Sunday, November 23, 2014

New England Regional Cyclocross Championships 2014

Now I know why most people just call this race Fitchburg.  Thats a mouth full.

Unfortunately the 4/5 category is not a 'championship' category so we were not battling for the Champions jersey.  Not sure why that is, maybe a USA Cycling thing?  Just because we suck and we're slow means we can't attain Champion status?  I guess that makes sense actually.

Start of the SS race. Looking forward to joining these guys a bit next year.

Even though there was no sweet jersey on the line it was still a very well attended race particularly the 4/5's.  Max 125 pre-reg'd and I believe there were about 120 staged at the start.  I think that is the biggest field I've been in to date.  Lots of sandbaggers too.  Top 20 guys or so all had less than 400 crossresults points, some even had low 300's.  I was staged back mid pack at 56th.

Due to the flat and fast nature of the course and the large field sizes the promoters had incorporated a prologue loop for the start in an attempt to line things out a bit before heading into some of the more narrow parts of the course.  The last 1/4 mile of the course was a super wide (maybe 40ft?) flat grass highway so for the first lap they had us come through the start finish and then take a left instead of the usual right and we entered that last 1/4mi to drag race it out back through the start/finish and off to the rest of the course.

Because of this the promoters spent probably 5-10mins explaining that you didn't need to go nuts off the gun in the tighter finishing straight (with metal barriers on each side etc) because there would be plenty or room/time to pass in the massive grass highway.  GUESS WHAT HAPPENED????

Bunch of doods got tangled and exploded in the first 50ft.  Carnage happened about two rows up and to my right.  I was just able to sneak by the worst of it on the left but a few guys popped out of the front corner and collided sending one dude into the metal barriers. I just snuck by him as he fell over back into the course.  Crisis averted and I probably moved up at least a row or two in all the commotion.

Much of the rest of the day was a big ring hammerfest.  There were a few interesting features, small loose run up, an little up/down section on a small side hill with some logs to get over, small pinwheel followed by a chicane through a sandpit but the rest was all flat wide open grass.

I was bleeding spots most of the race.  Always in the long straightaways.  Luckily I had moved up pretty far in the start.  I would hang in a group for a bit, get dropped.  Catch back on at the run up or turny bits.  Hang with the group for a bit longer, get dropped.  Kinda went like that all day.  I was feeling ok and riding cleanly I just didn't have the mass and power to hang on those long drags.

At one point a gorilla of a dude came by me (must have been 250+?) going probably twice as fast as me turning a massive gear.  He probably hates hills but loves smashing guys like me on courses like this.

I was a bit isolated the last two laps dangling just outside top 30.  I was trying to catch two guys in front of me but was worried about saving some energy for the grass highway of doom.  And sure enough heading into that section I put my head down and tried to muster as many watts as I could but in the widest stretch probably 250yds or so from the finish a small group swamped me and just like that 4 guys go past.  I was able to get on the 4th wheel but I could hear more behind me as well.

We took a slight left (into a slight headwind) and continued to mash.  I was running out of juice and a small gap started to open to the wheel in front of me.  We rounded the last corner into the finishing straight.  I dropped a gear got out the saddle and tried to punch it but there wasn't much there.  I got back up to 4th wheel but didn't have enough to get around.  I had drifted right a bit and got a tad boxed in and a kid came back with a ton of momentum up the left had side and nipped me at the line. #whoops.

Lost 5 spots in the last 1/4 mi to fall from 35th to 40th.  Stings a bit, but considering I'm not built for grass crits at all and that I was predicted to come in 56th I still feel pretty good about it.  Decently strong end to the season for me.  I've still got Ice Weasels in a few weeks but I can't see myself taking that one too seriously.  What with all the beer and probably snow/cold etc.  Plus my training from here till then will consist of Thanksgiving and Thanxmas.  #foodwatts

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Paradise Cross Frenzy 2014

This race and this blog should get married.  Bikes and beers. Racing at a brewery. I like it. a lot. Except that this course wasn't all that great for me.  But its all good, its not about results for me in CX.  Just fun and a good workout and this delivered.

