Sunday, July 29, 2012

SSUSA2012 Stowe VT

I don't even know where to jump in on trying to recap this weekend.  What a spectacle.  This race travels around the country with promoters battling for hosting rights after each edition.  George from won the rights last year and hosted this years edition in and around Stowe, VT.  This scene isn't for everyone, the race is equal parts party as it is biking and this crowd knows how to take things up a notch.

We rolled into town earlier on Friday and set up shop at Dustin's old ski coach's house right in town.  Awesome spot and Jason is fairly hilarious and will probably feature in a winter trip or two for some shredding.  We hung out for most of the afternoon, had a few beers and then rode our bikes up to the Matterhorn for the pre race shindig and to pick up our number plates.  Two were either number 69 or 666.

The next day we rode through town to the start at the polo fields.  Lots of lacrosse families were thoroughly confused with the droves of bikers showing up, some of which wearing lingerie or wonder woman costumes (you can get a feel for the debauchery here).  Lots of guys get pretty ridiculous for this thing.  I preferred to stick with our normal race kit, mainly for comfort on a long ride and to get NEMBA's presence known.  But I was able to find some spoke beads on Amazon earlier in the week so we at least had a bit of style points on the bike.

We got going and got straight to climbing, something we ended up doing quite a bit during the day.  Not sure if my Strava data is accurate, 5,000ft in just under 30mi feels a bit tall but I think Shaun's GPS was reading 3500ft at the finish.  At just 3mi into the race at the top of the first climb we had our first rest station stocked  The owner of the Alchemist was fully stocked with Heady Topper cans and a keg of some slightly lighter beer.  You can only get Heady Topper in the Stowe area so you know we had to stop and hang out for a bit.  It was cool hanging out with riders from all of the country drinking beer in the middle of nowhere.

After some Heady we got back on the bikes and got busy shredding.  All the good things you hear about the Stowe town loops are all well deserved.  Tons of great singletrack and George and crew put together a great course.  We (and lots of other guys) got a bit confused at one point because we didn't realize there was an out and back portion to the course and we were returning to town on a trail we had ridden in the other direction earlier on the course.  Some of the trail marking arrows were facing the wrong direction and many of us thought we had missed a turn.  So we wasted some time and went back and forth a bit trying to find where we were supposed to go.  Eventually we all just said screw it we'll just go back to town and hit the bar.  Low and behold that is what we were supposed to do...go figure.

The mid-station was right in town stocked with beer, whiskey, tequila, candy, cheese puffs and lots of other non-nutritious foods.  Like I said this scene isn't for everyone but we were having a blast.  We hung out there for awhile, Dustin bit through some beer cans...general merriment was had.


Not sure how long we stayed there total but we figured we should get back to shredding and crossed mountain rd and started climbing the trails on the other side of town.  Awesome stuff in there.  We were shredding right along at a decent pace when all of a sudden we see a guy riding back at us telling us we were lost.  We thought for sure we were still on the course...too much tequila at the rest stop?

We ended up getting turned around for a bit with a small crew trying to figure out where things had gone sideways.  We bushwhacked a bit and eventually found a trail that eventually hooked back up with the course.  No idea how/where we went wrong, but chatting with folks at the finish it sounds like lots of other people ended up doing the exact same thing we did.  The back half of the course was awesome.  Some big switchback climbs and some more sweet singletrack all culminating with a descent down Kimmer's which I think arguably is one of the best trails in New England.  So much shred.  The finish area was just another big party in the woods stocked with, you guessed it, more beer.  They tracked results for the first 30-40 riders and then everyone pretty much stopped caring.  We were out there for a long time and came in toward the back of the pack but had a blast doing it.

The competition to host next year, in true New England style, was a maple syrup chugging contest.  Several states put their hats in the ring and battled it out pounding a full pint glass of syrup.  Minnesota came out on top...that dude pounded that syrup in like 2secs, it was impressive.  The crew from Philly was none too pleased but I have a feeling they will come out on top in the not so distant future.


