Friday, December 3, 2010

Spooky Bikes CX


This will be my last post of the year about racing, since I will be taking a much needed break from the bike for a bit. I have been looking forward to this race for the majority of the 'cross season. For one, it is in my hometown, and two, I missed it the last four years since I have been away at school. The thought of riding to and from the race to warm up and cool down has never crossed my mind until this race, and let me tell you, it was a great change of pace from the normal two hour car ride following a rushed breakfast where I try to shove all the food I can down my throat. I was not looking forward to the race for one major reason though. I had to work the night before. My body thought my day started at nine the night before, working until seven in the morning then racing at noon time. This is a lot like waking up in the morning working all day long (doing manual labor and not an office job) then having a race at midnight that night... Not too fun or motivating.

Regardless of the deranged sleep pattern or the lack of enthusiasm that I could muster, it was time to race. I also had a lot of family at the race which was a big help. Unfortunately I could not put on as good of a show as I wanted but their support of the whole Competitive Edge Team was great. I also want to thank my aunt once again for taking pictures of us. I wanted to finish the season with my best finish yet, but my legs did not get the memo that there was a race that day. They were flatter than a week old soda. The only benefit that I had was that I was able to pre ride the course the day before and earlier in the week. Before the whistle blew I had logged in a good dozen full laps, and a lot more time on some of the trickier sections.

The Competitive Edge Team taking over the start.

The start of the race went fairly smooth for how tight the start was a couple hundred feet from the starting line. Mike and Sean both had fairly good starts, and I was going to have to make up some time to try and catch either one of their wheels. The only thing I could do is wave good bye to my teammates after the first lap. I passed quite a few people on the first lap and had a false sense of how great I was feeling. I started having thoughts like, "maybe I didn't need that much sleep" or "my job is easy and not that physical because I am in such great shape being the end of the season and all". Two laps in I ate my own words. My heart rate plummetted along with my position in the field.

At this point I was trying to not get dropped that fast. I was hoping to still have some confidence during the last half of the race if people did not pass me as though I were riding in the wrong direction. Finally I decided that enough was enough and caught back up to one guy and I put the hammer down. I would like to think that I passed him with authority, but it probably was nothing too special. I wanted to put a large enough gap in so that he would not re-attack me.

I was then caught by two more riders and decided to sit on their wheels and catch my breath for a minute or two. There was a short climb that I decided to attack both of them on, and I stood up and cranked as hard as my defiant legs would let me. I tried to keep a good pace and this attack was enough to keep them five to ten seconds behind me.

I was able to even catch the guy who was riding in front of them who was a good fifteen seconds up or so. I tried to attack him too and had a little luck. In the back part of the course there was an off camber corner that I was able to ride the day before but was unable to master during the race. I tried to ride it, and my back wheel slid out from underneath me and I landed on my back. My first thought as I was getting up was, "where is my aunt with her camera? she better be in some other section right now.". When I got back up and rolling I realized that I lost my little gap that I had gained a minute or two before.

I was attacked and was not able to respond. In the distance I saw Mike, and wondered what had happened. He is such a solid rider, and even on his worst day would not be hanging around me on a bad day on the track. I tried to catch him so I could try to rub it in latter but he saw me and would not let that happen. Mike and the guy who passed me after I crashed had a great battle going on, which I was able to watch from my five second deficit.

In the end I was able to hold on behind them and place 8th, which is not too bad considering my lack of rest. To be fair to Mike, he raced the elite 1/2/3 before the 3/4 race, and had flatted. Which in a cruel way was the perfect carrot dangling in front of me for motivation to finish off the race strong. Now it is time to take some well deserved time off the bike, and enjoy my knew recliner, and spend some time with the dog.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Moser Farm


This past weekend was the Moser Farm cross race. It was the warmest day in a while and it was perfect for a race. The course had some interesting features to it. I guess most of the features are still pretty interesting to me since I have only done a handful of races. There were two fairly steep hills that had barriers at the bottom. Each run was at least 100 feet, with a sharp U-turn at the top. Nothing like a 10 second run in two parts of the course to mess up a rhythm! There were two other sets of barriers in the course making a total of four dismount points. There was another spiral which was quite a bit smaller than the one at Smith Farm, which I was fairly thankful for. The rest of the course was wide open and flat minus one big climb and one large sweeping descent.

The start was pretty cool in that we started parallel to the finish straight, went a couple hundred feet, then made a hard 180 onto the finish straight. The first climb was a running race since no one wanted to take the time to clip back in over the barriers on the first lap as every second in the first minute of racing can lead to minutes lost later in the race. During the race many people jumped back on their bikes and rode up the hill including me but it was too risky a move for the first lap. I was able to find fourth place and pull away from the pack a little. The first three places took off and I tried to catch them through the technical sections in the course which worked fairly well. On one downhill a rider in the top three, went down and I was able to catch them. Two of them pulled away through the second lap and I was able to pass the one that went down.

