting fired and "being irresponsible" and all that, why didn't I ignore my return flight, again?
Miss you guys already...I'll be back soon!


Sometimes, you stare out the office window on a Friday night, counting down the minutes until your shift ends and live coverage of the Giro starts.
And sometimes, you run home in the rain without an umbrella because your favorite pro cyclist is in the breakaway.

And sometimes, you mutter encouragement into your computer screen and cling to a hope that a friend can TT the next 30km solo.

And sometimes, just sometimes, that declaration you made that he could win a few Grand Tour stages this year, that comes true.

And in those sometimes, you’re totally allowed to cry happy tears for someone else.
Congrats, again, Adam [hey, what did I tell you, right?]! And happy birthday!!!
[Sorry for the screenshots, guys, way better pictures are on Steephill.]

czeching it out

Last week was a dry and fast one in Tabor, then a wet, sloppy one in Plzen last night. I'm not talking about my recent escapades with European men, but the Cyclocross World Cup series.
My second and third pro cyclocross races watched through grainy live feeds [and most likely the first of many with Dutch commentary], the Cyclocross World Cup series is integrating itself seamlessly into my Sunday nights. I nap expressly to stay up later for the twisted curves of the 'cross course, and self-medicate copiously with coffee the following Monday. I'm aware that I'm regressing to full-on weird behavior again, where my schedule is dictated by pixelated bike racers with impossibly foreign names like Sven Nys and Radomir Simunek, Jr. This would probably be considered alarming behavior by normal people, particularly for a single 20-something living in the giant playground that is Tokyo. I am, however, fortunate enough to have friends who believe that this is a legitimately acceptable way of whittling away hours that could be spent sleeping on a Sunday night. They even encourage it.

Call it the payment in arrears due for neglecting my race spectating addiction for too long this year, but the irresistible draw of the World Cup series is probably due more to the simple romance of anaerobic hell done the European way. The pro/WTF of Sven Nys snapping a chain in Tabor and still coming in fifth, riding around the course all like, "aight, get out of the way." Pauwels looking pretty much as miserable as I do when I climb stairs [except I don't do it with a bike on my shoulder, at any pace that is faster than "plodding"]. It doesn't hurt that, when you see someone you're lucky enough to call a friend racing in the World Cup series in his iconic Red Bull helmet, you're completely allowed, even in the cycling world, to emit low timbered "YEAH, BRO!"s like a frat boy watching the Superbowl.

"You look refreshed today," an attorney commented yesterday.
"Really...?" I responded. I was three cups of coffee in, and the last time I saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror, it looked like I was still celebrating the pre-Halloween weekend in the guise of a corpse. But mud and 'cross had been on my mind all day, flashes of dirt-splattered legs and failed dismounts softening the computer screen glare and fluorescent lighting of the office.
Back in my three-walled cubicle, I stared down at my calendar. Three more weeks until Koksijde. Three more weeks until another live stream of awesome.
[First set of pictures are from Tabor, the muddier ones from Plzen.]

superb friends

Dear 842 Beacon St.,
You and I, we've been through a lot.

Remember back in 2008, when I got my first adult bike built up at your place? We were both kind of rough around the edges back then, and I felt a little left behind when you morphed into a way classier version of yourself a year later. Still, you were my destination of choice when NACCC blew through town, and my Boston go-to spot when I was studying for a miserable mess because of the bar.

Because even when you started collecting really cool friends, who are fashionable to the point of spontaneously triggering insecurities citywide, they are some of the nicest bike friends I made in Boston. I can't think of another bike shop where I could show up in a gold lamé mini skirt, and feel fabulous. Even at my age.

And let's not forget those pretty frames you have now. Those aluminum welds on the Sprint? Pure sex.

Superb, I'm already missing your purple couch and those cartons of pineapple coconut water [which still taste...funny]. Don't change too much until I get back.
oxox, k