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