Monday, September 24, 2007

Michigan KTR Double Cross (epilog)

Results are posted at with lap times. Photo links to follow soon, there should be tons, as there where cameras everywhere for all races.

B race: Turns out I was about a 50 seconds behind 7th place, and almost 2 minutes away from 6th. If only...

Lap times: 8:07 8:42 8:43 8:46 8:37 for total time 42:56
MAX HR was 176, avg 168, min 164.

Master's 35+ lap times: 8:59 8:52 8:40 10:40(ouch) 9:24 total 46:36
MAX HR was 169, avg 158.

I had backed off quite a bit for the second race. Times were not quite as consistent as I first thought, but still pretty close. I really think I beat myself sitting on the first lap, until I decided to go in hunt of others. 10-15 seconds the first two laps is quite a bit.

Couple of points to make, if we assume I lost 2.5 minutes to the wreck and ensuing carnage, not totally out of the question, since it means I would have averaged over 8:40 for those two laps... that would have put me in 15th in the 35+ and 22nd overall. As it was, I was 22nd and 35th out of the 40 master's level racers. So 13 guys passed me during the fourth lap! Wow! I'm still happy with my times being my second race of the day.

...and 8:40 lap times would have had me WAY back in the elite race. Winning lap times were just under 7 minutes. I may have lasted 4 of the 8 laps they did before getting lapped and pulled. Maybe I won't pony up for a UCI license for a while.

Michigan KTR Double Cross Race 1 - 9/22/2007

For the last two years, I've planned on doing a road trip to Michigan for the UCI KTR Double Cross weekend. Two days of big show cyclocross action. Well, the biggest this side of Belgium anyway, and reasonably close to me. Both previous trips, something came up that convinced me not to spend 6+ hours of travel time. This year, the promise of Jonathan Page and other big names, and the family schedule worked out, so I'm in the car at 5:45a.m. driving to a race that starts at 11!

Three and a half hours later, I pull into the Springfield Oaks County Park. The venue looks to be an equestrian event park, with barns, and horse rings, and tape weaving around the area... I love this stuff! It's about 9:20, the C (3/4) race starts at 10:00 and I'm pre-registered for the B (2/3) race, so I've got a little time to get out on the course before the first race of the day. I get kitted up, and head to registration.

At the registration table, I asked about registering for the Master's age group race, that started at 12:15. I'd get about a half hour between races, and I figured this time the double would be perfect. Race the B race for a place, then do the extra race for practice. The promoter gave me a $10 discount for the second race, after I explained that I wasn't doing the elite race(!). I also verified that they would not be pulling lapped riders from the course, cause if I paid for pain, I wanted the full measure.

I had enough time to get a quick look at the course, so I jumped on right where I was.

Course Description
This course was, as I heard a C racer exclaim, "diabolical". The announcer was welcoming everyone to "off-camberville!". And it was true cyclocross! They had a start grid taped out on the pavement at the start line. Now I have to use skills I have not practiced... race before the race to get a descent start position!

A 200m paved section, transitioned to gravel, then a short off-camber climb to a gravel drive that took us to the back field. We looped around this, with a nice little chicane, a switchback, and a short 90* off-camber left turn that lead slightly up-hill to another longer gravel section. Weave between some large animal barns on pavement back to the front field, where most of the course was layed out.

Around the barns to another tight switchback, then back across the road and a slight uphill to the barrier set. Once through the barriers, we hit an off-camber down and up, then another longer down, into a short power climb back up, then a drop across the road behind the start. Past the pits the first time, and along the far edge of the front field on a long reasonably flat section that went through a small sand pit (that was pretty firm) near the lower horse arena and into the uphill wood section. We came out of the woods on the back field, and looped back to the front field right next to the outward entry course.

The transition to the front field was nasty. A tight turn onto gravel, that looped to the right and dropped to a 180*, steeply off camber, left hand turn. Then climb immediately back up, and right turn to drop back down toward the middle horse arena. The drop lead to a tricky uphill chicane that snaked around a viewing box, then dropped back down to another 180* turn into a steep power climb. At the top, we swing around, through the horse barn, and drop again to the pit level (no entry here yet) and swing around to climb a logged run up. Remount at the top, and drop back around the barn to go between the two horse arenas between the course to the woods and the course to the power climb. Not done yet, we hit one more 270* off camber left hander, that led back along the course you just did, took us past the pits (with entry here) and then back to the finish pavement.

The course was probably 2 miles long, and I had about enough time to do almost 2 full laps before they cleared the course for the first race of the day. While checking stuff out, I ran into Gary Dugovich from Beaver Valley Velo and his team mate Mike. Gary sold me my 'cross bike, and we've raced often together, so I had a friendly face there to give me some mojo. Mike and I were both doing the B race, and Gary was doing the Master's 45+. I chatted with them for a few minutes while the C race got under way, then went to get my stuff all together....

Pin my number on, and layout the Master's numbers. They had chip timing on an ankle strap, and I had two chips, once for each race. I got a bottle of Accelerade and some gu ready for the between races. Then I jumped on the trainer to start my warm up. I started to get a bit nervous about the race, since I really hadn't taken anything at speed yet, so I was grateful I had some time between the C and B races to get out there and try some stuff. Especially when the bike slid out on me on some of the off-camber turns. Lines would be crucial today.

