Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Machine

Check it out, I am the lucky recipient of a 2011 Kona Major Jake, the full carbon Kona cross bike.

Internal cable routing to keep it clean.

Full carbon fork with a tapered steerer for stiff and accurate steering. No more fork chatter when braking!

BB30 bottom bracket for bigger stiffer tubes

The bike built up with my old components weighs about 16.5 lbs! Not bad for a large sized bike.

It sure looks fancy, but it's how it rides that matters. I haven't had too much of a chance to put it through it it's paces but so far I can say that it is responsive. You can definitely feel the added stiffness. It also handles really well. The bottom bracket has been lowered, the chainstays shortened and I believe the head angle is steeper as well. Now I am not one of those people that can feel small differences between bike geometry, but when I was riding it around the park, it carved around the trees, just effortless steering. I am pretty excited to race it.

What makes it even cooler is that this bike is the result of Mark Matson, former mechanic at Sellwood Cycle and now working for Kona. So far I gotta say he did one heck of a job with it.

I'm pretty sure Sellwood is the only shop in the NW with any of these bikes, so stop in and check it out.

It'll get the first test tomorrow at PIR. Supposed to rain all night and most of tomorrow, once again a mudfest at PIR. With the new bike, I guess I won't have any excuses other than me sucking.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One More Saturday Night

CycloCross was back in full force this weekend, starting, yet again, with the double race weekend of Starcrossed on Saturday night and the Rad Racing Grand Prix on Sunday. Always a tough way to start the season, head first into the deep end off the high diving board. No dipping your toe-in first here. Actually kind of reminded me of the first time I went to jump off the high dive as a kid. It was a hot summer weekend at the public pool and there was a line up the ladder of the high dive as usual. I got all the way up there and out on the board, and promptly chickened out. Having to climb backwards down the ladder through a line of older kids. There were definitely times on Saturday when I wanted to back down the proverbial ladder and go buy a ticket to the Dead show on the other side of the park.

Fighting the urge to feign a mechanical, I picked up my number from registration. Apparently I had some kind of decent result last year at this race, as they gave me a front row start for the race. Such a shame I put it to waste. Not too surprising though, since I have been doing more 5 hour MTB rides than any kind of short effort to prepare for a sprint off the starters pistol. Had this been a 5 hour cross race though, I am pretty sure I would have fared better. All in all it wasn’t that bad I guess. My start, as expected, was pretty sad. I thought I tried but even riding as fast as I could, guys kept passing me for the first 30 seconds. With the wind taken out of my sails I just road along for a bit until I came out of the initial daze of racing. For the rest of the race I managed to slowly track riders down and move up, but the front of the race was long gone and I didn’t have a ticket for the train that was trying to chase it down.

As for my “race”, I think I ended up in 14th or so. Not sure and it doesn’t matter really. It’s how you race, and I felt like I was as much a cross racer, as that concert on the other side of the park was a Grateful Dead show. It may look like the real thing, but it’s missing something. That’s ok though, it’s only the start of a three month season, plenty of time to get there.

One nice thing about the weekend was the weather. OK, maybe most people wouldn’t consider it a nice weekend, but for cross it wasn’t so bad. It rained all day Friday and pretty hard Friday night, but that didn’t seem to make things too bad, and with morning sun it looked like we were in for another dry start to the season, until the black clouds rolled in for some rain by the time my race started. It wasn’t too bad, but enough to make a few corners slick and to keep it honest. As for the Pro Women and Men, it just dumped and things were nice and muddy.

The rain continued on and off through the night, and Sunday was filled with plenty of torrential showers. Like serious monsoon, let the heavens open up, downpours. This year, the course was a new one for this race. Going from the longest and steepest run-up in ‘cross to the uber flat lakeside course at Lake Smammish State Park. The course had plenty of off-camber root filled turns and two long sandy beach sections to make sure we got our fill of running in. We got there early as Margi was in the first race, so while she waited in the check-in line I got her bike ready and rolled around on it to check out the course. Turns out they set the course up on top of a Hornets nest and for some reason they don’t like bikes riding over their nest, and unfortunately I was one of those riders who rolled over said nest. I felt a sting in my lower back, right in the plumber’s zone and high tailed it out of there, but kept feeling a sting. When I went to show Margi, lucky lady that she is, I found the bastard was still in my shirt and even managed to nip me on my hand as I crushed the life out of him. In total, I was stung 5-6 times in my lower back. Ouch. Ironically, it wasn’t the first time I have been stung at a race. I once had a hornet get in my jersey at a MTB race. I just thought it was a stick or thorn stuck in my jersey until the end of the race when I pulled it out of my jersey. He stung me like 10 times. Over 24 hours later my back is still itching like crazy and slightly swollen. Luckily the course organizers changed the course to move it away from the nest.

