Monday, December 05, 2005

Bike Authority Cyclocross Series 7 - Boughton Farm

December 4, 2005

The series final, and we've got more snow. I got at least 2 feet from Friday to Sunday morning, so I've been watching the site. I hope they don't cancel this week... Sunday morning forecast is partly cloudy with temps between 25-30. Should be fun... at the venue, they only have about 6 inches on the ground. So my cancellation fears were unwarranted.

So we're back at the farm. I've had my best race this year here, so I'm hoping for a repeat. I'm sitting 6th in the overall points race, but my only hope of moving up is if someone in the top five doesn't show up. Not likely, though the snow and cold could help here. My goal for the day is to race cyclocross! In the last few weeks, I've been there but my head was not really in the race. After the race is over, I find I didn't analyzing the course for the best way to attack each section. Today I'm going to use my warm ups to decide when to run, and when and how to ride each section. Then leave everything out there to try to get a result.

The Course

They ran the course backwards from last time. So we started by criss crossing the south field, this was mostly snow covered, but wet if you got off the main trail. Once heading along the edge to the back corner, the trail was a bit softer over the rise to the wet back corner. Around the back of the field, and we twist into the woods. The entrance to the first wood section was a bit ice cover with some pretty sketchy corners. The next wooded section was a bit worse because it had more twists. We exit that section into a 180 degree turn that dumped us into the first barrier set that went up a slight rise.

At the top of the rise, we rolled over to a gradual decent that lead directly back to another rise to the last wood section. Less twisty, it was faster in this direction because we could slalom around the thinner brush in this direction. Again we dropped a bit and then headed to the second barrier set. This one was a bit taller, and went around a rising curve  to the north field.

The north field was a bit more open, so had more snow. On the way out it was mostly smooth, on the way back it was rutted, snow covered and windy. At the end of the lap, we twisted around the greenhouse, then two quick turns to the last 50 meters to the finish.

1.55 miles, I was a bit nervous about getting lapped. Shorter course is harder to hold the FFG's off, hopefully the snow/ice/mud and my strategy for the day will help me make it on the lead lap.

B Race 

Well, Brett gave us all a scare when he didn't show up until the whistle blew to line up for the start... a disappointment for Eric Lesco, the guy he was in a tie for second place with... he basically threw his wallet to the registrar and lined up in jeans. Rolled up one leg and off they went. He did have time to grab his jersey and gloves, but that was about it.

25 B racers and the it all went well. With no warm up, and slightly frazzled at the start, Brett marked the series leader, Matt Weeks for the entire race. Leaving the third place Eric Lesco a short distance behind. Brett recovered from a slight bobble at the last barrier set to get in front of Matt on the way back across the north field. Matt came around before the turns to the finish, and Brett almost came back for the win. The ice played a roll on the second to last turn, where Brett almost went down, saved it but threw his chain... he was able to coast in for second place. A very exciting finish and enough to give Brett second in the overall with some nice swag.


With the snow and mud, I opted for the Michelin Muds over the Tufos. I dropped the pressure to high 30's and probably could have gone a little lower because there wasn't anything on the course to pinch flat on.

With temps in the high twenties, I opted for the long sleeve Craft wind block base layer, the gore wind stopper jacket and the team wind vest. I was a bit warm with this last weekend, but the temps were slightly higher then. I went without the skull cap this time, but kept the tights on.

On my warm up laps, I noticed I was having trouble clipping in after my dismounts, so I decided against the toe spikes. They also did some digging and spread dirt over the icier sections in the woods. That's OK with me, it just means I'll be able to go faster. 

A Race 

I thought I might get into the top 5 prize list when I didn't see Paul Martin anywhere, but 15 minutes before the start, he signed in sealing my overall placing at 6th. 12 A racers lined up all the fast guys there. My work is cut out for me. They moved the start of the A race so we didn't start jamming it into 3 turns... instead we jammed it through the rutted, wet field. Paul decided he was going to wait until it strung out a bit before going to the front and making it hard on everyone.

I had a good start and was sitting 6th for a short while. Paul and Zak both passed me heading to the far corner.  I followed Rudy through the first wooded section before the gap started to open slightly. 8th through the start finish, I held off the next guy until we were through the first wooded section again. I tried to hold onto that wheel, but either I was over extended or he was just too fast.

So we settle into the race, and the guys I normally race are behind me. John Lorson is about 500 meters back, and Jeff Cartledge is behind him. I don't think I can loose my overall, and it's only for pride anyway, so I'm going to race for today. If I blow up, I blow, but I'd like to beat Lorson. I may have even been pushing it too hard here, because I was still a bit over heated, so I unzipped a bit to get some air in.

Cool thing about the series final is they do the awards after the A race... so all the B/C racers that want to hang out are there cheering on the A race. Cowbells and screaming. Lots of people calling my name, which was way cool. I had some buddies screaming at me to push it through the barriers, or through different sections of the course. Makes you push that extra bit, even if you do feel like belting them at the same time.

I'm feeling pretty good through the next two laps. I'm holding off Lorson pretty well, he closes on me until the barriers where I'm running hard, and opening it back up. I'm also holding reasonably close to the guys in front of me. I can see Rudy getting caught by the last guy that passed me, and Ross in front of them. Rudy and the other guy are riding together, trying to bring back Ross.

I'm having a terrible time getting clipped back in after my dismounts. I'm spending tons of time on top of the pedal instead of in it. I may have to look at a new pedal system soon. Then Lorson starts to close it down a bit. He catches me through the woods on the fourth lap. Rudy must have lost it in the last wooded section, because we pop out, and he's right there. Lorson comes around me and says "Let's get Rudy". That's fine except I think I was working too hard to hold you off. I dig in, but again have to let the wheel go and they open a small gap before the start finish. 

The gap opens a bit more in the field crossings, when Lorson catches Rudy and attacks. He opened a gap, but must have slid out as I heard a bunch of guys gasp, and saw the places had changed again. OK, I have to keep digging to keep them in sight. It looks like Rudy is having a tough day, as Lorson pulls away. It's OK with me, I'd trade beating Lorson for getting over Rudy in a second. Through the woods, and over the barriers, it looks like I'm closing a bit. Then through the last wooded section, I decided to push a little harder. As I approach the first turn, I see a few tire marks. Hmm, looks like someone slid out there... sure enough, I hit it and do the same thing. I hit the ground, but get up pretty quick, I would have been off again faster but a 4 foot long branch got stuck in my front wheel. After extracting it and throwing it to the other side of the course, I was off again... but by then Rudy was gone.

OK, ooh my knee's a bit tender... same knee that's been tender since I decide to see what it's like to hit the pavement right before cross season. It loosens up pretty quick, but it still takes me half a lap to convince myself to keep racing. 4 to go, and now it's about not getting lapped. This is my worst lap. It's the only time I push the bike instead of shoulder it over the barriers. I can't see anyone up ahead or behind, but I know I'm about half a lap or more down on the leaders.

3 to go, and I see Paul Martin at the second barriers as I'm coming through the start finish. I actually see him take a spill on the icy section past the barriers. As I passed Brett on the course, I ask if Paul's on the front of the race so I know how much I've got. He is, so I start pushing it a bit more. Even though I've got three to go, I'm going to race these two as if they are my last. If I get caught, they will be. If not, I can coast through the real last lap knowing I've finished on the lap with the leaders.

2 to go, and I don't see anyone behind me... time to give it everything so I don't get caught. Dig deep and race clean 'cross. Find the fast lines, and control the ice. I'm into the north field and I still don't see Paul behind me. Once to the greenhouse, I relax a bit knowing I've made it. Now I can just coast through the last lap.

As I come through the finish line, I catch a glimpse of someone a way up the trail. My buddies are still screaming for me to finish strong, but I just did my unofficial last lap... I can relax now. Cresting the hill though, I see Jeff Cartledge up ahead of me... hey, maybe I can lap him before the end. If nothing else, it's the motivation I need to finish the race strong, so I get back to work.

Jeff is pretty far ahead, so I'm going to have to really dig. As I'm coming through the first barriers, it looked like they were going to take them down. They saw me coming though, and I sprinted through them. Through the woods clean, and chase. Next barrier set, and push the fields. I was closing, but not fast enough. In the end Jeff held on by 300 meters or so.

I finished 10th out of 12 at 1:12:23. I was just over 2 minutes down on Rudy, so no chance getting up a place there. Last on the lead lap with a good race to close out the season.


Turns out I lost my computer when I went down. So I've got two sets of stats.

 9 laps
10th place
 Max:17.9 mph
11.49 mph


Before the crash, I had an average of 11.6, so I lost about a tenth getting back into the race, and coasting until I saw Jeff.

So my season is over. I'd love to do the Nats, but life won't let me put it on hold to allow for the long weekend. I ended up sixth on the points series, so I was first off the prizes. I basically did that by showing up every weekend. On the up side, they raffled off a wheel set after all the festivities... and I won it. So that was pretty cool. I guess I'm actually ahead on 3 years of cross racing now.

Special thanks to team Lake Effect for putting on a great series. Overall, I'm content with how the season went. I would have liked the weather to behave, so I could have wound up my top end.  I would also have liked to have avoided my two weeks of bike crashes right before the started. On the up side, I avoided getting lapped in 3 out of 6 races, which I count as success. Especially when 2 of those three races, I was only caught by Paul. I only had one bad race, and I think I know how to avoid that next year.

Speaking of next year. My new goals are to again not get lapped, but this time to avoid it in all the races. I'd also like to get into the top half of the A field on a semi consistent basis. Overall, I'd like to move up to get into top 5 on the series. I'm hoping to get to some UCI events, and I might even arrange to do Iron Cross and/or the Nats. This may mean I'm going to have to buckle down and get onto a structured training plan though. Intervals, and more technique practice, any result would make it all worth it.

Thanks for reading. I'll probably being doing some writing for statistics until the road season starts in March.

Ride safe.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bike Authority Cyclocross Series 6 - The Fields

November 27, 2005

Hindsight sure is an interesting thing.... or maybe I should say "It's incredible how little rational thought occurs during a cross race". As soon as today's race was over, I had a plan for how to attack each tough section faster. Too little, too late though.

Race 6 of the October/Lake Effect cyclocross series, and the second day of racing in a row. We're back at the fields, and after trashing the wet sections of the park yesterday, todays course includes lots of pavement... and some double track through the woods. It's still pretty wet, so it'll be another interesting race. 


The Course 

Like yesterday, we return to the same park. This time, they routed the course to miss most of the worst sections from yesterday except one. We started in the parking lot on the far side of the park. Instead of doing grass section, we rode around the lot, and had a log to hop to get to the first field were we went over the fastest grass section from yesterday. This brought us straight into the woods where the double track was pretty muddy, with large puddles, slick mud climbs, and some rolling humps. It even had some running water down the trail in one section and across it in another.

