Monday, October 25, 2010

Cascade Park Cyclocross - Elyria

Did the drive to Elyria for the Cascade Park Cyclocross race. Fifth race of the NEOCX series. Somehow I'm on top of the 40+ series in eighth overall. Cool, though I need some better finishes to stay in the top 10.

Interesting course, we started riding up the sledding hill, then back down. A long road section to another short hill, and some nice twisty bits. Road section back through the start/finish to the other end of the park and a few more twists before returning to the sledding hill. That hill definitely was the entire race. Ridable, but a choice, and a lot chose to run it.

On my first warm up lap I didn't realize the road section took us all the way to the wooded section. So, when I rode it during the C race I followed to the far section, but was surprised to head up the short hill... so surprised, I broke my chain and nearly ripped off my rear der! I managed to roll it back to the truck... and contemplated calling it a day. A long drive for nothing... I didn't bring a spare chain, but still had the tool box with me. Crap! I used the large crescent wrench to straighten the deraileur hanger, and used a spare powerlink to repair the chain. Needless to say, I was not confident the bike would make it through the race.

Team Spin/RR Donnelly showed in force in the A race. Jason, Brent, Zak, Dave, Tom Humphrey and I lined up with another 15 or so. This is the first neocx race that did not have a count down, so it was tough for guys to get a jump on the gun. It was nice, the same way the UCI races ran in Cinci... Cool.

I did all right on the start, hit the hill about half way back and  I committed to riding as much of the hill as I could until forced to dismount. I was not forced, so I rode the whole thing and (according to some FB photos) exited in about eighth place. Nice, oh! That means I need to COMPLETELY DRILL the rest of this to hold my position for as long as I can!

A few guys, including Dave, got around me before we hit the short up hill. Urgh! Get through the twisty bits as quickly as possible and GO HARD on the pavement again. I ended up in a group of 4 through the barriers on the first go. Managed to get to the twisty bits first on that end, and hit the hill for the second time.

I liked the gap I got the first time so much, I decided to ride the hill every lap. It was the strategy to use. I left my group behind, and my race was set.

PAIN! My place was sorted out in two laps. It would have been nice to stop here, but not the case. I could see 9th through 6th place ahead of me, with 11th and 12th close behind. Sprint, twist the technical stuff, sprint, twist, CLIMB. I managed the gap to 9th pretty well, and wondered how many laps we'd be doing. The guys behind me tended to run the hill, and I was opening the gap every lap. The gap in front was pretty pegged throughout the entire race.

As the laps went on, the road section showed the race ahead of me. First I saw Jason sitting in third. A couple laps later, Jason in third, Brent in fifth. A couple laps later, I'm in 10th, I can see 9th still in front of me, then on the road heading back, Zak sitting on the group that includes 8th.

I finally see the lap cards with 3 to go. Breath.... three more times up the hill. I'm pretty safe in 10th. I MUST continue to chase ninth, or I'll risk coasting and possibly loosing my top 10 placement to the next guy.

For some reason, I still decided to run the hill this time. Maybe to give my legs a little break? Use some different muscles? Cause I'm such a good runner? Um... not really the case anyway. That decision cost me time... at least 10 seconds, and maybe closer to 20. I hit the road, see the leaders, and now I'm thinking I may get lapped. Crap again!

Two to go. I HAVE to ride the hill, because this may be my last lap. As I'm heading in, that's becoming more certain. I'm caught after the first road section. I follow the leader through the twisty bits, but can't match the acceleration before the second road section. Still, I rolled it in for 10th place! That's one season goal made!

The race goals are
1.) not get lapped.
2.) a top 10 finish.
3.) Top 10 series overall placing.

OK, so I get my second goal the first time I miss my first goal. Go figure. Still, I was grateful I didn't have to do that last lap. I was the last guy passed, and held my spot. I don't think that lap would have helped or hurt my placing. Just hurt my body. Still I flopped to the ground after crossing the line.

Jason finished fourth, Brent was fifth, Zak finished seventh, and I was tenth. Pretty descent showing by the team. Nice work! So I finished slightly above the exact middle of the field. YAY!