Anyway, the racing. As I mentioned it continued to rain off and on all morning, and after several races, the course was pretty slick and muddy. I didn’t get a front row seat this time, I started in the 3rd or 4th row, yet still managed to get passed right from the start. As we left the pavement I heard a horrible crash behind me on the pavement as three guys went down in front of me on the grass. I managed to slip by ok, but had to pretty much stop to get around. From there I continued to ride too safely and got passed by guys on all the technical sections. Then we hit the sand and my running days came back to me as I just ran right past handfuls of guys. That managed to light a fire under me, and I went from thinking this was going to be one of the worst races of my life to actually moving up. I was able to pass guys on the straights where I could lay down some power, while giving some spots back in the slick corners. Even though I was just riding a little too hesitantly, I had a net gain on spots overall. I managed to somewhat settle in with a guy from Seattle known as “The Body”, or at least that’s what the announcer called him, and I was pretty determined not to get beat by someone called “The Body”. I would pass him on the sand and he would claw his way back through the twisty stuff and slip past me. I managed to follow his lead and after a few laps I felt I was riding it all a bit better. On the last lap I was determined to drop him for good and was pretty bummed to see him on my heels at the end of the sand. I drilled it the rest of the way not wanting to enter the pavement with him on my wheel. Luckily I was able to open enough space before the finish straight and he wasn’t able to catch me. In the end I think I was around 11th. Overall I felt better about the race on Sunday. It was definitely a fun race, and surprisingly my legs felt good before the race, hopefully all my long rides have helped with my overall fitness and will help carry me through a long season, something I think I was missing last year.

Aside from racing for two days, I also was the pit mechanic for Sean Babcock and Spencer Paxson both Saturday and Sunday. While I feel like I miss some of the spectating being in the pits all race, I also enjoy hanging out there. It’s definitely a different view of the race scene, watching the real pro squads and how they manage the pits and their racers. And it’s great to be able to support these two guys. They were both Team S&M young guns members, sort of our development team, and have both just been picked up by Kona, Spencer for MTB and Sean for Cross. And they both were killing it this weekend, Spencer was 21st both days, considering he just finished up MTB season making it to the US worlds team, it was really impressive. And Sean was 15th and 13th, Sat and Sun respectively. For awhile on Sunday he was in 7th right in the chasing group. It was a great performance. It’ll be fun to watch those guys this season.

Check out this classic Babcock interview

The only picture of me from the weekend:

Compliments of Sue Butler

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MBO Prologue

This past weekend was our second trip to Mountain Bike Oregon (MBO). If you aren’t familiar with the event, think summer camp for adults riding mountain bikes. It's three days in Oakridge, OR, of adults getting on school buses and getting driven to some of the best mountain bike trails around, then coming back to Oakridge’s main park, that temporarily resembles a refugee camp to hang out in the beer tent drinking free beer all night while competing in mini-bike races and junk bike tosses. And no, I didn’t make those last three up for sensationalism.

Somewhere along the preparation for MBO this year, I got the idea to ride from Bend to Oakridge. After talking to a couple people it became obvious that it wouldn’t be possible to pull that off in a day. It did seem possible to ride from Mt Bachelor (about 30 mins and several thousand feet from Bend )over to Oakridge. Using the vast resources of the interwebs, trolling on, and countless evenings pouring over paper maps, plotting courses on the computer and consulting with some locals, I decided on a route. Luckily, the amount of trails between Bachelor and Oakridge left me with a lot of options, and several bail-out locations to the highway where I could cruise down, hitch or call the wife for a ride in to town. My goals were to complete it in a day, and maximize the singletrack while minimizing pavement and roads. Interestingly, all the routes were about the same length, approximately 80 miles. The variable was how much of that would be highway versus singletrack.