On the exit from the woods, we traversed a mud/water bog that took us to the sweeping turn to the gravel decent from yesterday. Across the bridge, and up the Belgian gravel hill. Across the parking lot, and around baseball fields on the concrete path. All pavement around the fields, to a snappy switchback, 180 degree turn down the road hill, back up the hill on other side (that we also climbed yesterday), and across the lot through a quick turn around to the start finish.

This course was short, at about one and one eighth mile. The addition of the woods has been decisive in the past here, and I didn't expect anything different. The temperature was somewhere in the 40s, so all the snow and ice we had yesterday was melted or melting and everything was very wet. The forecast was for scattered showers... so it wasn't going to dry out anytime soon.

B/C Race

25 B racers toed the line. They started out with a 4:52 first lap, so we'd be going around a lot today. Short, fast laps means people (including me in my race) will be getting lapped.

Brett was contemplating the single speed mountain bike today. But the decent on the road would have him spun out with the gearing on it, so he decided on the 'cross bike with the most aggressive tire he had. His race started out well, though I think the bogs and the climbs took their toll. Brett ended up third behind points leader Matt Weeks, and Solon Bikes Erick Lesco. This puts Brett and Eric even on points heading into the series final next week. Double points up for grabs, Brett has to beat Eric to get second place, and Matt Litzler may be able to reenter the battle with a good ride.


After the B's did a couple of laps, I took a spin around the course. With all the pavement, I had intended on going back to the Tufo's but as I tried to get through the mud in the woods I changed my mind. Michelin Muds for today. I'd leave the Tufo's in the pits. I also threw the mountain bike in there, and joked I should take a bike change before the woods, and then again right after. The pits were almost in the right place for it too. Hindsight... might have been a better bike for today, though I'm still not 100% convinced of that.

After yesterdays overheating, and with todays temps being higher, I decided to dress a bit lighter. One sleeveless base layer, standard short sleeve jersey and arm warmers. Knickers, smart wool and normal Sidi's. No skull cap today, so I wouldn't be stripping.

A Race

I did a light warm up to get the legs turning over. Right in the middle I realized that I had pinned my number to the wrong side of my jersey... so I cut it a bit short to get dressed correctly.

My wife again gave me an "order" to get a place. She wants sixth today. With 8 starters lining up for the A race, I might be able to do that or better. With the short laps, I had expected to get lapped, but one of the non-starters was Paul Martin. So far in order to lap me, you had to be in front of Paul. In 4 races, I've held him off twice, and been beaten twice. Maybe I can make it on the lead lap today.

Paul was the only rider in the top 8 to not show up, so we had the 7 regulars racing against each other. There was one addition, though he was 3 laps down yesterday, and would be a non-factor in todays race was well. At the whistle we're off for 12 laps.

Around the parking lot and to the log crossing, and I'm fifth over the log. John Lorson does an endo behind me holding up the back three, and the rest of us are away. The fast section yesterday has thawed today, so it's a bit slower. If we stay to the right though it's still pretty solid, so we head into the woods.

I'm on Rudy Sroka's wheel into the woods, and holding pretty well. Actually, I'm thinking I'm better in here than he is as he's holding me up a bit. I make it out of the woods as Lorson catches back on, and we have 6 together... except that Ernie and Ross have started to open a bit of a gap. Down the decent and up the climb and things are starting to open a bit more.

As we come around the start finish, I see Ross has a gap on Ernie! He's also quite a way in front of me. I'm still following Lorson, Rudy and Zak have opened a bit of a gap. As we hit the log, John hops it on the low point, and I follow suit. Thus starts my first serious mistake. I make it clean, but get bogged down in the mud on the other side. It's a slow pedal for about 20 meters to something solid before I can accelerate again. The mistake is I don't learn from that, and continue to try the hop for the remainder of the race.

Second time through the woods, and Lorson has a gap opened up. I'm thinking "let the bike float" as I ride through this stuff. It's a bit rooty, and very wet. I'm braking a lot to make it through the turns, and then slogging through the very muddy sections. I'm able to ride it all though, and come out with the same gap. The bog right outside of the woods is getting deep. I think my pedals are almost touching the ground as the wheels sink in looking for something solid. Once out of that, find the high ground for the turn to the descent.

I end up drilling the descent pretty well. I'm running the brakes a little at the top to clear the rims so I can slow enough to make the turn at the bottom. Then power up the other side best that I can. The Belgians weren't out today, and I missed them and the cowbells. 12 times up that climb without screaming fans was a bit rougher than the 6 trips I'd done the day before.

At the top I was trying to get my cadence up as quick as possible. Shift into the big ring and spins some more. Once around the two corners at the far side of the field, I did a sprint to get back up to speed. I was holding my speed through the corner to the switchback that pointed us back down the hill. Once through that, I'd hammer it again to get moving as quickly as possible and try to carry my speed through the climb on the other side. At the top, I'd recover through the start finish turn around, then start pushing it again to the log....

Sixth place. Lorson had a small gap on me, and I had a gap to Jeff in seventh. Third time over the log, I bunny hop it and my front wheel sinks into the mud on the other side. No endo, but it's slow going, then I realize I'm still in the big ring as I try to power through the mud. Drop the gear, and get it moving. Lorson has opened the gap a bit more. I think I forgot to shift at least half the trips over that log...

Through the woods, and I'm loosing time in the mud there too. There are three really bad sections. A climb I take up some running water is fine, but once past a tree the mud gets nasty until we hopped some logs. Once past the logs, there was a section that was really wet, and the wheels dug way into again. Up over a weird hump that I couldn't find a line over, and then through another wet muddy bog rise that was a grind to get over.

So it seemed I was making up time with my tactics on the pavement, descents and climbs, but I was loosing time in the woods and grass. As the laps went by I was holding the gap to Lorson pretty steady. Jeff was having a hard time, and after holding the gap close for a while, disappeared after 4 or 5 laps.

OK, high points of the race. Another teammate of mine, Brian brought his son out to spectate. He was somewhere between 4 and 5 and every time I passed them he was screaming "Come one, John". Very fun, almost better then the big section on the hill yesterday. There were still quite a few people out, which helped loads also.

6 laps down, and Lorson is starting to open the gap. I'm having more and more trouble with the log crossing and the woods. I'm not seeing Jeff except for the one field crossing, and he's way back. Then I see Ernie starting to come up on me. So it looks like I may not finish on the lead lap after all. These mountain bikers are killing me in the woods.

I can still see Lorson, but just barely. I've got some work to do. Try to stay clean and see if I can eat into the gap. Push the pavement, float the woods. 5 to go, Ernie is gaining. Looks like I'll get lapped again soon. I can't let that get me though. I'm not racing against Ernie really. I need to stay ahead of Jeff and try to bring back Lorson.

Down the gravel decent and up the climb, except I threw my chain, and can't get it back on at the bottom. So I hop off, and put it on... very clumsy though, and it goes to the big ring, so I stall instantly. Off, spin into a reasonable gear and hop back on to do the climb. That won't help me any where.

Once at the top, Ernie is pretty close. Then I make yet another mistake and let him come around me on the pavement. I probably lost a few seconds by slowing so he could come around, then I'm sitting on his wheel as we go around the corners... where I was pushing to get up to speed, Ernie is doing some recovery. I'm not going as fast through this as I was before... I hold his wheel and decide I'm not going to let him slow me down on the decent. I use the speed there to help me up the other side. Once around the switchback I hammer it again, leaving Ernie behind for the moment.

In the parking lot, I again slow, and let Ernie by. 3 to go now. I'm really being too nice here, I should have kept my pace, and let him keep his. Oh well, I did see him run the log... he ran a long way to get past the mud. Then a light bulb goes off... I should be running this. OK, I'll cover this two more times, I'll run it.

Through the woods, and Ernie leaves me behind. I really would have liked to follow him through to see his lines and learn, but he's too fast. I picked up most of the lines, by noting new tracks, but nothing like following someone who is really good. Ross is also catching me, and passes me right before we come out of the woods. Again, I'm really concerned with not holding him up, so I purposely take a really bad line to get out of the way.

OK, 2 and a half laps to go... and the mountain bikers are ahead of me. Now it's for pride again. John Lorson is mostly out of sight, Jeff is gone behind... so I'm really racing for time now. I'm effectively racing against the B's but doing it an hour and a half later. I run the log the last two times, and it really is faster. I survive through the woods and hammer on the pavement.

I easily cross the line for sixth place, just like my wife wanted. I'm so accommodating. Results have me 2 minutes behind Ross. 2 minutes down to the mountain bikes in 2 and a half laps! Average times put Lorson close to 2:40 in front of me. I'm guessing Ernie almost caught him, but not quite.


Time  1:04:38
11 laps
12.42 miles
34.4 mph

As I crossed the line, Ernie asked if I was third. HAH, that would have been nice! Third across the line, but one lap down. Must have been oxygen debt. I was glad I made him pass me twice though. Personal victory. Take them where I can.

After the race, Brian's son saw me. I thanked for all the cheering. He asked if I won! I told him not quite, but I got a top 10, and it was all because of his "GO John!" cheering. He didn't think the mud all over me looked like much fun though. Maybe I don't remember what it's like being 4. I thought I would have loved to get all muddy at 4. Maybe it was the muddy teeth that turned him off.

One of my fast buddies has told me that a big motor always wins over technical skills in cross. Today's results show that you can only hold that so far. The two expert mountain bikers killed the field in todays conditions. Ernie has a bigger motor and better skills than Ross. Once Ross saw Ernie's lines though, he was able to hold on and limit it to a 30 second gap.

Doing the lap averages, my time would have gotten me in 15th in the B race. I'll make excuses again. Racing alone would have been different than racing with the B's. So I hope I could have been at least top 10.

Cross is a game of limiting losses, and I was not doing very well at that at all. This year I feel like I'm learning to race all over again. In hindsight, I should have known I was loosing time at the log, and should be running that. There were probably two or three other running spots in the woods that would have save me tons of time. Right after the race, I half joked that I would have been faster running the woods section, and I probably should have run half of it. I also should have preridden it more, and found out where to hop off and hoof it.

Overall, I'm not too disappointed with the race. I felt good about the pavement sections, and handling the drops. I had plenty left at the end of the race, to continue to power through stuff and sprint in the places I wanted to. In a way, I was glad that I could ride everything through the woods, even if I would have been faster running some of it. Must be the mountain biker part of me.

OK, I'm in 6th on points, 21 points behind Ross and Paul. I need 7th, and one of them to not show next week in order to move up... not likely. Actually, since next week is double points, I need 15th if one of them doesn't show. I'm not going to count on a no show though. Jeff is in 7th place 8 points back, and Lorson is in 8th 17 points back. So as long as I finish where I have been, I should hold onto 6th place. Payout is to 5 places, so 6th is the first loser... but it gives me a goal for next year.

