Monday, December 04, 2006

BA Cyclocross 6 - Boughton Farms 2006

December 3, 2006

It's the last race of the season, and tight races abound. 3 points separate first and second in the A series. 6 points separate third, fourth and fifth in the B race, and I'm 2 points behind Bill for third in the Master's race, and Brent is 6 points behind Rudy for first. With double points on the line, these series points races can go any way. Brent and I both need to beat our guy and have someone between us to win our places outright.

The weather went from mid 60's last weekend to low (really low) 30's this weekend. We didn't get the snow that hit the rest of the Midwest though. So, Saturday I did a training ride. I had a little trouble remembering how to dress for 30's, I also had trouble getting motivated to actually do some work.

Sunday, I was a little afraid of snow fall, but in the end it was about 30, partly cloudy and dry. Beautiful clouds as well. A nice day for a leasurly ride in the woods... I think I'm ready for the season to be over.

Arriving at the farm, it's basically the same course as last week, only backwards and they had removed the backyard/pavement sections. We've had a bit of rain during the week, so the course is a bit slicker in spots. I took a pre-ride during the B/C race on my pit bike with Ritchey Speedmax tires and it all felt pretty slickery. The one water crossing from last week was removed, but the mud section that cause the B crash was now the new water hazard, and there was a new slick mud section on the field crossing before it, and it was much longer and slicker than last weeks section was. So I pretty much decided I'd be racing on the Muds instead of the Tufos.

I tend to dress about 15 degrees warmer than I would for a training ride, so I had two base layers and a long sleeve jersey on top. I had tights on over knickers, and I was on the fence on taking them off for the race. I wore the jacket for warm up, but was sure that I'd drop that at the line.

I did some trainer warm up before the race this week. So one lap around, and then on the trainer near the van. It turns out to be a good decision, as Ernesto is warming up close by, and I'm able to get his thoughts on running Tufo's instead of Muds, he thinks the Muds will pick up too much gunk and be harder to turn. He's more used to running the Tufos than I am, so he's going to stick with them. He also gives up some details on lines he likes. Listen and learn. In the end I'm sticking with the Muds. I just don't trust the Tufos when it gets slick. I'll leave them in the pit for emergency uses.

At about 1:15, I take off for another pre lap with the race bike and the Muds. It turns out they're slipping around also, and I'm picking up a bunch of leaves and stuff in the back woods section.... its tough to push that junk through the fork. A bit more muck, and I decide that the Tufo's actually may be a better choice. Through the wet stuff, and I make a decision... I'm swapping wheels before the start. The start... hmm, they're lining up now!

So, I jump into the pit and swap my wheels. I'm the last to the line, and I still have my tights on... I've got a minute between the A and Master's start... They haven't left yet, I've got time. Off with the tights, it'll only hurt the first time through the puddle anyway. Crazy prep for racing. The good thing is my heart rate is sitting at 120 as we move to the line. Last minute decisions, let's see how they do.

I've got a teammate this week. There's the standard top 5, and Tom Keller is out for his first taste of the pain that is 'Cross. I give him the only strategy that can possible work. If I'm in front of Bill, do whatever he can to finish between us. It's a long shot, but Tom is strong on the road, and I've never seen him off road. My only other option for winning third in the series outright is for me to beat one of the top three guys. If I can get between Rudy and Brent, that would also let Brent win the overall. Not very likely, but since I'm thinking big, I'll go all out.

One minute after the A's, and we're off. Brent, Rudy, Jeff, me, Bill and Tom. It's pretty obvious from the start that Tom is not going to be helping me out much. He's not dropped outright, but there's a gap forming pretty quickly. Bill is sitting on my wheel as we go through the woods and around the field. We're keeping things close, but the front three are opening a gap pretty easily. I'm going to keep my lines kind of close since Bill is right there, I just follow the front three and play a bit cagey. I'm working it hard to stay in touch... I want it to hurt a bit. It does, but in a good way. I'm certainly not over my limit yet.

Through just about everything on the first lap, I might open a gap of a few feet, but Bill is right on keeping it close. Through the second barriers, and the slickest mud section. Around and through the puddle. I was glad I was in front through that. I didn't have to eat wheel spray.

At the end of that run, we head back across the field, and I start to contemplate the next turn around. It'll drive us back across into a pretty stiff head wind. I push the tailwind section hoping for a gap, but I don't get it. Around the 180, and we're into the headwind. I don't want to pull Bill through this, so I try to force him to take some wind... and he sticks to my wheel I try again... nothing, so I let off the gas a bit.

Perfect, Bill starts to come up next to me and says "You're making this hard." Aaaaahhhh! My replay... "That's the way it's supposed to be." and I attack! All I really wanted was for him to get off my wheel. He was, so I went. Perfect.

I had about 10 yards going through the start finish, then I drilled it to the first wood section, once out of the woods, I used every line I could and put everything into opening the gap. Around the field I'd opened a nice big gap. I then concentrated on opening it more, and maybe catching Jeff or Rudy. Rudy was looking rough over the barriers, and through the mud. So I was wondering what would happen. Off in the chase!

Finishing the second lap, Rudy is up ahead with Jeff in front of him. I'm pretty sure Bill is out of the picture. I keep checking on him, but I'm focused on bringing back the others. Third lap, and Rudy has recovered and past Jeff. Brett is the back end of the A race, and he's staying with Jeff. I'm gaining on them slowly. I'd like to be on their wheel through the headwind... but I'm about 20-30 meters back. On my own. I pretty much maintain the gap, but I'm no longer closing it up.

Three down, two to go. We're running a little under 10 minutes per. Still the gap is constant. I'm really happy with the Tufo choice, I'm floating some turns, and I'm getting used to the loose feel of these tires. I'm sure I'd be having trouble with the muds in some of this stuff. Then in the back woods, I must have taken a bad line, cause the front wheel packs up with crap. I stopped and cleared it out, basically let Brett and Jeff go. Bill was out of sight behind me, so I wasn't really worried about him catching me. It just sucked that I was letting third place go without a fight. Over the barriers, and I had packed the fork again. I cleared it out before remounting. Something has got to change now, or there may be trouble holding Bill off.

Through the slick mud, and I bobble again and loose some time. Then through the puddle, and I traverse it so poorly I have to hop off and run the bike half way through the water. OK, I must be getting tired, but I shouldn't panic. Bill has made up lots of ground on me, but I can hold this position if I can just execute clean for one more lap. One more lap and I can call this season done with a solid race effort. Finish strong.

Shifting is getting pretty bad. The chain is skipping over the cassette pretty often, I'll have to look into that. It seems that shifts are getting sluggish also... it must be getting time to recable. 'Cross is tough on equipment. Last lap, and the bike is not shifting at all. So, 42/25 is what I've got. I keep trying to shift, the bike just doesn't listen.

Into the head wind, and I can still see Brett. Jeff has left him behind. So let's see if I can execute and catch Brett. Through everything, I concentrate on my lines. Don't worry about where people are, just work on being technically clean. In the back woods section, I adjust my lines a bit to stay away from the leaves... that worked much better. Float through the mud, and get through the puddle cleanly... well, OK, i get through the puddle with a only minor bobbles. Jeff is a length of the field in front of me, so I won't get him. Bill is more than a length behind though, so I'm through for fourth and tied for third overall.

After I crossed the line the line I figure I'm about 2.5-3 minutes in front of Bill. A nice finish and a nice season in the books. I then tried to clean the mud off the bike, but it's frozen to the frame. Must have been enough ground heat to keep it liquid but once on the bike, the air temp froze it solid. No wonder the bike wasn't shifting. I rode it back to the van and then went and got the pit bike. By the time I went to load the race bike up, the chain wouldn't turn through the rear derailleur because of the ice. Pretty wild conditions. Of course storing the bike in the van, with the heat on, all the mud fell off before I got it home. Well, I already promised I'd clean the van at the end of the season.

I must say this season has been a blast. We've had small fields in the Master's races, but it has been competitive, at least between the first 5 of us. It would be nice if the fields were bigger, then it we might be able to get into three or more way races. But for a first run this season, it was a reasonable field. Next year people will know better what to expect, and I hope it gets the old guys training to be competitive with us.

Special thanks to Team Lake Effect for doing tons of work setting up and tearing down the courses week after week. I've been really pleased with every one. They've all been challenging and yet open enough and with enough transitions to be true cyclocross races.

Overall I'm content with how everything ended up. I still don't feel like I'm running at 100%, but I have been improving over the last couple of weeks. I'm thinking it's time to take some rest, and lots of turkey, then pick it back up after the holidays to prepare for next year. It's probably time for me to think about next years goals, and maybe pull the trigger on a coach.

Monday, November 27, 2006

BA Cyclocross 5 - Boughton Farms 2006

November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving holiday was very nice. As the temperatures started to climb throughout the week, I did a nice long MTB ride with Brett and friends on Thursday, lots of yard work on Friday, a nice ride on Saturday... add lots of sleep and it's all good for racing on Sunday.

Usually, it's a huge issue figuring out what clothes to bring to the cross race. You want to have enough clothes to be warm, but not so much you overheat. So I pretty much dump everything I own in the race bag, and make the call on the line. Unfortunately, I wasn't totally prepared for 65 and sunny in late November. I remembered the short sleeve jersey, but not the shorts. So I raced in knickers... I keep forgetting, is it "65 degrees, cover the knees" or "60 degrees, cover the knees"? Whatever, race what you brung, and I'm covered.

With a sunny, warm day everyone was out racing cross. The C field had 23 including 8 juniors. 48 B's, 15 A's and 6 master's. I was surprised we had 70+ in crappy... er, I mean CX weather, but I was just as surprised that there were over 90 this weekend.

The team was again well represented with Sam and Nicole Miranda racing the C race. Gary, Rick, Pat and Linda racing B's. Then Brett in the A's and I in the Master's field. With 48 B's I guess a wreck in the start was inevitiable, though it surprised me that it happened at the first mud on the course instead of the first barrier. So the hole shot is VERY important in large fields.

