Saturday, September 20, 2014

what were they thinking?

The other day I read how many views Nicki Minja's Anaconda has on YouTube.  I watched it.  I contributed one of the 180 million views.

While in YouTube I re-watched both the men's and women's 2012 London Olympic Points Race.  Sadly, that's 75K and 10K views respectively as compared to 180M.  Thankfully, we can learn a LOT more when we watch the Olympic points races! 

10,000 to 180,000,000!  Our sport is either incredibly small, or cyclist don't understand just how much they can learn from these videos. 

For me, the most exciting bits of a points race is that you are thinking the entire time.  Observing, judging, calculating, positioning, gambling, reacting, initiating, lighting it up, or recovering before the next explosive effort.  You're breathing through every pore in your body, yet asking the blood pumping through your body to drive your speed -and- help your brain process a bunch of information that comes at you so very quickly.  That's the beauty of this bike racing discipline.  At first is can seem confusing because riders are all over the track, but the event is absolutely beautiful if you are catching the nuances of the race.  There's riders in over their head, and opening gaps.  There's riders that are strong, but not picking up points.  And, there are even a few riders taking a full lap on their competitors to rack up an extra 20 points.  Most points wins!  In three weeks I get to compete in the points race at the UCI masters world championship.  I'll keep studying the videos, practicing my instinctiveness and hope for the best. 

So, what's the next video you'll watch? 

Women's 2012 Olympic Points Race -
Men's 2012 Olympic Points Race -

Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Juniors Director

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The people behind the scenes

It's been a little over 2 weeks now since my return to the states from my 5 week race block in Europe. Since I've been back, I've been able to reminisce on all the great experiences, all the great memories made, and all of the people that I am so grateful for who helped support me to get to where I am now. Sometimes though we tend to forget the people that do just as an important job as the people we regularly talk about. During my European racing experience, I came to a realization that there are so many unsung heroes behind the scenes that do whatever it takes to help provide opportunities such as this one. From the USA Cycling European Technical Coordinator, Andrew Hawkes, to the experienced Junior and U23 Directors to the multiple USA Cycling mechanics and soigneurs that are all based in Sittard. Without this big group of USA Cycling staff members, these opportunities to race in Europe just would not be the same. I'd like to extend a special thank you to the USA Cycling staff in Europe for helping make my first trip to race in Europe one that I will never forget.

A HUGE thank you to the NCCF board members for their generous support, thank you to Larry Nolan for your guidance and keeping it real, thank you to my parents, family, and friends for their continued support, to my coach Mike McKovich for helping to reach my potential, and to Billy Innes and all of USA Cycling for providing this opportunity to me and all the juniors that participated for a trip of a lifetime!