B Race (Cat 2/3)
At about 10minutes to 11, I pulled to the start grid and the front line was full already. I made another mistake by lining up inside the second row. In hindsite, the outside spot would be best in the second row, where the inside is best on the front row. Mike was in the edge position, and I sucked down a gu and some last minute water before the start. Gary was telling Mike and I to stay near the leaders and work together to get up there if necessary. Cool by me. I like the idea of getting some help.

There are 30 on the line in what looks like 3 or 4 rows. We're given the officials instructions, cat 2/3 race, 45minutes, no punches below the belt... there's the whistle, and we're off!

The typical sprint from the line, and I try to move up as best as I can. Up into the back field and I'm sitting about 10th... Mike does really well to get about 3rd heading into the first switchback. Dropping down, and into the off-camber left turn... I'm careful, and sure enough, someone right behind me goes down, and the field splits. I do the count, and I'm 10th with a descent gap behind me... and the front riders are already 100 to 150meters ahead of me! WOAH!

Dig in, and go! Through the barriers... around the course and into the woods. Through the 180* off camber, and my bike slides out from underneath me... I'm back up quickly, but the guy behind me has caught back on. So we start working our way though the front side of the course. Crazy stuff, the way the off-camber slows me down. I just want to stay upright now, no more mistakes!

I make a quick goal of staying in the top 10 today. I realize I had no idea how I would do in big race like this... in a cat 2/3 race... in general! So, top 10 would be fine with me. That and to beat Mike, cause he's the only other guy I know here.

So off we go... the first lap they announce the lap time of 7:37 for the leader... and I come in 30seconds later at 8:07. 30 seconds back in a 2 mile course, wow! I'm slow! But still top 10. 45 divided by 8 is what? 5, maybe 6 laps. OK.

Second lap, things start to reshuffle as people start settling into their paces. Gaps start opening, and people start coming back off the first lap efforts. I'm running from the guy behind me, and chasing the guy in front. On the back side through the switchback, I pass Mike again, and yell some encouragement. He holds my wheel for a bit, but then fades off... I guess he went out too hard. I'm working steady, and I bring back another guy, and leave him behind.

Starting the third lap, the flash 3 to go, and I'm in about eighth. Eighth! I can deal with that... all I have to do is hold this pace and I should be fine! Work the course, give it the gas on the flats, and get through the technical stuff safely. I can see seventh place about 100m ahead. The front 6 are gone, I think in a group of 4 and a group of 2. Somehow, through the woods, one guy comes up from behind and passes me. It's going through one of the crazy off-camber turns that he opens a gap, and I loose his wheel. I chase but not hard enough and the gap opens up.

Right as I head into the 4th lap, Mike comes back and also jumps ahead. I'm not sure how he did it, or why I let him go... but on the back side, Mike makes it to a group of 3, and I'm about 50m behind... chasing! I should have drilled it to close that gap, but I had a switchback and an off camber to get through. Safe through that, I start to chase. 2 laps to go, I have to pick up the pace!

Well, 4 against 1, they must have the same strategy as I do, I don't close that gap down. I'm still running from 1 guy behind, and chasing 4 up the road. Half way through the lap, and the group of 4 splits into two groups of 2, with Mike in the front group. Now I'm chasing 2!

Bell lap, I've got a good gap behind me, if I don't slack off now! GO!!! Get another place! On the backside, the group of 2 ahead of me split again, and I'm chasing 1 now, the same guy I was chasing for 7th, I'm now chasing for 10th? 9th? I lost track. Just GO!!! It's hard, and I don't want to give anything up. I'm pushing, but not gaining. Through the woods, I can see my gaps are constant both in front and behind.... and that's how it stays.

Through the race with no drama. My place is cemented where it is. I check in with Mike, and he says he beat the guy he got away with and got 7th! Very nice, I ended up 11th... one place down from my goal, but I'm still pleased with that, especially since I'd actually gotten myself within striking distance of 7th... since I thought I'd dropped Mike. Again looking back, it's probably my lack of experience with those off-camber turns that slowed me down. My HR data indicated a constant effort over the entire race, with an average of 168, and peaked at 176 with a min of about 164.

Master's 35+
I now had about a half hour to get ready for the second race. Back at the van, chug my drink, re-pin a number on and put on the chip. Since this was the practice race, I also switched to the Tufo wheel set to get used to the drift aspect some more. Might as well get comfortable on them again.

When I did the double at Olentagy last weekend, my legs stiffened up half way through the first lap of the second race, so I went out on the course again, spinning light gear to try to stay loose. 10 minutes before the start, I went to line up and chatted with Ramon from COBC about their race while waiting to see how they'd run the Master's.

At first it looked like they'd line up and send off two waves, as they split the 35+ race on the line, and the 45+ with a gap. A guy lined up behind me, and I told him he really didn't want to do that because of the double, so I didn't feel bad on the second row with no one behind me. At 1 minute to go, they let the 45+ race roll up on the 35+ race wheel! So I was now in the middle of the scrum, and those guys were going to be fighting for position! That's a weird way to line the fields up...

