Sunday, December 21, 2014

Diving head first into the mud.

"We begin the call-ups of Junioren now, first to the line, coming from the United States, Brannan Fix."

Standing on the start line of the BPost Bank Troffe in Essen, looking down the course, seeing, smelling, and hearing the sounds of European Cyclocross. The moment I have dreamt of for so long, was now a real moment and I was living it. The first 5 days in Belgium have been quite the ride, and I have experienced some things that I have been looking forward to for months now.

The trip began with a flawless overseas flight, and being picked up at the airport by Jan-Willem and driven to the house where I am staying for the next 2 weeks. I built up my bikes and went on a quick spin around the area to get my bearings, and that night I slept like a baby. The next day, all of the other racers showed up, built up their bikes and we had the chance to go ride together. Lance, Cameron, Cooper and I got a nice ride in, and fed some gigantic horses while out. We went to a bakery in Grobbendonk, and got delicious Applebol. The next day, Friday, it was raining very hard so we all decided to ride trainers to warm up the legs for the race the next day in Essen. After the ride on the trainers, I went into town with Ksenia and Libby to go shopping. At the carrefour we bought some food necessities and enjoyed grocery shopping in Belgium, and on the way home I got to buy bread out of a vending machine which is awesome to say the least.

Saturday morning, Cooper, Michael, Ksenia and I were all up at the crack of dawn to drive to Essen to do the first race of the trip. Once we got there we checked-in at registration which was in an elementary school of all places. Cooper, Michael and I all proceeded to get on course and check out what we were up against. The course was a true treat. The first half was a total mud bog where at one point, I was running for 1:30 straight, and then after going through pit one, the course became windy through the trees and there was a sweet section with a berm, and then it was back to mud before the finish. It was a true euro course, and I was super excited.

The gun went off and I entered into the mud in about 4th position, and battled with Belgians for the best lines around the corners. I stayed at the front of the race, and was very attentive. A few riders passed me on the running section, something I wasn't used to, and that was my weakest point. I rode with 1 other kid for a while until I upped the pace to try to catch 3rd place. I never caught 3rd place, and I rode into the finish in 4th place, 5 seconds down on 3rd place. It was beyond anything that I could have imagined, and to finish top 5 in my first ever European cyclocross race was very exciting for me.

Huge thank you to USA Cycling for helping all of us at camp achieve our dreams! As well as Dave, Niels, Peter and Kristoff for all of their support on Saturday, I'm excited to see what the next two weeks hold for me!

Until next time ---

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Season Recap and Upcoming Racing

Without hesitation I can truly say that this season has been my best so far, and it's only about to get better; It's official, I'm getting the opportunity to fulfill my dream of racing in Belgium and representing the United States while overseas.

Lets back up a little bit in time since I haven't posted on my blog recently (senior year stuff happening) and recap how I got to this point in the season. The season started for me in October in Providence, RI where I raced to 12th and 10th place with a broken wrist. From there things could only get better in November and I finished 6th in Cincinnati on Saturday after a rolled tubular took me out of the running for a top 5. The effort I did on Saturday came back to bite me on Sunday for Pan-American Championships and I finished a respectable 9th place. After Cincinnati I had the opportunity to stay in the Ohio River Valley for a week and do some great riding there with my dad and friend Kasey. The next weekend we raced in Louisville where I finished 5th on Saturday and then another rolled tubular put me in 9th on Sunday. Some poor luck left me looking for more, but my results were still better than anytime last year. The next big race I did was in Los Angeles which is always a great experience and the weather is always wonderful. I finished 2nd both days in LA, which pushed me up into the top 16 of the UCI World Ranking, and placed me 3rd in the USAC ProCX Calendar ranking for juniors. It has been a great season so far and I could not be more excited about what is coming next.

