Archive for the tag 'racing'

Event: Deschutes Brewery Cup, Day 1
Location
: Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR
Date: 12.07.2013
Category: Elite 2/3
Teammates: None
Place: 4th
Weather: 5F, sunny
Tires: Challenge Limus/Fango, 22 psi F/R
Data: None
Partial Race Video: http://youtu.be/JFn4c1abQqU
Friday Preride Video: http://youtu.be/ihr-dXqur2I

Please specify a Flickr ID for this slideshow

Friday in Bend saw temperatures plummet to below 0F and drop about 8” of snow throughout the day.  Pre-riding the course yesterday (http://youtu.be/ihr-dXqur2I) left us all wondering how we would survive today’s racing conditions.  Thankfully, the snow fell throughout the night and prevented anything from becoming too crusty and icy.  All of the wood, metal and road surfaces were treacherously slippery, and the deep snow around the course made riding it very similar to a deep mud race where you put out lots of watts, and move very slowly.

This race course was significantly modified from last year as a very large construction project removed the forest and technical sections along the river and near the road.  Instead, they ran us through the Deschutes Brewery parking lots and around the backside.  Nearly every traverse was off camber and that created a great deal of challenge for all riders.  If you didn’t survive the ride up, the ice on the hill made for lots of slipping and sliding and unexpected spills.  In particular, there were two run ups and downhillls that made for spectacular crashing as rider after rider was caught off line and off the course.  The officials wisely decided to remove the flyover for the earlier races, as the deep snow on the approach made it tough for the juniors and women to get enough speed to get over, and if you were forced to dismount you would find yourself sliding down and leaving with them no way to get over it!

The races started late, and so all of our events were shortened.  At the start line they told us we’d only get 2 laps in, but with the temperature and wind leaving us racing barely above 0F, nobody was complaining.  I personally would have appreciated atleast another lap, but they wanted to be sure the UCI pro races go off on schedule.  Such is life.

The start is about 200m until it funnels you into a left hand turn that promised to be a mess.  I missed my clip the first time, so I got a little gap, but was able to slot into about 4th place by the time I hit the corner.  People were slipping and sliding all over the place and I tried to ride conservatively and yet pick off riders whenever I could.  I hit the technical sections hard even though they were very slippery, and was able to move up quite a bit (see: http://youtu.be/JFn4c1abQqU?t=5m43s .  I kept getting frustrated at the slower speed of the rider in front of me, but tried to be cautious and pass only when it was safe.

This worked out great for me and after a rather spectacular pile up (see: http://youtu.be/JFn4c1abQqU?t=8m10s) I rode my way into 2 place.  I knew I could go faster and try and catch the leader, but unfortunately for me that hope ended when I hit a corner at what I thought was a safe speed, only to have my front wheel suddenly disappear out from under me and I was covered in a poof of snow (see: http://youtu.be/JFn4c1abQqU?t=9m46s ).  My chain jammed in the process and I wasn’t able to get it going again, so I had to swap bikes in the pit and I gave up several spots in the ensuing mayhem.  That was game over for the podium, and I was super frustrated to have given away the race. I buried myself and tried to focus on riding hard, and not on the fact I gave away my podium spot.

The last lap I was able to pass a few guys, including one right into the last turn and finished off lap 2.  I thought I was in 6th place, but ended up 4th, which I wasn’t too happy with, but such is life.  My son Mattheus was there cheering like crazy the whole time and it reminded me to look on the bright side and be glad I was able to to race. While more laps would have given me a chance to try and reel them in, I also may have turned into a human popsicle stick.  As it was my hands and feet were completely frozen despite having hand warmers, 2 layers of gloves, and wool socks, windsocks and booties.  Just a cold day.

Photos: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjNDHcLr

Lessons learned: Balance taking every opportunity to pass with more conservative handling. Work hard to move up, and don’t give it away!  Deep dish carbon works well in the snow!

Event: Cross Crusade #9: Day 2
Location
: Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR
Date: 12.08.2013
Category: Masters 35A
Teammates: None
Place: 5th
Weather: 25F, sunny
Tires: Challenge Limus, 19 psi F/R
Data: Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/99474490

Overnight the weather in Bend turned from cold to ludicrously chilly, with a low of -25F outside our condo.  Mattheus had been looking forward to racing the kid’s race and after all of his confidence boosting from kind-hearted pros on Saturday, he was amped.  At 7:30am he had his clothes laid out, and was ready to put them on–but his race wasn’t scheduled to start until 10:30!  We arrived at the course at about 9:45am with the temperature still hovering around 5F, and I saw no setup or anyone wanting to set it up.  The morning races had been delayed by 2 hours to allow for it to “warm up,” so Matty and I went out on the course together.  Sadly I failed in charging my GoPro and left it in USB mode, so I only captured 7 seconds of video of his ride and my race, but he did about half a lap before his hands turned to ice and he had to stop.  I didn’t blame him as my hands were so frozen I couldn’t buckle my helmet strap so we retreated to a warmer locale.  A few minutes later we heard the kids cross was cancelled, so we headed back to the house to warm back up, eat some lunch, and get back for my 1:15pm race.  He got a little action and simply said “Dad, its really hard to ride in snow.”  Every brave soul out there this weekend would agree with that sentiment!

Lacking a tent and heat to warm up in, I opted to spend 30 minutes on the trainer at the condo, throw on my extra clothing, and land on the start line a few minutes pre-race.  Even riding slowly around in the cold had frozen my hands on Saturday, so I  hoped this would work better.  After freezing my ass off in the morning, I put 2 sets of socks, 2 leg warmers, and 3 base layers on under my skinsuit.  Topped that off with a balaclava and latex gloves,  Glacier cyclocross gloves, and my Pearl Softshell gloves to finish it off.  While I knew my handlebars were under there someplace, it was a bit challenging to grip them with all that crap on my hands.  But if they freeze, I can’t feel the bars either…so I decided to try this.

The course had been packed down and worn through to a single track compared to Saturday morning, with exposed grass making some of the turns were far more predictable and easier to negotiate.  Other ones had a layer of snow sitting on top of ice, and were treacherous.  Most of the downhill segments had an “ice rut” which dictated the line to you and if you fell out of it odds were good you’d end up on your butt sliding all over.  I vowed to be patient today and dial back the turns 10% to keep me upright and in the game if at all possible.

Cross Crusade ran 3 races at once: Elite A Men, Elite A Women, and the 35A on 1 minute intervals.  When combined with the fact that passing was challenging on any line but the tracked one, the amount of traffic from the 35As running into the back of the women’s field made for several protracted laps of frustration!  However, once we all made it around the frenzy of the first lap, the women were super cool about making room when I was there, and I just felt bad for them to be constantly being swarmed by the guys coming up behind them.

