Monday, November 21, 2011

Hales Corners, WI State Championship

Occasionally, I need to stop and remember what a blessing it is to be able to ride and race bikes. I don't take it for granted and I am always prepared for the current year to be the last year I have time to devote to the sport. I've been riding for about 6 years now and I have already had to take two interspersed years pretty much off from riding and racing much. Like last year, I had some annoying persistent health issues all year. I think I raced 7 times all year and ended up dropping out of the last month of cx.

Thinking about that makes this year all the better. Last year at this time I was barely riding and I weighed a 10 year high of 194 pounds. I am currently 178lbs and although I have been fighting allergies/cold/ or something for while, I am probably the fastest I have ever been. I may not be getting on the podium, but I am putting up a good fight, unlike last year when I was fighting for last.

So, on to the race report. I was hoping there were going to be call-ups like there have been in the past. I would have had a front position then, but there were no call ups. So I was second row of 3 and half.
I was behind the right guys but had my worst start of the year somehow, and was in about 15-18 place coming out of turn 2. That was a bad place to be because the next 400 meters of course was basically singletrack when it came to passing and I was stuck behind guys braking hard in every corner.

By the straightway the top 6 had a huge lead on me so I put down some power and got in front of about 5 more guys before the next technical section. Slow down. Then it was the greasy hill and I dug deep to get in front of 3 or 4 more guys. I was coming down the hill and the lead group was already heading back up again. I almost broke there mentally. But I had gotten in front of the corner-brakers, so things were smoother and faster (the tracer I had in front was like velcro, I wish I had 2).

After that I set my sights on what was apparently 5th and 6th place. Chris and Mike were a ways ahead of me but it seemed like if I sprinted out of every corner and stood up on the hills I was making up time. It took me about a lap to make contact with Chris. He was hacking up something awful and as I was pulling away he yelled something about me being 34 and being in the race on a technicality.

It took another lap or 2 to catch Mike. He slipped out in a corner and I finally bridged.
I rode his wheel for a lap but in doing so J.W. was able to start catching up to us, so I hopped in front and starting hitting it at the pace I was at when I caught Mike. After a lap I was really feeling it and asked Mike if he wanted to pull. He mumbled something to the effect of "No." So I kept at it.

Then with 2 or 3 to go (I think 2) either way it was a 1/3 lap after I asked Mike to pull, he jumps me! I think he was trying to bridge to Will, whom we were slowly catching. I didn't have the pop to hop on his wheel.

And when Will saw Mike coming he hit too. For the last couple of laps that is how it went. Will, Mike, and me pretty evenly spaced. I took the time for a nice beer hand-up after the uphill barriers on the last lap. Most of it ended up frozen in my beard. It was cold and windy.

It was a ton of fun. I loved the long course. And even though I was spewing mucous, I felt good once I was going. Now, because of scheduling, I only have 2 races left and they are spread out. The regional champs on Dec. 10th and Nationals on Jan. 7th. If things go the way they have so far with the race predictor for nationals, I should get a better start spot than I would have thought at the beginning of the season. Somewhere near the back of the top third. I'll take it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Concordia Cx and Sliver Lakes Border Battle:one crazy weekend

My first taste of cyclocross was in St. Louis 5 years ago. I had no idea what I was doing, it was also my first year racing bikes altogether. I think I carried a tube with me in my first cx race. After that first year, I missed a season of cx and pretty much a year of racing after that, but now I am in my 3rd year of cx in WI. So when I had the opportunity to race in STL this year on a course that takes place on my old Seminary's campus I made it happen.

Lauren and I made a little trip out of it and got down there Thursday night so we could spend some time with some friends. It was great to hang out and see them again. Then on Friday night we were able to see some more friends and discuss strategy/content of the book I am writing.

Saturday was supposed to be nice but it ended up being windy and cold. Scott switched work so he could race the single speed race.


In STL they have a women's race, single speed/C race, B race, and A race. I lined up for the A race.

I had a pretty good start and was 2nd wheel going into the first corner when a guy totally cut my line. I had to slam on the brakes and I still smacked the side of my front wheel into his rear wheel. After all the groans from the guys behind me I recovered and was 3rd wheel (slightly gapped though)heading into the woods.


I lost time in each corner because I had too much pressure in my tires, but I didn't want another tire issue. Whenever I pushed a corner too much I would drift a lot and three times I slid out, losing more time and letting a few more guys pass me. The Team Seagal super fans were witness to one beautiful slide I made, it was like I was stealing second.

