Monday, December 07, 2009

Then that's it.

Raced at Boughton Farms yesterday, the series season final. Got there early, and got a bunch of prelaps in to scope out the course. Really long at about 2.2 miles or so, crossing frozen fields that were melting as the day went on.. claiming quite a few rear derailluers.

I don't have final numbers, but I think there were 22 in the A field. No call ups, so I was lined up on the second row behind one of the guys sitting in last place overall. OK. I had a path to move up, and this time was ready when Lynn said 1, and everyone was already moving. I did wait until 1... and paid as we all sprinted the 100m to the first single track, and came to a stand still. It was enough for Matt Weeks to open the gap he would maintain through the entire race. Starts do count when you get dumped into something like that right away.

Since there were at least 8 derailluers broken in the B race, they had rerouted the course for the A race... making it shorter by about 200m, to cut out the worst mud portion. The reroute was really no better... and I rode through it on the first lap, and then ran it every other time, shouldering it most of those trips.

In short order the race had sorted itself out. Brent was up in the top 5 battling it out through multiple tubbie flats. Jason and Zak had recovered from a start worse than mine, and were making up places. Derek was coming back from his typical great start, and I was being chased by Nate and Scott from Lake Effect.

Jason broke his derailluer, taking him out of contention at about the third lap. I was chasing Derek hoping to catch him so we could work together to drop the Lake Effects. With 3 to go, Derek took a bike change that brought me back to him, but Nate must have found his third of fourth gear, as he was towing Scott back up to us. I got by Derek with 2 to go, and encouraged him that the Lake Effects were hot on our tail. It didn't help as Derek was cooked.

With 1 to Nate got by me, but I was on his wheel. Chris Riccardi got between us going into the first single track, but we were wheel to wheel heading into the first field crossings. Nate opened a small gap before the mud run, that I tried to manage. By the time we exited the second single track, the gap was up over 200m.... though it looked like Nate had sat up a bit. I dropped the gears and went in pursuit as best I could at this point in the race.

I thought Nate would go back work once he saw me coming as he headed into the last three field crossings. I was still closing though. At the big ice puddle bypass, he was noodling along, and I thought I could close that gap... and maybe sneak by him at the line. So I pushed hard and hoped he wouldn't look back. As we made the last corner about 50 feet before the line, he looked over his shoulder and saw me... with enough warning to push to the line and take that place by about a bike length. Just enough... and I was toast.

Another very satisfying race. I think I came in 13th, though results have not been posted yet. Out of 9 cyclocross races, I'm pretty pleased with 6 of them. Two I didn't race to my potential, and one I made an equipment mistake. Well, it's possible all three were equipment related... I'll never know for sure. I think I ended up 12th in the series overall. As I said three races ago, that was completely out of my control.

Special thanks go out to the Lake Effect folks for all the work they do. It's great to have this series, and great that the other teams are taking some of the load off... Solon, Stark, Chagrin River Cycling and Team Spin. Making this a real nice area to race 'cross.

Also thanks to all the B and C racers that hang out and yell for/at us. It really does make a difference.

Off season now. Time to get caught up on a bunch of things I've been ignoring.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kirtland.... details.

It's all in the details.

The family was off doing their thing this weeknd, so I thought I'd shoot down to Kirtland park on Saturday to help team Lake Effect setup for the Sunday race. A nice day to ride through the city... without the back pack. Arrived at 1:00 and most of the work was done, so we did a bunch of laps and scoped out the course together. It was cool.

Sunday morning, I again arrived early to help with the remainder of the taping, and just hang out.

Cool things I saw this week... lots of "hipsters" came by to watch the action. A guy walking his dog was asking if we were handing out turkeys... and during warm up on the Norht Marginal, a group of guys were playing bike polo on a tennis court near the Muni parking lot. How cool is that?

Tricky parts of the course were the west end stairs, the off camber crossing and the twirl of dizziness, with rain it would have been a twirl of death. Then there was the uphill in the amphitheater and the bumps on the descent. The bumps were probably the worst thing going. Lots going on, and little space to recover.

On Saturday, I rode the course with my Michelin Muds. I didn't like the idea of riding down MLK with tubbies, and what the heck, it wouldn't matter anyway, I'd be doing pre-laps on Sunday.

I've hear the best investment to improve your time trialing is to purchase a helmet. To improve your cyclocross, tubular wheels and tires are the way to go. That said, tubulars totally open up your setup options. That's why the cyclocrosser greeting is "Hey, what pressure are you running?" Infinite possibilities... an infinite way to choose right... or wrong.

In mud, I'm pretty safe with 25psi. Last week at Kent, there was little mud, and I ran about 30psi. This week, I was thinking the same, everything was pretty dry. I forgot that for more than half the race at Kent I thought I was getting a rear flat.

A nice feature this week, Rudy had the top 10 in the series move to the front line. Thanks, I'll use that as long as I can. It put me next to Gerry Pflug and Ernesto. So my goal was a good start and fall in behind them for as long as I could.

Well, I think I found the problem with my starts. I couldn't figure out how I would be near the back almost instantly. This week I changed up my crank position, and was ready... and I realize that when Lynn counts back from 3, half the field is already moving on 1... I'm still standing there waiting for "GO". Gerry must think the same as I do since I got his wheel for the straight stretch, and lost it around the first turn.

Quinlin stacks it in the second straight, which causes some braking but everyone got around. I was in the top 20 at the top of the hill. I ran the stairs the first time up, and the race is away.

Short laps... at nearly 1 mile each, Lynn had estimated 5 minutes per. First time up the amphitheater hill, I'm off the bike again. Things are spreading out pretty quickly, though as the leaders pull away.

Second lap, I'm riding the west stairs. I'm having serious trouble turning though. If I'm in the zone, I can dig the two wheel drift. For some reason, I do not trust my tires today, I want them SOLID through the turns. Every turn I'm giving away speed, which means I have to dig hard once out of the twisty bits to gain it back. It seems to be going alright though. I'm ahead of the guys I think I should be, and behind maybe two that I have been beating most weeks. Time to get to work.

I put in a some good laps. I have trouble with the dizzy twirl, and the turn entering the theater. I also have a hard time lining up the bumps. I was so much better yesterday.

About 4 laps in, I caught Jeff Craft when his chain dropped off. I had been hunting Jeff and Nate Lohman, so one down was good for me. Jeff jumped on my wheel once he had it figured. I came around for the ride up the stairs. I told him I was not happy with my tire pressure. I think I could have gone to 35 for more grip on the dry stuff. He takes the lead into the theater... On the hill, he takes a line that I was NOT expecting, and I hit his rear wheel... am off the bike, and remount. He climbs off and calls it a day...

Then I put together about three of the WORST laps ever. I stall on the stair climb, and wrench the twirl. Chip Meek comes at me for the next time up... and I stall again forcing both of us off the bike. Then I get tangled in the tape on the twirl and he's by me and gone. Blah!!!

I contemplate asking my son to get the wheels I ran yesterday... I throw away time on every turn... and the concrete around the stage is TERRIBLY slow thinking I'm going to slide out every lap. Ugh!

Lynn gave 5 to go, and I loose another place to Derek... and see that I will almost certainly get lapped today.

4 to go, and Matt Weeks is closing in me. I get through the theater and the bumps, and he makes the pass before the east stairs. I think I can catch Derek in 2 laps.... we'll see.

Paul catches me somewhere, and I let Gerry and Ernesto have the line on the bumps. Quinlin is closing, with others close behind. Run for my life again on the last lap. Derek stays just out of reach, and I sprint to hold of Quinlin. He probably thinks it was hillarious, but I have to salvage some pride somewhere. I was only lapped by the top 4.

Mistakes, blah. I don't think I've ever wished I could do a race over... but I certainly wish I had this one to try again. I watched Ernesto doing some pre laps, and should have seen the speed he carried through the 180s. I should have known then that there was a problem with my setup. I certainly knew it two laps in.

All in all, 20th place is alright. I lost at most 4 points in the series. I'm still sitting about 10th in the overall, since 4 guys moved up just because they showed up. This wasn't my worst race, and at least this time I can point directly to where my problem was. A learning race then.

Great course and good times hanging with everyone this weekend. It was a blast.... Thanks Lake Effect and a special thanks to Lynn and the other volunteers for the work you're doing... and putting up with all of us.

One more to go. With my form this season, I'm hoping for something a bit muddy... and a descent setup.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back to school. KSU 11.14.2009

Another lifetime ago, I spent a year at Kent State. I did not bring my bike to school, as I had a drivers license, so what good would a bike do... add in all the other stupid things I did at the time... (say that as if bike racing was NOT stupid). So it was a nostalgic trip to KSU on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to race CYCLOCROSS.

Lake Effect setup a really nice course full of many transitions: grass to gravel to pavement to grass to single track to full on hills, ride them if you can, off camber turns... this had it all. Even though it was dry, there was some soft and not soft stuff, nothing to slippery, but not really dusty dry. I took some laps with about 25 in the tubs, then increased it to 30 because it didn't feel very good in the corners.

The sun brought out big fields again, with 50+ in the B race and 30+ in the A race. The team had 7 in the A race, Jason, Brent, Dave, Derek, Zak, Tom and myself. We staged two deep again, with warnings about the gravel on lap one, they sent us off. Sure enough, the warnings were pointless, as a couple of the leaders still went down in the second gravel section. Carnage was every where, the turns, and transitions were taking all sorts of folks down.

My start was again slower than I wanted it to be, so I went into full on chase mode. I'm seriously wondering about starts lately. I've been a bit conservative at the start, then chase down as much as I can. I was probably in the low 20s heading into the single track on the first lap. I ran the hills, and tried to stay clean on everything else. Once out of the woods, it was time to get busy chasing down guys up the road.

I picked off about 3 over the course of the next lap. I felt pretty good. The single track was all right, though I didn't like the off camber at the top of the first hill, I tried to take it slow enough to keep it upright, but still on the edge of that. The descent after the second hill was also a bit weird. I had trouble clipping in, then holding the right hander quick, and getting lined up for the log hop. I think I went far to the left every time. Then the left hander heading up the hill was also kind of weird.... So do my best through the technical stuff, and push hard every where else.

