Friday, December 21, 2007

Changing Gears

I guess it’s time I finally step and resume my title as the Snow Curmudgeon. The bikes are all cleaned up and hung on the wall for awhile. The only riding I’ve been doing is to that padded cell I get paid to sit in five days a week (sometimes four, or if I am “feeling sick” three).

But before we get to the forecast, an outdated trip report.

It doesn’t take a genius to know it has been snowing like all get out in the mountains the past week or so. Heck even Matt Zafino could figure that one out. So this past weekend I decided it was time to head uphill and see all the snow for myself. Other than the occasional flurries I hadn’t seen snow yet this year. I wasn’t expecting too much, as the telemetry showed about a four foot base, not quite enough to fill in the clear cuts and glades just yet.

Why not go ride the lifts you ask? This year I have forsaken the ski pass. Didn’t go for the Meadows 4x4 or a ten punch anywhere. I had originally started riding the lifts to learn to Telemark. I’ve never alpine skied before, with the exception of one day in Junior High at Vernon Valley Great Gorge, but I think it is safe to say that was more of an experiment in how easy alpine skis release when repeatedly crashed on rock solid man made snow. And in case you were wondering it was really easy, unfortunately the brakes didn’t stop the skis as easy. Moving on from that nasty memory, I took up cross country skiing, and when I moved to Oregon I did quite a bit of touring. Then I started looking at all the steep open slopes and thinking how fun they would be to ski down. After two years of trying to teach myself on x-c skis in the back country I decided to try it on the lifts. My first time riding the lifts was much like Junior High, only it was New Year’s eve and the bindings didn’t release. Any how, four or five years, two pairs each of leather and plastic boots and three pairs of skis later and I can pull off a decent tele turn and I feel like I have topped out the steep part of the learning curve. So I have decided to return to where I started, touring around and finding out what it would be like skiing all those open slopes out there.

Saturday marked the inaugural trip of the year. And I was feeling like a lucky man. We pulled into the sno-park and were the only one’s there. Meanwhile it was a constant line of cars up to Meadows. In addition I was joined by two beautiful ladies. Don’t get much better. Well, ok, a few more feet of snow would have made it a little better. Never the less we persevered and had a fun tour. We headed out to some slopes I hadn’t been to in years, since I started riding the lifts actually. It was like returning to your childhood home after being away for a long time, or putting on a well worn glove for the first time. It just fit.

We found a decent slope with sufficient coverage to get in some turns, and had a little adventure navigating through the trees at the bottom. Good times. And best of all, we saw some terrain with great potential.

Since the tour last weekend it has snowed like the bejeebus up there. There’s close to another three feet of snow, so all those little gremlin trees and stumps should be nicely tucked in their winter bed. Unfortunately I am stuck in my padded cell for the day, missing some awesome skiing. I keep thinking “it’s ok, there’ll be other days” but that’s like a band aid for a heart attack, useless. This weekend looks good too, but you know what, I’m leaving tomorrow morning for Atlanta to see my sister for x-mas. So I ain’t bothering with a forecast, figure it out for yourselves!

The Snow Curmudgeon

p.s. A future weather hint: I may go night skiing on Thursday, shhh don’t tell no one, sno with 1000’ freezing level!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The coal in my stocking

I was poking around at my bikes the other night, picking pieces of grass out of the deraileuer and hubs. Checking out what needs to be replaced and overhauled, especially after the last races. And that is about when it hit me, the season was over.

I remember after the last race at PIR, I stopped and talked with my friend Jim about not doing anymore races. He asked me if I wasn’t going to miss ‘cross, and with a big smile I said “NO” I am glad it is over. He nodded in agreement, but told me that I'd miss it in a couple weeks, that having a Saturday night or two to stay out late and not worry about racing will be fun at first, but I’d miss it eventually. Was he ever spot on!

The past two weeks I have been feeling aimless. The nerves and anticipation for an upcoming race are gone. I no longer check the weather forecast for Portland, just the mountains. No reason to go out and train hard. I feel lost, empty (except for all the crap I have been eating. And drinking. mmmmm holiday beers).

But does it have to end? There are those who want there to be ‘cross year round, or even a second season in January. There are even races in Eugene and up in Seattle in December. Why not? I’ve traveled to NJ and KY why not there?

Well, even as much as I miss it, I know it won’t be the same. One of the reasons that I think ‘Cross is so much fun is it’s short compact season. It is like a holiday. Hanukah for bike racing if you will. It's like the over-used saying of “if it weren’t for the rain would we appreciate the sun” only here it’s "if it weren’t for the road/Mt/track racing would we appreciate ‘cross?" Only happening for part of the year, it truly is like Christmas. And a muddy, rainy cross race is like a White Christmas...extra special.

It takes more than a freshly cut tree covered in lights and ornaments to make a day special, it’s the chance to spend a day with some wonderful and sometime not so wonderful people, and compete to see who made out with the best presents that's makes Christmas what it is. And so it is with ‘cross in Portland. From what I saw in NJ and KY, it just isn’t the same. It can be a great course with all kinds of weather and good competition, but without the friends and enemies, it just isn’t the same. So for me, going to Eugene, or Seattle just wouldn’t be the same. It can never compare to a Cross Crusade.

