Saturday, October 31, 2009

holy crap! mikes race report:

ok, so my computer at home has been malfunctioning, so i havent had a blog post in ages. i will try to get this one in before i get the Big Steamy Oyster Dinner.

race 1: the cat 3/4 or "how to lose any advantage you have by turning poorly"

my race started pretty good - i was stuck in traffic a bit, but was able to weasel past most of the field by the middle of the first lap. i would like to note that i accomplished this mainly by turning well - carrying speed, making sane and rational decisions about the AMOUNT of speed thus carried... anyway, i put in a bit of a gap, and worked on building on it by bunnyhopping the barricades on the back side of the course (kudos to the organizers for putting in kiddie-sized planks for me) and attacking the crap out of the paved section.

i would like to point out that my mission was to win this race. like, seriously this time. a bunch of guys i grew up with came up from ny to watch me race, and i was not going to settle for "chase group 1" or "running my bike a lap because my tire rolled off". i wanted the (at least for me) ever elusive win. so it was with some abnandon i pressed my advantage.

everything was working out well until i overcooked a turn on the backside of the course and slid under the tape. lame. and of course nate, sebastian and this rad kid from philadelphia were not going to give me any slack. so i settled into the group. now the race was tactical. great. my favorite. when "go as fast as you can" becomes "see how fast they can go without blowing yourself up". a few attacks were launched, some sitting up was accomplished, but nothing stuck and no one seemed to have the ability or desire to shake things up. i spent about a lap on the front, the sebastian put in a good dig to try and break things up. i was able to counter, and dragged nate and other dude up with me.

on the last lap, i think by the run up, nate and i made a little gap between sebastian and us. we floored it on the track, hit the little turny bit and moved onto the straightaway standing up. i looked back to see if they were on us, and when i looked back, nate had already made his more. the little dude already put 4 bike lengths into me. i tried to return fire as best as i could, but didnt claw back any ground until the hill. too late. not a bad result, and nate rode a great race - he timed his attack perfectly. that kid is going to crush the elite race soon.

i will now shut down the computer, eat chicken salad, and try to get out my "dont get lapped" race report soon.

race 2: the 1/2/3 "fear of spinelli" race
after my decent result in the 3/4 race, i was sore. really sore. luckily, friends from ny had left: i didnt want to get unceremoniously lapped after failing to win earlier. we lined up at 330, or rather i sat in the back so as to not get in the way of anyone with a chance of a good result. looking around, it seemed that i was the only one without his name under the clearcoat. we went off hot-the pace was markedly higher, the shoulder bumping more confident, the smell of burning carbon more pronounced...

i actually stuck to the group for a bit. i was toward the front, but had no illusions about maintaining the pace. by the end of the first lap, i had dropped off the lead group, sitting in no mans land.

and thats where i stayed.

by and by, i saw rmm a few turns back. always the same distance away, always looking over at me and by sheer force of will playing the theme from jaws in my now food-deprived brain.

da-dun. da-dun.

i passed a few more folks - stragglers, dudes carrying their bikes, dudes just sitting on the side of the trail. there was obviously some hurt being distributed at the front.

da-dun. da-dun.

like the fucking crocadile from peter pan, hes still there. as if that wasnt enough, the spooky rider was on his tail. the tall guy who told me how he pooped during a race and still did ok. this was three to go. i was not thrilled.

da-dun. da-dun.

with two to go i started to lose power. my hands felt numb, my lines sucked, i wasnt shifting back up right away after corners and climbs. the geekhouse folks on the runup told me i was good looking, but i kind of feel like they were just saying that. like maybe how you tell someone with a hare lip that it "really isnt that noticable".

da-dun. da-dun.

hes still there. yep. and now he has a friend. one to go. dying. thinking about how nice a hamburger would be. almost vomiting, then hamburgers again. im not even turning squares at this point - im not sure what shape involves only halfhearted downstrokes and underpowered drifts into the tape. they caught me on the track. hamburgers.

i tried to hang on. i really did. i would like to say that those guys passing animated me; put some fight back into my legs. sadly, my legs were too full of lactic acid, forcing the fight into my belly, up my esophagus and almost out of my mouth onto the course. pooptrack and rmm, in that order, handed me my ass in fine fashion. good work, gentlemen. i crossed the line 19th, not too bad. my only real complaint was that they shut down the fucking hamburger stand before the race ended.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Downeast CX - Day two.

