Tuesday, December 09, 2003

BA Cyclocross 7 - 2003

The 2003 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

December 7th, 2003

Finally, something that resembles classic cyclocross weather. We got a couple of inches of snow on Friday night, and a bit more on Saturday night. So race day is 32, and cloudy, with about 6-8 inches at the course.

This should be interesting. I've been perusing the cyclocross board on roadbikereview.com for snow riding tips. Standard advice seems to be run the same pressure as you would for mud. The course won't stay snowy long, and then we will be mud riding again.

I got the replacement 48/38 FSA crank early in the week and installed it. I did a commute and a couple of trainer sessions with it, so I'm comfortable with the front shifting... not that I've shifted the front in any race so far... but it's nice to be comfortable.

The Course

We're at Boughton Farm again this weekend. As expected, we're running the course backwards again. Only with the snow they've shortened it up... and removed all the barriers. (the 6th race)

The main difference this weekend, is we are not circling the cabbage field. Instead, they route us through the woods over the logs in the same direction we crossed them before. Then we head to a long gravel/dirt/mud road back to the start/finish area.

So how do they handle snow on a cross race? I've seen video of the World Cross Championships, and they are not riding through fresh powder.

The farmer was a bit "helpful" by dragging the bucket of a front end loader along the gravel/dirt/mud road on Saturday night... which made it more dirt/mud than anything else. For the rest of the course field sections, they drove a tractor over the snow. So there were 2 tracks we could follow. The fun part was picking a passing lane. Plow through the powder... pass on the less used track, then plow back through to the traveled track.

The wooded sections were left to be packed as we progressed through the race... you can't fit anything wider than a bike through most of those sections.

On points, I'm currently in 5th place. I need to make up about 50 points to get into 4th (the race winner only gets 30, and it works down from there). I'm also 13 points clear of the 6th place rider, so as long as I finish, I should be OK. I'm gunning for another top 5, just because I think that's where I should be.

The fun part is the 2nd, 3rd and 4th places. They are all separated by 9 points. The guy in 4th missed 1 race, but has been winning recently. Phil Hines, the guy in 2nd place has had a hard time when the course gets technical, so there should be fireworks at the top today. I won't fight any of these guys for points if it comes down to a sprint.... but I'm not going to give them any gifts either.

The Pre-Race

I arrived at about 10:10. I left early so I'd have plenty of time to pre-ride and figure out how to handle the snow. I'm glad I did... it also gave me time to figure out what to wear.

Typical winter riding... take every piece of technical clothing you own, put it all on, then shed until you get to a comfortable temperature.

So... 32 degrees. I start with a standard base layer, my long sleeve base, a PI Kodiak jersey and my wind vest. I wore my heaviest tights, and a pair smartwool liners under smartwool socks. I also tried medium weight shoe covers. These aren't the booties, but a neoprene/fleece wind type cover. I have the PI pittard gloves, these aren't super heavy, but have been comfortable for those under 40 rides. for the pre-ride I also wore a fleece ski hat.

On the first pre-ride, it's pretty obvious that this is going to be a handling race. The snow that's hard packed is not exactly smooth... so the back end of the bike gets thrown around a quite bit. It's lots of fun on the off-camber stuff, especially when the back end is thrown down the hill.

The log crossings seem to be OK, so I'm planning on riding them more today than last time. Besides, I'd rather not get my feet too wet. So I'm concentrating on practicing the crossings to get them smooth.

After one lap, it's pretty obvious I'm over dressed, everything was pretty sweaty. The shoe covers may work fine for the road, but they aren't going to work on the trails. I saw one guy cut holes in the bottom of a pair of rubbers, just enough to keep the shoes dry.

I ended up riding 4 or 5 laps at different speeds. I found handling over the rough snow to be better at faster pace. The bike seemed to float more... once again moment is your friend. I was really glad I did as many pre-laps as I did. It helped to plan passing lane and strategy, to know how to brake (early), and how to accelerate. It also gave me practice on the logs... which was really helpful.

I again made sure to drink a lot before the start. This time I tried to be finished with everything except water by 11:30 for the 12:00 start.

I did the last pre-ride lap with Phil Hines. We were talking about tire pressure for this and I suggest the lowest we could go... my tires are rated 35-80, so I stayed right at 40. Phil followed my suggestion and was much more comfortable than with the higher pressure he did his first laps at. It was pretty obvious that I had an advantage on him with handling... if my fitness held out. I've beaten him twice before but he had mechanical issues on one day, and crashed pretty hard on the second.

Brett Davis showed up again, his third race of this series... I told him to go home, cause he was messing up my chances for a top 5 finish. He asked if it made a difference to my placing, and then asked why I did so poorly at race 6. Nice to know someone else is as addicted to the results site as I am.

I read somewhere that it's a good idea to change after pre-riding. That way you start the race dry, and don't run the risk of getting chilled after your warm up. I brought enough clothes so I had the option. Since I was sweating so much, I wanted something lighter anyway. So I went with the next jersey down my warm scale. The PI Kodiak light. I also change my base layers and socks. I had thought about wearing a headband to keep my ears warm, but every time I've tried to wear it, I've ended up taking it off. So I decided to just go bareheaded under my helmet. My head was a little cold at the start... but once I got moving I was comfortable throughout the race.

With the weather, we weren't expecting many people to show up. I knew the top 6 overall would be there. But I was expecting a field of maybe 10 to 12. Well, I was wrong. Last race of the season brought a lot of people out. There were 22 starters with 2 women in the B race.

I figured today would be carnage at the starting turns as everyone got used to racing on snow. The idea again was go hard at the start and try to be in the top 5 through the first set of turns. Then I could afford to settle in and start working the race as best I could until the last 2 laps when I hoped to pick up the pace enough to gain a few more places.

The Race

There was a bit of confusion at the start. They like to start the race with a reasonably long straight to spread the field before the first turn or obstacle. The problem here was the long straight was a bit chewed up by the front-end loader. So the start was about 100-150 feet and then we hit the turns around the greenhouse.

I ended up lining up near the front of pack. Since we were on the course, we couldn't really spread out, so it was about 3 across. I was somewhere near the third row.

As we start off, everyone seemed to make it through the first two turns fine. I'm sitting about 7th as we hit the third turn taking us to the first long straight across the open field. We're still pretty bunched up and Phil is on my wheel as I slow for the turn. As I start to accelerate out, I hear someone say "slowing. rider down!". After I get to cruising speed, I look back and I have a gap on the rest of the group. I'm wondering if Phil was the guy that went down. Of course the first 6 riders are opening a gap on me also... but I'm riding comfortably and seem to be safely into the spread out part of the race.

As I make the turn, I see that Phil is 50 meters back, and then there is another gap...

Of the 6 riders in front of me, I know one of the guys goes out hard at the beginning of the race, and blows up. 3 other riders are in the top 4 on points, and then Bret is up there... so I figure I'll only see those 4 again if someone is having a bad day. Phil is behind me, so I'm looking comfortably at 6th or 7th depending on Phil catching me... with 1 unknown up ahead.

Making my way though, I'm doing OK at holding Phil off. He may be gaining a little, but not very quickly. As we head into the wooded section with the log crossings, I slow to make the turn before hopping the the first log. I make the first one fine, and accelerate to the second, as I hit the log, my front wheel slides out, and I'm down. Again I'm reminded that you need to make these every time, or you'll loose all the time you've gained in riding them. I get back up fine, but spend a bit of time getting out of Phil's way, as he passes me. We both hop on the bike at about the same time, and we off again.

Actually, this isn't a bad place for me. As we make our way along the gravel/dirt/mud road, I let Phil set the pace, and I just sit on. I'm not going to let him gap me, and I can benefit from the draft. We cross the start/finish together and I follow him across the field. I can see the guy that blows up is just ahead of us, so I figure we're doing OK. The only thing that I'm at all afraid of is that he is on Phil's team. So they may try something team like tactical.

As we cross the field, I come around Phil right before the turn. He's really tentative on the turns, so I figure I'll either pull, or leave him somewhere. I hope for the later. Next time through the logs, I run them with Phil on my heels. Right after the logs, we catch his team mate.

So through the start/finish again. Three laps down and there are three of us in line, Phil's team mate, me and then Phil. Someone makes a comment about pace lining in 'cross... I figure hey, at least I've changed leaders! And we're moving up.

Around the field again, as we get to the turn, there are some slight gaps between us. As we go through the off camber stuff, the front guy rides completely off the course, up the hill! I take this opportunity to attack these guys, since we're in the most difficult control section.