Next week we're back in Copley at the Boughton Farm. I've had my best race there this year. I mean feeling best, happiest with my race, not the best place. I'm hopping to repeat that next week. My goal for next week is to race smart. Run, carry and sprint when I should. Do what I used to know to do last year, and race clean. It's my last race of the year, I'm hoping to end with no regrets.

Bike Authority Cyclocross Series 5 - The Fields

November 26, 2005

Snow Day! Week 4 of the series, and yes I can count. The fourth race was supposed to be on Friday but was canceled as a winter storm warning was posted Thursday evening. The day ended up not bad, but the racing would have been wicked windy. Fortunately, we had 3 races scheduled this weekend, so canceling one would not cause to much withdrawal from the cyclocross fix. It actually helped the family front, as I still will be gone for 2 of the 4 afternoons over the holiday weekend.

So Race 5 on Saturday. The weather forecast calls for 30-40 degrees with scattered snow showers up until the start of the B race at noon. We got more snow over night, so there was about 3-4 inches on the course when I arrived. This will be an interesting race day.

The Course 

This is our first race at The Fields in Broadview Heights this year. The Fields is a sport field complex with about 4 soccer fields and 6 baseball fields. They are laid out with one low soccer field between two higher sections, so there is some really nice terrain to negotiate. There are also some trails through the woods in one section that we've used in the past.

Because of the weather today, we skipped the woods, and basically traversed around the sport fields. We started in a muddy corner, and wound our way around and between two baseball fields, mixing some pavement in for fun. Then we hit a nice dropping corner that lead to a chute taking us down to the lower field. Another quick left and we started looping around the field. First we had to go by the bottom of the sledding hill, fortunately it was well marshaled. Then complete the three sides before dumping off onto the road to climb to the next level.

The climb was on pavement, but the grassy approach section pretty much sapped all speed. So it was a grind to the top, when we went back onto grass/snow to complete the last 5 foot rise to the field level. Around the parking lot to the grass, and more slogging around the soccer fields.

Once through those fields, we took a sweeping turn to line up with a gravel decent, cross the bridge and then climb back to the start finish level. Cross a parking lot and some pavement, and then back into the grass around the last field to complete the lap.

The snow made this course today. During warm up, before the B/C race, we were working through 4 inches trying to find something solid, or packed down to get some speed. I was figuring that the early race would groom the course and the A race would be on some solid footing... we'll see.

B/C Race

Plan for the day was 5 laps for the B's and 3 laps for the C's. I did a warm up lap at 11+ minutes, so I figured the estimates should be pretty close, though maybe a little short for the faster B's.

The start was through a very wet section of the course. At the whistle, one guy decide to just run it... and he ended up in second place by doing it. A few crashes at the start and one of my buddys was already at the back with technical trouble. Went around for half the lap with his wheel rubbing on his frame... I've done that before, but in a road race, not through the snow.

Once again, the order was mixed up as the course conditions again dictated the race. Matt Litzler from Spin battled with series leader from October/Lake Effect, Matt Weeks. Weeks got confused with 2 to go, thinking the bell for a C racer they were passing was for the B race. So he pushed it a bit to hard, to early. Litzler then was able to get clear on the real bell lap for the win. Erick Lesco from Solon Bicycles beat out my Snakebite Racing teammate, Brett for third when he made a similar mistake.


Word on the course was that the lower field was really bad... not quite peanut butter, but it sucked the life out of you. The other word was you don't need as much clothing as you think. Being a snow race in the lower 30's, I'll document my decisions on clothing.

I decided to go with the knickers only on the bottom. I coated my exposed skin liberally with baby oil to try to keep any moisture from sticking to me. On top, a tank base layer, a long sleeve base layer, a wind jacket and a wind vest. I wore a pair of smart wool socks, with a second pair of gore type socks over that, then my normal Sidi Doms. I dropped the PI AmFib gloves, and went for the full finger cyclones. A little thinner, but not too heavy. I topped it all off with a light skull cap that also covered my ears.

With the snow/mud, I decided to leave the wheels with the Tufo tub/clinchers in the pit and run the Michelin Mud 2s. I figured they'd work better in the thicker stuff with a bit of knob. Since I'm sitting in sixth place on the points series, I also brought the mountain bike. If anything breaks, I still really want to finish. It's hard to maintain anything when you get a 0. With today's weather, it may have been faster to ride the wider tires. I decided to stick with the cross bike though... it is cross season after all.

A Race

So we lined up right at 1:30. I was a bit cold, but my warm up laps, and previous experience assured my I'd be warm soon enough. The field had 16 including some fast guys I've seen before. 7 laps, 1.3 miles or so long. No disillusion on a top 5 today. I'm hoping to avoid getting lapped again. I lined up at the back and on the whistle we're off.

Well, that was the plan. We started in a bog, so it was a bit slow going at the start. It turns out the B race had turned most of the snow covered course into a mucky mess. We were slogging through really thick stuff all over the place.

I got a slow start, not that I was gunning for anything else. So I was behind the guys I wanted to be with by the time we got to the lower field. In fact, looking back, Gorman and I were at the back of the field save 1... that we couldn't see already. As we hit the paved climb, we were close to the guys that I normally race against with a twist. One of the super fast guys (well, he is on the road anyway) was basically going backwards. We go to the last little snow covered rise, and I was on his wheel, when he went down. I came off and found myself stepping on the rear wheel of a Colnogo. We all got moving fast enough, but it was clear I did not want to be behind this guy. So I pulled Gorman and I around.

It turns out there were 4 really slow muddy/mucky sections. One about 150 meters right before the finish line (that we started in). A section about 200 meters around the back and far side of the lower soccer field. A section about 20 meters long at the close corner of the upper fields, and another about 50 meters long at the last corner of the field. The two slower sections on this field were offset some by one of the fastest sections along the far side. About 100 meters of iced path that we could really get moving on.

Somehow by the time we got here we had pulled back a few guys a bit ahead of us, including Jeff from Honey-Stinger. He was 4 points behind me in the series, so I need to be in front of him. Then Gorman came around me. So my goal now was to hold onto him as long as I could. Maybe he'd pull me away from the other guys and pull me up a place. I'm hoping my power/technical riding is the right combination for these conditions. There are still two guys ahead that I've beaten before. So I'd like to get up to them.

Through for the first lap, and onto the second... It's not long before Gorman starts to pull away, and I'm left with one guy I don't know and Jeff on my wheel. I'm trying to hold close so the gap up front doesn't get too big. Around the lower section, and we loose Jeff... I think his chain came off, and he had a time getting it back on. So I'm left with one guy. Around the upper field and he's right on me. As we hit the sweeping turn and I slide out... the guy behind me goes down also. I popped back up fast enough, apologize quickly and I'm away. With a nice gap to boot. I've got to check my brakes before that turn from now on.

Down the gravel, and over the bridge, and onto the climb... and into a mob of crazy Belgians!??!!!  This was the best part of this race. About a dozen or so guys from the B race stayed and spectated the A race. For the first two or three laps they were all over the course. Screaming and ringing cow bells. How cool is that! By the later laps they had all congregated on the climb back to the start finish. It was great and really motivated us to power up the climb. They could see the lower soccer field and would cheer guys there if no one was on the climb. Very much fun. I wonder if there was beer there, cause I felt like it was the tent.

This was pretty much it for the remainder of the race. The guy behind me would close the gap a few times, but I was able to reopen it. Gorman pulled in one other guy, but was pretty much stuck there. I could see them, but only when I hit some of the open fields. I kept looking for the fastest ways through the bogs... but from the tracks, it looked like no one was finding anything good.

Lap 4 I had opened the gap behind me to about 200 meters or so. But I was overheating. I should have taken off the long sleeve base layer before the start. I was unzipping my layers, but it wasn't enough. I didn't want to stop to strip, so I had to think of something else. Since you loose the most heat through your head, I figured I might be able to pull off my cap. It turns out my helmet was just loose enough that I was able to do it. I stuffed it in my sleeve to carry it around to the start. Then as I was climbing the hill, I figured I'd give the guys a thrill, and tossed it off to Brett. Someone made a comment about boobies, so my goal was achieved. And I was cooling off nicely to boot.... and the Belgians were getting louder.

Snow is such an interesting addition to cyclocross races. I've raced in mud, where it sticks to the brakes, and clogs the wheels. But add snow, and it gets really thick. The brakes don't work well or catch ice and it feels like they are rubbing. I think I was carrying an extra 10 pounds of frozen mud  on the bike. I was continually sticking my fingers near the brakes to knock the stuff away from the wheels so they'd spin. I was getting pretty good at it, twice a lap or so. At the start finish, and on the road climb were good places, as we'd just come through some mucky parts.

Through the start finish with 3 to go. I've got a nice gap behind me, but I'm loosing site of the guys in front of me. I figure I'm about half a lap down on the leaders, and I'm actually having a good time. Even if I haven't brought anyone else back. I'm ahead of Jeff, the guy close to me in points, so I should gain at least 2 points. That will be enough.

I've still got a few hundred meters on the guy behind me as I head into the lower field. Through the bog, and I hear someone on my wheel! Woah! Lapped. I never saw the guy coming, and it's not Paul Martin. It's a former world MTB champion. OK, Now I've got two to go. I've got to get over being lapped, and continue to work. If that guy is faster than Paul, I can live with getting lapped again. I looked back and the guy chasing me is hiking the bike through the field, so I've got a chance to hold him off. I don't see anyone else in either direction yet. Power up the hill and hold on! 

At the top of the hill, I dismounted to try to knock some weight off... the bike weighed a ton. Back on, and see if I can make up more ground. Coming around the field, I see foot prints in the snow. Someone is hiking here? Then I see a guy carrying. I ask if he's OK... he blew his derailluer by picking up a course flag. Long walk back to the start finish from here.

Man the lead guy is WAY out in front. He's putting time into me like what! OK, can I hold everyone else off? Through the Belgians, and they are cheering like crazy. Around the slog, and it's one to go. Paul is closing in, so I'm looking back, and forward at the same time. I give him a path, and now I need to go. No one else.... maybe I can bring someone else back.

Last time up the climb, and the guys are getting really loud. I thought I might get missed as they were cheering for the soccer field when I was climbing the hill for the last time. But they didn't dissappoint. To the top and around to the finish. I made it through the finish before getting caught by anyone else.


Time  56:42
6 laps
8.23 miles
20.6 mph

Doing the lap averages, my time would have gotten me 7th in the B race. Again all things weren't equal and this time, I think the course conditions really deteriorated for the A race making it slower. So I'm not going to count that as a true position, I figure I could have been top 5 at least.