What comes next is traveling to Belgium for the USAC Cyclocross Development Program Block #3. I leave for Belgium on the 16th of December and remain there until the 2nd of January. While there I get the chance to do some of the most iconic cyclocross races, and truly experience what it is like to race in Europe with the best. I get to race in Essen on the 20th, Diegem on the 28th, Loenhout on the 30th, and Baal on the 1st of the year. I cannot be more thankful for this opportunity, and huge thanks goes out to USA Cycling, my family, all of my friends, my coach Andy Clark, and every single person in the cycling community that has supported me throughout my cycling career. Getting the chance to live my dream is more than I could ever hope for, and I will always represent the values that I've been taught as a bike racer and do my best to represent the United States in the best way possible.

Thank you to everyone, your support means everything to me!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

We Have Liftoff

To quote my favorite movie, “Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.” – The Dude.

This season so far has disappointed to say the least, I have very high expectations for myself and I didn’t deliver during the summer. But as always, every problem has a solution.
Starting in June things went wrong, I finished at the back of the Missoula XC race, a big target of mine. Then I DNF’d in Colorado Springs and then I finished 45th at Nationals. Hardly the results I had worked for, and sweat for. It was a summer of frustration and slowly that frustration grew into an altered personality.

Now it is October and things have changed. I’ve worked hard, put in big hours at home and in Leadville, trained mentally with strategy games, and even pushed past a broken hand. I can now go into Providence Cyclocross Festival feeling better than ever, knowing I’m more than ready and can pick up this season just where I left off last cyclocross season; at the front.

The quote from my favorite movie - “Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.” – no longer applies this season. I can move past all of the disappointment and anger to be better than I was, to learn and grow from experience. The new quote I use is only a one way quote by Sage Francis – “I'm gonna make em’ say Uncle, I don’t give up, I don’t give in.”

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The End of Cyclocross (until next year!)

The end of the season came unceremoniously. No interviews, no photos, no podiums, and a sense of incompleteness.

Not that incompleteness is a bad thing, but something that could be avoided. A chord progression in music sounds incomplete without a return to a dominant chord tone, a meal is incomplete when you don't spice it up before serving it, and a season feels incomplete without accomplishing goals.

The season was full of ups and downs, but the results don't tell the true story about the ups and downs. In the long run, the season was a huge up, and I got to do so many amazing things which I am beyond grateful for. Louisville was a low point in the season, and led to a uncompleted goal.

The beginning of the season started at home, in Boulder, where I took the win at the Boulder Reservoir and learned that I really love riding sand and the skills involved with that.

From Boulder we went to Cincinnati, where the food was great, and the racing was even better. Racing at the front of a UCI race was the experience of my lifetime, throwing attacks and reacting to them. I got my first taste of what its like to race at the top, and wanted that for the rest of the season, only to show up in Kentucky to be no where close.

Kentucky was a taste of failure and taught me about the essence of persevering. No matter how hard it gets, you only go harder, and faster and keep piling it on until you get to what you want. The results I got there didn't reflect what I wanted them to reflect but I pressed on, wanting it more than ever.

Los Angeles was awesome, without a doubt one of the coolest trips I've done. The food was killer, the race was nice, and the city was cool to be there for a bike race. I finally got to race at the front of a UCI race again and be drilling it in a breakaway. If not for a dropped chain, I would have gotten the best result of the season, but I was finally back to the top where I knew I could ride.

After Los Angeles things stayed local and I got to race some fun races in the snow, and then State Championships. All the Boulder kids going to Europe were there and I got the chance to race them one last time to prove myself before Nationals. It was a great course and super fun conditions, which meant I was able to apply the lessons and skills from the rest of the season and put them into practice to walk away with the second win of the season.

Going into National Championships I had lofty goals, I wanted a top 5 more than anything. It was going to be hard against kids who had been racing against the best in the world, but I was ready. I lined up for the race in the 3rd row, but by the top of the first climb I was sitting in 6th place. Perfect.

Throughout the race I slowly faded until I was in a group of 3 battling for 9th place. It was still a great race and I got to duke it out with kids that I truly enjoy on and off the bike. Nationals felt like a homecoming and to ride top 10 was acceptable for me. I wanted better, but to feel the excitement of the crowd, the support of the Fort Collins community and my loving family was worth it. The race is mostly a blur, of wind and bumpy corners, but I feel that I proved something and showed people that even though I may not have gone to Europe, or finished top 3 in any major race, I have it to wrestle at the top, and I still have next year in Juniors! Regardless of how the rest of the season had gone, I rolled into the finish line with a top 10, and into next year.