I had a nice intense battle in the middle of the race for third. We were drafting off each other and attacking. At one point I tried to make a move when the other rider let me by so he could draft off of me. He slowed down at the top of the climb, and next thing I knew I was up beside him. I kind of figured he would try this because he tried to let me pass on the down hill so I could pull him up the hill. When I got around him on the left, I dove right so as to break the draft that he was so desperately trying to ride in. I laid down a couple of attacks but in the end he was able to get the better of me by about 20 seconds. The rider that went down earlier even passed me with three laps to go. I tried to hang on his wheel but could not quite reel him in. The laps ticked down and I had one to go. I wanted to close some of the gap on the first hill and then if I planned my attack correctly, I could finish my charge through the spiral. In the previous two laps I was able to close the gap in the spiral so I thought it would be a great spot for a final assault. Right after the finish line he dismounted to go over the barriers on the first long run. He pulled away over the barriers and then tried to mount his bike. He could not clip in and fumbled for two seconds. I thought that it was now or never. As I ran past him I heard a mumbled bit of frustration under his breath and I knew I had him up the straight. The rest of the lap was filled with adrenaline. He was chasing me and there was no way I wanted to give up a position at the end of the race. I was able to pull a way a little on the uphill section and watched him through the spiral. I was expecting a massive charge at the end and I did not want to have a 30 mile an hour sprint to the line. I was able to keep a cool head and had no real mistakes on the last lap and was able to come away with a 4th.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cycle Smart International Day 2


After a hard day of racing the day before my legs felt pretty good, or at least during my prerace routine and warm up. I had analyzed my data the night before to see what I could expect out of myself on day number two and I did not think it looked too bad. I knew I would be tired along with every one else who raced the day before. This would not be as much of a race of fitness as the day before but more of a race to recovery from the night before. The course had some changes to it. There was one long sand pit, and not two short ones, and the uphills and downhills were reversed, along with the steep run taken out. The course was still very fun but I believe the course the day before suited me better.

I had the same strategy for the starting line and first couple of corners in that I wanted to be on the inside. This way when the group was going through the tight left hand chicane before the finish straight, I would not be blocked in and could make up a handful of positions. Also I wanted to avoid another crash if one were to happen. Fortunately there was no crash on the second day of racing. I think everyones' nerves where a bit better. I got a fairly good jump off the start and moved up the field from my tenth row start. I did not have the legs to keep up with most of the riders on the grass field, which I kind of assumed since that was my weakness from the day before. The group did not splinter as fast as the day before, which meant my strong part of the twisting turning woods section was no real help. Every one was inching through the corners as to not slide out, and I could catch the group ahead of me, but it was very hard to go around any one. I was able to go around a couple of people, but as soon as the course went back to the flat grass section they were able to accelerate around me in the straights. For one lap I was really hoping to ride up the one steep up in the course, but there were too many people around me to try. The sand section was a lot harder than the day before too. I was only able to make it through twice during the race.

This day was a day of experimentation for me in all aspects of my riding. I have never completed two races in a row like this, and have never encountered some of this unique cyclocross terrain. Overall my results were a little lower than I would have hoped for with a 75th out of 135 or so racers. On the other hand I have a whole bunch of data and experience that will be very valuable for next year when I plan to ride a full season.

It was a great set of races to have so close to home and the bike shop. The course looped back on itself many times so all of these sweet pictures could be taken by my girlfriend and aunt and all of the much needed moral support could be given. It was great having so many people at the race cheering the Competitive Edge Team on.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cycle Smart International Day 1


So this was my first massive cyclocross race in my biking career and it was indescribable, but I will do my best. My largest race to this point has been just shy of sixty riders and Saturday's race consisted of a little over double this amount. I did not preride the course before the race, so I was little nervous going in cold like that. I did look at it during the other races to see strategies and lines, and I also received some advice from a couple of competitors. It was not my smartest decision, but I figured the first lap would be so compact that it would not really matter. Also I am fairly used to riding a course that I have no clue what it looks like from cross country racing. I would just have to do do some convincing improvisation as the race unfolded so I would look like I knew what I was doing.