It was a hell of a day...I would definitely consider traveling for this.  Great way to sample the country's gnar and have a few beers while you are at it.  Minnesota in '13?  We'll see.  I'll cross post some pictures and videos as they are posted in the next few days.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Horror at Harding Hill EFTA NECS 2012 #6

I'd be ok with every race giving out syrup as awards

Ah the Horror.  Not my favorite course but like I've said I keep coming back so there must be something to say about that.  It is well organized for sure, probably some of the most efficient race promoters in the series (more on that later).  They mixed things up a bit this year and ran the course in the opposite direction.  Apparently years ago that was the way they ran it but I've done this race for 4-5 years in the other direction so its been a while.  It changed the feel and dynamic of how it rode quite a bit.  Climbs went from long and gradual to short and steep.  But the chatter remained, no matter what direction you were heading.  If you ride rigid you better be ready to vibrate at the Horror.  Luckily I thought ahead and threw my thudbuster on last week in an effort to help me stay seated and pedaling.

I have no real idea how big our field was, there were 5 pre-reg'd and with the mass starts its hard to tell who's who.  They ended up starting us with the Sports this time around which was...interesting.  Not really sure the reasoning behind that but I guess all told it worked out ok, but we did have to go full gas from the gun to try and get out front to avoid traffic later.  Things got going and Pete M., Taylor C. and myself got out front of the field with Mark not too far behind.  Pete disappeared (per usual) and I had Taylor in sight so I tried to bring things back to a bit more sustainable pace to recover a bit.  I was maybe 25-30ft behind Taylor when he topped out on the big climb early in the lap and by the time I got to the top he was GONE.  I thought I would catch him before long but the descents in that direction did not suit my bike at all.  Long, gradual, super high speed washboard.

I was moving ok but I'm sure a bit slower than anyone else with some squish to soften things out a bit.  Mark caught me about halfway through the first lap after being just a tad too far back in the start and getting caught in some Sport traffic on the climbs.  I continued to hammer expecting to catch Taylor soon, he had mentioned he hadn't been feeling 100% at the start but I think he may have been playing mind games.  Lapping through and he was still out of sight and I was beginning to think he had pulled a fast one on me.  The way this course was running I didn't really have too many spots to use my particular strengths and I was starting to worry that if I couldn't get him by the big early climb he would be able to stay in front on the washboard descents.

Sure enough as I rounded the slight corner on the climb I see Taylor topping out again about the same distance ahead of me as lap 1.  And again as I got to the top he was nowhere to be seen.  I knew I had to catch him in some of the slight climby terrain at the end of the lap to give myself some real estate to put some time into him before the descending started again.  Luckily I finally rolled up on him towards the end of the second lap.  Tried to keep the pressure on as much as I could to get some distance.  Now I just had Pete and Mark in front of me so now it was time to just settle in and keep things moving.  I was still worried about Taylor coming back in the fast chattery stuff though.

3rd lap was pretty uneventful, just more hot and fast suffering.  4th lap I was getting hilarious sloppy.  My ability to hold a stable line was completely gone.  Luckily I was able to keep things upright but I'm sure I was bleeding time that whole lap.  It was lonely out there, because they started us with the Sports we were 5 mins behind everyone else doing 4 laps and everyone we started with stopped at 3.  I have years of DFL practice though so it was no issue.  Stopped the clock at about 1h45m a good 12m clear of Pete and about 6m off Mark for 3rd.  Pretty pumped for a fairly legit podium but I think the one at Pinnacle I missed would have felt a bit better due to the larger field there.  Unfortunately I missed the podium photo op because the promoters were so efficient they did awards probably within 5mins of the last few Expert/Elites coming in.  Apparently I didn't even have enough time to change at my car.  Just as I'm heading back up the hill I see Pete coming down with a huge thing of syrup and a slightly smaller thing of syrup....uh oh.  I guess that's why they invented Photoshop right?

team photo stolen from Mark

Changing gears a bit now.  SSUSA this coming weekend and then nothing official until the 100 in mid August.  Time to start racking up the saddle time.  Also probably going to get back in the gym doing more consistent interval stuff to try and peak again a bit heading into the Fall.  YEEHAA.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

All out in Moody Park EFTA NECS 2012 #4

Remember that time the Sox won the series after they hadn't for like 4000 years?  Well this is kinda like that except Moody hasn't had a race that wasn't a mud fest for at least the last two times they've hosted a race but I think we are clear of the curse and today was exquisite.