The general plan involved taking the Central Oregon Breeze shuttle from Portland to Bend. It leaves daily from the bus station downtown (or the airport) and takes about 41/2 hours to get to bend. Not too bad for public transport. For an extra $5 you can bring your bike as long as you pack it in a box. Our good friend Celia picked me up from the shuttle in Bend and cooked a delicious sole for dinner. She also got up awful early in the morning to drive me up to Mt Bachelor. She also took advantage of the early morning drive to hike up Bachelor and get in some skiing. Yes, you can still find some snow in Oregon in August.

For my plan I worked out 4 potential routes for the trip:
1) If I was having a bad day, I would ride over to Waldo lake and meet up with some friends that were riding the Waldo lake trail and get a ride from them back to Oakridge.
2) If I was having an OK day but the ride was harder or taking longer, then I would bail after the Mt Fuji trail and ride down to hgwy 58 and then 20 some-odd road miles to Oakridge.
3) The route I was hoping to pull off was to ride up from the end of Mt Fuji to the Bunchgrass trail and ride the upper half of that and bail out to a gravel road and cruise that down 3000' and 10 miles to a 6 mile paved ride to town.
4) The optimal route, but seemingly impossible would be to ride the entire Bunchgrass trail to the Heckletooth trail and in to town.

Things started pretty well. I was riding by 7am with clear skies and a beautiful view of Mt Bachelor, the Three Sisters and Broken Top. About a couple miles or so in I realized my camera had fallen out of my feedbag so I had to turn around and go look for it. Luckily it wasn't too far back, and learned to keep the feedbag closed all day. I rode a trail through Mt Bachelor to the Metoliuos Windigo trail. It was a really fun, twisty trail, a few ups and downs to warm me up a little but nothing major. The Metolious Windigo was mostly a descent down to Lava Lake. It was a great way to start the day. At some point I managed to get a pinch flat in my rear tire. I'm not sure how as I didn't feel like I hit anything too hard but sure enough, I had a good snake bite on the tube. Took my time fixing it and even patched the old tube at the same time in case I needed later when I was more tired and pressed for time. Luckily it was the only real mechanical issue of the entire ride. From Lava Lake the Metolious Windigo heads into the 3 sisters wilderness. Leaving the only legal option to ride the road over to Cultus lake. I was tempted to try riding through the wilderness as it only cut through a short corner of it, but since it looked to climb significantly I thought better of the plan and reluctantly hit the road. After a couple miles I saw a sign for the Coral Swamp trail, 2 miles down a dirt road. A quick check of my GPS showed that it would allow me to cut out the rest of the paved road and take me to Cultus lake. What the heck. Well, any trail with Swamp in the name should give you pause. And this was one. It wasn't that bad, just sees a lot of horse traffic and as a result was more of a dust swamp. The climbs were real loose and tough to get up and the descents were equally loose and sketchy at best. At one point I saw a martin scamper across the trail and as I looked up to see where it went, my front tire washed out in the dust nearly sending me over the bars. Tragedy narrowly avert, the rest of the trail was fine. Wouldn't go out of my way to ride it again, but it sure beat riding the road.

From here I had a few miles of dirt road to the Lemish Lake Trail. This was the first real climbing of the day as the trail worked it's way up Charlton Lake. It was a series of short steep pitches, each one seemed to end with a big root or rock drop to get over at the very top, just when you would be completely red-lined. Sure had me glad to be riding the 29er.

Once at Charlton lake things leveled off, then a fun descent down to Waldo lake and the Waldo lake trail. For a lake trail it had some decent elevation gain as it climbed away from the lake and then back down nearer the shore and away again. Repeat. At one point I was riding along and noticed a lot of smoke on the trail. I wasn't too close to the lake so I didn't think it was from a campfire, also it was about noon not too likely for someone to be at a campsite. I could see that the smoke was coming from a spot about 20' off the trail, so I went and took a look. It appeared that there had been a lightning strike there and it was s till smoldering some. I made a note of the location and headed off to South Bay campground where my friends had parked to ride the entire lake loop and to fill up on water. They were still out riding but I took advantage of their tailgate and had lunch there. I also dropped some clothes and flipflops that I had been carrying from my bus ride to Bend. It was nice to lighten up the pack a bit. After a break and some lunch I filled up the camel back and happened to see a Forest Service Truck roll by, so I stopped her and was able to report the lightning strike.

