Monday, April 27, 2009

Race Report: Fat Tire Classic 4/26/09

A handful of brave souls traveled to Farmington, CT, home of Curtis "50 Cent" James Jackson III, for the annual Fat Tire Classic at Winding Trails this Sunday. Temperatures were unusually high for April, up to 90 degrees by mid afternoon.

The Winding Trails course is known for being very smooth and fast. While it is not very technical, and lacks serious elevation change, these are also disadvantages -- there is really no where to recover, and you need to be very careful with the pace you choose. Also, the course is very sandy, and you need to be cautious in turns because you can very easily take them too quickly. This is one of the few races where the big ring is absolutely crucial. The average 5 mile lap was in the mid 20's. Very fast.

I did really well at this race last year, and wanted to do well again this year. Fat Tire Classic isn't really know for its prizes, but I set this race as an early season priority. Being more of a technical rider, it puts me outside of my normal comfort zone and is still very challenging from a fitness standpoint.

My race (Cat 1 19-29) was the last of the day, and the heat was pretty overwhelming. It started off fast, with a Noreast rider (cannot remember his name) and an IBC rider (Colin Reuter) taking the lead. I managed to keep them in sight for a while but could not maintain the same pace. I knew I had a long way to go in my 20 mile race, so I made sure that I at least kept a fairly consistent pace and did not let up. This ended up paying off, by the end of lap 2 the Noreast rider had blown up and I overtook the IBC rider during lap 3. Both of them raced really well, but the heat definitely took it's toll.

Lap 4 I rode mostly alone, and kept it relatively clean aside from one foot down incident that resulted in a calf cramp. This happened at Hop Brook too, and I just had to tough it out and switch to an easier gear. I definitely need to find a way to prevent this in the future, though, because I'd hate to have something like that cost me the race.

Fortunately, I came in 1st, followed by Colin Reuter (IBC) and Cary Fridrich (Spooky/ CB on the road I believe). Time over 4 laps was 1:35:25.

Post-race I felt like shit, and my stomach was in bad shape. I couldn't eat solid food until 11pm that night. The heat can do that, I suppose. I'm sure the HEED/HU/Endurolytes/Endurox I had didn't help with settling the stomach, either.

However, many thanks to Skip for his excellent feeds. He also raced well, finishing up at 11th in Cat 2 30-39 (3 laps) with 1:20:03.

Claire got another podium, this time a 3rd place finish in womens Cat 2 19-34 (3 laps) with 1:32:43.

Cyclingdirg.org comes through with the media:

Skip -


Claire -


Me -


Cat 1 19-29 start -


Cat 2 30-39 start, with what appears to be a nasty crash (the start was essentially a sandpit) -



Cat 2 womens start -

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Post-Battenkill Reflections, Reports, Cravings

I've let the weekend digest a bit, and it was not until my ride today that I realized my defining Tour of the Battenkill moment.

It is, without a doubt, moment that I unwrapped and placed in my mouth the most perfectly warm, soft, and delicious coffee cake muffin that I've ever had. I really want another one. It was made with sour cream, and there were definitely crunchy things. I'm not terribly articulate when it comes to describing flavor, but it was the best muffin I've ever had.

I'd like to think that pre-race snack helped with my performance. I was a bit nervous initially, since I had not done an actual road race since 2007. I was confident, however, that I would at least make it out intact.

I didn't to drop either a bottle or a chain on the first paved climb, but both of those things occurred. I managed to get my chain back on and get back to the front by the end of the first climbing section. Some people were trying to break free, but it didn't work. We eventually passed the masters 1-4 field, and then they passed us, and it continued. Eventually on the second to last climb I managed to break off with around 4 others, and we pace-lined to the last climb and powered over it.

I was definitely bested in the sprint, I'm not terribly good at those. I had a bit of trouble positioning myself since we kept mixing with the masters fellows. I didn't want to be on one of their wheels at the finish. However, it was probably not a good idea to lead out for the sprint. Oh well, maybe next time..

I'm definitely satisfied with my result (4th place in Cat 4 red). Maybe I can try and get an upgrade before next year? I don't have much planned on my road calendar, I guess I'll have to see.