Two laps in, I had caught Derek, and Aussie Rob caught me just past the start finish. Aussie's got the power, so I figured I'd stick on his wheel for as long as I could. It might do us both good if I could just sit on and drive it if I could. Through the wet grass, onto the gravel to pavement right hander. I was a bit cautious, but Rob had the line I would take, so I figured we were fine... then I have no idea what happened next, but Rob has a yard sale... Totally crossed up, I grabbed a fist full of brakes and tumbled right around him. Both of us are cursing as at least Derek and Zak come around us. I jumped back onto the bike quickly, before I even thought about the damage. Might as well be moving while I take my inventory.

Ouch.... skinned knee is bleeding and sore. My hands hurt, because I didn't take time to put on gloves.... not to bad, but I've scraped them both up. OK, hit the reset button, and see if I can start my race over again with 5 to go.

It takes about a lap to get over the screaming in my head. Why was I following a triathlete through a sketch section. Should I have backed off just a little, then jumped back onto his wheel? Right.... back to my race.

Rudy and Nate from Lake Effect are together, then Zak, then Derek. Bill, Ryan, and a couple of other mountain bike guys are behind me... so is Aussie Rob. One at a time, lets see if I can catch Derek first.

Rob came around me somewhere in there, but I'm not sure I was even awake. Derek kept a good pace going, and stayed mostly out of site.

I had this weird feeling that my rear tire was flatting, but I didn't want to hit the pits, since it would require a wheel change. Still every time I passed the pits for 3 laps, I was thinking, do I need a wheel?

Eventually Nate Lohman was my only target when he took a bike change. We were pretty evenly matched riding, with 2 to go, I caught him, and tried to attack before the single track. He hung on, I tried multiple times, and would get a small gap, and he'd claw back up. I was pretty sure I could take a sprint, but didn't want it to come down to that. So I kept the pressure up.

With one to go, Nate was dropping off a bit more. I drilled it up the hill, and got a bit of a gap. Through the off camber, the idea is no mistakes, and drill it where I can. On the run up, I got more space... then clean through the remainder of the single track. We both knew I had it as we exited the woods, but I took no chances, and kept the pressure on through the line.

Battling Nate made it a race to the end. So that was fun. The results have me posted at 15th, though I don't see Rob posted, so it's probably 16th. I'll take it as good for me, especially after going down.

The damage isn't to bad, though I haven't REALLY gone over the bike. It was shifting fine, and I only noticed some more ripped bar tap. Both my bar end caps are still laying on the ground in that corner. The body damage is just a few scrapes on the hands and a skinned knee.

I never did take a wheel change, and the tire seemed to hold fine. It probably means I should have run a little more pressure in those conditions. The higher pressure would have given me more confidence going into many of the turns... though I don't know if it would have given me the 25+ seconds to catch Derek. It certainly was distracting. Pit bike for next year maybe?

Two races left. Next weekend is at Kirtland Park right downtown. Sure to be a fun course with the stair run up. Every year that course gets better.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge: Day 2

Sunday's race at Brett's place promised to be FAST! By the time I had pre-ridden the course backwards on Saturday, it had mostly dried out. The run up in the opposite direction was ridable, and I had a plan for the mud puddle, going far to the left. So the difficulty was the first ditch after the start finish.... and the only dismount would be the barriers.

I expected a higher turn out on Sunday, partly because of the weather, and partly since it was Sunday. I also expected this race to be MUCH faster than Saturday. If I can ride the course that fast... I will not be alone.

I learn that embrocation on day two will let you know exactly where you were scraped up in your race on day one. My left leg had some extra burning during the warm up laps. I took a lot of laps also... I didn't want day two to be effected to much by day one's efforts. Advantage to the guys that didn't race Saturday and had fresh legs.

37 in the A race. We had 7, Jason, Zak, Dave, Derek, Tom K, Uncle Ron (his first of the year!) and myself. I again get a front row spot. This time between Jeff Craft and Rudy from Lake Effect. More of the fast guys are also there. Gerry Pflug, Brad Wilhelm, Mike Mihalek and Matt Weeks. So a top 10 may not be a good goal for today.

At the gun I get pinched... and really have a poor start. That get's guys behind me yelling, and puts me easy half way back in the field. Then we go almost immediately to the run up from the previous day. It's ridable if there isn't a cattle jam.... I dismounted early and ran through the pine tree to get a spot or two. Around the pole right behind Bill Marut, who caught my left lever trying to remount, and fell down in front of me. We were both stopped while he got up and back moving again.

So now I've got some serious ground to make up, but we're almost immediately back in single track. I make my move heading through the pump part heading into the mud puddle. Everyone else was staying left and coming back right, so I got past a few until the dry part had me pass Dave through the bushes into the mud. More scrapes I guess. A little bit aggressive for me also... I'm usually the guy that get's pissed off at others pulling that stuff.

Once things got spread out, it became more of driving well again. I was going better for some reason. Maybe cause I was to tired to really think to much. The bike did seem awfully heavy though the barriers.

I was picking off spots and moving. Then Zak came by me in the fields, so I tried to stick with him for a while, but didn't have it. Half a lap later, Ray came by, and I tried to grab that also. Still not enough....

When I saw Dave had a mechanical, and was out of the race, I half thought that would be a nice option. Then I could just sit and enjoy the sun for a while, and maybe get something to eat.... weird thoughts when I'm on the limit.

Greg from Carbon must have had a good start but was feeling the effects from yesterday, so I got by him. Derek again had a good start and was riding well, I ended up coming by him about half way through, and he stuck on my wheel.

So Derek and I go in pursuit of Ray, who's chasing Zak, who's chasing Jeff Craft. With Derek on my wheel, I'm pushing hard... partly to catch Ray and partly because Derek is still on my wheel. I can't shake him, which just makes me keep pushing.

Zak caught and passed Jeff, so now I'm thinking maybe we can catch both those spots. I have no idea where I am in the field, so the race is just focused on those three guys. Greg is behind Derek and I, but I'm not overly concerned that he'll catch us.

It feels like we're chasing Ray forever, probably two full laps. The gap to him is not moving either... when we go through the finish, I asked "how many more" and I died when they said 4. I've got 40 minutes, and they say 4 more laps? Are we really doing 5 minute laps????

Deep breath. 4 it is. I can count down now. Ray and Jeff seem to be coming back... oh this is good. 3 to go, 2 more times through that ditch. Dig hard out of the mud puddle... Derek is still right there. Ray and Jeff must have started running from us a bit to... the gap opens back up.

2 to go, and it dawns on me that I haven't seen anyone behind us for a little while. Where are the leaders? Then right after the beach section Matt and Shawn are heading to the run up section. AH! I do not want to get lapped now! Dig in and take everything as fast as I can.... Derek is right there... and we make it with maybe 100m to spare. I still want to catch Ray.... so another deep breath and go!

Derek shuts it down right after the ditch.... so I'm on my own. Ray has enough, plus he really wants Jeff.... in the end my race was to the finish line with one to go. Half way through the last lap, I just wanted to stop... it hurt.

I now have a couple more guys I do not want to start near. Actually, I think that's happened with them before... so I should have know. Either that or I need a faster start with elbows out.

I ended up in 16th on Sunday, but am much happier with my race. Having Derek sit on me for those 6 or so laps really pushed me harder than I could have pushed myself. It was perfect. Well, I probably could have done a few things better, but I have fewer regrets on that race than any I've done this year.

I did pick up a few more little tricks this weekend. The Ernesto magic stick trick will come in handy at the muddy races. Embrocation is really nice for those marginal days. I can race a bit more aggressively than I have been, at least push harder aggressive. I can run tubs at 25, and now am confident I can actually know I have 25psi in there. I just need to remember all this when next season rolls around.

We're at the halfway point of the season... or so. Three more races for me, then it's back to total concentration on work for a while. A week off before we head to Kent State! I think I'm still in the top 10 in the overall.... I wonder if I can hold on? it really has less to do with me, and more to do with who else shows up for the remainder of the races.

Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge: Day 1

One double weekend this year.... Brett Davis' Solon Bicycles, Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge. Beautiful warm Friday evening... temps in the 70's... until 1:30am, and the rain starts to fall with the temperatures. 7 hours later, and the Davis property is sure to be a nice mix of mud and grass. Isn't that how they make bricks? Race temp about 50... maybe.

Although it was damp on my way to the race, it didn't actually rain on anyone. I did not costume this year, for no particular reason. I just can't compete with Bob Rodger's in the hot dress. Seems there were not the costumes that we had last year either... I think there should be more marketing.

I've got to give props to Brett for another nice single track addition to the course. Aside from the ruts which I managed to avoid, it really added to this course made for bike drivers. Brett also has the fire going, and the beer flowing to add to the ambiance that is his race. Barriers by the beer just add to the fun.

A small field of 22 in the A race, but the regulars were there. We only had 6 Spin riders... a low turn out for us. Dave, Zak, Derek, Tom K, Justin and myself. I lined up on the front row, hoping to repeat my Spin start. But it wasn't to be. I ended up half way back by the first corner, and further by the run up.

Derek was rocking the start though, got the hole shot to the first turn.... and further. Nice work there.... even if a few crashes in the woods killed that nice move.

I wasn't alone. Shawn Adams crash in front of me at least three times in the first lap... but had the power to get up and get by me each time... until he figure out the mud. Zak seems to spend most of his race recovering from his start also. He came by me about 2 laps in.

For most of the race, I was chasing Zak and Greg from Carbon, and trying to hold off John Proppe from Lake Effect and Bob Rodgers from Solon. I was succeeding in keeping everything together too. Riding through the course with minor mishaps. Zak was going well, and managed to get by Greg and catch onto Rudy. My plan was to work to the same as Zak.

About three laps in, I see Bob stop... and take a beer? It is hard to keep racing while everyone around you is having a party.

My trouble spots were the hill before the barriers, and the big mud puddle.