From a 3rd row start I hit the first corner in about 15th position, and immediately set about putting myself in positions to take advantage of every bobble and spot where I could pass, without risking too much.  Within moments, we had caught the back end of the women’s field, which created huge separations in the field as the chaos of the icy and technical sections left people falling all over and we swarmed the unfortunate ladies at the rear of their field.  It was really quite chaotic and made me laugh at the complaints of N. Cal folks when they say “there’s no place to pass” as this was a whole new definition of traffic.  Everything was chaos and I honestly just dodged as many riders as possible as they dropped like flies all around.

Lap 2 I had lost sight of the leaders of our field as we mixed deeper and deeper into the women’s field.  The same pattern repeated itself–a train of riders would form behind the slowest person in the front, and I passed aggressively and picked off stronger riders one by one.  I found that I wasn’t as strong on the power sections, but was always faster on the rest and had to tamp down my impatience as I knew the leaders were getting away.  On the 2nd run up, I was lucky enough to come up on Meredith Miller (who was in 5th place in the women’s race) and had the chance to thank her for signing Mattheus’ jersey.  That was emblematic of the whole race–go out there and have fun, because there were no other options!

The sun came out and the temperatures went up, and I did lap after lap with Mattheus and Cami cheering for me at all the right places.  I figured out I could power slide down the ice hill and negotiate the off camber and cleaned it every time.  Eventually my hands even got too hot and the outer gloves came off.  I saw 3 laps to go, then came around to Bell lap the next time as Geoff Kabush (dressed as Miguel Indurain) was coming up behind me so they shorted me a lap.  At the finish I had no idea where I was in the field, and was surprised to see that I had somehow made it up to 5th.  It was a great race and a fun weekend, and Cross Crusade put on a spectacular event.

Hopefully I’ll never have to race in anything colder than this, ever again.  But hey, atleast it was dry!  My tendonopathy in my elbows flared up enough to remind me why I have been off the bike for 2 months, but not enough to rule out giving a go at Nationals if I can bring the fitness back up.  Overall, a great weekend!

 

Elite A Men’s Womens and 35+ (1 of 3)

Elite A Men’s Womens and 35+ (2 of 3)

Elite A Men’s Womens and 35+ (3 of 3)

 

menko

Race Report: Surf City #1 Aptos HS

Event: Surf City #1
Location
: Aptos High School
Date: 10.13.2013
Category: Masters 35A
Teammates: Bill Sans (45A), Frank (55A), Shawn, Chris and guest appearance by Justin E
Place: 4th
Weather: 65 degrees, sunny
Tires: Tufo Primus Flexus, 23 psi F/R
Data: 177/184 bpm (avg/max), 205 avg watts (http://www.strava.com/activities/88929061)

Once again, I HATE the hills.  Photo by Steve Anderson

Once again, I HATE the hills. Photo by Steve Anderson

The highlight of this race honestly was the transport to and from Santa Cruz, as I got to know Frank M. who was doing his first cyclocross race ever. He graciously volunteered to haul me and all my gear and even brought the requisite post-race beverages. Id never done the Aptos HS event, so I was happy to have a little extra time to make some circuits of the course and figure out what lines work best for me through several of the course elements.

The course itself is an interesting combination of several types of terrain: sand, grass, gravel and pavement. It includes some pavement based zigzags that lead you around a baseball field, then up a very steep set of 4 steps into a run up which pegs the heart rate and brings on the

puke. Then you do a short climb, high speed road descent and drop into a sharp left hand curb/ramp throu

gh a loose sandy corner that escorts you into the woods. A few single tracks later and you hit a downhill Poop Chute which is a 30 wide track with 1-2 dirt walls and about 2 of wheel-grabbing sand thats just itching to take your front wheel and bounce it into the sides and send you head over heels. If you happen to survive that, then you do a few more twistys,

Just putting one foot in front of the other.  Photo by Cyclemasters of Turlock

Just putting one foot in front of the other. Photo by Cyclemasters of Turlock

head up a 30 second road climb, and make the final uphill run into the finish line. Basically a course with a lot of on-and-off the gas, but a few strategic rest spots to help me make 50 long minutes.

I learned from my mistakes the previous day and lined up on the front row for the uphill start. I was about 9th to the first corner, and quickly glued myself to the wheel in front of me and took every opportunity to pass. Adrenaline pumping, we worked our way through

some off-camber gravel turns, through the grass and into the

the 4 step lunge/run up was not my favorite

the 4 step lunge/run up was not my favorite

first run up. I found myself behind Don Myrah and used my B line to go around him moving up into 5th or 6th before the downhill. My goal was to get in front of as many people as possible before the Poop Chute, to limit the odds of a pile up.

Unfortunately, Brock Dickie had something go south on the Poop Chute and as I came up on him he had both feet out and was valiantly trying to keep himself from going head over heels. I squeezed by and motored on until the first climb. Myrah came around me on the climb and I was content to sit on his wheel. As we approached the start finish, the only rider in front of us was Justin Robinson. I honestly have no clue how this happened, but thats cyclocross for you. I spent the next two laps trying my best to hang on Dons wheel. If the course was pointed down, I had no trouble. Every time it went up, he would open a gap that I had to close. This lasted for two laps as we slowly reeled Justin in and finally Don just ejected me on the climb and that was the last I saw of him. I spent the next 30 minutes riding by myself until, yet again on that darn climb, I was passed by Brock Dickie. Brocks a good friend and I was glad to see him getting back up there after his mishap, but it also pissed me off to be getting worked over by everyone on this damn hill so I dug deep and reattached myself to him on the start finish line. That last for the next lap until I had a little bobble in the sand and he opened a 3 second gap. That was the last I saw of 3rd place.

With my hopes of taking home $20 in gas money, I desperately tried to hold onto 4th place and willed my very tired legs to go. Alan Coats and Basil

Moutsopoulos were rapidly closing the gap and finished only about 15 seconds behind me. Just like every other race this seasonI start out strong, then fade my way to the finish. I am literally finishing on will power alone, so hopefully the fitness will catch up sooner than later! Still progress is being made, Ive progressed from 20 minutes up to about 30 minutes, so hopefully in another month Ill be able to give it gas and actually speed up the last lap instead of slowing down. Still January is getting closer, but still a ways off, so Im pleased with the progress thus far. Up next is two weeks of non-cyclocross training to try and

recuperate the sore elbow tendons.