Since I was still feeling good, I headed off for more. From Waldo lake I headed off to Betty lake then down to Gold lake. This was a real fun decent, highly recommend it if you are in the area. From Gold lake it was up Mt Fuji. This is a long grind of a climb. And at mile 60 or so it was tough. About halfway up I felt miserable and decided to bail out at the op and take the highway back to town. I still had 3 more days of Mt Biking after all, why kill myself and ruin a fun vacation. I took a short breather at Birthday lake and threw down some gel and Cliff shots. That was all I needed and I felt a ton better on the second half of the climb. So much better that I started to rethink my decision. At the gravel road at the end of the trail I sat on a log to look over the map and make my decision. Unfortunately the mosquitoes wouldn't let me rest much so I headed off and decided I would at least ride up the to the trail and see how that felt. Once up there I knew I wouldn't turn around so the decision was pretty much made there.

Now I had ridden the Bunchgrass Trail at the previous years MBO. It is described as advanced only and a hard to follow rough trail. My recollection from that ride was of a hard but fun rustic trail. There were some steep loose switchbacks I would have to deal with but nothing to insane. I also had downloaded the GPS route of the trail from someone who rode it so I wasn't concerned about getting lost. It is remote and on a high ridge, being late in the day I knew a bad crash could easily mean a night in the woods if not worse. So I texted Margi where I was and that I thought it would be about 1-2 hours or so to get back to town. What I didn't account for was selective memory. I could see off in the distance where I had to go, and it did seem a little intimidating, but the trail started off real fun with a good raw descent and twisty singletrack through the woods down to the last road and last possible bail out before I started climbing. Emboldened by the fun start I headed off. Soon enough things got harder. What started as a fun ridable trail turned into a series of on and off the bike after unrideable section after another. Granted some of it was me being overly cautious, but as I continued on, my memory from the year before came back to me and I seemed to remember thinking then that this trail was a bit ridiculous. This went on for miles with the hiking sections getting longer and climbing up and up. It seemed like half my energy was spent getting on and off the bike. While my foot was starting to bother me from the walking.

I started to wonder if I had died earlier in the day and I was now stuck in purgatory. My carrot at the end of this stick was the saddle above the sketchy switchbacks through an old burn, otherwise known as the toilet bowl. I had no shame in walking these too, why stop now. From here on it was more of the same. My now untrustworthy memory had me remembering one last grunt of a climb to a ridge then a short spin to where I could catch the road. Of course it was further along than I remember, had more walking and was harder to make it up the climb. I think last year I only got off once on the climb. This time I walked most of it. I was beat. And staring at the GPS screen for that darn road. In reality maybe it wasn't that bad, or maybe it was and my selective memory is already kicking in. What it definitely was, was a beautiful amazing place. And sure as heck better than a day at the office.

In the end it took over two hours to get through the Upper Bunchgrass section. And I still had 16 miles to get to town. I stopped and called Margi to let her know I got out. She was still stuck in traffic in Eugene. I downed a whole bunch of dark chocolate chips I had been saving as a reward and headed down the road. Not sure I pedaled for the next 20 minutes. If I did, I didn't need to. It was nice sitting and cruising. After some 10 miles of descending on gravel I hit the homestretch of 6 paved, slightly downhill miles. Rode straight to camp where I was lucky to run in to Laurie who pointed me to our camp area and the clothes I left with Sarah and Thor, I was glad to get out of the chamois I had been wearing for over 11 hours. And within a few minutes Margi arrived with the rest of our stuff for the weekend.

After a hot shower, it was off to dinner at the Trailhead Cafe for a quesadilla, a delicious tempeh burrito, a chocolate chip cookie and a coconut macaroon. I was hungry three hours later!

In the end it was just under 88 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing in 9.5 hours of ride time and 11 hours total. The longest non-race Mt bike ride I had ever done. And there was still three days of hard riding at MBO to come...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Season 6 Episodes 10 and 11

The soap opera of my ‘cross life continues to unfold. Although I guess if it were a real soap opera it would have been canceled a long time ago. Can’t see the adventures of a 38 year-old bike racer even getting in the door for a pitch.