Thank you to Boo Bicycles: Nick, Adam, Jacob, James, et al at Boo, you guys rock and I have loved working with you guys and riding the wonderful bikes you guys create. Your support has kept me rolling forward this year, and towards results on the National Circuit. Keep BOOing!

TrainingPeaks, Braaap Nutrition and Challenge Tires have provided support throughout the whole season. From Gear Fisher, CFO of TrainingPeaks, yelling at me from the side of the course and encouraging me all season, and having TrainingPeaks supporting such a great local company, I'm honored to work with the brand. Braaap is another amazing nutrition company from my hometown, whose support on the bike and off the bike has been indispensable, thank you so much Todd and Shauna. Challenge Tires has provided the basis for any CX bike and kept our tires refreshed all season long.

And of course the support of my family, friends, and acquaintances. Thank you to my mom Carol, my dad Matt, my sister Campbell, and my girlfriend Fiona. Your guys support mean so much and it is great to have you guys behind me all the time. Thank you to all my friends on CYF and pals, my coach Andy Clark who has been more than a coach, but a reality check too. Thank you to everyone else that has supported me this season, it means so much, and I hope I can give everyone someone to cheer about next year.

Until next year CX. Keep muddy.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

State Championships. Redemption.

While State Championships doesn't provide UCI points, or any prestigious invitations, what it does provide is redemption.

After a period of disappointment, a chance to put the trains back on the tracks approached. The depth of the 17-18 category in Colorado is deep, and nearly everyone was going to Europe with EuroCrossCamp or Clif Bar. So I had one last time to not only prove to myself that I have what it takes, but prove it to others too.

State Championships for 'cross have always been a toss-up for me. My first year doing it I finished mid-pack, and then the next year I had appendicitis. So I've never been particular strong at this point in the season. My approach to the race was mixed, on one hand I was unconfident, and on the other hand, I wanted this win badly. I decided to put no pressure on myself, and approaching the weekend as just another race.

We drove down to Castle Rock early Saturday morning with my Dad and Zack. First City Cycling Team was there to support us, and all the Fort Collins cyclists, and the team, warmth and embro was very appreciated! Thank you very much Jay! I raced 17-18 at high noon on Saturday and the course was awesome. The ground was drying out and the snow was melting, and was going to create the second mud race I had done all season. The course had some good elevation gain, and took skills, and being smooth to keep the bike upright. I threw on the Challenge Fangos and put 'em at 20 psi.

We went to line up, and sitting next to me was Garrett, Liam, Cormac, Grant, and Chris. I knew it would be a fast race when the gun went off and the uphill sprint was elbows out. Down the first descent it proved to be decisive, and the front group formed almost instantly. All the big names were there, and battling for position in the mud. The group slowly widdled down with Chris pushing the pace, and with 3 to go, there were 5 of us. I was the only rider in the group without a team mate, and decided to just sit back and watch how the race would unfold.

Coming into 2 to go, Grant had a mechanical and would be left behind, and Kurtis would be dropped. Soon the 3 man showdown was on display. Garrett and Chris were trading blows, even getting aggressive around corners, and as they battled each other, I gave the appearance I was in trouble, just dangling off the back. The final uphill came, and I decided it was time to go. I sprinted past Garrett, with no reaction from him, then past Chris. I had a 5 second gap nearly instantly, and riding smooth kept me out of trouble. I crossed the line 3 seconds ahead of Garrett, and had time to celebrate.

I have added another State Championship Title along with my USAC MTB State Champion, and NICA State Champion. The feeling of the win made me ecstatic and even though it didn't count towards much, it made me feel like I can without a doubt compete at the top. There is very little time until Nationals now, and with all my competitors over in Europe, I have training time, and am able to sleep in my own bed.