In the barrier hill, I kept trying to stay close to the inside and turn sharp instead of straightening the turn out going outside, through the apex and back outside. My reason was the wet slop on the outside approach, but I ended up bogging down on the rise, and having my rear wheel slip instead of grip. Even with the Grifo's between 25 and 30. Maybe some true mud tubs are the answer to this... or just go for it and deal with the slop. A tip from Ernesto... though I didn't get it until after the race.

I also kept trying to take the right side of the mud puddle. I'd spend more time lining up my path, instead of just riding through. I picked up that tip with three to go, when John caught me and dropped me right there.

I worked to keep him close, especially when Robert Sroka yelled that I may have been in the top 10. Top 10! That would be fantastic. So head down, let's see if I can bring John and or Greg back to improve on that.

John is running the hill to the barriers.... so I change my tactic and do the same thing, for the last three laps. I did not change my hesitating at the big mud puddle though. I probably lost one place with my technique through that over the 7 or so laps we did.

Battles were raging up ahead. Zak and Rudy were close to each other, Greg responded when John came by him. I was just trying to keep myself close, but I could tell that it would be some serious work to bring myself up there.

In the end, I was content to stay where I was. The best part of the day was I was not lapped on this short course. That alone made my day.

I counted back from the top 5 and was sure I was 10th.... for about 15 hours. When I remembered Ross Clark was up there also. Checking out results the next day confirmed I ended in 11th. I'm not complaining. I put together a good ride in conditions worse than my two "bad" races this year at Stark and (worse still) Leroy. This will put to rest any thoughts that I don't go well in wet grass/mud. I didn't really believe them, but there is always a slight nagging thought when you have a couple of not good days in the same conditions.

I did a long cool down, since I needed my legs to be recovered for Sunday. Right before leaving, Brett asked me to take a lap backwards to check out the course for day two. So I did... Bob Rodgers and I gave a thumbs up being the first to preview the layout for day 2.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cross My Heart and Hope to Die Willoughby Cyclocross Spectacular!

Spectacular! That's the goal of the Spin/RR Donnelley, SSSMST, and Spin Bike Shop Cross My Heart and Hope to Die Willoughby Cyclocross Spectacular!. Special props to Greg and the guys that put in 6 hours on Friday setting everything up. A very nice course, and I'm not saying that only because it's my sponsors race.

I got a sneak peak of the course plan on Thursday night, when I stopped at the shop for some cable housing... after the mudfest at Leroy, my rear-der cable was toast. So some mechanical finesse was in order.

The wacked off-camber slide that killed me two years ago was out. Good, because I learned at Stark Velo's race I still have to figure out how to do those turns on wet turf. The hill was still in... ouch! Still it looked to be a fun course. It started to rain late on Friday evening.

I realised I didn't have a rear der cable late on Friday night... so it looked like my mechanical skills would be tested the hard way. Stop at the shop first thing, and replace the cable on the morning of the race. Not optimal, but I hope everything works when the time comes. Still it MUST be done.

I got to the course early to help setup... which really just meant help put up the PA system, then go do my own wrenching. The rain continued through the morning. By 11:00ish, I had the bike setup, put some rain gear on, and took the first lap of the day.... by anyone.

Two big features of the course... the sled hill run up, and the spiral of death.

The run up came complete with a barrier at the bottom, not really needed since everyone was off by the time we got to it anyway, but I just race the course. We then went right back down the hill and reclimb a portion of the hill twice more before some slightly tricky off camber stuff. All ridable... mostly, if you don't bobble.

The death spiral took up the complete infield of the baseball diamond. I don't even know how many times we went around, but on my first prelap... it was a sand slurry. Seriously. This was certain death to any and all drive trains, let alone the technique needed to ride in this stuff. I decided once around that was enough pre riding that when it took another half lap before my bike sounded half way normal again. I'd figure it out during the race and save the chain to hopefully make it through the whole race.

The rain did stop before the first race of the day.. but the course conditions were set. Big news was Greg decided to do call ups for the A race. People were mixed, but I think it was a very cool idea. The call ups were for the top 10 in the series points. It worked for me since I was sitting 8th... not because of studly riding, but because I've been to all the series races... and Paul Martin and others have not. So... you reward performance AND consistently showing up. Even if I wasn't called up, I think it's a good idea.

The top ten get the call up, and I try to choose a spot NOT near people that I've seen do poor starts. My goal is to go hard from the gun, and then see what happens. If I blow up, I blow up. I'm not going for a hole shot... since the first feature is the sled hill, and it's at least 500m from the start. And hole shots are over-rated in my book. But I want to get moving and stay out of trouble.

At the start, I'm doing alright. top 10 into the first corner... then I loose some heading across to the first sandy ball field crossing before the hill... where I was NOT ready to have the bike squirm. Up the run up, and the gaps start to open up.

I need to learn how to race more aggressively I guess. I let guys pass me on the inside of the corners of the lower hill climbs to the off camber section. On different laps, not just the first. I could have just closed that door. Don't know.

Down around the log crossing, and near the river, and I get swarmed by a bunch of guys that I do NOT want in front of me. It's all about who you expect to beat, and who you don't.. and these guys should be behind me. Into the death spiral, and about 5 guys just bog down...while I don't.

Huh. I guess this is going to be the place I make my race. I gapped a bunch of folks there... and got back into about 10th spot by the end of the first lap.

There was Me, and the Lake Effect three... John Proppe, Jeff Craft, and Rudy. Second time up the hill, and I did manage to close the door on Rudy once. This is good for me... I just want to hang onto these three, and I'll be doing a nice race. Rudy must have had a bad start... he was first to take off. I sat on Proppe, with Jeff just behind for the remainder of lap two. I opened a gap on Proppe in the spiral, but Jeff got me at the hill (see closing that door...).

Two laps in, and the field is strung out. For the remainder of the race I worked to keep the gaps to John and Jeff pretty constant. I don't know how I did it. But I could see the gap to Zak and Brent in 9th/10th place was NOT moving for the rest of the race.... and no one was near John behind me. I was technically pretty good, though not perfect, but the gaps were not moving.

With two to go, I tried to dig deeper, but was running out of gas. With one to go, I had hoped to hold on, but John must have found he had more gear that he wasn't using. He closed to me on the run up... and I had no answer. I knew I was giving up that spot, but could not (or did not) dig any deeper. I thought I could get him if I could just close before the spiral... but he made it in, and didn't bobble. By the turn around at the center, I knew I could not make up the difference, so I finished 15 seconds down on him.

By the end of the race, my bike sounded like a grinding wheel. I may need to replace the cable again AND my chain. What a mess.

Overall, I'm pleased with my 13th place finish. I was 40seconds out of the top 10. The course had similar conditions to Leroy, where I felt I didn't really race hard or clean enough. There is still room for improvement, but I did race my bike... which was a goal for the day.

This also put me in fifth in the series overall, which I am VERY pleased with. I won't stay there, since Paul is only 4 points behind me... and there are others that will be dropping some "no show" races that will soon be out of my reach. We are far enough into the season that I can start setting some realistic goals though. Like getting good starts, and racing my bike through the whole hour. We'll go from there.

Next up... Chagrin River Cyclocross Challenge p/b Solon Bicycle... it's always a party if Brett is involved.

Monday, October 05, 2009

What a day...

A rough day in Leroy Township yesterday. Chagrin River Cycling put on the second annual Leroy Township Cyclocross race. Last year, I felt I did pretty well, and I was hoping for a nice repeat.

Warm ups went smooth. I was bunny hopping the barrier because it was only three inches high, they fixed that before the start of the A race though, and I was able to ride the whole course. The rains had moistened everything, the puddles were cold, and mud was found. I figured it would be another power course... which was fine with me, if I brought my power legs along.

30 or so lined up for the A race, with 8 from Spin, and Aussie Rob from the multisport team. I seem to be lining up second row pretty regularly... which I guess is silly, because I'm giving up all control of my start to the guy in front of me. It would be fine if I chose better, but I seem to not be that wise. Ray already posted about his start, and I was on his wheel. So, that put me WAY back... heading into the single track section (which probably could be classified as double track if I had nerve), the whole field was standing still as guys picked their way into the woods... hindsite says I should have dismounted and shouldered the bike across the ravine to get into the woods... I'm getting pretty good at that hindsite for the first lap also.

By the time I exited the woods, and could see the front of the race, they were 45seconds+ up the road. Not good. Then I started going backwards... as the power guys took off. Place by place, I think I lost 10 or more places in the course of two laps... then finally started to get things working again. Ten places is tough to make up, especially when some of them are 1/4 to 1/3 of a lap ahead of you when you actually start moving forward.

I was able to picked up three of those place, plus a couple of others as guys blew up from the effort. In the end I figured out how to ride the course reasonably well with 4 to go, though the entry to single track and the best way to handle the barrier/ditch crossing were puzzles that cost me time every lap. The barrier/ditch was the worst since I had it cold in warm up... and only cleared it the way I wanted in 1 of the 7 laps.

I got lapped with 2 and a half to go by the leading trio of Weeks, Adams and Martin, but held off the everyone else over the course of the remaining lap. Dropping 10 places and only getting back 5 really hurt. I'm still shocked I made the top 20 (in 19th place). Still far away from the personal goal of a top 10. Maybe if we go back to the days of A fields of only 15 guys...

...and worse yet... my legs are not sore today. Even when climbing my little commute hills. Am I sandbagging on myself?

I need to figure out how to ride my bike faster. How to decode those nasty technical puzzles so I don't loose huge time every lap. And mostly, how to ride to my potential so I am totally thrashed at the end of a race.

I'm not going to Cinci... which really hurts... so next up is the
Cross My Heart and Hope to Die Willoughby Cyclocross Spectacular on October 17th! Time to get some resolve going for that one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Racing with the conditions.

This weekend was the StarkVelo Kent State race. As everyone has stated, they put together a really nice course, lots of long stretches to test the fitness and some technical twisty bits with elevation to test the handling. Very nicely placed together.

I like to get to the venue early. It gives me a chance to scope out the course and test some stuff out. Usually I get about 2 hours before the race to change anything I need to. On the way down, it poured, but at the the University, it was dry but overcast. Certainly a tubular course, I got out the grifo's and took a lap.