Mehul caught lots of photos of the faces of pain on the sledding hill. It would have been nice to run a slightly lighter gear for that. Maybe I can figure out a way to put together a decent B bike with a double ring set up. Run the single 42 for flatter courses, and the double for hilly things? There are times a 46 would be nice on flats or downhills, with a 36 or 38 for climbing? I don't know the right gearing answer.

Recovery and costume design in order for next weekend. Another short course, without the hilly bits, so it's going to be work to hold my number 1 goal. Maybe I can pull out another number 2 or two.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

50 turns by 10.

Being an east side course, Brent and I did a recon of the area a few Saturday's ago. I think I was pretty wide eyed at what we had hear the Solon course would consist of. I reserved judgement until the Thursday night open course.... with a high creek, that was to have two way traffic, and a steep descent, I was thinking that it would be a mountain bike race. Seriously, short track maybe? So I guess I'm partly responsible for the changes that put Kevin and a small troop into LONG hours on Saturday redesigning the course. Pretty much completely. In defense, I believe that ALL C racers, and a good many B and A racers were VERY grateful they didn't have to negotiate that descent at race pace. Especially after one of the race promoter team fell, broke some ribs and damaged some vertebra.

So, Sunday morning arrives, and we've got a drivers course. I counted 50 turns, many complete 180's, lots of tight stuff. There really wasn't a lot of elevation to take advantage of, so it was mostly flat.

Matt, John Bodell and Mehul did the B race with Bruce MacDonald taking high 9th place. Leah again rolled the fastest women's times to win her race. John's son Ian raced the Junior C race, and I hear he had a blast.

Zak, Brent, Jason, David Yohe, Tom Keller and I did the A race. The race started with a 50m LeMan's start, which is more than I've run in the last year... total. Though I'm not the only A racer that doesn't run much. I placed my bike on the forward facing side of the turn, and that worked well for me. Some one jumped the gun in the As, saying Go, as they did. I was fine, since I'm used to NOT getting a count down from Cinci. I somehow managed a decent run, and got to the center of the spiral in about 10th. Track stand, and then accelerate out of it away. I was feeling pretty good about my position, when at turn 25 (the 180 around the tree closest to the house), I turned too tight and went down. I couldn't get my right foot out of the pedal, and layed there while the four guys that were on my wheel went by. So instead of being at the front of my group, I'm at the back...with a gap. NOT GOOD.

I ended up passing a couple other guys that had mishaps, like tape jammed into a rear cassette... and they got back around me. Usually opening a small gap before making it stick. About half way through Zak came by me, and I couldn't hold his pace.

At one point, I was leading a couple of Lake Effect riders around for a couple laps. I couldn't hide my lines, since I needed to get around as fast as I could for everything. They each got around me at some point, so I sat on them for a lap. In the muddy descent I made a move to the right when they were both left, and got by both of them again. It was a bit dicey, as I was coming in hot, and had to stay pretty far to the right to pass safely. I still don't know how I managed it, since I couldn't repeat that move when there was no one around me. The move got rid of one Lake Effect, the other sat on for another lap, and attacked through the barriers with 2 to go. I worked to keep the gap manageable, but that was it.

Rolled in for 16th, with Yohe right behind me. I don't think I can help him race cross any better than he already is, at least on a dry course. Top 10 for Jason (5) and Brent (7). Zak ended up 14th, and Tom rolled in 21st as the last guy on the lead lap.

I ended up consistently running  at about 6 minute laps... after the first one at 6:10, I didn't think I was laying there THAT long, so the track stand and traffic must have helped slow that down. I certainly got a lot of practice turning, which goes with the result from the Dark Horse Cinci race. I still was 2 minutes out of the top 10, and 5 behind first place.

Good news as I am now on top of the 40+ results, sitting 7th in the overall. Currently the highest of the Spin/RR Donnelly team, thought that is due to a crash and some no shows. I have a feeling consistently getting 14-16 place, will not allow me to stay in the top 10 for the entire season.

Next up Elyria.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

3 days ... of UCI

Dave Steiner and I drove down to Cincinati for UCI 3 cyclocross festival put on as part of the Ohio Valley Cyclocross series on Friday.

