Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interlocken, cross racing week 7

This past Saturday was the infamous grass cx venue at Interlocken. I've never really loved the course, but have had some decent results there. This year would prove to be no different. During warm-up I was struggling to find the right psi, but once settled at 27/28 and leaning forward a ton, my Tracers were hooking up fine. There was a ton of grass, but it didn't seem as thick and power-sapping as in the past. I had a call-up, but not til about 10th position (non CO Cross Cup race). The promoter did not have the typical 8 slots per row. Probably bc the start straight was a huge grassy ball field. I perhaps could have snuck in the front row as the 9th or 10th person, and perhaps I should have. Dean Crandall gives us the 2min, then 1min, then 30sec. But I don't recall the 15 sec warning. Anyways, no distraction for me, I was ready as the whistle was blown. I was slotted in right behind Faia, but unfortunately that day he missed his pedal. We were in DFL immediately. Bummer! Race for the top 5 pretty much evaporated in the blink of an eye. I was in the 20s getting to the first run-up by the v-ball courts. I was disappointed, but stayed positive and told myself to just race my own race, don't burn matches too early, and try to be patient and work my way through the field. It worked fairly well, I was bridging up to small groups after the first couple of laps. It was great to hear Larry Grossman cheering, yelling "damn dog, you must've have taken a shortcut," since I was moving up pretty well. Near the 2nd to last lap, I caught up to Gallegos, Ariel and another guy. The wind was on the increase, and several sections of course tape were coming undone. A couple guys went down, some had some tape stuck in their bikes, but otherwise I rode back up to 8th place.

Not a great result, but happy with my fitness right now, and I still feel I am racing smarter every weekend. Like every other Colorado 'cross racer, I am hoping for great feelings this weekend, out at the Colorado Cross Classic and also the Boulder Cup on Sunday out at the cool Valmont Bike Park. The first significant snowstorm of the season is barreling through Colorado as I type this. Perhaps the Cubus will again see some action! I just want to go fast on the whistle, the rest will take care of itself.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blue Sky Velo Cup, CO 'cross racing wk #6

This past Saturday was another race at Xilinx (cheers!), this one put on very professionally by the Blue Sky Velo club crew. Over the years they have often held their race at Xilinx. I recall one ultra muddy race there about 2-3yrs ago, didn't last long as I was a victim that day of a section of the infamous metal edged landscape barriers. Anyways, this year's edition was very dry, and very fast. It was also the 2nd race in the Colorado Cross Cup, and a chance for the local CO/Front Range cylocross scene to reconvene after a memorable mud/dry weekend of racing the USGP up in Ft. Collins.

We were throwing a slumber party for Alina and 6 of her girlfriends later that eve, so Helen hung out (thank you babe!) and I made the 2hr drive solo. I arrived and was happy to see the yellow Mavic neutral support crew. Always a great sight for the solo racer with no one in the pits. Fortunately I did not need their services, though it's always good to know they have tons of extra wheels, and even some neutral bikes (C'dale CAAD 9s painted in Mavic yellow). In the parking lot I started out with 25 front/26 rear in my Specialized Tracer tubulars. Not yet having the pro setup of an electric, handheld air compressor, I have been quite happy with my little Topeak SmartGauge D2. Besides my trusty go/no-go Park CC3 chain checker, this digi tire gauge has been one of my best purchases this summer.

Back to the course, a couple laps of re-con had me in love. A perfect, wide, uphill start straight that funneled out down to some singletrack that veered south down onto the fields. And out there we were treated to some really fun, flowy singletrack. Many of the corners were gradual or even bermed, so it was pretty easy to hold your speed through the turns. Only a couple turns that were a bit awkward to me. We then made a short little power climb that brought us up to some "baby barriers," maybe 6" tall, and easily hoppable every lap, even for this old guy. Then a couple 180s by the pits, a bit of pavement, some swoopy, bumpy DH grassy turns, and we were then down by the bridge and up a set of maybe 3-4 small steps. I rode them a few times in practice. They were pretty sharp edged, and I was banging my rim pretty good trying to ride over them without slowing down too much. But that was just the problem, it was simply too slow to ride them...and had I carried more speed into them i prob would have flatted and/or roached my wheels. After a quick remount, it was down the grass, and back onto the pavement near the start grid, where we slogged up the road and through the end of the lap.