The course was great and technical, but since I was losing time in the corners I needed to make it up on the straightaways, but they were too short to make up much time. So I was left to defend my position more than advance it.

Lauren has some more pictures of the race here.

I ended up 6th or 7th (I guess a guy was DQ'd in front of me). I showered quick and we headed home. By the end of the drive my glutes were killing me.

I have timed my racing pretty good this year and I want to race all I can right now, where as in the past I would be ready to done at this time of the year. So even though I had to work morning and night on Sunday, I made the hour drive down to Silver Lake for the Border Battle. It was windy but warm and the course was awesome.

I had another good start and was 4th wheel coming out of the sand pits. I was following Mike too close at the uphill log hop and cased my rear wheel hard. Thank goodness for tubulars! I didn't get a flat. I felt good once I settled into a pace, but I didn't have any pop. When a couple of guys passed me I didn't have the jump to go with them. I going to blame the tender glutes (which is just an excuse, but they still hurt today!).

Photo and video courtesy of Eric B.

The video was too funny not share. I took some beer pyramid hand-ups but just took a drink of each one. I had to work three hours later.

All in all though, I was happy with the race considering all the traveling I did this weekend. I finished, watched Joe beat Jeff in a great sprint finish for the win, said my goodbyes, changed, got in the car, and made it home in time to clean up, eat and make it to work with a half hour to spare.

It was a great weekend even though I made it pretty crazy on myself. Next week state.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Estabrook Cx

After being sick for the race last week I was looking forward to turning it around this week. I could finally take a deep breath again on Thursday so I thought I was in good shape. It was another beautiful WI day.

I had a good start. I was more aggressive than I have been in the past so when I was shouldered off my line into the tape I just returned the favor. I'm still not crazy about the idea of having to push so much for a spot, but I suppose that is just the way it is.

On the first lap Joe put in a huge attack and took one guy with him (I think the rest of us may have been blocked by the other guy's teammate) they immediately got a good gap and when I looked backed I found out that I was on the end of the 3 man chase group. For two or three laps that is how it went. I wasn't doing any help at the front and the guys called me out on it. I was going to hop in front after the barriers when this happened.

I dropped my chain. The other two guys took off then and I started to chase. It took me a full lap to finally make solid contact with them again. I had just settled in to breath for a second when in the one technical section I rolled my front tire. I couldn't believe it. Three separate tire issues in 4 weeks! I walked off the course, let my bike fall, and I thought I was done. After about ten seconds I knew I couldn't quit. So I pulled the tire back onto the rim and decided to test ride it to the pits. It seemed fine so I never got a new front wheel. But I had lost a lot of time and let a few guys pass me in the process.

I ended up dropping my chain two more times. Making it a total of four stops that were around ten seconds a piece. It's interesting looking at my Garmin data after this race. After the first chain drop my heart rate shoots up for five minutes. Then after the rolled tire my heart rate drops way down and stays a few beats lower than it was for the first twenty minutes of the race. Then after then next two chain drops, it falls a few beats more with each one. Until the final two laps when I started mixing it up with Ron K., then it shoots back up again. Apparently with every setback my motivation just slipped away.

I figured out my chain drop issue once the race was over and I didn't have cx brain. It was operator error. I was cross chaining so that coming out of the obstacles I could spin out fast. But the approach was so screwy for me that I was bouncing the bike a lot and my leg was hitting the pedal making it backspin. Of course the chain was falling off the ring! If only I could have figured that out during the race and either shifted to the smaller ring or just made sure to slow down a bit more and be smooth.

Last, I have to mention Ron's great move. We rode together for the last lap and a half. On the course there is a short steep hill with a twelve inch log at the bottom. In the past, guys would try to hop the log and ride up, but not many could do it consistently, so I have always ran it. This year, the log was broken down, making the approach a lot more easy, yet seeing how I have had so many tire issues I didn't want to increase my chances of something stupid happening there so I was still running it. Unlike most other guys who were riding it this year, Ron being one of them.
The last lap he timed it great. I ran up and as I was remounted he shot by with a burst of speed because he rode up. There were maybe 600 meters of twisty turns and a tight corner left in the race. By the time I closed the gap he made on the hill it was too late to come around him. Nice.

As usual, Lauren took more photos.