Being a non-PRO, these tires are expensive... so I don't like to take them out on pavement unless necessary. That said... it forces me to race them without a lot of practice. This year, I've been practicing more on the Vittoria tubs, just to get that feeling, but it's not the same. On the first time around, I stacked it right at the building turn. Oh, how do these work again? The only other problem spots I had were the drop after the "pain climb", which required a quick 180 to climb back up, and then the off camber descent. The back tire just broke loose and would drift. I threw the Vitto's in the pits, and headed off for a second lap. Better, but after drifting the descent/off camber section, I rolled the rear tire.

I had a feeling I needed to reglue these tires, but I had hoped I could go longer before I had to do it. I guess not, and I should be grateful it was during warm up. It would have been a nasty run to the pits from there. So... swap out the Grifo's for the Vitto's and I'm back to rolling.

The sky opened up on the B race... seriously. Then the lightning... and they shortened the race to 3 laps in 29+ minutes. The rain stopped almost at the first sound of thunder, so I hit the course again to see the changes with water.

About 35 racers lined up, and I had a reasonable start, sitting somewhere in the top 20 I think. First lap mess caused a split between the guy in front of me, and the field, so I went after it. And that seemed to be the whole race. Once we got into the technical stuff, a couple of guys got aggressive to gain a place around me... which really ticks me off... and then they would loose it on the climb. I was literally pushing some guys over to get space on the climb. Nicely, not knocking them down mind you.

Into the descent/climb, and through the off camber. I think I've got that dialed. I just need to hold my position, and start making things up. Not to be though, I get by a few as their fitness shows, but for some reason, my handling is crap today. It's either to much tire pressure, or just a bad driving day on my part. My wheels seem to not want to turn, so I'm loosing time in the technical bits. I can make up some in the long straights but not enough. Without my technical advantage, I'm loosing places that I should NOT loose.

I end up reshuffling into about 20th, then the wheels start to come loose about lap 4. I loose space in the technical section, and a couple folks pass me on the hill, with a couple more close behind. We're gaining on 17th place, but it's grouping up... and I screw up the off camber section and go down. Two guys pass and open a gap while I try to get off the ground.

And that's pretty much the race. Sitting in 25th place, I can keep everyone at about the same place until I get into the technical bits because now my confidence is gone. Physically I feel fine, and I'm still pushing the pedals.... I'm just having trouble making the turns...

With 3 to go, I can see Paul and Matt about a half lap back, and I start to calculate if I'll get caught. With 2 to go, I'm pretty sure I'll get caught.... so now I go into the calculation mode. Push harder if you don't want this to be your last lap!

It's pretty clear that everyone else has figured out the course... and I'm actually getting better myself, just not quickly enough. I'm still loosing ground on 24th place... who actually moves ahead of the next guy up the road. Through the technical bits, Paul is gaining... so I go into my sprint mode. I'm am running from getting lapped.

Paul hits the descent, as I'm picking my way through the off camber section. I make it into the 180 before the start/finish, and I know he can catch me... but I also see that Matt is far enough back that Paul doesn't NEED to pass me.... so I just need to work!

Paul gives me the mercy lap. I'm the last one to finish on the lead lap.... He follows me along the course to the pit... where I can wave and say thanks before I continue on to the barriers.

Heading out that straight Paul came along me on the road and said.... "They told me not to lap that Spin rider cause he really wanted to do another lap." ...and I honestly did... which was evident by the way I was running from him at the end there.

It didn't matter at all, except that I got to stay out there for another 10 minutes. I couldn't catch the next guy on the road... and it's not like I did any of the sections any better, I just got in a little more work. I backed off the effort as I got to the technical bits and just rolled it in.

In hind site, I ran to much pressure. I did finally figure out some of the turns... but I really need to figure out how to practice that stuff in wet conditions. In road racing... you always run about the same gear. My tires are almost always at 100psi, I just drive the corners a little different in wet than dry. It's just wet pavement or dry pavement. There are so many more variables in cross.... grass, mud... whatever. What type of mud? How much pressure? And I don't ride this stuff enough to know what would really work, or how to adjust if I've chosen incorrectly. I'd really like to have a nice practice area closer to my house that I can try different equipment in different conditions. I need to buy a farm somewhere.

As far as the series goes, I'm thinking hard about the points system this year. The system is stacked in favour of a top 20 place. If you are in the 20-29 places, you get a flat 50 points. So fighting for a position here is strictly on a "bragging rights" basis. Outside of the top 30, you only get 5 points. It kind of indicates that if you are not in the top 30, you are in the wrong field... which I disagree with, since I like racing in a bigger field so that there are people to race against. You can drop 3 of 9 races, so that does negate some of this.. because 1 race does not hurt as much. But I can see some guys dropping down a category after the third race of the series... or earlier depending on their schedules, simply because of their overall point total.

I'm pretty happy to see 35-45 folks in the A race. and the 45-70 in the B's are also fantastic. I guess the only folks that should be moving down are those that end up 2 or more laps behind the leaders.... but if we held that as a real rule, then a lot of guys that raced in Vegas would not have even tried.... what fun would that be?

Next up Leroy. What's up with those start times? ... always a critic I guess.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wendy Park!!!

It's HERE! Finally it's cross season.

The first race of the year was at Wendy Park near Edgewater, which seemed to be kite capital, and the Cleveland Browns stadium. Driving in, I could smell the meats cooking. Hmmmmmm.... but I'm hungry for some cyclocross. Another Browns highlight, arranging for a flyover for the cyclocross race... a pair of US Marine C130's at about 1:00... a little late for the start of the B's and a little early for the A's start... but still pretty nice.

Team Lake Effect again did a nice job of putting together a challenging course with a good mix of pavement, gravel, off camber turns and elevation gains. They did a nice job of using all the park had to offer... even if the park also offer lots of glass causing quite a few flats.

I used history as a guide... since last year was a WICKED bad flat fest, I brought two sets of clinchers and as a back up to the back up a set of Vittoria tubies... cause that's how I roll, bring lots of extra wheels. This year, I will not be bringing the Surly tank as a backup bike. It's SO heavy compared to the race bike I figure I'd only grab it if I broke my race bike in half.

Early arrival again, I got a couple laps in before the B's went off. No master's field this year, so I'll be racing the A's. I think this is a good move on the Lake Effect guys part, bigger fields should help other guys move up and not sand bag the B race. It's always better to be racing someone... even if it's not the guy that eventually wins the race.

Being nice weather, EVERYONE showed up. There were 60 guys in the B field and 40 in the A's. I got a second row spot, out of about 7. The blew the whistle, and the guy in the front row misses his pedal, and I'm immediately about 20 places and 10+ seconds back. Through the first set of turns, and a team mate slides out on the off camber... I make it around with minimal delay, cause I was going high anyway.

It's pretty cool being on this team, cause there were so many guys on the team there. I think there were 9 team spin guys in the A race, and a lot of B's hung around to cheer. Always makes it more fun. So we hit the pavement with a few team mates, and we're off in chase.

Somehow it sorted out that Mike Plank, Dave Steiner and I are rolling in chase of Jason whose in a group with Ross from Solon and Jimmy Mac from Cornell. There's another big group ahead of them, but you race who you're near. We're working a bit together, though it's not like we're truely organized. I took a big pull coming back along the pier, and up over the rise, and look back and Dave is GONE! I had no idea what happened to him until after the race.

I ended up pulling Mike around for a lap... and then I must have taken a nap or something, cause he pulled a gap... then opened it up considerably. Nap... yep that would be nice about now. Brett from Solon ends up catching me, and Dave is chasing. Brett and I roll around for a lap before I give him a few second gap with 3 to go... I can't let him get to far away... I think I can bring him back in the last two.

Dave is gaining slowly, and I'm maintaining on Brett. With 2 to go, I start pushing harder... so I must have been napping for a bit there. I'm gaining slowly on Brett, through the pier and up the hill, Dave catches back on when Brett is about 20meters ahead. We catch him at the sand, and Dave gives a go. Brett and I stick with it and I jump up to Dave through the barriers. I have a feeling we've got Brett on the ropes, so it's sprint out every corner. Dave and I are encouraging each other. Brett is gone, and I hang with Dave for another half lap before he opens a gap on me. No pressure from behind so I roll in as hard as I can.... and boy do I hurt.

Spin did pretty well considering the guns that showed up for the first race of the season. We had 5 in the second 10 places... and probably could have had more without the flats that plague Wendy Park. I'm thinking that Wendy Park is as hazardous as the goat head cactus in Colorado.

I ran my Michelin green file treads and was happy enough, though I think full on tubies would have been nice.... but a little to nice to risk the punctures. I've got to work on my cornering again though. I was playing it pretty gingerly on a few of them.. either not trusting my equipment, or afraid of going down and hurting my already tender ribs. Either way, I'm happy with my overall performance for 17th. Sure I would have liked to have been fighting it out in the lead chase group, or even have been going for the top 10. Realistically, I think I can improve in a few areas right away, like staying focused throughout the race. The other goals will need to remain in the "stretch" category.

I have to say I feel like a rock star with all the lenses around. Special thanks to Robert and Victor Dvorak for taking some great shots of the race I've included... They got a lot more on their sites. They even make me LOOK like a rock star!

And you know, it doesn't matter how well you go as long as you look good doing it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Right hook! Let down...

I had plans of a nice training ride after work on Wednesday. Best laid plans...

I was riding down a divided four lane road, two lanes in each direction. I was in the right lane, approaching an intersection. In this case, I was trying to take up as much of the lane as possible riding in the center of the lane. When a car pulls along side of me on the left... not completely in the left lane, but pretty close... I figure she has to see me, right? She just passed me.

Then she starts to move into my lane, and I think "she wants to turn right", but I'm even with her door, she has to see me, so she's going to slow down and turn behind me... RIGHT?

Nope. She starts to make the turn while half in the left lane, and doesn't see me. I ended up yelling a few times, grabbing all the brakes I can, and still hit her right door with my bars... I leaned on the car expecting to make the complete turn with her then.

