Monday, October 26, 2015

Orchard Cross at Applecrest Farm 2015

This was one of my favorites last year and I believe it was also my best points result for 2014 as well.  It really is a great venue and event.  All kinds of nicknames are forming...Grassroots New England World Champs will stick I'm sure.  I don't know how hard Applecrest Farm orchards but if its anywhere near as hard as they CX then that is pretty impressive.  They certainly seem to be doing pretty well for themselves.  That new market / bistro thing they built is pretty damn impressive.  If we lived down there I bet we would be there a lot.

This year they used their farm equipment might and the help of a local landscaper to build an entire pump track in a field the night before the race complete with two big table tops, a 180 degree berm, and a series of rollers to pump.  The rest of the course was pretty comparable to last year with some grass straightaways, high speed corners, two sets of barriers, and a run up with stairs.


The 4/5 race was fully loaded at 100 riders and I had managed to lower my points enough this year for a front row start.  Not only that but race predictor had me on the podium which was very new for me.  It had been raining a bit all morning and the course was greasy and slick during pre-ride.  This had me very pleased.  Mud always seems to do me favors when it comes to my results.  I staged up middle left because of the line I wanted going through the little chicane turn before the first straight-away false flat.

Got a good start and was 3rd wheel heading into said chicane.  My line was correct and I exited said chicane winning the race.  This was VERY WEIRD.  I have never been at the front end of any cross race let alone a full 100 rider field.  Knowing that there is this mass of riders right behind you but having your path be completely clear and quiet is weirdly surreal.  I traded spots with Addison Minott a few times but I led a decent amount of the first lap.  I lapped through in second and was feeling pretty comfortable being there.  There were 4 of us in the lead group, pace wasn't too volatile early on lap 2.  Seemed we were all getting sorted and settled into something resembling a sustainable pace before we started attacking.

lap 1 run up at the front of the race

Unfortunately for me I didn't make it to the fun attacking part because heading into the run up on lap 2 I forgot to bring my bike with me after my dismount.  Not sure exactly what happened but as I went to clip out right before the stairs and grab my bike to run I either slipped or just missed the grab and basically just dropped my bike on the ground right across the track.  Luckily I didn't screw anyone else up but the lead group ran away while I got sorted.  Lost about 15-20 secs and finished about 15-20 secs off the podium. CYCLOCROSS!
A video posted by @kevinorlowski on

There was a bit more intrigue than that though.  I wallowed in no mans land for the rest of lap 2 and much of lap 3 trying to bridge back no avail.  Brian Cole was creeping behind me the whole time and eventually I could tell he was closing.  Lap 3 or maybe 4(?) I had a temporal issue getting back up onto my big ring on a straight-away and Brian powered past me.  I got shifting issues sorted before I lost his wheel and got back to proper racing.  Towards the end of 2 to go Jose Ordovas came up to us out of nowhere and we were a group of 3 going for 4-5-6.  Jose promptly crashed in one of the slickest corners on the course and I thought that was probably it for him based on the gap that opened up.

Brian and I were working relatively well together but Jose did it again and completely snuck back up out of nowhere.  He redeemed himself and made a good pass on the corner were he had crashed the previous lap.  He got a tiny gap heading into the pump track section and I was worried about diminishing real estate to get him back so I went all in at the entrance to the pump track section.  I left it in the big ring and was out of the saddle and hammering the whole way up.  I think I was probably a bit more comfortable than Jose on those features and was able to sneak by on the rollers.  I held the gap heading  back up to the grass but he passed me back shortly after.  I had to dig REALLY deep to stay on his wheel.  All that was left was a few turns, the barriers and then a short little out and back with a 180 before the finish.

I was hypoxic but right with him heading into the barriers.  He bobbled ever so slightly on the entrance and I got a half step through the barriers that turned into a bike length on the remount.  I think my remount must have been a bit smoother as well but I'm not entirely sure what was happening behind me.  I was focused on getting through the 180 fast and clean because from the other races I had watched coming by someone who didn't mess up that turn was near impossible in the distance that was left after.  I didn't leave anything to chance though and went as hard as I could to the line to take 4th.

I was really pleased to win out of that group.  That killer instinct to make those moves and hold those wheels when needed is not something I excel at.  I blame my lack of a truly competitive nature but I do like getting the most out of myself and there were certainly a few times my brain was telling me I did not have the capacity in that moment and I ignored it to great effect.