OK, I'm in sixth place, not bad... now don't let anyone pass me, and start looking ahead to see if I can catch anyone. As the race progresses, some sections of the course are starting to get muddy. Before each of the 2 wooded sections on the back straight are these short climbs. They aren't steep but they are getting chewed up and a muddy. I'm still in the 27 on both of them... thank you for my 38 chain ring! Just past the first wooded section is a really choppy field section. It's pretty hard packed snow that bounces the bike all over the place. The gravel/dirt/mud road just turns into mud patches. Every time through the logs, we get bogged down in the mud, hit the road, then accelerate as we come to the muddiest sections to try to float through.

I'm watching the clock at every pass of the start/finish line. I'm somewhere close to 6.5 to 7 minutes laps, so I start to count them down. 34 minutes.... 3 laps to go. I can hear Phil and his team mate talking/shouting somewhere behind me, so I know I don't have a gigantic gap. I'm also passing a lot of the C racers and slower B racers. I end up riding the logs on each pass except for on that I passed a C racer as he was crossing the first log. I'm still not sure what method is faster. At least riding, my feet stay out of the snow.

The good news is I keep seeing Bill Marut, the guy in first on points, up ahead of me. That means I may be able to get a place or two before the end. I don't expect to catch him, but if I can see him, there may be leaders between us.

40 minutes... 2 laps to go. And they're ringing the bell! What? They say last lap as I pull through. I have enough time to ask "For B's?" and to hear the reply ..."Yes". OK, 1 lap to go... time to get to work. Around the field again, I'm reeling in another guy. I catch him on the off camber stuff, and ask if he's on the first lap or not. He says he is, and asks me where I am. So we're racing!

He stays in front through the first wood section... and I try to make a move on the outside before we enter the second section. I got a good jump, but couldn't make it in before he caught me on the inside of the turn. As we come out, I turn to the inside of him, and jump past. We head into the logs and I had a pretty good gap, so I just rode them... I didn't even think about running it. Through the mud bog, and hammer the straight. I had the advantage of a lapped rider running into the finish also, so I just tried to catch him. I didn't quite make it, but I held off the guys behind me.


Phil ended up 7th. The 4th place guy won, and 3rd place took third, so the 3,4 and 5 places turned completely upside down. The difference between 2nd and 3rd place was 1 point.


So... 5th place finish... right on my goal. Which was nice. I finished solid in 5th on points... a testament to consistently showing up. I'm pleased with the season. I've learned a lot about cyclocross and about racing in general. Prep, warm-ups and strategy. I'm hoping the cyclocross racing will do what they say... improve racing ability... plus it was just plain fun.

Next year I hope to bolster my series by consistently placing also. The big question then is do I race A's and stay mid pack or race B's and go for the wins. The guy that won the points thinks that the first 5 places should move up (including me)... with a few of the less consistent riders, like Brett Davis. I like the idea of winning something, but I would not be ashamed of shooting for the top 5 in the A race. We'll see how I'm riding come next September.

...and Brett came in second place again. He was mixing it up for the win, and lost it in the last straight. He ended up in 7th on points and only showed up for 3 races. Then he raced with the A's, which I was thinking of doing also, but I had to make a dinner date. He finished 10th out of 10 but wasn't far off the pace. Not bad considering he had already done the B race hard. I think I might have been a bit further down.


There are pics of the A race at Team Lake Effect. It looks like it got warmer, since all the snow is gone from the course. The A race was also a bit slower than normal. My extrapolated time would have put me in 5th for that race. I figure the mud slowed them down a lot.

... until next year! Though I did hear that Vultures Knob has a cross series planned... I wonder how they'll layout the course. That might be fun!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

BA Cyclocross 6 - 2003

The 2003 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

November 23rd, 2003

Another lovely day... partly cloudy and breezy... and about 60-65 degrees. It's been dry all week, so there will not be much mud.

I returned the 48/38 crank set I was running last weekend. Not because I didn't like the gearing, but because neither ring was running true. I've ordered an FSA 48/38 crank set to replace it... but it hasn't arrived yet. So I'm running the standard 53/39 up front.

CAUTION! Whine alert! I did not do as well as I wanted to in this race, so my comments may sound a bit whiny... it isn't my intent... I even waited a week to write this up, to avoid the really unnecessary whining that I was feeling.

The Course

We're at Boughton Farm this weekend. This will be the last course we visit, and it's nice that we get to run on it twice (Today and December 7th). It really is a farm!

We start near the barn, with a slight climb into the wind. Pass the greenhouse and make right through the finish area. We then start heading around the fields. The next turn heads up an incline (into the wind again) to the first barrier set. The back half of the field still has cabbages almost ready for harvest. The course heads downhill to the only mud section in the back corner.

After rounding the cabbages, it's into a wooded section. We wind around a bit to the log crossings. There are two 10-12 inch logs, about 10 yards apart. They are ridable except the course runs parallel to the first log and you need to make a right turn at the crossing. There is almost enough room to line yourself up, but you scrub a lot of speed doing it. log.

We then wind our way out of and back into the woods until we hit the gravel road. The winding has some up and downs, nothing very long, but I was changing gears a lot through here. It's then a short quick road section to complete the circuit of the first field. Then we take right and start the second field.

The second field starts with a more road section on a slight incline to the second barrier set. This section is run along a tree line, so the wind doesn't really play into this.

We then curl around to the only appreciable climb (which isn't all that much) before heading back across the field. This one is totally exposed to the cross winds. There are a couple of slight S turns to make it interesting, then we're back among the buildings.

We loop around and between the buildings until we make the right turn around the greenhouse. Here we were getting blasted by the wind and with the slight incline, it seemed one of the more challenging portions of the course. Even though it was only 20 yards or so.

The Pre-Race

I arrived at about 10:45 again... plenty of time to get ready. Good signage this time, so there was no chance of getting lost.

I got dressed and started my pre-rides... it's getting to be a ritual, which is nice. Around the cabbage field and into the woods, were I meet up with some of the Lake Effect riders... I try to get through the log section a few times. It seems it'll be ridable if I've got a clear trail in front of me... but I have to slow down a lot to make the turn and be set up correctly for the crossings.

While we're there, Rudy Sroka discusses removing one of the barrier sets... it's at the bottom of a short decent in a turn where you climb back up along the same hill, in one of the loops on the way back around the cabbage patch. It really does scrub a lot of momentum, and would have added the only probable run up. With it's removal, the course is considerably faster.

I think I ended up with 3 warm up laps, instead of my usual 4 to 5. I also felt a bit rushed to get enough to drink and eat before the start... It didn't seem to bug me much, except for a few Red Bull burps right after the start.

I'm racing cyclocross at the end of November in short sleeves and bare kneed! It's borderline doable, but since it's a race... I figure I won't get cold.

Before the start Chris Aron and Kevin Ward are talking about the course... really dry, with only one mud section. They talk about increasing tire pressure. Me and peer pressure. I pump up to 60psi.. from my normal 40-45. After the race, I wished I wouldn't have gone quite so far.

Because there are no run ups, and no lifting the bike, I put on a water bottle cage.... One thing I end up missing is a drink throughout the races. Since it won't be in the way, I might as well drink. I filled it about half way, hoping to have it empty at the end.

The Race

I started in the second row... next to Phil Hines, behind Bill Marut and Mike Gorman. So I'm in good company... and we're off.

Again I got a pretty good start. I was about fifth through the finish are and up the incline to the first barrier set. I figure that is about perfect. I can sit in for the start, and I'm far enough up to stay out of trouble when people get hung up though technical sections.

Around the cabbage patch, through the mud and into the woods... The first time over the logs, I know I'll be running. I make it through here, then start to think about recovery.

My typical race strategy, has been to go hard through the first half lap, then recover, and then take back any places I've relinquished and go for any more I can get. So I started letting people go. As they'd pass, I'd try to sit on when I could, but I wouldn't get crazy about letting them go. The last thing I want to do is blow up, and loose more places because I was trying to push to hard.

It was NOT easy to let some of these guys pass me. I ended up about 9th by the third lap. I wasn't panicking, but I was starting to pick up my pace a bit. I was comfortable, and was reeling in the next three riders. All of whom I figured I could easily pick off before the finish.

The first up the road was Kevin Ward. I'm bringing him back... and I'm bringing at least one guy along as we make the turn onto the crosswind section. I hadn't even thought of getting this guy to work, if he wants to come around, I'll sit in until I pick it up again.

As we come through the first S turn, he offers to pull... I'm all for it. so he comes around, and asks if I'm on... away we go... I can work with this. The guy is on a full suspension mountain bike, and he is going at a good pace.. I'm thinking we can easily pick up the next three guys now, and we'll sort out the rest on the last lap. We head through the buildings, and as we start to head to the greenhouse turn, I'm thinking about holding close to his wheel and tucking to avoid the wind blast there. He takes the turn a bit tight, and as I'm holding on, my wheels loose contact!