At the awards party, I was talking to a guy from Boulder about the cross scene. He said that Boulder has a huge bike racing scene, and draws large crowds and fans, but Portland has something else. “More of a freak factor?” I asked. “Yeah, but I would have put it a little more gently” said he. It’s true, it is one big 3 ring freak show out there. Other places think we’re weird for having a Single Speed class, much less a unicycle and Clydesdale categories. Just check out the cartoon in the Velonews with Katie Compton on the cover. And as much as I think Unicycles are ridiculous, I also recognize it is part of the atmosphere that makes it all so special.

The other aspect that I think makes ‘cross so fun is it’s uniqueness. I sometimes get asked what kind of racing I prefer, Road, Mt or Cross. And I always answer ‘cross. If I could only race one season, ‘cross would be it. I can always go out and ride my bike on the road, and I can Mt bike all summer for hours at a time. But you can’t go out and ‘cross. Sure you can ride a ‘cross bike on the road and on trails but it is not the same as a race. Being forced to run through 6 barriers, or run through 6” of penut butter mud. It just can't be recreated.

While I will miss cross, I can go away being really happy about my season. I had set my personal goals to finish top 10 in the Crusade Master series, and to score some points in the USGP series (a top 20 finish). I accomplished both of those. I squeaked out the top 10, and that was with a bunch of mechanicals and what not. And in the USGP, I finished in the points 3 times, with my best finish at 10th. This put me tied for 19th in the final series standings. Not too shabby for a hack.

It’s hard for me not to start thinking ahead to next year. What goals do I want to set? Should I go to any of the USGPs? What about going to Nationals? Stay local and try to finish top 3 in the Crusades? Or maybe race Sr. Men and try for top 20? But it is way too soon to really think too hard about any of that. For now there’s snow in the mountains and I have some skiing to do. I’ll miss seeing all the same people out there on Sundays. I look forward to seeing a bunch of them at the Mt Bike races in the spring, but you can guarantee, that while I’ll be having fun racing Mt Bikes or maybe even some road races, I’ll be thinking about ‘cross.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wanted: 2 of each species

My neighbor, Noah, has been out in the rain building this big boat in the backyard, and he says he’s looking for a male and female of each species to put on this boat. Man, I live in the weirdest hood….

As for ‘Cross, It continued to rain all Saturday night (it still hasn’t stopped), and by Sunday morning it had warmed some, but not a lot, maybe 42 degrees. But it was wet. And windy.

Margi was racing the Women’s B race which was at 9:15, so I headed over a little early to watch her race. They changed some of the course, in the middle area, where it snaked up and down the Columbia Slough dike. Areas that had been slick and thick mud bogs on Saturday were deep puddles of soup. The course changed from a graceful slick track to a grinding plod. The advantage was that the mud, being more soup-like, seemed to clear right off the bike. I wandered around (from tent to tent) cheering for Margi as she suffered through the mess. She did great, kept a good attitude and smile, and finished 16th. Pretty good for a B race with a lot of women from out of town. Watch out next year ladies!

I was actually given a higher number for the race, 14, but for some reason they don’t necessarily start in that order, and as a result I was 2 places back, but still in the second row, right behind two real fast guys. Once again I didn’t do what I prefer, which is line up on the outside, and I paid slightly for it. I am not the fastest off the line, but I can usually rally after 50 yards or so. If I am in the middle, a bunch of guys with a quicker first jump get past me and then I am trapped in the pack with not a lot of room to advance. When I line-up outside I can just slip around people and move back up. This meant I was probably back in the upper teens to 20th going into the first turn. From there I went to work to grind through the slop and try to move back up. I was told halfway through the first lap that I was 15th. I continued to work up and on lap 2 or so I got up to 10th, right behind Tim Butler, sound familiar? I thought “here’s my chance to get revenge and beat him”. Too bad thoughts don’t always translate to reality. I had 2 guys behind me that were breathing down my neck and I could slowly feel Butler moving ahead. At one point I got back to within 20 or 30 feet of Tim, but I am not sure what happened as he pulled away. At the same time the guy behind me closed in. He went for a bike change and I heard his pit crew say something about a bad shifter. Shortly after, he passed me. He was a strong rider, and I could tell he was rider better than me. I thought if I could get on his wheel he could take me back up to Tim and I could get my revenge. But then that bad shifter came into play and he slowed up, I went around him, and as we came near the pit again I heard the official yell “Number 23 right here for a second” I decided to try to make a move and gave her all I had to get away from this guy, but like I said, he was riding strong and back up to me in less than half a lap. We went back and forth a bit as he continued to have bike problems and slipped out a couple times. With two to go he got around me for good. I just tried to stay with him so I could hold off number 12 who was not too far behind. On the last lap I knew if I held him off for half a lap I’d pretty much have it. For some dumb reason I thought how I had been having such a clean race so far with no crashes, and while cruising the stretch along pits I was thinking how I had been riding that section so strong. So of course right then my front tire washes out and I crash into the pit fencing and my brake lever gets caught in the fence. As I struggle to free it number 12 rides past me. I try my best to get him back but I just can’t do it, I finish 12th on the day. Still a damn good weekend, I’m psyched with my races and how I felt. Sure I could have done better, but I’d say that unless I won the race. In the end I’d say a success. AT the finish I asked 23 why the official stopped him. Apparently he went through the pit and his bike wasn’t ready, and the rules state that if you enter the pit you must take a bike change. So the official, a real jerk, made 23 stop for a few seconds to make up for it, even though riding the pit without a bike change has no advantage.

