Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stark Reality.

Well, my uncle wrote me Sunday and asked how my race went... Eh, not my best day. Some days it flows (Wendy Park) some days you work like crazy to eek out a result... Kent State Stark Campus.

StarkVelo put together a REALLY nice course. Very similar to last year, except they added some pavement, and moved the barriers around a bit. The fact that it was dry helped (or not, depending) to make a nice fast race.

The race started with a 100m sprint to a sweeping 180, then the long drag to the far side of the course. Drag, well, the serpentine course had a nice flow, before the turn around point, then flow back. I thought the barriers at the top of the hill were a bit strange, but it's fine. A nice S turn around some pines, and slog to the twisty bits. They are really fun up and down and turn around. A hairpin paved section, and back to the pain hill. They moved the second set of barriers to the bottom of the run up hill, very nicely forcing the run. Last year it was nearly ridable in the wet, so the barriers stated the intent nicely. Remount, and quickly get back to some more twisties before the end of the lap. Really? That was a script SV? I never knew.

I got a decent start, and attached to the back end of a nice group that included Zak and Dave. I sat on for about a lap and a half before my lights started fading... I would have loved to hang onto that group, but it was not happening.

Cross is interesting in the way that I could probably sit in that group on the road, but a technical gap here and there, and a small gap becomes unmanageable quickly.

At first I figure they were just moving that little bit quicker than I could, but I'd race my race and bring it back... then a couple guys passed me, then a couple more. Pretty soon, I had about 5 in front of me that I figured I should not have let go... On the up side, I did not give it all up, but started chasing... digging deep to not let any more space open and maybe, just maybe I'd be given a chance to get back into position.

It must have worked somehow, since the group with Dave and Zak pretty much stayed consistent lap by lap, and I think the other guys started to crack. I was able to pick off one by one until there was just 1 left.... with two laps to go. I was closing nicely, and just holding off the guy behind. I slid out in the twisty section before the pain hill... effectively ending that chase, and forcing me to retake the last guy.

My rabbit was gone. So the last lap was mostly about consolidating my place. A rough day on the cross course, though I'm pleased with the place (16th by my reckoning, faulty though that may be). I gave it all out there. I was just hoping for more than I had. Actually, my placing has a good deal to do with who had mechanicals also... at least 2 places for that. Though the Montana Velo guy was impressive. Shifting trouble had him back with me on multiple occasions. Last time he said "I wish it would just break so I could quit." That was the last I saw of him. He went on to catch Jason for sixth place. Impressive ride there.

It was cool to see groups of our Good Guys racing together. Zak and Dave in the group ahead, and Tom H., Tom K. and Derik working together behind me. Those three kept me motivated to keep it moving throughout the race.

Next up is the Cinci UCI3. Time for rest and recovery before the big CX weekend. Hup, Hup!

Monday, September 13, 2010

I have a secret... or two.

Wendy Park was this weekend. It's close enough to home, that I went out Saturday morning and did a cross workout with a buddy. We rode the "course" from last year, as well as I could remember. I got two flats... the best was as we were slowly going around the course for the first time, I said "Watch this edge on the transition to the pavement to the litehouse. Lots of flats here both years... um, just like I just did." Ended up with lots of work in sand. I then stopped at Spin Bike Shop, my team sponsor, and Wendy Park race promoter, to get a new tube, and found out: The course was going the other way, and there would be no beach section. It would be a roadie type course, wide open with lots of twisty bits at the end to aid scoring.

I arrived Saturday morning, and sure enough... it was pretty wide open, went in the opposite direction, had lots of twisty bits... but someone had put in a long beach section. There were two sandy bits, a short one that required left turn, sand, left turn in quick succession. Then over a double barrier, the right turn to a hockey stick shaped beach length. Very long, with a grassy short hill transition back to grass straights.

OK, the secrets. First, I guess I'm pretty good in sand. After last weekends race, I think I can make up some short coming in fitness with technical strengths. I may not have the raw horse power of the group I was racing with, but I was able to finesse the bike through the single track to make up for that. The sand at Wendy proved that even more. Since Cross is about "not loosing time", I could gain on guys that lost time in the sand and make them use energy to bring me back. In fact, I think I was also faster through the twisty bits than the others in my group. And I also used an Ernesto trick... I had a secret line through there that I would only use when the other guys could not see it. Sneaky me.

Lap one, I got a good start, not great but good enough to keep me in the top 20 this time. I was in front of the carnage, bike breakage in the gravel, but should have known enough to run the first two sand sections. I did not, and lost places there when others went down in front of me.

