Thursday, December 22, 2011

Colorado State CX Championships

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 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

Mud, Sand, Ice and Snow

The Chicago Cyclocross Cup ended two weeks ago at Montrose Harbor but the Chicago cyclocross racing scene is still going strong.  This past Saturday the Chicago Cuttin' Crew and Robots Powered by Love put on Afterglow - A Cyclocross Race in Chicago's Humboldt Park - the same park we use for weekly CX practices. We had the four basic elements of a great CX course - mud, sand, ice and snow, and they were masterfully combined in to a really fun and challenging course. I submit one single picture from the event, which for me sums it all up perfectly:
After two minutes of racing, I was down to two usable rear cogs.
Though I am sure there was no doubt in anyone's mind, I do want to state for the record that I did not beat Kona pro Barry Wicks. He just chose not to crush me, and you'll have to ask him why.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

USGP Finals- Bend OR

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

Weak Link no more!

Way back in October I described how ridiculously weak the replaceable rear derailleur hanger is on most bike frames, and said I planned to machine my own out of steel. Well, it didn't happen as quickly as I might have hoped but it's finally done:

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

Room for improvement

This past weekend I competed at Badger Cross in Verona (Madison), Wisconsin. Saturday was the final stop in the WCA Crank Daddy''s cyclocross series. Sunday, on the same course, was the Midwest Regional Championships. The course is a preview of the cyclocross National Championships course we'll race on in January - more on that later. I thought this weekend would draw more racers curious about the nationals course, but fields were relatively small.  The big guns from the region were all at the USGP races in Bend, Oregon, so the "Regional Championship" title didn't hold a lot of weight. The most positive thing I can say about my performance at Badger Cross is there is plenty of room for improvement when I'm there in 4 weeks for nationals!

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

Winter Arrives on the Front Range

Since I'm in the Far East, our own Barry Wicknasty ( Braden Snead) steps in as a guest contributor for this weeks Colorado installment. Congrats to Scott on another IL state championship and your win on Sunday Braden!...with no futher adieu, take it away Sneady:

From the moment I left the house, I knew this was going to be cold race. After a quick 1 hour drive up to Lone Tree, the thermometer in my truck registered a brisk 24F deg when I rolled into the parking lot at the Mountain Ridge Middle School. Periodic snow storms over the past few days had blanketed the entire course with a good 4-5in of fluff with some light crust on the top. The Adrenalin Race Team had done their best to clear out the course, but the snow was pretty much inescapable. Given this wasn’t a points race and the bone chilling weather, I didn’t expect there would be a big turnout. However, I expected there would be more than the 4 riders, including myself, registered for the Men’s Cat 3 Open category. After warming up in the parking lot and dumping my tire press down as much as possible while hopefully not pinching, I rolled up to the start line wondering how many laps it would take for my toes and fingers to go numb (ended up begin about ¾ of the way through the first lap).

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.

BTW, if anyone is looking to see to killer photography, our own Dave Meadows has posted an album from Pikes Peak Velo Cross here

Thanks for posting Sneady and thanks all for reading


Illinois State Championships

I won my fifth elite state championship in cyclocross on Sunday. My first title was in 1997. I never would have thought I'd still be in contention for an elite win 14 years later!

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
Sand was perhaps the main theme of this year's course. I'm not always very successful riding sand pits, as seen in the first lap of this year's race. Other than that total failure, which I blame on first-lap jitters, I rode the sandy sections pretty smoothly.

Photo: Edmund White
The course also had a nice mix of slow, tight turns and fast, sweeping turns:
Jason Knauff, series director of the ChiCrossCup.  Photo: Edmund White

Photo: Amy Dykema
Photo: Amy Dykema

It's hard to believe the 2011 Chicago Cyclocross Cup is over. Huge thanks to the series directors, race promoters/clubs/teams, and the countless volunteers who made this year's series the best ever!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pikes Peak Supercross and Castle Cross