I also figured I was about 3 minutes behind the guy that got 10th place...  so my power riding or slop riding is still way to slow. Either that or I just don't know how to find lines through this kind of stuff. The only way I'm going to learn that is if I can get fast enough to race with some of these guys for extended periods of time. Next year I'm thinking a top 5 finish as good goal. Its something to train for.

There are about 3 guys that could pass me in the points race if they just show up. One of them blew out his derailluer today. Another one won the race. There are two other guys that could beat me if I blow up and they have good rides. So that will keep me going. The only way I can make top 5 in points is if someone misses one of the last two races. Highly unlikely since payout is for the top 5. So we'll see how this thing all plays out.

OK... now it's time to recover... because the next race is TOMORROW!!!! At the same place. And conditions will not improve, as it's supposed to get warmer and rain. It's really cyclocross weather now. 52 and raining. What will I have to wear for that?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bike Authority Cyclocross Series 3 - Bay Village

November 19, 2005

Week 3 of the series, and the weather has turned in Cleveland. It screwed up my training, as my off day was the one nice day of the week, then I didn't ride on the other days because of the forecasts... which didn't materialize the way I had anticipated. That and life collaborated to give me a total of 50 minutes on the bike since last Sunday's race.

Forecast for today was sunny and 45. We've been in the 20s for the last 3 days, and the race day weather is almost balmy. Evidently some people didn't appreciate it, as we had lower turn outs this week. 


The Course 

We return to Cahoon park in bay village. We were here for race 1 of the series, and it hasn't changed much. They did add a nice little twisty section heading toward the run up that had the effect of scrubbing any speed you had to carry into the hill.

Even though we've had some snow, the course was only moist in the grassy sections.

B/C Race 

Very different results in the B field. With 32 racers, down from low 40s, series leader Matt Weeks and Jeff Craft racing down for the week went off the front after two laps. A chase group of 4 including my teammate Brett and the other top B riders worked the whole race to bring them back to no avail. Behind them the normal placings were pretty mixed up.

In the end Matt powered away from Jeff in the last section. Brett was in the thick but had nothing left and rolled in for sixth.

Pat was also working with one guy throughout the race, and ended up in 14th for the day.

A Race

 I tell you, it's really hard moving up. The last two weeks watching more than half the field power away from me in the first lap has been pretty humbling. So, when they posted the last weeks results, I went into analysis mode. I took my average lap times, and compared them to the B race length. All things being equal (they wouldn't be, but I have to start somewhere) I had good enough times to win the B race. So I guess I'm in the right place.

I had a good race last week, aside from still not making it to the mid pack placings. So I was hoping to improve more this week. My wife had even predicted eighth place, based on my previous 12th, and 10th. I called her right before we started and joke about there only being 9 racers in the A field... imagine my surprise when there really were only 9 on the line.

 Since I had gone pretty well last week, my goal was to push it a bit harder in the first lap, and see if I could hang on a bit longer. I'm going to try to remember how I started in this silly game. Chasing all the fast B's 2 years ago.

So I'm the first guy to line up. Not that it matters with only 9 racers. The last guy to the line is local super fast, Paul Martin. My race will be against Jeff from Honey-Stinger and John Lorson from Orrville. If I'm going really well, I might make it up to Ross from Solon again, but I'm not optimistic since he's feeling much better today than last week.

Off we go, and I'm fifth in the line around the first set of turns. I'm feeling comfortable and I'm going to work to hang on. It's not long before Paul comes through and starts the action at the front. By half way through the first lap, I'm in seventh with Jeff right behind me, and John opening up a gap in front of me. Through the barriers, Jeff comes around me, and I'm fighting to hold on.

Through the first lap, and I'm recovering a bit, so I come around Jeff and tell him we can catch Lorson. Then I get to real work. Through the whole second lap, my heart rate was pretty high, but we made progress as I pulled to within about 100 meters of John. Then I let Jeff come around, and my intent is to hold his wheel as he finishes the job. Unfortunately, my legs/lungs have a different idea, and Jeff bridges nicely up leaving me in the same position.

 Ugh! Now I've got to get up there, or I'm on my own. I keep them close for another half lap, but then the gap starts to open, and I'm sitting all alone in eighth place.... out of nine.

The rest of the race was pretty mundane. I knew there was still one guy behind me, and I kept waiting to recover so I'd be able to make it back up to John and Jeff, but it never happened. With about 4 laps in, I started to see the guy behind me. This concerned me, and I was able to push it a bit more to try to avoid getting caught.

With three to go, I saw Paul Martin. My goal for this year was to avoid getting lapped by Paul, and it wasn't looking good for today. I was able to see Paul catch Dave in ninth, and Dave gave an effort to hang on his wheel. If he could hold on, then even my eighth place would be in jeopardy. So I poured on some more to try to stay away. It wasn't long before Paul had left Dave, and I only had to worry about holding off getting lapped.

Paul caught me about 3/4 of the way through the lap... and I come through with only one to go now. Not happy, but I decide I'll do my best to not let anyone else pass me. With only one lap left, my only hope to move up is to actually catch and pass Paul. Instead my goal becomes finishing the race strong, and at least be able to say that I was only caught by one guy.

At the finish, guys trickled in one at a time. Paul still put a minute and a half into me before the end of the lap, and I finished a minute ahead (and one lap down) of Zak in second place. The most exciting finish was for 6th place. Jeff attacked on the last lap and held off John, which made me happy as I had a hand in getting him to John's wheel.


So eighth place, just like my wife predicted. The good news is the low turn out has me in sixth place on the series points. The key to this is only showing up every week. So if I can make the next four races, I may be able to hold onto this The down side of low turn outs is that I'm not racing against anyone. With another 10 guys in the field, I probably would have fallen into another chase group and been able to recover a bit, and maybe make it back up a place. It wouldn't have been for eighth, but it would have been more fun than a lonely time trial for 5 laps. And I may have been able to remain on the lead lap.

Unfortunately, they didn't post finish times for the B race this weekend. So I can't compare my times with how the B race went. Well, maybe that isn't so bad. I'm not sure I want to know.


Time 58:02
 HRM (min/avg/max)
 7 Laps
12.8 miles


Next week is the 'cross extravaganza! Three races in one weekend. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And the weather forecast? Cold and snow! Looks like we'll get some real cyclocross conditions this year. I'm planning on getting on the bike a bit more this week, so hopefully I'll have some legs. I wonder what they'll feel like on Sunday. Could be a painful weekend.




Monday, November 14, 2005

Bike Authority Cyclocross Series 2 - Boughton Farm

November 13, 2005

It ain't easy racing A's. I've got a total mind change going here. Last year, I was at the front (well, almost) for most of the races. I was chasing guys that were super strong, and working on consistancy to take the series points race. This year, my goals are to do the best I can, and do my level best to finish on the lead lap. No small feat either. Last week I made it because the laps were 2.1 miles long and I only made it by a short disance.

This week, we're at Boughton Farm. This is at least the third (fourth?) time I've raced here in three seasons. It's a real working farm, with cabbage, peppers and pumkins in the fields. We race around the tractor paths, and through the wood stands between the fields. The trails are pretty rutted up from both flowing water, and tractor wheels, but there are good lines, if you plan ahead.

The Course 

The course starts going through and around the north field. The trail through is pretty rutted up, so you have to concentrate almost as soon as your moving. Coming around the back of the field is the first of two nasty false flat rises. Over the rise on the back end, we twist between the fields and into the first barrier set. This time, I think they had regulation height, because they sure seemed high.

After the barriers, we finished the north field, and started down the south. We twist south through a couple of single track sections... very tight single track, with a barrier set on a short incline between them. This set was very spread out, so we were running the bike between the barrier jumps. A few more  turns through the woods, and we head around the south end of the field into the second false flat rise. This one was a little moist, so tended to suck the life out of the wheels. We finished the lap with four field crossings that were pretty fast hard pack before taking the tractor road back to the finish line.

Again we were looking at a long course close to 1.8 miles. This is good for me as it would help me hold off getting lapped by the stinking fast A racers.

Very little rain this week, so the course was mostly dry. Being mostly flat, I turned it into another family outing. The kids would race the C race, then hang out while I did the A's. It was really nice to see the junior turn out this week. I think there were about 10 under 16's out there today.

B/C Race 

So, the format for this is a 12:00 start time for the B race, then they let the C's go a few minutes later. SnakeBite had 3 in the B field. Brett coming off a third place last week, Pat was looking for a top 10 this week after just missing it last week, and Todd couldn't resist racing in his backyard. There has been really good turn outs with 42 Bs last week, and 43 this week.

50 degrees or so and overcast, threatening skies with some nasty winds. We'll see if we get any true cross weather.

Off they went, and the first wreck happened about 500 meters from the start. Lots of B's learned about the importance of the hole shot there.  Turns out last weeks winner went down hard, and took a trip to the ER to check for a broken collar bone. 

One lap in, and Brett is off the front with Matt from Lake Effect. Pat and Todd are in the first chase group, though they wouldn't see Matt or Brett again. Brett worked hard, but Matt got the gap and Brett finished second. Pat raced hard for a top 10 with Todd following close behind.

My kids did alright. All three were lapped by the B's before they finish the first lap. My youngest had the hardest day, sliding out on the tractor road close to the end of the first lap, she called it a day. The other two finished the second lap, one down on the C race winner.

 A Race

On to my main event. I did some warm up laps with Jeff from Honey-Stinger and Ryan from Spin. We were down a few A racers as some of them decided to try their hand in the B field, so the three of us would be close to back markers if we didn't improve much on last week. It was me, Ryan and Jeff finishing at the back of the lead lap. 50+ degrees, and I was hot with the base layer and arm warmers, so I dropped them before the start. Then lining up, we're all getting cold.

Usual suspects are out, in a field of about 20. John Lorson from Orrville moved into the A field this week. He set up a geared bike for the race, and was warning us it was s shake down cruise so watch out for falling parts. Brett was getting crazy (like I have been) and jumped in for a double does of pain.  

At the wistle, we're off. I'm not going like crazy, after seeing the first lap wreck in the B's, I want to make it through the day unscathed. I had some lines picked out, and intended on starting smooth, and moving up through the field. I've been feeling good in training this week, so I'm hoping for a better result than my 12th last week, at least percentage wise.

At the north end of the first field, the first casualty is in, Shawn Adams is running the bike with a broken chain. Tough way to start the day, as he's been going really well this year. Through the first false flat, and Ryan comes by me... it's a long race, so I'm wondering if he's going to blow up again like last week. Jeff is still on my wheel, and we've got a few guys behind us including Brett. I'm keeping Ryan close, as we start to settle into sorting out the field.

Then the carnage starts. Lorson drops his chain for the first of many times. So we pass him. Then Steve from Solon gets caught up with a mechanical, and we're by him. So I'm moving up on the field because of mechanical difficulties, but I'll take that.