I wasn't down for long... in fact I don't think I was down at all. My right foot was out of the pedal, and I landed an my knee (on gravel, thank you very much), but popped right back up. The guy that was pulling, heard me go down, and hesitated, ready to wait for me... I just shouted "GO on!" I probably should have let him wait... but I wasn't sure how I'd be going now. He took off, and I started my solitary chase again.

OK, so my leg is covered in blood, but I'm not hurting too bad. I can still push the pedals ok... so I figure I've got a chance to still pick up some places. I'm sitting 10 or so now, with 3 laps to go. I figure I won't catch my pulling buddy, but I may still catch someone who's blown.

I was hoping for another top 5. The problem with goals like this is it's beyond my control. If a new guy or 2 shows up (like they have the past couple of weeks), you can end up at 7th, with the same performance. Or if someone has a great day, or the course setup fits someone better than it fits you.

So, as I'm working around the course, my thoughts were... I've got 21 points between me and the 6th place guy who is definitely up the road. I only need to finish, and I'll maintain my 5th place. Not that I was thinking of bailing, but I was trying not to panic and kill myself. Then my true form started to show... I got caught by another rider.

Again I tried to sit on, but I just didn't have the legs.... my finishing thought was comforting.... then I got caught by 2 more riders right before the last lap.. One guy on a single speed, and Julie Lewis from Lake Effect. I did alright around the cabbage patch, but they dropped me after the log crossing... I lost about 35 seconds in that half lap... and I was trying to push it hard!


I came across the line, and immediately squirted down my knee with the water bottle. Phil Hines was there and offered to grab his first aid kit. So I headed back to the van to wash up and bandage my knee... I was more pissed off at loosing places that I was sure I could get back than anything else. I totally acted the jerk to a couple of guys that I was chasing also.... oh well. How to win friends and influence people.

Here I was hoping to pick up 3 places and instead I lost 4 more. Realistically, I think I could have ended at 9th on my own, maybe 7th or 8th with help.... or I could have blown without the wreck, and ended up exactly where I was. 13 wasn't a bad placement. It's still middle of the pack. But it was my worst place to date... well, I'm hoping I can only do better from here.


This season is all about learning, despite my fixation on my current overall standings. I've learned a lot about what gearing to run, and race strategy. Where my strengths are and where I can use some work. I'm hoping to either run A's next year (and get creamed regularly) or do better (as in more consistent, thereby improving my overall standings) in the B's. A lot depends on how my training goes throughout the year.

So, Shoulds and should nots!

I should have talked less and pre-ridden more... more warm up, and practice on the log crossings would have been helpful. I ended up running the logs at all but one instance. I was either going through behind someone or in front of someone.... so it never seemed safe enough. I don't think I lost time there, but I may have been able to gain a little by riding instead of running.

And more time would have made my pre-race more comfortable... more time to hydrate and eat correctly. I'd like to be about done 30 minuted before the start.

I should NOT have pumped up my tires so much. I figure 50psi may have been about right... and it may have kept the tires attached to the ground around the greenhouse.

I should NOT have gone on the group ride on Saturday morning before this race. My experience is if I ride hard the day before an event, I don't have the top end power when I want it (Usually climbing). There weren't a lot of climbs, but I let the last two riders go on the short inclines after the logs.... and there were a number of them. Looking back, I probably lost the 7th through 10th places on those same inclines. I can do an easy solo ride, when the competition isn't there. Even though I said I'd go easy on Saturday, I still found myself pushing on the climbs (not crazy pushing, but still...), and jumping at the sprints. Pavlov would have been proud.

I'm trying not looking at these as excuses... just things to watch for if I want to do well in the future... they're all educational.

It turns out the guy I thought was in 6th, was in 7th. The 6th place rider was the first guy I would have caught before going down. ... I'm still in 5th place. I've conceded 8 points, but still have a 13 point lead. Unless something really crazy happens. I'll keep my 5th place.

The interesting thing is second third and fourth place are all separated by 9 points. So those guys will be gunning to sort it out on December 7th. I'm hoping to be up there close to see the fireworks. If they reverse the course direction... I may even have an advantage again.


Trying to hang on... the guy in front of me is in 7th on points, and finished 7th. They guy behind me was the first to catch me after the fall, and finished 10th.

Working together to make some places... for now. 2 turns later, I was bleeding. That's my pulling buddy, finished 8th.

Monday, November 17, 2003

BA Cyclocross 5 - 2003

The 2003 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

November 16th, 2003

I'm loving this cyclocross stuff! My new crank set arrived, so I'll be running the 48/38 up front. I had a bit of trouble setting it up, because the 48 ring is not running true. I took it into the shop and the wrench straightened it up enough to run it... I'll see about sending it back after the race.

Another lovely day... cloudy threatening rain... and about 40 degrees. It's been dry most of the week, except fo Saturday night... when it wasn't.

The Course

We're at "The Fields" in Broadview Heights again. This time we're running the course backwards. So instead of bombing down the sledding hill, we'll be riding up it. They also took out the road section, since we'd be going down that... and replaced it with more dirt/grass downhill section before another field traversal. They also took out the gully crossings. This was replaced with a slight upgrade through the woods.

Last week's course was about 1.8 miles, this one ended up to be a bit closer to 2 miles.

The Pre-Race

I arrived at about 10:45 this time... plenty of time to get ready. I chatted a bit with Bill Marut about the course layout, got dressed and headed out for the reconnaissance.

More barriers... right after the finish line is a set of barriers. Then we head into the woods. The Saturday night rain has left the woods a bit slick. We hit the log pile that was ridable last weekend, and I decide to carry it through the race. I probably could ride it 50% of the time, but why take the chance.

The new section in the woods, is really wet also. The best practice is to stay seated in a medium gear for a light spin, to keep the rear wheel connected. Coming out of the woods, the trail dries out, and it's OK until the first turn around the soccer field.... where the mud pit is.

Between the soccer fields, they adjusted the big log crossing, so there was no ridable section. The log is about 2.5 to 3 feet in diameter... so it's a carry and hop.

After the last soccer field, we head to the first decent. This is a twisty, bumpy section that turns as you exit it. I tried to carry some speed through here on the warm up, and immediately washed out... again no damage, but a warning watch this section at race speeds.

Around the field, and head to the sledding hill. We approach the hill almost opposite to the direction of travel, so we have to make a turn of about 280+ degrees. There's plenty of setup room, and you can see it coming, so I tried to accelerate to get enough momentum to ride the hill. I could only make it about 80% up before stalling. So my strategy is to ride half way up, dismount and run it.

We cross the parking lot and around the baseball fields again, then hit another set of barriers before reentering the parking lot. We then drop down the ravine gravel path, across the bridge and back up the other side. The pitch of the hills are different than last week (because we're going backwards), and the turn at the bottom is sharper, so I feel we won't be able to carry as much speed through this section either.

Once we climb out of the ravine, we twist our way back across the finish line.

Most of my feelings here is they've removed all the advantage points I had from last weekend. Almost no descending... and though my climbing may still help, but it'll be harder to make up gaps.

My strategy for this week is to get a great start... settle in, and see if I can reel the leaders back in. I'm back to hydrating, running another warm up and eating some. Again a bottle of accelerade, a gel, and a red bull. Then more water.

15 minutes before the start, Rick shows up and is signing in. He asks me if he will hurl racing B's on his single speed. My reply is I'll probably hurl racing B's also, but he's not allowed to race C. I didn't have to point out that Don started in the B race....

Just about enough time to head to the line...

The Race

We're actually starting at the same place as last week. So we'll climb the road hill, turn left and head through the finish line. I get a good position at the front of the group. I've finished well, I've been to all the races, and none of the "favorites" are hidden in the group, so I'm feel like I deserve to be there.

The start is a bit funny, the starter did a count down, but slowed his pace as he went from 3...2.......1..........go. Some of the guy's actually got a 5 to 6 foot lead, then slowed and had to reaccelerate.

So, we're off. I got going pretty well, and half way through the climb am in a good spot behind Bill Marut. He pulled his foot out of the pedal and I swing around him. Phil Hines is still in front of me as we make the turn toward the finish line. But he starts to head the wrong way! I called to him and I'm the first one through the line and into the first set of barriers! This is exactly what I wanted... I got the hole shot!

I wasn't slowed by others through the barriers, so I let another guy go in front into the woods. The last 3 races, this guy has gone out REALLY hard, leading the race for a lap... then blows up and ends up somewhere really far down.

I'm second into the woods, so I figure the only people that'll pass me now, won't be slowing me down later. As I slog up the slight mud hill, another guy goes by. Through the hairpin turn I let a third go... As I come out of the woods, I'm at about 6th place. The leaders are opening up a big gap, but I'm on the rivet from my start. So, I start to settle in.