When the course was put up online for Pikes Peak Velo’s Supercross I had my doubts regarding the “raceability” of the track. Local SRAMmie Jim Mathis actually put together a nearly identical loop that we had used for a few years as a lunchtime practice session course. It was super fun at a more leisurely pace but I was thinking at full race pace that it was going to be downright sketchy and bordering on dangerous. Blind corners into hidden roots and rocks, plenty of flat, fast corners on our famously slipperly ( and sharp )decomposed gravel. The venue was a new one for this race at the historic Rock Ledge Ranch property sitting within the Garden of the Gods park. While Supercross has never been a huge draw for the Front Range Northerners, this year hit especially hard since Sunday was a Colorado Cup Points Race in Castle Rock. Who would ever drive more than an hour each way on each day of the weekend ? that’s just crazy ! ( I’ll introduce you to a number of them from our burg and elsewhere outside of the Republic who do just that every weekend from Sept to Dec. ).
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…

Credit to Annette from Mountain Moon Photography for the Castle Cross race ( apologies if you got muddy from this shot ) and Tim Bergsten from for the Ranch Shot

Thanks for reading


Monday, November 28, 2011

Trust me, it's steeper than it looks.

This was my fourth year at Jingle Cross in Iowa City. The races get bigger and better every year. I decided to race the Masters 35+ on Friday because it started at 4:15pm rather than 7:30pm for the Elite race. What can I tell you? - I'm a morning person and at 7:30pm I'm ready to relax, not race. Anyway, we had a couple of mud bogs to negotiate Friday but it was mostly a dry race. I started well, and Mark Savery and I had a good gap at the front of the race when, at the start of the third (I think...) lap, I accidentally followed a muddy rut straight into a bush at the edge of the course and stopped dead. Mark took off and that was that - I tried to chase but started making more mistakes and Mark just padded his lead.

Grabbing all the brakes I can on a steeper-than-it-looks downhill.  Photo: Mauro Heck
I might have enjoyed chasing Mark again on Saturday and Sunday, but I had signed up for the Elite races for both days. It rained Friday night and all day Saturday making the course a muddy mess - just the way I like it! I had a great start on Saturday but less than 30 seconds into the race I was bumped and fell in the fastest corner. I jumped right back on the bike but my left quadriceps were very sore and riders were shooting past me left and right. I slowly recovered and made it up as high as 13th place but with a cramping left quad I faded to 15th by the end.  Still, it was a lot of fun and it's a result I think I can be proud of.

Too much junk in the trunk made this steeper-than-it-looks uphill a leg breaker for me! Photo: Podium Insight
Sunday was a UCI C1 event and there was over $8000 in cash for the Elite race and a very strong field.  Several riders had opted to sit out Saturday's mud-fest and were fresh for Sunday's race. It had dried a bit but there was still plenty of mud and it was another challenging course. I felt good and was riding well, but it was only good enough for 20th on Sunday.

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

The super-challenging courses make Jingle Cross a special event. I'm already thinking about how I can prepare better for next year...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pedaling 2

While I wholeheartedly agree with Scott’s comments on pedaling and share his enthusiasm for Saturday’s Norge Ski Jump CX, I had a great time at Sunday’s Camp Duncan CX, too. Each lap was like a micro Chequamegon, complete with Rosie’s field start, lots of jeep road, some Birkie-like climbs & descents, Firetower Hill with a barrier at the bottom, and a sand trap. Not necessarily conditions that suit me, but I had a good day on course.

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.

Photos by John K. Lindsey

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Pedaling is a very useful skill in bike racing, but unfortunately not my strong suit. I prefer turns, barriers, chicane turns, drop-offs, off-camber turns, creek crossings, hairpin turns, and any other kind of feature in a cyclocross race during which pedaling is not required - or at least optional. The more of these elements you string together, the more fun I have, and the better I tend to do. Saturday's Norge Ski Jump CX race had a nearly endless string of technical off-camber turns, as well as plenty of other tricky features, occasionally separated by short, hard, intense pedaling sections. I loved every moment of it and was smiling through most of the race. It was a fantastic CX race venue and I'll definitely be back next year.