I'll be looking to put the finishing touches on my race resume for my Cat 3 upgrade request this coming weekend with the VT double of Paradise and Putney and then after that it might just be fat biking to end out the year.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hanover CX and Casco Bay CX Double Weekend

After two weeks off its back to business with another multi race weekend.  On tap was Hanover CX on Saturday and then Casco Bay CX in Portland Sunday.  I was feeling decently rested and looking to get some good results.  I've decided I'm making a full run at a Cat 3 upgrade this year.  I feel like I'm close to having the resume required and I might as well try to get it while I'm close.

Hanover CX

I did Hanover last year and didn't have an amazing day due to a crash and some resulting bike issues but its a challenging course that in theory should suit me and with the smaller field I was hoping I might be able to battle for a podium spot and some actual upgrade points.  It was going to be tough, there were some sandbaggers present and I was predicted just off the podium but I had a front row start so no excuses.

Got a good jump off the gun and the only two in front of me heading into the first turny bits was the Cat 3 roadie and the Cat 1 mountain biker (who went on to finish 1-2).  I was feeling pretty good and holding my position heading into the large sandy beach section.  You have to make 4 passes across the beach with 4 180 turns.  Sand was mostly rideable with really soft corners.  If you went wide the sand was holding up and you could keep momentum well.  My lines worked pretty well first time through and I was holding in 3rd in a group of 3-4 or so.

I was feeling confident heading in the main grassy chicane turning sections leading into the barriers and shredding pretty hard.  Unfortunately I think I may have gotten a bit too over zealous and overcooked a turn and went down at speed.  I think I may have had a tiny bit of help due to a crossed wheel by someone behind me but that's racing and I wouldn't fault anyone, they just finished what I started.  I slid across the course and that small group was right on me and they all snuck by as I was getting sorted.  Luckily no bike issues resulted and I was right back on it.

I was having a bit of a time clawing back up to the group, its a hard course to make up time due to all the rhythm stealing techy stuff.  I finally caught the dangler of the group on lap 3 coming through the start.  He made a good pass back heading into one of the steep ups to singletrack followed by an immediate steep down.  Shortly after I plowed through a techy section trying to bridge back up and dropped a chain.  Couldn't pedal it back on and spent 10-15secs getting it situated.  That was about it, after that I was stuck in no man's land behind the front group but with some space to the rest of the race and came in for 7th of 50ish starters.  Not bad but I felt like I should have been a bit farther up.

Casco Bay CX

This was my first go at Casco, last year I had opted to do the 'No Brakes' MTB race in Stratham but seeing as I'm making my Cat 3 push I figured I would stick with CX this year.  Plus I've heard a lot of good things about this venue/course.  Course is setup on the Eastern Promenade in Portland, another great ocean locale kind of like Gloucester.  I did Hanover completely solo but this was a full team affair, we all loaded into Sam's truck for the drive up.  Sam and Eric were taking on the Masters 1/2/3/4 in the morning and I was doing the SS, 4/5 double in the afternoon.

Sun was out but it was really breezy right on the coast and pretty damn cold first thing in the AM.  I was very glad my races were a bit later in the day. Those Masters races look hard.  Those old guys still go real fast and Eric and Sam had to do all kinds of traffic battling through the early parts of the race which makes it hard to get in a groove.

Eric probably red lining shortly after getting over the long run up

The course was really cool, probably one of my favorites now.  Pretty well balanced all told.  Longer power sections, plenty of turning, some technical stuff, lots of off camber, some climbing.  Eventually it came time for me to have a go at the SS race.  Promoters combine the SS with the Men's 1/2/3 race (probably to save some overall time because part of the road is closed during the race).  Luckily they gave us our own start 1min behind the 1/2/3's so we didn't have to worry about getting caught in any scrum but that also means we were 1min closer to getting lapped and possibly pulled.

I was actually ok with that because it meant I wouldn't have to ride a full 50mins and initially I was just planning on using the SS race as a warm up.  PRO TIP: This never works.  When the whistle blows you are gonna race hard, there is no escaping this.  It was a small SS field but I got a good start none the less.  Things split fairly quick on the false flat drag up the pavement.  If you can spin you were up front, if not see you later.  I think my 42-19 gearing was pretty ideal as well which helped.  So by the end of the initial spin fest I was sitting in the front group of 4 with some pretty heavy hitters.

this little bermed turn was super fun to hit at speed

I was a bit surprised to be hanging tough through basically the whole first lap.  Donnie Seib crashed towards the end of lap 1 and for the end of lap 1 and part of lap 2 I was sitting in 3rd until he caught and passed me.  I was extending my gap on 5th and feeling pretty good.  I was keeping Donnie close but wasn't making up any ground and eventually that elastic snapped and he got away.  Late in the race I was waiting to get lapped but it wasn't happening and it was looking more and more likely that I was going to make lead lap.