Held on for 4th

Held on for 4th

Event: ProCX Lion of Fairfax
Location
: Foothill College, Los Altos
Date: 10.12.2013
Category: Masters 35A
Teammates: Murray
Place: 4th
Weather: 65 degrees, sunny
Tires: Tufo Primus Flexus, 23 psi F/R

First lap was all about moving up.  Photo by Steve Woo

First lap was all about moving up. Photo by Steve Woo

Friday morning, I still havent registered and Ive got that familiar sensationit starts as a sort of itch, then becomes a distraction, until I find myself wondering exactly how much time it will take at 9pm to prepare my cyclocross gear for a race on Saturday. Yet, the adult in me kept fighting that urge, reminding me that the last two weeks since Candlestick have been rather painful and what I really need to do is rest my elbow or risk the season. But then I read the race description again, and before I knew what was happening my inbox had a registration confirmation for Saturdays Lion of Fairfax in Los Altos.

I lugged all my junk over to Eriks house for transportation, threw my road wheels on, and caught the PV ride on Saturday morning. I told myself it would be a few leg openers. It turned out more like leg burners as I struggled through several pulls at the front figuring Id better get a good workout in case I got wise and bailed on the race. Arriving at the PV compound I found several guys warming up and coming in from earlier races, covered in mud and looking utterly spent. I knew then, I was doomed and would never ben able to resist racing. I jumped on my B bike for the first time this season shod in mud tires to pre-ride the course that had been watered

down to create mud since weve had no rain.

It was a first class course featuring European-style hill traverses with off-camber turns, quick descents, and lots of 180s. Add in a run up or two, a little mud, some loose wood chips and adoring fans and you have yourself a fantastic race experience. I especially appreciated this one as the zig-zag downhill traverses were one feature in Louisville that we dont get a lot of practice on out here, and I definitely have room for improvement there.

Lining up for the start I was a little late and ended up 3rd row, which I wasnt too worried about as I thought it would give me a chance to practice not blowing up the first lap since we had a full 60 minutes on tap. We accelerate and enter the most dangerous moment of the whole racethe funnel from the road to a narrower trail over a drainage culvert and some barriers. I was bandied about by some rather large individuals, but took my time and just picked some inside lines on the 180s and moved up into about 12th place. We did a triple barrier that dumped us onto a sidewalk before a sharp left uphill turn. In the pre-ride I was able to get up this no problem, IF I had the right approach. I watched many others biff it, and knew this would be a trouble spot.

I lined up on the outside of the corner up against a large metal fence, and started seeing in my peripheral vision a rider trying to come up my right side. He was breathing heavily and probably fully juiced with adrenaline, and I knew without a doubt that if he got alongside me, we were going to crash on the left-hander. I began closing the door and his bars made contact with my hip. Some rash insults were exchanged, and I believe I replied youre not getting by. Credit Larry Nolan who taught me a valuable trick to defending your position on the bikekeep the other riders bars behind your hip and they cannot lean on you easily. Im a little guy that can easily be pushed, but put his bars versus my ass and I will win every time. I went in hot, people goofed, and I passed 3 or 4 guys on the outside line. I never saw the guy who was challenging me, but he was left behind as we hit the pine-tree branch alley as I passed more riders and started to create a gap on the riders behind me.

slow motion pain after the tricky little technical climb.  Photo by Steve Woo

slow motion pain after the tricky little technical climb. Photo by Steve Woo

The rest of the lap was spent trying to work my way up through traffic. I always spend my pre-ride checking for obstacles and trying secondary lines with the intention of using them when

forced off the main line. That way I can have a few unexpected places where I can pick a rider off when they arent expecting it. On the back side we hit the climbs and I knew I was going to have a really hard dayother riders just stood up and rode away from me. Mentally I repeated over and over again to take it easy and stay within my limits as it was a long race. I knew if I tried to gas it and stay in contact, Id never finish the 60 minutes. Through the parking lot there was a huge number of supporters from Madelyn Swanson on the exit, Ray Alvarez on the turn, Erik Salander all through the zone and many other racers cheering us on. That was awesome as I really needed the boost.

After a few laps the breathing behind me ceased and I was alone. Murray and the leaders were ahead of me, and I reeled in one rider named William (I later met him), and we dueled it out for quite some time. Sadly for him that dreaded hiss of escaping air came from behind me and he was out of contention. I will admit that I was relieved as he was working me over pretty good! This was maybe half way through the race and was the last I saw any riders until I started catching lapped riders. For the rest of the race it was a balance of managing my efforts, keeping the bike in line, and making sure nobody caught me as I started lagging. Through the start-finish Erik told me I was in 4th place, but I hadnt seen anyone ahead of me for quite some time, and I kept seeing flashes of Alan Coats and the 45+ leaders as I went through the zig zags.

At 45 minutes, every muscle in my legs begged me to stop. Ray said something to me and I replied and he said youre not going hard enough if you can talk. I didnt have a chance to say it wasnt breath I was needing–it was a lactate drain to relieve the burn in my muscles. Had Erik not started supplying us water during the last few laps, I would never have finished. Chris Cowarts daughter also gave me a lavender scented wash cloth hand up, which was much appreciated on the backside of the course.

I hated this hill climb.  Really hated it.  Photo by Steve Woo

I hated this hill climb. Really hated it. Photo by Steve Woo

At 48 minutes I came across the line and saw the first lap cards Id seen all raceand I almost cried when it said 2 instead of 1! I buckled down and did what I could, and limped my way through two more laps by finding my mental happy place and blocking out the pain. In the end, I finished 3 minutes down in 4th place, but heard the great news when I finished that Murray had notched his first win of the season. I was happy just to cross the finish.

Lessons learned: a good pre-ride is a gift: finding the 2nd lines for the first lap and identifying potential flat tire obstacles is key. Starting from the front is a lot easier!

 

 

 

Event: BASP #1
Location: Candlestick Park
Date: 9.29.2013
Category: 35A
Teammates: Murray Swanson, David Collet
Place: 6th
Weather: dry, 65+ degrees
Tires: Tufo Flexus Primus, 23 psi F/R

it gets lonely when they leave you behind

it gets lonely when they leave you behind

Have you ever noticed how much crap you seem to bring to cyclocross races? Even with a well-versed packing system, Im still spending nearly an hour getting all my gear together, selecting the variety of gear and clothing Ill need, and making sure I dont forget anything important. One of those items happened to be my son Mattheus, who was out for his first cross ride this season. Im probably the only racer who was up at 8am making mac and cheese, packing soccer balls, extra clothing and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Not your usual cross race gear, and forgotten was a cowbell, beer or anything you would imagine bringing to the BASP races! Such is life, and its great to be sharing the day with my boy and having fun in the process!

I spent much of the week on forced rest because I struggled to find time to ride so I came in well-rested but also a bit de-tuned. I was lucky enough to get a single preview lap of the course and saw multiple people with slashed tires from the sharp rock sections. Out came the sound waaaaah sound of the air compressor to bump the tires up to 23 psi to give me a little added protection. About 20 minutes on the trainer an hour before the race constituted warm-up as I went over and watched Matty participate in the first BASP kids cross race. He wasnt impressed with the course or its length, which worked out great as he said I want to race juniors and have some real barriers! So we have some of those adventures to look forward to later this season!