Even though this race is put on by a local shop (Paradise Sports) I feel like they should make it more obvious that the race takes place at the Harpoon Brewery.  I feel like this race should have been way better attended.  It wasn't a ghost town but I mean come on guys ITS AT A BREWERY.

Course was trending a bit more towards grass crit, probably the first real 'power' course I've done so far.  Longer straightaways, false flats, pretty much all grass, one bigger run up followed by an off camber descent into more straightaways...180....straightaway...180...repeat.  Don't get me wrong I'm not saying the course was bad in any way I just don't have the mass to throw down on grass.  Now if this course had been wet? Oh on.

It was a pretty small 4/5 field, maybe 33 pre-reg'd(?).  No staging or call-ups so I ended up second row, probably about where I would have been anyway.  I think race predictor had me at about 13th. Start was fast and then it was pretty much full gas, very little recovery the rest of the race.  Most of the turny bits were very quick and offered no respite before you were out of the saddle and hammering down the next straightaway.  There were a few punchy little climbs as well that did a great job of murdering my legs.

The steep run up was fun, I'm finding I'm much faster getting up stuff like that then most others.  The off camber descent was interesting.  As the race went on it got a bit choppy and because you are just remounting at the top you have to be real sure you hit your pedals otherwise things got sketchy fast.  One of my middle laps I remounted too fast / sloppy and had a hilarious descent of almost exploding about 4 times.

I was in the front group of about 10(ish) for the first lap and a half.  I was on the tail of the group getting whipped around a bit as I would try to hold wheels in the straightaways only to get jammed up in the corners and then have to sprint back on.  Eventually that rubber band snapped and they drifted away.  I was solo in no mans land for a bit until a few guys caught me.  Spent the rest of the race yo-yo'ing with a few of them.

It felt like a really long race.  Probably because it was so fast.  Felt like we ended up doing maybe 6-7 laps instead of the usual 4-5.  No real idea where I ended up (stuck around for a bit but never saw results)  Maybe top 15?  I believe I made 2 passes on the last lap, one on the run up and another just after the barriers.

Reg came with a free beer wooden nickel which was awesome, way better than a t-shirt (mountain bike promoters take note).  I'm fairly certain I'd do this one again.  Although I'll pray for rain next year.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Orchard Cross 2014

orchards make great CX venues

As my cyclocross experiment continues I think I have found my favorite course/event so far.  Orchard CX at Applecrest Farm has some serious production value.  Farm equipment on hand to build interesting course features, a full blown farm stand/market complete with cider donuts and hot cider, a petting zoo, pick your own apples...oh and a cross race.

tower of power

The 4/5 race was loaded.  Full combined field with the juniors of 100 and 91 starters in my race.  Luckily my current points got me staged third row.  First part of the start went smoothly.  Everything was fine until we reached the second corner with a short rise up to another straightaway.  Corner was gravel so of course a guy crashes right in front of me.  Luckily he popped right back up and it only held me up for a moment but it was enough to kill momentum and lose a few spots.

Luckily most of the rest of my 1st and 2nd lap went great.  I was feeling good and the course was great for me.  Many of the corners could be taken at pretty high speed if you knew what you were doing and that is an area where I know a bit more than others.  Carnage was minimal early on although there was plenty of dudes catching tape and/or apple tree branches.  There were some really cool man made features on the course the best of which was probably Cowbell Corner.

Basically a huge bermed turn with a whoop and then a miny table top right after.  The high line was top fun.

I got into a good group and was racing for top 20 for a bit on my second lap.  Heading into the 3rd lap things started going a bit less ideal for me.  The super fast juniors started working their way through and caught us about 1/3 of the way through the 3rd lap.  One of them crept up on me and tried to come around wide on a high speed slick sweeping corner.  I didn't know he was there and as I was using the course to drift out and scrub my speed without taking too sharp of a turn we bumped and because he probably saw me coming he prepared and held his line and I ended up sliding out and going down.