The Course
Boughton farm is... a real farm. The start had us behind the barn right before a shallow left hander that led about 150 meters along a tractor road through a field. I didn't recognize the crops this year, but in the paste it's been cabbage. The field is mostly flat with a slight crest. Around a long, bumpy dirt 180, and return the 150 meters to the finish line, another long dirt/gravel 180 and back across the field, this length had a soft wet spot about half way up. If you held your line through the center, you could float through it. Either side, and you'd get wet... hence the start crash in the B field, it's warm, but don't get wet! At the end of this length, another long, grassy 180 that I was often close to a two wheel drift and repeat the length to the first barrier set. The barrier set forced a dismount before a small water crossing. It was really too wet to call a mud pit. No sense remounting there, might as well run it. Remount and do another 180 around the gas well, and back up the field about 100 meters before turning into the next field by way of another grassy, nearly drifting 180. Then sweep along the bumpy grass section at the edge of the field before the first single track section. Serious single, since the trees were tight, with some twists for fun. Down a slight hill, and then head back up through the second barriers that required some hill running before remounting. Back down the hill, and into another single track section, across the edge of the field into the wide paths of the back woods. Then around the back side of the third field, which historically has been wet, but was mostly dry this year. More bumps and soft grass along the shallow uphill grade before the shallow descent along the back side of the field. At the end we turned left off the farm, and headed through some more woods, then along a stretch of backyards. At the end of this, we hit a culvert crossing, leading to 2 long road sections that delivered us back to the start area.

A nice long course at 2.5 miles. Nothing super technical, though I did attempt to ride the culvert about 10 times before deciding it would just be faster (and safer) to run the thing. The single track would slow me down a bit in the tight sections, but it was mostly flat, mostly wide open. The wind could be a factor, and we all expected a fast day. I had brought the trainer, but the weather was nice, and the course was pretty dry, so I did the warmup on the course. I'll save the trainer for the nasty weather.

Dry course, I ran the Tufo's. I did have a bit of trouble in warmup with the shifting, but tightened the cassette before the race, and it was much better. Enough wrenching before the race, I'm tempting fate here.


On the line, the A's were commenting on no wrecks. I really wish I would have seen it. A well, with only 6 master's, I'm sticking to the "no sense killing it, until it counts" strategy.
The A's take off, and a minute later, we're racing. On nice feature of the 1 minute lag is the A's are out of site by the time we start, so we're not "distracted".

Off we go, and I'm following the standard lead 5. Bill got in front of Jeff, though so it's a bit out of sorts for the first 2 passes of the field. As soon as Brent and Rudy start to pull away though, Jeff jumps around and it's all sorted out. I'm on Bill's wheel and Brent is pulling Rudy and Jeff away.

The first lap, I'm just trying to hang with Bill. He ends up with a gap of about 30 yards, and I'm just content to peg that solid, and work my way around. As we come through, I note the lap time of 10:08. So we're a little behind the 10 minute flat average lap times of the B race winner.

Second lap, I start to bring it back. I'm close enough to see Bill as he crosses the culvert, and follow the road into the fields. It takes me 3 of the crossings to close the gap, and I know my best strategy is to attack hard when I catch him. I've got to convince him that I'm going fast enough that he can't catch me. Then open the gap so he won't be able to close it. So I work the plan. Catch, and attack hard. I get a decent gap before the three wooded sections, and see Jeff is alone up ahead. So now my goal is to catch Jeff, and get out of Bill's reach, and site.

Third lap, things are going well, though I'm not very smooth through the barriers or the culvert crossing. I like to think I've got an advantage on the barriers, but I certainly didn't feel it today. Remounts are fine, I'm just not running well. Still Jeff is coming back slowly and I'm still opening on Bill.

Fourth lap. I'm closing on Jeff. Can I get into a fight for third? Through the line with 2 to go, and Jeff is about 20 yards ahead. The last two times through the wet section, he's gone off the line, and had some squirrelly back end going on. I get through once really nice and make some time. This time, though I do almost exactly what he does. Around the grassy 180, my goal is to catch him, then I'll try to attack him like I did to Bill.

Unfortunately, the course bites instead. Once back on the straight, I hear something rubbing my spokes!! I look down, and I've got a course flag wrapped in the lower derailluer pulley! I stop, lean over and pull the wire out. The flag is still wrapped in there, but I've got to get moving! Arghh!!! I get back on, and the bike feels really sluggish. Through the barrier/water crossing, and back on... I've totally lost my rythem. I start to worry about Bill coming back at me, wondering if I can regain my lost ground. It takes me through the second set of barriers to get back to what I think my pace was, but I still feel like I'm dragging a bit. Jeff has opened his gap again, but I'm pretty safe from Bill. I've now got about 100meters to Jeff. Back to work.

Fifth lap. I've got to hold off Bill, and still try to get Jeff. I really haven't done a final lap sprint all season. I either haven't felt good enough, or just forgotten that it's part of the race. With this on the line though, I dig in and start the sprint. Give it all, and see if I can improve my place! It felt really good... It didn't really work, but it was fun.

So, I finished 4th out of 6, 30 seconds behind Jeff and just over a minute up on Bill. I'm a bit disappointed about the flag. After the race, I pulled the plastic out of the derailluer. I probably had those 30 seconds right there. Not that I'd have taken Jeff, but it would have been fun to try.

Brett was running Tufo's also. Being dry, ran his at about 60psi, I ran mine closer to 45... mostly because of the mud puddle and soft grass sections. It turns out Brett rolled his rear when he hopped the rear end on a turn. He started to run it to the pits, and decided he didn't want to run that far, so he force the tire back on the rim, and rode it gingerly to the pits for a wheel change. Probably a good strategy in such an emergency, and one I'll try to remember in case I'm presented with a similar issue. Sitting DFL after the change, he then drilled it and fought back to 11th out of 14 finishers. See his posts at Brett's Blog

Oh well. Next weekend we're back at the farm for the final race of the season and it's supposed to be cold. Really cold.

Monday, November 20, 2006

BA Cyclocross 4 - 2006 The Fields

November 19, 2006

Cleveland weather is made for 'crossers. Saturday was clear and 50. A nice day to work in the yard. Sunday's race day was 40 and wet... the kind of wet that can't decide if it's rain or snow, so it does both... Based on numbers, we are not concerned with the weather. The last two very wet races have still attracted the same, near 70, racers as the dryer dates have had.

So the SnakeBite cyclocrossers arrive at Broadview Heights for round 5 of the Bike Authority series ready for some cold, wet, muddy racing. Pat, Linda, Gary and Rick are racing in the B race. Brett is racing A's and I'm in the master's field.

The Broadview Heights course typically combines some tough grassy sections with some twisted single track and some pavement thrown in for good measure. This year the Lake Effect team put together a super tough course with 2 run ups, made even tougher by the wet weather. The grassy section before the run up was completely unrideable, with many other sections marginally so.

The races start with a short parking lot section leading to the first soccer field circuit that was like mud soup along the first length, then just leg sapping mud across the back and up the other side. A short pavement section led to the next Soccer field circuit that had a couple of good lines, and a couple of bad ones. From the two fields to the gravel decent/bridge/climb combo. At the top across pavement around the baseball fields, over a 6 foot mud transition to the paved basketball course, another 10 foot of mud to the road. The road led to the muddy grass decent with an optional road alternative.

At the bottom of the decent is the quagmire. 40-50 yards of mud that leads to the first brutal run up. The run up is at least 50 foot up a sled hill that is super steep at the top. Once over the run up, a triple switch back section of very wet grass, then onto the pavement. Around a bleacher section, and head back down the sledding hill. There are good lines down the hill, that lead directly to the hill exit, and there are bad lines that lead to slogging to the exit. Once safely down, it's back on the road for a short climb to the second run up. 20 foot up or so, then over a super wet flat section, before a double switchback leads through the finish. A quick slog around the concession stand and we do it all over again.

I did a prelap before the B's went off, and looked for some lines through the current conditions. It looked to me like we'd be running quite a bit. Watching the B racers, it didn't look like much fun out there. Everyone was pretty muddy, completely wet and most looked miserable. Ed Delgros destroyed the field again by over three minutes turning in average lap times that would have put him in third place in the A race.

I figured it was my kind of weather, and my kind of course since I did well last week in similar conditions. Brett and Rick had brought easy-ups for us to warm up under. So trainers out, Brett and I spin while the B's raced. Front row seats. Maybe I should figure out how to attach the cowbell to the trainer so I can save my voice while warming up.

After another prelap with Brett, I decided that the sunglasses were not going to work. Mud was everywhere, and a lot of B's were dropping theirs, so Brett and I both went without. One less thing to worry about.

On the line, 10 A's and 6 Masters. Typical showing for the masters except that series number 3 had gone to Philly on Saturday and wouldn't be in for this mud fest. This is a huge development for me since it moves Bill and I into a fight for the third place, instead of fourth overall. Since they only pay to 3, it means I'm racing for more than "just because"! Off go the A's and a minute later, we're racing.

Across the parking lot, and into first field and the mud, and it's wet spraying everywhere... I couldn't see a thing, except that I was in fifth wheel when Derrick came up on the outside of the course. Glasses, I felt like scuba equipment was in order. I don't use contacts, but I can't see how anyone could possibly wear them in 'cross. I had more junk in my eyes than I ever have. Blech!

Around the far side, and things started to sort out some. As we hit the second field, Derrick faded back, and it was Brent and Rudy are pulling away, Bill and I, then Derrick and Brad. I kept up the pressure as Brent and Rudy opened a gap. Bill was right on me as we went over the bridge to the other half. Derrick and Brad had pretty much dropped off by then.

Bill hung on until the run up, when I got a small gap. Then on the remount, I realized I hadn't shifted my gear to something workable... neither had Bill, and he had more gear grinding trouble getting remounted than I did. He even had to hop off to fix it, and I was away! Except it was during a slogging part of the course. I worked it hard, and came to the decent. Railed away to the second run up.

I had held the gap for a short time, but Bill made his way back to me by the first soccer field. As we hit the second field I tried an attack on the inside line. It worked pretty well, and I got another gap. I tried to drill it down the hill and back up the other side. Once over the top I tried to recover some but still keep up the pressure. Once again. Bill clawed his way back to me.

OK, I'll keep attacking and see what I can do... eventually he will break. Down the hill to the long run. This time I remembered to shift down before the dismount. I had a really hard time with this part of the course. I stayed on the grass and made the left turn into the bog before slowing almost to a stop and dismounting, shouldering the bike and hoofing it. In hindsight, it probably would have been better to hop onto the road next to the grass, and swing the left turn wider to carry some momentum into the run. Second time up the hill, and there is essentially no gap. I'm leading through most of the lap, hoping to put the pressure on. Second time through, and again Bill is on my wheel.