Evidently, she noticed me at that point, and decided not to complete the turn. Instead she ended up stopped at the side walk entrance on the far side of the intersecting street with her front wheels over the curb, and I ended up on the ground next to her car.

Classic right hook manoeuvre (search for "right hook" on the link). I should have seen it coming, but when I'm doing 25+ and she was PASSING me to get to the intersection anyway. I must have instantly become invisible.

The guy driving behind her (and who was following me so he could turn right also) stopped and called the police, and stuck around as a witness. Very cool on his part, and I thanked him for it.

Fortunately, I only have some minor road rash. The bike seemed fine on the ride home, with the exception of the bar tape... and my shorts are trashed. I just need to stay off my left hip for a little while. No grass crashes for me, at least for a week or so!

Not the way I wanted to start getting ready for cyclocross... but it could have been much worse.

Maybe I did need a rest week in my schedule. Ride careful out there.

I just notice a couple new links:
This link took me to
some bike/car accident stats.

How to "not get dropped".

I got out to the worlds again this week. Last of the year, so lots of folks showed up. It was fast again.

I still want redemption and maybe to make into the front end of the split. Kind of in response to crashing out of the one break I've ever made during the second RATL this year... it was really fun to get into THE move of the day. Plus, I need something after getting shelled last time.

So, as the race starts a couple guys go off in search of the lap 1 prime. Dave does some work to bring it back, with no one else helping, and since I was near the front, I did some work also... until Chris Connely jumped. I figured Dave and I had brought the two back close enough for Chris to make it... but he didn't know they were gone, so never finished it off. Oops.

Having done some work I went to hang out at the back to recover. It's pretty sketchy at the back... so I tried to not stay there very long. I ended up doing some yo-yoing between the front and back, and mostly working hard no matter where I was.

With about 7 to go, I was at the back when a group of 4 rolled away. Being at the back sucks because I didn't know who was away, except it looked like the big guys were represented, and the field almost came to a complete stop. So I rolled by Dave and asked what he thought? I didn't hear an answer, and the speed had me roll right to the front, past Paul Martin.... so I started going harder... and then I had a gap!

A gap, now what? No choice but GO! I tried to get across to the 4, and got about half way there in half a lap. Then I stalled, and I saw the other "John formerly of SnakeBite" coming across to me... It took him a while to get up to me and I was pretty gassed by then. So even as he said "let's trade short pulls" I told him I was done. The group had already gotten most of the space back, so I soft pedalled until caught.

Straight to the back again.. and I had to dig really deep to hang on. Then I found out Zak was in the break. I guess it was about then that Paul and the big guns decided to bring the break back.... which contributed to my pain, but I hung on. Shortly after the catch, another group got away with the big guns. Probably 10 got away, though seven made it to the finish. I hung on barely to the end.

So I still don't use the efforts I have at the right time. But this time I managed to hang onto the group. Another nice workout and that should wrap up the road season. It's time to get serious... cyclocross season is now!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The "art" of getting dropped.

I did the worlds again last night. Pretty fun time, except when it wasn't.

We did "17 fast laps" as Chris announced, then told Andy Clarke from RGF to lead us out... so he did with a neutral section "attack". At the start line Andy and Matt Weeks (LakeEffect) had about 300m, and so the race began....

So Spin had Dave, Tom K, Matt B, Brian and myself... being an unrepresented team, I guess it was our duty to pull the break back in. So we joined some other unattached guys, with some help from RGF and Lake Effect to bring it back. After about 3 or 4 laps.

I did pretty well staying near the front unlike last week, even going with a couple of attempts at the next break. Nothing was getting away now though... One nice attempt by Dave got a few of us with a small gap, when Dave flatted while sitting second-ish wheel going into the cop corner. Front flat to, so he just went straight across the road, and hopped the curb. I was fourth wheel, so all I saw was him heading toward the curb... and I heard the rest. Good thing he was on the front, or lots of damage could have been done. Dave survived, and walked/jogged back to get a spare wheel so he could rejoin the field.

As soon as Dave was gone, I thought it's now up to me alone to cover any moves for the team. We were HUMMING along too. I did some work, then drift back to recover and repeat. We got a couple of primes after the neutral break was back. Boy was the pack weird. Nearly stopping on a couple of occasions... so I took a flyer through the tight turn on the back side... digging REALLY hard even though I knew it wouldn't last. I got a descent gap, but nothing huge... when Paul Martin led the field past me.

That was pretty much suicide there. Dave jumped back in the field after the prime and asked why I was sitting at the back.... cause I was dying of course. The pace was still hot, and the field was still all together. I knew I was in real trouble when I couldn't remember a guys name that I've been racing against for about 6 years... hmmm, I've got no name. Not first name, not a last name... nothing. Not good. It came eventually, interesting thoughts when the going gets rough.

With 6 to go, we passed the B field at the start line as they waved off a prime for the next go around. On the backside, some guy in a Mercede's sports car, pulled half way into the lane... and I started to come off. I seriously thought "I wish a move would go, so the pace would lighten just a little bit for me." Not to be... 10 feet grew to 10 yard... to 100m by the start finish. 5 laps to go! Oh boy.

New plan! I'm going to do a time trial. I still had a hope of getting back, but it was a dim hope. I looked back, and decided I would try to hold off the B field for the next 2 laps. Even if I didn't catch back onto the field.

I had about 500m for most of the 2 laps.... and at the line, I about 10 feet. The winner rolled by and I kept it going. I still had 3 or so to go. I did ease up a little, because it hurt. With one to go, I was still looking to see if I'd get lapped. I saw nothing so I thought I might make it... With 200m, I saw them coming... and pulled over to the left curb to watch the finish. That's one way to get to the front of the race... though not the preferred method.

So Bobby wondered what it was like, and I'm here to say... I could have sucked wheels and made it to the end. Instead I did a few too many efforts and paid the price. It's a training race, and I still feel good about the training. I figure that 28 per was about right for the fields pace last night... and I guess I can only do that kind of work at or above my LT for about an hour. Then it was lights out for me.... with a 30 minute tempo time trial effort to finish it out.

So how long are the cyclocross races again? Oh yeah! About an hour... perfect! I will say, last night didn't hurt anywhere near as much as cyclocross races do. One more month until the season begins!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Did the worlds at Westlake last night... well, I raced stupid making loads of mistakes. We had about a dozen Spin guys in the field of about 40 or 50. Here is the list of my sins...

I knew where the back of the race was almost all night... cause that's where I was sitting.

I got up close to the front right as the field was splitting. I saw Derek, one of my team mates was on the move, so I sat up. Yes, I said ONE of my dozen or so team mates. I guess I'm not used to racing with team mates... cause I actually was thinking something about not wanting to chase Derek down. Of course, he was only about 10 feet in front of me when I pulled off... and I may have been able to actually help him had I continued across the gap.

No sooner had I let that go, than I returned to the back marker for a while. Paul Martin was still back there... so I figured we were comfortable. He'd bring the move back with a patented PM 30 per pull. I saw him moving to the front... but didn't follow. Then I watched him jump... and no one was on his wheel. I was still sitting at the back.

A few of the team were then working to hold the gap to the split constant. We had about everyone on the wrong side of the split... and I was still sitting at the back. Then I saw Derek had come back to our group. So... I finally got my head about me, and went to the front to work. We got about 5 or 6 of us pulling, and we were making progress... until they rang a prime lap. We continued to work, and then some guys went for the prime. John Bodell was there for us, but couldn't get around Bob Fernandez. That pretty much killed our motivation to pull, if we were going to get jumped for the primes.

We still managed to keep the split reasonable. Mostly with some help from some unattached guys. All the fast guys were in the split... except Tom Frueh, who had flatted, taken a free lap and was sitting in our group. Well, Tom didn't like our group so he decided to try to bridge across... and a Saturn of Columbus guy went with him.... so I decided to go also. Ah! A decent decision. I made it up to the Saturn guy... just as he blew up. So I came around, and tried to grab Tom's wheel... ever so close.... then Chris Riccardi and another guy came around me... and I still hadn't made it on the wheel. When the three guys got together, the gap started opening. I tried to get the Saturn guy to help. He took one pull, and then said he was done... the whole operation took almost a lap... and I was cooked. So I again went to the back.

They rang another field prime. It looked like the Saturn guy was working with Fernandez to lead him out... and I was pissed enough about the last prime to sit on Bob's wheel...then surf to the Saturn wheel when Bob wasn't on it... It was cool to see how they worked it to end up right where they wanted to be at 500m. Saturn pulled Bob and I to the front... Bob saw me on his wheel so he jumped at 400m. I followed, and start to come around at 200m for a drag race... The head wind was a killer, so I fell back onto the wheel. I guess Bob thought he had it then, so he slowed, and I jumped again at about 50m.... and lost the prime by about a tire width. Stupid, I should have trusted myself a little earlier and made Bob really work for it the whole 400m. As it was that effort had him almost off the back for the next two laps.

I screwed around a little, more... but mostly stayed at the back. And that's how it ended... Everyone thought they could win the sprint for 25th place, I decided I didn't need to risk that...and I rolled in about 200m off the back.

The good news is I rode harder than I would have alone, and I can come back and try again next week. I should remember to bring my racing brain along though. I feel better when I do...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Dog days of summer?

For the first time ever... I was chased by a pack of wild dogs on Friday. Up hill!

Well, fortunately they were not very fit, and the hill wasn't very steep.

I saw the pack of three dogs on the sidewalk to my right... they stopped, and looked at me... then one started to tentatively approach, when I growled at him! URRRRRR. It shocked him(her?) enough to step back in surprise as I passed the pack. Then it decided to follow along.. but not to close. When it growled again, I replied louder and reached for the water bottle... just in case it wanted a little drum stick snack. It was still out of squirt range when it and the two followers wheezed to a stop. I kid you not.

They only ran about 100 meters... fortunately, I didn't have to unleash (HA!) my wicked sprint to out-run them.

Now that July is over, it must be time to start thinking cyclocross!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I have much to learn.