Coming through the second false flat, it's looking like Ryan is already into difficulty. So I decide to try my luck at the front. Through for the first lap, and I'm sitting around mid pack. I pushed it a bit more through the start/finish and opened a small gap on Ryan and Jeff. Making the turn through the fields, I glance back to check the gap, and find myself in an erosion rut... I make it out quickly, and take note to find the lines before checking behind me.

About half way through the second lap, Mike Gorman from StarkVelo comes around me, and I decide to try and stick with him for a bit. It's work, but I open the gap on Ryan and Jeff some more before I fall off Goreman's pace. He's reelling in Ross from Solon faster than I can get there. So we're moving into the stable part of the race.

2 laps of 8 down, and I've got a gap behind and one ahead. Gorman is opening it up on Ross, and it looks like I'm closing in on him.

3 laps in, and Ryan is gone from behind me. Jeff is being persistant, but not really moving up on me much. At one switch back, he tells me Ryan went down. Gorman is gone, but I'm holding the gap to Ross steady. I think I can pull him back. So that's my goal now. I'm close enough to watch his barrier form, and he does not look comfortable. So I should be able to make up ground through the technical stuff... oh, if only there were more than two dismounts.

On the fourth lap, I drop my chain on the second barrier set. I get it reset lightning fast, but that doesn't help me mentally. Now I've lost ground I already had, and Jeff has a little bonus. 'Cross is the sport of limiting losses, and I just lost more than I'm used to.

Then things start getting interesting. At the end of the fourth lap, I see Goreman going backwards. Ross catches him, and I'm closing in. He's been known to have back trouble, and it looks to be back big time. At the start finish, I pass him as he's climbing off.

Behind me Steve from Solon has pulled Jeff back in. The only reason he's back there is a mechanical, and he's slowly making progress. By 3/4 of the way through the 5th lap, he's caught me. As he comes around, I tell myself "there is no way I'm giving up on this guy. He's going to have to work for this place." I sit on his wheel and work to stay there. 

Through the start finish, I'm doing alright holding on. This might work out, but now I've got a problem. I'm hoping Steve will pull me up to Ross, but they are on the same team. Will he do it? I start to wonder if he's going all out, so I come around and pull for a while. Steve is right there. Then he comes around again. Ross calls out that he can take me... so I dig a little deeper. 2 laps to go, and I'm still on his wheel through the start finish. I get a better line in the field, and push hard to get a gap... and I do!

Actually, I'm quickly pulling Ross back in! I catch him at the barriers. Of course, I flub the one that will put me in front. So I'm following him through the single track. I'm actually able to hold on for the two tight sections, which surprises me, as Ross is an expert mountain biker. I again blow the chance to pull ahead of him on the second barrier set. Then heading into the south end of the field, he starts to open the gap again. I've been railing, and figure a little recovery time is in order. Oh I hope we're getting close to the end!

Sure enough, one to go... now I want to try to close that gap up again. It looks like Steve is pretty far back, so I'm not going to worry about holding this place, I only want to recatch Ross. But he stays clean through everything, and holds me off. I'm well ahead of Steve for 10th place. A top 10 in the A's!


After coming through the line, my youngest comes up with a pack of M&M's for me. So I even get some spoils for my work. Very nice having the family cheering me on throughout the race.

10th place is good for me. I'm hoping to continue to improve throughout the series. I was very pleased that I could hold onto Steve as he came up to me. Unfortunately, that probably means I have to work on my mental aspects. I held on, and was able to drop him. Could I have gone harder, and maybe picked up another place earlier? Kind of like Kivalev being able to follow Ullrich in the tour time trial. 

Talking to Jeff afterward, he again held off Paul Martin so he finished on the lead lap. He said he knew that once Steve caught me, we would be gone. So he tried like crazy to hang on. Nice to learn that Jeff knows me that well... and knows I wasn't going all out I guess.

Every week is a learning experience. So I've got some things to take away from this week. I probably should have shouldered the bike through the long barrier set. I ended up carrying a bottle that I didn't touch until I climbed off. The only reason it was there was that I didn't expect to have to carry any section. Of course, I didn't think of the carry until hours after the race was over, and I was analyzing the dropped chain.

Starting about the fourth lap, I had some serious hand numbness going on. Only the right hand, but it was almost dead numb. Looks like I've got some work to do on my position, or something. I tend to ride in the drops, but was forced to the hoods more than I wanted to be in the second half of the race. Could that have given me enough for a place? It did pretty much stop once I dropped Steve, so I was happy I didn't loose a place because of it. 

Here are the stats:
8 laps
1.8 miles/lap
Min/Avg/max HR  158/168/175 (ouchies, my max isn't that far off)
14.8 miles

Paul Martin won in 59:+, so I was only about 6 minutes off the winning pace. It's a goal... I was about 15 seconds back from 9th, and about a minute back from 8th. More work for me this week.

Next weekend, back to Bay Village, and the sledding hill run up. Whoohoo! Hopefully, we'll have more barriers than last week.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

BA Cyclocross Race 1 - 2005

November 5, 2005
Bay Village

Cyclocross season enters full swing for the Cleveland area with the Bike Authority/October Hill-Lake Effect Cyclocross series. This year it will be 7 races in 5 weeks with a big Thanksgiving 'cross weekend consisting of 3 races in 3 days. The first race of the series was held on the south side of Cahoon Park in Bay Village. I've been successful at this course winning the B race here last year, so I'm hoping for good things today.

Big changes for me this year. Last year I picked up my first win in the B race, I also won the points series with consistent racing in the top 5. I was also jumping into the A race immediately following the B's for training. I'd get shelled in the A's, but that wasn't why I was doing it. This year, I've made a commitment to racing the A races only, just to see where I stack up against the best crossers in Cleveland.

It turns out that the fields have pretty large ability spread. The C race is supposed to be for beginner racers, the B race is intermediate, for cat 4/5 roadies and sport mountain bikers and the A race is a 1/2/3/Expert race. The race category is self selected though, so there are often experts and cat 3's in the B field... so the back of the fields can easily be 1 or 2 laps down on the winner. But you can't sandbag an A race. I know exactly who I'll be racing against. The cool thing about 'cross (and mountain biking as well) is even if you're not racing at the front of the field, you are racing against similar abilities. The races usually spread out pretty quickly after the start, and you will be racing against guys close to you. Can I hold the guy behind me off? Can I bring the guy in front back? So I know that my podium places will be pretty non-existant, but I'll still be racing. I don't do this for the winnings anyway, I ride and race to get that competitive fix.

So my goals for this year are pretty simple. I want to see where I am in the A field, and can I move my position up. Each race I have one main goal... can I finish on the lead lap? I'm running from Paul Martin every week. At the SnakeBite Race, he lapped me twice (as did the top 8 riders) though it was my second race, and I was not at my physical best that day. My other goal is top 10... since these races are usually lightly attended with about 20 riders being typical, midpack would be really nice.

The Course

Big changes to the course this time. We actually crossed parking roads in three locations. The big features were the sledding hill run up, always a fun section, and a bunch of grass/pavement transistions. Cross is a race of transitions, and we had them today. I think we went from grass to pavement 10 times with two small sections of gravel. All these transitions took their toll on the B field with at least 5 flats out of the field of 41 racers.It turns out there is nothing really hard about this course beside the pavement transitions. We've got the one run up, and one set of barriers. There is one sharp little off camber rise, and everything else is flat. one turn is a bit chewed up, and may require hanging a leg out, but the course looks to be mostly power riding. My teammate, Brett even thought he'd be in the big ring for most of his race.

The other big feature is it's a long course. At about 2.1 miles it's near the standard length limit for a cross race. The long course is good for me, as it gives me more time to hold off getting lapped. The Chagrin River course was about as short as they get, and there were quite a few of us lapped twice.


Well the team did well in the B field. 41 racers, Brett came in third, and Pat came in 11th. I did a couple of warmup laps during the B race, and followed Pat around for one. Oh, what fun to watch someone suffer like that.

I'm comming off less than optimal preparation. Three weeks ago, I had been doing lots of cross practice, and lots of intervals. Then I got sick, and crashed a few times. The last one really hurt me, so I haven't been doing any real intensity since the last race I did. I really have no idea how I'll be going today. I also forgot my HRM chest strap, so I won't have a record of my efforts. First A only race, and I've got enough excuses to make me optimistic for the future.

The Race

Being an effective A newbie, I figured there was no sense in lining up at the front. Turns out we lined up with just about everyone up front though, so I was on the front line. Pretty impressive field of 18. I recognized way to many guys that would be in front of me, but I knew who I'd be racing against. Shawn Adams talked Linda, the official, into shortening the race, so we'd only race for about an hour, and we were off!

The first obstacle was really a 180 turn about 100 meters from the start, then another about 200 meters later. I ended up with a good start and was 5th at the first turn without too much effort. I was really surprised to be up there. By the second turn I was about 10th... and still feeling pretty well sitting on Rudy Sroka's wheel. Then more guys were going by me. I must of been about 16th as we got to the hill, and I was struck with how many guys were at the top and heading back down before I was even at the bottom. Not where I'm used to being. The remainder of the lap, I spent picking off a few guys and moving into a group with John Reade and Jeff Cartledge from Honey-Stinger.

Being in a new race group, I've got to totally change my race strategy. I'm used to racing aggresively from the start. Sprint to the first obstical, see who's made it with me, then sit in with them until I see an opening to push it more... or fall off as happened at the Chagrin River race. Now I've got to be careful not to completely blow up and start moving backwards, but still be agressive enough to get the best result possible. So, I decided to sit in this group and see what happens. I probably stayed in for a lap while John pulled, then I came around and started pushing it a bit. John fell back to the next group, while Jeff hung onto my wheel.

Up ahead I could see Chris Aron from OctoberHill/Lake Effect, and Ryan Williams from Spin was ahead of him. We settle into this for a lap or so, then Jeff started to fall off my wheel. Now we're in the "status quo" portion. I've got the gap to Chris pegged, and Jeff is pretty much staying where he is. I can see a group of four a ways further back, and Ryan further up ahead.

We're pretty constant for about 3 laps. Every time up the hill, Chris is just starting the descent. I think I'll try to bring him back with 2 to go... I'm not sure how this happened but on the fifth time up the hill, Chris just disappeared. I never saw the gap open, but I came off the bridge leading to the hill, and he wasn't there... I had a little trouble on the hill toward the second barrier set, so Jeff closed in a bit, but Chris was seriously out of site. As I came around the parking lot, I asked the marshal where he was, and was told he;s way ahead of me! Wow. When I next saw him, he was with Ryan.

This did my race no good at all. Without that gap to match, I was having trouble maintaining my effort, so Jeff started to peg me back. Sixth time to the hill, he almost had me, but I opened the gap a bit on the run up to hold him off and was further up into the barriers. So I wasn't too worried about loosing a spot. I could then see that Chris had left Ryan, and I was bringing Ryan back. This helped me a lot. Now my goal was to catch Ryan before the finish.