Around the first field again. Bill gets around me, I again attack on the second field and try to get a gap. He digs in and holds on. Over the bridge, back up on top... nothing good. The only gaps I get are small, and they don't stick. I'm working hard over the whole course, it seems like the only way to recover is to slow down... not a good strategy.

Three laps through, 2 to go, and we catch another A racer. One of Bills team mates swaps bikes as we head toward the fields again. Around we go, and both of them are on my wheel. I try again to open a gap, but it's not working well. Over the bridge and to the top, and I try to accelerate instead of recovering. Bills teammate comes around, and I'm able to latch onto his wheel for a few seconds hoping the acceleration will shake Bill... it doesn't. Heading to the basketball court, and I get the mud section a little squirrelly, as I hit the pavement, the bike goes a little sideways, but I somehow pull out of it. Don't know how, but I was real glad my race wasn't over right then.

Down the grass hill, and I try to make it clean. Up the run up, and Bill tries an attack at the top. I stick on his wheel, and head down the hill. Problem is, I'm faster on the decent than he is, so instead of taking us both down, I swing out wide to the left, then have to slog back to the road climb. I follow through the second run up, and he opens a small gap through the switchbacks to the finish. His teammate yells that he's got the gap, and I dig to close around a turn. I'm NOT going to let him go, and I will attack hard on the next run up.

This is the whole race in the final lap. I'm digging in to hold his wheel, and he is slowly opening up a gap. Around the fields, and he's got about 15 yards over the bridge. I need to get back on, over the top, and he's opened it some more. At the top of the run up, it's up to 50 yards. I need to rail this decent and gun it! Sure enough I screw it up, and go wide again. He's starting the second run up as I hit the road. I know it's over when I get to the remount, and he's already around the the first of two switch backs. Nothing to be done now. Shoot.

Well, it was certainly a race. Probably the closest race I've been in since I started this cyclocross madness. I've sprinted for position in the past, but never battled from the line for the complete race. We were pressuring each other the whole way, unfortunately I didn't, or couldn't, take advantage of any of my gaps to finish it long before the last lap.

Missed the mad craziness from the team today. Special thanks to Gary and the Mirandas for their support, but there is nothing like the bell ringing, screaming that we had last weekend. It was harsh weather to be standing around though.

I have to add: I was reading another blog today, and it totally captured this season in cross for me. Nemesis I know that I'm working harder this season than I was last year in the A's... so having someone to chase has been helpful. Still, we're finishing about 2 minutes behind the leaders. So it's not like we're really pressuring them yet. Though this race was a close as we've gotten yet.

Two more races in the series, both in Copley at the farm. Flat course with a bit of twisty single track. The wind comes into play with no shelter. Muddy if it rains, icy if it snows.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

BA Cyclocross 3 - 2006 Cahoon Park (Rose Hill)

November 11, 2006

This week, we're back to the Bike Authority series, at Cahoon Park in Bay Village. If history holds, this should be a decent race for me. My second 'cross race was on this course, and my only taste of victory was here also. Both those races were wet, but not as wet as it was supposed to be this Saturday. Forecast calls for rain and 45-50 degrees.... and they get it right. I've grabbed more clothes than I possibly can need, and more gear as well. I've got 2 bikes, and an extra wheel set, and I've even brought the trainer. Have I become a true racer? I am contemplating warming up on a trainer instead of just riding around for a while?

Rain on the trip in... this IS cyclocross weather. How am I going to handle this? I arrive at about 11:45, the precip has reduced to a light drizzle, if at all. The course is right on the lake so there is still some wind. I get signed in and get to watch the B/C races start. We have the usual suspects +1. Rick, Pat, Linda and Gary are joined in the B race by Norm in from east coast action and Don is out working the C race.

Word is Rick brought the easy-up, but I don't see anything. So I find a protected spot under the concession stand roof with Ernesto and Nate Ziccardi and setup there. It turns out, I didn't bring a road wheel with me, so I throw the backup bike on the trainer, and yell at my teammates as the race goes by the front door.

Results are up at, Norm was our best place finisher in fourth(?) with the rest of the team doing well in dealing with the mud and notorious sledding hill run up/cobble climb combo. Many pained faces were out in the early race.

Sitting on the trainer, I asked Ernesto if he had seen the course yet. He wasn't hip on getting to wet before the race, so was going back and fourth on doing a prelap. I had pretty much made up my mind already, so after 30 minutes on the trainer, and with the last B racers crossing the line, I took the Surly out for a lap. I found the team tent as I pulled out for the prelap. Brett was on his trainer getting ready for the A race... while the rest of the team was changing and getting into the "recovery" drinks.

The Surly is my pit bike, and I really only wanted it there for emergencies. But I also wanted to get a feel for it on the course, so what the heck, it needs a cleaning anyway. First thing I notices was the Ritchey Speedmax tires were over inflated for this muck. Second thing was, I need to look for the course. It was different enough that I lost it a few times, and had to sit up to find the markers. I made it around, and was glad I did the lap, just for a bit of extra confidence. Back at the van, I dropped the pressure in my tires as low as I comfortably could. Threw the Surly and extra wheels in the pit, figured out my clothing and lined up.


On the line, I contemplated leaving the jacket on for the race... except I knew I'd be working hard in a minute, and then overheat. So I threw it off, and went under dressed for a normal road ride, but with hopefully enough for a 50+ minute all out cross race. They sent the A field, and the 6 master's moved to the line. The A race TOOK OFF! The 6 of us were so busy watching the A race leave, and talking about how fast they were going that I forgot we were going at 30 seconds. GO! What? I'm not ready!!!! 30 second send off, is really fast when you don't pay attention!

So I'm sitting in last wheel from the gun. OK, it's fine, there are only 6 of us, and there's nothing super technical until we get to the sledding hill about half way through the course. So I sit on the wheel, all six of us lined out for lap one. Brent on the front followed by 4 Lake Effects, and me. I'm a little nervous, since my goal is to get in front of Bill again today, so I'm hoping this isn't a team tactic.

Around the grass/pavement transitions, there's no changes until we hit the hill. On the run up, I passed 3 of the 4 Lake Effects. Back down the other side, and I'm passed back into fourth. We hit the mud climb before the cobbles, and I cut it just right on the left through the switchback to gain another spot, and I'm third. Well to the top anyway. On the pavement at the top, I'm passed by 2 before the triple barrier, and I'm chasing on the sidewalk. We lost Derrick on the climb, so the race is down to 5 of us.

Down the sidewalk, and up the off camber climb, Brent and Jeff gain a gap when Rudy goes a little wild behind them. Then, somehow Rudy and Bill gain a gap on me going through the fields. I manage to peg the gap, and keep telling myself not to panic. Bill will come off Rudy's wheel soon, and I have to be ready to press whatever technical advantage I can to get back to him then.

It doesn't take long, at the start of the second lap, Bill starts fading back to me. I passed the start finish at 8:25... so I'm chasing Bill doing math. Yes, instead of some rockin tunes, I do math during a race. (What a geek!) Let's see 8+ minute laps... we'll do 6 laps. K... bring back Bill. I managed to catch him on the second sled hill run up. He goes to the left (the preferred side from what I'm told) I go straight up the middle. I must have passed him before the mud hill, though its a bit foggy now. Pressure to the top, and I've got a small gap.

Now I go into the Paris-Roubaix strategy. Apply pressure on the hard parts, and recover on the flat pavement. So the recovery section at the top of the cobble climb before the triple barriers. I caught the guy at the tail of the A race on the sidewalk, (single speed with the wrong gear) and start to work the gap as best as I can. At the top of the off camber climb, I see that I'm gaining on Brett. Either I'm going well, or Brett isn't, cause I shouldn't be making up much time on him at all. So I yell at him to get moving. What else is a team mate supposed to do?

Speaking of team mates. We've got some rabid fans on the team! Got to love getting yelled at every lap. The sound of the horn, the cowbells and the chants! The feel of the Belgian beer tent... sounds and smells, it's a multi sensory extravaganza! All courtesy of the SnakeBite Racing B/C cyclocrossers! We've got a great team for 'cross! Here's mud in your eye... literally!

So, from now on it's status quo. At the line at lap 2 I see the card says 3 to go. 3 to go seems really short, but maybe math while in the red zone isn't such a great idea. So I do more (I know)... 8:15 x 5 is still under 45 minutes, they must not have set the cards yet. Third time up the run up, third time up the ride up, and I'm getting sloppy. Right before I hit the mud ramp, my foot comes out of the pedal, so I don't shift right, and I bog down at the top. I managed to get it moving again on the paved portion, and make it to the top. Scott Thor and Rick Parr are there, and I'm 20 seconds back... from who? The leaders, or the next guy up the road, my race or the A's? Well, I don't know if it matters, my goal is to stay in front of Bill. I think the next three guys are at the next level up, so my bringing them back is not high on the list of possibilities until I can see one of them up the road.

Through the barriers, and I see Bill just emerge at the top of the climb. NEW GOAL! Idon't want to see him there next lap. On the off camber climb, Brett is still right there. So I yell at him again! Maybe I can catch Brett! Through the line, and I see they've reduced it to 2 laps... so I ask as I go through... 2? They say yes.... OK, start to pick it up then. This is going to be a short race.

Through the run up and the mud ramp again. Not much better, I've got to get this working to maintain my gap! Through the barriers, and I don't see Bill... this should work! At the off camber, Brett is still right there. So this is good, I'm maintaining Brett's pace. Hopefully that will push him a bit also. I don't bother yelling this time. Twice is enough. One lap to go.

Bill is pretty far back, but I don't want to screw this up. So maintain a good pace, key on maintaining pressure. The run up is fine, but the mud ramp is a mess. I end up coming off the bike 3/4 up the hill and running it. Well that won't help! Once off the bike, there's no place to remount until the top of the pavement, so I ran the whole way up. Remount and try to push at the top... but I still need to recover! So recover it is, then I'll push like every other lap. Through the barriers, and Bill is still out of sight. Nice! Going down the sidewalk, I can see Bill running up the mud hill, that's a good sign for me.