Some highlights:

- Really fast 50mph dirt descents.
- Taking the wrong line and getting stuck in soft stuff on dirt descents.
- Getting a feed from Lodri at the 2nd feed zone. If anyone knows how to get in touch with her, I'd like to extend a thank you to her for being awesome.
- Actually being part of a break-away, a new experience for me.
- Sliding my rear end while powering in the big ring down dirt roads.
- The big wide open U-turn in one of the town centers. Fun stuff.

I'll definitely plan for this race next year, if not just for the baked goods.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Winning, you are my comfort and joy.

Winning is my hobby.

If you know me at all, as a racer, you know that I operate with a singular objective.
To crush, to best the competition, to win.

Any claim of modesty is a lie.
If pre-race I suggest that I'll be taking it easy.
I'm lookin' to win.

But, I don't have to win to love racing.


(Sometimes I just love getting dirty.)


Racing remains a constant in my life.
Winning my comfort and joy.

But without teammates, without competition, and without losing, without feeling like I could have done better. . . winning would be no comfort at all.

And sometimes you just have to enjoy the impending mess.


(I don't pick the good line like I should.)


And be content with not winning.


(Photo Credit: Photo Credit: http://christianthormann.blogspot.com/.)


There was this guy Craig, having moved from Boston to Portland, who used to write about track racing in Portland. Of me, he wrote "Josh is the Madthug of the track, and he throws down hard."

I enjoyed that very much.

So, yeah. . . I didn't win, but I earned a respectable third place, and loved every frigid, wet moment of it.


(Sludgement Day II, Randall's Island, NYC.)


- Joshua

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Race Report: Root 66 Bunny Hop Brook Dam XC

This years Root 66 series opener in Waterbury, CT was a departure from last years unusually good weather. The temperature hovered around 40 degrees with light to moderate rain throughout the day.

Despite this, the course was completely rideable. Climbs were slippery, but only one required a forced dismount. Most of the course was a slick, tacky mud. As far as XC courses go, this one is a bit more technical, with lots of rocks. Descents and turns were a bit tricky, but doable at a fairly brisk speed. The Cat 1 race, which I did, was reduced by one lap due to course conditions.

I started off pretty strong, and the top four or five riders were quickly established halfway through the first lap. I took the lead for a bit after the first big descent back towards the lake, but was later passed on the second climbing section. In retrospect, pre-riding the course would have helped a bit, since I lost a bit of momentum in that section.

An interesting discovery I made: my new Specialized water bottle holder is a bit too grippy. I couldn't get a bottle out of it through the whole race. I ended up riding with my bottle in a jersey pocket for the last two laps. I had a bit of a disaster in the feed zone as well. I stopped, picked up my new bottle, struggled to get my old bottle out, and once I got going again attempted to take off my rain shell. One arm got caught on my watch, and I ended up getting my jacket stuck in my disc rotor. Right before the first climb, I had to stop, undo the mess, and get back on it. I lost another position during this debacle.

Fortunately, after that I had a slightly better race. I held on my position for the last two laps, and managed to keep the rubber (mostly) down. One small crash right before the first big descent had me riding with my fork fully locked out (oops), a sensation I hope to soon forget.

Overall I feel like I raced well, with a 3rd place finish in Cat 1 19-29 (1:29:51).

Other BBB / ERC riders had success in the Cat 2 field, which did two laps. Clare finished 2nd (1:27:19) in womens Cat 2 under 34, and Skip narrowly missed 10th place in Cat 2 30-39 (1:13:30).

Cyclingdirt.org had full coverage of the race, and posted some videos.

Here's one of me right after my race:


Start of Cat 1 19-29-



There was no bike wash available, so other resources needed to be used.



Overall, a well done race, and I'm looking forward to the next race in the series on April 26.

this week in things


so the season is officially underway for us - this weekends hopbrook race began our off road campaign with a fine showing by all our folks that went out. next week is the tour of the battenkill, the biggest one day road race in the country. this is (hopefully) the time that all the hours on the trainer, frozen toes and predawn breakfasts pay off.

erik, nick and i did the wells crit this morning to get a little more racing in. we rode out, did about 20 laps, signed in, did another 5 or 6 laps, waited for the start, did another lap, then started the race. it was pretty cold, and standing around waiting for our betighted buttcheeks to freeze to our saddles was not terribly appealing. erik "why does this keep happening to me" peterson is a human steamroller - he spent 10 laps in the front AND won a few intermediate sprints along the way. nick bridged up after one of the primes and i thought the two of them would try to do something awful to the rest of us, but thankfully they sat up and waited for the group after a few hundred meters. i did ok, felt good, didnt contest the sprints (erik was already there) and got a bit boxed in at the end, but i managed a top ten or so. im beginning to learn about positioning myself in the group and timing my sprint better. in previous races, i dont feel like ive run out of gas, just run out of gears (shifting during an all out effort is a very good way to destroy a perfectly good drivetrain).
thats about it... stop by the shop and wish us luck at battenkill!