Saturday's post race activities mostly concerned not dying, eating, sleeping, and crawling into the entrails of my proverbial Taunton. After staying at the Bates Motel for Tour of the Battenkill, Beth and I thought we'd "spring" for a chain that at least had a real breakfast in the morning (she also has a very strange distrust of bungalows).

Sure, we were sandwiched between a Super Wal-mart, Ruby Tuesdays, Lowes, et al. but I guess you get a lot more for your money in Auburn, ME.


Seriously, nicer than my apartment. Not fair.

That TV is like, bigger than my head or something..

Totally had the complementary micro-wave popcorn and even used the dishwasher. I probably should not have put my dirty winter skinsuit in the hotels washing machine, though.

I felt a little too pampered. Wearing the $5 sweatpants I bought the night before at Super Wal-mart, stuffed with continental breakfast, I checked out at a leisurely 11:30am and made the whole 20 minute drive to the race venue. Man, this elite racer stuff is hard.

As I arrived, Mike was warming up for his race, where he eventually placed 4th in the Cat 3 men. Earlier in the day, Lori Kohls came through with a 6th place finish in the 3/4 women, and Nick Maggiore finished 9th in the Cat 4 men.

The weather for Sunday was stunning, though the course was still a total mess. The course was very similar to the previous day, though it ran in reverse. After two pre-ride laps, I needed some serious bike washing. This is where I make the fateful decision to use Mike's bike as a pit bike. More on that later.

The thumb I jammed on Saturday still felt bad, but I could grab the brake lever all right. Otherwise, everything felt good.

We get started, and I'm again spit right out the back (need to work on those starts). After the barn, the group hits the descent and a bunch of people crash. After a lap, I decided the course was a bit more difficult than yesterday, since the back woods section was absolutely brutal.

Oh yeah, there was some foreshadowing earlier. So I decided after two laps I would grab Mike's bike in the pit, that way mine would be a bit easier to ride towards the end of the race. I head in, dismount on the wrong side, change sides, grab Mike's bike, hit myself in the balls with his saddle, stuck my leg through one of the triangles, and flip over with the bike on top of me. I don't think anyone got a picture of that, but this is a pretty good representation of what happened:

Just imagine the guy on the ground is me, and I'm trying to ride the dog.

I somehow managed to break my shoe while doing this, as well. At this point I was a bit discouraged. Mike's bike was riding poorly (unknown to either of us, his rear derailer still had an old-growth deciduous forest lodged beneath the top knuckle), and so was I. I did a lap on his bike and managed to pass it back without any acrobatics. I had a quick pang of "you should drop out before you mess up more of your shit," but then I realized that was not at all cool. I knew at that point my race was probably not going to go as well, though.

My thumb/hand was getting worse throughout the race, to the point where I was grabbing the lever with three fingers and my palm to get leverage. I spent a lap or two passing Bikebarn racer John Peterson, and then promptly crashing in front of him. Jeff Bramhall heckled me for my use of brakes on a descent, and then I crashed in front of him too. Towards the end of the race, I was hanging out with Tom Sampson and Pete Rubijono when we were soundly schooled by Dan Timmerman and friends as they lapped us.

I'd say day two taught me a few things. First, that I should actually practice bike pass-offs, and maybe even get my own pit bike. Second, that the best possible pre-race situation can still lead to a poor performance. And third? Don't fuck with your hands. Seriously, my thumb still doesn't bend right. What a handy evolutionary trait.