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

Melt Down

I've got some catching up to do. I've put this post on the back burner for some time for this single reason that I was hoping the bad taste in my mouth left over from Schoolyard Cross up in Brighton would dissipate over time, but it hasn't, so here goes. I had a crappy day on the bike...and I wish it was as simple as that but I think there is more to it than that. It's extremely rare that a course has beat me down but Schoolyard did just that. I seriously don't think that in the 16 something years that I've been racing cyclocross that I've ever been so mentally taxed by a course. It was so un-fun, basically staked out in some godforsaken corner lot/field near Nebraska that was covered with snow the previous week but had melted off and left the ground far more suitable to building adobe huts than racing bicycles. There were 3 different varieties of ground cover, super bumpy tufts of dry-ish grass, peanut butter and super deep chunky style peanut butter that sucked ever watt out of your body. Just retartedly hard. I had a very decent start and first lap and then realized that I was going backwards and couldn't do anything about. One more lap and I would have gotten lapped by Mike Hogan and finally got my act together to battle it out a bit with John Bliss. I came up hoping for thin fields ( which proved true, I didn't get the memo) and perhaps putting some points on the board. That did not happen and I finished up coming through in 29th, super disappointed with such a lackluster effort. For a punter like myself, I know I have to accept that just by lining up to race I am not guaranteed any kind of level of success and must be able to deal with the consequences good or bad.

Sunday was racing with our local Evil Empire ( USA Cycling ) Yes, everyone has
their beef with their policies and the turnout backed that sentiment up. The 35+ group had 5 guys in it, Our 45+ group started with 9. Yes, I'm not much of fan of the USAC but it's a race in my backyard and that is a treat indeed. What a difference to arrive "fresh" after a 10 minute drive versus the past 8 weekend of 90 minutes minimum. For our 35 bucks, we received a nice swag bag with some decent goods inside. The course layout was superb, Apparently designed with input from the Comptons ( KFC that is..) It was super challenging but super fun and featured a VERY long runup, something that usually lacks on front range courses. I felt much, much better and finished 5th for the day behind my local friend/nemesis Ron who I can occasionally school at our practice sessions but he trounces me solidly at every race when it matters. SRAMmies B. Sneady rocked his fro to his first win for the season in the 4's and Jim pulled in a solid effort for 5th position in the 4's.

After a nice break this past weekend, it's more local racing this weekend with Pikes Peak Velo putting on their annual event at a new location near the Garden of the Gods and Sunday at Castle Rock, one of my favorite venues of the season. After that, another break for Thankgiving, then off to a Taiwan/China trip for a week that will eventually land me in Bend for USGP finals and the States which will wrap up my oh-eleven season.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Back at it

After a long trip to Germany and some much-needed rest after six straight weekends of racing both Saturday and Sunday, I was back at it at Indian Lakes Resort, stops 9 and 10 of the ChiCrossCup. ILR is also the site for the New Years Resolution UCI races on December 31st and January 1. It's a GREAT venue for cyclocross. We had nice warm weather this weekend, but the indoor registration, restaurants and heated showers just steps from the course will certainly be welcome for the UCI races in two months.

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
Sunday was much more of a battle that eventually came down to Jason Rassi and I, at least until I flatted just past the pits with three laps to go. I rode half a lap with a flat tire. On the straight sections I was hardly at a disadvantage, but I had to take the turns (and there were lots of them!) very slowly. Special thanks to the unidentified lapped rider who was cheering/heckling me for a minute to catch Jason, then finally said "oh, you have a flat!" and offered me his wheel. That would have been against the rules, but it's the thought that counts. After a bike swap I rejoined in third place, but made it back up to second by the end of the race.

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

The Rez and Valmont

Last weekend was Boulder-Fest 2011 with 2 large scale UCI races held within city limits. Saturday was the Colorado Cross Classic at the venue I love to hate on: the Boulder Reservoir. I'm really really not sure why this place is held in such high regard in the cross community. In the numerous times I've raced here, the few times that I was on the gas and having great form, I've either flatted or had a mechanical. The balance have just been full on sufferfests and Sat was no exception. A pile of snow was still lingering on the ground and turned the back 40 in a quagmire and then there's the sand..always lot's of sand at the Rez. My warm up was going just fine until I started mingling at the line waiting for call-ups, then realized that I had forgotten my timing chip, I sprinted back to the car, tore off my leg warmers revealing one super tall black sock on my right foot and a shorter brown one on the left..oh well, that's what I get for dressing in the dark on these trips up to the county. I sprint back to line, missing call ups and lined up in the way way back. Thanks to the timing chip fiasco, my heart rate was already sky high by the time the whistle blew. I had a ferocious start and blew past a bunch of guys on an inside line
and then promptly had the door shut on me by three quarters of the field thanks to being polite. By the time we wound our way through some "S" turns I was well at the back of the pack again. During the race I muddled my was through the course and cursing the 2 volunteers to who would erase the lines in the sand box with rakes on every lap so it was a complete crap shoot on entry on every lap. Finished the day in 27th..ugh. It's been a bit of challenge to hang in the top 20's for points. Other SRAMmies came with and Jim Mathis finished 38th in the 45+ and B. Sneady took and impressive 7th in the Cat 4's. Saturday night was spent commiserating with a long time friend from Maine who now lives in Denver and also experienced a less than desirable outcome in the 35+ field. We both expressed hope in better efforts tomorrow.