Same as before, instructions, and we're off! I'm instantly moving backwards. And these guys are much more aggressive! Very "elbows out" riding. Into the first chicane, and a guy from the front row TOTALLY ties it up with the stake. Having to hop off and detangle himself. It makes me think of a hack! Run to the front row, then bobble some technical part and screw up lots of guys race. This one doesn't really hold anyone up though, and we're into the first off camber part. The field is really lined up, and guys are cutting other guys off to make up positions. I'm just trying to get through, cause I know I'm going to fade soon.

Half way through the first lap, things settle down as the field stretches out. I'm not sure where I am, but I just want to practice this course some more. So, I settle in behind a guy and ride my race. We must have been pretty far back, cause they give us the 4 to go sign as we come through the finish line. So either the front runners came in with the same time as the B's or they had much more time to figure out the race length. It turns out to be the former as the first lap was again near 7:30ish.

Once on the back field, I realised that the guy I was following wasn't making me work to hard, so I decided to go in hunt of the next guy, so off I went... I started to pick people up and then leave them behind. I actually felt pretty good. One by one, I probably picked up 10 guys over the next two laps. I had no idea what race they were in, I was just happy that I was not going to be last.

With 2 to go, I had another guy in my sites, I caught him heading off the back side and going into the barriers. Through the woods, and he's a little off my wheel. I thought I'd gapped him as I went into the 180* off camber. So I took it on a bit tighter line through... and the bike slide out and down the hill a little, right into this guys line! I watched him hit the brakes and endo right over MY BIKE!!!!

Ahh! "Sorry! Are you all right?" Grabbed my bike, we got them untangled! and I start to hop back on... but I'd rolled the front tire. Slam it back into place, and straighten the bars.... ugh! get the chain back on... no I mean it. GET THE CHAIN BACK ON! The guy that went over my bike is gone, and probably 6 other guys passed me while I was getting things back together.

Once the bike was back together, I started planning a stop at the pit. With the front tire off the rim, I'd have to swing in and get the spare front wheel. and I certainly didn't feel comfortable railing any corners. I gingerly picked my way through the front part of the course, and around to the pit. Switched the front, and jumped back into it... My bars are still twisted, and my right lever is off track... feels weird, but I only need to do 1 more lap.

By now I was pretty far back. I had no idea where I was, but knew I'd lost at least a minute or two with the mechanical trouble. I couldn't get lapped, because the pit was 150 meters before the line, so I was just looking for someone to chase, and hoping I wouldn't get caught. Nobody ahead, and no body behind... No worries, but no motivation... I made it through, and still wasn't last.

I've got a bit of time to relax, as I wait to do some spectateing. The Elite Women's race starts at 1:30, and the Elite Men go off at 3:00. The organization is first rate, as you'd expect of a UCI level race. They post the results really quickly, with lap times. I check them out, and I'm indeed 11th out of 30 in the B race.

I turned in one really fast lap on lap 1, then settled in to something close to 8:40ish for the remaining 4 laps. Extremely consistent. Even more so when they post the master's results. It turns out I held the 8:40 for the first three laps of the master's race also. I lost 2 minutes on the lap I went down, and then turned in a 9:40 on the last lap when most of the fire had gone out and I didn't have anyone to chase. Overall I'm really happy with the results, as I was looking at 15th or so out of 24 in the master's rac,e before the bobble after already racing one race. When results are posted, I'll be updating my analysis on this part... cause I really didn't take a lot of time to look this over super carefully yet.

My HR was certainly down in the second race, but I was still turning in comparable lap times, so I'm guessing that I'd gotten a bit better at the lines, or the Tufo's were that much faster, both were possible. I also was running slightly less pressure in the Tufo's which may have helped, but I still felt both sets were over inflated. I've got to figure that part out some day.

"You just can't describe the pain of cyclocross... no one understands until they get into the race. It's so much harder than any other kind of racing." --Gary Dugovich, right after the Master's race.

Since I'd driven all this way, I was really looking forward to watching the super fast guys do this course. I was not disappointed. Some of the guys got to follow Jon Page around on his warm up, and they were reporting him taking lines that they would never have thought of, and they were flying through there... a big difference at the elite level.

The women's race had Kerry Barnholt (Tokyo Joes / Van dessel), Anna Milkowski (VELO BELLA-KONA) and Rachel Steele (Bicilibre). All big names... a very exciting race also, as Kerry Barnholt went wire to wire, and put in huge time on Anna Milkowski. A local woman, Anne Schwartz fought like crazy to get to Anna, but didn't quite make it. She held on, and fought admirably, but just missed out on third as a hard charging challenge came from behind... great racing.

The men's field was stacked also. Jonathan Page, Steve Tilford, Adam Hodge-Meyerson, Andy Applegate... the current Canadian Champion, former Swiss champ, and lot's of UCI point holders. They did the call ups, and filled the front two rows with names, then UCI points filled the next two. Local stud Ernesto Marenchin (SoloGoat) then pushed to the fourth row when they let everyone else line up. Since C2 races only award UCI points 10 deep, and Ernesto was lined up about 30+ back, it wasn't looking good.