As mentioned in the preview from last week’s entry, this weekend was another double race adventure. Saturday was the Oregon State Championships race in Salem, fittingly the State’s Capital, also fittingly for the cross racing as of late, it was the third straight week racing at a fairground. Excluding the fact that the course terrain was so flat, the course designers made a pretty fun course, with lots of variety from dry dusty barns, running through a sand volleyball court, a motocross course and of course lots of muddy grass. Being the defending Masters 35 champion I chose to defend my title and race the Masters race. It was fun lining up with some of the guys I had raced with for the past two years. Erik Schultz has been killing it in the Masters this year so I expected him to be the main person to stick with, as well as Tim Butler, Tim Jones and John McCaffrey. Sure enough, from the start it looked like most of the above were in the front along with Doug Reid from Seattle who made the drive down for the race. After about 3/4 of a lap, Erik, Doug and I were a bit off the front heading into the barns. Surprisingly, the slipperiest part of the whole course was also the driest. The course wound through the Fairgrounds main arena that had about 4” of dry dirt on the floor, if you went the slightest bit off the main track you were bound to wash out. Even knowing this going in, I still lost a little in the first barn, then on to the moto cross track where I found out my front brake wasn’t working so good, resulting in me crashing in the first sharp turn and Tim Butler and Joel Wilson catching me. Over the next lap I almost got back up to Erik and Doug, when I almost crashed on the moto cross track again. For the rest of the race it was more of the same, I would open a gap on Tim and Joel and then screw up the moto-cross section were-in they would gain on me. Meanwhile Erik slowly separated from Doug who I never seemed to gain on. Finally I managed to open a bit of a gap on Tim who had gotten away from Joel. Feeling like I could ride it in on the last lap, Margi yells to me that Doug just had a mechanical and is just ahead. So I high tail it and catch him just as he goes in to the pit for a new bike with less than a lap to go. Fortunately I held him off to steal 2nd place.

The rain continued to fall Saturday night, setting Sunday up for some real cross. Throw in that Sunday was also the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championship (SSCXWC) and it was a heck of a day of racing. Too bad my racing didn’t live up to it. Had another miserable start as I found my rear wheel spinning when the whistle blew. I was about to call it quits after the first 1/4 lap, but seeing some Weaver and Steven Hunter in front of me kept me racing. The first lap was crazy, all the off-camber sections were just slick as can be. There was a lake of a puddle to ride through that had some bump in the middle of it that you couldn’t see but made it feel like you were riding a bucking bronco (Margi actually got bucked on her first lap). The race quickly turned into a race of attrition, and I felt like one of the attritioners (not a word is it?).

I managed to get away from Weaver and some others, and found myself on my own. In my effort to make up time on the paved straight, I had my head down and looked up too late to see a pothole. I pulled the front wheel up but the back wheel slammed it.

Score: Pothole 1; Carbon rim 0.

That made a crappy race, crappier, and really expensive. I could hear the rim creaking as I kept riding it, but I unfortunately missed the pit entrance, and as I cursed it out loud, Patrick Wilder heard and asked if I needed a new bike, I told him I had a green Kona and sure enough, next time around he was standing there with my pit bike ready for me and gave me a PRO hand-off to boot. On top of that he went and got a replacement wheel for the A bike in case I needed it again. What a guy. Didn’t get a chance to thank him after the race, so if you’re reading this PW, thanks! About this time Matt Fox had caught up to me so I had something to race for. We went back and forth for a couple laps. The last time he got up to me, he says “lets go get ‘em Scott”, then three seconds later I hear a grunt and crash and look back to see him down. I dug in and cruised to the finish to get pulled early so they could start the SSCXWC on time. For the first time I was happy to be yanked early. In the end I was 20th place. So sad.

A bright point of the weekend was Margi taking 2nd in the Women’s B State Championship race, she then went on to race the A women race on Sunday. Her result wasn’t as good but she was smiling the whole time. I give her a lot of credit, that was one of the hardest races of the year, not an easy one to have to as your first foray into the A’s. She’ll be killing soon enough.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Astoria, oh how I love to hate you

Or is it how I hate to love you?