After spending the next couple hours freezing in the rain, drinking beer and watching Georgia Gould win the women’s race, and Ryan Trebon ride away with the men’s race, I went home attempted to clean up and headed out to the end of year Cross Crusade Awards party. It was a prom theme, so Margi was wearing a sexy black prom dress and she’d bought me a stylin blue suit for the occasion. And if you ask me, I’d say we were the best looking couple there, but you didn’t, so I won’t.

Margi was the winner of the beginners Women field, and for a prize they gave her a new bike frame! That’s right she won a Lemond Poprad frame and fork! The funny part is that when she was shopping for a new bike she was torn between the Lemond and Kona. She settled on the Kona, and now she has both! Either way I am very proud of her for taking up cross and doing so well. Now if only we can get her remounts up to speed ;)

I got a bag of swag for taking 9th overall in the Master35+ A field. But even if it was just a pat on the back or a swift kick in the ass, I’m just happy to know I competed with those guys all year.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Yeeee Haw!

Got 10th place today! I am pretty damn happy with that. I have felt for the series that I was worthy of a top 10 if I was given the chance from the start. Well my good start position paid off. I was the last guy in the front row, on the outside just where I like it. I had a good start, sitting about 6th wheel going into the first turn. I lost a few spots on the first lap, but gained a few in the next couple laps, with the front losing a guy or two due to mechanicals. After about the 3rd lap, it settled down to me and local racer Tim Butler, we battled it out for the rest of the race, and in the end he took me by about 20 seconds. I would have liked to have beaten him, but oh well. I was much closer to him than 11th was to me. But we were no where close to the top group. By the end of the first lap those guys had one heck of a gap, it is amazing how fast those guys are. I still finished just over 2 minutes behind the leader. How do you make that up?

The course was a fun one. Some slick corners, a few short steep climbs, open sections and a few good muddy sections. In some places the grass was soft and slow, and others it was quite fast. It was a cold day. We didn’t get any snow but it flurried throughout the morning with the heaviest part during our race, but nothing too drastic. Once the race gets going, I have no idea what the weather is doing. I only really know it was snowing because I’d occasionally inhale and choke on a cold flake or two.

By the time the Elite men started, the rain moved in and it has been raining off and on since. Pretty hard at times with a good wind. I think that is good for me, as I tend to prefer a soupy messy nasty course to a slicker course. Of course I say that now… the proof will be in the pudding (what the hell does that expression mean?). The funny thing is that I think I will end up with a slightly worse start position tomorrow, since three guys with lower starts beat me, while I only beat two guys that were ahead of me. Not too big a deal though, it will still put me on the second row, and with the wind we will have tomorrow that might be a good thing.

In the big races, Georgia Gould gave Katie Compton what may have been her first domestic defeat this year. In the men’s Tim Johnson won big over Trebon.

Looking forward to tomorrow, my last race of the year, and then the Crusade Awards Party tomorrow night.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The pucker factor

Here it is, Thursday morning, and I am just starting to get that gut wrenching nervous feeling for this weekend’s USGP races in Portland. Not bad, usually it hits by Tuesday night, or Wednesday morning. These things seem to have a predictable cycle. Monday and Tuesday are spent reminiscing/ruminating about Sunday’s race. By Wednesday the mind starts to look forward to the upcoming weekend; The weather forecast is clearer, time to replace anything on the bikes, make sure the clothes are clean etc… and hence the pucker factor. You know, that feeling deep in the bowels every time you think about the weekend. From there it radiates out to the limbs with that “too much caffeine” feeling, and leaves the mind all scattered. Can’t say Thursday and Friday are my most productive days at work, as I am sure you can tell by this blog.

Why so nervous/stressed/amped you ask? Good question. I won’t delude you with any bullshit about being a dedicated and focused athlete. I’m just a compulsive competitor. I once had a great idea to start a Competitive Anonymous support group, but realized we would just sit around and try to out-do one another, trying to prove who is the most competitive, luckily I thought better about that one. Basically I am just a freak. Even luckier for me I’m joined by about 900 other freaks every weekend to make me feel normal.