From the start JP took 10 away from the field. They were turning in lap times near 6.5 minutes.... wicked fast. Then the front split down to 4. Ernesto went down in the same 180* off-camber that I had in both my races, and lost tons of spots... at one point back in 37th place.

The front group of 4 took off, and JP split that with the former Swiss champ. They stayed away for the rest of the race, lapping guys like crazy. Behind the four, a single local guy was working to fifth, and a group of four including Tilly and AHM chased. Other "locals" included Ryan Gamm, and Ryan Rish, both in front of Ernesto, who was picking up places once the field has strung out. I did my best to give it up for Ernie.... I hope it helped.

In the end JP attacked heading into the 180* turn, opened a small gap. Then the Swiss champ slid out in the 270* off-camber and JP won by 15seconds. The Candian champ lost third by 30seconds or so... Behind, AHM won the sprint for sixth from Tillford in 7th... and I have no idea where Ernesto finished except that he made it through the race without getting lapped. I would have taken that as total success after seeing how fast the Page and the front guys were going.

I had to head home immediately after Ernie finished, but I would have loved to take a lap or two after the elite's finished, just to check out their lines around the course. Things had dried out considerably, and I'm sure they would have been easily followed as the dust was kicked up throughout. As Ernesto said before the race... "The local races aren't really going to help me. The only way to really learn is to race against the best..." (paraphrase btw) hopefully it'll pay off for him come natz time.

What a great weekend. I ended up having to miss the first local series race on Sunday because of family commitments. So there goes any hopes of a series place since I'm starting 25 to 30 points behind everyone else. Given the choice though, I really glad I made this trip. Maybe next year I can stay for both days... Pony up for a UCI license??? Just to see how many laps I can turn in before getting pulled... it's a thought.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Olentangy Caverns - 9/15/2007


The story goes like this. It's one of my two daughter's birthday and my wife and the girls have a "ladies" conference in down town Columbus, so my wife asks me if we want to make this a family trip. My son and I can travel down with them, spend the night at a hotel with a pool so the kids can play. And then she says "maybe you can find a race or something" to do with my son on Saturday while they do the girl thing. Well, it turns out that COBC is putting on the first cyclocross race of the Cap City Cross series a short distance away, and the timing is perfect. The A race ends one hour before I'll have to pick the girls up, so if I must, I guess I'll race... AND it's all my wife's idea! I LOVE that woman.

So, we travel Friday night, and when we check into the hotel, it turns out the pool is outside! It's about 50 degrees, so the pool ideas are just out... I never thought a hotel would have an OUTDOOR pool... oh well, it's still a fun evening.

The plan was to drop the girls off at 9:00am, and head straight to Olentangy Indian Caverns. My son and I could explore the caverns before the race, I'd still have plenty of time to preride, and get everything ready. We left the hotel at 8:30, and found a flat tire on the van... best laid plans are shot. I changed the tire, and got the girls to the Auditorium by 9:10, and then spent the morning getting the tire fixed. So much for the fun part.

We arrived at 11:30, just enough time to get a little wrenching done, and get signed in before the C race went off at noon. My son opted out of the race, so we did some spectating together.... one guy rolled off the front and had a 30 second gap by half way through the first lap. He held that until the end.... and the sandbagger thoughts were planted in my mind.

My plan was to do the double. The B race was listed as a 3/4 and the A race was a 1/2/3. The joy of being a cat 3 crosser, I can do either. Since I'd never raced against these guys before, I had no idea how I'd do... or what size the field would be. Rick and Dave were also coming down to do the B race, and Dave said he might also do the double... but he was much more tentative at it.

It's been about 2 years since I've done a double, where I would race the B race for place, and the A race for training... double the length of the workout, and work on form through the barriers, and do my best to not get lapped. This time, my plan was to do the B race as a warmup for the A race, or so I thought. I guess I really didn't have a plan. I'm out of practice at this thing.

People laugh at how early I arrive at a venue for a cross race. I just hate getting rushed to get ready. I like to take a long warmup, look at the course, and just not get insane.

The course was pretty nice. Probably 60% grass, with some really nice switchbacks. 2 sets of barriers, both near the finish. The first set was on the flat heading into the finish switchbacks. There was an easy downhill right after the line, leading to a left hander around some bushes straight into the second barrier set, forcing the dismount to an easy run up. You could either shoulder, or roll the bike through the long barrier set. The course then wound it's way around another down and up, then more twists to the woods. The wooded section had some loose sandy soil, a tight drop to a narrow bridge that was pretty harrowing, because it was not a straight shot to the bridge, but had a little twist to get the bike lined up right, and it was pretty loose on that descent. Then came some more twisty single track, and then some gravel leading through the "Frontier Village", and back to the grass with a couple of gravel road crossings.

I chose to race the Tufo's since the course is dry and should be fast. The temp was at 65, and my clothing was all screwed up. I warmed up with base layer for two laps, but wanted to drop clothing during the race. It's about start time, and I'm screwing around with a wardrobe malfunction since my number is pinned through to the base! I'm last to the line, and when I try to move through the group to get to the back, no one makes any space.... Then Dave, lined up front row, gives up his prime spot to me. Are you sure?! He's got a prime location, so I take it....