I was not sure when I'd hear the bell (as I was still pretty unsure of how long the race would really go), so I figured as soon as I could hear the bell, I would push it hard for the last lap and a half or so. Coming out onto the off camber incline, I could hear the bell so I started pushing the pace a bit more. Jeff was olding his gap constant and Ryan was slowly coming back. The gap to Chris was still getting larger though.

When I was about a half mile from the finish, I saw Paul Martin behind Jeff. Woah!!!! I cannot let him catch me before I get to the finish line! I need to finish on the same lap as he is.... then if he catches Jeff, I don't have to worry about him, but I don't want my race to end before I'm on the bell lap. I pretty much bury it... racing to the line against Paul. I was almost sure he wasn't going to catch me, but I need to be sure. I make it through the line, and take a bit of a recovery.... that was work.

Coming out onto the sledding hill, Ryan is at the top. Ryan and I have gone at it before, so we both knew that I was going to turn myself inside out to catch him... and he was going to do all to prevent it. Unfortunately for him, this was a long course... and he was blown. I pegged him back at about the halfway point, and attacked him hard with about half a mile to go. He had nothing left, so I finished with about 30 seconds. About a minute behind Chris for 12th.


7 laps in 1:11, 16.7 miles, average speed was 13.9, max speed of 27.4. 12th place out of 18. Not exactly where I wanted to be, but not bad for a first go at the A race. Given the last three weeks of training, I figure I have a good chance of improving my fitness and hope the percentages will improve over the series. We'll see how it goes.

This was the first cross course that I consistantly was using the big ring. It may be related to teh 38/48 rings I have, so I'm now thinking about going back to the single ring, or maybe changing my rings to a 42/48. I had removed the single ring two years ago, because I was bogging down on hills I knew I could climb better then guys ahead of me. Two years of training, and I'm hoping it will make me faster now. We'll also see if the equipment change will help.

The "controversy"

Interesting detail: The B race and the A race both did 7 laps. How can this be when the A race is supposed to be 60+1? Well, we had two things reduce our lap.

First, they moved the finish line about a half lap closer to the start. So the B race actually did 6.5 laps and the A race did 7.

Second, they shorted the A race. Paul Martin finished in just over an hour. I think the winner of the B field finished in 65 minutes. That's what happens when the leader goes through the line at 44.5 minutes, and you have close to 10 minute long laps.

Next up...

Next week, we go to the Boughton Farm. A fun flatter course at a working farm... stay away from the produce!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge

October 16, 2005

For the last 4 months, my teammate Brett Davis has been talking about putting on a cyclocross race at his parents property in Bainbridge Township. Over the last month, Brett and I and a few others have been there laying out the course, riding it to get the feel and tweaking it to get the distance right and put some grooves down. Now it's time for the race...

It's the start of CYCLOCROSS SEASON!

Maybe it's my mountain biker roots, or frustration at making the road race tactics actually work, but I love cyclocross racing. I love to race my bike in all cases, but 'cross season is the high point of the year for me. The race boils down to a nice mix of technical riding with raw power. You race in all conditions, over every type of terrain. The races are short, so you go pretty much full out for the duration, and can really tell where you stand on the day.

I had all intentions of going to do my first cross race in Cincinatti on October 9th. They had a UCI race there that would have been nice to see how I stood against a large field, Racers from all over Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan would be sure to show up, so I'd probably get it handed to me, but that's what it's all about. Unfortunately, I decided to be responsible. I had to much work to do to blow the whole day for a race. Even a cyclocross race. Hopefully next year will work out better.

Chagrin River Cyclocross

I've already posted on the course layout... including a few comments in my preview article, so I won't rehash that here.

We had our last course layout/practice ride on Thursday night... at which point I decided I could bunny hop the pine forest barrier log set. I made it fine the first time, while I'm timing a lap. I got 6 minutes alone. I wasn't chasing anyone, and no one was chasing me, so I figure the B race will average about 6 minutes, and the A's will be closer to 5. It's a guess.

I decided I could go faster hopping those logs on the second attempt. Not a good idea, as my front wheel hit the second log before I was ready, and I hit the ground hard... followed closly by my bike, Fortunately, the bike missed me. That was the latest in a long string of crashes I've had over the last 3 weeks. And this one hurt more than the road rash I've been giving myself. Add to that the kids bringing home the cold bug, so my whole house is sick, and I've got enough excuses to not even put my leg over the bike. ...but this is the beginning of cross season. You often read of the pro's going on antibiotics, or not racing because they got a virus, Cross season is too short for me to miss any races, especially this one. Usually I race 'cross against the adversity of weather or course obsticles. This time I'm also racing against pain and a slight head/chest cold.

Saturday Fun Ride

On Saturday, Brett invited everyone out to pre-ride the course. After the kids finished their soccer games, we headed out with the van load of bikes. At this point the my 10 year old has done 2 races, my 12 yo has done one. This will be my 14 yo's first race experience. Cross courses tend to twist around on each other enough that they make about the best course to do your first races on. No tactics/group riding issues like on the road, and you're never far from anything, unlike the standard mountain bike courses. So if there's any trouble, they can walk 100 yards across the course to get some help.

When we get there, I take the kids around the course to see if they want to do the race on Sunday. They love the rollers on the back side, and are able to handle the two tough sections of the creek crossing, and sand/hill with little trouble. They are all excited about seeing what they can do on Sunday morning.

We had about a dozen riders show up for the preride. I took a few guys around the course, and gave one guy an introduction to techniques of cross racing. All fun stuff.

Sundy, Sunday, Sunday!

It's a bit cool at 50 degrees, but the promised over night rain did not show up, so the course is "dry", with the exception of the mud. It wouldn't get much warmer as the racing continued.

The C/Junior race started at 9:00, with registration at 8:00. Since I was helping get set up, I tried to get there a bit early. Setting up tents and last minute stuff, I had the kids do their own release forms, and got us all registered. They decided to do 2 warmup laps... cause it was so much fun.

Junior race

The C race looked to be about 20 riders (we'll get the official numbers soon) and we let them go off a few seconds before the 6 juniors were let go. Half the field is mine, woohoo! 30 minutes of fun for the first race. The other three juniors were the Pista Elite team, what looks to be 14 and 15 year old boys that I've seen do some road races. So my kids are pretty much out of there league. My oldest help onto third place for most of the race, but it's one lap too long for her and we get 4, 5 and 6. She said she went out to fast, and died at the end. She looked pretty cooked on the last lap, so I can only agree with her. The winner of the junior race had a mechanical and had to run the bike through the last section of the course. He was almost caught by second place for a nice competitve finish. The story I got was 4 laps, and they should not have done the two warm up laps. Looks like I may need to buy some small 'cross bikes in the future!

Sorry, I don't know much about the C race. I know the race spread out quickly and the lead changed hands when the leader dropped his chain. I didn't have time to hang out after the C race and find out what happened as I had to get the kids story, and then get to the line for the start of the B race. Details will be posted on the SnakeBite Racing site.

B race
The B race was listed as a cat 3/4/5/sport race. The cat 3 part of the race has my goals slightly adjusted to a top 5. The way I'm feeling before the race has my goal adjusted more to not getting lapped. I took some advil, and was just hoping to survive. I still registered for both the A and B race, I think I was optimistic... got to support the guys that put these races on, especially when it's you.

Strategy: The idea is to get to the first obstacle in the front. That way you don't get caught behind a traffic jam when someone near the front bobbles it. If you get caught there, you will never see the front of the race again, as the leaders power away, and everyone else gets untangled. So I lined up in the first row to try to get to the sand section first.

Looking around the start, there are a few cat 3's I know. Out of the 25 starters , I know many of the protagonists. Phil Hines is here, I've chased him through this road season. Bill Marut from Lake Effect was dominating their B races 2 years ago, and moved into the A's last year. John Lorson from Orrville on his single speed. I've got my work cut out for me.

I start with arm warmers and a base layer. I contemplated taking the arm warmers off, but I'm not sure. That plus the total of one half lap of warm up, and I'm still cold.

Remember this is the first time we've done a cross race. At the wistle, Linda, the official, was almost run over as we all jumped for position. Brett remembers to announce the "hot lap prime" for the first person through the finish line as we speed away. The race funnels down and somehow I've made it onto Phil's wheel in second positon. I'm surprised that I made it here. I trust Phil to make it through the sand cleanly, and I encourage him on. Through the sand for the first time, and we've got a small gap. Phil leads it through the field and Brett is again announcing the prime. $40 for the fastest first lap. John Lorson bridges up t Phil and I, and we're away.

I take over the lead through the Pine forest, the off camber section and the gravel road. John comes around before the woods, and gets a gap going into the creek crossing. He's got about 20 yards on me on the remount, but I give it a big push to see if I can help pay for all the Ehrlinger's races today. $40 would be a big help! I end up about a bike length short, but am happy that I'm going pretty well considering how I felt a little over an hour ago.

On Saturday, I figured out the way to ride through the sand section. The only problem is the last little hump coming out. My move is to push the left foot, and step up with the right. Cleanly done the first lap, I screwed it on the second. John was still in front, and Phil came around me as I got back up. A small gap after the hill, it started to open as the race continued. OK, I can deal with third, all things considered. Now I try to settle in, to conserve enough to hold my position. but still push enough to see if I can gain back a spot... or two!

Things are going pretty well. The course is twisty enough that I can see the front guys, and the guys chasing me. As the clock ticks by, I see Phil leave John behind.... then I loose both of them. I don't think I'm going to see the front of the race again. You can't give those guys that much space and hope to get it back. At about 20 minutes, a Summit rider on a 'cross bike comes by me. I try to respond but have nothing there. Now I'm fourth. It's getting really hard to lift the bike over the creek barrier. So I start lifting it over the log on the side.

At about 25 minutes, another Summit guy passes me. Half way to the end... I dig a bit deeper to respond, and still have nothing. Did I blow it all in the failed prime attempt? 30 minutes, how many laps left? I figure 3 to go based on 6 minute laps, but the lap cards say 4. So I start the planning and the count down.

I decide here to drop the warmers. I'm hoping the few seconds I loose will make me more comfortable for the remainder. Fifth place and I've got a guy on a Fisher mountain bike, and Bill Marut chasing me. I keep marking where they are at locations around the course.� They are not really gaining, so I just need to hold them off. We've been lapping riders for about half the race, and I get caught behind 3 on the off camber section. I have a bit of trouble getting around them, as they aren't sure where to go. I make it on the gravel and start to push more. I hope the other guys have the same trouble I did, or that could hurt me.

At 2 to go, I start digging for the finish. I can't loose another place! I'm noticing that the gaps are widening, which is good. Plus I've got another race to do! Will I be able to save anything? 1 lap left, and I push a little harder. Stay clean, and come through. Over the creek crossing, and no one is visible. I know I've got fifth place!

