Saturday, November 28, 2009

Augusta #2 CX Race Recap

Thanks to mother nature holding off the showers the course was delightfully dry today. That was the best part. It was windy and cold to start the day. Thankfully by the time it got to my race, it warmed up and was pretty spectacular. To make it even better, today was my mom's 66th birthday and she decided to share it with me as she officially spectated at her first cyclocross event. So with mom and dad in the crowd, I had a little pressure to perform, which I hoped I wouldn't let them down.

So after working all morning scoring the first races, and taking care of course issues, I kitted up and got ready for my own race. The B race went off at 1 and was warming up nicely as we came to the line. I got a nice call up as currently I'm sitting 7th in the NJBA cup cross series. I was feeling better this week as I actually toned down my riding and was a little better prepared for this. It was a field of 15 or so and with my usual standing, I figured I'd somehow find a way to finish in 7.5th place to keep my mid-pack streak going. So with a decent warmup I toed the line and awaited the blowing of the ceremonial trombone at the start.

Off we went and I had an amazing place going into the first hill - fighting for dead last. I thought I came out pretty hard and I guess it wasn't hard enough. So I sat in and pedaled strong and each corner I got through a few more, and then a few more. By the time I got around for my first lap I was sitting comfortably in second. Wow-second. Ok, I was hoping I could hold onto this for a little while to keep my confidence a little higher. As the second lap went on I looked back to see a solid group of 5 (including myself) had broken away from the field. Sweet - as long as nothing goes wrong I'd have at least a top 5 - or so I thought. After that lap there was only 4 on the lead pack and I was still in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd depending on the corner. 3rd lap came around and it was still the group of 4 holding strong and me solidly in 2nd. It seemed the pace was weakening the two behind and I hoped I'd stay strong. I knew the guy in front of me - Chris - is a super strong rider and I was totally content holding his wheel. I didn't think I'd be doing that well. So as we kept on lap 4 came about and there was only 3 of us. Part way through Chris and I kicked it up a notch and started a gap to third place. Awesome! If I can only hold this I'll see if I can make a move and go for the win.

I knew where Chris was strong and I knew where I was strong. My better part of the course was early on so I figured I'd punch it there and see what he's got. The final lap came and when I hit my section I launched. I needed that gap since he was stronger towards the end of the course. Back towards the barns I stayed strong but as Chris is an accomplished road racer he flew right on to my wheel. Across the field and onto the gravel road he comes by and drops the hammer. I do what I can but can't match his speed. I stay on it and go up the run up as his gap is holding. I want first so bad I push as hard as I can and stand to try and get back on. It's starting to work as I fly through the sand and start closing into the barriers. I got close but not close enough. As I get to the finishing straight he's got about 30 feet on me and he was driving hard. Not enough time or juice to close that gap. So I pushed hard to the line and took my first ever 2nd place in cross.

I am totally satisfied with that finish. Chris is a super strong dood and I'm glad that we stayed together that long after my rocky start. It felt good to ride a very good strategic race. There were points where I knew I could ride faster but I used him to not do all the work, which was a very positive strategy. I waited for my moment and took it. I did all I could and the better man won. Instead of just going all out I really thought things through and raced a really solid race. What a good day!

After all it turned into a nice beautiful day. I got a great finish and some great points for the NJBA cup. Even better was the fact that I had a great audience with my parents thoroughly enjoying something they have never seen before. Pretty awesome day. Especially in hindsight knowing that I now have a flat tire from dinging my front rim on a cement edge on my final lap. It could have been a much more stressful finish if I had to do a tire swap on the last lap as my 2nd place was falling away... They say cross is a sport where you have to go as hard as you can until you puke - I almost got to feel that first hand on my last lap today. SWEET!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Augusta #1 CX Race Recap

Today was round #1 of the two Augusta races that my team (Team Bulldog) and Skylands Cycling put on and it was a blast. The course was fast and fun and everyone seemed to have a great time. I had some struggles as the miles and schedule of my previous weeks seemed to catch up with me. I just didn't have the normal top end that I had so I knew it would be hard to do really well. I gave it my best shot any way.

I actually had a pretty good start as I got the hole shot but it didn't last long. I got passed shortly after and up the first climb a few more got through. By the end of the 1st lap shuffling I was in 7th and pretty comfortable there. I had a guy fairly close in front and a strong back of 3 behind. On lap 3 I got the guy ahead and made it stick on a straightaway. If I could hold this I'd be super happy. Then lap 4, one of the previous 3 guys snuck through and for a second I passed him back through the sand. He rode, I ran, I won - at least for that one small race. He passed me back and gassed it so I couldn't hang on so no biggie. I was in 6th and now back to 7th. Still good.