There are about 25 on the line, with the 45+/35+ and women's fields mixed in the group. A couple of instructions on how the payout will go. Top three overall get the good prizes, then top spot in each age group will get a prize. Cool, the whistle blows and we're off!

I get a good start, though the rear wheel slipped a couple of times, and that probably only screwed up Dave... who should have been right on my wheel. Once I get the contact right, I'm away in second wheel into the first turn behind an Alan rider. He takes the first turn wide, and I pull to the front... and go! through the first set of barriers, and the finish line and I've got a gap!

A GAP!!!! Now what? I start to think... mistake number one! Thinking during cross is a bad idea, do I need to make any more mistakes? So the C racer opened a gap from the start... am I bagging this race? I back off, and let the next guys catch back on, and then just push easy from there. I lead three guys away. I'm first into the woods, and one of the guys says "don't back off, we've got a good gap!" I don't respond, I keep an easy pace through the woods. I start thinking... I've got another race that I want to do well in... I'm not going to set tempo for these guys all race.

Once out of the woods, I let the others come around, and I go into racing defensively. I'll just sit on, and use this for a warm up race. From the back of this group, I can see that I've got the best form through the barriers... even though I'm not as clean as I like to be... first race problems, I should have practised more barrier running, but I'm still pretty clean and comfortable. I'm also taking the switchbacks nice and tight and accelerating away cleanly. Overall I'm pretty happy with the technical aspects... and I feel fit.

As we hit the finish line for lap 1, the official gives us the 5 to go sign. Dave is in fifth alone about 500m back. Through the next two laps, it's about like this. Dave is maintaining the gap, I'm staying in between 2nd and 4th wheel, just watching the guys through the race. I don't feel like I'm going all out, and feel in control of the race. 4 guys away for 3 spots. I'm fine. Dave is sitting in fifth spot, so this should be the race.

My group of four includes the Alan rider, and an Echelon guy on cross bikes, and a Bike Source guy on a mountain bike. Bike Source seems the strongest of the three and is pushing the pace the most. The Echelon guy keeps fading off the back.

I'm having a bit of trouble with the way the Tufo's drift through the turns in the sand and dirt in the woods. I know that it's how the tires hook up, but I seem to be fighting the bike instead of relaxing and letting it float. I know it's just the "first race of the season" thing, and I'll get used to it soon, but it's still a bit unnerving. It turns out the Alan guy is having the same trouble with his tires, and we even chat a bit about it... as we head out of the village, and I notice the Bike Source guy has a nice gap. So I jumped up to him.

I thought this was the race! We're away, the two "weaker guys" are a good 100 meters behind. Mistake two... I don't finish the job and drill it past the Bike Source guy. I just sit on.... in short order, the other two come back and we're four again. Heading into 3 laps to go, I started to feel like garbage... like I'm ready to hurl. This isn't a "I've pushed so hard I'm going to puke" thing, it's a "I ate something not quite right before my race" thing. It passes shortly, but I'm fourth wheel and Alan and Bike Source now have a gap.

Through the finish, heading into the barriers, I'm pushing a big gear... and have a little trouble getting through the barrier run up. Echelon opens a small gap through the barriers, and when I jump back on the bike, the gap opens when I'm in the wrong gear! The wrong gear? Stupid details, I didn't down shift going into the barriers... mistake three! And a costly one, now I've got a gap to close, and I'm not feeling it. I still have an A race to do, right?

I'll close this in a minute. I'm going to wait until 2 to go, then drill it. So I get around the course, still fighting the bike a bit. 2 to go, I start increasing the pace. The gap is steady, I fight harder through the woods. Bell lap, and the three of them are also humping it. I'm not closing the gap. They drill it out of the woods I guess, cause the gap is way to big for me to close. I don't give up until I'm heading into the barriers, and I see they are finishing it up. Echelon takes the win ahead of Bike Source, and Alan rolls in for third. I've got fourth easy... first loser spot.

I really screwed Dave's race with my start slips. He got taken into the bushes on the start, and then was held up on the single track.... which is not his strong place anyway, so why would someone be holding him up in there... He got around everyone and had fifth, faded to sixth, and in the chase to get that spot back crashed hard and lost another spot. Rick also had a bad start, but that one wasn't my fault this time. He worked his race hard to come in 8th right behind Dave.

In hind site, I should have lined up at the back, and worked my way up. Especially since this is almost surely the only race I'll do in this series. It would have been good practice for me. Instead, I felt like I threw the race away. I'm not saying I could have won, but I really think I could have gotten on the podium if I'd stayed with the group. If I'd just raced my bike instead of thinking... Boy, did I screw that one up. Too busy thinking about the A race to do well in the B's... and I blew it on what should have been my strong point... a technical detail. It turns out the bagging thing may have been real. I was albout a minute behind the front three, and the next guy was about a minute back. So if I'd have done what I think I was capable of, we'd have beaten the next guy by 2 minutes.

After the race, I quickly downed some gu and some liquids, I changed my wheelset to the Michelin Muds because I didn't want to practice the drift any more. I also changed my glasses, since the dark lenses were screwing with my depth perception in the woods. I was hoping I'd cleaned up all the annoyances before lining up for the A race. The Echelon and Bike Source guys were also doubling... so I'll be racing them again as the guys that bite off a large chunk. Dave decides he's done for the day... he's still got a two and a half hour drive home too.