The Boulder Cup was held Sunday at the newly formed Valmont Bike Park which features a dedicated year-round cross course, including the "Belgium Stairs" ( see below) It was super cold in the morning on arrival but temps were rising quickly and turning the course decidedly soggy. I never managed to get a full lap in for warm up so I'd be going in blind and stoked about my 3rd row call-up as Sunday seemed to draw a deeper field. By the time the whistle blew the course had definitely thawed with some super deep sloggy sections but faster ( seemed like less clay, than Saturday) so while it was muddy it was still pretty fast. I managed to put in a solid effort
( felt way better than Sat ) and stayed smooth which I call a success. I rolled through in 21st, out of 62 starters, missing out on a few points for the Cross Cup. Valmont was amazing, such a great venue, really fun, festive, crossy type atmosphere, I'll definitely be back. Thanks to Annette from MountainMoonPhotography for the images, she's consistently out there at every event and putting up heaps of quality images on her site for all classes.

Thanks for reading! Shotty

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Washington park Halloween curse

Yes, the title says curse, not course. For the third year in a row, I had a mediocre race at Washington park in Milwaukee on Saturday. It was my worst race of 2009 and 2010, and I hope that will prove to be the case for 2011 as well.  It's a shame, too, because it's a really fun, challenging course in a beautiful city park and since it's always around Halloween weekend, there's always some fun holiday-themed features like using a casket as a barrier. And there are costumes, of course. Brian Matter was a very convincing Papa Smurf this year, and I wore my Bavarian huntsmen outfit. The lederhosen, wool knee socks, suspenders and thick flannel shirt with pewter buttons are neat, but a little restrictive to race in! Next year, I need a lycra-based costume... suggestions? It's always a challenge to find photos from Wisconsin 'cross races online, but hopefully I can add a couple of shots later.

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

A Tale of Two Courses

heading to registration on another dry weekend

To some that are not savvy to our Colorado Cross scene , you may not be familiar when we throw around terms such as Xilinx or Interlocken in our everyday dialect. However, these are 2 venues are just about hallowed ground to all to are cross-crazed here. The Blue Sky Velo group always comes through in a big way for their race at Xilinx and while it was a variation on the previous Boulder Series Race, I much prefer Blue Sky's take on it. Super fast straightaways punctuated with short, pretty tricky undulations and turns. The spectators invariably gather by a set of 2 "mini"barriers that strike dread into some and encourage others to pull out some bunny-hopping skills, rusty as they may be. Xilinx was a Cross Cup and points were up for grabs so fields were full. Thanks to my decent finish weeks back in Frisco, I was granted a second row start. It was pleasure to witness the front of the race for a change and figured that my chances were slim for netting a top 20 finish (and therefore more callups), so tried to hang it out there for as long as possible. I was continually getting dropped on the long straight power sections and then would bridge back up if it got technical. However the long pulls were taking their toll and the last 2 laps felt like damage control. I finished off the day in 23rd and out of the points race but thoroughly enjoyed the course, despite more dusty and dry conditions. Interlocken=grass, there is no other course like this all season. Deep green smooth grass where the designer goes out of their way to ensure that every single turn be off-camber. It pays to spend the time here and figure out treads and pressures because it could make or break your race. Another key here is the start, a ridiculous short straightaway that immediately bottlenecks before you're thrown into a double barrier run-up, around a 180, down the slope, another 180, across a sand volleyball court and ....yes, another 180 degree turn before you have to light the afterburners into a long sidewalk sprint. Strangely, field sizes were a little smaller than usual. it was a beautiful fall day, cool and crisp but perhaps being held during Veloswap and the fact that it wasn't a points race kept some away. Our 45+ group was still holding strong at almost 60 riders. I had a3rd row starting position with call-ups based on standings (weird) and had an amazing start. One of those ones where it feels like very little effort and you're blowing past everyone. These don't happen often and I took advantage, trying to stay in the top 20 all day and for what felt like an eternity out there. I was in disbelief and shock when I saw "4 to go" thinking there was no way I could maintain this for another 3 to 4 laps. I was up as high as 16th at one point and finished off the day in 19th. For sure one of my best finishes here, especially in an open class.