This time, I can't see Brett at the top of the off camber. I guess I lost some serious time on that last running of the climb. Well, I'll just hold it and be fine. No panic, no more mistakes. Verify that this is the end and I'm through in 4th. Best finish yet.

Overall a "good day" on last weeks scale Orrville 2006, I beat Bill who I'd like to stay competitive with. Once the race was done, I instantly started to get cold. Dry clothes helped, but I was dreaming of a cup of something hot and a warm fire. So that's the night plan... and some pizza to make it complete.

Special thanks to Gary for this weeks pics. It doesn't matter how good you are, as long as you look good doing it. Well, I guess in 'cross, at least in my case, as long as you make it look like it hurts... Though, I really felt better today, than I have all season.

There's other stories on the day out there.
Scott Thor had a similar race time as mine, so I'm hoping the form is coming around again after losing 3 minutes on him in Orrville last week.

It sounds like Ernesto should have gone out on a prelap, since he made a wrong turn on the first lap, and had to chase because of it

Props again to the team mates for making the cross scene complete. They're out there after their race, screaming for us. The Belgian Ale may help... "BEER IS GOOD!" I even got props from some of the other racers. It's nice to have some fans!

Next week, the fields of Broadview Heights. How wet will it be? How much single track will we see?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Beaver Valley CX

In case you're interested in the Beaver Valley CX race... that I missed... here's a write up.

Orrville Cyclocross #2 - 2006

November 5, 2006

Being the parent of teenagers teaches flexibility. My intent was to do the Raccoon Township Cyclocross race near Pittsburgh. I've heard great things about the course. The down side is the 2 hour drive each way, so when things go a little... uh... wobbly at home, it was easy to start questioning spending 4 hours driving to do an hour (or two if I could jump into two race) of painful cyclocross.

So, by Saturday evening I was already planning on returning to the Orrville cyclocross race. I'd done it two years ago, and the course is nice. It'll cut the drive time in half, but they start much later with the A race going at 3:15, I wouldn't get home before 5:30, and realistically, it would be closer to 6.... what a waffle day. By 10:30 Sunday morning, I'd decide I was going to drive to Orrville, and do the B race. With my passport stamped, I'm on the road to Orrville by 12:00 for the 2:15 start. I couldn't make last weeks Orrville race, so with no racing for two weeks, and little training, I'm "well rested" for this race. Well, I'm not over trained anyway.

The course had few changes since I'd last been here. A barrier before a short hill run up. Right down the other side, and you enter the twisty single track. There's three bridge crossings, and then a barrier/creek crossing/ run up combo before the sidewalk/pavement leading back into a stiff headwind field. Back into more single track, and another field crossing to complete the course.

I arrived at about 1:00 and start putting it all together. Last weeks report was a wet course, so I put the Michelin Muds on and take a lap with Pat Miranda. It's dried out a lot, so I switch to the Tufos and get in another warm up lap a bit faster with Dave Steiner. About half way through the first single track section, I shifted to my 48 big ring and tried that out for the remainder of the lap. I think this will work.

Both warm up laps were at a quick, but not race pace. I then saw that it was after 2, so I jumped on the road and did a big effort to get the heart rate up, and spun around the block hard. Then jumped onto the course to try a fast lap.... but bailed before the second single track section, thinking I might miss the start. That would be bad.

We line up where everyone thinks we should, and I'm in the second line. Rudy Sroka is in the B's, as well as John Lorson, so I'm expecting a fast race. Ryan Wayne and Scott Thor are the fast B's I've seen around so I'm watching them also. Before the start, we're moved, and lined up in one line. 18 men, and 3 women.... they announce payout to 5 places, with cash to the top women and we're off.


There was a crash on the first bridge of the C race, so I decide I want the hole shot for this one. A slight uphill sprint to the barrier/run up combo. At the bell, an Orrville rider takes off, and I'm third behind Ryan Wayne to the barrier. Big ring seems to be working well, and there's a bit of a gap going into the single track. The first guy over is opening up a huge gap in no time, I'm staying close to Ryan, third I can handle... but I'm hearing people on my wheel. Over the second bridge, and Rudy passes me with John Lorson... fifth, last payout. Scott Thor comes around me before the next bridge. Sixth... ugh, this is hard.

Through the barrier creek crossing, and the gaps are opening. These guys are flying! Into the headwind, and another Orrville guy comes around right before the next single track section... then bobbles it and the gap opens more. I can sit on this guys wheel, or give him a little space so if he goes down, I won't get tangled up. So I back down a bit.... that's it, he takes off and now I have to work to close it down... all in the first lap!

This isn't going the way I want it to, but I'm thinking some of these guys will be back soon. I decide to go back to the small ring, cause I'm in the upper end of my cassette. Lap two, Dave and Rick Parr are battling behind me. I've got to keep them off... and the group of 5 chasers are within reach. The first guy is flying and well away.

Into the uphill field... this thing is deadly! I feel like I'm pedaling though peanut butter though it's mostly solid ground. To the barrier, and I hear Dave lifting the bike over, but I opened a gap on him into the single track.... the whole way around, Dave works to close the gap down. I'm opening it through the single track, he closes on the open sections. We go through the line at 13:03... already 45 seconds+ down on the lead rider in 2 laps.

Again, I hit the field, and am bogged down. I hear Dave lift the barrier and I get into the single track with a gap. As we get close to the creek crossing, we start closing on a lapped rider. He stops at the barrier, as we're coming up with speed. He gets off and runs the creek, and I'm coming up fast near the left edge... I probably should have yelled at him that I was passing... and sure enough he moves toward me, and I bang him or his bike with mine as we get to the top.... Urgh!!! Hop back on, and commence my chase. I can just see Scott making the turn as we remount.

Dave is back on my wheel, and comes around into the headwind... fine, I'll sit on and recover. As we head into the single track, I again get this fear of tangling bikes and back off a little bit... and Dave opens his gap. Now I'm just demoralized, I try to get back on Dave's wheel, and my gears start skipping.... through 4 laps at 27:30 or so... 2:15 down on the leader in 4 laps.

Skipping gears! Did I whack my dérailleur? Was it doing this before I passed that guy? I don't remember, I just need to get back to Dave, then see about bringing Scott back. 27 minutes, 2 maybe three more laps to go... I'm dying here. No one is behind me that I can see... so it's just catch Dave. But I'm going backwards.

All right, I backed it down and did a little recovery... don't panic, just work. So it's about here that I figure out how to take the tighter twists in the single track with speed (a little late).

With two to go, I start to ramp up my pace again, but I don't have enough motor for it to make much difference. Scott is gone, and the gap to Dave is opening. I come through for the bell lap, and noted that they ring the bell every time a rider comes through. There's probably 30+ seconds to Dave... and I get over the barrier before I hear the bell behind me... so I've got 8th unless my wheels come completely off. Can I catch Dave?

I dig completely in and try to do everything I can... but Dave is still opening up on me . He's over the creek before I enter that section, and on his way to the finish field before I get to the last single track section... I finished at 50:10... 4:45 behind the winner, and almost 3 minutes behind Scott Thor.


With this course, I probably should have switched to the single ring setup. A 42 would have been about perfect for the flat course. Next week, we're doing the hilly course that pushed me away from the single ring on my first CX season, so I'm not sure that I'll do the switch yet.

Racing against in a different field with new people was fun, though I don't feel I was really on today. So as I cross the finish line, Dave asks me if I had a good day, or a bad day, so he can judge where he was.... being he's been doing the BA A races, and was doing the same thing I was.

It occurs to me... how do I define a good day in cyclocross? You certainly can't go by how you feel. The adage is "It doesn't get any easier as you progress through the ranks, you still suffer the same, you just go faster doing it." So... what's a good day?
  1. Extraordinary/Fantastic day! - If I win... it's only happened once... and my legs felt no different than any other week, so this is not a thoroughly tested data point.
  2. Really good day - If I finish in front of people that I think should beat me, even if it's cause they were hung over, or had a "bad day".
  3. Good day - If I finish in front of people that I think that I'm supposed to be competitive with.
  4. OK day - If I finish where I expected, well it could be an OK day, or a bad day.... depending on my perception on my ability to have done better.
  5. Bad day - Anything else.
So on this scale, I had a bad day. Since at the line I expected to be able to easily (in the standard CX definition) crack the top 5. It doesn't matter if the other people had a good day, or not. If the course suited them or not.... I must have had a bad day, cause I got beat. If it wasn't a bad leg day, then it's a bad day cause I couldn't respond to their move, or I couldn't close their gap. Dave can use this scale also... so by this scale, he had a good day or a real good day depending on how he perceives beating me.

Looks to me like I've got to find a way to get the training back in order before next weeks race. I've also got work to do on my pre-race prep, and I may be replacing a cassette. Fortunately I really like next weeks course. I'm hoping for a really good day.

Special thanks to Katie for the pic.

Monday, October 23, 2006

BA Cyclocross 2 - 2006 Kirtland Park

October 22, 2006

Second day in a row, and after a hard day at the 'cross office, I went home and cleaned two bikes for the next days race. No time for a nap, I just hoped to recover the legs enough to get back into the fray for Sunday's race.

Kirtland Park is that little park on South Marginal road across the freeway from Burke Lakefront Airport. I did my first 'cross race here 3 years ago, so I've got a soft spot for it. This year October Lake Effect have brought the venue back after not racing here last year. New promoter, slightly different course. For as muddy and sloppy as the Chagrin River course was, this was mostly soft grass.

The course started on a long grass straight away right into the wind. A few twists led to the first stair run up, which could be mostly bypassed by riding along the right of the steps. Then pavement around to the amphitheater, where we do 3 180 drops along the rows, the last of which included a barrier before the turn. Then to the second set of stairs. Drop down to the base level, 180 around a tree, and go around the from of the stage. From there we twist around the statue, then up over a nasty little hump and onto the gravel path. Twist around and through the playground and back into the wind for the start finish.

The course was pretty short, though I'm not sure the total length I'll estimate it at 3/4 mile. So lots of laps... The forecast was a rainy cold day with the high at 50. So again, I've got clothing issues. My choice yesterday worked out, but it's cooler today. So after warming up with base layer and a jacket, I opt for the long sleeves, and no base layer. If I'm cold, I'm not working hard enough.

B/C race was really fun to watch. After a one minute pause the first C racer caught the back end of the B race in a half lap... might say something about where that guy should be racing. He was turning in lap times as fast as the front of the B race.