After final prep, I get back to the start for staging. Our 35+ Open field was riding in circles around one of the Xilinx parking lots. It was pretty comical looking, but anything to keep the legs turning before we were at a standstill at the line. Having finished 5th at the 1st CO Cross Cup race in Frisco a couple weeks earlier, I was psyched to get my call-up and I was locked and loaded on the front row! I had my bike in the common start gear, 23x46, ensured my left pedal was perfectly parallel to the ground, and took a few deep breaths. The whistle sounds and I again find my pedal very quickly, and am soon up in the front along with Ariel.

I probably should have checked my enthusiasm and saved a match or so, but I couldn't help myself and came through the finish line with the holeshot! It was pretty cool to hear LG calling my name. I hit the singletrack first and tried not to completely explode. I ride the first couple of 180s pretty cleanly, then sure enough, big boy Robson comes right through. Having fully expected this scenario, I slot in behind him and see how long I can hold on to his pace. Come to find out it wasn't too long! i dangle off about 50yds, and soon some fast guys come through, including Tyler Carrington, someone I have not seen before in our fields. And then Jesse Swift came through on his Gates belt-driven SS. Man was he motoring on that bike! My classic 3rd lap fade started, but I didn't let it stay too long. Frank Overton and McFarling came by me on the 3rd lap going up the climb. I latched on to their train and was able to stay with this group til the end. On our last lap, I was hanging with these two and I was pretty comfy, all the while trying to see where I was going to try and pass both of these guys. There were two straightaways out in the field that I was thinking about, but they were both pretty soft on the outside if trying to pass. Just as I was ready to try and pick off at least Ryan who was directly in front, Overton washed out on a corner and was down. On the next straight I passed McFarling and somehow held my advantage up the climb. I then passed Jesse who was limping to the finish on a flat. I came across the line in 3rd place, my first 35 Open podium in a CO Cross Cup race. Needless to say I was jazzed, and it made for a nice drive back up to the mtns.

I think now I have fig'd out the race starts pretty well, assuming I'm in the 1st or 2nd row. Just need to continue riding smart, and know where to try and burn my matches. It is amazing how spent you can be after just about 45min of racing. Now that mother nature has put an inch or two of snow on many of my local trails, it will be easier to ride intervals on the dirt and pavement, with less "distracting" singletrack available for my perusal. Gonna hang with the crew for part of the annual fall man trip this Thur/Fri out in Glenwood and GJ/Fruita. The thought of railing the Boy Scout Trail has me salivating already. And hopefully the Ribbon or some other killer ride Friday morning. Planning on checking out the thick, power-sapping grass of the classic Interlocken course this coming Saturday!

Tired buddies

Alina and I

We went hot tubbin' one night when my parents were in town. Alina loved it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

USGP New Belgium Cup, CO 'cross racing wk #5

This past weekend was the biggest weekend of racing here in Colorado, thanks to the New Belgium Cup held at the same venue as last year in Ft. Collins. Last year it was a cold, thick, muddy challenge for my bike and I. This year, the USGP schedule had the Ft Collins stop moved up a month to October 8-9. I thought that was fantastic, as I am usually racing pretty well in October, and I also thought having the event in October might offer a better chance of a fast and dry course. I was very wrong, as a very cold, moist system moved into Colorado Friday night. I was up with family on Sugarloaf, and awoke to an inch of snow. Driving down the canyon into Boulder it was raining, and most of the whole drive north through Longmont, Loveland and Ft Collins it was raining as well. I was mentally prepared for a fun day of riding on a slippery course. I wouldn't call myself a mudder, but I've always believed I can ride okay in the mud.