I still don't have pneumonia though, which is an improvement from this time last year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Downeast CX - Establishing the worst case scenario.

If you've read any blogs lately, you might have read that I moved up a category (or, you may have read this article about lavishly terrible writing, illustrated lavishly). I figure, if there is a Verge race to start racing elites, New Gloucester is it. With most heavy hitters hanging out in Louisville for the weekend, I knew my green cyclo-n00b ass would (hopefully) be safe from total ownership.

A forecast of rain did not bode well. I arrived Saturday and it was pissing. Mike Wissell and friends were huddled under the tent. I took a look at the course, it seemed like there were more cows than spectators. Sweet.

I kitted up, threw on a crapload of waterproof clothing, and managed to get in a couple pre-ride laps. A bike wash was mandatory after that, leaving me a bit concerned. Fortunately, my brake pads are so worn down, I have plenty of mud clearance to spare.

No braking was needed, anyways. I lined up for staging, second to last row. Colin made a comment about "attrition."

The start was fast, though I was not, I managed to move up some traffic in the first few turns and avoid any pile ups that occurred. I repeated to myself "remember, this race is an hour, don't blow up."

Now, some races can be a little muddy. This was definitely "a lot" muddy. Oh, and cold. "Shifting" was not an issue, since I almost never left 36x25. I rode with some familiar faces for a bit - Matt Green, Kevin Sweeney, Pete Bradshaw. The circuit through the field was slow, but the woods section was absolutely demoralizing. A forced dismount into a short uphill over a pile of rocks made me feel, well, short. Down a hill, into a puddle, and off the bike again for a much longer forced run while shouldering the bike. Ride through a rutted double track trail with 4 inch deep mud. Descend a trail in the same condition, and run up another muddy hill. Repeat. I definitely fell once or twice, and managed to jam my thumb. More on that later.

photo courtesy of joshua.robot

I pulled away from MG and PB, Kevin and I were riding for a bit. I worked to try and maximize the flatter power sections to put some distance on people, since I wasn't making up much time anywhere else. Kevin faded back a bit. Apparently I was riding ahead of Nick Keough for a while, but he passed me before the barn and put a bunch of seconds on me.

Oh yeah, did I mention we rode through a barn? I made the mistake of turning too hot, and sliding out on the concrete. Fortunately, I was unharmed, and the bike was cool.

On the last lap Adam Sullivan started to creep up, and had actually passed me with a short time to go. After the barriers, we hit the rollercoaster section, and I managed to sneak through after he bobbled a bit. I "sprinted" for the line in like a 36x16 (the hardest gear I used all race) for a 24th place finish.

Mike came through with a 12th place finish in the Cat 3 men, while Lori Kohls finished up 6th in the 3/4 women. Good work, folks.

After the race, I tried not to get hypothermia. In this picture, my lovely girlfriend Bethany, who endured a whole day sitting in the fuck-off rain and mud to watch me do dumb shit, is asking me if I want Recoverite. You are awesome. Dave Wilcox is awesome too, but mostly for the expressive eye gesture, but also because he beat me.

photo courtesy of joshua.robot

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Providence, day two, a brief note - PLUS! other stuff

If this blog had an editorial carousel, it would look pretty sad. I should probably at least do a quick run down on the second day of Providence, but Embrocation Cycling Journal scooped me a few days ago. Finally made it into the podium picture! I'm certainly content with being "the previous days winner."

Here is how it went down, in bullet points.
-First row call-up.
-Started okay, but got my wheel crossed bad and was dragged to the side a bit to prevent total crashiness.
-Passed some people.
-Found the guy at the front, tried to attack.
-Got pretty close to passing him on top of the hill before the finish, but he took a better line and got to the road before me.
-I need to work on my podium arms. Cary definitely has it down.