This weekend is the last 2 races of the year for me, and the last 2 races in the USGP series that I traveled to L’ville and NJ for. No offense to the other venues, but I feel pretty confident that these races will be the best, by far. There are already 99 pre-registered riders for my race! By comparison, the other races had somewhere around 60 riders. Damn I am glad I have that one series point to get a decent start position. The weather has also been downright nasty. Raining on and off the past couple of days, and there is a chance of Snow Saturday night. It will be cold and wet, especially Sunday. The fun folks from the Gentle Lovers team will have their Wood fired hot tub on the course again, and I hear they are going for an inside corner this year so racers will be riding around the hot tub, and getting some nice warm water splashed on them as they pass. And, this being a race put on by the Cross Crusaders, I have no doubt there will be some additional excitement. I just hope the marching band is there. Something about that drum corps that just seems to fire things up during the race!

I just hope I have a couple of good races……

If you are in town, you should definitely come out and watch. It really is a fun exciting time. The races are out at PIR, and I’m racing at 12:15, followed by the Elite Women and then the Elite Men. Dress warm, wear your rubber boots, and bring the cow bell!

And for any of my fellow local Masters riders, let’s show them Out of Townies why Portland is the epicenter of ‘Cross in North America. Let’s work together when we can and make those candy ass Californians and sandbaggin' East Coasters sorry they ever laid rubber in Portland!

Hope to see you all out there.

p.s. Meadows opened last week, and skibowl opens tomorrow night with over a foot of fresh snow yesterday....but bring yer rock skis ;)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Always the bridesmaid….

It’s always good to find an outlet to work off the Tofurkey and Thanksgiving beer. Amazingly, sitting on the couch watching football for two days really doesn’t seem to cut it. What a shame. Luckily, we were provided with an early showing of the Kruger’s Crossing Cyclocross race on Sauvie Island to make amends.

Being on an island that is really no more than a series of wetlands in the Willamette River flood plain that have been turned into farms, it doesn’t take too much rain to turn the place into a bog, and it takes awhile for it dry out. So even with no rain in the previous week, there was still ample mud. And it was the sticky peanut butter type of mud. It was hard to get a good feel for the course as it continued to change throughout the day. In the morning it was firm but getting nastier as the ground thawed. Yet as the day progressed and the sun came out, things began to dry up. After my first pre-ride, when my front wheel pretty much stopped spinning from all the mud, I had been planning to ride the pit bike with the Project 2 fork for increased mud clearance, but once I switched the wheels over and walked around a bit, I realized things were drying nicely, so I switched back to my A bike.

I know, life with two bikes is tough, ain’t it?

I lined up in the Master’s A again, I had thought about doing the Sr A race, but since my family was there to watch I kinda wanted a better shot a good race. It’s never nice to get your butt kicked in front of kin. Not that I was taking candy from a baby in the Master’s field either. While some of the regular bruisers in the master A field were racing in the Sr A (Bravard, McCaferty, Leithiser) there were still a lot of fast guys, and it looked like some new guys, in the Master field.

I got myself in the front row and had a great start, right to the front. Martin Baker got around me on the second corner, a nasty mud hole that I rode horribly, and then I was passed by Brooke Hoyer, but I quickly jumped back in front and rode my butt off trying to separate myself. I kept on digging in and I eventually dropped the rest of the race by opening a 15 second gap. For a second there I thought I was going to ride away with it... a fleeting second. From seemingly nowhere I noticed somebody gaining on me. I was Steve somebody (Yenne?) according to the fans. After having my lead swallowed up in a lap’s time, he got around me, at the same time Mike Benno caught up as well. Mike went around both of us and I jumped on their wheels. We rotated leads for a lap or so. After Barton, I was determined not to do all the work, so I made sure to ride their wheels and rest, and took some pulls too. It was fun being in a more strategic position, and the crowds were great. Although I did tell Margi to “settle down” at one point as she was enthusiastically cheering me along. Ooops. After a lap or so of this cat and mouse, Benno went down in front of me entering the corn maze, and while I tried to avoid him I heard Yenne(?) get tangled in a corn stalk, so I attacked in the maze and through the muddy parking lot section. Benno must have gotten up quick as he was right there, but we had gapped Yenne(?). At that point we worked together to open a big gap on the rest of the field. A lap later it was just us playing cat and mouse. I had made the mistake of mentioning to him that the corners after the finish line were giving problems all race, and that’s right where he attacked at the start of the bell lap. I knew it was coming, and was prepared, and managed to keep with him, even slipping past him before the last corner to slow him back up. We duked it out a bit on the remainder of the last lap. I made a move right before a corner on the back side, but he attacked right back on the last straight before the barn, got past me, and I ran out of room to get back. Mike got the win by 50 feet.

I found out later that he got tangled up with Mitchem at the start and was back in 12th in the first lap and came back from there. That’s impressive.

I was psyched with my form in the race, I felt good, and feel like I raced smarter than normal. And even though I was 2nd, I can’t help but replay the last couple laps and wonder “what if?”. Like should I have attacked earlier on the “start climb” or some of the straights to see how he responded? I think I may have been a bit quicker in the upper tree section so attacking right before then may have been a good plan too.