Keep on pedaling,
Nick Castellano

Saturday, September 13, 2014

MTB Epic

Last Sunday, I decided to do an all day ride; one from sunrise to sunset. It turned out to be a crazy day to say the least. Around 11 hours of riding, 13 hours being outside the house, and a whole lot of water (phew! The previous night I actually bought a camelbak in preparation for this ride and hopefully for more in the future like it!). I packed 5 Shot Blok packages, 3 Kits Organic bars, and 2 Clif bars into my Camelbak, which was also full of 3 liters of water, to eat throughout the day! I also put 20 dollars in the jersey pocket that had my phone in it; it was not a wise decision as you will find out later. I started the ride from my house Sunday morning at around 6:45 and rode the Kettle Ride (a group road ride) all the way up to the Santa Monica mountains. I passed a lot of hikers climbing up the first (and one of the hardest/steepest) fire road in the mountains, and finally made it to the top. I hit some fun singletrack on the sides of the fire road until I hit a hiking trail going down. There was a sign that said no bikes, but I figured I could get down it without too many hikers going up it (It was only around 10 am at the time). In no way could I have been more wrong. I raced down the first part, only to find hiker after hiker trudging up the narrow singletrack trail. I would pass a group of 2-5 only to find another group 5 seconds farther down the trail. I felt like I was a robot that was only programmed to say the word "sorry". After a painfully slow hour or so of descending, I made it to the bottom. It was actually a really fun trail and had some sick drops in it due to it being for hikers, so it wasn't all bad. I rode to a subway at the base of the mountains, and went in and refilled my Camelbak. I then reached into my pocket with the 20 bucks in it and to my horror, found it wasn't there. BUMMER! I ended up not eating real food for the whole 13 hour ride! Lesson learned: don't keep money in the pocket you keep your phone in! After eating some Clif product, I headed back up to the trails and went up the fire road that has the only water fountain in the entire mountain range at the summit. I reached the summit then refilled my water and headed down a trail I had never gone down before. It turns out it was a trail that I had seen Curtis Keene, a professional Enduro mountainbiker, ride in a youtube episode of "On Track with Curtis Keene". So many fun jumps, berms, and rock drops! Halfway down that trail, I decided to take the fast jump line on the right side and got up to nearly full speed. Suddenly I looked ahead and screamed as I found myself speeding toward a 10-15 foot ditch gap that wasn't even a jump! I slammed incredibly hard on both brakes, skidded for 5 feet or so, which caused my back wheel to come off the ground and up over my head. I stopped right before the edge doing a sort of front wheelie and it felt like I was looking death right in the face as I peered over the ledge. I then clipped out and jumped off my bike, which landed in a heap right in front of the ledge of the mini cliff. I remember getting off the ground feeling more alive and alert than I ever had. I filmed the aftermath of the crazy scene using my phone, then continued down the trail a bit more cautiously. The trail was so fun that I decided to climb up the fire road next to it and do it two more times before heading down farther on the trail. Now as I went farther down, I saw an interesting side run off to the left of the road and decided to go up it; I even had to clip out to climb some of the parts. On the way down it, I descended this switchback set of stairs in the middle of the woods, but came to a dead end at a gate that said "Private Property". So I had to trudge back up this incredibly twisty and crazy flight of wooden/dirt stairs back to the top of the trail that met with the fire road. After finally making it back onto the main fire road, I descended a little bit farther and found ANOTHER fun looking trail off to the side of the main fire road. I was thinking about skipping it because of what had just happened on the other trail I had decided to do, but then I knew I would regret not doing it later. So like the fool I was, I descended about 1000 feet and hit the bottom of the canyon, only to find that the only way out was this intense river trail. I didn't want to have to ride all the way back up the other way so I decided to do it. I literally had to ride and walk down a stream for half of it, and the other half was this wacked out hiking trail that consisted of tree branches, steep drops, slippery rocks, and huge boulders blocking the way that I had to carry my bike over. At last I came to a sign that declared "trail end". It might have been the single happiest moment of my life. It took me about an hour and a half to get out! I was muddy and very tired so I traveled down to the subway and literally just sat down, put my head on the table, and just fell into a deep nap. I awoke, refilled my water pack for the third time, then headed back up to the trails for my final climb of the day. Halfway up the fire road, my bottom bracket became loose and I stopped and tried to use one of my flat changing tools and eventually my house key to screw it back in. Nothing worked, so I just decided to deal with it, hoping my bike wouldn't fall apart. Luckily at the top of the trail, there was a kind man that had an allen wrench that I could borrow. After fixing my bike and thanking him, I set off for my last descent of the day. I realized I only had an hour and a half left of daylight, so I raced down a trail called Backbone that I've ridden many times. I reached speeds up to 35 mph on that singletrack and had an epic time doing it. I reached the bottom and proceeded to race the sun home. I arrived a little bit after dark and ate pretty much everything in the house (I had no real food the whole day!). I ascended 11,000 plus feet of climbing, rode 101 miles, ended up eating all the food I had brought, and drank around 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water! I named the ride MTB Epic on strava, yet that still barely described how awesome it turned out to be. I can't wait to go on another adventure with my bike soon!
Middle of first ascent

Enduro trail

Nice view

Start of river trail in canyon
Thanks for reading,
Jules Gilliam

Monday, September 8, 2014

A maelstrom in Norway or should I say a mael-storm in Norway

Although this took place a few weeks ago, here is a quick synopsis of my latest attempt at another world championship. I wrote this for my coach shortly after I finished the masters mountain bike cross country world championships in Lillehammer.

I think the best way to look at this is I persevered and finished the race. I didn't crash so I got through it without injury although my elbow right now is almost useless. I can't think of more opposite racing conditions than what I am capable of competing in than in today's race. It rained off and on all day and about 35 minutes before the race started a torrential downpour hit the venue including thunder, lightning and hail, a literal deluge. Daryl, my brother who was there supporting me for the week, said there was a puddle by the car that was 40 wide and came half way up the wheels of the car. When looking at my power file I was off the bike almost an uncountable number of times walking/trying to run a bit.