A couple more pass me, so I'm around 8th heading into the last soccer field. Through the decent and around the field. A girl on a mountain bike passes me at the base of the sledding hill. I chided myself not to let the testosterone kick in while asking who could this possibly be. Then I realize it's Tiffiny Kenny. I'm OK with a female pro passing me... She rides the sledding hill, while I do my dismount. I catch and pass her on the hill (running) and she passes me again at the top.

I'm feeling a bit recovered, so I start pushing the pace a bit. I'm sitting about 9th. Tiffany is ahead of another guy, as they both cut the course a bit. Nothing huge... but it was mentioned at the start. I caught the guy and mentioned it. Since the cut went through a sand pit, he's fine with not cutting it again. Tiffany is still up the road a bit.

Through the second set of barriers, and into the gravel decent. At the bottom of the decent I again pass Phil Hines! Turns out he took the decent too fast and wrecked on the bridge. As I pass him, I said we can't have a repeat of last week, let's go! My intention was to pull him back up and maybe get some help myself. He's still recovering fro the crash though and can't keep up. I think I passed the guy that blows up here also.

So I'm at about 7th at the end of the first lap. and am feeling pretty comfortable. There is a pretty good gap behind me, and I'm hold Tiffany Kenny in site. Through the woods, around the soccer fields and back through the decent. I work on reeling her back in. At the sledding hill, I caught her, and passed her again. I mentioned the course cut, just to let her know. She follows me through, and I think I gaped her at the barrier set.

Second lap, 6th place. Next person up the road is Kevin Ward. I pulled in close to him at the woods, and watched him ride the log pile. It wasn't smooth and certainly slowed him down... so I was rather happy to be carrying at that section. I continues to chase. It took me through the soccer fields and I caught him before the decent. Again I was looking for help, and I knew Chris was next up the road. So I said "Let's go catch Chris" as I came around. I hoped he would hop on, but before I hit the decent I had another large gap. So... I'm off on my own.

Last weeks race gave me confidence that I could catch Chris... so I started working on closing the gap. As I was finishing the third lap, I saw Rick starting the decent, and shouted a word of encouragement... I then checked the clock as I went through the line... 30 minutes! Already??? OK, let's catch Chris... trouble was, Chris saw me coming!

For the rest of the race, I tried to close that gap. I'd gain some, usually on the run up the sledding hill, but at the top I had to recover to turn the pedals... ugh. I had talked to Chris at the starting line, and knew he could ride the hill with his mountain bike, but because of the angle, I didn't know if he was. Behind me, I could see Tiffany and Kevin battling it out. They were pretty far back, and not gaining, so I could concentrate on catching Chris.

Four laps at 40 minutes... OK, 2 laps to go. Fifth lap at 50 minutes and the bell! The gap is NOT closing... but this is the last lap... maybe I've got enough....

I start closing on Rick at the end of the soccer fields. Chris has already caught and passed him, and he sees me coming up. I hear him cheering Chris on... then, as we head to the sledding hill, he starts hollering for me to catch up... Last time up the hill, and Chris still has that gap. I catch Rick before the last barrier set, and come around. As I head down the gravel decent, I realize my only hope of catching him this week is if he has a huge failure... mechanical or crash... up the ravine, and over the line.


After the line, Chris is there... a quick congrats and a bit of chatting. He was running from me the whole time. He said last week he wasn't sure what I could do. When I attacked he had nothing left. So this week, he didn't want me to catch him. Kevin said he put everything into trying to stay away. When I caught him, he crumbled... so he couldn't help out. He did manage to hang with Tiffany and come around her for 6th place.

So... 5th place with 6 laps in 1:00:48. I was 3 minutes off the leader, a professional duathlete... in his first off road race, on a borrowed bike with borrowed shoes. I was 2.5 minutes off the guys I've been racing. Chris managed to stay 40 seconds up...

At the end of the race, I stopped and asked Phil Hines what happened on the first lap. He told me about the crash and then made a comment about the mucky course... Belgian Concrete! I cleaned the bike Monday night... what a mess. The Israelites made bricks in Egypt with mud and straw, and the mud and grass combination I had all over the bike worked pretty much the same way.

Tips for riding wet mud:

Try to hold a straight line and power through the section. Even if you are traveling at speed, pedaling through helps maintain your momentum. Otherwise, you may stall.

There were 2 mucky sections on corners... it sucked the life out of my bike every time. I approached with the inside foot unclipped in a low gear. As the bike started to slide out, I could dab and catch it. Then attempt to pedal through the section. I pretty much let the bike choose it's own path through, and some of those were pretty bad.

Time ATAC pedals may be the best mountain bike pedals around because of the mud clearing ability... but 'cross is a different beast. The constant on and off the bike has jammed my pedals with mud in 4 of the 6 races I've done. I thought egg-beaters may have performed better, but Phil Hines says no. He was having the same types of problems clicking into his set. It has to be the mud caking the cleat... I kept trying to click in while kicking the mud off my shoes. I'd eventually get it, but only after a few tries. I'm not sure what to do about that... maybe spray some PAM on the soles of my shoes!??!


Overall my goal for the race was a top 5. So I was right there. I was pretty pleased with the race... except I'd like to not loose so many places after the start. I'm not sure how to do that, besides ride harder... and risk blowing up before the end.

Rick also had a good first race. 22 place 5 laps in 1:01:07 on his Bianchi S.I.S.S. and I don't think he hurled, though I'm sure he felt it. Must be nice to have a hot tub. Turns out he rode both the log pile in the woods (I expected that) and he rode the 3 foot log between the soccer fields... I did NOT expect that. He was probably the only one riding that thing!

It turns out I'm still sitting in 5th on overall points, even with my past 2 finishes... I've just solidified my position. I'm 21 points behind 4th and 21 points clear of 6th. Solid finishes in the next 2 races will guarantee I finish here. My only hope of moving up is a no show. I think if I would have put the double chain ring on earlier in the series, I may have been in contention for 4th place. I'm one of only 4 guys that have been to all the races, and the other 3 are the top 3 places in points.

Share the love.

Monday, November 10, 2003

BA Cyclocross 4 - 2003

The 2003 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

November 9th, 2003

New venue and new people to race with. Don Frey got his new Independent Fabrications cross bike and is planning on his first cross race. A couple of his work friends are coming out also... the more the merrier.

I've been doing some work on the bike for this race. I changed out the V-brakes for a set of Avid Shorty 6 canti's and I've added a double chain ring. I ordered a Ritchey crank with a 48-38, but it hasn't arrived yet. So I'm running a straight 53-39 on the front. I did some test riding during the week, and everything is running smooth.

The day is nice. It's sunny and dry and about 50 degrees. As usual, I've brought every piece of clothing I own... gotta love this "winter" riding.

The Course

The course is at "The Fields" in Broadview Heights. It's just down the road from Bike Authority, the sponsoring shop.

It's an interesting course. Lot's of terrain and different surfaces. We start on a paved climb, go around a soccer Field and across a gravel parking lot. The first barrier is a large log at the edge of the lot. There is one ridable location on the log. On my first warm up lap, I tried it, hooked my rear wheel and went down. No damage, just a warning to watch my technique here.

After the log, there is a switchback, and we go around and through another set of soccer fields. Then we head into a walking path through the woods. Most of this is ridable, there are two gully crossings that are not. Both are steep on both sides. The first one has a small ridable log in front of it, the second has a pair of log piles before it. After the second gully, there's a short climb to another log pile that is ridable, before some twisty single track type stuff leads you out of the woods and back into the fields.

After twisting to the finish line, the course continues to twist to a fast, short gravel decent into a ravine. At the bottom we take a left, cross a bridge, and climb up the other side of the ravine. At the top, we crossed a larger gravel parking lot, and then start a circuit around the baseball fields. This is a mix of grass and gravel that leads us back to the gravel parking lot. On the other side of the lot is a wicked fast sledding hill that leads back to the start line.

The Pre-Race

Ah... prep time. I'm trying to figure out how to warm up effectively to be ready when the race starts. Don and I caravaned to the course, and arrived real close to 11:00 for a 12:00 start. I've been drinking lots of water since Saturday evening, and continue trying to hydrate effectively. I've got my water bottle, Accelerade bottle and a Red Bull as well as a PowerBar and a gel for my pre-race fuel.

I get dressed quickly and take off for my first pre-lap. Easy pace, just checking out the course here... After NOT clearing the first log, I try to ride the gullies. Not going to be successful doing that. Then I try to ride the last log barrier and make that. OK, we're getting somewhere now. I like having the 39 chain ring (as opposed to the 42 I've been running) especially on the gravel and road climbs. I'm still on the 27, but they're comfortable climbs.