Typical features of all these races are call ups based on series placing (5 top spots first) then registration order. They tape out a start grid 8 across, and however far deep is required. An uphill paved start location, long enough to string it out a bit, before the first technical spots. Fully taped course with LOTS of turns, and twists. These are REALLY nice courses. I have considered moving to this area just for these nice courses... if I could guarantee the whole series was like this.

There were also HUGE fields. Friday was the smallest with 51 cat 2/3 finishers. Which is misleading because they started the 2/3 field, and both cat 3 masters fields together. So there were 100 finishers, and I would guess about 50 dnfs on Friday. 121 finishers on Saturday, and 135 on Sunday with about the same attrition rate. That was just my races.

Friday - Dark Horse Stampede:
6am depart time to arrive in time for some course recon, since the only open course times were at 10:30. I hear last year was a mud fest, this year was total opposite... the course was dry, hard and bumpy with lots of elevation changes.

The start through the finish, then a left hand drop and immediate rise that stalls. The big feature was an amphitheater bowl similar to Kirtland park, but MUCH deeper without the terracing. The course twisted across this four times, leading to a set of three 4x4 uphill steps. The left side was widely spaced, the right was close. If you could ride it, you'd be setup to grind up the hill to a paved section, otherwise you were running. Some twisty stuff to the barriers, and then a set of 3 downhill sweepers. Another paved climb and more sweeping turns, lots of up and downs across the the back side.

I figure the course was just a bit over 1.6 miles with no real recovery spots. I was always concentrating, either hanging on for descents to set up for a tight turn, climbing a lung buster, finding a line. Work, work work.

I got a semi good start from my third row call up, ending in the top 20 or so. Did the start drop, and got stacked as a guy in front of me stalled on the next climb. I saw Steiner pass me, and figured I now had my rabbit to chase. I ran the stairs the first lap, and settled into the chase.

I figure I caught Dave at the start of the second lap, and encouraged him follow... well I would have, but neither of us could talk. I was able to start riding the stairs on the left side, and worked the rest of the course. Dave pulled his foot out of his shoe, and had to stop to get that sorted.... so he pulled the plug to save it for the remaining races.

I kept it rolling, continued to pick off guys. I ended up in a battle with one guy for a while. Heading into 2 to go, the 90* heat started to get to me, on the start pavement I decided to grab a drink from the bottle I carried with me. Mistake, I must have unintentionally just sat up for that drink when the guy got a gap. I tried to get rolling again to catch him, but made up no ground. I rolled in with no sprint for 23 place.

Day one in the books. We stayed on site, ate an amazing Belgian Waffle, watched Katie Compton school the womens field. JPow and Trebon fight a huge battle. JPow was rolling through the pit every lap for water and riding the tight side of the stairs. Trebon eventually got a gap, and I think JPow pulled the Steiner saving it for the next two days, finishing third behind Barry Wicks.

David Yohe rocked a 5th place in the cat 4 mens race, which started at 5:00.

I tried to eat twice my body weight in food before the next race.

Saturday - Java Johnny: 
Katie Compton was quoted as saying that this course was her favorite over all. Better than any domestic or Euro course she's raced. They closed the road adjacent to the park for the start straight, and built ramps to get up over the curbs. Lots of twisty bits and three paved sections, the start climb, the climb behind the pool, and a flat finish sprint. The technical bits were two right hand 180 turns in the volley ball pit... nobody rode them, pro or otherwise. There was a tight downhill 120* turn around a tree, and a hairy up and downhill S turn around a pair of trees.

Leah Halloran pull a Katie Compton on the Women's 3/4 field and won by about a year and a half.

Another HOT day, I decided not to carry water and risk loosing places due to a lapse in concentration. I would drink after the race. I again got a third row call up next to Steiner, Jason Halloran. Ryan Williams and Pete Duecher were there as well. The start was a bit crazy, but I rode it super aggressively and again did reasonable. Jason made his way to the front and didn't look back.