The front of the B race broke into groups really fast. 5 guys at the front, followed by a chase group of 3 including Rick Adams (SBR). The groups worked well together but soon the front group split again, then there was two alone up front, followed by three and three. Some solid group efforts going on... even if the front two were not in doubt, the race for 3-5 and 6-9 was shaping up nicely. Tony Marut had a mechanical that dropped him out of the 3/5 group and he had to work hard to get back into the 6-9 group. Rick did a nice job of working his group, even though a couple of other guys surged around him.

At the line, it's the usual suspects with the addition of Brad Beeson from Spin on his plush full squish MTB. 10 Masters, and we're off. Brad sets a blistering pace at the start. I'm staying in 7th wheel into the wind. I seem to remember having some trouble getting around Derrick last year, so I jump a bit to get in front of him before the first turn. It's Rudy, Jeff, Brent and Brad followed by Bill and I and the rest of the field.

Up the stairs, and onto the pavement, I'm following Bill close. Up ahead, Brad is mixing it up with the fast guys... surprises me, but we'll see how this goes. Into the amphitheater, and we line it out, we clear the first 180 fine, but on the second one, Bill overcooks it and slides out. I hold it on and thread it around him and try an attack! I'm hoping to again hold him off now.

Derrick is on my wheel, as I try to drill it over the course and into the head wind. Ouch! This is work. Bill is a bit back, but I'm going to push hard to make him work to make it back. Through the wind is lots of work, I'm going to have to think about this now. Through the start finish, I ran a 4 minute lap... this is going to be fast.

I make it around for the second lap and Bill as back to me, Derrick is fading, and Brad is off the front three's wheel and headed our way. Bill makes it back to me by the twisty stuff, so I slow and let him take the lead... if you want the front, I'll stick on your wheel through the wind. I follow all the way through, pretty much the whole lap, I attack through the second stair set, and make him work to get around me again in time for the wind... I feel bad, but not too bad. He pulls for the second time.

I let him lead me up the first stair set, and I'm basically crawling up his wheel when he dismounts. I had a bit of a cleat stick issue, and screwed that up... so I think I should try and lead through the stairs... I'm taking them faster so it might be a good move. Bred is coming back faster, and I think Bill is catching on... I come around him and Brad before the wind.

This time Brad makes a move to pull through the wind... and I let him. I'll sit on his wheel. Bill is on mine. I get Brad to pull through twice, then I attack around the tree and open a gap. Things are smooth, but Bill is on the wheel. Then he gives it a go at the top of the stairs and gets a gap. He holds it through the twisty stuff, but I'm able to sprint back to catch his wheel. It seems to me that I've got an edge through the technical stuff, but Bill has got a bit more motor than I do right now. I'd open a gap, and he'd close it... he'd open a gap, and I'd be able to close... it was tight racing.

Up through the stairs again, and the front end of the A field is on us. Ernesto has attacked Paul and is on a roll. Nate and Jake are chasing as well. We make the amphitheater, and around the two 180's headed for the barrier, when Ernie calls the A racer. So instead of remounting at the top, I run the drop after the barrier to let him through... and Bill takes advantage! Totally screwed up my momentum, cause now I've got to chase without the drop to help. Ernie makes his move around Bill at the stairs. I hit the stairs hard and I'm back to work, I've got to catch them, hopefully before the long straight.

Down and around, they get 20 seconds in no time... Paul comes around me before the straight and again, I slow to give him space... not helping my cause at all here. So I'm alone through the start finish with 6 laps... YES 6 laps to go. We only did 6 laps in the whole race yesterday.

For the next two laps, I'm able to hold the gap at about 20 seconds, but I cannot close it. Maybe Bill has taken Ernesto's advice of only using the good lines when they aren't on your wheel, I'm trying to pull out all the stops. But that gap does not drop.

Brad is gone, so again I hold on for 5th. I ended up getting caught by 7 of the 10 A race finishers, and I caught 2 of the remaining 3. Pretty monotonous, but I'm coming around. At least it's a race.

Tactically, this two race weekend was fun. Even though I didn't come out on top either time, it was fun to think about the race and try stuff to gain and advantage. It's better than just head down slog through the 50 or 60 minutes.

It's now three races in a row that I've let time go slowing down while the A race came by me. I'm not sure how to handle this. I don't want to get in the way of the A racers, and slow them down, but I also don't like slowing down to let them by and basically giving up my battle for place. It's no problem when they pass me in open space... it's the technical parts that get me. Like passing at the barrier. I gave space, and gave up a place and momentum in being a nice cross guy. I don't know if I could have held onto the battle for the remaining 6 laps, but it would have been nice to find out. I guess the best thing to do would be to ride faster, so I don't get caught. I wonder if I can get that fitness by the next race.

Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge - 10/21/06

October 21, 2006

Snakebite Racing

This is the second year we've run this course on Brett Davis parent's property in Chagrin Falls. A mostly flat course of about 1 1/8th mile which ends up including everything except a run up and pavement. There's a sand section, lots of twisty grass, some single track through a stand of pine trees, off camber stuff, a big log crossing, and a creek crossing. We took out a barrier section this year, but we added a real set of 38cm barriers replacing the logs that everyone could ride. With addition of the beer tent, some thumping tunes, and temps in the 50's with sunny skies, we had all the makings for a Belgian 'Cross race, including some mud.

Lots of rain over the last week or so had us scrambling. On Wednesday, Brett told me the sand was under the Chagrin River. By Friday night, it was open again, the barriers were up and things were looking good. That is until Brett was clearing the leaves off the course and found our creek crossing was about 7 feet wide and over a foot deep. A little too much for us... Saturday morning we improvised a foot bridge out of some 2x6 lumber laying around... we set up a barrier on the approach so people had to get off and wouldn't try to ride the bridge. Because of the new barrier, we cut up part of the log crossing to make it more ridable and the course was finished at 11:50 for a 12:00 start.

We had plans to get two lines of vehicles parked along the driveway, but with the last minute course work, no one was around to direct the parking. With 71 racers showing, and almost as many cars, it was parking chaos. So even though my intent was to get a decent warm up, I was still trying to get cars someplace to go. Ah the life of helping out a promoter...

I had clothing issues... what shall I wear? I don't want to be cold... or hot. In the end I opted for the short sleeves and arm warmers... assuming feeling cold during the race last weekend was a fluke. With all the rain and the conditions, I decide to run the Michelin Mud's. I've got a set of Tufos, but have had no luck getting them to hook up in the muddier courses. I also brought the spare bike today. I've still got my Surly from last year that I've been using for commuting, so I put the Tufos on it, and leave it in the pit for emergency purposes.

B/C Race
31 B racers racers toed the line. Ed Delgros (Summit Freewheelers) set a blister pace to take the B race by almost 2 minutes. Ryan Wayne spoiled Tony Marut's (October Lake Effect) 15th birthday party by out sprinting him at the line for second place.

In the C race, Mark Kimmerle (Alan Factory) finished first in the field of 14, followed by Mason Morgan, and another birthday boy, junior Drew Bercaw (Pista Elite).

At the A/Masters race start, we sang a round of "Happy Birthday" for Brent Evans (Color-Me-Safe Racing) to round out the birthday celebrants on the weekend.

There's the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, Richter Earthquake scale, and then there's Dave Carr's Mud Index, a 0-10 scale grading consistency of mud, starting at 0 for dry dirt, and going to 10 for river water. We probably hit 9 of the 11 grades (adjusted for Ohio conditions of course). Click the link to follow along at home.

Since the Linda Miranda's official van got stuck in the mud, we moved the start forward a bit. The 15 A's went off and a minute later, I'm racing with 8 master's and 2 women.

For some reason I got a pretty poor start, and am sitting about 7th. Over the last week, I'd decided I didn't really want the hole shot as it takes a lot of energy, and it doesn't gain me much to be on the front and then get passed... but I certainly want to be in the top 5, since that's about where I belong. The start is over a grassy field with a grade 1/2 (damp earth/adobe clay) mud underneath. As soon as the grass is broken, the mud starts moving. I take the line high just outside the flags to move into 5th position, behind the normal Brent, Rudy, Jeff and Bill as we hit the sand pit.

Shoulder the bike and carry the sand... and past. Right after the sand is a short steep ramp that can be considered a run. At the top we remount and head back to the field for some long passes across the field. 3 180's, and we're heading to the beer tent. Right before the tent, there is a slight rise covered with grade 4 peanut butter. Slick stuff here that claimed lots of B and C racers. Through the tent, and to the barriers.

Into the pine stand, and we hit a section of mud that was a mix of grade2/3 (Adobe Clay/Play-doh) with some pine needles thrown in for a nice brick making compound. This stuff was stick to the brakes all through the race. I was taking a line straight through this in warm ups, while everyone else was by-passing to the right. Back on solid ground, we take a quick 180 and head through the stand. Across a culvert, and out to the off camber. At the beginning of this section, it's through some slop (grade 8) before hitting the grassy slime (grade 6). The off camber made this tricky section fun to keep the tires in line.

Out of the off camber we head to the gravel drive, but not before a dip in some glop (grade 7) just to pack in the slime from the previous section. After turning along the drive, we transition to some more grassy play-doh, over the bumpy section and up to the back yard. Next up, the grade 9 soup that drenched the shoes and did some good at cleaning the bike every lap. Through some rollers on grade 2, and we hit the log. Twist some double track, and head to the barriers/ foot bridge/ climb. Around some more grade 2/3 stuff and back to the start finish.

Not bad, we probably could have gotten the grade 10 river water in if we'd not put in the foot bridge. So the only thing we missed was dry dirt of grade 0.

So through the first lap, and I'm sitting 5th most of the way, in the second lap, Rudy and Brent start to open the gap. Jeff jumps off his bike and grabs his spare, as Bill and I are still pretty close, with Bill doing most of the work. Ed Delgros has jumped into the Master's race after his win in the B's, and I'm pretty sure I can hold him off... being his second race should have cooked him for this.

Second lap, and Bill pretty much gives up coming through the start finish. Even yelling I'm cooked as we come through... so I give it the gas to open a gap. I'm third, and I want to hold this. Through the lap, and I'm avoiding the pine mix, but I'm still getting too much dirt in my wheel. I've got to hold off Bill and Jeff, as he makes his way back up. They somehow close the gap to me, Jeff gets around me, but is dealing with a rubbing brake. I end up not able to stick with him as he pulls away. Shortly afterward, Ed also gives it the gas and gets by me... how does he do that? Second race, and he's schooling us.