I did the Westlake Tuesday night worlds yesterday. Ryan, Tom K, Brian, Mehul and another Spin guy were also in the field with the usual 6 or so RGF, 6 Carbon and 10 Lake Effects.

This being my first of the year, and that I haven't raced much yet this year, I had no idea how I would go. My plan was to get in some training efforts, despite the World Champion status, this is a Training race after all.

So we roll out reasonably easy, until Matt Weeks opens it up a little. Roll around a bit more and Matt decides to go off the front. No worries there, I figure RGF and Carbon can work to bring that back, and they do. Soon another group starts to go with representation, so I get to the front and work to bring that one back.

I'm still on the front when Tris (Carbon) goes with Bob Martin (RGF) and Rudy (Lake Effect)... as they go (on the opposite side of the field) I'm thinking one of my Spin guys can get on that one... I'm not going to. URK!!

Lesson 1: If a move goes with all the big boys represented... don't assume someone else will get it. I should have just gone and thought later. The doubts were flying at that point, so I watched the race go away from me... and in short order I knew it. There's no telling if I could have stuck on that move, but we'll never know now, because I didn't even try. Shoot. The break went out to about 30 seconds or so, and then just sat there... while Stephan from RGF pulled us along.

Being the only other team with numbers not in the break, it was really our responsibility to bring it back... but we also knew that we're a bit outclassed by the RGF/Carbon/LE big guns, and I think intimidation played a part. We'd get a couple guys on the front pulling along, but the other teams would insert in the pace and screw us up... very effectively. What are we to do?

So I tried some attacks... I could open a small gap, but they'd shut it down pretty quickly. Then someone from one of the represented teams would attack, and I'd jump on that one. Kind of a "once bitten, twice shy" thing. I certainly didn't want another split of RGF/LE/Carbon going up the road without Spin being in it, and if that meant I'd cover everything, then I certainly would get some training out of it.

It was kind of crazy to get brought back, and then have to jump immediately onto the counter attack move. When that got brought back, I decided to sit in a bit... by choice or otherwise. Then Tom comes up and says, "come on John, let's get a paceline to bring this back." Ugh, OK. I'll do it. We get four or five of us to the front, and roll through. Much to the delight of Tom Frueh (Carbon) who starts cat calling, or cattle calling, whatever.

Lesson 2: I have not raced with the team much, so I don't know everyone yet. We certainly were not aggressive enough on protecting our pacelines. Instead of just letting a few guys work, we had made an effort to bring this back. And we were getting swarmed with RGF/Carbon guys inserting themselves into the line. We made multiple attempts, but when our guy would pull off they would drift way back into the field instead of fighting to get on the wheel of the last guy on our team. We didn't have enough guys, or didn't know to, put in a gatekeeper at the back of the chase line. At one point, I tried (and failed) to move Dan Quinlin (Carbon) off the wheel of one of my guys... HA, elbows out, but I'm not going to bump him off... even if I was ready to start actually bumping. I did get his wheel though, and it's not like he really slowed it down... he just pulled through.

We did put some time into the break, right about when a van pulled out between the field and the break. It was also just about when we were going to pass the B field, so we were slowed to B field pace, with the van between the fields as the break went out a bit again. Oh well.

The nice thing about last night was even with the break gone, the field still wanted to race their bikes. So if Spin or Snakebite weren't working, Carbon/RGF/LE would be on the front just keeping the break within the 30-45 second range. They never got out of sight... which means the other teams may have been toying with us.

The break was far enough out that Bridgette did ring a field prime or two. Coming around the back on a 1 point prime, I found myself in fourth wheel behind Andy (RGF), Tom (Carbon) and Polo (RGF). Mehul came on my wheel, and told me that RGF was setting it up for Polo. So I figured I'd work to get Mehul up there to contest it. At 500M Stephan (RGF) goes up the left with Brian (Carbon) on his wheel, so I go on the right to jump on that... and I'm third wheel with a small gap. (HUH?) Brian just looks behind him at 200m, and I jumped at 150... got really clear and won the prime! (Again... HUH?) I figured I must have just done a stupid sprint for nothing because there was SO much daylight between me and the rest of the guys... so I put my head down and tried to keep the effort up. Not that I had much left, and I was pulled back right at the turn.

Lesson 3: What is going on here? I don't know this yet. Why was I let go to get a point? Often teams let people go for cash... but points are precious. I've never seen a point given as easy as I got mine. I do not understand the dynamic of the primes in the A race yet... and this is at least my fourth year in the A race. I will say, last year one of my goals was to get a single point at Westlake. Now I feel cheap because it was basically given to me on my first attempt in my first race of this year. Now I've got to change my goals and try for a place instead.

As I get back into the field, Mehul asks if I won it... so that makes me more sure it wasn't a stupid sprint, then gives me a push to keep me in the field. I really appreciate both the warning of the prime, and the push... I didn't need the push, but it say a lot about him as a team mate.

So we kept at it. I would chase any attacks. We'd try to get a pace line going... it was frustrating in a way, but we did still race our bikes. I may have frustrated some of the guys that were trying to get away also... I knew that if I got into a move with them, I would have to do the work... cause they wouldn't take me up to the break... they knew that also. They also probably knew that I couldn't get across without their help. So every time they looked back and saw me, they knew they were done. I did see Brian raise his hand in frustration on one of those types of moves. I'm also sure that if they had seriously commited to the jump, they would have gotten away from me, and could have sent a few more splits up the road... but that would have broken the rule of chasing your own break down. It became a very tactical night which actually made it quite fun. Since everyone played by "the rules", everyone was allowed to race their bikes all night long.

Lesson 4: I can do much more work than I thought I could at the beginning of the night. I jumped enough, and pulled enough, that I was almost dropped on a few occasions. and I DIDN'T CARE! My goal was to get some training in, and I did. I managed to hang onto the field every time. So then I could get back up front and get some more efforts in. Not once did I say "If I work, I might get dropped." Instead I worked...then I said..uh oh, I better work to NOT get dropped. Very nice feeling, and a big confidence booster.

Lesson 5: On one of the effort to pull the break back. Tom got to the front and put in a big pull, then I went next. I'm not sure, and I want to investigate this, but I did something on that pull that felt fast, and didn't send my HR through the roof. It's hard to describe the feeling, but I've done those efforts in training before. My plan now is to search for that sensation to see if I can find it and use it when I need it in a race.

With 4 to go, I expected another attack, so positioned myself in the front 5-10. We just rolled around until the bell lap. I figured, OK I'll surf wheels and see what I can do. Two places left, maybe I can poach one of them off the sprinters.

Lesson 6: The big teams take crazy chances... as do some folks that have no reason sticking their wheels in there. If we had rolling enclosures, it might have been different. I was not interested, decided I had gotten in plenty of work and rolled in behind the field.

Two hours of race pace efforts with plenty of work. We ended with a 26.1 average, so we were not slouching, and I was part of the race... I can eat a bit of ice cream tonight! YAY.

I also have to give props to the two Snakebite guys in the field. They were working hard, and it made me proud to have been on the team in the past. Keep it up guys.

Monday, July 13, 2009

More on teamwork... postscript.

Get the blog written first, then catch up on everything else, right?

Today on VeloNews... Will Frishkorn wrote a bit about team work:

These are all roles of the domestique, the category that the vast majority of riders fit into. You’re at a race to do your job. You’re also at a race because it’s what you love to do. The satisfaction of teamwork, is something often misunderstood in our sport. The way that you’ll drive yourself into the ground, knowing that as soon as the throw-down comes, the race will leave you behind. The somehow-fantastic feeling of being fully spent, nothing left to give, that it’s all been left on the road and knowing that all that remains is a crawl to the finish.

I've never been so convinced as I was over this weekend. This was what I wanted to do for the team on Saturday, and felt like I succeeded. It may have been the most PRO I've been in my racing career. I'm looking forward to the next chance I get to do exactly THIS!

Read the whole article... it's well worth the short time spent.

Cycling is a team sport.

Last weekend Carbon Racing sponsored the Tour of the Valley stage race. Four races over three days, a time trial and Crit on Friday, a road race on Saturday and another crit on Sunday. My schedule would only allow me to race on Saturday, which was fine since I've only done 3 races so far this year anyway. I certainly didn't think I would be up for 3 days of hard racing at this point.

Spin did have 7 guys racing for the overall. Dave, Derrik, Jason, Justin, Pete, Thom and Tom. Thom rocked to an 8th place in the time trial, and won the crit on Friday to end up sitting in second on GC on Saturday morning. Without any other points, everyone else on the team was riding in support of Thom's GC.

I'd looked at the course profiles, and figured it would be a tough go. 66 miles of racing over a pretty hilly terrain. It might not be good for me to be racing distances as long as the longest training rides I've done all year. I've got plenty of training miles in, but effectively no racing intensity... so my plan for the day was to be a total domestique. I would work for the team however I could. I was hoping to conserve until we'd made it over the first KOM climb... then I could completely put myself into whatever efforts I could, not expecting to make it over the climb with the group on the second lap. If I did, double bonus, and I'd work more.

Sign in went well, and we ended up with 11 guys at the start, adding Mehul, Zak, Pete S and Myself. Thom would stay focused on the guy sitting in first place, and a Kelly Benefits rider that didn't have many points, but looked to be a threat. There was Pete and Tony from Lake Effect, Cameron from RGF and a guy from Stark that we were supposed to be careful about. That meant if we got into a break with any of these guys, and Thom was not there, we sat on and did nothing. If they were off the back of Thom's group, we could not work to get back to the group unless we could attack to bridge, but should do nothing but sit on. No personal ambitions today for anyone on the team. It's all for Thom.

On the line, it looked like maybe 50 guys. Considering there were about 35 GC riders, we definitely had numbers. Lake Effect had four or five, and Stark had three. The two guys Thom was watching were solo... though we did see Pete talking with Kelly Benefits, maybe looking for some help.

This race was extremely cool. We had a rolling road enclosure... no yellow line rule, which was really nice. There was space to move around the field instead of being stuff into one lane. The team spread out among the field, and Thom sat comfortably in the back. I tried to stay near the front, ready to do whatever.

