Monday, November 23, 2009

Hales Corners--State Championships

The weather in Milwaukee has been great in November. Warm, like 50's warm. But we are getting enough rain that nothing dries out. Sucks for trail biking but rocks for cx. The course for the state championship was a singlespeeders nightmare. I loved it! There was techy twists and turns, a peanut butter extended ride up, oh, and don't forget the 3/4 mile worth of wide open flats. How does one gear for that? Well, run what you brung. Thankfully I brung a White Industries Dos 17/19. So after seeing the course in fives minutes I was back on the 19.

It had cooled off quite a bit as I surveyed the competition at the 30 + start. We had the largest field I had seen yet. There were 26 30+ open and I think 17 PRO, 1, 2's. No call ups today, just 2 lines of 13 wide. The hole shot was maybe 200 yards out. I took off fast and got into a good spot for the turn, when 3 guys came into me from both sides. After bumping shoulders a while I backed off. It would be stupid to crash at this point I thought.

This put me about 7th at the sand pit and into the first techy up and down turns. It quickly became clear that the few guys who shoved their way in front of me were now slowing me down as we rubbed tires in the corners and the top 3 gapped us.

At the first set of barriers I got in front of them, and held it until the downhill straightaway. Where one of them hopped in front of me again. Plus a guy from My Wife Inc. He kept going, while the other guy was happy to sit in front of me until the techy stuff. And here I have to apologize for being a jerk. I was audibly frustrated with his technical skills as it was killing me that the My Wife Inc rider was pulling away. Eventually, the guy just let me pass.Then it gets interesting. The past two weeks I haven't felt right the day of the races. My legs and eyes have been tired. While I have been able to ride through it, my mental game has not been on, so my barrier work has STUNK. It crept up bad on the second lap of the race in the 4 barrier section.I dropped my front wheel into the 4th barrier, losing my bike as I continued on. So, I had to go back and get my bike. Letting the guy I was racing with pull away. And it made me all discombobulated, so I turned 10ft too soon for the next turn. Forcing me to back up and start again, up hill. Ugh! That's were Patrick caught up to me.He and I worked together for a lap and a half or so as I gained my composure. I ended up losing him in the twisty trees and ride up. That is where I sat the rest of the race. Pulling in lapped riders and 1,2's, while holding off Patrick.

I came away with 6th. Saturday night I was hoping for a money spot, Sunday morning before the race I was hoping to finish. So, I'm happy with it. I am stoked for next year now that I have a better understanding of the WI off-road scene. Now it's off to the super secret single speed labs (read: my rollers and snow biking) this winter to remove my ever famous excuse of "Well, I was on a ss you see, so...."
"Eric Smash barrier"

*More photos from my wife.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wine Tasting

Saturday night, after the day's races, Reconcile hosted our first wine tasting event. It was at Trocadaro and the staff there was pretty awesome. We had the whole second floor to ourselves.
We didn't do a great job advertising this one, but word of mouth worked well. That, and the fact that it was a mere 10 dollar cover to try all the wine one wanted and eat one's fill. The food was great and we had more than enough.The best part was the fact that we got the chance to meet lots of new people and get to know others better. Afterward we headed over to Angelo's lounge which is only two blocks away. Good times. Dan did a great job arranging everything. I think we should do the whole thing again.
It was especially fun for me to hang out with people on Saturday night and then see them the next morning for worship at Mike ad Katie's place. God is good.

Polska cx

The weather has been super for cx in WI. We have had enough rain to keep the courses greasy but on race day it has been in the low 50's and mostly dry. This past Saturday was more of the same.

If you race bikes, there are certain races that when you get done you think to yourself "I can't wait for that again next year". Polska cx was one of those for me. The course is sweet and definitely mountain biker friendly.

It was the regional race so in the call-ups I got a front row spot because I have a few points in the series and there are only like 15 of us anyway. I still didn't clip in fast and get a fast start, but I was better than I have been and I was in about 7th at the first turn. And this time I wasn't letting go of the front guys, except for Will who is on a different plain of riding than I am.The little bit of running I have been doing paid off and I made some ground up on the Polska Puker. I was sitting in 3rd for a lap or 2 when I noticed that I was tracking better than Ronsta, so when I had a chance I went around him. I believe it was on the Puker again.I held 3 and 4 off for about 2 laps when a Baraboo rider politely passed me on the fast straightaway after all the hills. I looked back and Ronsta was about 30 feet back. However, he closed the gap and showed me how it is done. He flew past me, geared an inch less than me, and kept 100 meters on me for the rest of the race. I liked riding with him because he seems like a guy kind of like me who just loved the fact we were out there riding bikes real fast.While the running was good, my barrier work was toilet. I found myself scrubbing speed coming into them and my remounts were smooth like sandpaper. A good sign for me was the fact that the PROS didn't catch me on a course that blew apart the field. Also, props to Matt, who catted up from a 4 to start the season, to a 2 this week and held his own on his high-pressure ss machine, coming in 11th with the big boys. And of course Brandon with a win in the 4's, but he can tell you his story here.