After the first lap, Don and his friends are ready to go, so we head out for my second lap. I lead the way, and complete another moderate pass.

I'm slowly picking up the pace with each warm up lap. Between laps, I'm adjusting my clothing and drinking... and drinking. I'm not going to carry anything for the race except a gel... just in case. Almost start time, I took another swig and headed for the line.

The Race

Again there are lots of people here. There are almost 30 B racers this week and the line is crowded. I got into a nice space in the second row behind the REALLY fast guys. I'm just hoping to push the first lap, get into a rhythm, and then push the end.

We start with the climb, so the usual fast start is now fast and hard. I take off and just try to follow wheels. I've raced with a lot of these guys before, so I'm trying to pick wheels of guys that finished around me in the past.

First lap is usually mayhem, there are lots of people going over the barriers and through the technical stuff, so I'm going to dismount at everything. This is why a good start is so crucial. By the time we passed through the woods and start the second climb, I'm in 12th (or so) place. I feel fine, so I start to push around people as I find the chance.

At the sledding hill, I find a huge advantage. I LOVE to take that hill all out. I've got a good line that deposits me with some speed at the base of the first climb, so I use that on every lap. The first lap is a bit nervy, because I passed 2 riders on the decent.

So, I've got a pattern setup. Slowly work my way up to the next rider. Sit on for a bit, to recover and see how I'm doing, then push past and start again. I think I was in about 8th place, when I realized I was pulling a line of about 4 riders up to Kevin Ward. Kevin has beat me in the 2 races he's been at. So, I'm feeling pretty well. I sit on his wheel as we make our way around the last soccer field. Shortly before we hit the woods, he says I can come around whenever I want. I was fine where I was, until we made the turn into the woods. There was one spot where I had space to pass right after that turn. Which turned out to be really effective. I passed him, and was able to ride away through the woods. I think the guys that I towed along, then had to sit behind Kevin until he was out of the woods.

After passing Kevin, I see Phil Hines running his bike through the single track. Phil has finished second in 2 of the 3 races. He would have finished second in the third, but the Bill Marut broke his chain, so Phil won it. I'm thinking Phil has mechanical problems, because I should NOT be able to catch him.

After the woods, he gets back on the bike and rides on. I figure, I'll just keep riding. I start slowly reeling him in. At the top of the start climb, I catch him and I suggest we work together, and go after the next guy up the road. So I pull to the log barrier, and I let Phil come around to pull through the soccer fields. Then I realize he is not having his best day. After a very short pull, I come around again, and just ride. Phil stays with me, and even does another pull into the woods. But after the first gully, he runs the bike, instead of riding it. I passed him there and then rode away.

All this time, Phil and I were chasing a guy on a mountain bike. I thought I knew who it was, but when I saw it was Chris Aron, I was even more surprised. Chris has been finishing top 5 (4,3,5) in the races, and I'm closing in!

Phil was still right behind me when I rode over the last log pile. As I started it, I noticed the top log had moved, so my move would have to change. That was enough of a distraction and I went down. I think I was more worried about Phil passing me, but I'm pretty sure he was still running. I got back up hopped on and finished a very messy ride out of the woods. I was all over the trail... and nothing like smooth. I was only thinking of the advice "If you can't clear them every time, carry your bike. You loose more time falling once than all the time you make up riding the barriers." I got up quickly, so I hoped that wasn't true.

Phil caught back on over the grass and ravine areas and was saying something about not liking the woods section. I was back to a smooth ride and as we came up to the sledding hill, I pushed it. Hmm... I guess you could say I attacked! That was the last I saw of Phil, and Chris was only about half way up the start hill. I followed Chris, slowly closing in on him. I caught him somewhere around the woods.

As we came out, they were ringing the bell... last lap. OK, Now I'm going to put everything into finishing strong. I pretty much sat on Chris's wheel as we rode through the ravine and up the gravel climb. I'm happy to see I'm still hanging in. I've been looking up the road, and haven't seen anyone in a while. So I have no idea how far back we are. I just figured Chris and Phil are having a hard time with this course.

So, as we approached the sledding hill, I attacked again. I put everything into this one, because there was only a half lap to go, and I know Chris is really fast. As I crested the hill, and saw I had a gap. So I pushed again. I just wanted to hold him off to the finish, but wasn't sure I could. I pushed it hard, and looked for him at the switch back. At that point I started to think I could make it. As I went into the woods, I knew I had enough of a gap... as long as I didn't make any big mistakes. So I finished strong, but conservative. I carried all the barriers, even the one I'd ridden. Then pushed it to the end.


As I came through the line I saw Brett Davis had finished, so I pulled over and asked how he did. He was 3rd.

Chris came through 30 seconds behind and stopped. Nice battle, nice finish. I had no idea where I was placement wise, but Chris thought I was 4th and he was 5th! Which would mean he was were he should be, and I had a superb day!

Final was 4th place, 7 laps in 58:06! I'm still 1:20 off the winning pace, and 1:08 off third place, but this is a huge result for me. At first I thought it was due to my single track skills, which may have helped. Being able to ride the 2 log barriers had to save me some time and it certainly got me in front of Phil Hines (6 th). But I really think it was my gearing which helped me use my climbing that made the difference. There was enough climbing to make the 39 chain ring a necessity. I'm also sure my all out descending helped a lot too.


Don had a good race. He finished 25th out of 32 riders and 29 males. 6 laps in 1:07:15. A good finish for his first cross experience on a bike he hasn't ridden before and still needs loads of setup work.

After about 3 laps, I heard Rick Adams cheering me on... he was cheering for Chris also, and I kept surprising him as I closed the gap to Chris. Rick took some pics of the race.... so here's the list.

Thanks for the pics, Rick.

More pics available at photreflect

Monday, October 27, 2003

BA Cyclocross 3 - 2003

The 2003 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

October 25, 2003

So, I'm sitting at 5th place in points. Not bad! What will today bring?

We were again at Cahoon park. After last weekend, I'm feeling pretty confident. I am concerned about the competition, more than my ability. If the really fast guys that were not here last weekend show, I'll be back to my original place...

The Course

I don't know why, I didn't expect another course change. However, they took the creek crossing and run up out, and replaced it with a ridable hill that went to the upper level, then across the first set of barriers before hitting a sidewalk section. After the sidewalk, we hit a set of uphill (!) barriers to take us to the start finish level.

The Pre-Race

Again I was on my own this weekend. Vitor and Luci came along, but they hit the playground for the duration of the race.

I was hoping I'd feel better than last weekend and actually improve my finish... it's a thought. I went around the pre-ride easy, and again worked out the clothing thing. I was already pretty warm, so I didn't do the jacket. But I did try to pre-hydrate again. I also through a gu bottle with some accelerade in my pocket. Just a little to help out before the finish.

I had also put on some new tires... Michelin Mud 2's. Since the course has been so wet, and it called for rain in the morning... and my old tires were pretty worn down... why not.

The Race

Lot's of riders this week. There are 4 women, instead of 1, which did a good job of making it look like a bigger field. There were some guys there that beat me on the first race that didn't show for the second... so I was hoping to again be in the top 10.

I felt good as we took off. I was in about 6 or 7th again as we hit the field the first time. My plan was again push the first lap, settle in for the duration, then pick it up progressively through the last 2 or 3 laps.

Normal craziness on the first lap. Only this time it was me. We come off the sledding hill, and cross the mud bogged field. Then take a right up a short steep rise before going up a ridable paved walkway. At the turn, right after the rise, I started to slid out. I saved it with a dab, and then tried to get the bike moving again. Nothing doing... the gears I have would not turn over on that hill. I hopped off, and tried to get it with a running start... nothing. I think I tried to get back on the bike three times before I just ran the thing up the hill and jumped on there.

In that time, at least 3 guys passed me, including the guy that I was toying with in the last race. After the initial panic/swearing had subsided (it only lasted until I was back on the bike), I was resigned to trying to pick up my places again. It seems my racing is always let the group go, then pick off riders that went too hard at the start. On the field on the second lap, I counted 14 guys in front of me... ugh.

Where last week was smooth, this week was ugly. There were only two sets of barriers, one set before the sidewalk section, and one after. I missed a remount getting on the sidewalk.... that hurts. I also had the worst time with the uphill barriers. I should have dismounted before the hill and shouldered the bike over them... ah hindsight.

So the strategy now was to make up time all over the course, then loose it on the ridable hill and the uphill barriers. The ground before the walkway pavement was wet, and leaf covered. It was a challenge to keep the rear wheel connected. Then, when I hit the pavement, the wheel was still slimy, so I was still working the bike gingerly up that section.