Hindsight is too unforgiving.

At least I know I am feeling good going into the final weekend.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On the board

They say four’s a charm! I don’t know who they are, and I am pretty sure they don’t say it, but it was for me.

Woke up to a cold morning with light rain. Saw a few flakes falling here at the house early on, but mostly just rain. I have to admit, I did not feel like racing. Something about dealing with all the muddy stuff so far from home. But I came all this way, I was pre-registered. I really had no choice.

Got to the course and they had made a few changes. Nothing too drastic, changed some turns here, added a short stretch through some mulch a la’ Hillsboro of old, but ridable (fitting since Hillsboro was today in PDX). The rain wasn’t incredibly heavy but enough to make some of these turns slick. It also made the sand pit a mess. The stuff just stuck to the drive train. I rode about 3/4 of it and my whole drive train was just coated in sand. What a mess!

ANYWAY….It was cold as all get out at the start, 39 degrees or so. I had 37 for my number, but I am pretty sure I was higher as some folks weren’t there. Still there were supposedly 63 starters. I had a much better start today and moved up a few. We must have been lined up in a better sense of speed today as we all seemed pretty well matched. I spent most of the race going back and forth with guys, probably in the mid to upper 20’s. But come the last lap, I became a possessed man, I am not sure where it came from, but I just turned it on and started reeling in guys. The field was much less spread out which allowed me to pass 6 or 7 guys. Towards the end of the lap some guy got on my wheel and I thought “I am not letting this guy beat me at the line!” I turned myself inside out, I passed by Donald Reeb who was warming up and he really cheered and spurred me on so that by the time I hit the finish straight away I had dropped the guy behind me and I could just cruise to the finish.

I really had no idea where I was in the race. I figured I finished about the same as the past races. I saw Sean Kelsey was two ahead of me right after the finish. I caught up to him, asked how his race was. He had the opposite of mine. He had moved up to 10th, but unraveled at the end and got passed, he thought by 6 or so. That gave me the possibility of getting a top 20, and some USGP points. I was psyched, but more because I felt like I finally rode well. When I went and looked at the results after the ladies race (Georgia rode away again for a win) I was 20th! I got my 1 point! Which is good as I believe it will line me up in front of the PDX top 10 masters in 2 weeks, a place I probably lost today anyway.

In the men’s race, Todd Wells got the hole-shot, but bobbled at the first turn and took out Wicks. Johnson and Powers took the lead. Trebon spent the next two laps chasing as Johnson pulled ahead of Powers. Trebon just rolled through Powers, then Johnson and opened up a 10 second gap until he had a bike change, and it was clear his B-bike wasn’t as good for him. Johnson caught him and got a few bike lengths in one lap, but once Trebon swapped back he was right back on Johnson and then rode away in the last 2 laps, winning with a 20 second lap or so. Parbo had a good race, as did Adam McGrath. I think he took 2nd in the U23, and looked to be riding really strong. He’s such a nice guy it was great to see him have a good race.

My luck continued as I found a hose with good pressure and no line to get my bike nicely cleaned. And on my cool down ride, I found a nice “almost new” travel mug on the side of the road, it was like a prize for my point! The bike is in the case, and the wet clothes are packed in plastic bags ready for the trip back home.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Quick Report

It's a little late here and I am whipped, so I'll make this quick.

Got a decent number, 40, but had a crappy start, went backwards right off the bat. Spent the first half fighting up to the mid 20's, where I ended in a pack of 7 or so that included Sean Kelsey who moved to PA from PDX earlier this year. I missed a break when he and another guy went with 2 to go. I was able to drop all but one guy from the remainder while trying to gap up, and that wheel sucker pinched me at the line by half a wheel in an all out sprint. Dang! I have got to learn some smarter racin'. I raced pretty good except for the start, and I owned the sand pit, passed my whole group every lap. I guess the long legs help for running in sand.

In the women's race, there was no Katie Compton, and that left Georgia Gould to pull off a pretty decent imitation by decimating the field. Sue Butler did pretty well at 7th, while Wendy Williams looked to be having a rough race finishing around 11th.

In the men's race it seemed like the Kona Twin Towers has something to prove. They moved to the front by the second lap and took off, dropping everyone. Tim Johnson who raced with a bloody nose after a wreck killed it to try to gap, got within 5 secs at one point, then faded back to a consistent 15 seconds. The bell lap was the typical scene of Ryan dropping Barry for the win. They really turned it on for that lap. It was odd without the normal Portland crew there. No Tonkin and no Cameron. Adam Craig was just inside 10th with a typical smile on his face race. Sheppard wasn't too far behind. And Donald Deeb was back a bit but seemed to have a good race.