The start reminded my of the first straight away and corner of a motocross race. There are a ton of riders all trying to get ahead of the others at any cost. With this mentality there is bound to be a crash and low and behold there was one half way through the first right hand sweeping corner. I think the crash was started by one person hitting the brakes and then the next and the next, and so on with an increasing domino effect. I had a strategy that paid off in my placement at the line. I new I would not be any where near the front since I did not have any points in the series, and I was not sure how many people registered before me as both of those affected the start position. I was lined up in row eight, and I tried to find a spot that would place me on the inside of the corner. This way if there was a crash, everyone should head toward the outside, and I might be able to squeak by to the inside. I had to hit my brakes and unclip one foot for the crash but I was not really slowed down.

The rest of the race went by as a blur. The first run up in the course was absolute mayhem. I know I passed about five people but I was also passed by another five. The next two laps were just a major reshuffling of the ranks. I kept to my plan and I was passed by a good amount of people, but I could only hope that they would blow them selves sky high at the end of the race and I would be able to put in a final charge at the end. The sand pit was a fun obstacle to go through every lap. I made it through almost every time with out having to unclip and I could make up tons of time. The key was to find a good rut that was packed down. The only problem though is that the ruts were over a foot deep in some places. Another place that played to my advantage was a very steep climb in the middle of the course. I knew how to scale a small wall of a climb from cross country and I passed a couple of people through out the race there. Many people tried to shift going up the climb which would only throw off their chain and made a spine tingling clang. The upper woods section was very fun minus all of the people who kept crashing in front of me. There must have been about five crashed that I was almost involved in because of some root taking the tires out from underneath the rider in front of me. So besides having to dodge a couple of hidden roots and rocks, off camber mud corners, broken pavement and shadows, I had to dodge sliding bodies and bikes. I guess that is what helps make racing interesting...

On the last lap of the race I was able to mount a massive charge and passed two people in the lower grass section, along with another two in the woods, and another on the steep climb. I was feeling great about this fast lap, but there was still one more person who has been sitting ahead of me the whole race. Through the baseball diamonds at the end I was able to catch and pass him. I had to put the hammer down going into a chicane before the finish stretch so that he could not retaliate. I did not look back until I was almost at the line and then it was only a fast glance under my arm, and I had a couple of seconds on him. That was my most exciting finish of the whole 2010 season! I was able to claw my way up to 49th of 126 starters. The result was not bad but I was way more excited about my last lap than any of the results.

Smith Farm CX


It has been a while since my last post so I will break up the last couple of weeks into multiple posts. This one will be about a fun cyclocross race in Connecticut at Smith Farm. The course was great, and I got to do my first spiral ever! The first part of the course went around a field and ended with a muddy spiral that was fairly dizzying. The second half of the course was through an apple orchard with a couple of steep ups and downs.

The start of the race was great for me. I was able to line up fairly close to the main line where most of the grass was worn away. The promoters had enough room for just about every one to line up in a single row which was nice. Out of the gate I was able to find sixth place, and stayed there through the spiral and through the second set of barriers. On the third barrier of the set I saw a rider trip and go down. I thought there was going to be a massive pile up and the distance that we gained over the rest of the pack would be lost. Overall not much time was not lost but it messed up the little bit of organization that there was in front of me. The rest of the race consisted of damage control. It felt like I was on a teeter toter battling between pushing too hard and risking blowing up at the end or letting people pass and getting dropped early. The course was very wide open and fast which did not suit my legs this day.

No matter how hard I tried I could not put a gap on any one. This was a really weird feeling since I am used to mountain biking where it can be a matter of minutes between competitors, not a handful of seconds. Most of the race feels as if you are riding in that imaginary piece of elastic that snaps back every once in a while but it never quite snaps back all the way. When I found out how I finished I could not believe I how compact of a group I was in. I was five seconds from the person in front of me and 6 seconds ahead of the person behind me. Five seconds in a race that is almost an hour is not that much time at all. I was still very happy with my finish of 11th out of 41 starters. This was also a great race to prepare for the Cycle Smart International coming up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Last two Mountain Bike Races of the Year (Mike)

Its been a little while since I have last posted, however I have raced two mountain bike races, Bikes for Bovines and the Landmine Classic.

Serious before the Bovine Race

The Bikes for Bovines race was pretty fun, it consisted of a 30 minute climb, followed by some rolling climbs, then a fun twisty downhill, and finally some speedy sections till the finish.  It was raining just a little bit, so some of the rocks were a little slippery, however nothing to get too worried about.  As the gun went off nobody was really going for it, as we all knew we had a big climb to overcome.  About half way up the climb the pace picked up, with Adam Snyder leading the charge I jumped on his wheel, and held on as long as a could.  After I lost his wheel a settled back into a group of two other dudes, and we chugged along from there.  Half way through the lap I heard a knocking sound coming from my bike, and l looked down and my water bottle was falling out.  I quickly reached for it and tried to pull it out but I could not, I then tried to push it through and I could not, so in a last ditch effort I yanked it out, breaking my carbon fiber cage, and one of the sharp edges slashing my finger.  I started to bleed, however I was not about to slow down, so I stepped on it and got back to the group.  The rest of the lab went well, blood getting and my handle bars and all, however the light rain kept everything pretty clean.