I even caught the back end of the 1/2/3 field and actually made some passes.  Low and behold I made lead lap (even with a 1min deficit to start) but unfortunately that also meant I was looking at a full race and being at the end of the field it was going to be 50+ mins...about 55min to be exact.  They were only offering 10mins between fields so my next race was in 5mins time when I rode into the finish.  The 4/5 race was actually already completely staged and ready when I crossed the line.

Eric was waiting with my other bike, swapped my numbers out and I rolled straight into my front row staging spot to some cheers and some "wait you're racing again? right now?" from other racers.  Sam had some black coffee for me to hit to warm up and get a little caffeine spike.  Certainly pays to have teammates present that's for sure.  Thanks guys! I couldn't have entered that deep deep pain cave without your assistance!

The 4/5 race was a bit of a blur.  All I remember was being really tired and trying not to crash.  I also remember Eric and Sam screaming at me constantly.  Eric was very good at finding me whenever I was basically drained on the bike soft pedaling and was quick to offer the advise of standing up and sprinting.  Which for some reason I did every time.  Sam also kept reminding me that no one on the course with me was my friend and that I should swallow my vomit and not allow them to beat me.  Also great advise.  I was thoroughly toast and fading throughout the race but teammate heckles are key to suffering successfully.

All things considered I held tough for a top 20 finish at 17th in a field of 73.  Not a horrible result and a great day of training that's for sure.  Got some great points from the SS race with my 4th place finish in a field of mostly Cat 3's.  My points are now down to 393 and I'm now one of the sandbagging a-holes I like to point out in the 4/5 race predictors.  I'm predicted at 2nd for this coming Sunday at Orchard CX.  I don't like that kind of pressure!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Night Weasels 2015

Finally! A cross race in 2015 that I don't have #dustlung after I finish.  I was really hoping for a crazy slippy slide-y mudfest, which we didn't quite get but I'll take no #dustlung.

Second time racing under the lights in the past week and a half although I personally don't race under the lights because as race announcer Ryan Kelly likes to point out we are just Cat 4/5's and are not good enough to race in the actual dark (probably mostly true).

I went into this race with higher hopes than usual.  Its a good course for me with all the climbing and descending and if its wet its even better.  The whole wet thing didn't really pan out.  New England got hammered Wed morning but it had been so dry much of the moisture was absorbed in short order and the course being a ski hill it drained fairly well right down and off the 'mountain'.  Course was probably dryer than it was last year.

you can tell I'm going faster due to the more pronounced speed blur

I was staged third row in the combined u40 and 40+ field of about 100 or so.  I got a good start and moved up to top 15 quickly.  I was feeling good early on the first climb and was the first into an alternate / faster line and passed 4-5 guys about halfway up moving into top 10.  Powered up the rest of the climb and was feeling good.  I didn't know it at the time but I had gone out a bit too hard.  I hit that climb on lap 2 and immediately felt bogged down.  Heart was a tad pinned and I was having a hard time bringing it back down.

Dudes were coming back to me in short order (including my nemesis Jesse) and I wasn't able to latch on as they came by.  3 or 4 snuck by in a small group and got about 5-10 secs pretty quickly.  I was riding the descents clean and making up time in the barriers and stairs but over the next lap or two I was swapping places with a few guys.  Including one young guy with lets call it an enthusiastic riding style.  He came by early on the first descent but then found one of the hidden pot holes in a spectacular fashion on the way down.  I could have warned him, I saw him heading right for it but he's young and made of rubber and this is a race so I let him endo and learn a lesson the hard way.

Katie always gets some good shots (check it)

I eventually got my heart rate sorted out and got a second wind of sorts but of course it was only in time for the bell lap.  It appeared like I was ever so slightly closing on a guy who had passed me with 2 to go.  So I made that my goal.  I timed the catch with pro peloton accuracy and caught him in the final turn before the finish straight.  He took it wide and I was able to cut it tighter in the inside and got the jump on him and held it to the line.  Unfortunately I somehow managed to not notice that there were also two more guys right in front of him that beat me by maybe a few bike lengths.  I think if I had realized that and pushed a bit harder earlier in the last lap I might have been able to make 3 passes last lap and gotten 10th instead of 12th in the combined field.

I was 5th in the u40 field two places better than race predictor had me.  Its been a pretty successful run of CX this month but also pretty tiring.  8 races in the last 12 days.  I only did 7 all of last year.  I've lowered my points from 491 to 403 and it's looking like I might actually need to consider a Cat 3 upgrade by the end of this year.  BIKES!