Monday, April 6, 2009

philly weekend, part 2.

now for the race report.
day 1.
despite an unholy start time (630 am) and about 2 hours of sleep, registration and set-up went well. all the promoters were very nice (some of their shop folks were also racing) and did not really keep anyone standing in line for more than a minute or so. because it was so early, i didn't want to ride the course in the dark and therefore didn't get much of a warm up. i wasn't about to break out the trainer for the 15 minutes i had before the start. they lined us up according to group - i was in the "a" field, starting at 630 - the "b" field started at 7 (i somehow missed the boat on the more favorable start time).

the course was about 2.2 miles with only 1 hard turn, so the pace from the gun was pretty intense. i kept to the front, stayed out of trouble, took a pull or two... when i looked back after the second lap, we were all alone - our group of 20 or so guys had completely lost contact with the main field. this was surprising. i found out later they got pulled out of fear we would lap them. we had one intermediate sprint for 5 points which i halfheartedly contested, but it had the side effect of putting me in a great position in the group. 2 laps later, there was another bell - we assumed it was another sprint. a few guys went, most of the rest of us just followed on. as we went by the start, they called the race. there was a great deal of confusion - some guys stopped, some just soft pedaled, a few of us kept the pressure on just in case of a mistake. we were neutralized halfway around by a motorcycle. apparently, our race was cut short due to a late start. some of the guys were pissed - i was a little annoyed when i didn't even get to contest the sprint, but i had a good race (and more importantly, a good time).

day 2.
same start time, different place. sundays race was a .8 mile technical crit in fairmont park, about 2 miles from where we were the day before. same deal when i got there, only this time i got to preride the course. i was a bit worried - this was my first real criterium and it had quite a few turns, a chicane, a sharp downhill on a hard left followed by a sharp uphill on a hard right and most demoralizing of all, a long uphill finish.

this race was fast. really, really fast. on the second lap some dude took off. no one chased him, so i pushed hard for 2 laps to bridge. this had 3 results: 1. i pulled the guy back in. 2. i broke the field apart, and like the day before we had a group of 15 or 20 riders left. 3. i got tired. lesson: let some other jackass be the engine. for the next few laps i just hung on - in the pack but not in any shape to make a move. with three to go i felt a bit better and got it in my head that if i was hurting, they must also be hurting so the best course of action was to increase everyones overall hurt by trying to break free. sadly, they were having none of it. i was unceremoniously chased down and spit out the back for my efforts. i caught on with one to go and finished the race in 15th place (again).

all in all, a great weekend of racing. i learned a bunch, met some great riders in philadelphia, and got my first real road races under my belt. i will say this: for a 5 field, it was remarkably well behaved. in two days of racing there was only one crash (a guy overshot a turn) and everyone seemed to know the drill (at least better than i did). my next road race is the tour of the battenkill, and i hope to see some of you in new york as im suffering up the dirt roads.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

tactical failure/ wallet bruise/ philly race report (part 1)

lauren and i drove down for the philly 2 day classic, a pair of races put on by
philidelphia ciclismo and cadence cycling. the drive was long and my start time was ungodly (630 am??), but aside from a day 1 early morning hiccup, the event was well run and the courses were really well designed.

unfortunately, i sat on my wallet the whole way down - producing a bruise on my right buttcheek that has yet to subside (settle down, it isnt exactly swollen with wadded up portraits of u.s. grant). i got to my moms place (this was also a family visit) at about 1am and finally went to bed around 230. for a 5am wakeup, this is not ideal.

my mom was under the impression that she would get to watch a bike race. sadly, she was not under the impression that watching the bike race would require her to wake up an hour and a half before dawn, see half the roadies in philadelphia drop trou along the parking line, and stand in the wind for a hour to scream at her son for the one second he was in earshot. this was her first bike race.

perhaps i should have warned her.