During warm-up the heavens opened, and it was raining and blowing pretty hard. Not sure how smart my 2-lap warm-up was on the rapidly deteriorating course, but it was good to see it mentally. I had about 24/25 psi in the Cubus and they were hooking up about as well as I could hope, and I could feel the rim a couple times each lap but it wasn't a problem. Leading up to staging and the call-up process I was getting cold quickly. I decided to jog around the block a couple times, as I was downright frosty. Big mistake to not have brought my trainer to spin in a tent somewhere. I hand my jacket off to Tim Assor and we line up in the chute. It was pretty cool to get the call-up, and I was surrounded by some fast fast dudes. There were 13-14 guys from out of state who had placed well at the first USGP stop in Wisconsin in late September. I knew they would not be messing around, having made the investment of time and money to make the trip out to Ft. Collins. Thanks guys! And, since they were undoubtedly in pursuit of call-up points for their nats->masters worlds trajectory, I also lined up with Pete Webber and Brandon Dwight from the BCS Ambassador Team. Now that was bad-ass! These guys are absolute studs, and are representing Colorado in a great way! Then of course were the usual suspects of Greg Keller, Jon Cariveau, Michael Robson, and other fast dudes.

The whistle sounds, and i find my pedal right away. Unfortunately I am in the 3rd row and am ready to go quicker than the guys in front of me! I have done a good job practicing starts and can usually rocket off the line very quickly. But I was a bit caged in, and am not as sly as the wizard Pete Webber. so I just sat back a bit and found myself in about 20th hitting the dirt. No worries, plenty of time to ride smart and maybe save that start match for a finish lap match. But soon I realized my legs didn't show up to race with me. I was trying to apply the pressure on the pedals, but it didn't seem to happen. I also was in the wrong gear almost every climb. Just didn't have it. So I rode and eagerly gobbled up the mud riding practice. But I was racing no one. Prob 30 or so guys passed to maybe 2 or 3 that I did, and I wound up 50th. Ouch! Bike worked okay, but my chain was stuck in the big ring on a few occurrences. Luckily the SRAM dudes styled me out on Sunday! I only hit the deck once, and it was pretty comical as I slid down the off-camber DH corner. After the race was the huge problem of warming back up the core temperature. I was in the car, heater blasting, for about 30min shivering uncontrollably. At least I had a good view of the TRP run-up for the womens elite race. Had to get back to Boulder to try this racing thing over again the next day.

Sunday the course was an entirely different beast. The mud had dried out almost entirely by our 1:30p start. What were sketchy slow turns became high-speed corners. I was so stoked during warm-up, I knew this was a better day. The Specialized Tracers at around 28/29psi were perfect today, tons of traction with a very fast tread pattern. Guys with many tire options were running file treads. It really was what us mtb'ers call hero dirt. Same call-up procedure from the day prior had me safely tucked up in the 3rd row. Whistle goes and we're off. Again I am locked in my pedals and ready to apply some power, but I don't have a clear path in front of me. I bide my time and again hit the dirt in about 15-20th position. Not terrible. This time, as we head down the high-speed back section of the course, I hit the long climb in a really good gear and pass a few guys. This would be a pattern for the rest of the day. Maintain on the descents, a few passes on the climbs, and ride the corners smartly. I still was tapping the brakes more than I wanted in the techy corners, but i didn't appear to be losing time to the guys just in front of me. Seeing the lap times in the results docs is pretty cool, and it confirmed I was riding about my fastest lap times on the last 2 laps. I came across the line in 16th, close enough to my goal of top 15. More importantly than the result, i didn't make many mistakes, rode negative splits, and finished strong. Great day on the course with a stacked field. Just the confirmation I was looking for that I can hang up near the front of the masters field.

Not going to nationals or worlds, now my other goals remain a good showing at the Boulder Cup wknd (10/29-30), a strong ride at States, and a good showing in the overall CO Cross Cup series. We'll see!

Picture courtesy of Shawn Lortie.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

FriscoCross, cross racing wknd #4

I've always looked forward to the Frisco cx races, just because I like to think the Front Rangers who race must be hurting in the thin air more than I am. They are used to racing around 5,000', not the 9,200' at the Frisco Peninsula. And this year, the FriscoCross Saturday race was the first points race in the Colorado Cross Cup series. This ensured deep fields, especially since the results affect the call-up process used for the USGP races next weekend in Fort Collins.