Through the third lap Bill and I are battling it out. He's some how recovered and though I've opened a nice gap, I bobble in the off camber section, where I almost hit a phone pole. As I get moving, I pick up enough leaves and mud to pack up the front wheel. I'm hoping to wash it out/or push it out over the gravel, but no luck... It's packed tight. I decide it'll save me more time to clear it. So I come to a complete stop on the bumpy section. I back the bike up and eject the crap from the wheel. The get moving, but not before Bill is back on my wheel. Through the back section, and I decide again to carry the log, hoping it'll slow Bill down. He makes his move as I remount, and I'm back to chasing.

Through the fourth lap, Bill is opening a gap. Bike is not shifting well, and it seems to be getting heavier with mud. I've got a pit bike, why not give it a go! The reason for the pit bike is a clean bike that should be faster than the slope covered bike... shift well and maybe I can make up the 20 seconds or so Bill has on me in the remaining two laps.

I have this idea, and make a decision in about 100 yards. Off the Steelman and onto the Surly. I make the change right before the rise to the beer tent. I run the rise, hop on and ride to the barriers.

I bought the Steelman to be the race bike, I knew it was lighter than the Surly, but I didn't realize what that meant until I lift the barriers... "Woah, this thing is a pig!" Even clean, I'm sure the Steelman was lighter. Smaller bars, are also instantly noticeable, but I should be able to make some ground! Off I go in the hunt.

Well, it turns out the bike change in this instance was a mistake. I buried myself over the next two laps. Unfortunately, I still have issues with the Tufos hooking up, and all the differences between the two bikes are really annoying... longer reach, narrower bars with shorter drop... It's also time to replace the shifters on the surly, as they tend to not shift cleanly. It's OK on the road, I know how to handle it... during the race, it was disaster. So instead of making up time, Bill opens up on the fifth lap. I haven't learned enough to actually pick up the Steelman again, so I complete the race on the Surly. In the end I lose a minute and a half on Bill, though I will say I sat up during the last half lap, when it was obvious a waste of effort to try to pull him back. Especially since there's another race tomorrow.

Overall it was a really hard race. All the mud turned everything into a slog fest. Tough the bike change eventually turned out to be a mistake, I was not sorry I tried to race a tactical move. I guess it's time to spend on that bike and set it up right. Another set of Mud's may also be in my future. It'll still be heavy, but if I can get it mechanically sound, it may have made a positive difference in a race like this.

Check out Ernesto's Solo Goat Blog for the A race rundown. Ernesto Marenchin(Asylum/Speedgoat), Paul Martin(Texas Roadhouse), and Nate Ziccardi(Savage Hill) passed me like a train in the middle of the pine stand on my fourth lap. Shortly there after Ernesto and Paul dropped Nate, then Ernie attacked and held on for the V.

The Master's race was won by Rudy Sroka(October/Lake Effect), followed by a hard working Jeff Craft(October/Lake Effect) who recovered from the flat, and made up space from 7th back into second. The birhtday spot for the day was third, since the birthday boy, Brent Evans(Color-Me-Safe Racing) made it three third place birthdays out of four races.

After the race, we all hung out for a bit for cake and beer, and the podium. Pictures are sure to follow. Special thanks to Linda Miranda and Lynne Marut for scoring the race, and Brett and his parents for hosting a fun event, well fun except for the actual time I was on the bike.

Monday, October 16, 2006

BA Cyclocross 1 - 2006 Fairport Harbor

October 15, 2006

Midterms this week, so this might be a little bit weird. Let me know if anything is totally off.


Finally time to get started. This year the Lake Effect guys have added a new race category, Master's 40+. So I've got a dilema... I can race either the A race or the Masters race... and I'm torn.

The master's field will be taking numbers away from the A race, as probably half of the regular A's from last year can race in the Master's field. It also gives some of the faster B masters a place to go instead of racing against Paul Martin, Ernesto Marenchin and Mike House. My biggest problem in the A field last year was that there weren't enough people racing A's to make it a race. The fastest guys would pull away, and I'd be riding on my own... ahead of one or two others, but without someone to chase... so it was more like a 10-15 minutes race until the gaps got huge, then I'd be doing a Sunday cross practice ride at less than 100%. If I race master's, I feel like I'll be part of the problem... then again, there may actually be some racing in the Master's field.

So... I arrive at the venue, and I still don't know what to do! What a wishy washy bike racer I am.

The Course

Fairport Harbor is a new location. It's right on the beach, so I expect some sand... and boy is there sand. From the line the course is on grass next to the road. The grass leads to some sidewalk, and drops off a curb to cross the road. It then twists around a sidwalk climb, around a lightpost, and down to the amphitheater run up. You can almost remount for the ride up the hill... but if you miss the pedal, you'll stall and loose more than it's worth. Once remounted, there's the nice off camber decent leading to some grassy twists back to the theater stage. Then across the lawn toward the beach.

More twisting sections before we have to deal with the sand. On the way to the beach we go around a stump... that is in same semi hard packed sand. Turn to hard, and the bike will wash out. Down a nice drop to a short, soft beach section that climbs up to the previous level. I was dismounting before the drop and running this section for lots of reasons. Once back on top, there was some hard pavement/sand leading to two short sand section, before turning onto the sidewalk to head to the second half of the course.... and more sand.

The second half had two sand pits separated by a twisty grass section around some barbeque grills, then through the beach house to... more sand. A straight, semi hard section leading to a softer section, leading to a log crossing. Then a hard packed sand parking lot lead to a short paved climb that went up and around a gate over some broken pavement, then headed back down to the parking lot. This section had some bumpy grass section leading to the one set of barriers, a three pack in grass. Back on the bike, and back to the bumpy hard packed sand parking lot. Then you twist around a paved traffic circle, up a shorter paved climb before hopping a 6-8 inch drop back onto sand. (yes, that was sand, I'll explain later). We then dropped back to the start finish.

Overall I got about 1.25 miles per lap. With all the sand, it was a tough little course. The key would be to find the right lines through the sandy sections to not loose time, then figure out where to recover. It's a little cool at about 50+ degrees, and pretty windy. Fortunately it's mostly protected, but there are some spots that it makes a difference. A nice tail wind along the sidewalk... and some headwind sections going back through the start finish.

So, I think Erwin Verveken is a sand specialist, I hear that the Netherlands cross courses are very sandy. The trick is to turn as little as possible on the sand, cause you're sure to go down. At one point during the B/C race, I watched a guy get turned sideways in a sand pit... the bike stalled, and from a complete stand still, he just fell over. Like the guy on the tricycle in the old Laugh-in shows. He never came unclipped from the pedals, and his bike just lifted right over him. It looked pretty amusing... especially since I figured he couldn't really get hurt in sand.

So, the B/C race goes off and I'm cheering on my teammates as they figure out the course. Rick, Gary and Don, joined the 27 B racers that showed up, in that order. I still haven't decided what to race. In the A's I'll be racing Brett and the young super fast guys. In the Masters' I'll be racing some of the older super fast guys. In the end, I flip a coin, and join the masters. The only big deal about this is I make the decision for the whole season at the first race. So know I'm commited.

As we lined up with the A field, word has it we'll start as a bunch. I was thinking that would be cool, until I realized that we wouldn't really have our own race then. Rudy decided we could vote on the start and one of the 12 Masters wanted the mass start... so we decided to start 30seconds after the A's. 14 A's and 13 Masters, so both fields were reasonably sized.

Oh, and there were some fast guys in the A field, so I figured I had made the right choice. Not that the Master's field was a slouch... we had Rudy, Jeff Craft, Brent Evans, Bill Marut and Derrick Wilford among the group. And I figured the finish would include the 6 of us, but had only a few ideas on the actual order.

Off the A's went, 30 seconds... and the season has started!

I get a good start and slightly lead it onto the sidewalk. I figure I don't really want to totaly set the pace, so I let Brent ahead, and sit on his wheel. Up the first run up, It's the two of us on the front of a reasonable group. We hit the beach together, and I take a pull next to Brent, then slide back in as we head to the second half.

Along the sidewalk, we catch the first A rider. This guy probably should not have been in the A race, but he was. As we come up on him, a couple of guys are shouting warnings that we're coming up. I guess one guy got a bit overheated about it and told the guy to get off the course. Not really fair. The guy did pay for entry, and was getting totally killed. Still...

So into the sand, and I'm still second wheel. Feeling pretty good. We hit the log, and I've got the roll over move down. Once onto the parking lot, Rudy lays down the attack, and the gap starts to open. Rudy and Jeff make a move, with Brent. It turns out only Bill and I are left. so the ordering seems to be setting up as I expected. Throughout the entire next lap, I'm keeping everyone in sight, but the gaps are opening. I'm feeling pretty good, but not good enough to close things down.

But we are starting to bring the back end of the A field in. Then Bill pulls around me and opens his gap. OK, so I'm getting back into the rythem of cross. Keep the gap to Bill constant. Work on bringing the back end of the A riders, and wait to try to make my move to catch Bill at the end of the race. One by one, Bill is picking off the last A's. I'm keeping about two guys between us. The gap is opening slowly, but doesn't seem to be out of hand. I just need to keep the pressure up.

I've never been cold during a cross race before... (that I remember) but for some reason, it took me a LONG time to warm up. I don't know if I should have put on a baselayer, or if I'm actaully sick, but for the first 3-4 laps, I was downright cold.... and wasn't I so cross eyed that actually I thought about it and even now I remember being cold. So something wasn't right there. Just don't know what!

About halfway through the race, things start going a bit side ways. I'm closing on Thom Dominic, from the A race. Bill is in front of him still in sight. I get on Thom's wheel through the barriers, and sit comfortably heading into the start area. As we head off the pavement, I rail the corner trying to accelerate past Thom to start to bring back Bill, when I realize (the hard way) that there is hard packed sand right off the pavement. My front wheel digs in, and I go down... still clipped in, the bike goes bouncing up above me... and I am reminded how unamusing this is... even though it looked almost exactly like that C racers wreck earlier... except I wasn't at a standstill. Ouch.