I got a bad start, I was on the back row of the start grid and didn't clip in right away so was dfl going into the first short climb onto the first rooted section of the course. Everyone was off their bikes in front of me so within 3 minutes of the start, the front of the race was gone. I passed several riders over the next 5 minutes but that was it and I was left in a place where I passed one more guy although he passed me back in a section I had to walk while he rode away. I came within 50 feet of him by the finish but that was it. This was my little race within the race that kept me going.

I haven't seen the results but I probably was something like 15th. My lap times, about 35 to 36 minutes were 3 to 4 minutes slower than my pre-race hot lap on Friday when I rode a step below race pace. It was certainly disappointing but not discouraging. Very much out of my element but I will look for redemption against these guys when I can race them on a course on which I can really race as oppose to just survive. Hopefully there will be a next time for many years to come.

One important take away from this experience is a need to be more prepared for radically changing conditions in climates where such things are common. Maybe a little more east coast racing will help should such conditions confront me again in a world championship. That said, I’ll eventually get another world championship race where all the ingredients are there for me to win. It took me nine tries to win my first world championship and I expect the next dirt one won't take quite so long.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Flat Tires
                During my European adventures I had my fair share of flat tires, maybe the most when I come to think of it. Flat tires are my biggest pet peeve because usually when I get a flat tire, my ride is done, but that wasn't the case when I was over in Europe. You couldn't just pack up your bike and hop in the car to take you home, you actually had to fix it and sure enough I get a flat tire the second day I was there. I said to myself, okay one flat tire isn't a big deal. I grabbed my tire irons and a tube and fixed it. Third day I was there got two flats in one day and fourth day I got another one. Totaling my number of flats to four and I thought to myself that this is only my fourth day being here and I got this number of flat tires. Thankfully that was the last of my flat tires. So I would encourage everyone that has the same bad luck as me, bring a few tubes.
                                                                        - Sean

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Yes, a birthday can be a very special day!

Wednesday, September 3rd is Neilson Powless' 18th birthday -and- he's going after a World Championship! 
Speaking of memories, Marcus Smith won the San Dimas Circuit Race on his 16th and 18th birthday.  That's something that Marcus will never forget!
and, I won a World Championship on my 50th Birthday!
*Neilson races in Norway at 5pm local time tomorrow in the UCI World Championships USA Team Relay.  Go ahead and imagine what it's like racing on the same team as Lea Davidson and Todd Wells!  Sean Bennett will join Neilson on the start line for the UCI Junior World Championships on Thursday, September 4 (3pm local time - 6am pacific daylight time)
Happy Birthday Neilson.  Make it a lifelong memory.
Your Team Specialized Teammates (and graduating teammates) 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


After a little over three weeks in Europe, I'm now home having thinking about school tomorrow. The past month was the best part of my summer. Four of us Specialized 15/16s were selected and we had a lot of fun in a world away from our separate lives at home and became better teammates. The racing is different than anything you'll see in the U.S and we learned a lot from it.

I spent six days with Christian Williams and his group on the West side of Belgium before heading to Sittard, Netherlands to meet USA cycling. I was able to do two races in the time there, where I finished 2nd then 1st. It was a nice head start and I was able to adjust to being in Europe before the camp started. We had 4 kermesses before the start of the West Flanders Tour at the end of the trip. We won 3 of them, with Sean wining two and Gage winning one, Us Specialized kids have worked well together all season, and that carried over to Belgium. In one race all 4 of us were in the winning breakaway with one other Belgium rider, and we finished 1, 2, and 4.  We had great results going in to West Flanders Tour, one of the hardest races for 15/16s in Belgium. We rode well as a team and helped Gage finish 2nd overall. The racing was hectic with 150+ riders on narrow roads. You had to stay attentive all the time, and moving up in the pack was a difficult task. We did a great job as far as results, and we all rode our hearts out.

Going over to Europe as a junior racer gives us a taste of what being a pro in Europe is like, both on and off the bike. I'm really glad USA cycling gives us the opportunity to do this, and I'm happy I was able to go over with some of my Specialized teammates. Thanks to my my buddies Simon Jones, Cameron Beard, Gage, Sean, Grant, our coach John Heidemann, and everybody else who helped make this trip happen. I'm looking forward to next time.