The second lap came around and I wanted to drop my group, so I got going on the climb and never looked back.  I crossed the line in 2nd place, I had ridden the second lap a couple minutes faster then the first lap, and finished only about a minute behind Snyder.  Overall a really fun race, a lost a bottle cage, but a got my second consecutive 2nd place, pretty great.

Me and Nate after the race

After Collecting hardware, and Apples!
The final race of the Root 66 Series was the Landmine Classic, and it was shaping up to be a great race.  My finance Caroline was ready for her first bike race since moving out here, and the field was looking very strong, including the likes of Matt OKeefe, Tom Sampson, Neal Burton, John Foley, and Tim Daigneault name a few.  The race started off pretty fast with the Cannondale killers Matt and Tom keeping the pace high.  I was on their wheels until a hit a rock that I did not see and it threw me off the trail.  However I speed back up and next thing I knew Tom was sitting on the edge of the trail with his pedal in his hand, and Matt had speed off.  I kept up the pace however I came to a junction in which I had no idea which was to go, so I had to stop and wait for other rider to catch up and decide where to go.  Once they got there we decided to go left, however I was planning on going right, so it was a good thing that I waited.  At this point I settled into this group and rode along at a good clip for a while.  I got to the front and tried to drop riders, however the nature of the course did not make this easy, and I was unable to do so.  This went on for a while, until we reached two miles to go, and I really went for it, and as soon as I had put a little gap on I hit my pedal on another pesky rock and my chain fell off. As I watched Neal and Tim fly by I knew I had to be quick, so I got my chain back on and rode like crazy.  I caught them pretty fast, however I was out of gas, luckily so were they.  So I got back on pace, and Neal and I dropped Tim and it was off to the races.  We then ran into the beginners and had to swerve in and out right until the finish line, where some dude was running his bike in over his shoulder, essentially blocking me off of Neal's wheel, and going into the last turn I could not get around the bike carrier and Neal took second place, with my finishing in third.

3rd Place at Landmine, all right!
This was a great way to end out the MTB season, finishing 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd against some very strong fields. I will now try my hand at cyclocross, it looks like a lot of fun, and should be a good way to gain some high end for next mountain bike season!

Cyclocross in Syracuse

This past weekend was the first cx race of the season for me and it was a blast. For the first part of the weekend I was in Cleveland OH for a wedding. This meant during the three days before the race I was in a car for 14 hours, the day before the race I was awake for over 20 hours, and got 7 hours of sleep the night before the race. Needless to say, it was a fairly hectic weekend and finishing would be a huge task of its own.

The course had one major hill and two years ago it had some barriers at the bottom to make it a nice run. For the last couple of weeks I was planning on running up this hill, so I practiced mounting and dismounting so I would not fall on my face in the lactic acid haze that I would be in. This year however, the hill did not have the barriers but was made into a killer switchback through some sand. Luckily this hill was after a section full of mud with the consistency of peanut butter for about a thousand feet before it. The hill was a lot like adding insult to injury.

The start of the race was like inner city rush hour traffic. There were so many people in a hurry, and everyone was in each others' way. There were about 60 people going off the line at once in the mens open class. The start was about 4 rows deep and I was lucky enough to start in row 3 near the right hand side. I had to push it right off the line and I was able to go around most of the pack on the right hand side. Half way through the first lap I was sitting second wheel in a group with a handful of riders behind me. There was a fairly fast and tricky transition that went from grass to loose gravel. The guy in front of me started to slide and his front wheel washed out. I just barely avoided him in his close encounter with the ground. I had to thank my mountain bike skills that got me through that one. The first two laps consisted of passing people while being passed by other people. Every one was fighting for every second that they could. About half way through the race things settled down and I was able to concentrate on picking one person off at a time. I was able to catch the blown up remains of people who went off the line with too much enthusiasm. I must have gained about 5 positions in the last two laps. One rider saw what I was doing and stuck on my wheel. I could not shake him. On the last lap up the large climb before the finish he put down a great acceleration and I lost about 4 bike lengths to him. Down the backside of the hill I hammered as hard as I could and caught and passed him with about 50 feet to spare. That was one of the best finishes I have had all year.

One thing about a cyclocross race is the fact that unless you are in the very front or the very back, you do not know where you finished until the results are posted. I did not find the results before I left but, they should be posted soon. I can not wait to see if I placed where I thought I was in the massive pack. The results were posted online and I finished in a respectable 22 out of 73 starters for a mens open class. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.