Thursday, December 22, 2011
Photo Credit goes to Annette at Mountain Moon Photography, from the top: Shotty, Butler, Sneady heading up the fly-over and Jim carving up the mud
Kudos to Alpha Bicycle Co and the Frites crew for a great wrap-up of our Colorado CX season. There was a last minute venue change from the rolling grassy course up in Aurora to returning to the "soon to be classic" track back in Castle Rock. After a minor botch with a flyover re-route when the womens Cat 4 group kicked off the first race of the day, the remainder of the weekend seemed to go off without a hitch. After missing some key points race due to travel I ended up with a mid pack starting position. Whistle sounds and the hardest start of the season was underway with a super long uphill drag that never ends. Bottlenecks were immediate as our group dove into what was a quickly thawing mix of snow, ice, mud, and some patches of dry fast grass. The course was absurdly fun. I felt super good on about 90% of the track,the remaining 10% was pure pain, a steep greasy run/ride up that looped directly into a paved uphill climb that just absolutely crushed me. I was sharing another epic battle with Tom Haynes from the Springs as we swapped positions about 2-3 times. I started ahead, Tom caught me on lap 2, I caught Tom but then dropped a chain. John Bliss came up to me with a solid pass but then a rear QR skewer came loose on him and he was set back a few spots. I came back up on Tom and squeaked by within 100m to finish and rolled though in 24th. While washing the mud off back at the car, I uncovered a nasty bloody bruise/cut to my right knee that I cannot recollect as to what may have occurred, I never hit the deck, and certainly never remembered smacking my bars, a course stake or another rider, I suppose that may be the sign of a good race....anyway...to sum, I am stoked with an overall incremental improvement over last season and have some plans to continue that track.
I stuck around the remainder of the day to witness fellow SRAMmies Brian Butler work though a massive 90+ rider 35+4 field to place 26th! Then Braden Snead had a rough start in the Cat 3 group to put in a solid effort and came though with a very impressive top ten finish (9th)in a rapidly deteriorating course.
So, there you have it, 15 races in the bag this season, 3rd was my highest placing, 40th was my deepest placing. A late-season switch onto a 15lb. Rapha-Focus team ride that is just absolutely sick. Two trips to Asia squeezed into the season, one nasty head cold but zero mechanicals and no crashes worth writing home about.As always it's tough to come off the season with nothing on horizon for 9 more months. I already miss my Northern Colorado cross family but our group here in the Springs has coalesced into a very tight knit group of die-hard enthusiasts and we have some plans on the horizon. So stay tuned and best of luck to those continuing their season onto Nationals and Masters Worlds !
Thanks so much for reading, hope the Colorado side of Sram Factory Cyclocross has been entertaining. Until next season...
Monday, December 19, 2011
|After two minutes of racing, I was down to two usable rear cogs.|
Thursday, December 15, 2011
In 1998 or 99, my wife Jen and I were living in Santa Cruz Ca.and struck out on a road trip with a camper and our dog headed North. The ultimate goal was Victoria, BC but relentless rains stopped us dead in our tracks in Portland, OR consulting maps. We picked Bend as it was on the lee side of the Coastal Range and bound to be drier.We immediately were smitten with the size of the city, awesome views, a great vibe and climate. So returning ( both years ) for our CX National Championships was an easy decision. This year I've opted out of Nationals but was looking to participate on both sides of tape at one last large event of the season so when Bend was announced to host the USGP finals on the same track as Nationals, again, an easy decision was made. I would be returning from a Taiwan/China excursion and Jen would come along as it was her first trip back since our road trip. Our Sram NRS ( neutral race support ) sage of wisdom, Jose Alcala was kind enough to drag up my ride and a spare set of wheels.
After the past 2 years of epic conditions ( packed snow/icy ruts and last years freezing cold mud fest ) this year was strangely bone dry but very loose and fast, much like Colorado. I managed to pick up a nice head cold /flu thing while travelling in Asia and was still expelling all kinds of junk out of my lungs and sinus. Nevertheless, I was in Bend and bound to race. Day one felt super good, not a great start but consistently picking my way through the field on each lap. It might have also been the shortest race I've done in awhile, for some reason, I think we're were shorted one lap. I came through the start finish expecting 3 to go and saw 1 one to go! Head down and picked up a few more spots and remained smooth. Came through in 26th out of about 56 starters. The Elite race was on par with the Trebon/Powers battle at Ft Collins. I thought Tim would finally take the big win of the season as both he and Powers came around the last corner before the straight pretty much wheel to wheel. Powers kicked to the finish although almost celebrated a little prematurely..such great racing!