And that is how it went down. In any case, I don't expect many more finishes like that, since I'll be fighting for lead lap at the next race. I've got my eyes set on a couple of people to chase... maybe I'll even get a seat-cam cameo.

What happened this weekend??

I decided to hang around Boston and rent bike, but some brave souls ventured out to Londonderry, NH for the Velo Cross Challenge. Mike Wissell totally won a race by a very big margin. He also got second in the pro race. Way to do that. I also heard he didn't roll a tire, many thanks to Sean for that. Ryan Brazell got third in the fours, and Lauren Kling got second in their respective Cat 4 fields. Stubborn hardman Nick Maggiore represented in Brockton, with a 16th place finish, and a 6th place the following day at the MRC race in Wrentham. Good work, folks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Providence, day one, mostly involving cyclocross.

Being Wednesday, it seems like a good time for me to write a race report for last weekend now that I've forgotten everything. Where shall I get started..

Oh yes, Providence. Roger Williams Park. While I did not have much time to visit the zoo or ride the carousel, the racing was definitely top notch. And by top notch, I mean "really fucking awesome." On a scale of say, one to ten RFA's (my attempt to rip off popular blogger BSNYC's use of the DFU), I'd say Providence was definitely ten-ish.

Kevin's proclamation that Cat 3's ain't shit had me a bit discouraged, but I managed to press on and toe the line with like 100 other people who seemed to "be shit" in a non-crappy racer way. My results from Gloucester got me a first row call up, which was very helpful.

My start went pretty well, and I settled into a small group. Towards the end of the first lap, it was Colin Murphy, Chris LaFlamme, Colin Huston, and I off the front of the group. Before we crossed over, I made a small attack and went to the front of the group, hoping to put in some time on the run up.

After a couple of turns, I took the turn from the road into the gravel path before the run-up too hot and slid out. Quickly picking up my bike, I got back on 3rd places wheel through the run up section, though Murphy was pushing the pace on the following road section. I sat in the group for a little bit, a lap or two, recharging after blowing my first attack. The gap between the chasers and the top four group began to close, and I decided to attack again to prevent anyone from catching on. The best section for this, I found, was the back straightaway by the Clif arch, before the turn into the beer tent corner.

At this point, LaFlamme, Murphy, and I were trading places back and forth for a couple of laps. Towards the end I knew I'd need a gap to stay on the front. Huston fell off, then LaFlamme, and in the last section I managed to get a good enough gap on Murphy to avoid a sprint finish.

What did this all mean? I actually won! Despite what most people said, I was pretty psyched to get 1st, though at the time I was looking a bit ghostly and probably needed a piece of cake or a cheeseburger. Saturday was my first CX win ever. Pretty awesome.

Fellow BBB/ERC'er Mike Wissell also had a good race, placing 9th. Dude's been having bad luck with bikes lately, but he did well not to incur any mechanicals.

An important, and more serious, aside

On Friday night team-mate Harrison Seiler, formerly a full-time courier, had a bad spill on loose pavement while covering a shift for the day before his other job. He broke his jaw pretty bad, missed the Providence weekend, and will be off the bike for about 6-weeks. This rates at least -1,000 on the RFA scale. Heal up buddy! You'll be back in the saddle before you know it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Great Big Gloucester Post Part 2

The weather drastically altered course conditions on the second day. Sections were still sloppy, but drying out. Things were getting faster.

The course tape was everywhere, in a sort of spaghetti-like fashion. I had a pretty difficult time figuring out where everything went, at first. Racers were just going in any old direction, utter chaos. I'd speculated that the neatly fucked-up field behind the start area had something to do with it.

In any case, it turned out to be awesome, and completely rideable (even the sand pit).

Team Results: Or, how everyone else who is not a blog author did

Lori Kohls and Lauren Kling finished nearly back to back in the 3/4 Women, at 22 and 24 respectively. Harrison Seiler moved up quite a bit from his first day, finishing 12th in the Cat 4 Men, followed by Ryan Brazell (24) and Nick Maggiore (33). Good work!