The weather and the courses are bringing back fond memories of high school cross country in WI. But I haven't finished a cx race and dry heaved yet. I must not be pushing myself enough. Well, state is next week, I'll see what I can do.

As always more photos.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Estabrook cx is s'pozed to be flat and straight

That is what I was told at least. Gear big because Estabrook is a hi-speed race. Well, the organizers of the race switched it up this year apparently. It was a twisty, loopdy-loo course with a total of 5 20 inch barriers with long straights in between the techy-ness. Now, don't get me wrong, I was happily surprised with how much fun the course was.

And it was still pretty hi-speed covering 16 miles in about 55 minutes. Which also meant 11 laps. So don't expect a lap by lap retelling of the race.

I was determined to go for it at the start, but not determined enough. I did better than I have in the past races but still found myself at the end of a 10 person train. The lead group first gaped us a 1/4 mile in and I had my work cut for me. It became clear quickly to me that I was going to make up ground on the group I was in during the techy stuff and the barriers. At the same time, I got caught behind some fellows in the long twisty trees, allowing a larger gap to form from the leaders and the other chasers.

The first lap I made up 3 spots on the second set of barriers by just running past guys all the way through their mounts.Over the next 5 or 6 laps I slowly caught guys, rode with them, and moved on. Some guys were riding this hill. Kudos to them because of the 12 inch log at the bottom. I was running it.I was able to keep the hammer down most of the race and I could see 2nd and 3rd in front of me at the same place every time. That is until I got caught up on my saddle during a mount and lost another 2 or 3 seconds.

The park was busy which made it neat, but also dangerous. Going over 20mph I came up on this little girl just as she got off the path. It was a blindish corner and she was oblivious to me until I said something.
All in all, it was a lot of fun and a great day. Reconcile was giving away drinks and doughnuts almost the whole day. It was the first cx experience for most of them and I think they enjoyed it.

I came in 4th after working my way up all day. That was my second goal (top 5 in the 30+ open) for the cx season. So now I need a new one for the last two races: stay with the lead group from the start.

*Thank my wife for more photos here

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Is that thing real?

"Is that thing real?" That's what a I heard from more than a few folks at the costume cx race. My Bronson-stache was kicking with some 'Just for Men: Real Black' and it entranced many a person, except for my wife. She was none too happy with it. I thought it looked good, don't you think so? "No dice"
On to the races. This is the first time I have doubled up in a long time. But I wanted to race with the other guys from the team. That, and I thought it might give me some points to cat up. All I do is race open events so when I want to do a category race, it's always the entry level. I by no means thought I would destroy the 4's. You never know who will show up, and there are a lot of guys like me out there.

In the 4 race after a 10 minute warm-up I found myself at least 20 or 30 back at the start. It was hard to tell in the 90 man mass. Then a guy went down on the first downhill--part of the excitement of the entry level race. That's where I lost Brandon, Eric, and Ian. After that I spent half a lap passing people. Which meant I was in the leaves, off the beaten path a lot. I even found a few wheel-sized potholes!

After a lap and a half I found myself in 5th. Lonely and isolated. I could see Brandon and a guy working to catch me. And I could see the front 4. Working together like cool kids who didn't want me to sit at their table. I had to decide whether to work really hard to catch them, and maybe skip my second race. Or just hold on to where I was. I chose the later. Which meant 2 laps by myself in the wind, which also meant still rethinking the second race. But my friends all harassed me into it. I'm glad they did.

The 30+ masters open is almost twice as long as the 4 race and it rides with the PRO,1,2's. So I thought I'll just see what I have left and if I get lapped so be it. I took my customary place at the start--last.

With my lazy start I still beat one guy off the line. He was just out for some cx fun. It took me a little longer to catch the next couple of fellows as they went out fast. I was also fighting a quitter knee warmer for 1 and a half laps. On a flat I just pulled it off. But I was feeling good and the chase fueled me. After two laps I slowly came up on two more. I caught, passed, and left them on the run-up. After 2 more laps I slowly came up on two more guys racing each other. They were far off, but I could see the pain setting in by their body language. I had a goal and pressed forward attacking everything. I was even starting to look like a mountain biker and actually jumping the coffin barrier. I felt really good and there was a lot of support for me (at one point Travis popped out of the bushes and chased me with a 15 foot tree!).

With 3 laps left I caught one of them and left him in the wind on the uphill to the straightaway start/finish. With 1 lap left I could see the PRO,1,2 winner catching me. But I could also see more guys in my race ahead of me. On the last run-up I caught and passed my last goal racer. I laid it down. I couldn't let him be close enough to draft in the final straightaway. I held him off for one of the most fun 8th places I have ever had!

I learned that I need to break my 6hr mtb race mentality at the start of cx races. I actually need to go for the hole shot because I can't make it up over hours of riding. I am working too hard by myself. Easier said than done.

One 2009 cx goal accomplished: don't get lapped. Now for number two: top 5 in the 30 masters+ open.

*for a ton more race photos,