Phil Hines managed the win, and John Lorson was second. On a better day, maybe I could have been up there, but I'm totally pleased with 5th. Off the podium, whatever. I raced through how I felt, and came out all right.

Race Time: 52:11
Distance: 9 laps!
Average Speed: 11.6mph
Max Speed: 21.9mph probably at the first lap sprint to catch Lorson

According to the posted results, it turns out I was only 5 seconds or so behind 4th place, but I never saw Summit's Ed Delgros ahead of me. Had I seen him, I would have turned myself inside out to catch him. I did end up putting some serious time into the guys behind me in the last laps, coming in a minute and a half before sixth place. I guess I did a pretty good finish then, even though I didn't feel like I was giving it everything. I kept thinking about the A race still coming.

You can see in the HRM graph how the effort of a typical 'cross race goes. Pretty much peg a heart rate and hold it there. There is a peak at the hot lat prime, then I get some data anomolies. But it's pretty much constant throughout the race.

Now the race to the next race. My youngest daughter is at the van, as I race to get some food and liquid before I jump into the A race. She's acting as the pit crew for me, grabbing bottles for me, and handing up tools. I decide to put a bottle cage on the bike, since I'm not carrying the bike anywhere, and I'll need something for the second race. They're blowing the wistle as I finish up. Nice having the family here to help out.

A Race
I've got no goals for second races. In the past, if I race the A race after the B's, I only want to beat someone. Today, I just want to finish. This is a survival race. This is a training ride. Stress the system for race distance to get it used to the efforts... or I'm just stupid, and like to hurt myself.

The A race is well attended with 19 racers including the major players... Paul Martin, Ernie Marenchin from Speedgoat, Shawn Adams Honey-Stinger, Brent Evans from Color-Me-Safe, Rudy Sroka and Zak Dieringer from Lake Effect and Jeremy Grim from Savage Hill. We'll see how I can go against these guys later in the season, today I'm racing against the back of the field. Brett is able to jump in the race, but I don't expect to see him much. Phil Hines is also here for two races. Maybe I'll see him, probably not. I figure to be the back marker for the A race.

The start goes a bit better, Brett remembers to announce the hot lap prime before the wistle this time. And away we go. I'm struggling to hold the back of the field and Phil is behind me, saying he wasn't going to last long. I concur, but figure I need to hold on as long as possible. Into the beach, and the lesson is learned. We haven't made the turn to get to the beach and the leaders are hitting the hill on moving to the first barrier set. There is a huge jam, and I decide right away to just run this for the first lap. Up over the hill, and the gap starts to open up at the barriers. I'm off the back before we've completed a half lap. What was I thinking?

The gap is opening as I complete the first lap, until coming over the creek, everyone is out of site. I simply say "this was stoopid" to do this race, but I've got to figure out a plan. As I cross theline for the first time, Jason calls out my place.

I start my planning actually contemplating dropping out. My first DNF! OK, but I'll wait until I'm lapped. It'll be like the Belgian races wear they pull lapped riders. Then it won't be so bad. "I was in the way, so I figured it would be better to just get off the course". Ok, Let's see how long it takes them to catch me.

Heading to the sand I see the next guy in front of me. He's not that far away, maybe I can catch him. Now I've got some goals... this will help me race.

At three laps, I'm still not lapped! Better than I expected. I still haven't brought the next guy back, but I'm closing, and I'm starting to feel a bit better. This might work out.

I catch the guy during the fourth lap. I'm not last! Some of my buddies are on the course cheering me on and ringing a cow bell. Fun, fun. That helps huge. My kids are all around the course cheering also. My youngest is in the van by the tripple barrier. She opens the door or window every lap and says something. Any little encouragement goes a long way.

About half way through the fifth lap, Paul Martin comes by me with three guys on his tail, Zak is right there with Shawn Adams, and a guy I don't know. Theres a gap, then Brent and Rudy come up next, followed by Ernie and then Ross. Hey I've got a pretty good seat for spectating this race. I get to see moves being made by watching the race as they catch me, and as they pull away. I make sure to give plenty of clearance as riders come up. I'll pull off the trail so they have space, and I try to judge what I can make before they get there. This is pretty cool.

OK, I've been lapped, but as long as I'm not last, I'm not stopping. I'm now running from the guy behind me, and I can see the next guy up the trail. This guy has a pretty big gap on me though. He's hitting the tripple barriers while I'm still on the outside of the field. He's holding his gap, and I'm holding and opening mine.

At about 6 laps, I pass Phil Hines next to the fire pit! He's off the bike! He says he's tired, and old... I'm older than he is... but he's going to be warm and comfy soon.

Now I really need to finish this, as long as I'm not last, I'll go to the end. 7 laps, and I see the guy that was behind me off the bike! I tell him he needs to keep going, so I'm running from someone. He says he wrenched his back and is done. Now I've got no one pushing me to go faster. I can only try to chase the next guy up. But his gap is pegged, and it's not moving. I'm still getting passed by riders. 7 down, I see the sign... 4 to go! Ouch, Jason says maybe not, cause Paul is coming again!

Paul catches me the second time at the start finish.... 2 laps to go. I tell Jason that was my fastest lap yet! Zak and Shawn pass me shortly afterwards. Then the other guy. Ernie, Ross, Rudy and Brent catch me in the woods and I see Brent bobble a root. I've been dodging that one all day.

Through the creek, and 1 lap to go. OK, No one else passes me. (easy for me to say) The next guy up has to big of a gap, but I'm going to finish this race. As I come by the tent, Brett announces me, saying I've got 27 laps in both races (a little long actually). Fun, but I'm 2 laps down! I make it though with no more passes, and even have enough to accelerate/"sprint" through the finish.

Time: 1:11:48
Max Speed: 18.7 mph
Average Speed: 10.4 mph
Distance: 11 laps!

img hrm data

Paul Martin won, I think Shawn beat Zak for second place. With the unknown guy fourth. Ernie hung in for fifth, and Ross Clark picked up sixth on a new bike. I think Rudy beat Brent for seventh, and that was as far as I could keep track of.

Post Race

Our first cyclocross race was a great success. We ended up with about 62 racers, which was better than we had hoped. We had some really competitive racing, and lots of fun. Brett did a boatload of work to set up the course and make this all come off well. Linda Miranda and Jason Kurian from SnakeBite and Susan from Westlake worked the registration and officiating great to help it all come off without a hitch. With the turn out and all, it was a great time.

Ishould also add, I really haven't seen a race draw spectators like this one did. Not just the racers families either, though there were quite a few of those also. People came out to just watch the bike race. Very cool development in our racing scene.

Results will be posted soon at

Overall I was really pleased with how I went. Turns out we awarded 5 deep for both the A and B race, so I even got somthing back for 5th in the B race. Very nice. 18 laps of cyclocross pain, and it looks like my conditioning is coing along. Now I just need to work on getting healthy.

Orrville has a couple of cross races over the next two weeks. I won't be able to make them, but check it out at Orrville Cycling Club I did that last year, and it's a fun course with a little bit of everything including an actual run up.

Next up for me is the Bike Authority/Lake Effect series starting in November. Time for me to see how I stack up against the A's. I love racing both races because I could actually win a B race, though I've only done it once. Then I get to do twice as much racing and feel I get my moneys worth. But it's time for me to bite the bullet and see how I can do against the real crossers of the area. Beating Bill this weekend was a big confidence boost, because he was handing it to me two years ago. My condition on Sunday helps that also... so maybe I can be competitive in the A's.

Or at least not get lapped. Which may also be a goal thats a little out of reach. We'll see in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, I won't be falling anymore before then.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge Preview

What is Cyclocross?

According the Gloucester Cross site, Cyclocross is :

The most spectator-friendly form of bicycle racing, regardless of whether you've seen a bicycle race or not, cyclocross can be enjoyed by everyone.

Cyclocross (or just 'cross to the throngs that race week in and week out) is a relatively new discipline of cycling in the US. Though it's been around since the early 1900's in Europe, it wasn't until the 1970's that cyclocross races started sprouting up in the US.

Often called the "steeplechase of bicycle racing" cyclocross races are fast-paced and are dramatic for spectators. Riders compete on a twisting course comprised of grass, asphalt and dirt. At several parts of the course, riders are forced to dismount their bikes and run up steep terrain or jump over obstacles.

I've written about a bunch of 'cross I've done, and it's definitely the high point of my season. Check out my index for my experiences.

Cyclocross races start with the sprint. Traverse all types of terrain, from roads to grassy fields, to double to single track. The race usually strings out after the first lap. The suggestion is to break the race into thirds. A fast start where you setup your position, a slower middle third where you try to recover... so that you can use the last third to make up as many positions as possible. I only remember having to sprint for a position in one of the 20 or so cross races I've done.

You race at max sustainable heart rate for the entire race, similar to a time trial. The efforts vary drastically though as the course terrain changes... what fun to hurt yourself this way! What a challenge!

Chagrin River Cyclocross!
Chagrin River CX Flyer

Pretty exciting... a new cyclocross venue on the east side of Cleveland. Brett Davis has convinced his family to let a bunch of crazy cyclists run a race over their land. It looks like we'll be running some practices there on Thursdays before the race, to help groom the course. We'll be trying to run from about 5:30 to 7:30.

Three of us were out on the 22nd for some testing runs, here's what we've got going.

Course Description

This course would not pass UCI muster, as it has no pavement sections. Here is a link to UCI course layout outline. The course is mostly flat with some very interesting features.

The start is under the trees leading around the main field. We'll do about 100 meters before jumping into the course. Around the field along the woods, the course crosses a ridable drainage ditch... will it be wet in October? It was dry on this night. After the ditch, we loop around a quick switchback, and head back through the ditch and through the first set of barriers. The course will then zig-zag across the flat grass field for four loops.

On leaving the field, we head to the stand of pines. A wide double track winding through the trees. Out of the pines, we cross the gravel road and hit an appreciable off camber section running along Bainbridge road. We cut back into the property, for the gravel road section.

After a few hundred meters of gravel road, we head into the woods on the back. This path is about 2 meters wide. There is a short muddy section and some nice rollers... not hills, but flat, short cyclocross type rollers. You don't really pedal over these things, but use your arms to pump the bike through the section. Very fun stuff.

The rollers lead to the creek crossing. You can coast the downhill before the dismount. This is a narrow, jumpable mud creek, it was just mud when we were there. A barrier set on the short uphill side forces the dismount before the section, and a short carry up the hill. On the other side, the course winds through some more woods before returning to the start area.

We measured the course at .88 miles long. We'll add at least one more set of barriers, for three dismounts. We're looking at adding a new section with a sandpit. Instead of doing the tight turn after the first field crossing, we'll cut into the woods, and down to the river. Then run the sand, and head back up to the course. We'll see how that goes this week.