Yes this past weekend was the Halloween double race weekend extravaganza at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds in Astoria. After a storm late last week, Saturday’s race was a good old muddy mess. Not the epic powering through ankle deep mud, but more of the slick as snot corners and rutted wet grass kind of mud. The type of race where you are riding along at a good pace and WHAM! Your front wheel slips out and you are sliding across the ground as the guy behind you yells out “Oh-Shit” as he tries to avoid running over you (Thanks Aaron!). I wasn’t thrilled with my race. After getting caught behind a crash in the first half lap and a couple other mishaps, I found myself in a similar position, on the outside of the points looking in. Spent the rest of the race chasing guys down and trying to keep it upright to come in at 17th. Not pretty, but fun none the less.

We spent the night at a hotel in Seaside, the Inn at Seaside to be precise. Got a good deal, $55 for a king bed and a kitchenette. We decide to bring Quinn the hyper-dog with us for the weekend since the hotel allows them. After a day of trying to chase bike racers he seemed pretty chill so we left him in the room to go get some dinner. (Note: While one would think that sushi 2 blocks from the Ocean would be fresh, it aint. ‘nough said) Anyway, we get back to the room and no dog! Seriously, we have a small room with 3 bikes. It’s not easy for an 85 pound dog to hide. We’re also on the 2nd floor, window was closed. What the? I head to the front desk and as I get there, sure enough, there’s Quinn tied up behind the desk! Turns out he freaked after we left and started barking and throwing himself against the door. Luckily for us the lady at the front desk was not only the nicest person ever, but also a dog obedience trainer! Seriously, I ain’t making this up. She went up, opened the door a crack, told Quinn to sit, he did, and she brought him down to the front desk where he was an angel, hanging out greeting all the guests. What an attention whore of a dog we have. But if you're heading to the coast, I definitely recommend the Inn at Seaside.

Back to the races. In the tradition of Sunday ‘Cross racing, it was decided to make Sunday’s race the Costume day, even though it was the day after Halloween. Wouldn’t expect anything else from Brad Ross. I had had great visions of being a Great White Shark, until I ran into technical issues on Thursday night. I knew that showing up to the Halloween race without a costume would garner the wrath of the drunken fans, so I had to scramble for a costume. I checked out Margi’s costume boxes (yes boxes) and found a pink long sleeve shirt that said Snow Bunny. Just add in a bunny tail and ears, and voila, lamest costume ever is born.

Luckily it was good enough to satisfy the blood thirsty drunken masses and even garnered me some ‘go Snow Bunny’ cheering. Unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to get me anything more than 16th place. The only thing I will say about the race is that I was having a great start, best first 50 yards EVER! Until I blew the first corner rode out of bounds and lost a good 10-15 spots. What makes it even funnier is that before the race Mike Benno was asking me if I preferred to be a starter or behinder, meaning do I like to get out in front right away or fight from behind. I said I prefer to start ahead but seem to keep killing myself and fighting from behind. Another self full filling prophecy! At least the race was a blast with all the mayhem and costumes.

This weekend is the Oregon State Championships on Saturday where I will try to defend my title. But to be honest with all the attention it has brought I will be glad to give it up. It gets old not being able to go out in public without people asking for my autograph or women throwing themselves at me. I won’t even go into the paparazzi. It’s a heavy burden being the masters state champ. So think twice boys before you try to take it from me ;)

On Sunday we are racing at PIR, the North Course. That will be fun if for no other reason than after my race is the Single Speed CycloCross World Championships, which means I can hang out, watch some racing eat some fries and drink a beer. Should be fun. Oh that and Margi is Racing A’s after her upgrade! Nice job babe! If you get slapped on the ass while being passed, it isn’t me, promise!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hillsboro Fairgrounds

Ok, a little late for this past Sunday’s race report. It has been a busy week at work but don’t tell my boss, that’s where I like to draft my blogs. I try not to write for free so I will make this quick.

We were back at Hillsboro fair grounds this past Sunday, which is the site of my State Championship victory. Yes, I am still basking in that one. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned that you need to hold on to the past as you’re quickly running out of future. Anyway, I was hoping that maybe this course was “my” course and I would have another amazing race here. Then reality set in, and all the good karma I used up last year was finally paid off on Sunday.