Wasn't a bad crash but enough to tweak my shifter a bit and drop my chain and lose the group I was in.  I can sit here and try to blame him but that's cross.  I probably would have just given him the pass if he said something because I wasn't technically racing him but ultimately its on me.  If I had known he was there I would have also prepared and just put him in the tape.  Oh well, I can always take out the juniors in my next race.

Took me a bit to get back into the groove after that.  I was probably still top 25(ish) at this point but it looked unlikely I was going to get back up to that bigger group.  Luckily a few other guys dropped off that group as well and I swept them up about half way through the last lap.  Passed one heading up a false flat drag into a high speed corner that I was able to take much faster and got the next at the main run up where he bobbled.

I was able to put a bit of real estate on them but I was getting tired and pushing hard for the finish and starting to make some mistakes and poor line choices.  I think keeping a level head last lap might be something I need to work on.  Less frenetic more business.  It looked like one of the guys had cracked but the other was surging.  I had maybe 5 secs heading into the final barriers which I thought was going to be enough.  Until I completely missed my remount after the barriers.  Like completely missed my pedal on both feet and came to a dead stop heading into the false flat sprint to the finish.  Not ideal.

My 5 sec gap decreased rapidly and I was looking at a 100yd sprint against a dude that was built quite a bit better for sprinting than me.  I put in a valiant effort but he nipped me by maybe half a wheel at the line.  Ended up with 23rd of 91.  My best result to date so far.  I had been in the group that ultimately contested 17th-21st. I seem to be figuring this cross thing out, points continue to lower and I'm having a good ole time doing it.

Next race will probably be at the Harpoon Brewery in VT.  Can't beat that!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gordon Barker No Brakes Race 2014

I finally figured out why my cross results aren't quite as good as I thought they might be...I'm not actually fit! Like really at all!  Well I mean I am decently in shape, I haven't been doing nothing all summer but I certainly don't have the "normal" amount of race efforts etc. that I have in my legs this time of year.

I sort of had it in my head that despite that fact I had ridden enough to be in similar shape to years past.  I had this in my head because I hadn't had a good familiar race MTB effort to inform me otherwise.  Until yesterday when I got dusted at the No Brakes race.  Apparently the sharp end of my fitness is about as sharp as silly putty.

I suppose in my defense the Expert field was a bit stacked.  These late season races have a tendency to only bring out the folks who trend a bit more serious and fit.  Who probably all have a full season of racing in their legs.  And also in my defense I was in the back of the front group for maybe the first mile or so until putting my transmission in reverse.

It happened slowly but just about every time there was an extended climb or there was a prolonged straightaway power section or just about anything that required that punch, it just wasn't there and guys would pass me here and there for just about the whole first lap.  I didn't feel bad on the bike and I was riding cleanly it was just like being at 3/4 speed and trying to hit the gas and getting nothing.

I got over it pretty fast though.  I adjusted my expectations and just got to enjoying the fact that I was riding "hard" on my mountain bike and my wrists weren't really hurting.  The trails at Stratham Hill Park aren't super technical by any means but they are certainly more than Franklin Falls which is really just about all I've been riding off road this year.

Even though I was hanging back in the tail end of the field there were still guys back there with me and it felt like racing.  I got to battle with a guy second lap a bit.  We were together for much of the lap.  I was a bit smoother in the turny stuff, gaps would open and close.  Ultimately I tried to 'attack' him right before the last climb of the day but really all I did was eliminate myself from contention once and for all.  All my last little effort did was suck the last remaining glycogen stores out and initiate a nice little mini-bonk.

I was a bit lazy with race prep and probably didn't have enough calories before / during the race.  We were only about 1mi out from the finish and if I had really cared I probably could have kept the pace up and battled and just collapsed after the finish but I definitely didn't care that much.  Struggled up the last climb and soft pedaled in to the finish.  Even got nipped about 20ft from the line by a guy finishing strong haha.

I really enjoy the course at No Brakes and I've said it before and I'll say it again I hope the promoter thinks about making the leap into one of the summer series.  The facilities are great, the course is well balanced and the proceeds go to building and maintaining the trails at the park.  Can't ask for much more than that.