Sunday was noticeably colder and the course had taken a beating from all classes on Saturday. Lots of blown out ruts and super loose. I spotted lots of torn skinsuits and forlorn riders picking themselves up after stacking it in the duff.
I felt like I was working way harder on Sunday, and sure enough dumped the bike on a flat sharp left hander- just a dumb asleep at the wheel type move. I immediately lost 3 places and picked myself up to begin the chase. Slowly reeled one in and absolutely charged the last lap trying to catch 2 more and came within about 10 meters but ran out of race, rolling through for the day in 28th. Still pretty pleased with the effort. Bend has yet to disappoint, we had a great weekend soaking in the Oregon hippie/hipster cross vibe and hope to return for more.
This Sat marks the conclusion of my 2011 season. It's shaping up to a brutal day,we had a late in the game venue change and will now be racing on potentially a mix of ice, snow, dried grass and clay mud. the type that immediately doubles the weight of the bike. Should be interesting. fellow SRAMmies Braden, Brian B, and Jim are all on board. Wish us luck
A few of you have asked me if I could make a few extras while I'm at it. Sorry, but this was done with old-school machining methods, not CNC, so it was very labor intensive. I'm not even making an extra for my own pit bike. Hopefully, Wheels Manufacturing can be convinced to make them for us - they make quite a few variants, but not one that fits my bike - yet. Maybe if enough of us inquire...
Monday, December 12, 2011
It was 20 degrees F on Saturday and the ground was frozen solid. The course was just unbelievably bumpy in places, and "only" extremely bumpy everywhere else. I destroyed an expensive tubular tire in my warm up before realizing I would need to have much higher tire pressures than I had ever used before. Some hard training during the week had left my legs tired and perhaps helped me succumb to a cold on Thursday and Friday. I felt OK in my warm-up Saturday but within 10 seconds of the start of the race I knew I was in trouble. Out of around 20 starters in the Pro/1/2 race, I finished 16th - easily my worst result in as long as I can remember.
Sunday it was a balmy 38 degrees and sunny, and the course had softened up a bit. It was still very, very bumpy but at least bearable. The course had also changed subtly from the day before and had better 'flow,' which made it much more fun. I still wasn't feeling great and after a slow start clawed my way up to 6th but then faded back to 9th by the end.
The course has some fun technical elements but some long pedaling sections with short, steep climbs in the middle. If conditions are dry for nationals, the course is clearly going to favor the biggest engines and not the technical specialists. As I've mentioned before, pedaling is not my strong suit.
So here's how I can improve on my Badger Cross performance when CX nationals rolls around in 4 weeks:
1. Try to be healthy and rested. That's going to make the biggest difference over this past weekend.
2. Work on my core strength. That's the only way to survive all those bumps.
3. Hill repeats. Luckily, the Montrose Harbor sledding hill is close by.
4. Hope and pray for a blizzard!!!
Monday, December 5, 2011
Starting whistle blew and the 4 of us sprinted up the snow and ice covered sidewalk, our rear wheels repeatedly spinning from the lack of traction. After the sprint, the first half of the course was a mix of snow packed straight away sections mixed in with tricky off camber, fluff covered, switchback turns, culminating in a 6in ramp jump and a long fast downhill with a super narrow, snow packed single track with crust covered fluff on both sides. Line choice and strategic braking were crucial in keeping the rubber side down. After another mix of straights and switchback with two short run ups, it was rinse and repeat. You definitely would have liked this course! Gerald from Boulder Cycle quickly pulled into the lead spot with myself and one of the local Adrenalin guys in tow. Midway through the second lap, Gerald and I started to gap away. I would consistently run down Gerald in the techy sections, only to watch him pull away in the straights. After yo-yoing for a couple laps and a few slips on my part, he had created a solid 12-15 sec lead before a bobble in the off camber stuff allowed me to catch back up. In the final lap, he bobbled again and I made my move, passing through the chundery snow coming into the ramp jump. I figured if I could build a gap in the downhill and subsequent technical sections, I might be able to hold the lead. If not, I knew he would crush me in the sprint like he had been doing every lap prior.