It was evident that my efforts on Friday were costing me as I could not match the pace of Dave as he passed me... or those of the other 10 guys or so that did the same. I did my best to get a groove going, and worked hard to maintain gaps... which worked alright. Yes, I did execute my best sprint on a cross bike for 41st place. I didn't gain anything, but I also did not loose the one place I could have from behind.

Jason killed it for fourth place, Dave got 33rd, Pete finished 68th and I think Ryan DNF.

Overall I was happy with the race until I found out my finishing place. Still I raced a good start, raced hard, sprinted the finish and put in the second day.

Compton won the women's race again, and JPow saved enough to ride away from Trebon on the last lap.

Derek raced the Elite masters 1/2/3 race, and finished 33rd.

Bruce MacDonald rode to a strong second place finish in the mens cat 4 35+ race. Yohe finished 3rd in the cat 4 mens race. Rocking team results.

This time I tried to drink twice my body weight in water before the start of the next race. I only ate my body weight equivalent this time.

Sunday - Harbin Park:
This is the big race. C1 is the highest UCI category cyclocross race.

After the paved start shoots you into a fast downhill section, twist around some up and down tree sections and a long uphill grind to the finish line, leading to a long slightly uphill sand pit. By the time I hit the sand, I was totally gassed from the climb. Then twist around some more to the downhill sand, a gnarly uphill switchback around a tree, some 4x4 crossings.  Hit some pavement, grass, pavement, then two sweeping downhill turns, lead to another super fast downhill, followed by a quick rise. Sweep through the woods, another sweeping downhill turn to the barriers, and back to the start sections. 

We again watched Leah "Compton" Halloran ride away from the field from the start. Another impressive win on her part.

I was super tired, but still motivated to race well. Again a third row call up, I aggressively hit the start, rode the technical sections hard and sprinted to the first sand crossing. I ran the sand the first time, and was totaled on the other side. I started to bleed placings like crazy. I totally had to talk myself into racing as hard as I could, which was not as hard as I wanted. Guys were passing me, and try as I might I could not hold the wheel.

I ended up running the sand all but the third lap, which I shocks me because I think I would have spent less energy spinning through it. I also know that it took everything in me to move my feet as I ran it on one lap. I read the the pro's were doing the downhill at 40mph! I was closer to 25. So I gave up loads of time there... especially on the third lap. As I came through the barriers a guy got around me, and I intended on drilling the down hill to catch him. In the end the little dip at the top bounced my chain off the front ring. Since I run a single, I couldn't just pedal it back into place. I know, I tried... for a LONG time. I kept rotating it wondering why it wouldn't go up, must have been oxygen debt. At the bottom of the hill I managed to really screw it up and wrap the chain around the crank. I had to hop off, and untangle it while about 10 guys rode by me.

In hind site that was probably the best thing that could have happened to my race. I lost a minute on that lap, which gave me some recovery. There's something about recovering from a mechanical that says, those guys are not as fast as I am because they were behind me. Now that my bike is working, I can go catch a lot of them. So I did... I actually ran negative splits, with the last two laps being my fastest laps. I even totally drilled the uphill finish over taking another 4 places to finish in 47th. Not a stellar place, but acceptable considering two hard days prior and my lack of drive on the first 3 laps. I had hoped I could top 20 all three days, instead I nearly hit the top half of all fields, only really succeeding on the first day. 

Jason killed it for second place, Dave got his best finish at 22nd. Pete flatted out early. Bruce got the upgrade and raced in the 2/3 race, but I don't see his result anywhere. 

Derek had a rough race in the Elite Master's race finishing 43rd and Yohe must have had a rough day also, finishing in 28th in the cat 4 race. 

We high tailed it out after the 2/3 race, since we had 4 and half hours of driving to get home. I ended up eating continuously for about half the drive, literally. I gained about 5 pounds over the weekend, I think that has a lot to do with the amount of water I had to drink as it's already coming off.

Overall, I'm happy with the weekend. I learned a lot. Raced my bike hard on courses that were fantastic, in larger fields than I've ever raced with. Lots of rest in order now, man am I tired. Then the big push in the NEOCX series as the racing here starts to get serious.