 

Basp#1 2013 rear

Moving up with David Collet hot on my heels on his way to 3rd place

Anyway, the actual race was pretty uneventful. My goal for the race was to simply avoid any self-inflicted mistakes and try and ride smoothly. I got a 3rd row callup which put me about 20th into the first turn. This saved me from a lot of the mass chaos that ensues behind you in 30th-60th, so I quickly picked off guys on the alternative lines I had ridden during practice and moved into the top 10. I found myself on Alan Coates wheel which was a great place to be as we wove our way up, right until we hit the barriers on lap 2 and he bunny-hopped and opened a gap. I never closed it. Just before the wheel pit a rider in front of my stabbed his wheel into some loose sand and did an acrobatic maneuver over the bars that was a slow-motion cartwheel. Steering for all I was worth to try and avoid getting entangled or being slowed down I was super fortunate to just barely skate around him. David Collet came around me somewhere around the 10 minute mark and powered his way up to a 3rd place position.

Eventually I made my way into 7th position on Brock Dickies wheel and we raced together for some time. I felt good technically but by 25 minutes in I was starting to lag a bit as my heart rate would spike on the run-up or other long sections and Id have to back off to avoid making any handling mistakes in my hypoxic state. Eventually I lost Brock with 2 to go and ended up 6th after Murray had to drop back due to a flat. The unusually short race didnt give me much time to try and catch anyone that was fading, but it also didnt give me much time to fade and be caught.

much of the course was dry, hardpacked dirt with a little sand in corners.

much of the course was dry, hardpacked dirt with a little sand in corners.

Overall I am consistently staying in the top 10, but have a lot of improvements to be made in the next 6-8 weeks if I hope to move up onto the podium at the bigger events. But thats a big improvement over the last 18 months that have been nothing but injuries and setbacks that havent seen me able to return to form or even race, so Im happy to be out there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

menko

Race Report: CCCX #1 & CCCX #2

Event: CCCX #1 CCCX #2
Location: Fort Ord, CA
Date: 9.14 & 9.15.2013
Category: 35B (Sat), 35A (Sun)
Teammates: Jason Bradeen, Chris Cowart, Murray Swanson
Place: 1st/5th
Weather: Dry, 75+ degrees
Tires: Tufo Flexus Primus, 21 psi F/R

opening a gap on the singletrack

opening a gap on the singletrack

After a long road season filled with little racing and very little luck going my way, I finally arrived at my first two cyclocross races of this season. I spent the entire off-season hoping to heal the wounds of last year and have a injury-free season, but my lack of road racing has brought me into the cross season a bit lower than previous years, but the goal for this weekend was simple: shake the

bike down, start regaining confidence in my skills, and practice flaying myself without falling off my bike in a lactate-filled haze. The fields were small and the courses technical, so I simply rode as hard as I could, blew up, and then hung on. The skills still felt a bit rusty, the fitness a bit lacking, but on track given

some hard work planned over the next two months. Negotiating the hardpack and sand on Saturday left me with a brown racing stripe from a few close calls, but I started to feel a little better on Sunday.

My biggest takeaway was a pile of poison oak on both legs, despite using Tech nu. New item added to equipment listportable shower.

 

alone and suffering

alone and suffering

trying to hang on

just eeked my way onto the podium
just eeked my way onto the podium

I lead this section every time, because it was packed with my family and friends cheering LOUDLY for me!

I lead this section every time, because it was packed with my family and friends cheering LOUDLY for me!

Event: Sea Otter Classic CX Race

Location: Laguna Seca Raceway
Date: 4.21.2013
Category: Masters 35 1-4
Teammates: Zack (45 1-4)
Place: 1st
Weather: Dry, dusty, 80 degrees
Tires: Challenge Fango 33/Zipp 303, 19/20 psi F/R

2013 is the second year for the Sea Otter Classic CX race, which is a late afternoon show for the spectators on Saturday afternoon of the 4 day race weekend at Laguna Seca. I signed up because a) I needed an excuse to repair the drivetrain damaged back in January at Worlds and b) the race is really fun with the spectators as you run through a sea of bodies as the course winds through the beer garden. So I threw on a new chain, derailleur hanger, derailleur pulleys, cable/housing and cranks on the bike, left my semi-mud tires on (I would pay dearly for this) and got ready to roll.

This was a fun little section with some ups-and-downs and a bumpy little rock section

This was a fun little section with some ups-and-downs and a bumpy little rock section

Weather was much kinder to the athletes this year with cooler temperatures and a good breeze to keep us from melting at our 4oclock start time. The course was similar to last years but I was sad to see they removed many of the more interesting features of zig-zags, sweepers and other technical challenges that I really enjoy. They left in the gravel pit and long stretches on the raceway that I would have been happy to see go away! But since the races themselves are cat 1-4, I imagine they wanted to reduce the technicality of it to make it more accessible to people trying cross for the first time.

Being an off-season race, we didnt get many locals like we did the first year, so when I looked around I didnt know any of the riders so I had one goal in mindholeshot so I could survive the first 180 sweeper that transitions from the racetrack to the sand. From there, my only strategy was to try and manage my efforts so I could make 40 minutes of racing without detonating. I was lucky to hit the race lead so I could pick my lines through the first lap of the race, but it also meant nobody wanted to come around me to pull in the windy sections. As we got half-way through, one rider came around me and gapped me as we went from the sand-racetrack for the return leg. This is a recurring nightmare for mesitting 10 feet off a wheel into the wind where the space between is unbridgeable as the Grand Canyon. The moment I saw it happening I immediately started to sprint and within 10 seconds I was back on his wheel, gassed but ready to make him work the whole return leg into the wind. As it turned out, this was best move I made all day.

I had to be careful not to get crossed up and carry my speed without jumping here.

I had to be careful not to get crossed up and carry my speed without jumping here.

Coming through the first tight turns back into the Expo area I could tell he wasnt as comfortable in the corners as I was, but I was sliding a lot on the hardpack and sand-over-concrete sections. We came together into the rodeo park and I was treated to an amazing site: my own personal cheering section of kids, my wife, and teammates. The chorus of cheers was a shot to the arm and I accelerated around to finish the rest of the lap. Coming through the start/finish I wasnt able to see anyone else within 15 seconds of us so I settled in to work with this guy for as long as I could.

Fans lined both sides of the beer garden in the Expo area, and the cheers were LOUD.

Fans lined both sides of the beer garden in the Expo area, and the cheers were LOUD.

After the first lap we established a gap and started to trade some pulls on the pavement and I would move to the front on the dirt sections. I was definitely rusty in picking lines and feathering the brakes, but I was loving every minute. My dismounts came back to me and all started flowing. 2 more laps go by and we are overtaken by another rider who by quick glance was from the 45s behind us, but I gave chase anyway since he wounded my pride.

