2K11: Best of The Onze:

By: Nathaniel Ward Jan 1

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Personally, it’s hard for me to take a retrospective look at 2011 without addressing right up front the fact that my son, Noah, was born in January of this year, so that’s my top-10 list right there. So The Onze, for me, was a year of late nights, cuddly mornings, trainer rides in the garage, long walks at Salem Lake with Wife-n-Baby, and occasional successes with bike racing, which was a nice surprise. I kept vowing to start racing masters and just enjoy showing up, but for one reason or another, the 4-8 hours a week I managed to train all year seemed to be just enough to keep me in the money in Pro-½ races often enough that I can’t seem to justify aging myself out just yet.

Outside of my little personal bubble, however, 2011 (The Onze) was an exciting year for bike racing, and cycling in general. Being, as I am, a racing obsessed fanboy, most of my favorite cycling-related moments from 2011 are racing moments.

Big World-ProPro-Euro-Serious-Fancy Races:
Cadel Evans winning the tour is pretty hard to beat as a classic, victory-for-the-underdog story. He works hard, he rides hard, he can’t always rely on his team for much, and given the apparent leveling of the playing field in recent seasons (UCI Biological Passport, anyone?), he has to win the way top amateurs and domestic pro’s have to win: on their own, doing both the chasing and the finishing at times. You can’t help but offer a “chapeau” to a guy like that.

Phillipe Gilbert: just being. He is the soul of bike racing for this historical moment. Not so much because of what he wins, but because of how he wins. Pro cycling needs more all-in, drop-the-clutch, all-or-nothing attacks, and whether Gilbert wins or not, he delivers the beautiful populist drama by which cycling fans live and die.

Real World-Local-Everytown-ProAm Races:
Dixie. Since moving to Winston-Salem, I, like every other bike racer in town, have become a devotee of Ken Putnam’s (of Ken’s Bike Shop fame) every-other-Tuesday crit on the car track at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds. Weeknight racing under the lights; anywhere from 10-30 riders in the field; occasional pro’s, legendary amateurs, sweeping race track turns, and the hardest efforts I made with a number pinned on all year. Races like this—with no spectators, barely any prize money, and nothing obviously at stake—are where you find the nadir of racing bikes. I love it.

Baystate Cyclocross. I don’t know why, but I have always loved this race. It strikes me as everything good about New England cyclocross. Tom Stevens has managed to transform an otherwise non-descript schoolyard into a flowing, ‘crossy, bike-rider’s course with enough pedaling to keep you honest, and it’s classic New England in that there is enough at stake, in the way of prize money and UCI points, to justify taking it seriously, and yet there’s room for the simple enjoyment of participation, too. American ‘cross at its best.

Roanoke Twilight Crit. 6 turns, a hill, a small but NRC caliber field, and $5k in prize money, over 90 minutes, added up to the coolest race on the road I did all year. Let’s hope they bring it back for 2012 and in the future.

Embro-Specific:
I gotta keep some love close to home, here. 2011 was a year of trial, error, and growth for us here at Embrocation, and it was my first (nearly) full year working in an editorial capacity, as opposed to just being a contributor. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the inexhaustible (and modest at times to the point of invisibility) James Morrison, and the always-on-time creative input of Gustavo, we have built up a good head of steam here, and we are currently in development on the next two volumes of our print journal—no kidding, it’s in layout! We wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing, though, without the enthusiasm, support, creativity and general awesomeness of our mobile band of contributors and photographers. So to Bina Bilenky, Molly Hurford, Jeremy Jo, Evan Burkhart, Danny Goodwin, Josh Garlich, Philip Gale, Matt Karre, Jason Alvarado, David Chiu, Justin Lindine, and all the rest of our current/former-occasional/regular-new/old contributors, as well as Lily Richeson, Evan Cooper, Craig Gaulzetti and all the Newton/IBC crew, I offer a genuinely heartfelt “thank you” for making us look so good all year. It feels good to be a part of something with so much momentum, so much support, and about which so many people are so enthusiastic. So.

Happy New Year.

 

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