10 guys at the start. I hand all my stuff to Rick, and we're off again. From the start I feel fine, and am about midpack. Heading to the barrier set about 4 of the front 6 miss the left, and go off course, only to come back in. Fun times. Through the barriers, the finish and into the barriers. The run up kills my legs! Come on, it's only another 9 laps. The field pulls away over the barriers, but I can keep them close. Over the road, left turn down a short hill, and loop around a large brush section before heading back uphill... my legs are screaming, and I say to Rick "This is stupid!" I contemplate jumping off the bike, but figure what will I do then? It's not like I can go home or anything. Just practice cyclocross and get in a good workout.

I loose some ground on the first lap, but I keep it close and the legs are starting to come around again. Second lap, over the road and around the bushes and my chain bounces off the front ring... hard. I have to hop off and drag it back onto the ring... SHOOT! The field is now gone. There is one woman still behind me, but I haven't seen her since the first run up.

So this race is going to be about practising technique by myself... and maybe I can bring one or two guys back... I'm pretty far back, cause I don't get a lap card when I come through. I crossed the road, and around the bush, and my chain comes off again! What's this? Off the bike, grab the chain and get it back running. You'd think I'd learn, but now... it happened a third time, three laps in a row!

By now, my legs feel fine, and I'm just racing my own pace. Trying to get the technical thing going. I figure out I need to keep pressure on the pedals through the "chain drop" section to keep the bike together. The rest of the race is mostly uneventful. The bike holds together for me, though I know I've got to adjust that third eye when we're done.

The two A&F guys are working together at the front and end up closing in on me and almost have me with 5 laps to go. I hold them off until right before the woods. They pass me, and I sit on their wheel as they work the bridge and the single track. I hold onto them without trouble... strange, so I must be going reasonably well... those three chain drops really hurt my time. Once out of the woods though, the front guy says something to the second guy, and they drill it. I hold on for a bit, but they open it up and are gone.

3 laps to go, I can finish this. My body is sore from the pounding of the grass, third place guy catches me, and I tell him the A&F guys are backing off a lot through the woods. I'm caught by the fourth place guy during the last lap, and I drop my chain again after the last set of barriers before the finish line.

I ended up loosing about 1 minute per lap to the A&F guys. Which considering how much time I lost to dropped chains could have been the difference between getting lapped and not. My guess is the tire pressure in the mud's was too high for the course. I'd still had it near 60 from road riding, and never changed it. Between that and a change in how hard I was pushing through that section could have made the difference between loosing the chain in the A race, and smoothness of the B race. By now I'm up to mistake number 200.

In the grand scheme of things, I think I made all the mistakes I needed to at a race that was not really a target race. I'm disappointed in myself because I could have done better by only racing, or committing to, one race on the day. I knew that, but didn't concentrate. In fact, it seems concentration was what was lacking all day.

I do have to give prop's to COBC for putting on a great event. The venue was pretty cool, and hopefully next year the dates work out as well for me as they did this year. Very well run event. Here's to the success of the Cap City Cyclocross series. It was a great atmosphere as the B racers hung out and blew some stadium horns, and there were some cowbells going on... not quite up to the level of our own "SBR CX" atmosphere, but certainly a fun event.

There are some pics up already at
I suspect there will be lot's more as there were quite a few people shooting during the races.

Next weekend is the MI Cyclocross double.
KTR Michigan Double Cross
I'm heading up on Saturday, and if I do a double race, I'll commit to doing one for racing and one for practice...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Summit Freewheelers Fall Challenge - 9/9/2007

The Fall Challenge is typically my last road race of the season. It's the roll over from road to 'cross season. This is also my second 1/2/3 race, and with the longer hill on Quick road, I was sure it would be a test of my racing ability. My goal for the day is to push past the pain and do as well as I could, while learning how the best in the area race something like this. In other words, I did not expect to get to the podium, but I really want to finish with the main group... whatever that happens to be. A lot happened on this one that I think is important, so it's going to be a bit long.

On Saturday, the forecast for Sunday is rain, and it seems to be that attendance will be down. I'm going, cause it's all training for 'cross, and bad weather is never a good enough excuse to stay home. As I roll out, I call a few of my team mates to see who will be there. Chris B, and Gary are both racing in the cat 4 field. Impressive since it was REALLY coming down when I left the house at 8. The course report was it was drizzling at 8:30. Dave S decided to stay home, and I couldn't reach Ray, so I figured I'd be on my own in the 1/2/3 field.

Getting ready at the parking lot, Ray shows up... surprise. So do quite a few other guys. In the end we had about 25 in the 1/2/3 field. RGF had Bob Martin, Dave Chernosky, Jeremy Grimm, and Cameron. Brent and Thom were representing Color-Me-Safe, Tris and Brian from Torrelli, Quinlan and Pandy from MVC, COBC had 2. Then a bunch of singles from all over, Kirk Albers from Roadhouse and guys from Spin, Savage Hill, Mind and Body... I'm close to remembering everyone. Scary.