In the previous races, I had used the sled hill decent for recovery. This time I started pushing the pedals to gain more speed there. It worked out pretty well. I also started to pedal through the mud bog sections. It seemed to help get through by maintaining more of my momentum.

After the second lap, I started to get hot. I pushed down the arm warmers and rode a lap like that, hoping to hold them in case of rain. On the way by the finish on the third lap, I decided to just get rid of them... I was way to warm, and would deal with rain if it came. It managed to hold of, with only minor sky moisture on the last lap.

The gu bottle worked out pretty well. It holds about 6 oz of liquid... just enough to swig down a couple of laps from the end... Next time I'll take it out so I can drop it as I go by the start finish.

I was watching this guy behind me as we came up to the start finish line near 32 minutes. He decides to come around me between the 2 turns before the finish. I let him by and hopped on his wheel. As we pass the line, the guy is told he's got one more lap. He's racing C, and just sprinted to beat me... oops. I tell him I'm racing B, and encourage him to finish his lap strong. I'm hoping to get some help picking up some riders. Turns out he's riding slower than I want for this lap, so I leave him on a pavement section. He may be trouble next time, when he races B. He start 3 minutes after the B race and still caught me. He was on a mountain bike though... so he had the gears to ride most everything. And he did get around me again for his finish.


Again, I was pushing through the laps close to the end. I went through at 38 minutes, and tried to increase the pace, so I'd beat 45 minutes. The race is supposed to be 45 minutes +1 lap. The next time I went through was at 45 on the nose.... OK, 2 more laps.

There were at least 2 guys up front that I wanted to catch. I'd beaten them both last week, and I knew I could get at least one of them. I was closing on him on the second last lap, and was getting ready for the big push on the last lap. As I came across the up hill barriers. Some one shouts 1 more lap... which I knew.

Then as I head toward the hairpin, someone says Finish strong this is it. What?!? I've got one more lap! So I jump on it here. there isn't enough space to catch the guy as he's also jumped, and was able to before I figured out what was happening.


I came across the line quite pissed off... at both the way the finish worked out, and at my performance.

I checked the time sheet that they write in as riders cross the line and counted the riders that came in front of me and came up with 15th place. (I forgot about the 4 C racers). My mood lifted when I checked the results and found I was in 9th. I could deal with that.... then I looked again later to check time gaps and had been moved up to 8th! Alright... but wait! I knew every rider that was in front of me... something didn't seem right. Then I counted again (in my head) and there was no way I was 8th, 9th maybe but I counted 8 guys in front of me!

The results were posted on the site, and looking over them it looked like quite a few riders got credited for 6 laps instead of 7. I wrote a mail to one of the team members detailing what I thought happened, and they said they were checking into it... final tally... 11th out of 19 male.

There were at least 3 guys that I should have beaten. I really blame my equipment mostly for my result... It's a cool bike to have a single 42 chain ring, but these courses are right at the edge of making it practical. The word on the next course is it has more terrain... so I'm either going to run a single 39, or put the 53/39 back on... maybe I'll pick up a 48 and run that... something has to change. I've had trouble with gears on the 2 of the 4 races I've done. Since I can't build the legs in time for the rest of the races...

I was also pretty upset about the handling of the finish. Everyone except for the guy officiating thought we had one lap to go. Hopefully, they make it much clearer when we're on the last lap at the remaining races. I intend to bring it up at the pre-race if it isn't mentioned.

The good news is I've still got 5th place on points... not by much (1 point), but it's mine for another week... I'd like to lock that up... even if I don't move up, I'd be happy with 5th on points on December 7th.


The results have been updated, I ended up in 11th place. Which is much more believable. I'm still at 5th in the points standings by 1 point. Well, there is room for improvement.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

BA Cyclocross 2 - 2003

The 2003 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

October 18, 2003

The last weekend of soccer for the kids... again I thought I would have to pass on the racing action. However, it all worked out with some planning and major kid shuffling.

The Course

We were again at Cahoon park . This time the creek level was low enough for the creek crossing. After the sledding hill, we came off a small drop, and turned toward the creek. A set of barriers forced the dismount before hoofing it across the creek, and up the long run up along the embankment to the start finish level. There the course picked up what was raced the first week.

The other change was the addition of a loop around the baseball outfield. The course was 1.3 miles long, and moist. The baseball field was a little damp, and the mud pit at the bottom of the sledding hill was still there... only slightly dryer.

The Pre-Race

I was on my own this weekend. So I had to do some different planning. In the first race of the series, I carried a water bottle in a jersey pocket. It was not the most convenient setup, but it worked out. This week, I decided to try more pre-hydrating. I drank lots of water on Friday night, and Saturday morning. I also finished off a bottle of Accelerade and another bottle of water before the race start. Then did the race without water.

As I started the first pre-ride lap, I felt like garbage. I'd ridden hard on Thursday, and easy (I thought) on Friday... I was afraid I was coming down with a cold or something. I didn't feel I had any power at all. I took about three practice laps at about medium intensity... I pushed it a couple of times, but didn't go out at race pace.

After the practice laps, I put on a jacket to stay warm, and finished my drinks. I was not very confident that I was going to do well... so pretty much decided I was not going to bury myself for the whole 45 minutes.

A good portion of the pre-ride was spent figuring out what to wear... you take every bit of clothing you own to the race, and then sort it out in 10 minutes before the start. I ended up dropping the jacket, and going with knee and arm warmers only. If I got really warm, I could shed.

The Race

No parade this week, we just lined up and were off. I went out at a reasonable pace. I was attempting to hang with the front group through the first lap and then see what happened.

Either because of the the previous race, or just my experience (HA!) I felt much more comfortable carrying the bike up the sledding hill, instead of pushing... whatever.

On the first creek crossing, I was about 6th or 7th. On the run up, one guy got his bars caught in the wheel of the bike in front of him. It seemed to take them forever to get untangled. Of course the leading three or four guys were gone then.

After the first lap, I settled into a comfortable sustainable pace. I still wasn't feeling good. But I knew I was in a pretty good spot around 10 or 11. Not bad considering I finished 11th on the first race. If I could hold this it would be OK.

I've still got to work on my bike lift. My intent was to shoulder the bike at the barriers before the creek crossing. Since it was barriers, creek, run up. It would save a bit of lifting. I probably got it 4 or 5 of the seven laps we did... but the other times, it was frustrating to lift the bike, and put it down after the barriers to get a better lift to the shoulder.

Throughout the race, there was one guy that I was going around with. I had better dismount and technical skills, but he would fight his way back to me on the flats. Fine with me... every time he chased back up to me, he was burning more energy. I was trying to conserve and not blow up. I figured I could bury myself on the last two laps, and hopefully loose this guy for good.

With about 4 laps to go, I stared picking riders off. I passed one guy in the mud bog at the bottom of the hill. Another guy on the wet baseball field before the barriers.... pretty nice.

The course was really setup for my bike. There was no grinding up hills that I almost but didn't quite have the right gearing (or legs) for. I could bypass most of the one gravel section, and the creek crossing and hill rumpus suited me fine. No barriers on the hill was nice also.

As we closed in on the end, I was feeling better. And I had conserved enough to really push the last couple of laps. I went through at 38 minutes, and pushed myself. "OK, get through before 45minutes, so you end on the same lap as the leaders". Great, you made it... dope, you just bought yourself 2 more laps, when you could have been done in one!"


As we closed in on the end, I was feeling better. And I had conserved enough to really push the last couple of laps. I went through at 38 minutes, and pushed myself. "OK, get through before 45minutes, so you end on the same lap as the leaders". Great, you made it... dope, you just bought yourself 2 more laps, when you could have been done in one!"

I had pretty much gaped the guy that kept catching me, and hadn't seen him in a while. My goal was to not get passed in the last two laps, like I had in the first... and if I caught anyone else...all the better. So I picked up pace for the second last lap... not to hard, I still wanted to last through the end. I was gaining on the pair in front of me... they were the target.

On the last lap, I caught the pair on the run up. I passed one guy going up the hill. Then was right behind the other guy at the top. He got back on a little quicker than I did, so he got a little space. I had enough to catch back on before the next barrier set. After the barriers, I knew we would be finishing together... in a sprint for place (whatever that was). So I sat on the guys wheel and waited. We went around a hairpin, and over a short paved section. Right as the pavement ended, I jumped around him and gave it everything I had. There were 2 left turns and a finishing straight left... and I made it across 2 second in front of the guy.


I won my first sprint! Even if it wasn't for first place. It was for 7th place.... Turns out I was only 3.5 minutes off the leader this time... and was with 20 seconds away from 5th place.

After the race, I rehydrated and watched a bit of the A race. I did the whole 56 minutes without water, it seemed to work out OK. The A racers have bottles passed up at the start finish, so I may change my strategy again.