IMG_9177

After so many long straights, you’d hit this little section of technical and really have to bring your field of vision back to what’s just in front of you.

Coming into the expo area I came in a bit aggressively and lost my front wheel on the transition from sand to asphalt in the slow speed 180. It was like the front wheel evaporated or slide on ball bearings. My hands never got off the bars so I stopped the fall with my face. The rider with me had the grace not to run me over and ask if I was ok, and I remounted and kept rolling. A quick check of my jaw told me it was still in one piece but bleeding freely, so thank you to whoever designed our kits to have black and red, it hides blood well!

Coming through the beer garden I had about 10 seconds to make up and I just buried myself and chased. Of course the sight of blood on me made the sharks in the crowd cheer even louder! I fed that energy into my legs and caught the leader just after the start finish with 2 to go. I just kept it down and opened a small gap as we came into the gravel and I put in a hard pull on the pavement and a miracle occurred–I actually dropped him! I had to try and calm down and not blow up but I pedaled through all the sections even harder as I knew he wasn’t able to match speed through there. On the last lap I had opened a gap of about 15 seconds and Jeromy and Erik were watching and ensuring me the gap was not coming back. I was closing in on the 45+ leader but I wasn’t able to catch back onto him before finishing.

This was just a small reward and encouragement to put into my back pocket to keep me motivated through the harder days. It was fantastic to spend time with teammates new and old and see so many different athletes have success. Ive been away from racing for too long so thanks especially to Warrick, Clark, Jeromy and Erik who all made this weekend possible.

 

Standing on the top step

Standing on the top step

 

 

CX WORLDS 2013

 

Please specify a Flickr ID for this slideshow

This is a small attempt to convey an amazing and action-packed cycling trip to CX Masters World Championships in Louisville, KY. Instead of bumming around in a hotel room with a teammate (there is nothing wrong with that!) we were super-fortunate to be able to stay with my father-in-law and his wife; we had our own beds, family around, coffee and a kitchen available whenever we wanted. We shipped gear like a pop-up tent and other essentials and didnt even need to wash our clothes in a bathtub! It was glorious, and made us feel like we were racing at home, not 2000 miles away. Some photos are here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjDZfa8F

Sunday 1/27

It was impossible to believe this day had finally arrived. For the uninitiated, packing for a cyclocross race is

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Louisville welcomes us

infinitely more complicated than road racing because the environment necessitates more changes of clothes than a runway model. Dressing for a course recon, a warmup and then the race in wet, muddy and/or cold conditions requires a small mountain of base layers (wool, wind block, thermal, short/long sleeve), accessories (wool socks, thick socks, wind socks, leg warmers, shoe covers), and outer layers like warmup jackets, pants, and this doesnt even cover post-race! And that doesnt even cover trying to cram two bikes, 4 carbon wheels, spare tubulars, tools, and other race essentials into a soft-sided bicycle case. By the time I finished, I had a 65 lb bike case (thankfully with wheels!) and a large roller bag full of lycra. All told, I think I was entrusting over $12k worth of gear to Southwest all of which could not be replaced if it went wayward. Both Murray and I watched over our bikes until they were escorted over to the oversize baggage security check.

Our flights were uneventful except for one unfortunate observation: the unloading of luggage. As luck would have it, we were positioned directly underneath the hatch, and watched as my bike big rolled down, and was summarily tossed into the luggage trailer. Thankfully its girth and weight worked in my favor as he didnt HUCK it like the smaller bags, but it still gave us both pause. But recognizing the futility of worry, we accepted our fates and just prayed they made it to our connecting plane.

Our first night "sleep aid"

Our first night sleep aid

We arrived late evening in Louisville, and Murray attempted to take a Rabobank bike instead of one of his. It was the first time ever I have seen luggage confusion with bikes as there was an endless parade of national and international bike racers descending on Louisville. The heart started beating faster as we realized this year-long dream of competing was about to be realized. I was amped until way past midnight but thankfully my father-in-law opened the liquor cabinet and gave us our first introduction to Kentucky Bourbon. After braving what I was sure to be a permanent scorch on my esophagus, I easily drifted off to bed.

Monday 1/29

Our only down day consisted of driving up to Cincinnati to pick up Matty and Cami who had the pleasure of an unexpected overnight stay in Chicago when weather prevented them from catching their connection. After retrieving them, we put our bikes together and had just enough time before dark to walk the Masters course before it was officially open for pre-riding on Tuesday morning. While there was still much work to be done lining the course, the old golf course looked ready for riding. I became more and more excited as we scoped out the lines consisting mainly of grass with a healthy number of twists, turns, runs through sandpits, two major run ups and a sweet off-camber traverse S turn near the finish. While it was mostly flat and wide, the course had many turns and bumps that would favor our technical talents and always provide an alternative passing line. We both left with smiles on our face and went and picked up our numbers at the race hotel. I could not wait to ride the course the next morning.

Tuesday 1/30: Pre-ride

Murray and I set out early with all of our gear to setup at the course. We ended up with a spot right next to my old friend Ian Moore, who I grew up with and rode bikes together in the early 90s. He had long since moved to Texas and opened a shop, but cross worlds brought us back together which was great.

Air in the tires and off we went. The course did not disappoint, it was a challenging and well-constructed route, and I knew it was going to be hard. That said, it was 55 degrees outside, and forecast was for rain all night, with a rapid cooling back down to low teens in the next two days. Because the golf course was low-lying and built next to a levee in the flood plain of the river, we all knew it was going to change dramatically after you add some rain. And boy did it.

tornado

Early morning tornado alertin January?!?

 

Tuesday was most notable for the bizarre early morning tornado alerts that came ringing at 4:30am. Thats right, a tornado alert, in January!! Murray was freaking out because 1) hed never heard the sirens before and 2) nobody else in the house was stirring. I figured we were already in the basement, and had weathered several of these alerts while in Ohio, so I just stayed in bed and tried to sleep. What I didnt realize was that everyone upstairs had humidifiers on that muffled the sirens and they were not aware of the situation. I also discovered that apparently iOS has built in alerts for these things, as my phone was muted and on DND mode, but suddenly started blaring moments after I heard the sirens. Who knew?

 

Wednesday 1/31: Qualification Heats

Just a bit wet...

And then the rain came

Unlike Nationals, Masters Worlds did not use your USAC points to seed you since there is no way to account for these point systems internationally. So basically they take all the entrants for any age bracket, run them through a series of heats, and fill the 80 person final with the fastest riders from all the heats. So not only did it determine whether or not you qualify for the finals, it determined the all-important start line position in the grid. A bad showing in the heats wasnt necessarily the end of the road as they had a consolation race that the top few racers could qualify from, it would guarantee a terrible start position.