The support I've had this season is impeccable, and everyone involved is so appreciated. Thank you to Jay Zorn for his support over the weekend, Nick Frey for his continued support and encouragement, Andy Clark for keeping my head in check, my Dad for always being there, and my family for being my support. I couldn't do it without these people and my sponsors. Thank you so much to Boo Bicycles, TrainingPeaks, Braaap Nutrition, and Challenge Tires. Nationals is coming up and I want to bring my A-game and represent well. Thank you to everyone who has supported me this season! I'm looking forward to Nationals.

Friday, December 6, 2013

City of Angels (and Ramen)

Los Angeles, a town of cars.

Seriously, the highways are madness, at any given time there are more cars in a 3 mile stretch than all of I-25... Despite the traffic, LA was a great experience and I had a great time racing and seeing the city.

Colorado Represent!
CXLA was over Thanksgiving Break which provided the perfect time for a little family vacation and a relaxing time in the sun. We arrived in LA on Tuesday and we were staying at Disneyland, which was pretty rad because all of the food was a 5 minute walk from the hotel. We walked around Disney on Wednesday and rode some roller coasters and had a good time. Then Wednesday was more relaxed as we got closer to the race. Then on Thursday my dad and I went to find a place to ride, which ended up being next to a ditch/river which was actually a really cool place for a bike path.

It had rained hard on Thursday night and I was praying it would keep raining, but by Saturday morning it had dried up and the course was ultra-fast. CXLA is situated in downtown LA, a little west of Chinatown and made for some awesome scenery. The course was like a Colorado course which I was excited about and as I pre-rode on Saturday I thought about Louisville and how my season was going, based on my goals. I really wanted to race my best over the weekend and prove that I have what it takes to be at the top, but as we lined up at 6:00pm on Saturday night, my legs had other ideas.

Ian and I building the gap
13 of the fastest juniors took off down the start straight and as soon as we hit the first corner, everything went crazy. I couldn't focus and I was being shoved around every where and making tons of mistakes. Within the first 2 minutes of the race, I got shoved down and bent my derailleur hangar, and ended up with chainring cuts on the inside of my bicep, the most painful cut I've ever had. The race only got worse and worse and I came in 10th, the most disappointing race finish of my year. We went back to the hotel that night without much talk of the race.

Mentally, I woke up the next day thinking about how I would survive today and not get last. My head was slowly getting the best of me and as the saying goes, its easy to fix a mechanical, but hard to fix a physical. I decided to nut up and have fun, race my race and control what I can control. This ended up being a great plan, and within the first minute, I was sitting 3rd wheel. I just followed wheels and I looked back and there was a group of 4 off of the front. We started working together and Ethan soon fell off the pace and Ian, Kyle and I were holding on at the front, with a hard charging group behind us. It felt awesome to finally be at the front of the race, throwing punches and pushing the pace for the first time in almost a month.
The straight away where it went wrong

One thing almost always goes wrong, but this one was during the most vital portion of the race. On to the long flat straightaway on the backside of the course, my chain dropped. Almost instantly the other group was on me and I was tailing off the back of the group for almost 2 laps. I suffered off the back for those two laps and finished in 6th place. It was crushing after my other 6th in Cincy. But I soon found out that Nolan had tried to take a feed in the pits, and didn't get the bottle, and didn't get off the bike and was relegated a single place. Finally, 5th place.

While it wasn't me getting 5th, I felt as though I had earned it, and for sure next race I will have a chain guard on. It felt so liberating to finally get a UCI point, and although it wont be used anytime this season for me, it feels good to know that I can be a force at the front of races. Congrats to all the guys out there in LA, it was so much fun racing with you boys, it's great to know that we support each other.

That night, we went to the best Ramen place ever. It was in Little Toyko and had the spiciest noodles ever. I ordered the 4, and there were still 6 spice levels above that! All in all it was a great trip, and a learning experience and something that taught me more about myself and the way I approach situations. Thanks to Boo Bicycles for their constant support, as well as TrainingPeaks, Braaap Nutrition for keeping me fueled, and Challenge Tires for the sweet tires!
Podium. Finally.

To all that have supported me this season: It means so much to have you behind me and I am forever grateful, and without your words, I wouldn't be the racer I am. Even though I failed at my goal to go to EuroCrossCamp XI, it has opened a new door, and one that is only an hour away from my front door. Look out Boulder, Brannan is coming to Cyclocross Nationals with a goal.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

There's good and evil in each individual journey.