A dry Moody Park is on par with the Pinnacle; great mix of terrain, decent amount of climbing, full gas, suffer/awesome'fest.

I arrived early to 'put out the vibe' and watch our Novice and Sport riders head out.  Eric and Nate were looking for another 1-2 sweep of Novice Junior and were only kept at bay by a strong slightly older rider.  They came in for 2nd and 3rd.  I didn't get to catch up with some of our other riders, the starts were a bit closer than some of the other races so I was busy with battle prep.

 future of the sport

Our SS class ballooned a bit with day-of registrations which was nice.  I was worried it was just going to be the 5 of us, but I think we got up to about 12.  Unfortunately some of the guys rolling in were of the 'silly fast' ilk.  Like Dejay Birch fast.  Literally.  And he was escorted to Claremont by none other than Thom P. AKA BigBikesMedia.  Pete M. showed, Brad B., Taylor was gonna be a good old time.

Everything was nice and civil until around when the gun went off.  Probably the fastest start I've been a part of this season.  Usually I'm right up in the top 1/3 of the field but I was pretty quickly relegated to about 9th or 10th of 12 right out of the gate.  We did our parade lap and got to railing a super fast, super fun descent.  It was me and Mark again, trying to work our way up.  We made a few passes within the first mile or two and were up working on mid-pack.  We caught Brad B. heading into the climb right after the first pass through the Cavity and we were sitting 4-5 behind the silly fast 3 of Dejay, Thom and Pete.

Not long after that we rolled up on Pete on the tail end of fixing a flat.  He was just jumping back on as I came up.  I asked since he was back here if he would mind towing me up to Dejay, he was very cordial and responded with a "Sure, hop on!".  He then promptly dropped me like I was standing still.  I still had Mark in my sights about 10-15ft up and we basically lapped through together.  I was able to keep the gap around there through the descent and the initial techy meandering climbing but as soon as we hit that middle fire road descent section he got away with his slightly bigger gear and that was it.

Luckily about a mile or two later Carl caught me and we got to NEMBA two-man TT'ing for a bit.  We actually stayed together off and on for a bit.  He would get away a tad and then have some bobble or issue and I would catch back on for a tad.  Definitely is nice to ride with teammates when the opportunity arises, but he eventually got away for good en route to a 3rd in Vet I.  The third lap ended up being fairly brutal for some reason.  Maybe it was because I was isolated and got a bit lazy or because the first two laps were such a slug fest but I was definitely cognitive of a pretty significant slowing of my legs and general forward progress.  Cramps were starting to tweak my calves here and there and the heat was not exactly enjoyable.

Unfortunately my lap 3 slow down led to getting caught at the top of the climb before the lap point by a Boloco rider in the SS class.  I believe his name was Andrew L.(?) he was a new face to me in SS, I was able to latch on as he went by and we lapped through together.  He offered to let me come by because "he was not very good in the turns" which was nice because he didn't have to offer that and it was much more enjoyable to take some serious risks trying to get away from him without him in front of me.

I took that descent like a maniac, probably my fastest attempt at that section all day but ultimately it wasn't enough as he creeped back to my wheel after the next climby section.  We yo-yo'd in some of the undulating techy stuff but as soon as we kicked out onto the smoother gradual climb to the Cavity I knew he was going to push it.  He had about 10 more watts than I did...I was able to hang for a bit but I could feel that it wasn't sustainable.  He slowly started opening a gap and I decided to dial it back a bit hoping he would bonk or have an issue in some technical terrain and I was going to save my last few matches for the final climb.

My strategy didn't work out and he ended up besting me by about a minute or so I think...Mark was another minute in front of him.  I don't regret it though, it was the only workable strategy I had at the time.  And even though 6th is kind of one of my old standard placings this field was stacked.  I rode clean and had a blast so I'm plenty happy with the day.  Just think 4-6 years ago I was finishing 15-30mins behind just the local fast-ish guy and now I'm coming in 15mins behind professional SS'ers.


I really hope the word gets out on this course and it returns to what it once was.  It's a great venue and super gnar.  I'll be looking forward to coming back next year after I find those 10W I was missing...