With the recent rain, we were finally treated to some slick conditions. Well maybe some people were treated, I was more accurately tricked. I had a great call-up, second row. Followed by a good start, going into the first corner inside the top 10. And then I went backwards. I lost a few spots here and there, and started to panic a bit, resulting in forcing a bunch of corners, which made things worse, and cost me a few more spots, which resulted in me panicking and forcing a few corners which made things even worse. As I was about to loose a few more spots I pulled my head out of the arse it had been hiding and started to ride smarter; relaxing through the corners and saving my energy for the straights. I pulled back a spot or two and was sitting in 11th, closing in on David Roth and Steven Hunter. Then I was surprised to hear the bell lap. I am never surprised by that, so I am pretty sure it was early. As I tried to give everything I had left I realized my rear tire was going flat. I thought about pitting but thought I could squeeze out the remainder of the lap on my flat tire. I did, but lost 3 spots in the last ¼ of the lap to finish 14th.

Overall 14th is a great result I would be thrilled with if I had ridden a solid race. But I know I could have done better and rode pretty poorly, so I’m still a little bitter over it. Oh well. I’ll get to race again soon enough. As a matter of fact this weekend is the double race Halloween weekend in Astoria. Now I need a costume. It never ends.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wild Horses

Friday night I joined some friends to hear Joe Parkin give a talk at the Oregon Manifest show. At one point he was talking about racing on the infamous cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix. While he said there is no way to express what it is like riding over these massive cobblestones, he did say that the sections of pavement in between the cobbles would feel like the smoothest pavement in the world, like riding on glass. So while I am sure yesterday’s course doesn’t compare to the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, the bumps and holes of the horse pastures at the Sherwood Equestrian Center we raced on sure made the gravel roads feel like smooth asphalt under my wheels, and a welcome, if not short, respite for my aching back and blistered palms. Too bad the gravel section also happened to be an uphill, not quite a respite for my aching and burning legs. And so it was Sunday, a course of pain no matter how you sliced it.

Despite a week of promising forecasts calling for rain, complete with the remnants of a typhoon on Saturday, it turned out to be another warm dry day. The only dirt on me was from the dust kicked up in the fields. Which of course explains the rough and tumble course. And being on the side of a hill, there was plenty of climbing. Maybe not all at once like last week at Rainier, but more broken up, interspersed with life sucking bumpy meadows and bone jarring descents. Have I mentioned it was bumpy?

For yesterday’s race I had the luxury of being the last guy called up before the random number staging thanks to the one series point I scored the week before with an 18th place. This put me in about the 3rd or 4th row. Which was good as the start straight was short followed by a lot of turns and single track that would make moving up hard for the first half of a lap. My start was decent and I felt like I made the cut into the front clump of riders. From there all I could do was try to move up and get some more series points. After a lap or so I was told I was in the top 15. Sweet. A couple more laps and I am just outside the top 10! Are you kidding me? I so wanted to just ease up at that point, but to be honest I never thought I could ever stand a chance at a top 10 in a Crusade A race, I couldn't blow a good opportunity. So I just dug in and kept plugging away. Got to 9th place with 2 laps to go and no one right behind me, so at that point I was pretty content to just hold my spot. But no, both Gant and Margi had to tell me that Mike Benno was just ahead of me, and since he just beat me the past few races I had to at least try. I got on his wheel at the barriers for the second to last time when lady luck would take my side, as he dropped his chain. He gracefully got out of way and encouraged me on. I just kept a solid pace for the last lap to be sure no one caught me, and came across the line in 8th! Really? This is a joke right? I just couldn't beleive it until I saw the results posted. I finished ahead of or right behind a lot of guys I have always looked to as the fast guys. I just don’t consider myself as one of them. I’m supposed to be pack fodder, a 'have not', a 'never was'. Certainly not a fast guy. As psyched as I am for my fitness right now, it will take a few more similar results before I can begin to think I am in the same zip code as some of these guys.

Maybe Margi's speed is rubbing off on to me, as she finished 2nd for the 2nd week in a row! She is tearing it up on these hilly courses. The lady likes her some hills.

Me, not so much...