With the points from both races together, I'm sitting at 5th overall. Mostly from consistency. The 4 guys in front of me were at both races also... and took top 3 or 4 places in both of them.

After the race, I was riding around, cooling off and totally juiced by the finish. I passed by a guy with a Steelman Eurocross with V-brakes. I was chatting with him, when I noticed he wasn't using travel-agents to adjust the cable pull on the brakes. I asked about it, and he told me to take it for a spin... what a mistake that was! I got on the bike and it took off! I felt like I could have gotten a top 5 on that thing! (I did finish in front of the guy). Now I just have to scrape together $1400 for a frame and fork and I'll be golden!

Note to self: DON'T RIDE OTHER PEOPLE'S BIKES! It might get expensive.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

BA Cyclocross 1 - 2003

The 2003 Bike Authority Cyclocross Series

September 27th, 2003

After my first cross race the previous weekend, I figured I could do better with a bit more planning and experience. I originally hadn't planned on racing this race. With my kids soccer season in full swing, saddling Peg with all the game run around again didn't seem fair. However, the Jewish holiday came to my rescue and had the games canceled. Since the family was free, we decided they would come and watch the action. Being the race was at the park, I figured they'd have plenty to do, if they got bored. Besides, what could be more fun than watching your dad suffer.

The Course

We arrived at 11:00 for a 12:00 start time. As we pulled into the park, I realized that this course was not setup like the 'cross on the lake. A big part of me getting the family to come was an assumption that they could watch almost the whole race from one location. This course covered the grounds a lot differently.

The park was the local football, baseball recreation area as well as having the local pool and the community center. A creek ran through the center with a couple of sledding hills on the other side. Between the buildings and wooded areas, that park was divided into many different sections

The course started in front of the community center, went over the grass and through some trees around one baseball field and the football field, to a short section of sidewalk. Back along the other side of the football field, between the two baseball fields and over the first set of barriers. After the barriers was a short gravel section, then back onto pavement across a couple of parking lots. The parking lot exit was semi dirt/gravel section to the second set of barriers, a downhill set that lead to a bridge across the creek. Once over the bridge a left hand turn took us up the sledding hill, where we turned around, and headed back down.

At the top of the hill, we had a choice of the way down. We could just head down the grassy sledding hill, or use the gravel path that was used to climb the hill with sleds in winter. We then headed to the end of that field, to a short climb and descent back to creek level. We then climbed back to the bridge, which included a short steep run up, to get to back on. Back across the bridge to a gravel rise that took us back to start.finish level. We then went around the outside of 2 large fields with some really tight switch backs and one set of barriers. Once past the third switch back, we were dumped onto a small paved section again, and back to the start finish line.

With all the rain we got on Friday night/Saturday morning, the creek was really more like a river. Originally, the course was supposed to cross the creek, and head up some more sidewalk to the fields we went around. The excess water put in the 2 way bridge (which was a bit nervy) and the one section of gravel climb that I seemed to have trouble on.

The course was 1.5 miles long, and very, very wet. I took one practice lap and was totally drenched. The fields were saturated and water was pouring off my tires.

The Pre-Race

I got in a couple of laps in the pre ride and had pretty much decided that I would not have to shoulder the bike at all. Which was good, because my shoulder was a bit sore after the previous weekend. I had my plans laid out and was ready to go.

The race started with a parade lap where the organizer took us around to show us the course. It was nice to know why we had the two way bridge and what was allowed on the hill. Peg and the kids setup with Don around the sledding hill to watch the action.

Last time, I had Don hand me up a water bottle. This time I decided to carry a bottle, and try it that way. I had already taken the cage off the bike, and wished I hadn't. The cage would have been nice since I wasn't planning on shouldering the bike. Oh well, the bottle was in my back pocket, and I'd just fight with it when necessary. Don had an extra bottle for me, in case I lost the one I was carrying. Turns out I didn't need it, but it made me more comfortable knowing it was available.

The Race

We got back to the start/finish line and the last of the instructions were given. B race starts at 12:00, the C races starts 5 minutes later. I lined up with a guy I knew from the Saturday group rides and Tuesday night crits. It turns out a lot of guys I've seen on Tuesday nights are here. And we're off.

As we started, if you weren't in the front, you got a shower.... and I got even more drenched. We made it around the fields and over the first set of barriers with most of the pack intact. Through the parking lots and over the bridge. I pushed my bike to the top of the sledding hill and was back on immediately. I had to ride the turn at the top a bit wide around a guy running his bike. I had to tell him I was going down the grass side as I cut in front of him because he still wasn't back on his bike.

The field at the bottom of the hill was also drenched. There was one section that was practically a creek crossing. Every time I went through it, my bike was squirreling around. It's also the one place I got mud into my eyes under my glasses... on just about every lap.

The short uphill that followed required standing on the pedals and hitting that balance point to maintain rear wheel traction... I used the 27 on this every time.

Starting the C race 5 minutes back, pretty much guaranteed that there would be 2 way traffic on the bridge on the first lap. As I came up the run up, a race official called clear or rider, and directed us up. Once over the bridge, I had to climb the gravel hill.

The gravel hill was a big drag on me. For some reason I didn't have enough gears to smoothly get up it. Every lap became more of a grind up this section. If we do this in the next races, I'll be shouldering and running this section. I think it'll be faster.

By this point in the first lap, the field is already pretty strung out... and again, I think I'm pushing to hard. I'm following one guy, just trying to hang with him. I make it through the first lap or so with him when he starts to put some distance between us. On the second lap before at the top of the gravel hill, I see he's catching the next rider in front of us. As I come around on of the switchbacks, I hear them both go down... and then the cussing starts. The guy I was following somehow turned into the guy ahead of him. The guy I'm marking, jumps back into the race, I passed the other guy, and he's slow getting back in.

Once things spread out, they start calling our times as we pass the start finish line. I'm starting to wonder how long we've gone, and how much longer to go, when the guy calls "23 minutes". OK, I'm half way through. I shout this to Don and the kids as I go by. "31 minutes", ok, I'm working about 8 minutes a lap. Where am I? Who's behind me?

I got caught at the sidewalk by one guy. So I latch onto him, and try not to loose him. I've already faded off the first guy I was chasing, and haven't seen him for a while (well not in striking distance anyway). So this new guy starts to put distance between us. As we hit the sledding hill, he shoulders his bike, and I run right by him, pushing as I go. I again hit the downhill, and hope I've got enough to hold him off for a couple of laps. I'm hoping my transitions will be better than his.... maybe they would have been, but this course is more riding than transition. He passes me before the run up to the bridge, where I'm right behind him. Then he really puts distance on me in the gravel hill section, in which I ran the steepest part and then ground the pedals for the rest.

"38 minutes" Ok, two more laps.... don't let anyone else pass me. I've lost the guy right in front of me... Then at the sidewalk again, a guy POPS UP on me. I didn't even know he was behind me, and he's calling "On your left!" Woah. He flies by me, and I've got nothing to catch him. I've been watching my back at the turns, so I really have no idea how he jumped up on me. The guy I passed at the wreck is still a hundred yards back.

As I turn to hit the sledding hill again, I hear Vitor (my son) scream, and see him start running up the hill... he's racing me! He won, too! I tell him, he did it. Then tell Don, one more to go.

The kids are fun, they scream every time I go buy. One guy says I've brought a personal cheering section. I try to make a face or something as I go by... for entertainment value. I hear a few of them get some good laughs.

Last lap, I've got to make sure I don't loose anything else. I hammer as best as I can through everything. I don't see anyone at as I hit the top of the sledding hill, but my descending is my advantage here, so I keep pushing it. I make it through the gravel climb, though I'm still grinding through it. Then through the last set of barriers. I see one guy in front of me, but he's got about 100+ yards on me. I've probably got at least that on the guy behind me.


So... 7 laps in 56:01. Good enough for 11th out of 21 with 1 DNF. Plus I got points! They run these races as a series, with awards at the end of the season. results

Something is a bit funny about the results. There was no one right behind me as I crossed the line. They asked for my number (it was covered in mud), but I didn't know it. So one of the officials had to get close to read it. And no one passed in all that time, so I'm not sure the 12th place guy was really 5 seconds behind me.

The good news was I was less than 5 minutes off the leader. I'm pleased with those results for my second race.

Next race is October 18th. How can I get closer to the front?


Up the sledding hill

At the top, back on the bike.

Top of the second run up...

How many more times...

More to come...

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Fall Challenge 2003

I've been hearing about this road race in Peninsula for the last month (it was actually Cuyahoga Falls I guess), but wrote it off since I was doing the 'cross race on Saturday. Then last weekend, one of the guys (Phil) I ride with on the weekend (yes, I've become a roadie with a mountain bike) says I should do it... it starts at 9:00 and we could behome by 12:00. It's a 40 mile race with some hills. So I clear it at home and decide to do it.

