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