Now Thom has reopened the gap, and I've got to go bring that back again! Fortunately I wasn't down long, but it does take your momentum away. For the next lap or so, I have to convince myself to keep up the pressure. I notice my heart rate is down, and I'm not pushing as hard as I should be. Thom has opened his gap a bit over this time, and I finally get back into my rythem and start to bring him back again.

Now my back is starting to hurt, my lungs hurt, everything is getting painful... I must be doing something right then... My gaps are staying reasonably constant, so I'm not loosing a lot, but I'm not gaining either. Thom seems to be yo-yoing. I'm bringing him back, then he opens up again...

When I raced A's, my first goal was to not let Paul Martin lap me. I figured I was doing ok, if I could stay on the lead lap. With 2 or so to go, Mike House (former US CX champ) and Jake Stechman catch me, I slow before the run up to let them by. Thom has opened his gap up again, and I can't see Bill anymore. Behind me, I can only see Paul Martin and a couple of A racers I've already passed, so I just have to work on pulling back the tail end of the Master's field. Paul catches me on the same lap.... then Ernesto gets me with 2 laps to go. I worked to hang with each of these uber fast A racers for as long as I could, just to check my technical lines, House and Steckman carried from the top of the beach drop through the sand. Ernesto takes the same lines as I do through the off camber drop.... I can't hold Pauls wheel through hard/soft sand before the log (duh!).

So 4 A racers get me, though they did get a 30 second start, I don't see how I would have held them off if I'd joined the A race. More confirmation that I'm in the correct race.

As the laps go on, my shifting starts to really deteriorate. Sand is some nasty stuff. By the end my gears are skipping like crazy.... every time I jump on the pedals, the gears skip. How am I going to catch anyone if I can't apply the pressure I want? Whenever the gears shift, I try to move to one harder gear. That seems to keep me moving.

The only lap cards I see are 6 to go, 4 to go, and then I look, and there are no numbers... ! How many more? They say this is it... where's the bell? I've got bell issues from my last road race. OK, so I've got one lap to see what I can do... so I just bury it. On the last lap, I picked up one more lapped rider, but things were pretty set.


So as expected, Rudy took the win, Jeff was second, then Brent for the podium. Then Bill, me and Derrick. There was no time data taken, so I don't really know how far back I was. I do know my heart rate was pretty constant, but I didn't really go as deep as I remember going in the past... so maybe there's some improvement opportunities there.

It seems like I'll be chasing Bill this season, so the goal is to get in front of him... and maybe get onto the podium, though that seems like a tal order with the looks of this field.

In the A race, Mike House took the win ahead of Paul Martin. Jake Stechman had some mechanicals with 3 or 4 to go, and ended up dropping off of House's wheel, but managed to hold on for third. Brett Davis did a bang up job of his first A race staying on the lead lap and pulling in an 8th place.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tuesday Night Cyclocross Practices

We're setting up the course and running 'cross practice on Tuesdays at Brett Davis parent's property.

We had about 11 show up last night for some 'cross night antics... loads of fun. Brett and a few others spent about an hour working on clearing the course, then we spent about an hour riding.

Same thing next Tuesday, though I guess there will be less work and more riding. Brett and I are planning on showing up at 5:30 again. Come whenever you can though and jump right in.

7177 Bainbridge Rd
Chagrin Falls, OH

Course info:
Pretty much the same course as last year with some minor modifications. Laps are about 1 1/8 mile. With the rain, it was slow going through the fields, and there were some soft spots in the woods. We've got 2 log crossings set up, one sand pit and the creek jump/run up. My lap times were running about 6.5 minutes.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fall Challenge - 9/24/2006

Last road race of the season, and I had convinced myself that I could win this race today. I started thinking about it last night, I even analyzed the year that I came in fourth. Dan G jumped about half way up the last rise before the line... so I thought I'd try that also.

I showed up, with Jason Rapp and Gary Berkholder from SBR. Jason said he was planning on doing 3 of the 5 laps before he expected to blow up. So we rolled out, and Jason set the pace for the first lap... it was slow, but typical SBR fashion... we don't race smart, but we do contribute.

Second lap Jason sits in about half way back. I'm doing no work, and the pace was really easy. Second time up the climb, I fell a little far back on the descent, and had to dodge guys falling off the pace to get back near the front of the race. So I figured I'd try to stay closer to the front on the remaining descents.

On the climb, Jason pointed out one guy in a light blue kit (CMVC Preformance? Some Pittsburgh team) that he watched control Zoar. So I start watching him. He's directing at least 3 other guys, all in different kit, and they are controlling the front of the race.

As we come by the start finish, I see we've got 2 to go. So, I figure it's going to start getting rougher now. I pull up next to Jason, and ask him how far he wants to go? The race is too easy in my estimation. There are to many cat 5 guys squirreling around, so if this is his last lap, I'd like him to make it hard and cull the field a bit. He says he wants to make all five laps, so I'll just let someone else make the race.

Something must have changed on the downhill, because Jason goes to the front on the outside, Gary follows to the front on the inside, and we've got two SBRs pulling on the descent. I'm sitting about 10 back, as we hit the hill. The Jason fades off the back. I'm again further back than I want to be, but we crest and I'm right on the back end of the field. I'm able to work my way back up with some effort. It looked to me like Gary was just about to give up when I came by him, and told him to dig deep, recover and get ready for the next lap. I expect them to punch it over the hill next time around.

The field is now cut in half.

Steve Previs was there today also, and I'm sitting near the back chatting with him as we pass through the line. We end up chatting quite a bit more than I'm comfortable with, and he likes to sit at the back of the field... so on the downhill, I cut up the inside and settle in to fourth wheel.... and sit there.

Up the climb, I'm digging to not loose any position... and succeed. As we start the rollers to the line, the three guys ahead of me are the guy in blue and two of his buddies. They push the pace a bit, but I'm sticking right on them. I can win this thing... as long as I don't do anything stupid. So, every time one of the three pull off, I open a gap and they pull into it. I'm basically gate keeping, and doing nothing extra. I bide my time, as we close in on the line.

It remains the four of us all the way to the last little rise. I'm still on the inside, and I expect the rush but it doesn't come. So I jumped right where I had planned on. I got a huge gap, and kept looking for the chase. It didn't come.. and I didn't figure out why, until the official started ringing the bell for the last lap!

I went one lap too early!

Everyone knew which lap cards to watch but me. Typically, when there's an A race and a B race, the top numbers are for the A's and the bottom are for the B's. This time, the officals were setting the top numbers for both A's and B's, and the bottom numbers were for the women/juniors field.

SO... instead of just continuing the attack, I sat up and let the field pull me back in... I figured I could recover enough to still have a chance. Once back in the field I started joking about my dufus move. Can't take this bike racing too seriously... it would be to painful that way.

So we're down to about 20, the same 4 guys are still driving the pace, and I'm sitting about fifth to tenth wheel as we hit the hill. Its hard to do that hill this "extra" time, and I popped off and somehow was close to the last one over the top.

I was about 50 meters back at the top and I somehow convinced myself to chase as hard as I could. I was able to start picking guys off. I kept looking for some help, but I guess I had more left than the guys I was catching. I ended up picking up one guy to work after passing about 5. We caught a couple more but they didn't help much at all. Even though the two of us were encouraging them to work. Once the both of us blew up (me first, then him right afterward), the other guys got in front of us. One other guy caught us, and got around. I re-caught the helping dude, and was going to just roll in with him, but he said he was cramping on the climbs, so I left him to try to catch the next guy up the road... it didn't work.

So a group of 12 contested the sprint. Previs came in 7th (first non-paying spot) and I think I came in 16th. Gary finished 3-4 behind me, and Jason finished the 3rd lap and called it quits.

I'm pissed at myself for once again coming up with some stupid reason for not doing as well as I'd hoped. I had a plan, and worked it exactly as I wanted, I just screwed up the lap count.

Please let 'cross season start soon, so I can thrash myself mercilessly for an hour every weekend for being so stoopid. My racing luck has got to turn around soon. If not, there is always the off season.

In the A race, we had Tom Keller and Brett. Paul Martin was alone up front. Tris was about 2-3 minutes back, then Rudy another 2 or so. Then Ed Delgros, and John Lowry. The field stayed together until the rollers on the way in, an MVC guy took off, and Tom followed, then the field dribble in behind.

Brett on a borrowed bike! After showing up to the race without breakfast or food for the race, or even a water bottle... had enough time to adjust the seat on the bike and ride around the parking lot twice and borrow a bottle before being called to the line. He made it with the group into the last lap then bonked huge and fell way off the pace. We were about to get in the car and go look for him when he rolled in looking like a bear waking up from hibernation! Props to gary for bringing some extra food, or I think Brett may have chewed off his own arm to get home.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

TOP Hale Farm Road Race - 07/08/2006

Nothing much happening in July, since I skipped the Twin Sizzler (weather, and just plain tired), I decided to do the Summit Freewheeler Hale Farm TOP race. 

Since it's only a 25 mile race, I decided to pull the Brett Davis move and ride there. 8:30 start time, 30 miles to the start.. I figured 6:30 would give me plenty of time to get there. I had my route planned out, nothing crazy, mostly downhill with some bike and hike trail to get me there. It should be fun.

Turns out one of the east side riding groups was planning on doing the Emerald Necklace ride that morning, so I figured I'd meet with them and they could pull me half way there... the advantage was I also had to leave about 15 minutes earlier than planned. Well, plans didn't quite work out. I was a little late, and they went the other way, but I was well on my way before I figured out they weren't going to help. Reguardless, I got a little nervous at about 8:10, but pulled into the lot at 8:20 with time to sign in, drop a bunch of stuff and line up.

I was the lone SBR rider in the A race, Don Frey represented in the B's. The A race looked a bit stacked 5 or 6 Summit riders, 4 or 5 StarkVelo, 3 from AGF and Batke and Hopkins from Torrelli. There were also a bunch of single guys rounding out the field of about 25. I had either made a really dumb move riding down, or it would be perfect.

The Hale Farm RR course is the same course we do for the covered bridge race, except the finish is after the turns and the bridge. I don't like the finish there, but race what you're given.

We rolled out of the school and kept it nuetral until Riverview road. Pretty much straight away then someone goes to the front and lifts the pace. Shortly after we started moving, the attacks start. Tris Hopkins was the first one off the front. We pulled him back, and then Batke goes. Surprise! Ha. For the most part, Eddie Delgros is on the front doing the work to bring the breaks back. I tried to stay about fifth wheel, and just be attentive. 