As we hit the first climb, a guy next to me somehow crossed wheels or something and came off his bike... he managed to stay standing. WOW. The climbs were more than I had anticipated, but I managed over it just dangling on the back. Once over the top, I worked my way back to the front to get ready for the KOM climb that was next up.

Tom and I were on the front as we came to the descent. There was chip and seal that had been well swept off... but it was still bumpy and curvy. It could have been a blast if I had ridden it a few times before the race. Tom and I made it down sitting on the front, and then prepped for the KOM climb.

Not having raced much I had no idea how this climb would go. I was sitting on Kelly Benefits as he paced me right up the climb. I was comfortable, and looked back and we had a slight gap. COOL! Then a guy came around us and Kelly upped the pace a bit... I tried to match it, but it screwed up my rhythm enough that I lost those two and started fading back to the group. Thom was moving up to get on the front group, since KOM points counted toward GC. It was all good, I just need to get over the climb with the group.

I kept looking for the top of the climb as more of the field was going by. The climb flattened out a bit, then started up again, and the 200m to go line indicated I had almost made it... but a large part of the group had gone by.

Over the top, I was just off the back and regrouped with Tom and Dave. We grabbed Pete from Lake Effects wheel, and just sat on there. "Oh... that must be disheartening" You've got about 200m to make it back into the field, and look back to see about four guys sitting on your wheel, and three of them will not be doing any work to help you. Tom at least told Pete, "sorry, our guy is on top of GC right now, so it's all up to you to get back on". An unattached rider was behind me telling us to pull through, so I gave him the situation. He was more than welcome to help, but the three of us were going to sit on... if we made it back, great. If not that was fine too.

Pete was a monster. But so was the course. The rollers after the KOM were killing me. Pete pulled us back to the group, and I almost didn't make it. The others were sitting in while I still was chasing. Every part of my body was hurting... I looked back at some point, and there was NOBODY behind me for a very long way. Eventually, the course stopped the rolling climbs, and I was able to get back into the group... so I had some time to eat and recover.

At 66 miles, I had two bottles of drink mix on the bike, and another bottle of water in a jersey pocket. I made sure to bring lots of food also. I ate, and emptied one bottle of mix. As I switched the jersey bottle, one of the number safety pins opened.. and started to stick me in the back every time I pedalled. I'm flying downhill in my biggest gear in the field with one hand on the bars, and one hand trying to get the pin off me... after sticking my finger hard, I finally got it free... and I threw it into the grass on the side of the road. I hate littering, but I figured that was my safest move. I was returning some iron to the land I guess.

The KOM hill had done some serious damage to the field. We were down to about 30 guys, and the yellow jersey was one of the casualties. Someone said he had broken a spoke and fallen off the pace. We still have 9 Spin though... only loosing Mehul and Derrik.

Some of the racing then got kind of strange as guys on GC would try and attack the field. I'm not sure what they were thinking with about 40 miles left to race... but it had the effect of changing the pace in weird ways. At some point a guy did get off the front, and we had Zak off the front with him, or maybe he had tried to bridge up. Either way Zak was sitting alone with a big gap, and another guy was further up the road. Zak stayed away for a while... and we started getting time gaps when the other guy was about 30 seconds ahead of us.

By this time, I was ready to do work if needed. 30 seconds with another time up the two climbs, I figured was no real danger. The GC was based on points, not on time, and with Thom in virtual yellow, and Spin with numbers, it was obviously our duty to keep this guy in close enough to catch. Zak came back in shortly before the end of the lap.

Rolling through the start at the end of lap one, we got another time of 40 seconds. We were still rolling easy. It was extremely cool to go through the feed zone at the front... the whole field sat up as we rolled through, and the gap opened more. I started a little pull to try to get the speed up just a little. I pulled off, and spoke with Dave about when we should really start to bring this down a bit. When we got the 100 seconds time. OK, now it's time to do some work.

Dave and I went to the front, and started to pull. Tom, Pete, Pete and Zak joined in and we started a rolling team effort to bring the gap down. The next time we got was 40 seconds... after about three or four rotations, I'd had enough and started to fade back when Dave asked if that was enough... and I agreed. If we left the gap at 40, it would come back on the hills. I also wanted to have a CHANCE to get over the hill with the group. Though I doubted it would happen.

Over the first hill, I was danlging again. This time Zak and I were right there... and we worked together to get back on. I was sitting more in the field heading into the KOM, but felt confident after the efforts so far. We hit the KOM, and again I started fading off the back. I could see Lake Effect Pete again so I tried to pace the hill to stay close to him. I made it over the top just behind Zak and Pete. I managed to drive myself back to Zak, then we worked to get onto Pete's wheel. I apologized to Pete, but I certainly wasn't going to help... again.

It looked like the group was all together again, and about 200-500 meters in front of Pete, Zak, an unattached guy and myself. I made it over one roller, but my legs were not doing anything good... so I waved Zak through as I came a few meters off my group. Zak attacked Pete to get over the top, and then I was chasing the chase group. My legs were fine unless the road was going uphill. I could stay close on the flats and descents, but I lost ground every time it went up. The field was right there... then they were gone. Pretty soon, so was the chase group and I was alone.

So 50 miles or so into a 66 mile race... and I'm done. I figured I'd done my work, but would try to ride tempo for the remainder of the race to just get back. When I came around a turn and up a rise to see Dave getting onto his bike. If he needed a wheel, I'd hand it over... but his legs had just shut down. So I had company on the rest of the ride. Sherman in the the wheel truck had dropped back to see if Dave needed anything, so we knew we weren't that far behind. But Dave also knew the attacks had started so we were not going to get back into the field. He also didn't think that Pete would make it back in.

Since Dave was racing in the GC, I figured I was given a new job for the team. I could pace Dave in, saving him some energy for Sunday's race. Very cool, even though I'm dropped, I still can do work to help the team. We didn't kill it all the way in, but we did try to keep a reasonable pace... at least until the rain started. I'm going to guess we rolled in about 10-15 minutes behind the field, considering some bikes were already packed on their racks.

Thom had gotten third place after attacking the field with a mile or more to go. Kelly Benefits bridged and Thom thought they were going for the win. Unfortunately, somehow someone else had already gotten up the road. But Thom was now sitting in yellow heading into the last race of the weekend. Very cool, he was far enough ahead that he only had to watch Kelly Benefits on Sunday.

I'll give away the ending. Thom defended well, and won the Cat 3 overall on Sunday. Dave rocked the last crit, got in a break with eventual second place GC guy, and worked hard to come in third in the sprint. Those points elevated Dave into 13th on GC, so even more team success there.

The team did an awesome job on Saturday, and I was a part of it. The weekend was also a big team success with 3 race podiums, and three members on the final GC podium... How cool is that! The race was absolutely cool, and extremely well run. I'm hoping to be able to swing going for the GC and doing all four races next year.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Twin Sizzler

Hey, I CAN race my bike!

I hit up the Twin Sizzler on the fourth. Loads of fun. And yes, the pavement into the finish is still really nasty.

Derrick, Zak, Matt and I raced the 35+ expert race, while just about everyone else on the team did the under 35 race. Props to them, because they ended up sending not 1 but 3 breaks up the road garnering 6 of the top 7 spots if we include the Spin Multisport Team, which we must since Dave and Aussie Rob drove the first break after about 2 miles in, and held that to the line.

In the 35+ race, we didn't talk much strategy... it is just the Twin Sizzler after all... "not a REAL bike race". Since I haven't raced much this year yet, I figured I would do a lot of covering and see if that could save someone else on the team for the finish.

I must have been away a while since almost all the Orrville guys were in this olive green and orange kit with something like a tin can on the front, and oneXone or something across the shorts... and there were quite a few of them in the field. Like more than any other TWO teams combined. At the whistle, they took off hot and we were racing.

The first move of the day came from one of the SpinMulti guys. He hung out there for a while before getting pulled back in, then Orrville's Lorson got a small gap when it looked like the Green guys were going to let him go... so I jumped across carrying another Green with me. We rotated through once before Lorson looked back and exclaimed that his team had pulled the field back.

So the stage is set. One guy can go, but more than one gets brought back pretty much straight away. I'm pretty sure I made my way into 5 or 6 moves, not one of them worked well together and all of them were pretty short lived. Derrick, Zak and Matt all made jumps of there own, making sure we had someone in anything that looked to move off the front, but nothing stay away.

I think I now know how to position myself for this race. RGF had three in the field and Stephan made one jump before the turn onto Smith road. It placed him right at the front, and he could sit there up the last (only significant) hill on the course. After all my jumps, I was sitting at the back.. literally back of the field of 25 that were left.

On the hill we caught the remains of the U35 field, so we now had about 50 heading onto the crappy pavement... and wonderful left/RR tracks/right lead into the finish. I was able to make it into the top 20 or so on the inside of the left hander, and make some more space over the tracks as everyone puckered up. Unfortunately that put me on the outside for the right hander, and after looking at my current placement, I decided to sit up, having done what I came for, which was to get the first race efforts in two months.

Now I have to get some more... I tell you, crack on two wheels.

Until next time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

O.B.E.—Overtaken By Events

After reading Belgian Knee Warmers this morning.... I'm seriously contemplating renaming my blog.

Fortunately, I have still been getting rides in. I just haven't raced since crashing out of RATL 2. No bodily injuries, just expensive bike damage. The bike is back together, and I took it for the first ride this morning. Nice....

It won't be long now.... I hope.

Monday, April 27, 2009

RATL 2 -25.4.09

Ahh.... shoot. Here's the story.

I showed up later than I wanted and got about 10 minutes of warm up before the master's race. Tom Humphrey, Brian Limkemann and Mike Vega joined me from the team, and we even had a little time to communicate before the race.

It looked like about 30 or so at the line including a bunch of MVC and Stark and some Lake Effect. They again started the women's race first, which is silly because we catch them within the first lap, but whatever.

For the first 6 or 7 laps, I was working hard to get a warmup... which wasn't hard since the field was moving. Attacks going off, gaps opening and closing typical race start stuff. It was nice to see Tom and Brian working near the front, since my legs were not feeling it at that point, and I was hoping to have something if the attacked happened with about 5 to go like last week.