The first guy that I worked so hard to pass, slowly was coming back and every time I put down a good effort to open the gap - he slammed it shut. Through the last barriers I had a few feet on him and then I had trouble clipping in. That gave him the window to just eek me out by a few inches in the final sprint. That's all he needed. So it at least was a good struggle and I didn't just let him blow by. I put up a good fight but lost this round. 8th was the place for this weekend. I believe there were 17 starters so all in all not too shabby. My mid packness continues!!! Up next - Augusta round 2.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mercer USGP of CX - Racing with a Force Field

Today I took the drive south to the Mercer County USGP of Cyclocross. I only entered today for fear of having two horrid days in the mud. Although I should have registered a little earlier as my starting spot was a good place to spectate from, but not for racing.

I started out about 70th? of 86 starters. Off the line it was hot as usual but with a little carnage. As it heated up a rider comes from the right and hits my bars and then I hear the unmistakable sound of metal on the ground as he was pavement surfing. I'm not sure if he got pinched or what but either way I'm sure he wasn't happy. I'm just glad that our bars didn't lock and take me down with him - hence the force field. So I kept on it and got a bunch before we entered the dirt section of the course. The bottle necking died down at the end of the first lap and the real racing could then take place.

I kept on it and made some nice passes on lap 1 and two and lap 3 was a little fewer as the racers stretched out. Of course the only time that I went down, Jay from Halters had to be sitting right on the corner screaming GOOOOOOO!!! which I found very entertaining from the ground. So as the laps went on my handling got better as I dialed in the course. I actually found a section of the last part of the course pretty fast so I used that to make up time and positions. Lap 4 I was running a lot of the tricky spots as it was just faster that way. The gaps in front and back were holding and I was on my own to keep my spot which I did.

I worked my way through 40 or so riders to end up in 32nd place of the 86 starters. Not too shabby I guess. I had my eyes on a few riders that started in my group and was hoping they would finish behind me and they did. So I crossed the line very satisfied with my finish. My midpackness seems to be drifting behind me - but not that far. I'm still no where near that top 1/4 finish yet. I guess it's not too shabby for a guy that used to 9 hours in the saddle.

Oh and to continue on with the force field - as I was on my way home I was in the middle lane of a sweeping right turn when a driver came around me on the left and then abruptly started to turn into my lane - right where I was. Then he counter steered back into his lane where the wheels broke loose and I watched him pile nose forward into the guardrail on the outside of the turn. Luckily he didn't take me with him. I was going to do a little recovery spin tonight but with my luck - things happen in 3's. I'm not going to depend on my force field for this one...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stephens/Deer Park Adventure

I decided to take a little time and explore Stephens/Deer Park State Park on my singlespeed. My teammate Kris and I rolled around on trails we've been on before and a few that we haven't been. It was a nice cool cloudy day that turned out to be quite nice. It didi sprinkle a little bit but the leg burning made us forget about that. We took in the leafy goodness and had a blast out there. Now I've got a few more trails to put into my memory bank for the next trip there.

Today's ride data

The best part of the trip is pictured to the left. We had to do a little canal crossing and ran into this quite nicely maintained bridge which was our only way to cross. It added a little extra adventure to our already adventurous day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

23 Races Down 4 to Go...

Wohoo! The end is in sight...well the end and the beginning. As 2009 is slowly coming to a close it's been a great year and a VERY long season considering I'm still at it and trying to be competitive in cross racing. It's good though. It's weird to not really be invested in something and still be doing OK. This 5th place that I got Saturday startled me. I didn't think I could do that well in this short stuff and it gave me hope that I can actually compete in this type of racing. Dang it! I was hoping I'd just suck and be able to do it for fun...Guess not.

So coming up is the Mercer USGP of Cyclocross. I basically signed up for the Saturday race since I wanted to fill another weekend to keep the fitness up. I have no real goals but my mid packness is still going strong so I guess I should aim for top of mid pack. And so far there are 90 preregistered so I only have to beat 45 guys. Hopefully I can do that off the line and then cruise to the finish with all of those guys bottle necked behind me. Probably not but one can hope.

All I know is that after this weekends two pack of CX races my shoulders are pretty sore. The slightly different hand position has caused more fatigue than I originally thought. That and lifting the bike 4 times every lap for yesterday's race didn't help so much. We'll have to see how Saturday goes.

On the other side I'm looking forward to next year's events. Road racing starts in mid March hopefully - so only 4 more months and my 1st 100 miler should be in late April - so only 5+ months til go time! There's going to be a lot of long crappy weather rides in the meantime!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hidden Valley CX Race

Great course and even better weather for sure.

For the B race we had a pretty good turnout as 21 guys toed the line. Off the start I got in an ok position and was happy holding 10th. I think it's just me but the B races seem to take off the fastest of all the groups...anyway... Through a few turns I was feeling pretty good even though I raced yesterday and moved up to 7th. I was hanging with a pretty good group and really feeling the flow.

Then I hit the hairpin at the lowest point and slid out and fell on lap 3. My cleat was tough to release and once I got up my chain was thrown in the front and crossed up in the back. I lost about 30 seconds and 4 spots just on that one incident. It didn't help that my seat was already pointing down from an earlier bad mount. So I got back on as quick as I could and then realized I tweaked my front end. This was to the point that my bars were tweaked about 30 degrees to the right. Great - I was already sprinting by the time I realized this and not about to stop anytime soon. So I just rode it out.