My wrists are somewhat holding up this morning albeit a bit sore.  I think this race was a good indication that I'll be able to get back into things next year at least on courses that aren't too crazy.  It felt great to be out in the woods hurting real bad on some sweet trails.  I didn't really realize how much I missed it.  I think I can eventually get over not being as fit as I was in 2012 and just focus on being pain free and having fun.  Here's to hoping I'll be back at it in 2015.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hanover CX 2014

Oh the humanity!

I'm coming to realize that sometimes you just miss the giant race changing pile up and sometimes you don't.  That's life and that's racing.  And sometimes the entire race is a massive mess of pileup after pileup where your only hope is trying to minimize the damage.

I exaggerate a bit.  Today wasn't quite that bad but it was probably the closest I've seen to that in my short CX career.  Hanover is probably the most technical course I have seen to date and it was apparent that many guys in the 4/5 field don't spend a lot of time on singletrack that has roots and leaves and short/sharp hills.

The course had several singletrack sections most of which had a steep incline into the trail and then a very steep but short descent dumping back out onto a path or road.  So gearing was key, picking the right line was extra key and the knowledge of when and where to apply pressure so as to not spin out and fall over was at a premium.  There was also a huge beach section next to the pond in the park that was really interesting.  This weeks heavy rain had created these little drainage fissures running through the sand as well as these pretty deep depressions where water had pooled.  It was three sand straightaways with corresponding 180 hairpins.  The straightaways were pretty easy but the corners were chewed up soft/deep sand.  Pretty easy to ride early but got harder and harder and ultimately probably got faster to just run.

The first lap crazy was a bit extra crazy.  There wasn't quite enough of a run out before we hit the first chokepoint which included a steep run up straight into singletrack.  I got to the top and was greeted by a parking lot.  Standing room only, guys just milling around waiting for their turn to move.  Luckily I'm pretty good and making passes in singletrack parking lots so I started hauling up the side running past people as they tried to clip in in traffic.

Got up to about where I wanted to be at that point somewhere in the 15-20th range and got into a small group heading into the sand.  Had to run a lot of the ups and downs into singletrack because of the traffic.  Made a few more passes but also got passed here and there.  I REALLY need to work on my power at threshold.  Far too many of my hard earned passes in technical stuff come right back when it flattens and widens out.  GOTTA MAKE THOSE STICK.

Second lap was my fastest.  Things had spread out and the group I was in was working pretty well.  I was able to ride most singletrack sections that lap due to clean paths to make a solid attempt.  At that point I was fairly certain I was in for a good day.  I was racing for top 15 and legs felt pretty good.  Then we lapped through and got up and around the first little chicane and were heading down to the sharp 180 into the first run up aaaaaaaaand our group exploded.  Quite literally.

I was taking a wide line in the middle of the group and getting ready to dismount heading into the turn.  Just as I clicked out some sort of something happened back and to the left (BACK AND TO THE LEFT).  I'm guessing some guys got tangled trying to turn and ended up going straight.  Right into me.  Basically got sideswiped and went down pretty hard on my left side.  Picked up even more rash on my left leg to add to my shin gash but the biggest casualty was my left brifter.  The next time I tried to get into my big ring it was no dice.  Almost seemed like the two paddles were stuck together somehow.  I was stuck spinning to win and was having a hard time holding the tail end of the group.

Then I finally got into the big ring and things were fine...for a bit.  Until the next time I had to get off the big ring.  Rinse and repeat as necessary in order to loose almost ten places over the next 2-3 laps.  Lost all rhythm and got bogged down or spun out repeatedly for the rest of the race.  By the last lap I think the paddles finally freed themselves and it seems fine now that I've cleaned the bike up.  I made two or three passes on the last lap and was about to make one more but ran out of race.  Came in 23rd  of 60ish? (exactly where race predictor said I would).  I was staged 30th so even with all the strife I'm ok with the outcome.

It was a really fun course.  Although I would have loved to race it with maybe half the people. Now its back to racing for NEMBA tomorrow and Orchard CX next weekend! #braap