Cat 3 Men: Or, for Mike, the Gloucester 5k running race

My finish on Saturday earned me a second row call up on Sunday. This was very helpful, though I managed to squander it by missing my pedal. However, I managed to clip in and stay near the front, and close the gap between myself and the leaders.

The pace was much quicker, but the circuitous course left a lot of passing opportunities in the turns. I managed to avoid a crash here and there, and a mishap or two of my own (sand pits and I rarely get along). I bridged up to Cary Fridrich and Kevin Sweeney, and in the 180 sections I began to see Brian Wilichoski. Cary dropped off from a mechanical, and it was Kevin and I alone. We were alongside each other on the road for the last lap, and Kevin said, "Good race." We traded passes a couple of times, though I managed to hold him off. I was looking back constantly, and he was right there on my wheel. I was seriously worried about messing something up, but I stuck to my lines and managed to stay clean through most stuff. He had a bit of a mishap, and by the time I hit the run-up right before the finish, I managed to put a couple seconds on him and finish up 2nd.

Totally awesome race, I felt good, and I was psyched on such a close finish. The best thing is that I almost missed the podium. See, I have these things called ears, and they tend to ignore important details. Like, for example, that UCI race podiums are directly after the finish. I got there just in time for Brian Wilichoski to get on the 1st place stand, and Richard Fries chided me with, "UCI goes directly to the podium." Honestly, I was super excited to get yelled at for that.

By the way, it was nice to see an all Cat 1 MTB podium on Sunday.

Looks like I managed to score some upgrade points both days. Maybe soon I can get lapped by Jonathan Page...

Also, I couldn't find many pictures from that race. My theory: Most race photographers are also Cat 3 racers. Or, no one likes me.

Big props also to Mike Wissell. He had a collision with someone that caused his tubular to roll for a third time, and ran almost the whole length of the course to the pit, and still finished ahead of at least 30 people. He did manage to hurt his back in the process, but hey, way to finish anyways.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Great Big Gloucester Post - Part 1

Gloucester is one of those "can't miss" races if you enjoy cyclocross in New England. Once it's over, you're already thinking about next year.

Day One

Saturday was a bit wet. Under a shanty town of pop-up tents, racers huddled for warmth.

Team Results

A significant portion of the BBB/ERC roster presented themselves, and had pretty solid finishes.

In the 3/4 women field, Lauren Kling finished solidly midpack (29th), with Lori Kohls close behind her (36th) in her first cross race ever.

The Cat 4 men had a big showing. Jon Malone placed 8th, followed by Nick Maggiore (23rd), Harrison Seiler (29th), and Ryan Brazell (34th).

The Cat 3 Men Race: Or, how to ride in the mud

Mike Wissell and I lined up together, in what can positively be described as my least comfortable staging experienced so far. Mike received a call up for his Vermont points, though I had no such luck. I staged a bit farther back, with some of the "riff raff." At this point, something was actually wrong with me, as most of the words coming out of my mouth made little to no sense. Chalk it up to the absolutely epic wind and rain that day. Seriously, it was sideways. I was freezing.

Once we started things got better, and I warmed up instantly. I managed to get past a few people during the start. I heard a pile-up behind me in one of the first turns -- I was fortunate enough to miss out on that. We hit the run up, and things began to thin out a bit. Last year, I made good use of the run up to pass like 8 bajillion people, but the sloppy mud made it much more difficult this year.

Everything was just absolutely crazy. This was the first real muddy cross race that I've done. This MTB season was good preparation, though.

Navigating the course was interesting -- if you powered too fast through some sections, you were wasting energy by braking super hard. A lot of sections required no brakes, and a good amount of patience, especially in the chicanes.

Somehow I moved through the field, though I never really saw the front. I placed a pretty solid 6th place. Mike came in 15th, a respectable finish indeed.

Image Credit: Lodri

More tomorrow...