Monday, November 23, 2009

Pablove Comes Home

After 43 days on the road, Pablove Across America finished the ride. On Saturday Jeff Castelaz pedaled the final miles of his cross-country mission to raise awareness and money to fight children’s cancer. Though in many ways it was a personal journey — a way for Jeff to grieve and cope with the recent loss of his son Pablo — Pablove Across America was also a public effort that touched countless people along the way.

From Florida to California, Jeff delivered his message by riding his bike and sharing his experiences through personal connections, Twitter posts and daily video blogs like this one that Jeff posted Sunday morning:

Jeff also conducted countless interviews and drummed up interest in his cause by capturing media attention everywhere he went. Last week our friend Neal Rogers, managing editor at VeloNews, wrote about Jeff's mission is this nice piece.

Felt is proud to have been with Jeff every step of the way. And we were beyond stoked when we finally got a chance to see Jeff and his sweet Felt F1 in action Friday, when the Pablove tour rolled into Felt’s headquarters in Irvine, California. A bunch of us joined Pablove on the penultimate day of the tour, which rolled up the coast from San Diego to Orange County before finishing here at Felt.

Jeff and Co. arrived to a huge welcoming and then hung around to meet the Felt family and do a few hot laps on a new DA TT bike. Here are a few pics from the ride….

That's former Ironman World Champ Michellie Jones on the left (above), and the special Pablove Felt F1 bikes ridden by Jeff Castelaz and his coach Rik Babington. After finishing here at Felt, there was just one more day to go before the finish in Los Angeles.

Jeff and the crew had a stellar day of warm, sunny weather for Friday's ride up the coast from San Diego to Irvine.

The Pablove crew stopped in Dana Point for double espressos and a rendezvous with Felt employees who rode the final leg.

This is what it's all about. All along the route, Jeff was joined by people who had been through similar experiences. Jeff rode side-by-side with hundreds, including this Pablove supporter who joined the ride to Irvine.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mud whompin' with Mafia

Cyclo-cross season is in full swing and like many of you, the Felt-sponsored Mafia Racing squad is out there mixing it up every weekend. Check out the action from the Boulder CX finals in Longmont, Colorado last weekend. You'll see lots of Mafia riders flying the Felt colors, including the team's elite riders Jake Wells, Lianna Miller and Kate Schneider. Those snazzy Mafia kits took a beating out there in the elements, but hey, that's what's 'cross is all about.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Guiding Light

Jared Berg (above, right), one of the elite athletes on the Felt-sponsored Mafia Racing Team, competes as a guide for a visually challenged off-road triathlete. Last weekend Jared and Michael Stone raced at the XTERRA World Championships in Maui, and Jared checked in with this recap of the event.

Last Sunday I had the privilege of guiding Michael Stone, a brand new off-road triathlete with a visual challenge, at the XTERRA World Championships in Maui. Michael has Cone-Rod Dystrophy, which greatly disrupts his capacity to filter light and his ability to see low-contrast fields of vision. Con-Rod Dystrophy also leaves Michael with increasing blind spots. In many cases individuals suffering with Cone-Rod Dystrophy go blind but are left in a constant state of lightness rather than darkness.

Though Michael can see a large tree on the side of a trail, it’s the rocks or roots that are similar to the trail color, or hidden by grass, that are impossible for him to see. Sometimes even an entire trail can disappear in the shadows as it curves or switches back in another direction.

Imagine looking through a pair of safety glasses smeared with Vaseline while someone is shining a flashlight in your direction and you’ll have some understanding of what Michael must deal with. The objects or obstacles he is able to see on the trail are usually seen at the last minute, giving him little or no time to react.

So Michael relies on the sounds of my bike or my foot strikes or my voice commands, combined with what he sees of me navigating the trail while I ride or run ahead of him.

In the water we found that if I swim next to Michael I can naturally guide him one direction or the other. For instance, if I am on his right side he subtly moves to the left. However, if Michael starts moving too far to the left, I’ll quickly dive about 6-8 feet down and swim under him to his left side. During the race, it was pretty comical swimming under all the other competitors but it allowed me to quickly get to Michael’s other side without misguiding him. The only problem was that Michael would get water up his nose from laughing whenever I swam underneath him and a dozen other swimmers at the same time!

The swim portion of the competition is fairly enjoyable for us but the bike and the run present a real challenge. We raced the XTERRA Nationals in Ogden, Utah, and had a good experience because Ogden was mostly uphill and there was fairly good visual contrast between the darker trail and the surrounding grass, brush and trees. The trail in Maui, however, was a reddish tint and did not stand out from the dry orange, tan and sometimes red tint to the brush and trees. The ground in Maui never lets you hold a smooth line; it almost feels like you are constantly being floated around with little ability to control your own direction.

All these adverse trail conditions made for a pretty scary riding experience for Michael. It is definitely worth mentioning that the 2008 XTERRA World Champion and UCI pro-mountain biker crashed and broke a couple ribs while training on the course before the race.

As a guide, my most important mission is to get Michael through the course safely with as few mishaps as possible. The next goal is to provide a racing environment where Michael can capitalize on his fitness and minimize the hindrance of his vision impairment. I’m happy to say we made it through safely with only a couple little bobbles on the bike and run. On one occasion on the run I called out “stay left” on a corner when I actually meant to say “turn left.” Michael stayed left on the corner and caught some barbwire that I did not see. He went down to his hands on sharp lava rock. Luckily, he escaped with only little thorns in his palm but I felt horrible about making a bad call. It really drove home how much he depends on my commands.

I feel the race was a complete success because Michael says he wants to come back next year! We have progress to make in order to provide Michael a better opportunity to use his strong fitness on the bike, but we are confident and hopeful his trail-riding learning curve will stay ahead of the degeneration of his sight.

New Cam Zink Mavic video

Check out this new Mavic video from Felt factory pro, Cam Zink. Cam really puts his products - Felt and Mavic included - through it's paces.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pablove Benefit Concert will be held in LA

Have you been following Pablove Across America? Jeff Castelaz’s inspiring coast-to-coast ride began October 10 in St. Augustine, Florida, and will finish later this month in Los Angeles. Currently Jeff is riding his Felt F1 somewhere in Texas.

In case you don’t know the story, Jeff’s son Pablo lost his battle to cancer in June. The Pablove Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to child life programs as well as children’s cancer research and treatment. Pablove Across America is a 3,100-mile ride across the country, which Jeff is doing to honor and remember Pablo and to raise awareness and funds to improve the treatment process for children.

Jeff, the co-founder of the Dangerbird record label, has a ton of friends who are following him online and looking forward to welcoming him home to Los Angeles in a few weeks. Felt is proud to be one of Jeff’s supporters and stoked to see him hammering that F1 on this challenging ride that includes some serious daily mileage.

To welcome Jeff home, there will be a Pablove Foundation benefit concert November 21 at the Avalon in LA. A bitchin’ lineup of Jeff’s friends—including Tom Morello, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Shirley Manson and others—will perform acoustic and semi-acoustic sets.

Tickets are on sale now. Don’t miss it!