Five laps, with so many 1/2/3 racers, I decided to race defensively. I watched a few guys, if they got nervous, I'd try to follow. Dick Brink, and whatever Torrelli guy was not attacking, and Brian Ramsey were my main watches. Other than that, sit and make sure I was conserving, but would jump with anything that looked to go.

Overall pretty uneventful. With 3 to go, I tried to get into a move with Batke that didn't work because there was traffic in the first corner after the attack. Lots of surging going on as different people tried to get off the front. Someone would go, they'd get a gap... someone else would chase. I'd follow, and occasionally do some work. Being alone though, I didn't feel I had to work much.

With just over 2 to go, Batke got off the front with an AGF kid. They had a nice little gap and were starting to work together. Another AGF guy got on the front and start to soft pedal a bit to help. Then Tris Hopkins bridged up with another guy (may have been a Summit guy). Now THAT looked dangerous. Both Torrellis in a break with another team or two with numbers, I needed to get onto that move. I was sitting about third wheel as we went by the school, and two Stark guys were next to me. One guy says to the other "I can get you up there, ready?" Free ticket to the front! They jumped, I jumped with them, and held on. The first guy pulled us to within 20 yards, as he came undone the second guy finished it, and I made it in. 

Now this looked very good. Stark, AGF and Summit in a break. Surely this could work! Once on, I needed a little recovery, fortunately we were starting a paceline while I was at the back. We started to roll through. By the time I did my little pull the group had grown from 6 to 8 or so and the gap had shrunk. Pretty soon we were all back together again... shoot. Well at least I didn't work myself into the ground chasing this down.

All together as we went through for the bell, pretty calm during the last lap. A few people had little jumps, but it was all shut down pretty quick. As we came to Ira road, the whole field slowed way down, so I decided to give it a shot. Nothing risked, nothing gained. I got a pretty big gap before they realized I was gone. I was hoping that nobody really knew me, so they might let me go a ways. If I could get to the back hill, I'd bury it to get to the turns first and try to hang on...

Nothing doing, I got a reaction before the school. I pretty much sat up there so I would have something left for the finish. It was all together when we made the turn onto the back side...  now I had a little trouble. I really hadn't though much about the finish... I was about 10th wheel going into the backside. If I wanted to finish well, I had to improve my position before teh covered bridge turn! Not happening though! I made up a spot or two before the turn, so I was eight there.

Turn at the bridge, jump sprint to the next turn. One of the AGF guys popped a few in front of me, so we had to close a bit more space. Second turn, and give it all! I saw I was not going to get into the top 5 pretty quickly, so I just rolled in. At least one guy came around me, so I ended about 10th. 

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how it went. I felt good about how I raced, though I probably shouldn't have made that jump at the end, and should have planned my finish better. Every day is a learning experience, and given the days competition, I'm pretty pleased with the results.

In the B race, Don finished well with a strong field of StarkVelo and Summit Cat 4s. In the field and in the top 10.So a good day for the lonely team.




Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Raccoon Rally MTB Race - 6/25/2006

In 1998, my wife brough home this little sheet of paper she found at a grocery store in Buffalo. The Raccoon Rally mountain bike festival! Ohh, that looks like fun. She says "Why don't you do this?" She kicks herself for that move almost every weekend now.

The rest is history. I did my first mountain bike race. 23 miles up this mountain with absolutly bo training. I sucked, but I finished and I was hooked. It took me almost 3 hours. I returned in 99, and decided I needed a bike with some suspension. I didn't get back again in 2003, I raced sport and felt I did ok, but was still a mid pack racer. In 2004 they added a road race, and that made the weekend complete because I had just gotten a road bke. That was also when I decided to race expert becasue I had a really good race, and was still obliterated by guys that raced at the same pace as the expert field. If I'm racing against experts, I'll just race the expert class.

Since then, I haven't ridden my mountain bike much. I've been hooked on cyclocross, and the road rides start at the end of my driveway, not a 30-90 minute drive away. Drive for 1 to 3 hours to ride for an hour doesn't make sense to me.

So once a year (give or take) I take a weekend, drive for 6 hours to do about 5 hours of racing. This is actually the first time I've ridden my mountain bike with any intensity in over a year. Add to that the effort of the road race, and I've got NO expectations for this race except to have fun. Well, my idea of fun is still to compete, ride fast, but I don't really expect to get any kind of result.

The expert field is about 50 riders, I know I can beat some of these guys. I also know I won't see the front for very long. Dave is riding the expert race also, and he was able to relax for half the road race. He was really disappointed about it, but his legs should be happy today.

I've got another buddy on the trail. TrainWreck has shown up to the rally, and has volunteered to marshal the race. He told me he'd cheer me on, so now I have to do something good. 

We start on the grass directly to a gravel road leading to the woods. Sure enough a gap opens on the road, and half the field rolls away. I'm hoping to go hard to the top of the climb in the first lap knowing the race is much easier after that. Only real problem is my legs don't really want to climb today. As we hit the woods, I moving, but not comfortable. Dave comes up to me, and leads me up some of the way in. I grit my teeth to hold his wheel, knowing if I can climb with him, it'll help. I guess I expect my technical skills to help me stay in front of him, so any rabbit I can find.

We climb together to the start of the SnowSnake trail. I'm wondering if I'll stay with Dave for the whole ride. As we make the turn onto SnowSnake, there is a pretty nice descent, and Wreckage is right there... he yells, "BIG RING AND GO"... I'm such a sucker for peer pressure, I do exactly that, and attack the descent... WOO! I can still ride. I feel pretty good on the technical stuff, and not very fast on the climbs. This is all about having fun... once I'm off SnowSnake. It's not technical, just a lot of up and down stuff.

At 23 minutes, the first sport rider passes me. So it took him 23 minutes to make up the 5 minutes staggered start. About a minute later the second guy passes me. Should have raced expert, but it's not my problem. I get to the end of SnowSnake with the sixth place sport rider. I figure my first finish line is over, now I'm going to work to remember how to race a mountain bike!

They've changed the course a little. The sport and expert course is the same for the first lap and only changes in teh second lap. Over the top of the mountain we do most of the extra loops, and they are flying descents with some short stubby climbs. There are a few that I need my little ring for, but I'm trying to stay in the big ring as much as possible, and it is fun. The trails are slightly damp, but not super muddy. I keep seeing things I remember, but don't have the sequences down to remember what comes next.

This stuff is REALLY fun. The trails are not technical at all. In fact, it's almost like a road ride, and a cross bike would be fine for just about everything except some of the climbs on SnowSnake. There are some bumpy sections, but no rocks or roots. Just fast hard packed dirt. I'd really like to see what my cadence is like on the mountain bike. As I'm moving through I remember to attack the short climbs, and recover on the descents. I'll use this like an interval workout.   

I'm riding near a couple of guys, a really young guy that keeps passing me on the climbs, and an older guy that first passed me during my only mechanical incident when I shifted to the little ring and the chain got jammed between the rings. I hopped off and quickly got it straightened out, then immediately passed him again. He seemed to be right there for most of the rest of the lap.

At one of the course splits, there is a marshal that says it's mostly downhill from here, and I start to remember what comes next. I attack to get around the other two guys and lead it through the flying downhill, and the little sequence to the ski hill switchbacks of Bova! I get enough of a gap that I can't see them as I enter the downhill...this is good. At the end of the descent is a short climb, then some twisting stuff to the top of the ski hill. I caught another expert at the top of the hill, and lead him down Bova.

Bova is a butt over your rear wheel, pick your way around 6 dusty switch backs. I hated it my first time through, but I'm getting the hang of it... I really should practice that stuff more, so I can do it really fast. I make it down, and Wreckage is there cheering me on again! Get ready to spin up Patterson. Hour and a half for the first lap.

Patterson is Much easier than SnowSnake. It's an old narrow gauge logging railroad bed, so it has a constant grade to the top of the mountain. Spin your way to the top. I dropped my last expert companion but can hear some chatter behind me, I try to set my heart rate at 155 and spin the gear that keeps me there. In the past, I've picked up blown riders here... lots of them, but this year, I'm either ahead of them, or they are not blowing up as fast. I don't think I passed anyone.

About half way up, an expert comes by me. I grab onto his wheel and try to hold on. I do for a while, but he's moving. So I let it go. A few minutes later a sport rider comes up on me. He's still top 10 (I figure 7th), so I hold his wheel for a bit, but he's moving to fast also. Back to my 155 for the remainder of the climb. Not to bad, I was only caught by 6 sport riders over the first lap, and one on the climb of the second. Over the top, and the expert rider that I dropped at the top of the first lap is gaining on me. Ok, my climbing has kept me in front of him, so I figure I can hold him off from here. I want to catch that guy that dropped me on the climb though, so I start to chase over the loops.

The second lap the experts redo all the loops, while the sport racers go almost directly to the fast descent and ski hill. Over the loops I catch glimpses of the guy in front of me, but see no one behind me... this is good. I kept chasing hoping to real him in, I don't think he knows I'm back here.

The biggest boost of the day was when the trails rejoined, and I started to catch the sport riders. I was FLYING past them. Which made me feel good, even if it was because they were so far down on the field. It's really incredible how many red jersey's there were on the mountain. I was looking for an expert in a red jersey, and I'd catch a guy, realize it wasn't him and keep going.

Last I saw him was just before the woods leading to Bova. Down the ski slope, and I caught a sport male and sport female at the bottom. I got around the male before the road and the female on the road, and could just see the guy heading into the finish gate at the end of the gravel road. I drilled it to make sure I had a gap on any other experts, and looked back to only see the two sport racers. As I came into the finish, the course was not well marked, and I almost missed the turn. Some guys pointed me correctly and I worked to the end. Right before the line the sport guy decided to sprint for it, and came by me. Whatever, I'd have held him off if I hadn't had to figure out the turn.

In the end they split the field by age groups. I was 12 in the 40-49 Male category out of 16, 25+ minutes down on the winner. Dave came in 8 minutes behind me for a very nice finish.

All things considered, it was a nice weekend. I felt pretty good about my mountain bike race, even if I wasn't mid pack in teh experts, mostly because I raced on Saturday, and haven't really ridden the mountain bike much. I treated the race like a cyclocross training ride.