At one point, I felt Tom give me a hand to the tail end of the field...and when I looked back, there was no one else behind me. It looked like we had hacked off a big chunk already.

The first prime was rung, and the TriTech guy took it again. The pace heated up shortly thereafter, and through the parking lot a group of 8 rolled off the front. Tom was working on bringing it back with TriTech on his wheel, another guy, Dick Brink and me. Dick was telling the guys in front of him to pull through or the group was gone... no one flinched. I half thought about going to help Tom, but instead, attacked hard before the bridge in an attempt to get up to the front group. It's nice to know that Tom and Brian could now sit in and recover from their efforts until the something new happened.

No one followed, and I closed the 50+ meter gap before the finish line. OK, now I can recover until my turn to pull. Except the guy two in front of me blew hard and a gap opened. Matt Turi from Stark was on his wheel, and he couldn't get across either and told me to go around. F@($&@ was all I could say as I went to close the next gap. I made that one also.... I'm just glad my legs showed up for those efforts. Matt made it up shortly afterward and we were away with 8.

Matt Turi and John Lowery from Stark, John Lorson and another Orrville, Sal Ponzio from MVC, Rudy Sroka from Lake Effect, and Tom Frueh from Carbon/Columbus/Every One and Their Brother Racing, and me. A well represented break of really good riders... This was the move to be in. Everyone started working, and we were away.

Matt lasted a lap or two before we were down to 7. Cool, break of 7 for 7 paying spots. I just need to make it to the finish and I'm in. Prime lap for a Chipotle Burrito. I am NOT sprinting for a freakin' burrito! I just want to make the finish with this move. Lorson jumps and gets it, hangs off the front for a little bit, and we're back together rotating through again.

I keep hearing cheering for me through the parking lot. That's encouragement. With about 7 to go, I realize there are 3 john's in the break. So those yells might not be for me. HA! My only thought is to NOT get dropped from the break, since I would have to work harder on my own than I will to stick with the break. And I very well may be able to get better than 7th in a sprint.

We're lapping parts of the field and with 6 to go, and they ring another $10 prime. Through the parking lot, Lowry and Lorson lead with Sal and then me. As we exit the lot, they slow slightly, obviously thinking about the prime sprint. I assume the games will start shortly since Rudy and Sal will not want to take Frueh to the line for a sprint. So I'm going to just follow wheels, and work for the finish.

As we make the sweeping turn toward the bridge things get fuzzy. Lowry and Lorson, are in the front, and Sal starts hollering at them for something. It's the kind of holler you know is NOT going to end well... either Sal will avoid something bad, or there will be a wreck holler. Then Sal touches wheels with one of the guys in front.... wobbles, and goes down. I was already in the slow motion planning stage, I need to do my best cross/crash avoidance now!

Sal falls away from the rider in front, right in front of me, I steer between him and his bike. My front wheel passes within inches of his helmet, as his bike is sliding to my right.... I tried to then hop over his front wheel... but I think I was too busy avoiding Sal... I hit the wheel, and somehow find myself sitting on the ground face the way I had just come.

SH!T!!! Sal does not look good at all! Rudy is also on the ground to my (now) right side. My bike is in pieces on the left. Another rider (I think) is almost immediately with Sal helping him. So I can just get my bearings. My fork is broken... damn, I'm not getting back into the race now! Rudy asks if I'm alright, and... I am. He gets up and goes for the ambulance. I just sit there for a few minutes. Sal starts moving more and talking, though it's obvious that he is not doing well. A spectator gets to us, then a park ranger. I figure I can head back and get cleaned up since I'm not going to be helping anyone now. So I grab my bike parts and walk to the car.

I'm pretty disappointed though very lucky. I ended up with some extremely minor scraps and a slightly sore wrist. Nothing compared to Rudy and Sal, even if my bike ended up the worst for it. Rudy broke his arm and is in a cast, out for 6 weeks. Sal spent a couple days in the hospital, with broken ribs and more. I could have raced on Sunday, if I had another race ready bike. Instead I did 3.5 hours training on the road riding my cross bike... so I have much to be thankful for.

I have no idea if the fourth guy went down, or just stopped to help or what happened. He was with Sal REALLY fast and didn't seem to be at all hurt himself. I don't even know what shirt he was wearing. It kind of points to the fallibility of eye witnesses. My focus was on getting through the event without crashing, and I at least avoided injury. After that, I have details, but they may not be important to what happened at all.

Aside from the wreck, my biggest disappointment is not being able to talk to the guys in the break afterward. It's the first time I made a break like that, and I wanted tips on how we rode. Should I have been doing something different? What's the break protocol? Those types of things. The break consisted of some really good racers, and I wouldn't expect that kind of incident with these guys. But a moment of inattention I guess is all it takes. I'm super happy that I made the bridge to the break, and how that part all worked out. I think I did things correctly, and hope my decisions through the crash didn't effect the guys behind me in any way.

Next step is to get a bike together. I've got to replace my fork, and rebuild my race wheels. I might be able to put together my old bike for this weekend. Still some inventory to do.

Speedy recovery wishes to Sal and Rudy. I've only heard about their injuries on the other blogs. I'm just looking forward to seeing them back in the field... and maybe having another go at getting in the break with them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

RATL 1 - 18.4.09

Hey, it's racing season again! This is the first race with my new team, Spin Cycling Team, so excitement was high.

Over the off season, I've managed to put together some training and keep my weight reasonable, but with no intensity yet. I had NO idea how the first Race at the Lakes would go.

I could not make Sunday's Cover Bridge race, so my intent was to do a double, Master's race, then the 1.2.3 race immediately following. I figured it'd jump start my legs.

I lined up with about 30 45+ and 5 35+. It's good to see those numbers, it seems most of the 35+ guys were saving it for the 1.2.3 race. MVC had the numbers, with at least 5. Lake Effect and Stark both had 3, the rest were singles and doubles. The downside was I only had one other team mate, and I didn't even see John until 2 laps in, so our race planning was low.

Typical first race, handling skills were a bit low for the first few laps. I had one guy decide the didn't want to be next to the field in the wind, so he dove in right in front of me... that reminds me to stay near the front!

The race was pretty mundane after that. I tried to go with a couple of moves that got brought back pretty quickly. Nothing was really getting away, mostly because Lake Effect had Nate on the front pulling for nearly the whole race. That is not an exaggeration either.

At 8 to go, they rang a $10 prime, and the whole field ramped up. I must have forgotten how to fight for position, since I was about 12 back heading into the hill. I was third wheel as Phil tried to lead Jim out for MVC. We started up the right side as a TriTech guy shot up the left. He was quick on the uphill sprint, and ended up nabbing it easily.

With 5 to go, Dick Brink (RGF) wound up his attack through the parking lot. Followed shortly by Sal from MVC. I knew that was the move... since they got about 200m in less than half a lap. The MVC guys were talking about blocking, and that would NOT have been good. So I jumped out on the hill hoping to get across.

Unfortunately, I only brought Phil from MVC with me. Great, he won't help me get up there. I was still hoping that MVC would keep the block and we could at least get away for 3 and 4 place, but I guess I haven't put in that much training. I lasted about a lap and a half before getting pulled back. The good news is that the gap to Sal and Dick didn't go up while I attempted the bridge. The bad news is it didn't go down either.

As Nate came by, he said something about "Let's go get them"... I pretty much just laughed... and went back into the field for a bit of rest.

Next time up the hill, I looked back and realized two things. The field had shrunk... and I was at the back.

With 2 to go, the rang a second field prime. This time I was a bit further back, as the TriTech guy spun a crazy gear to get over the top for the second time.

As we came through for the prime, they ring the last lap bell. Dick and Sal are still off the front, so those two places are taken. I wound up what I had left and got in about 11th in the field. It's kind of hard to sprint for the place after I laid it all out to get into the break. Oh well. Props to Sal for the win and Dick for second. I think John Bodell got fifth overall, but I'm not 100% sure.

Since it was so much fun in the Master's, committed to the 1.2.3 race. I think mostly because I was disappointed in how the Master's race went. Shot a gu and lined up.

We had Mike Vega, Tom Keller and Brian Limkemann in the field... still no prerace plan that I knew of... Tom may have had a plan, but probably knew I wasn't going to be much help.

First thing I noticed about the big race.... there is no neutral start. We were off from the whistle, and I was already moving backwards. At the end of the first lap, I was on the back... and working to not get gapped. By the end of the second lap, it was clear... I was 20m off and NOT going to see the field again. So what else to do... keep going. I paid for this race, I'm going to get the training... kind of like a gym membership... or cyclocross once the field opens up. I wasn't the only one off the back, but I think I was the first. Pretty much expected that with how much I did in my first race though.

Three laps on my own doing tempo work before the lead group caught me. I let that go then jumped on the tail of the field. I stuck with that for a lap and a half but came off when they accelerated through the parking lot. Nothing left in the legs, but I still kept going.

This time, I sat up for some recovery. They came around soon enough, and I jumped on the back. Lasted another lap, and came off with a couple others. We kind of grouped together and I ended up pulling the downhill section, but when tried to pull off the front, the other two didn't want to work. I made the turn into the parking lot and an Elves racer pretty much attacked... well, that's what it looked like to me. I couldn't follow, and the other guy was gapped also. I managed to pull myself back to the second, and then haul him back to the Elves guy... then I just wanted to sit on as long as possible. It wasn't long. They rode away from me next time through the parking lot.

So, I got caught again, and jump on the back being three laps down. The race is only about half over... and I'm on the back with Tony Marut who was now one lap down, and another guy that jumped back in after a flat. I told them I was now three down, so do not get behind me. I made it half a lap this time, and they were both behind me through the parking lot... I waved them through... and I was done. Heading toward four laps down, I spun another 2 laps cool down, and since I had nothing left to drink, I called it a day.

The first race I have ever dropped out of... yay. But it's good training. Looking for better results next week. Still, I raced my bike, worked hard, and tried something to get a result. It didn't work, but it was a good day to be racing. Let the season begin!