There were about 15 in the cat 4 field and maybe 20 in the the master's fields. Lots of guys were getting flats, so I begged a spare wheel set from Rick for the wheel truck. I hate the idea of a flat ending my day... so now I'm covered. It also gave Rick the "participation" part of being at the race, since he couldn't turn the pedals in anger, he could give me confidence that I could hurt myself for the entire distance today.

Because of the rain, I took a very easy warm up. I suspected the pace to be relatively easy on the first lap, then open up on the hill. At the line the race was shortened to 6 laps from 7, instructions are given on where to watch the pavement, and we were off.

From the parking lot, Brent ups the pace and we're strung out. Half way through the first lap, and the first break goes. Thom (CMS), Batke (Torrelli) and an RGF are gone. Brent sits up once the break is off the front, and no one takes over. Quinlin takes a couple of digs to bridge, but the field is all over those. So we head into the hill for the first time with the break at about 500m. No one is working yet, and Ray sets the tempo up the climb. At the top no one takes over.... Well, it's not like I expect the participating teams to pull it back... but we almost stopped. I made my way to the front, and started doing a little work. Not loads, cause there were still some big guys in the field, but at least some tempo.

Coming into the start finish the first time, Albers attacks the field on the right, and Quinlin goes with him, I'm close enough on the left to go in pursuit with Brent. Brent pulls off, and I end doing the bulk of the work to close down that attack before we get to Steels Corners. It causes the field to split, and as Kirk floats to the back, he shouts for us to continue the work. We did some work, but soon the field is back as we head down Haas. A few more semi-attacks and we're going up the hill for lap two. I'm doing pretty well at staying near the front heading into the hill. Ray again does the pace making up the hill, and I'm doing a lead and fade. The break of three is still up the road, but barely in site.

Second lap, attacks go and are brought back... or come back on their own. None of the big guns are given enough space to make one stick, and the attempts that get space come back on their own. Heading into the hill for the third time, I see Kirk checking his wheel... at the bottom he pulls off with a flat.

Third time up the hill, I'm again near the front at the base... but as I fade, the guns are fired, and the pace picks up. At the top I'm off the back with about 200m to close. No way is my race ending half way through... so I dig in, and work like crazy to get back on. It takes a little bit, but I make it back... and move directly into the field and back near the front. Now there is trouble. The group that I'm in is now chasing another group of 4 or 5 up the road.... Tris, Quinlin, Grim, Chernosky and Brent are in pursuit of the first 3. As I come past the guys in my group, they look like they are dead. I think this is the point where a group gives up on the race... So, I go into organizing mode. Someone has to get these guys working. I take a long pull, and I yell when I come off.. "pull through"! Ray is still with, as are the two COBC. The Spin, Savage Hill and Mind and Body guys are here. So I'm trying to get an organized chase going and we start rolling through. If there's a space, I fill it. If Ray gets to the front, and it seems to me he's pulling to long, I yell to the guy behind to pull through. I'm hoping we can get back to the first chase group and maybe get some kind of result.

It's not easy whipping a group into working. I told the Spin guy to pull through, his response "I'm dead"... My thought is... "then go home! Don't interrupt a chase by sitting in second wheel and leaving someone on the front when your group is trying to get back to the race!" It's obvious I'm having some anger issues today. I don't say any of this, I just get back to the front and pull. And then the Spin guy attacks the field! This sends me off. I pull next to Ray and tell him to stop working. My goal is for me to work this chase with whoever will work, and I'll send Ray to chase the jerks that attack us instead of work with us.

Unfortunately, I don't get a lot of chances to let Ray know this. I only tell him to sit. I take another pull, heading to Steels Corners, and the COBC guy attacks as I'm coming off... as he goes, I yell at Ray and push him (literally) into the chase. "Go get him!" and then I sit. The guy comes back shortly, and Ray stays off the front for a bit. So I gave the COBC guy a bit of my mind... "There are at least 6 places up the road... don't attack the chase... work!", his response is classic. "But we're not working together." Funny, I thought we were before guys started to attack!

I let the two COBC guys, and Spin guy bring Ray back. I'm not happy with how long he stayed out there, but I wasn't going to work to bring him back. I kept thinking... it's COBCs fault he's off the front, so COBC needs to bring him back. Once the catch was made, I went around Ray so they didn't stick him on the front, and got back to chasing the front groups.

Back to the bottom, and fourth time up the climb. I'm near the front at the bottom, and off the back at the top. On the third climb, I jokingly ask Don, the moto driver, for a water bottle pull... he replied he didn't have any bottles. I didn't give up, and caught back on. This time, I just asked if we had done this before... at the top of the climb, I had to chase again. I came around Matson from COBC and called, but he waved me on... flat. Damn, I could have used his help. Then I caught Cameron from RGF, and the two of us went to work. I kept encouraging him, and we worked together well. He did great... as we got to within 50 feet, I told him to "hang on and go right to the front, don't stay at the back" and slowly started a sprint to get back. I hope I gave him enough warning, but I don't think I saw him again.