Laps should be fast, with almost no downhill recovery sections. It looks like we'll be working the whole race to keep moving, so your fitness will be tested.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fall Challenge Road Race - 2005

Summit Freewheelers

September 25, 2005

This is it.... the last road race of the season. This being one of my first road races, it's the only race I've done three years running. In 2003 I raced on Saturday before the challenge on Sunday, and popped off the group on the first climb up Quick road. In 2004, I did much better coming in fourth. So hopes were high with a strong team this year, I could crack the elusive podium...

The weather looked reasonable with 70 degrees and overcast skies. Discussion at the start about the chance of rain. The high cloud deck had me convinced we could get the 41 miles in before the rains came though.

The course is rolling with a long descent into the Cuyahoga River Valley on Wetmore road, and the only significant climb right as we turn onto Quick road. The B race was doing 5 laps for about 41 miles.

A huge B field this time around. In fact so large, the first scare of the day came as 2 of my teammates were nearly closed out of registration. A quick check with the official, and we were clear to race all 6 of the SnakeBite contingient. Brett, Jeff, Tom, Jason, Brian and myself were representing the blue team today in a field estimated to be between 52 and 58. StarkVelo, Trizilla, PDQ and Summit also had numbers, so it looked like the team game may play out today. There were also a bunch of smaller teams and single guys... including Phil Hines from Team Hollyloft... and a frequent antagonist of my writings. The guy comes in for Cleveland races from Sharon, PA.

Before the race, Brett was again suggesting an attacking strategy. With 6 riders in the field and the last two running of the B field ending in a sprint finish, we hoped to force the pace a bit at the beginning, then maybe spring someone for a break to win. If not, we wanted to setup a nice sprint train to deliver a few to the front for the finish.

The Race

Lap 1:

At the start Brett threatens the "go as soon as you're clipped in" move again. We all laugh, not with the way my legs felt during the 2 mile warmup I've had... fortunately Brett has had less, and he pulls onto the front to start us off. I get "comfortable" sitting about 20 people back as Brett winds it up. I think he's trying to reduce the size of the field single handed. OK by me, that'll give me some time to loosen up some.

As we enter the turn off of Steels Corners for the first time, I think we caught the marshal a bit off guard. That turn jumped up at me before I knew it. Crazy stuff as we all try to figure out how this is going to go. Brett does a long turn at the front, through about half the backside, then starts waving others to take over... no takers, until Jason goes by me. I jumped on his wheel, and the two of us take it down the hill. I took over from Jason about half way down, then a Summit guy gets in front of me on the final approach to River. At the bottom, Doug from Summit offers some "advice" about the tar getting slick if there's any dampness today. I don't think many liked the way we descended that hill.

Making the turn onto Quick road, we hit the first climb of the day... come on legs, I've got to loosen up or I'm going to be off the back before this thing is over.

Quick road is pretty interesting. There is the steep climb, followed by a false flat. The road then crests for a flat section, then you hit some rollers about 3 miles from the finish. The last roller climbs to crest about 200-300 meters from the line. The last mile is a total mess of pot holes. You either want to be on the outside on the yellow line, or on the inside near the edge. First time through I'm on the inside. As the group hits the first roller, it stalls, and I'm forced onto the gravel on the edge... a little cyclocross practice, but it takes me up into the group. I'm sitting in about half way back as we make the first approach to the start finish. Brett is planning the finish already, where do we need to start to string this out and do something good?

I actually hit the lap button as we cross the line: Lap time 21:04 for an average close to 23.1 mph.

Lap 2:

These may blend together. Mostly the field seemed to stay together here until we hit the climb on Quick road where a StarkVelo guy got a nice gap. The field basically sat back and watched. I was starting to feel better on the climb... not front of the field better, but I was coming around.

Time: 21:25:0 for an average of 22.7 mph.

Lap 3:

The Stark guy held the field off pretty much through the lap. As we climbed Quick road again, Brett was talking to another Stark rider, asking if he could hold it for the rest of the race... mmmm I don't think so. He was impressive though. At the top of the climb, it was pretty obvious he was coming back.

Third time coming in, Brett is talking about tactics with Tom. I'm on his wheel. Looking around, we've still got everyone in the field, even though it looks like the field is down in the 30's now. We decide we want to be near the front at the top of the hill... then we can organize the train for the finish.

On the first two laps, I was thinking of helping out the team when possible. On the third lap I decided to try and watch two guys and see if I could just keep tabs on them, since I expected them to be in at the finish. Mehul from PDQ... I knew he could sprint, but wasn't sure of his climbing. The other guy was Phil Hines. At Blossom, Brett had put me on a man to man with Phil.... and I'd seen him jump away from the master's field at Valley City with three to five miles to go and hold them off for a second place. Phil was playing an interesting game. He'd sit at the back of the field... I mean total back with no one behind him for the whole lap. Then on the climb, he'd jump to the front and set the pace to the rollers. Then drop back through the field and repeat. I was reminded that he had done the same thing at Zoar... and almost jumped the field there for the win... he still ended up fourth there. Definitely someone to watch.

Time: 21.21.1 for an average of 22.8 mph.

Lap 4:

When we caught the StarkVelo rider, another break went. This time it was about 6 guys including Jason! The break looked good with just about every major team represented. We've got a free ride now, as we don't have to chase. Very nice! Brett and I drop back to conserve and talk the final tactics. I dropped back further to give Brain the story....and Phil is back there. I have a few words with him, he's really concerned about this break. I'm happy with it, cause I need the rest before the finish. I'd really like to do something good today.

Funny how fast the race face can change... at River road the break came back. Then another StarkVelo rider goes off the front before the climb and gets a nice gap. In the middle of the climb, a Trizilla rider jumps and joins him... easy as you please. The field watches them connect, and then they work together to the start finish.

Lap 5:

As we cross the start finish, someone calls out 30 seconds to the front two. 30 seconds... now I'm getting concerned. So much for the free ride. I'm near the front, a Trizilla and a StarkVelo rider are also up front... and no one cares. I start moving up... I may not have legs for the finish, but if we don't bring these guys back, it won't matter.

As I'm moving to the front, I hear a guy call the Summit riders to the front to start working to bring this back. Nothing against Summit, but I've never seen them work as a team before... inside, I don't expect to see many up here helping.

So, I start to pull. I look back, and Doug from Summit is there. OK, pull through. On his wheel is a Trizilla... nope, you are not welcome here. I fall in behind Doug. It looks like it's just the two of us. Doug pulls off, and I let him know it's just me and him right now. Brett shows up and takes us onto Steels Corners. As we make the turn, the field does it's roll, and a Trizilla guy tries to insert himself again. The three of us organize, and shut him out. We work well, and make the turn onto the back, again a Trizilla tries to muscle in, and I move him out of the working line.

Then Tom comes up to help, but it's tough to organize a smooth chase. We're all getting nervous, so we tend to pull a little to hard as we get to the front. Brett, Tom, Jason and I all end up doing our work... but it seems we're not getting much help from the other teams. Granted StarkVelo and Trizilla are now in the best seat in the house, they decide to let us do what we will... which doesn't seem to be making much of a dent. We can still see the break, but they do not seem to be getting much closer.

On the decent, it's Jason and I again... and I don't care about the turn at the bottom this time, we've got to bring those two back, and I know I've got the control to rail that turn. As I hit River, I open a gap to the field. Not huge, but they aren't on my wheel anymore. I see the two make the turn onto Quick, and I start counting... they are still 30 seconds up on me, and I've got about 10+ to the field. I decide I'm not going to sit up, because I'm sure they'll bring me back on the climb. I need the gap so I don't pop off the back before the top.

Sure enough, I hit the hill, and it's time to just survive.... and I'm not doing a very good job. Fortunately, it looks like the field is pulling the two back in also. I'm fading through the whole field when I see a split up ahead of me... uh oh. Not good. Then it opens more... there goes the race! And I'm back here! A couple of guys get to the front, and we start to work to bring it back... Damn if I didn't have to work so hard chasing... I wouldn't be here! Come on, we can bring this back. Then I'm pulling, and Summit Doug is behind me... giving encouragement. I have him pull through, and I sit on his wheel for a minute giving encouragement... and we're almost there... and I pull through... and we're back. with about 4 miles to the finish. I've got to recover! WHAT In about 4 miles! Not good!

Brett is there, also pretty peaked... fortunately the field is again slightly stalled. There are two guys up the road though. Are they still away? It turns out to be a different two, but it doesn't matter to me. I just want to get to the finish.

Then I see Phil make a move up the outside... and I don't think, I just jump onto his wheel. He pulls me all the way to the front of the pack, and pulls a gap. And I still haven't thought, I just went. Phil knows I'm here, and I think he wants me to pull through... just as we're coming into the rollers before the finish. THEN I started to think. 2 miles to the finish... Phil can do this... I'm sucking wind! I just said "I've got nothing left man... I can't help. You can make it but you've got to go now. I'll let you go!"

So he goes! Pulls by the front two before the top of the first roller. Now he just needs to hold off the field over the second rise and he's got it. I am move backwards to the field. I'm on the front, but not for long. We wind up a bit going down the roller, and again imake up some space at the bottom of the last rise... only to get swarmed before the top. Cresting the top I'm on Brett's wheel and let him know, but we're both spent... we both rolled through somewhere at the back of the main field. I'm over the top in time to see Phil raise his arms for the V though.


I didn't hit the computer button until after we'd done a mile at some very slow pace... but I got a 22.3 average for 42 miles. I figure it was much closer to 23 though considering how the first three laps went, and how slow I was on that last mile.

Turns out Jeff was in a position to help Tom out in the finish... not enough, though Tom did end up 8th. Jeff and Brian were behind Brett and I at the end though, and I'm not sure where Jason was. So, again the team worked hard for the race, though our results are a bit thin. Props to Tom for again working the race hard and still having enough left for a top 10.

I'm mixed on my performance. I'm glad that I was on the winning move. It seems I can see who to follow on the group rides, because I know the riders. But come the weekend, I don't have the right people to follow... this time, I was there. If I wouldn't have "thought", I may have been able to go further... probably not though. This time I followed the right move, but didn't have the legs to finish it. Lot's of excuses... "if only I hadn't..." whatever. I guess it's always better to have worked and have an effect on how the race plays out then to sit in all day saving it for the end, and still not get the V. It's a bit frustrating, but we came out to race... and race we did!

With the road season over, time to hang up the road wheels... or convert them because now it's time for Cyclocross... I've got an intro/shameless plug for the SBR Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge on October 16th. My first cross race will be the BioWheels UCI race at Harbin Park, Cincinatti on October 9th. So my first 'cross race of the year will be the biggest 'cross event I've attended... should be fun.