Saturday, December 21, 2013

That's all, folks

It hasn't been the most stellar season for SRAM Factory team racers, with a mixture of injuries and work responsibilities keeping us from racing - and blogging - as much as we might have liked. I hadn't raced (or done any real training) since October before the Midwest Regional CX Championships in Chicago last Sunday. I was motivated to get out there again by the 8 inches of snow that fell the day before. That always makes racing extra exciting and fun, especially on a tricky and hilly course like we had at Dan Ryan Woods. I raced the 35+ event (though my "cyclocross racing age" is 45) early Sunday morning and the Pro/1/2 race a few hours later. In both cases, I started in the last row but rode far better than expected, finishing 3rd in the master's race and 9th in the very competitive Pro/1/2 race.

Today, I did the Afterglow races in Chicago. I decided to ride to the races despite the light rain and temperatures just above freezing, and despite the sure knowledge that I would be a cold, muddy, exhausted mess when it was time to ride home... We had a great course which would have been tricky even had it been dry.  The classic CX conditions of snow, slush, mud, sand, and light rain made it an ideal way to end the season (and do some punishing product testing).  First up was the master's race, where I got a slow start but worked my way up to the front and finally passed Tim Boundy for the lead with a little over a lap to go. After standing around shivering for an hour, it was time for the Pro/1/2/3 race. I had a good start but began loosing ground almost right away. Though these are usually conditions I thrive in, my lack of training and fitness over the past many weeks (and to be honest, the whole year) caught up with me and I lost two or three more spots every lap to finish in the bottom half (or bottom third?) of the field. Still, it was fun, challenging, good skills training, and great product testing! I put on my jacket and backpack and headed home on my bike almost right away, before I had a chance to get too cold. OF COURSE I got a flat on my rear tubular on the way home, and the tire sealant I had with me was a couple of years old and not very effective. After stopping to pump up the tire about twenty times, I finally made it home safe and sound but chilled to the bone!

I don't have any pictures to share but I guess there will be some good ones posted here before long.

So not the CX season I had hoped for, but at least I finished up with four very technically challenging and super fun races in a single week. I hope to be back with renewed focus (and better fitness) next year!

Friday, November 8, 2013

A shot from Denver's Zombiecross, yes, that is a Brancale helmet which should have been ruled illegal as a safety violation. I've been off to a late start here on the Front Range and weather is not cooperating ( far too sunny and warm ). Two in the bag thus far and a double this weekend of favorites on the grass at Interlocken followed by the power course at Xilinx, More to follow....

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

While the American calendar is in full swing Europe is still in the early season.  The Nacht van Woerden holds a unique spot.  Unique in being at night, middle of the week and just before the start of the true cross season.  I've been several times to spectate but this year added an extra bonus-a chance to race.  In Europe racing the same day/course as the pros is rare so not to be missed.  

The highlight of race night?  Following the pros during warmups.  A certain bike geek factor on the romance of racing as a day job with spectators pointing and naming the popular riders as they go by with masters and sport riders in tow.  Being on course, seeing the lines they take and having the same vantage point only makes you realize the talent they have.  At the same time you also see the drive which makes them champions.  Being passed by Marianne not once, but twice, on the same section as she looks to find that extra second at full speed makes one realize what most of us are capable of.  Even at speed they still find a second to chat, Katie said the course "is so American" as we rode past the VIP tent.

Reality sets in during call ups-no points in the Netherlands and last on the grid.  Which means waiting five or so seconds for the 70 odd masters in front of me to roll off the line.  Lots of traffic on lap one, a few stop and waits.  The lone difficult section, a quick 5 meter drop down a bank caused a major traffic jam and lots of full sprinting just to find the back of the large group at 50th place.  Most of the course was as "American" as Katie described, lots of turns back and forth around the kermis rides just off the city center.  I hear a few shouts from people I know-my first time racing with spectators lining the full course was unique experience.  You see them as a blur of shapes but don't really hear what is going on just meters away.  Once clear of the my little group in the back I did slow for a moment soaking in being part of the show rather than just watching it.  And then remember the goal on the night is not to be lapped.  Which I did.  Barely.