Finally, a chance. A glimmer. A sparkle. An open door. An opportunity.

Registering for the biggest race of my life gave me butterflies, and questions. What will happen? What if? How? The Cincy3 weekend was the biggest, most daunting weekend of my life. The first UCI 17-18 race that I would ever do, and I was determined to make the most of it.

My dad and I flew out to Cincinnati on Thursday of that week, my dad raced on Friday, and we hung with the Boo crew for Friday. We discovered the little hipster part of the city that night, and may I mention the tacos we had? Mmm, I want to go back just for those! Saturday morning came and so did the jitters.

The course was at an abandoned golf course outside the city, and was the setting for an epic mudder race. It had rained hard on Thursday night, and we even got a tornado warning (it said to take cover, but we just got back under the covers instead), which made for a pretty wet race, but Friday wasn't a very wet race... Mother nature be cray. I opted to go with a less aggressive tread because of the shear amount of tacky straights. The race started right before sunset, and as the descending sun hit the start grid, it all started. A crash to the left, elbows flying, and mud flying. A lot the race is a blur, but I know that coming on to the start/finish straight, 6th place felt pretty damn good.
Leading the race

The confidence was breathed into me, and I felt great riding a bike that I connect with, surrounded by the people I care about and doing the thing I love.

Sunday was a different venue and wasn't muddy, and was built for group racing. My now realistic goal was to finish top 5 to get dem' UCI points. The race started, and I once again had a wonderful start, which has happened a ton this year, so I wont complain! We started pushing for position, and I found myself in the lead group of 7. The laps ticked by, and then blew apart when I was stuck at the back. I bridged up to the people that went up the road, and I was feeling so good about that, but the smallest, stupidest mistake put me on the ground and my front wheel locked up. The abruptness of the mistake took everything out of my legs and I came in for 7th place, not what I was looking for.

All in all it was a great weekend and a learning experience going into Louisville.

Before it went south
Louisville, I decided, was going to be even better. We got in on Thursday, and got to our host housing with Morris and Jan, who were better than anything I could have imagined and so awesome. So if either of you are reading this, thank you so much for your hospitality! And way to go dad on an awesome weekend of racing, you pretty much killed it out there, I'm proud to call you my dad.

At least I was smiling! 

It turned out that Louisville apparently wasn't going to be as good as I thought though. The feeling of a vacuum sucking up hair is probably very equitable to my weekend. I'm not going to elaborate on the races simply because they aren't worth mentioning. I ended up 10th on Saturday, and thought that maybe Sunday would be even better, but it only got crushingly worse. 15th was the most disappointing thing I could have imagined because after Cincy I thought that the power would only get better, but hey, shit happens, thats racing. Not every weekend can be the best, not even the most important one can be your best.

Laying it over!
I know most likely because the weekend I had in Louisville that I probably won't achieve my season goal of going to EuroCrossCamp, but as always I'll keep my fingers crossed. But the one thing the weekend taught me was about accepting that things don't always go the way that you want, and learning to refocus and shift goals. Fortunes often shift in an instant, but coping with a bad fortune means succeeding in the long term. I'll keep trucking and work towards a new goal, with 3 UCI Junior races still coming up, I plan on making a mark and making up for the terrible weekend in Louisville.

I like sand

The support I had for both weekends was top notch, unlike my racing. Thank you so much to Nick and Jacob of Boo Bicycles for having my bikes ready, pitting, and teaching me some racing lessons. TrainingPeaks, Challenge Tires, and Braaap Nutrition prepared me as much as I could be and provided the team with top notch support so thanks to them. My family also takes credit for my successes in Cincy, and I couldn't do it without my mom, and sister's support, and my dad's attitude towards racing, it kept me going in Louisville. I appreciate all the support I've had this season, and even though a hard hit was taken this weekend, I plan on swinging back in Los Angeles and Bend.

Each trip holds something new, and confidence will come back, and racing will continue.

Good in Cincy, Evil in Louisville.