The rest of the race was a blur, eventually I ended up in a group that looked a lot like last week. Except that one of the guys I was fighting with last week was the breakage of bikage in lap one.

I haven't seen the results yet, but I'm guessing we did about 9 laps. I cleaned the sand in 5 of the 9. Lap one was a mess. Later, I was fighting it out with Eric Lesko, and bumped him out of my way as I went between him and the trash can (that was a good lap). A couple laps later, he made the comment "How do you get through the sand so well... ". I smiled... and said "Practice I guess". Of course the next lap I couldn't get out of my own way, with Eric behind me... "Um, Not like that." I also got tied up when lapping another guy. He was apologetic, and I should have been ready or called for space as I came up on him.

I found I was faster through all the technical sections even than the mountain bikers. And no one used my line, except for me. So I didn't want to give it away... and only used it when I needed to make up some ground. I'll keep that on in the jersey pocket for the finish.

So Eric flatted out, and I'm fighting for it with team mate Dave and 2 others. Three laps to go. If I can get to the beach first, I think I can open enough of a gap to take all of them. I'm first into the twisty bits before the start line, and I'm thinking to much about the beach and hit the ground. Crap, I get up fast enough to not loose and spots, but I had to adjust my shoe... and it sucked a little out of me. I go shoulder to shoulder with one guy heading toward the next obstacle, and he backs it off to follow me through.

I get to the beach first, and it's good, when I decide to push it all out! I went to change my hand position... and totally went over the bars. I lost places to the other two guys there... got it going again, with Dave on my wheel. We went in chase.

On the final lap the gap was closing, and I planned on using my secret line to get close enough to sprint for the finish. When Dave came around me right before the last entry. He was going to run it hard to get the next guy but misjudged something, and stacked it right in front of me... or beside me, either way. I was just thinking how far to the left will I have to go to not run his bike over.... I used my line, but there was no way I would make up the ground as the two were working for the sprint also.

I can't blame Dave for my finish spot. Really that one bad lap threw out my chances at those two places. I think I ended in about 16th or so. Still in the mid-pack, but I'm super happy with that result. I finished in front of people I have never beaten before.... for whatever reason. Overall a really good race.

I also decided to run the PowerTap during the race since I did not want to risk expensive tubular tires on Wendy's glassy surfaces. Surprisingly, I did not get any new max power numbers, and in fact thought I smoothed out the efforts overall. I ended up with a lot of 800watt jumps, but the 60min power was only about 250.

Whatever all that means... I don't know. Maybe my power numbers say I should be racing with the B's. Or maybe I can bring them up in two weeks for the Stark Kent State Race.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Yep... still midpack A cyclocrosser...

Cyclocross season started on Saturday at Manatoc. YAY!

On a very mountain bikie course, because there was single track... quite a bit of single track, but quite a bit of grass also. I expected some mud, since it basically rained at my house 40 minutes away for the better part of the night, and all morning.

Instead it was dry. Really dry. OK. With the many root crossings, I opted for clincher tires, and set the pressure at what I hoped was a good balance of pinch flat protection and gription.

Short story... I got a pretty crappy start, being almost, but not quite at the back by the time we got to the single track. Then sat behind the train as the race went away... I picked up spots in the grass, until the second single track entry. After two laps, the race was set. Steiner and I were with a couple of strong roadies... I didn't have the power on the grass to get by them when there was space to pass... and then had to sit on as they picked their way through the technical stuff.

I eventually got by one, who proceeded to close a 50m gap to Dave and the other guy in no time flat while my jaw was hitting my top tube. I could not do that, even though I was really trying. Blah!

I fought by him again in the single track and eventually built enough to leave him behind.

With three to go, Jeff Craft had a mechanical issue and pretty much blocked the whole trail. Dave and the other guy got by before Jeff started to run the uphill. The small gap that I thought I was controlling got larger. Jeff let me by, and then we started to fight it out/work together... ish... to bring them back.

Nothing doing, I tried to get by Jeff at the finish.... and didn't.

So, 13th place on the opening race... out of 26 starters. So, there it is... I am a mid pack cyclocrosser. Well, in the Cleveland As. I probably should have been more aggressive in the single track to get by the other guys in my group, and make them work to bring me back... instead of going hard on the grass and using the single track to recover. Oh well, lesson learned... I hope.

I'm hoping to get better as the season progresses. I certainly do have some areas that I can work on.... Let the fun season begin.