After my race the women went on course, a battle between Katie and Marianne with the happy ending going to the home crowd on the night.  Certainly a race which is likely to be repeated many times in the coming weeks.  Then the men were up, the speeds kept increasing even as the rain came down.  Marcel Meisen proved fastest on the night.  The traveling show of brightly colored caravans has one more weekend until the Koppenberg Cross, the start of "proper" season on this side of the pond.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Well underway

Not much action here at the SRAM Factory Cyclocross blog, but that doesn't mean we haven't been racing, it just means we've been too busy to blather on about it.

Mike, J.P. and I raced the xXx Relay CX on a scorching hot day in August. J.P. and I defended our title for the 3rd year in a row in the Master's 40+ race, and later in the day Mike and I finished 2nd to the very impressive father-son duo of David and Christando Lombardo.

A couple of weeks ago I did the Lake Geneva Cross race in Wisconsin. I missed the inaugural event last year and didn't hear much about it afterwards, but it turns out the venue and course are fantastic. The wet and muddy conditions this year were a not-so-gentle reminder that it's 'cross season again!

This past weekend I did the Trek CX Cup races on the grounds of Trek Bicycle in Waterloo, Wisconsin. We had beautiful weather and a really fun and challenging course. My CX  "racing age" is 45 this year so I could have done the masters 45+ race, but I decided to do the masters 35+ race both days so I could get slaughtered by masters world champion Mark Savery. Saturday I had a so-so start and made a lot of mistakes in the first lap, but recovered to finish a respectable 4th. Sunday I had a perfect start, narrowly avoiding the 1st and 2nd placed riders who took each other out in the first 10 seconds of the race and then leading the race for the first two laps, until my body reminded me that I haven't done nearly enough training this year to be able to keep up such a pace. Despite feeling stronger, smoother and luckier than the day before, I finished 4th again. Go figure.

Immediately following Sunday's race I drove 2.5 hours back to my home in Chicago, showered, changed, and immediately headed to the airport for the 24-hour coach-class trip to Taiwan, from where I write these words with severely swollen ankles and an aching back.

Next stop: the ChiCrossCup season opener at Jackson Park on Sunday...just as soon as I make it back from Taiwan. Look for me - I'll be the one with cankles.

Friday, February 22, 2013

AP's End of Season Report

Well, the last few races of the 'cross season could have gone better but, they were a lot of fun and I had good time. I did my first 'Cross Nationals and donned the SRAM Team Kit for the first time. I was no match for the heavy, frozen mud and felt as though as it was me versus the course. Special thanks to Richard Breininger and Rosanna Lloyd who kept me rolling for two of the hardest laps I've ever done. I wasn't satisfied with my 56th place finish but certainly satisfied with being able to get out and race.

Cyclocross Nationals
Cincinnati Kings CX was two weekends later. My race went off early and the course was covered with snow and ice. I didn't have time to pre-ride the course so, after a great start, I found myself on the ground in a few of the faster, slicker turns. I fought back and ended up finishing 5th in the CAT III race.

Cincy Kings CX, Photo: Kent Baumgardt
Masters Worlds was another eye opener and learning experience. Like NATS, I wasn't prepared for the heavy mud, as I just don't have much experience training or racing in those conditions. I struggled in the tractor pull that was the heat race and barely made the cut for the final. I lined up 68th for the Masters 35-39 final. There were crashes everywhere at the start. I dodged a few only to fall victim to another, bending my front rotor and twisting my bars. I limped it back to the pit where Chris Zigmont had a my "B" bike at the ready. I ended up finishing 57th. While certainly not satisfied with the result, I was thrilled to get out there and lucky to have the opportunity.

Thanks again for the support. I can't wait to get back out there and apply some of what I've learned this season!