So I did the best I could to get back into the groove and not let any by, but I just couldn't get that momentum and flow back. I did the best I could but two more slipped through in the remaining laps. If it wasn't bad enough that my bike was all tweaked, in the latter laps I did feel the race from yesterday set into my legs, and it was hard to muster up any more juice. So I just had to try and maintain what I had and get across the line. I finished in 13th place which was not too shabby but 7th would have been MUCH nicer.

All in all not a bad day as I did finish and wasn't too banged up at the end. At least I wasn't the guy that ended up in the lake. The course got very close to the water and I heard that 1 took the plunge by mistake!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Horseshoe Scramble CX Race

Today was a gorgeous day to have a bike race. It started off VERY chilly but it settled in to be a little warmer and a nice temp for racing. It was so tricky as I actually changed clothes 3 times and my number 3 times till I was finally confident with what to wear. What is this - the prom???

Thanks to a call u
p for the NJBA Cup points I got a sweet spot right on the front row but in the middle of some nice wheel sucking gravel. I went pretty hard off the start but quickly settled into 7th position or so. The course was nice and flowy and outside of one turn you didn't need any brakes. Things were going well and I felt pretty good. On the 1st lap I got one guy but kept on it as I saw a few just ahead. There was a group of two working together and at one point I heard the lead guy say come on, just stay on my wheel, so I knew someone was falling apart. I stayed on these guys and even rubbed wheels in the slow stuff but when it got to the roadie section they pulled away. I then closed the gap and it went like this for a few laps. They were so close yet so far. I was doing all I could to not pop trying to get these guys. I knew if I stayed there long enough maybe I could cause one of them to bobble and I could take advantage of it.

3 laps to go the guy in front of me slid out in a corner and fell. That's what I was looking for. This made me have to slow for a second but then I put down the hammer as I passed the rider and he was struggling to get back on. It seemed like the downed rider was having issues as he slipped back, but in the last lap he turned it on and was closing the gap. This was as I was also trying to close the gap in front of me. Neither of us got close enough and with all the effor that we put down, that's how it stuck.

Cruised in for a 5th place finish of 18 starters. Afterwards I thought the best I would have done was maybe 7th. Guess I was wrong. I was even in the field cheering for the 35+ race when my podium was going on, and my buddy Nick had to come get me and let me know I had to get on the podium
. I walked away with a sweet horseshoe trophy and some nice schwag. Definitely a great course with only 3 muddy sections - 2 being caused by their bike wash.

It was great to see a bunch of teammates out there as well as a bunch of familar faces from the local MTB scene riding lots of fast non-circles. And thanks go out to Nick who took the pics and retrieved me from cheering when I needed to be on the podium. Thanks!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


(Photos courtesy of Ilya Cantor)

Sunday I traveled down to Jamesburg NJ for the HPCX race. It was a bigger race - 0r so I'm told and I guess so as 73 people toed the line awaiting the gun to go off. As the call ups began I got further and further back on the starting line. I guess I probably started off in 55th or so. I had a LOT of people in front of me and as I'm usually cold the first lap I didn't start gaining positions until lap 2.

As I warmed up I looked for better lines and found some that people obviously weren't using. I used my mtb skills to the best of my ability to hug the tree trunks and harder lines to gain time which seemed to work. I also threw out my mentality of high psi will help since I did a preride and it was not hooking up anywhere. I dropped my psi to 25 psi and that seemed to work well. It was so low that I knew where every root was as I felt the solid thud. I kept cranking hard as I was hoping the wheel would hold up and it did.

The course was overly muddy and was leg draining the whole lap. There may have been one 300' section where you could actually gain momentum and keep some speed, then back to the mud pit you went. I just kept myself entertained and tried to ride the hard lines that everyone esle was running or falling on. I think it worked.

The main battle I had was with a fellow mountain biker Felipe. He had beaten me last week and was in the same position as me. It was his 2nd CX race and beat me by two spots last week and I was hoping to stay ahead of him this week. The 2nd lap I saw him ahead and put in an attack and gapped him well and put him out of my sight. 3rd lap was steady and solid but the 4th lap I was fading and he was coming on strong. Every turn I put more power down and saw him getting closer and closer. On the last downhill I knew he was going to try and pass which was fine as I thought I could use the pavement hill up to the finish to outpower him and beat him to the line. Just as I thought he passed me in the mud and I moaned and groaned and tried to make it seem like I was shot as he passed. I jumped right on his wheel, let a little gap open up, and then attacked on the hill. I was closing the gap and winding up the power when my right foot comes flying out doing the can-can. Well...there went all of my momentum. By the time I clipped back in there was no way to get him so I checked who was on my wheel and just pedaled to the finish.

I'm still pretty satisfied with how I did, given how new I am at this discipline. 34th of 73 continues my streak of dead middle of the pack sexyness. At least I do midpack of the B's well. Up next is the Horseshoe Scramble and Hidden Valley CX races back to back.

The one thing I know for sure. The more I do cyclocross racing, the more I love endurance racing!!!