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Murray leading his heat

Start order for the preliminaries was done by random drawing as you show up to registration. There were 120 some odd racers registered in my 40-44 block, and I pulled number 35. I was totally bummed as I assumed they were filling heats sequentially. In other words, 1-40 heat 1, 40-80 heat 2, etc. However they were distributing numbers across the heats, so number 1 went to heat 1, number 2 to heat 2, number 3 to heat 3, and so on. So that put me at the very end of the second row, which was much better news! Secretly I had been very afraid of even being able to qualify as only 70 of the 120 guys would advance past the preliminary heats. With 40 guys, I couldnt place lower than 25th and I wasnt sure I was strong enough to do that.

Sitting on the line, I shuffled about nervously to stay limber and keep my warmup in my legs. The course was completely flooded and I had watched the 45s slog their way through it in slow motion. Guys I *knew* were fast were turning 12+ minute laps and I knew this would be a really challenge for me. No hiding behind technical skills, no coasting or micro-rests on some downhills, nothing. In the words of one racer, it was going to be a tractor pull. Exactly what would reveal my lack of fitness. But I figured I could suffer my way through 2 measely laps, right? 30 seconds to go, I look down at my HR and see 130 bpm and Im not even moving yet. Excitement, nervous energy and fear of the first minute wash over me and I just wait for the whistle.

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Matty demonstrates the depth of the puddles out on the course

I watched as two guys blew their clip in and I was momentarily boxed. No matter, because 50m from the start was a giant puddle that wreaked chaos and water sprayed several feet in the air as we plowed through it like giant ships parting the ocean waves. Riders were shoving and pushing their way forward and fighting for a single line in a rather wide lane. I looked for gaps and squeezed through every location I could as my wheels slid every which way even when riding in a straight line. Within a minute, I could see I was going to be no match for the powerful guys that seemed to have a few extra gears in the mud. I only touched my brakes when people got in the way, because otherwise I was moving too slowly to ever need to scrub speed.

 

Through the first pit I was steadily moving up and feeling ok, but I knew I was deep in the red, but told myself I just had to go as hard as I possibly could and hope to last the 2 laps. While I had initially even worried Id be able to qualify at all, I quickly moved up into the top 10 riders and just focused on trying to hold that and make charging riders behind me take less desirable lines to pass me. This worked great until the first run up. The hill literally looked as though a stampede of wild horses had climbed it before us. The holes were so deep I was reduced to stumbling up it instead of running, because placing my feet was so difficult. I felt like I was walking and some guy gasping like he was going to die came charging right across me in an attempt to cut the corner as sharply as possible. Lame move to chop me, but I simply hopped back on the bike and hit the 3? inch deep mud on the top of the levee and wondered if I should run instead of ride. I thanked the rider for plowing a rut that I could follow and passed him once we hit the next corner. By this time, I was seriously starting to hurt and a fleeting thought crossed my mind.how the hell will I do this for 50 minutes on Friday when I havent even made it one lap??!? Just as soon as the thought came I slammed the door on the negative feelings and focused on breathing without swallowing too much muddy water.

 

Lap 2 was a blur for me, but I heard call outs from supporters that I was in 8th place. The lactic acid was taking over my entire body and my battery indicator on my legs went from yellow to red to flashing red. I desperately tried to scramble my way up the run up again, and two guys came around me. That just pissed me off. My inner demon said f&ck that, pass those guys! and so I came in hot around the last two corners, took a more challenging but shorter line, and passed them both. As I hit the final straight to the finish line, I tried to fire the after burners, which lit for about .3 seconds and then sputtered out. One guy came charging past me with 10m to go and I ended up 9th. Must improve my sprint this year, its annoying to always lose them.

I came across the line and thought that may have been the hardest 25 minutes of racing I had ever done. My mouth tasted like dirt and my son was so nice to tell me Daddy why dont you get all that dirt out of your teeth?? I turned and looked at him, with many less-than-fatherly retorts ready to roll out, when my wife saved his skinny little butt by saying Matty leave Daddy alone, he just finished racing. Amen my dear. We all celebrated Murrays 1st place in his heat, washed our bikes off, and headed back to the house for some R&R. I dont even remember what we did with the rest of the day, but I did take a short leg-spinout ride sometime in the afternoon before the weather went from rain to snow and we went from tropical tornado weather to freezing winter snow and ice. Lovely. We picked up Tom at the airport and the bourbon drinking commenced.

Thursday February 1st

Nothing too exciting happened on our rest day. We went to the race course for the 55+ Masters race and saw Henry Kramer win some rainbow stripes. The course looked muddier than the day before as the standing water was giving way to thick mud. Any rider who didnt have a B bike was coming to the end of the race with an enormous amount of mud on their bikes that clearly would prevent them from being competitive. The pits were working feverishly to clean the lead bikes but they were circling the course even slower than the day before. My only hope was the plummeting temperatures could freeze the ground entirely, giving me a better chance of rolling over the hard ground instead of the soft mud. We spent the rest of the day riding a little and we encountered Jonathan Page motor-pacing resplendent in his new Stars and Stripes outfit from nationals. While Murray and I rode, Tom and Cami did a few stops on the local bourbon tour of Makers Mark and came back with several treasures they had hand-dipped and sampled. More drinking ensued except for Murray and I who hit several sporting goods stores and other locations for warmer gloves, base layers, and anything else we thought we would need to race in the 10 degree weather forecast for the races on Friday.

Friday February 2nd

The weather certainly disappoint. We had fresh snow on the ground and a nippy single digit temperature that made me wonder if I could put every piece of clothing I had with me on. All kidding aside, I had never ridden in temperatures this cold, and the course was rapidly thawing under the wheels of the riders racing ahead of us. So not only was it cold, wed have splashing puddles of mud to contend with. We stayed at the house as long as we could trying to stay warm and distract ourselves from the endless worries about the race ahead. Should I wear this layer or that? should I wear booties? Cover my face in vaseline? What will I do to keep my fingers from freezing? Eventually I went with a rather aggressive planembrocation from my toes to my quads, covering my feet and lower legs completely. I repeated for my hands and forearms, hoping to keep some blood flowing there. two baselayers and a thermal skinsuit followed, with leg warmers, wool socks, wind blocking socks and my shoes. Head, ears and neck were covered and I went for it.