Next weekend, the pro's are back in town hunting for UCI points in the Colorado Cross Classic held at the Boulder Reservoir ( love-hate relationship ) and the Sunday at the Valmont Bike park for the Boulder Cup. Hope to see you there. Thanks for reading ( I'll try to dig up some photo's to tack on )


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sunshine and a six pack

Sunday's ChiCrossCup race at Sunrise Park in Bartlett was well near perfect. We had gorgeous weather, we had a fun course that was technically challenging despite the lack of precipitation, we had a big-name pro come out to beat up on the locals in the Elite race, and we had a six pack.

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


I traveled to Wisconsin again this past Saturday for the Doyne Park CX race put on by my wife inc. They really know how to make the best of whatever natural terrain the venue has to offer, and this time they did it on very short notice after learning the previously planned Kletzsch park was double-booked. On two previous trips north I had a couple of Chicagoans to carpool with. This time only Jeff Watt was up for the trip - maybe some are taking a mid-season break? Mine comes at the beginning of November, when I'll be in Germany for 10 days.

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


The ChiCrossCup just completed its first double race weekend of the year. It's funny that everyone called the previous weekend's course at Dan Ryan Woods a 'power' course, when it was this Saturday's race at Wauconda that really put a premium on power. Sweeping turns and generally grippy surfaces meant we were rarely on the brakes and almost always pedaling. There was hardly a moment to rest and recover. Brian Matter came down from Wisconsin to remind us how very slow we are in comparison to a top U.S. pro...

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
A lap later he took off. At first I thought I might be able to stay on his wheel for a lap or so and learn something:
The massive flyover, shortly after Brian took the lead. Photo: Amy Dykema
I more-or-less maintained contact for half a lap and did, indeed, learn a thing or two watching his lines through the turns. Soon enough, though, I was red-lined and watching him pull away, never to be seen again until the podium ceremony! That left Kevin Klug and I to duke it out to the end. While we were only sprinting for second, it made for a fun finish to a tough race:
Finishing sprint. Photo: Amy Dykema
Sunday in Carpentersville was an altogether different animal. Despite rain overnight and Sunday morning, it was already drying by the time the elite race went off at 1:30pm. We had a fantastic course again this year with mud, sand, grass, roots, pavement, whoops, two creek crossings, fast and slow combination turns and a tricky off-camber section. My favorite spot was the 2nd creek crossing, which immediately followed a barrier.  Most people elected to run through the creek which was both fast and efficient, as demonstrated here by my teammate David Reyes:
Smooth. Photo: Ben Van Couvering
I, on the other hand, chose a riskier, slower and less efficient technique of leaping over the creek, all in the name of keeping my socks dry:
Awkward. Photo: Ben Van Couvering
Carpentersville was the first ChiCrossCup race I ever did, back in 2007, when I was still living and working (for SRAM) in Germany but was on a visit to SRAM's HQ in Chicago. 2011 marks my fifth year racing there and my third win at that venue. Thanks for all the great times!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It wouldn't be proper to start "field driving" season without a field to drive in so an early wake up pointed us in the direction of Serskamp, Belgium to race around the orchard. I can't say much exciting for my race; a decent start but missed the split in the Master's B and spent the day in the midst of the Master's C race. They are a pretty fast bunch as well. 15th and not lapped which counts as a win for me. €5 prize money on the day!