There's a 60% chance of showers tonight, and even a chance of it mixing with some snow! it will be a completely different race with even just a bit of rain. Ok that was a pretty obvious statement, I'll just stop right there.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Feeling like a rock star

I’m livin large in the land of The Boss and Bon Jovi. Me and my bike arrived safely in NJ, nothing too exciting, once we got off the ground in Portland. I did a get a chance to meet one of Mercer County’s finest. I was driving down to the course for a ore-ride and on the way I managed to get lost, even with a talking GPS system, I found myself going a little fast when a cop passed me going the other way. He pulled a “Uie”, and the next thing I he was tellin’ me I was “driving a little fast, 55 in a 35” and asking if I had a license, insurance and registration. Since I was in my mom’s car I told him I hoped so and that I’m not from around these parts. He saw the bike in the back seat and asked if I was going to the race. I said I was going to race and was heading to the park to check it out. He thought it was pretty cool, and as I was looking for the registration and insurance, he told me not to worry and handed back my license. We talked about the race for a minute, and he gave me directions to the park. Had to have been the nicest cop I ever met. Or maybe I am just used to the bike hatin’ police back home.

If getting some respect from a cop didn’t have me feeling like a rockstar, then getting to the course and doing a couple warm-up laps in a pack with Tim Johnson, Parbo, Georgia Gould, Jesse Anthony and some others certainly did. Especially with local media and photographers there filming and taking pictures. Now if only I can ride like a rock start! That’d be sweet!

The course is pretty cool, at least I like it better than L’ville. It has a slightly longer start straight on an uphill and then goes a little more gradually on to the grass. From there is a good mix of twists and turns with some straights, and lots of room for passing. There’s a lot of grass, almost 80%, one real long sand stretch through a volleyball court, that, at least during warm-ups, Parbo was the only one I saw ride the whole thing. I could get about halfway through, and man it sucks your energy. They also built a “flyover” that isn’t as tall as in L’ville but seems steeper and ends on rougher terrain. Overall it is pretty dry, but soft. There isn’t any mud, so all the corners are pretty quick. I ran 50psi (too lazy to drop any, but I will) and had no problems doing a couple hot laps. There is a slight chance of some light snow on Saturday night, but pretty slight, otherwise just cold and partly cloudy.

I do have to say that NJ is prettier than I remember. The trees here still have some color on them, and there are some really nice places here. It also feels a lot richer in history here. All the places the American Revolution was fought, and homes that were built in the 1700s. Of course there are plenty of malls, both of the strip and full-scale variety, and plenty of sprawl to boot, but it isn’t as bad as you hear.

Checkout the cool antique cowbell my mom found in her attic and gave to me:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

CCX Master A BCS

It's way too early on Thursday morning, and I am sitting in the Portland Airport. At least they have free wifi. I’m heading back to Jersey to see my mom, and race in the next 2 USGP races in Mercer County Park, and you all thought I learned my lesson when I went to Louisville!

Anyway, since I am sitting here with some time to kill before my flight I thought I'd look over the Cross Crusade series standings, and see what my chances are for making the top ten. Thanks to Brooke Hoyer for posting the totals from Mike Wilson. Unfortunately, because the series is the best five scores of seven, and some people have raced six races and others less, it’s a hard thing to figure out (for me atleast), but this is how I think the situation is:

If two or more of the following happen I will NOT finish in the top ten:
Ian Leitheiser scores 16 points or more (11th or better)
Martin Baker scores 18 points or more (10th or better)
Mike Benno scores 18 points or more* (10th or better)
John Mitchem scores 24 points or more (7th or better)
Ed French scores scores 24 points or more* (7th or better)
However, if Mike Schindler scores less than 10 points*(14th or worse) then I pass him and 3 of the above can happen.

*If a rider scores exactly this amount it would lead to a tie and I have no idea what a tie breaker would be.


Now let's look at how the above finished this year:
Ian finishes near the top 5 (4,5,6 2DNFs 1DNS)
Martin finishes top 10 (8,8,9,11,17 1DNF)
Benno finishes all over (2,6,13 hasn't raced last couple)
Mitchem finishes near top 10 (9,10,11,12,15,17)
Ed French finishes just outside top 10 (7,10,12,14,16)

So I guess it is not impossible, and there are other guys who could have great races and bump me as well, while that would be out of their normal finishing place, I'm really just too tired to figure that out. This is already more information than anyone wanted, BUT if you happen to be watching the race, and just happen to have a stick in your hand, well.....let's just say it would be a shame for any of those guys if that stick got stuck in their wheel! No no, I would hate to have that happen to any of these guys. I made this bed for myself by missing two races, they’re all strong racers and any of them would deserve to get a top 10.

Good luck you guys, I'll see you all at Krugers or PIR.

It turns out my flight is an hour late, so getting up at 5am was pretty much a waste of time, and I need the sleep, I have been fighting off a head cold for the past couple days and I need all I can get before getting on a flying petri dish for 6 hours. This whole thing just sounds dumber and dumber.

Random observation, it's 7:30am and a family sitting here is feeding their young girls french fries for breakfast, is there any wonder why there's an obesity problem? That reminds me, go see King Corn if you get the chance, a really good movie/documentary.