The course was the usual wood chip fest, with some burnt in singletrack in spots, a few raked smooth sections, some grass, a decent amount of pave, and a nice set of logs to get over. And I mean wood chips. Not quite the ridiculous level seen currently at Breck Nordic Center, but still enough to have some chips flying around your tires, often into your spokes, but hopefully not into your rear mech. I can't say I'm ever a huge fan of the course. But I can say that my mountain bike skills certainly help on courses like this. From feeling comfortable in the occasional 2 wheel drift, to seeing when I can take a new line around a corner, these things apply to the Frisco course. So yeah, I can do pretty well here without really loving the course. During recon prior to the race, i discovered 28/29psi would work best in the Spec'd Tracer tubulars I have just recently been using. They definitely have a nicer, more supple feeling sidewall than the Tufos I have used for years. And the Tracer tread pattern is a tightly spaced low knobbie like a mini Small Block 8, so it rolls really fast too. But the one disappointment is that the 33mm width looks very skinny, haven't measured it but looks like a 32. As a mountain biker who likes wider tires and a cx racer who will probably never race after mid-December, I should be rolling 34s, both for dry and mud tires.

I had a call-up based on last year's overall points to get me on the 2nd row. Had a great start, and was comfortably in the top 5 entering the wood chip descent at the top of the paved start hill. I tried riding with Faia, Robson, Steven and Ariel in the front group, but popped off early and pretty much dangled about 20-40secs off the back of this group for most of the race. And since I had such a great start and didn't really fade that much, even riding in 6th or 7th I still seemed to have a little gap on a bigger chase group. But in the last lap, the always negative-split-kinda-guy Chris Phenicie comes by me in the grass by the lodge, towing along Kervin. I stick right behind these two til the last steep hill, and there Phenicie gets his bike stuck in some course tape. I get off my bike, but quickly run around him to make the pass. I maintained on the back section and held on to 6th place. Kervin was about 6secs up. After spinning around to chat with the guys, I was happy to see that Faia took the win. But a few minutes later he tells me he was DSQ for getting tangled up with a lapped rider on the grass. I didn't of course see it happen, so I can't really form an opinion. I can simply say I hate to see that happen, to both the lapped rider who hit the ground and was scraped up & DNFd, and also to Tim who races hard and with good intentions. Slightly off topic but we prob need the ACA to more concisely address racing protocol/etiquette on dealing with lapped riders. Both a general post on their site, and perhaps the officials verbally reminding racers at the start line.

So with Tim's DSQ I slotted up to 5th place on the day. My goal was top 7, so I was pretty pleased with my effort. I almost threw up at the top of the paved climb on the 2nd to last lap, so I know I was digging deep. I had a great start, found my pedal quickly, was in the perfect gear. i didn't really make any major mistakes anywhere, handled the bike pretty well. I for the most part rode within myself. But it was tough as I was riding by myself, off the back of the front group, and in front of a chase group, for the middle 20mins or so in the race. So it was a TT-like effort in spots. Bummed I couldn't get the dynamics of racing with a group for much of the race. But I did get to mix it up early, and then again right at the end, so it all worked out. Maybe I should try to race the Cherry Creek TT series on my cx bike next year. Might be good training for both the local mtb series and apparently even some cx races.

The Sunday race predictably had much smaller fields. We rolled off the line with just 14 guys in the 35+ Open field. I tucked in behind Ariel and Faia at the start, but soon realized I again was not up to task to ride at the front. So I settled down, rode my own race and again finished 5th on the day. Great weather and perfect fall colors added to a fun weekend. Hopefully next year we can get LG or Towle into some announcing, and a better food vendor. We will see if the event becomes a 1-day race or if they continue the Sat/Sun double.

Big thanks to the promoters and friends Scott Bourque & Tim Assor. Without their idea and efforts, we would not have any cyclocross racing in Summit County. And thank you to the others who lended a hand in any way: Wilderness Sports, Jen Radueg, Renee & Mike Goldberg, Josh Petrucci, Erin Pheil, David Overstreet, Dr Winfield, Mark Thompson, Holly Wade, Clay & Kristin Schwarck, Town of Frisco, and to the sponsors.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Kingdom Park

Breck isn't known for it's ball fields and ball sports...but their field is pretty nice. And very scenic this time of year!