What makes racing in Belgium stand out is everything surrounding the race. Local races are not what you might think-the SuperPrestige and GVA races are festivals with a bike race. Local racing has some of the same; the fast riders arrive by camper, some in what I'd call rolling condos. Traffic jams as a motorhome tries to turn down a tiny village street. Everyone walking to the end of the lane to pay €4 to watch the race. Yes, they charge spectators at the local races and everyone comes out of watch. But what always strikes me is the hospitality of the people. The pride everyone takes in making sure the signs and banners are just right. The senior at sign in handing out numbers double checking you have the right one. Someone always comes out of their house with a pitcher of water or an offer of somewhere warm and dry to change after the race. That's what makes racing in Belgium special.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

USGP Fort Collins

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.
I was planning on leaving the house at 7am for my 45+ start at 11:30 when I rcvd another text noting that I-25 was closed because of the wreck and road conditions. I quick checked the interwebs and didn't see any road closures so jumped into the car and headed up the hill. Super sketchy conditions greeted us immediately but traffic was moving,albeit slowly. By the time we reached Denver, it was more a mix of rain and snow and by the time we reached Fort Collins, just light sprinkles and the course was actually dusty and dry. That however did not last long. What we had driven through followed us North so by the time we started staging, temps had dropped into the high 30's, the wind kicked up and rainfall was coming down hard. I couldn't have been happier, while I may not be a true mudder, I absolutely relish racing in these conditions, this is what epitomizes the sport.
It took forever to stage and I handed off my warm-ups too early, I was left 2 rows from the back in a 60 something deep field ,super cold and wet. The first few laps were a blur, the course immediately started becoming super greasy with a thin "cake frosting" skim layer of mud starting to form at the surface. By 2 to go, poor tire choices and/or pressures starting to send some of the front runners backwards trying to deal with conditions. I quickly starting to mingle with riders that I typically don't see during these races. I was feeling better as each lap progressed and wishing we were racing for the full hour. In the end I rolled through in 27th and quite possibly suffering from hypothermia; Jen handed me my jacket and I fumbled with the zipper for a bit as my hands were frozen blocks. As the girls waited for Jim to come across I ditched everything and ran over to borrow the salamander heater in Stu Thornes Cannondale Trailer. After warming up there, it was back to the car to put on everything I had packed and sit in the car with the heat on full blast until I stoped shaking( an hour later ).
Sunday was the polar opposite, the sun made an appearance , we enjoyed balmy temps and the track dried up to provide incredibly tacky, fast conditions. While I had a smooth, drama free race, the speed was absurdly high and I suffered a bit out there wrapping up the day in 33rd. We stuck around for the Mens Elite race which was a full on barn burner between Trebon and Powers with JPows coming back from a crash and at least a 20 second deficit to pass Trebon with a lhalf lap to go and take the win...pretty impressive stuff.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Weak link

The replaceable rear derailleur hanger is the bane of a derailleur engineer's existence. I got my start at SRAM designing rear derailleurs and even had the corny nickname "Mr. X.O" for a while. In a crash, the replaceable hanger is designed to bend or break and thereby prevent damage to the bike's frame. The problem is that most are so poorly designed that they flex every time you shift gears, making the derailleur less accurate, and they bend far too easily from even the lightest impact. That's exactly what happened to me in the opening minute of Sunday's CX race in Chicago. My bike's RD hanger bent inward after a very light spill, and when I tried to shift to the largest cog at the base of the first hill, I stuffed my derailleur into my rear wheel. The sickening crunch told me immediately what had happened so I shouldered my bike and started running. As I negotiated the course, a helpful spectator shouted that I had dropped my chain. "I dropped my rear derailleur, too!" I yelled back with a smile. I coasted down the hill and finally made it back to the pits. I might not have run as far as the 40,000 people participating in the marathon elsewhere in Chicago that day, but I was still pretty whipped by the time I grabbed my spare bike and started chasing.
Digging deep. Photo: Ellen
My goal was to try to race my way back into the top ten. Well, I must have been having a good day because soon my goal changed to cracking the top five, then the top three, then second place. One thing that helped make up a few seconds was bunny hopping not only the log but also the single barrier in the southeast section of the course every lap. Here's a link to a cool multiple-exposure photo of me hopping over the log.

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.