Clearly it is time to go check on my flight status, or anything other than this for that matter. I should have internet at my mom's so look for a race report Saturday night.

Monday, November 12, 2007

4th and goal to go

Sunday was my final Cross Crusade race. This week’s race was at Timber Park in Estacada. It is a classic cyclocross course and many people’s favorite course. I have never done well there, but I like it all the same. This year’s course didn’t fail to please. It had a bit of everything, including some soft ground, almost resembling mud in places.

The rain that had been forecast throughout the week kept getting delayed but it finally came on Friday, and it dumped. But Saturday and Sunday were rather nice. The course was soft in the grass and downright boggy in a couple of places. But in the trees it was nice and firm. It was a longer course, and had it all, twists an turns, straight aways, off camber, hills and even a six pack. It was a livelier race than normal as it shared billing with the first Unofficial Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships. This brought out some big guns like Ryan Trebon, Barry Wicks, Adam Craig and Carl Decker, as well as the other local big cats and some folks from out of town. Add that to a lot of free beer and you get a rowdy crowd. This made the racin’ all the more exciting.


I got a call up again, as I was in 8th place in the series. I lined up behind Tre and Bravard, figuring they would be the guys to keep an eye on. Unfortunately I missed a pedal at the start and missed out on a hole shot. Then coming into the second corner that had a slight rise to it, Tim Butler went down right in front of me. To keep myself from crashing I put one foot down, right on his new carbon wheel! Sorry Tim, I hope the wheel’s ok. This left me in 12th or so. I spent the next two laps fighting past people and trying to keep an eye on Bravard, Tre and Bannik. By the time I got up to 4th they had gotten away, and I was feeling it from working so hard to move up. Before I knew it I had a couple guys on my wheel. We duked it out for a few laps, and on the last half of the bell lap I just put my head down and rode as fast and hard as I could. They had been riding the last hill/run-up better than me so I wanted a gap. Turns out it worked. I got a few seconds and was able to pull off 4th. Respectable. Bravard took the win with an old fashioned ass kicking. Seriously, he had quite a lead on the rest of us. He lead it from tape to tape. Impressive.
video

While I had a race with no real disasters, I did break my rear derailleur hanger while scouting the course before the race! I guess I am destined for a mechanical every SUnday, so I got that one out of the way pretty quick. I pulled the hanger off the pit bike, but then I went by the River City tent and they had one there so I also had my pit bike if I needed it which luckily I didn’t.

The highlight of the day was being able to hang out and watch the SingleSpeed Championship race. It was quite a scene. People in costume, and folks just going crazy. Pouring beer on racers, racers pouring beer on spectators. There was even a tequila “Shot Cut” where you could take a 30 second short cut if you took a shot of tequila. Only in the single speed race. It turned out to be a race between Adam Craig (World Mt Bike Single Speed Champ) Ryan Trebon (US CycloCross Champ) and Barry Wicks. It looked like Craig won the race but the crowds at the finish were crazy, Trebon and Craig got caught up and Wicks got past and took the win wearing a Team S&M hockey jersey and baggy Mt Bike shorts.


Sorry for the lame post, I've had a busy day,including cleaning my bike as I didn't get to that last night since we got home so late and I had been drinkin. I still need to change my cables and housing too, and I leave Thursday morning for NJ for the USGP. Gonna be a busy last few weeks of the season.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Psycho-Cross

It's official.

'Cross has made me neurotic. Don't believe me? OK, check out this dream I had the other morning:

I'm in a hotel lobby in NJ located at the start line for the USGP. The lobby is full of racers and gear, including my bag with all my stuff for the race. I find I am wearing my kit under my street clothes, complete with my bib number (#20, a good call up). A race is about to begin so I wander down to the start line to check out the course and watch the start. I quickly realize they are getting ready to start MY race! Not only that, the promoter says that they intentionally re-ordered the numbers to make it seem like they were assigned randomly, specifically mentioning #20 is not the 20th number and will be lined up further back, figures. Off I go back to the hotel to quickly take off my street clothes and get lined up. It's bad enough that I am all stressed-out about not having gotten a warm-up, but to make it worse, I realize I have no idea where my bike is. As I try to remember where it is, I realize I can't remember anything since I packed the bike up in Portland. My memory is suddenly like a foggy dream within a dream. I see Erik Tonkin and think to ask him if he has seen my bike, but I am too embarrassed to admit I can't find it! So I get the bright idea that maybe it is in my hotel room, and all I need to do is ask the front desk what room I am in. On my way to the front desk I start talking to some other racers, and explain that if my mom didn't live in NJ I wouldn't have come this far. That's when I realize I was going to stay with my mom and borrow her car to get to the race. That's where my bike must be! Only where's her car? Why don't I have keys for it? I can call my mom, but I can't tell her I lost her new car. I look out the window and my race hasn't started yet! I need to hurry! Where's my God-Damned bike?