I have no idea how I'm going to do on the race. On the weekend rides, I'm one of the first guys up the hills, and I hang out on the front for the whole day. I'll pull a group, or get in a pace line and work... it doesn't matter to me. So the real question is how will I respond after beating myself up on the cross bike. I've done this before at the Raccoon Rally, and I was not that great on the MTB race on day 2.

There are about 50 or 60 riders in the B group. I know about 5-10 from the weekend rides and Tuesday night races. B race is Cat 4/5/Cit, so I have no delusions of actually being on the podium. At the line, they add the 5 women and 1 junior, and reduce the race to 4 laps around the 8.3 mile course. I felt good riding around, warming up. So I'm confident of finishing well for myself.

The course has a 6 mile section of downslope, followed by a steep (not terrible) short climb, and a longer upgrade. So the first lap, I'm in the group until the short climb, where I start loosing places like crazy! I was not ready for that! My legs felt a little tired, but I should have climbed that faster. Let's hear it for diaries, because I responded almost exactly the same in the Racoon Raly MTB race.

It turns out the field split at the climb, and I was on the front of the carnage! Chasing like crazy to get back on. I felt someone on my wheel and look back to see the "leader" of the weekend rides. He's giving me encouragement, but I'm dying, so I ask him to pull a bit, and we start a rotation. What's really bad about this is the guy doesn't climb well at all... he's a straight sprinter (and a good one) but he caught me, which should NOT have happened.... I write this off to the cross race. After a few rotations, he's done, and I'm on my own again.

I picked up the junior and we start working together. We're still in sight of the group, and we pickup a third guy who popped off. I think this guy was our downfall. For the second lap the 3 of us (or 2 and a half) work like crazy to catch back on. I knew if we didn't catch the group by the second time up the hill, we wouldn't see them again. So I'm really pulling to try to bring it back. Nothing! Every time I see the group, they're further ahead. Then the second time up the hill, one of the guys says there are riders coming up behind us.I'm both thankful for the potnential help and pissed that we couldn't stay away.

Another guy I know (Phil, a pretty strong climber) comes up with 3 of the women riders. Now we've got 7, and we start a rotating pace line... to try to catch back on. The problem here is the women are still racing for place. There is only 1 woman up the road... the guys are racing for nothing...as we are probably looking at placings in the30+ range. So we've really got 3 1/2 guys and the women doing work, but still saving themselves.

So 2 laps to go, and some help... we share the work with me and the other guy I know doing most of it. I'm the fastest decender, but no one would get on my wheel to follow me down. Both times up the hill, I died... and then had to chase back to the group... as did the Junior, only he had more ground to make up.

On the last lap, I told Phil, I was going to bury myself, as this was only a training ride. So I pulled like crazy. I lost the group on the hill again, and caught back on. The junior never made it back this time.

As we were coming up to the line. I verified with one of the women that they were still in contention, then told the other two guys to let them go and stay out of the way. They pulled until about 500m from the line when two of the ladies jumped on it. The third tried to go, but didn't have enough left.

Then the guy that was only doing 1/2 work left... and I got pissed. I bridged up to him, but didn't have anything left after that.... so Iguess I did bury myself pretty well.

I finished, and didn't get lapped by the A race. We were probably 5 minutes down on the main group (based on conditions of the guys still at the finish). I heard that one group did try to go up the road, but didn't make it, so it stayed together for the sprint, and one of the guys I know took 3rd. There were only about 3 or 4 guys that came across behind us... everyone else bailed. Including the guy that helped me up the first climb. I think he only did 1 lap and packed it up.

I was pretty disappointed in my Sunday race... I should have been in the group. Maybe if I hadn't ridden to and from the race on Saturday... who knows. After driving home, I could hardly walk. Though the more I move the better I feel. I ended up with 2 naps after the race.

Cross on the Lake 2003

Saturday, cyclocross day.

Don and I rode down to course at 55th and south marginal. I figured it would be a good warm up for the race. We got there as they were finishing up the setup.

My race start is 9:00, we got there a littlebefore 8:00, so I had time to set the bike up, and pre-ride a bit. The course is really short. I think it was only 3/4 of a mile. There was a 100yd straight at the start, to spread the field out a little before the course, then everything else was twisty stuff. Most of the riding was over reasonably smooth grass. There were 2 "paved" sections, and one set of stairs.

It's pretty tough to explain the course with out pictures. So I've attached a sketch (sorry, Don it was fast and dirty). The circles represent an terraced amphitheater. The lower section was through a paved pit in front of a stage. The parallel lines on the right are 2 sets of barriers, that we dismounted and ran over. The first set you could lift the bike over. The second set, I was shouldering the bike, and then running up the stairs. At the top of the stairs was a paved walk. You then dropped down and up the theater terrace twice, before climbing out of the theater to a really narrow downhill chute that looked like a short section of an overused DH course. The hill that we went up was probably a 50 foot rise. Similar in length to the lower Euclid Creek hill at Highland and Euclid. Only the climb up the side ofthe theater wasn't quite as steep.

When I pre-rode the course, I found there was almost no recovery time. You always have something new coming up.... and the course was hard to get around at some semblance of speed. And though it wasn't classic 'cross weather. 65 and sunny was OK by me for my first taste of cyclocross.

They started the 30 minute citizen/cat5 race, the women and the junior race all at 9:00. The cat 3/4 was 45 minutes at 9:30, and the 1/2 race was an hour starting at 10:30. I got to the line, and found I was the only cat 5. There were 2 women and 1 junior. So I pulled out, and raced the cat 3/4. Which was nice, because I got to watch a race before I actually did one.

The Cat 3/4 race had 11 starters and one cat 1 guy racing for fun on asingle speed fixed gear. So at the gun, I figure I'll try to hang with the group as best as I can, and I do until we hit the top of the stairs. The path there was the only time I could try and recover, so I backed off a little and watched the first 3 guys go off. I'm still in 5th, so I don't feel to bad. I've just got to hang on for 45 minutes...

Here is how it the race works. They time each lap, then average the first few lap times of the leader. They then calculate how many laps make up 45 minutes, and from there on they let it be a lap race. So after 3 laps, they tell you how many laps until the finish, rather then shouting out time remaining every time someone passes the start/finish line.

The barriers and stairs are wild! Pick the bike up, hop, run, hop put the bike down and jump back on. It doesn't take long before I'm dropping the bike... and it bounces around making it really hard to get back on. So I start concentrating on setting it down.

After 4 laps (or so), I see a 6 and figure I've got 6 laps to go. I'm pretty much redline through the whole race... but figure it's only 45 minutes, so let's go! I've been passed by a few more people, but I know there is at least 1 guy behind me. Since the course twists back on itself so much, you can easily see where you are on the field... the only problem is the A race guys are all doing their pre-rides, so I couldn't tell where I was REALLY. I saw the gap on the one guy I knew I was in front of getting wider at one of the stair sections, the next thing I know, he's going by me, I mean within a minute or two. It turns out I've just been lapped by the guys teammate.

On lap 9 I'm one lap down on the leaders. I come by the start/finish, and see the 1 and figure I've got 2 laps to go, so I ask as I go by... no one answers, but everyone looks at the lap counter... then I see the second 1 and spend half of that lap figuring out there are 10 more laps to go. At this point I realize, I can't finish if I stay redlined for 10 more laps! and start to really back it down and just try to survive. Don is handing me my water bottle about every other lap. On lap 11 or 12, I ask him to pass me up a gu... I feel pretty good, but I get lapped again! So now I'm 2 laps down, and figure I may or may not be in last place of my race. Whatever, I'm going all out still, I'll do my best to finish strong and maybe I'll catch someone...

With 2 laps to go, a guy passes me... and I don't know if he's lapping me or just stealing a place. I do know he's in my race though. I think I should have tried to fight him off though... but I didn't have much left in me.

On the last lap, I'm not 100% sure if I'm done or not. I wish I knew, because I would have buried myself instead of thinking I had to conserve to do 2 or 3 more laps (I may have been 3 laps down by then). So... it turns out I got 8th out of 12 starters. The leaders did 20 laps, I did 17 or 18. The third place rider was also at least 1 lap down. I was 20 seconds from lapping the 10th place rider, and 40 seconds from the 9th place. There was 1 DNF that happened in front of me... from the looks of his injury, I would have continued on... but I don't know how much the inside hurt.

I raced about 10 miles, and I finished in 54 minutes and some change. I feel pretty good about it for a first timer. There is a 7 race series put on by Bike Authority in the area. My goal is to do 5... we'll see how the schedule works out.