This time around I was starting on the 4th row, which made for more start line madness. Guys were locking horns and pushing every which way, even in places that it didnt matter. I kept diving into different lines and focused on passing everywhere I possibly could. Brian Finnerty was next to me and we both jumped through each hole that opened up, but after only a few minutes, I knew this pace was going to be impossible to hold for very long. Even still, I figured I better work my way up as far as possible and force others to pass me than lose time sitting behind and waiting to go around slower riders. The mud was the most challenging I had ever ridden and everything else was still frozen and just grabbed your wheels. My first pass through the mud-wrestling pit I knew I was going to need a bike every half lap. Sadly, the promotors had left their power washers out over night and they were frozen solid. Thus my valiant pit crew of Tom Feix and James Keddie were reduced to using stone tools on my bikea tent stake to chisel ice from the frame and brakes, and wd-40 to keep the chain from freezing up. Somehow they returned a functional bike to me every 6 minutes but I have no idea how the heck they did that. I definitely would not have finished the race without their amazing efforts.

The rest of the race went by as an agonizing battle of mind over body. Every part of my body was filled with lactic acid and my legs just refused to do any work. But every part of the course was packed with cheering fans from N. Cal, my family, and especially my son who would run up next to me and absolutely scream his head off as he ran faster than I could ride through several sections of the course. Those cheers were all that penetrated the haze of pain and I focused on trying to keep my gaze more than 2 feet ahead of my front wheel. I slowly slipped back in the standings on the last 2 laps until I was finally ready to hit the finishing straight when disaster struck. Suddenly my rear wheel stopped turning, my pedals started freewheeling and I heard the terrible sound of my derailleur hitting my spokes. I immediately hopped off the bike in the hopes of saving my rear wheel and ran through the creek crossing. As I shouldered the bike, I saw my derailleur hanging worthlessly from a mangled piece of derailleur housing, and I knew I was going to run my bike across the line. Along the way, my rear wheel started bouncing around and I tried to hold it with my spare hand, but finally gave up and it literally fell off my bike as I hit the finishing stretch. I ran for everything I was worth determined NOT to get passed in this last section of the course. I stumbled across the line and almost passed out, but Id made it and finished the damn race. I was elated to have done it, and then immediately started realizing I couldnt feel any extremities and I couldnt even form complete thoughts. I went to retrieve my wheel and received a bunch of congratulations from family and friends as I went back to the tent to get changed. Wed done it, and while I wasnt pleased with my result per say, I had exceeded my pre-race goal of top 30, but fallen short of the top 15 I really wanted. 21st was my final resting place and I couldnt complain.

Post race we tried to clean up and warm up, but I just couldnt get my body to kick back on. I was freezing and desperately out of energy, which wasnt helped by looking at the carnage of Murrays and my bikes. We spent a good hour trying to remove all 8 wheels which, along with everything else, had frozen in place. It was a total mess. We both wished for the first time in our lives for a mechanic to simply take care of this so we could load up, drive home, and pass out. It was a mess we knew wed have to sort out later and just struggled to clean up, take down the tent, and get our asses out of there.

Friday night

Friday night was a great Northern California cross party where we celebrated 3 newly crowned champs, Karen Brehms, Don Myrah and Henry Kramer. When other competitors told their stories of racing woe for that day, I felt a little better to simply have made it. It provided me even more motivation to bring back to Nationals in 2014, and Murray and I started talking about doing this again in 2014 in Holland. I never thought Id be saying Id be up for another one of these, especially outside the US, but I have a score to settle, and would like to see myself coming to the race prepared and fit. My favorite memory from Friday was a jubilant toast and hug from Clark where he said Your battle was simply getting here! and that summed up my feelings exactly. Im ready to hang up the cross bike carnage for a few weeks, but I have no doubt I will be even more committed to cross in the season to come. Its a journey and I couldnt have done it without the support of my wife Cami, my early morning training partner Murray, Clark Natwicks unwavering search of solutions to get me through the setbacks I faced all season. Sitting out most of the season and cheering for others would not have been possible without the positive support and commiseration of my PV teammates. I thank you all!

Thanks for reading!

 

menko

Masters World Championships 2013

Cyclocross World Championships held in the USA for the first time in 2013

After a nice visit to my extended family in S. Cal last week, I realized two things needed doing. First, I had to do my best to explain why an otherwise sane person wouldchoose to fly across the country to race his bike in sub-freezing rain, mud, or even snow, and be forced to carry his bicycle over obstacles that were purposely placed in front of me. And secondly, how could I put the sport into terms that non-cyclists would understand. My family is super-excited and learning lots about cross, but Wikipedia’s Cross Page hardly does the sport justice.

What exactly is a cyclocross race, and how it is different from other cycling disciplines? In simple terms, a cross race involves racing your bike on a ~3k long course that can be located just about anywhere there is pavement, grass, dirt, mud and/or sand. Often times fields and surrounding obstacles such as stadium steps, livestock stables, or any other “features” are used. Bikes are modified road bikes that have slightly wider tires with off-road tread and brakes from touring bikes that will allow for running the wider tires. Its elegance is its simplicity. Racers start together in a mass sprint where they fight for the “hole-shot”–the first person into the corner. Position really matters as courses are narrow and often very hard to pass other riders on without taking significant risks. Races typically last about an hour, where riders neither eat or drink and simply pedal their absolute hardest until they either explode or finish the race. In the best of all worlds, the explosion happens just *after* you cross the line, and not before. And that’s cross, in a nutshell.

While other cycling disciplines can make legitimate claims as being exciting to spectate, cyclocross offers fans a unique atmosphere in the US to really enjoy cycling in a whole new way. Besides the ubiquitous riot of cowbells, mud and beverages, cyclocross allows fans to cheer (or jeer) their favorite riders multiple times per race. The difficulty of the elements spreads racers out into small groups, making it action-packed with very little waiting to see action. There’s of course the thrills, spills, heroes and underdogs, but fundamentally cross pushes the rider to the very limits of their abilities as they push their oxygen-deprived bodies through a technical time-trial for an hour. It really is an hour of truth where the strongest, most proficient (and a little lucky) rider often prevails. Its a story of triumph where you never know what the conditions or your competitors will throw at you, what parts may fail, and where it requires your mind to be as sharp as your body. There is no tuning out in a cross race–you have to constantly be aware of where you are placing your front tire, what the riders around you are doing, all the while your vision is blurring, your mouth tastes of mud (or is that horse shit?), and you realize the scary truth–there is nothing else you’d rather be doing than being right here, right now, on your bike.

So for my non-cycling friends, here’s my attempt to explain the inexplicable. Where else in racing can you push yourself to the limits, but grab a dollar from a bottle on the side of the course, or even get a hi-carbohydrate beverage while in the race? Cross has something for everyone, including the spectators. I love this sport, I love the people, the community, the fun that everyone has from kids to adults.

I personally find cross so rewarding because it pushes my limits physically and mentally in ways I can’t do in other disciplines of cycling. You have to be strong to ride fast, but that’s only the beginning. You need skills, finesse, fortitude and a fair bit of luck. Its you vs. the course and other riders, a challenge that I find all-encompassing. While it may not be for everyone, once you are bitten by the bug, you’ll never be the same.