All the best,

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Brief season review & 2013 CX National Championships M50-54

by JP McCarthy
Doing fine up the "Koppen-Badger" at CX Nats

What a finish to a long season!  After flailing away in the first half of the Chicago Cross Cup series, frequently finishing in the teens amongst my 40+ cronies, I settled into the top 10, finishing 6th overall & 6th in the Illinois State Championships.  I had a couple of 3rd-place finishes in non-series local races, too.  My trips over the Wisconsin border to USGP & Badger Cross were not so successful, but the brats were outstanding & the experiences valuable.
Head-down at Douglas Park Afterglow with Newt, Dave, & Mike

With the new year, I finally admitted my 'racing age' & joined the 50+ crew for New Year's Resolution.  Saturday I was whipped by a guy from Philadelphia & schooled by Bob Downs & John Shull.  Philadelphia & Downs rested for Nationals on Sunday, leaving Paul Curley, Scott from Virginia, John, & me to duke it out on the ice.  My first win since La Bagh Woods!
NYR Sunday 50+ podium with Paul Curley & Scott Paisley

The National Championships course was treacherous on Thursday afternoon for the M50-54 race.  There were many sections of water & mud on top of ice, especially on the descents.  Another tough section was the approach to the "Koppen-Badger" climb, where a few inches of soft snow sat on top of frozen ruts.  I had an OK start from the second row, luckily staying just clear of a crash at the holeshot.  I was top 5 by the top of the Koppen-Badger, where I could see that Steve Tilford was already on the next climb.  I was right on the 3rd-place wheel when I fell hard on the ice just before the double-barriers.  The ice-slide left my hands soaked & freezing, & both controls were askew on my bars.  I'm sure I accelerated while on my butt on the ice; so I was still close to 3rd-place after the barriers.  But 2 & 3 rode away while I punched my levers back into position.  Then the cold set into my fingers.  And on the following descents I was scared of the course.  So I freaked out, fell a couple more times, & lost a bunch of places, maybe as far back as 8th or 9th.

I guess I was weary of freaking out after a couple more laps & took a clean bike from Richard.  It's a bit risky to go from disc brakes to cantilevers mid-race, but I wanted a clean bike for the final laps.  Besides, I'd asked Richard to pit for me & I didn't want to leave him with nothing to do!  He did great job of preparing my disc bike for me again after only 1/2 a lap.  Back on my 'A' bike with straight levers & with some blood flowing to my fingers again, & with some good guesses at how to ride the most difficult/treacherous sections, I rode the final 2 laps with some confidence.  I moved back up to 5th-place in lap 4.  In lap 5 I was motivated by a glimpse of fellow CCCer Danny Warner closing on me and by a spectator who said I was in 6th.  So I gave it my all to reel in 4th-place.  I wasn't making much progress with my feet on the pedals, so I 'danced' up the railroad ties (according to an eloquent spectator), closing the gap, and I passed him through the barriers.  I stayed in 4th-place with a 25-second gap by the end.
Not feeling so well up the CX Nats' back-side climb with twisted levers & frozen fingers

We don't get much practice racing in these conditions.  I learned a bit more about equipment & bike set-up (glove selection, lever set-up, brake pads) and confirmed what I thought I already knew (steel toe spikes!).  The most important lesson is that I can come back after sliding ass-over-tit through frozen slurry.  I'll try to avoid that next year; but if it happens, I'll come back quicker!

I certainly did not expect to podium at Nationals.  I'm just glad that there are more than 3 steps on that stage.  I'm very sad to say that Tilly was injured during his second lap.  I wish him a speedy recovery & many more titles!
What an honor share the podium with Steve Tilford! He raced 3 laps with a badly injured shoulder.

  • Thanks to all ChiCrossCup competitors, promoters, & supporters for the leg-thrashings, the encouragement, & the jeering.
  • Thanks to the suppliers of outstanding equipment & apparel who make this sport (almost) safe & (somewhat) comfortable: SRAM, Zipp, Avid, Redline, Challenge, White Industries, Time, Prologo, Vermarc, Lazer, Wigwam, & Bontrager.
  • Thanks to SRAM Neutral Road Support!
  • Thanks to Natasha for not changing the locks.

Shiny object