It took forever, I think it was on the downhill before the animal shelter, that I caught back on, I went straight to the front, taped Ray as I came by, and took a "short" pull, then started trying to organize a chase again. I found a complete reorganization of the race while I was off the back. I wasn't sure who was up the road, but Thom had switched places with Brent, and I think Kirk had found his way to our group by chasing back on. Batke, Hopkins, Grimm and Quinlin were gone with Brent... and a few others were missing. I didn't really pay too much attention, I was now in the "work for Ray" mode. I'd chased back twice and didn't think I could do it a third time. So to the front I went and started to work to see what I could do to get the race back together.

I kept telling Ray to rest, I would work... but Ray really wanted to get back to the front, and there were quite a few passengers in our group of 10ish. On the rollers, the wheel van passed us. .. which, at the start, we were told meant we were out of contention. I didn't really believe that, cause I'm stubborn like that. Heading into Steels Corners again, the wheel truck stops to service Grimm... in the middle of the road. They have doors open on the right side of the van, and Jeremy near the gutter... so the only place we have to go is left of the van... single file, and head into the corner. Craziness there!

Down Haas road, I'm telling Ray the he MUST win a place. I'm killing myself for him, he can not let me down. (Such the motivational speaker). I will try to get back after the hill, but I don't know if I can. At the bottom of the hill, we see the front 4. How did we catch them! I don't know, but Ray tells me to go hard to close the gap before the climb... so I do my best to bring him within 100m. At the base, I say finish this! Ray responds... "those guys climb so fast!" and I say... "So climb fast! Get on there!" as everyone passes me again. It didn't really occur to me that Ray has led his group up this climb every lap so far. As as the moto comes by again, I ask Don if he thinks I can do it again? He says I've done it pretty well the last two times.

Over the top, and one of the women that we passed at the bottom of the hill catches me.... she sounded terrible. I'm thinking I should really lighten up my bike, cause I don't know WHY my climbing is this "bad" when I've still been able to chase back on. The Savage Hill rider is also right there. So I dig in, and as I come back up to them I call... and Savage Hill and I go to work in pursuit. Up ahead, I see Thom just off the back of the group, with maybe on more guy ahead of him. It is a painful chase, but we work together. Over the rollers, Thom is about 500m ahead... and staying there. We soon loose sight of the group, and then of Thom. The bigger rollers are killing my legs. Through the start finish, one lap to go. Can we get back? It's been really long now.

When we got back to Haas road, I could see nothing, and I really hurt all over. So with about a half lap to go, I pretty much cashed it in. I sat up, drank, and had a gu. The Savage Hill guy opened a bit of a gap while I refueled and he signalled for me to get back on his wheel. I closed back, and we went back to work. My heart wasn't in it though, and my legs were toast, and we still had one more climb. Going up Quick, the SH guy opened a big gap again, and that's when I notice I'm still carrying my seat pack with extra tube, tools... and a feakin' tail light. By definition, this race was now a training ride. Damn! I wonder if that would have given me enough to at least stay on the main group until the last climb?

Once over the hill, I tried to close the gap to the Savage rider, thinking about the chasing in a cross race. The difference was this was at 2 hours, not 1... and he held the gap all the way to the line. Race over for whatever place I got.

I was not thrilled with my result, but I was happy with the work I did for Ray. Turns out that the front 4 had sat up to wait once when Quinlin went down in a corner, and had also been held up by some crazy slow traffic on the rollers after the fourth time up the hill, which was why we were able to bring them back. I don't know where Chernosky, Grimm and Albers where when I was chasing on lap 5, but they ended up getting into the regrouped race, while I fell off the back. Ray continued to work in the main field, and ended up trying to take the 1 mile to the line flyer. He popped and was passed by everyone in his group. He still managed to come across in 10th, for the last money spot. I still don't know where I finished, but figure it to be about 15th.

So then I get all philosophical... What makes a successful bicycle racer? Being fit and strong enough to go the distance is obvious. You have to be smart enough to use your energy wisely and courageous enough to take chances to make things happen. You need to have concentration to either see what is happening around you, so you can react, or to be able to just push yourself further than anyone else. The last piece is to have the experience to know when to use which tool at your disposal to obtain your goals.

How did I do? Well, my second 1/2/3 race, and I feel good about my fitness level racing against the best in the area. I'm happy about working early in the race, trying to effect the race instead of sitting in and doing nothing. I'm glad I continued to chase when others were giving up, and laying it down for Ray to get a result when it was becoming obvious that I would probably not make all the climbing necessary. I'm a pretty frustrated that so many others benefited from my work, but I think that's where the experience part comes in. I'm also frustrated with the seat bag, and my climbing. It's possible I talked myself out of doing that climb well, but I'm not really sure.

Being the first cat 3 season, I expected this to be more learning and getting totally shelled by the cat 3s. Instead, I've been hanging in a the 1/2/3 races... maybe not at the front, but I'm happy with how these have gone. So I've surpassed those expectations.... which has as much to do with my coach as it does with my own ability. Thanks to Brent Evans with Endura Solutions for all his help.

So, road season for me is officially over. I may be able to do a few more Westlake Worlds before the end of the season, but my focus is now shifting completely to Cyclocross. Cap City number 1 next weekend in Columbus is the first on the agenda, then the Michigan UCI race! Ride through mud!