Here’s a little montage that might help explain the inexplicable.

Whatever floats your boat

menko

CX Districts @ Fort Ord

Getting a little practice lap in

Getting a little practice lap in

Event: CCCX District Championships

Location: Fort Ord
Date: 12-30.2012
Category: Masters 35A
Teammates: Murray (45A)
Place: 9th
Weather: Small mud patches, 45 degrees, sunny
Tires: Challenge Fango 33/Zipp 303, 23 psi F/R

Fort Ord is always a challenging course and this particular route was demanding because of the constant gas required with no real place to hide. I hadnt ridden this exact route since my first race a few years ago, and was nervous to make it to the first turn without incident. Fortunately that was no problem

and I found myself in the top 5 guys after the second turn. That didnt last long, as we hit the first hill I was immediately passed by Chris McGovern and Brock Dickie on the 30 second hill. I knew I was going to have a hard day in the saddle, but I just hunkered down and focused on keeping contact and not making mistakes. I had no trouble holding wheels through the middle parts of the course, but the moment we hit the run up and longer climb, I once again was getting gapped. My lack of 1 minute power and fitness were making themselves well known, so I focused on limiting the damage on the rest of the course and trying to lead the more technical sections where I was little faster.

Chasing Brock Dickie and Craig Chaney the entire race

Chasing Brock Dickie and Craig Chaney the entire race

Eventually I was passed by Craig Cheney and Brock Dickie, both of whom I finished ahead of at Santa Cruz, so I knew I was pretty much where I was going to end up. The leaders continued to put 45 seconds per lap or so into me, and I soon was no longer able to see them. Brock and I traded off several laps where hed gap me on the climb and Id pass him through a series of turns, until we got to the last lap. I knew he was getting tired so I decided to wait until

the top of the last climb to make a move to come around him and lead into the tricky section right up to the finish line. It was a perfect plan until I lost traction on my front wheel and went down, which gave him the edge. I was right back up again and ready to try and pass him, but my chain had come off and it took a few seconds to put that back on. I wasnt able to close the gap at that point so I just rode home and took solace in the fact that I had made

Returning the favor to a super-supportive crowd

Returning the favor to a super-supportive crowd

the right tactical decision, but goofed on the technical.

I ended up 3:15 behind the winner, so I still have some hard work to do these next few weeks before Worlds. I hope to try and close some of that gap in the coming weeks. Immediately following the race Matty and I did the kids race

which is always fabulously done by Keith DeFiebre and I have to say I was really proud of the way Matty navigated the course. Hes not confident on the downhill sections yet, but he was able to the climb the pretty steep first hill which made me super-proud of course! Thanks also to John Kammeyers entourage for looking after Matty during the warmups and race so I knew that he wasnt wandering around by himself.

A good time was had and looking forward to next weekend!

 

Matty and I do a few laps of the kids race together

Matty and I do a few laps of the kids race together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what I hopefully will be doing a lot more of–introducing my boy to the sport of cycling!

 

 

 

menko

2012 CX Season Start

Race Report: 2012 Bay Area Super Prestige #1:

Welcome back to the pain!

Event: BASP #1
Location: Candlestick Point
Date: 9-30-12
Category: 35+ A
Teammates: Murray, Travis, Reto
Place: 22 of 47
Weather: Dry, 80 degrees, Sandy conditions
Tires: Tufo Flexus, 25 psi F/R

Chasing, photo by Tim Westmore

This was my first race of the year and I was carrying a high level of apprehension about my own readiness coming in. To say I’ve been waiting for this day for 11 months is an understatement. The “off-season” took on a new meaning as I was forced off my bike from complications of my surgery in December 2011. I had gained 5 pounds, lost muscle and fitness, and generally didn’t recognize myself as a cyclist when I looked in the mirror.

This year has been a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, and faced with the prospect of racing, an unfamiliar feeling crept over me–fear. To test oneself against your peers is part of racing, but I knew my fitness and endurance were shaky, and I was ready for the season to unravel in front of me as I was ejected out the back. Unable to ride much this year, I have been working on my technical skills to see if I could hang. Race day did reveal a lot about my season, but it proved to have answers to different questions.

Start position as always is critical, and without a call up I was lined up on the 5th row and in decent position. I was nearly caught up in a tussle 50 feet after leaving the gate, but luckily I was able to avoid it and found myself sitting about 20th come the first turn. I was redlining as always, but in the back of my mind I was trying to remind myself that I only had a few minutes of fitness in that zone, and then the race would come crashing down.

Hill was much easier to get up this year. Photo by Tim Westmore

Through the first half of the course I tried to settle in, pass at every opportunity, but also not be too impatient. Then Reto stormed past me after the first set of barriers and I was infected with an equal amount of zeal to pass these guys. This would prove to be my undoing. We hit the first run up the hill and as expected there was chaos and I simply shouldered the bike and ran around the stumbling bits of steel, carbon and flesh. Picked a few more off and I was sitting about 12th and feeling like I could possibly hang on for the rest of the race if I just settled into a pace I could maintain. Every corner I was on a wheel I felt I could go faster, and so I kept looking for places to pass.

Unfortunately, on the last little drop before you hit the road on the backside I took an inside line and

attempted to pass another rider. He suddenly swerved into me, forcing my front wheel into some bushes that decided it was a great time for me to fly off my bike. Over the bars I went, landed in a tuck and hopped right back ononly to endo in the sand when I realized my chain was off. I pulled to the side and tried to start rolling my bike, only to have the front wheel suddenly stop. Apparently it was run over or wrenched, because a section of tire was separating from the rim. At this point I summoned some mighty curses that made my glad my family was at the start/finish and I shouldered the bike and ran the last section of the course. I watched as every rider in the field rolled past me and I wondered if I could possibly run it all the way to the pit. I knew at once, my race would be over.

Navigating the downhill sand snarl. Photo by Tim Westmore

Instead, when I hit the pavement, I put the bike down, pushed the chain catcher out of the way and prayed the tire would hold for the rest of the race. An eerie silence surrounded me and then I got the pity cry Go PV! from a random person on the back stretch, which confirmed I was way behind the rest of the field. I just channeled the frustration and rode as fast as I could. In the end I was able to slowly pick off riders and finish the ride in 22nd. This earned me several nice brews, so life was good.

Thanks to all of my teammates and supporters out there, because I surely would have bagged this one if you werent out there shouting me on. Hopefully next time will work out better.

 

 

LESSONS RE-LEARNED

  1. BE PATIENT: races are long, first lap you dont have to pass everyone. Risk vs. benefit
  2. SELF-TALK: keep repeating your race goals. Race smart. Keep efforts in check
  3. AREAS TO IMPROVE: 30 second bursts w/repeatability
  4. CROSS IS FUN: the people matter, enjoy the community

 

 

 

 

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