All that forethought quickly went to pot as I lost it in the first right hand sweeping turn of the downhill. My less than stellar line choices in the pass had layered snow and slush all over my brake pads and when I tried to scrub speed in the turn, friction was for lack of a better term, well “lacking”. Despite my best attempts to channel Uncle Crusty, I two wheel drifted through the turn but couldn’t hold it and blasting off into the deep snow on the inside edge, grinding to a complete stop. Gerald rolled by as I yanked the bike out and remounted, figuring my shot at winning was done. Wanting to finish strong and hold my position at a minimum, I pegged it to the floor and going through the techy sections I somehow managed to catch back up at the top of the last run-up. I remounted and hugged Gerald’s wheel into the last crunchy off camber right hander thinking I might be able to shoot the gap on the inside, cut him off, and get a head start on the sprint up the hill to the finish. Luck intervened and out of the blue, the leader bobbled and dumped off into the deep stuff on the outside and got tangling up in the tape. I slipped by and pedaled away up the hill to the finish, figuring my victory had likely come at the expense of my toes. After huddling in the truck with the heater full blast for about 30minutes, the feeling thankfully returned to my toes.
Montrose harbor was the final stop in the 12-race Chicago Cyclocross Cup and also the Illinois state championships. The venue is around 2 miles from my house, and I pass by every day on my ride to work. I also use the sledding hill there, which always features in the race, for occasional interval workouts. This year's course and conditions were the best ever - after several years of bitter cold, this year it was around 45 degrees and the ground was greasy but not sloppy after some rain a day earlier.
|Greasy but not sloppy. Photo: Edmund White|
|Photo: Edmund White|
|Jason Knauff, series director of the ChiCrossCup. Photo: Edmund White|
|Photo: Amy Dykema|
|Photo: Amy Dykema|
Friday, December 2, 2011
When I arrived, it seemed my concerns were being realized. Matt from Frites N Mayo had crashed and flatted ( still managed 3rd in the 35 opens ) Brian and Rich, again from Frites both went down with Brian breaking off his brake lever and Rich putting a deep enough hole in his knee to require stiches. Our own SRammie, Brian Butler in the 35+ 4’s went down on a loose corner also breaking a shifter on the hardpack and losing a bunch of skin.
Curiously our 45+ group of 9 set off behind the Elite Men. I felt super good during our race and stuck to the safe lines while still aggressively racing. Tom Haynes, another local seems to be on par with my pace of the day and he and shared a number of shift leads for the 3rd position. I’d pass on the run up and hold him off until we came through the ranch where he’d come by me again. On one very sweet pass, he managed to pinch a tire going over a curb and that was unfortunately the end of his race. I rolled through in 3rd spot. SRAMmies were representing big time on both sides of the tape, all day. Brian Butler finished in the top 3rd in his race, Jim Mathis finished 8th in our group, Hannah placed 3rd in Cat 4 women, Braden finished 2nd in Cat 3, Mike Van Zyl crushed everyone in the Cat 4 group and Nick finished a solid 5th with Colin not too far behind. Very very pleased to see this much stoke for cross in the office. Monday morning water cooler sessions have been pretty entertaining lately.
Sunday was Castle Cross, a nice 40 minute jaunt up I-25 to one of my favorite venues. John Haley mapped out a very cool course with the usual amount of punishing vert. A few new twists and turns and an excellent change up to the start with a loooooong gradual pavement dragstrip and a nice deep mud pit. Points were being awarded today and the field sizes reflected that. I had a third row starting position and had a great start. As we settled in I found myself amongst the usual suspects from the Springs. Both Tom Haynes and Daryl Beachy were in the next 2 spots in from of me. Both Tom and I were making progress towards catching Daryl but as good as I felt, I also felt Saturdays effort, especially on the climbs. Daryl was keenly aware that we were coming and held his position in front. I came around Tom on the last lap barely hanging on when suddenly he sat up and immediately lost a few places. More mechanical issues as his seat came loose. I finished up 23rd for the day and a bit bummed to be barely out of the points again. This was my last Colorado Race before State Champs in late Dec and was really hoping to maintain a call up position but I don’t see that as a possibility by now. Now a break in the schedule, as I’m spending some quality time on the lush tropical paradise of Taiwan and then a few days in China. Only 3 more races are planned as of now, very hard to believe that my season is winding up…..sniff…sniff, I think there’s something in my eye…
Monday, November 28, 2011
|Grabbing all the brakes I can on a steeper-than-it-looks downhill. Photo: Mauro Heck|
|Too much junk in the trunk made this steeper-than-it-looks uphill a leg breaker for me! Photo: Podium Insight|
|Suffering badly as I am about to jump back on the bike at the top of the run-up. Did I mention it's steeper than it looks? Notice how the spectators all appear to be leaning left? Photo: Mauro Heck|
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
After a poor start, I kept my position through all the fast stuff & entered the tricky section of the course in 11th position. After some twisting, grassy ups & downs, a stair climb, & a sand trap, I left the beach leading the race for a New York minute! The series leaders quickly put me back in my place, but I managed hold on & finish 5th. Best ever for me in CCC series.
Coupled with a 4th-place finish in a smaller field on Saturday, it was a great weekend.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
|Someone needs a haircut. Or perhaps just a hat. Photo: Amy Dykema|
|Saturday's preliminary course map - so many squiggly lines they bleed into one blue mass in places.|
|Sunday's preliminary course map - I'm not sure all squiggles shown made it in to the final course design.|
Sunday's race held at the YMCA camp Duncan was an altogether different kind of race - it required lots and lots (and lots) of pedaling, punctuated by a couple of fun and highly technical sections. It was a great setting for a CX race, but it rewarded riders who are good at pedaling, and that's just not me. For me, it was an absolute suffer-fest. I'm NOT complaining - some courses suit me better, some worse. That's racing. Without a doubt, I'll be back next year, and perhaps I'll have a little more time between now and then to practice that pedaling stuff.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Even though Saturday and Sunday's courses were virtually identical, my races were very different. Saturday I had a great start and essentially led from start to finish.
|Saturday's first lap. Photo: John Wrycza|
There are a bunch of races still to go on my calendar, including three days of Jingle Cross, the Illinois state championships, the Midwest championships, the New Years Resolution races, the national championships, and the master's world championships. Wow, I sure am glad I took a week off from racing!
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
My teammate David Reyes had a great race, finishing third in a very strong field!
11/5 Update: here's the only photo I could find in the online universe: lederhosen.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The six pack, of course, refers to six barriers set up in a row. The six pack has its roots in the Chicago stop of the SuperCup cyclocross series of the late 1990's. SRAM team members J.P. and Scott both raced the Supercup and remember the six pack. What they remember most was that it seemed far easier to clear the barriers at a dead run back then, than it was at Bartlett. That may be because they were a bit more spry in those days, but it may also be because the Bartlett barriers were a good four or even six inches taller. No one is complaining here - cyclocross is supposed to be hard. The six pack was another fun-but-tough feature of the Bartlett course and I hope it will be back next year!
SRAM employee, ex-pro roadie and occasional CX racer Ben Raby was on hand taking photos of the elite event so we're going to do a quick pictorial review of that race...
The moment after the start whistle...look who's smiling!:
Mike Hemme made a strong move halfway through the first lap:
Scott and Kevin negotiating the first of six barriers:
Brian and Kevin of The Pony Shop CX Team were early animators of the race and finished a strong 3rd and 4th:
David Reyes looking 100% pro:
Barry Wicks, who really is 100% pro, took the lead in the third lap and never let it go:
And finally, Scott getting dangerously close to striking a pedal in a tight, off-camber uphill turn:
Monday, October 24, 2011
Great course, great weather and great fun. Brian Matter won, Issac Neff was 2nd and I managed 3rd. Guess which cupcake was mine? Photo(s): Jeff Watt.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
I didn't realize Brian had a first-lap mishap and subsequent bike swap. But of course he caught us soon enough:
|There he is! Photo: Amy Dykema|
|The massive flyover, shortly after Brian took the lead. Photo: Amy Dykema|
|Finishing sprint. Photo: Amy Dykema|
|Smooth. Photo: Ben Van Couvering|
|Awkward. Photo: Ben Van Couvering|
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Last year, Fort Collins proved to be one of the only single weekends to provide real precipitation during the entirety of the Front Range cyclocross season and we seem to be on track to repeat it. With not a lick of moisture on the ground, weather certainly did arrive in time to make for a story within the story. Just getting to the race became more challenging than negotiating the course. I set my alarm for 6am and woke to a series of frantic texts from fellow SRAMmies who had left town 2 hours prior looking to start the Cat 4 race at 8am. All were turned back by snow and ice conditions on the 2+ hour trek North, eventually it was being stuck behind a massive pileup on I-25 that had them turning back to the Springs, unable to participate.
Monday, October 10, 2011
|Digging deep. Photo: Ellen|
Second place was the perfect result for the day - I was incredibly motivated by constantly having someone up ahead to chase down, and also super happy that my teammate David Reyes scored his first Cat 1/2 win!
This week I plan to misappropriate SRAM's prototype shop to machine a couple of replacement rear derailleur hangers for my bike. From 4340 chrome-molybdenum steel.