Luckily I woke up at this point. It was like one of those dreams when you can't run no matter how hard you try. Maybe it says too much about how caught up I am in all of this stuff. For God's sake it's just a recreational activity. It's supposed to be a hobby I do for fun, not something that gives me freaky dreams. Sadly enough it is not the first time either. Before the season began I had a dream that I was in a race and I just could not remount the bike. No matter how hard I tried I kept jumping over it, or bouncing off it, and when I went to practice in the dream, as I remounted, there was no bike under me and I fell on the ground waking me up.

OK, OK, maybe this is all TMI to be putting on the web. Hopefully you all get a good laugh at my expense. You don't need to be Sigmund Freud to realize I am stressed about the USGP start position and the bike mishaps I have been having. Two things I have little control over. Just gotta remember I am not racing for a World Championship here, or a National Championship. Hell, I'm not even racing for the local series win! Time to lighten up. And if I think I have it bad, I was looking over the results and I saw that Daviney had 4 DNF's, that's not a typo, 4. That sucks, seriously, he's a really nice guy and I read on Laatste Ronde that Daviney crashed towards the end of the race and may have needed stitches. Heal well man.

Here's a little clip from the race on Sunday thanks to Ms Adventure (finished 2nd in her race, nice!)
video

That's all I gots for ya. Still calling for rain by the weekend. Not sure if that is good or bad, but I'll make a prediction. I have (good/bad start) fight for a lap or so then(crash/mechanical) think about quitting then ride real hard to finish the race for a disappointing end to the series. Oh wait, that's negative thinking and will get me nowhere. How about, I get the hole shot at the start and drop the hammer leading the race from tape to tape, demolishing the competition. Well, however it turns out you can read about it here on Monday.

Monday, November 05, 2007

So close


Sunday was a trip to the quarry in Barton for a bike race. I know, a quarry doesn’t sound like much of a place for a bike race, and to be honest I am not sure if it is, but I’m just a passenger on this Crusade; it’s not my place to make these decisions.

Leading up to the race, I had planned on just simply going balls out and try to kill it, inflict some self suffering, and if I was lucky, cause some pain and suffering on anyone who wanted to play along. Sitting at my desk today, I can say I certainly caused my self to suffer, hopefully some others are feeling as miserable as a result.

Barton was a totally different race this year, Being in a gravel pit it featured a lot of …..gravel. Shocking I know. It also had some pavement, some dirt, some gravel covered pavement and some gravel covered dirt. Even with all the dry weather, they managed to find a couple spots of mud for us, nice guys. Threw in two lung searing run-ups and some gravelly corners sprinkled on top. Overall it was a flat course. And it was a fast course. I had a call-up to the second row, as I had dropped to 11th overall after missing last week’s race. I still got a good start and was up near the front going into the first corner. By the time we came around at the end of the first lap I had moved to the front with a mind on driving the pace. We had a group of about 11 off the front, and I was anxious to whittle this down. I knew that being in front for so long was not a smart race tactic, I even remember thinking to myself that I was just being a chump for the strong guys behind me. But I don't think that sitting in a paceline and letting others do the work is going to make you a stronger racer, so I kept trying to go to the front, at least for the first three laps. I eventually had to drop back in the line for a bit to recover. At the start of the fifth lap or so I started moving back up until I dropped my chain on the run-up. Not only did I drop my chain, but I got it wrapped around my crank arm and jammed in between the chain rings. I can’t figure out how that happened. I think it may have been sabotage while running up the hill….ok maybe not. No matter, I was forced to stop, get on the ground, and wrestle with my chain for what felt like an eternity, but in reality was probably 20-30 seconds, if that. We must have had a significant gap on the rest of the field as no one really got past me, just a few stragglers. I got going again and passed those guys up. I was obsessed and gave all I had to try to catch back up, but working alone was just too much and after a couple laps I could tell I wasn’t gaining on the front. I was able to grab on to some of the A men riders as they came by, and that helped me some, I even got within sight of a couple guys who eventually fell off the front pack, but that was in the last lap, too late to catch them. In the end I was lucky to finish 9th. Partly due to a couple guys in the front DNFing (Did Not Finsish).


I like I was so close to a good finish, but crappy luck, or poor skill, took it away again. I was hoping for a better finish from the day. The 9th place was enough to move me back into the top ten overall, but since I will miss the double points race, I will need a strong finish next week to secure my goal of a top 10 overall. I know I can do better. I just need to prove it.

On the bright side, or should I say, dark side, it looks like there is some rain in the forecast later in the week. Could be a muddy Estacada race.

Edited to change my finish from 8th to 9th, John McCaffrey finished 5th he did not DNF as first reported, nice race John.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Weekend wrap-up

Me after the race on Sun.: “Why the hell do we do this?”
Brian: “I don’t know”
Me: “And why the hell did I travel 3000 miles for it?”
Bran: “I have no idea!”

On my way back home from L’ville, a long trip, (traveling tip: no matter how cheap never ever book a flight with two stops.) I find myself trying to answer those questions. I thought about waxing poetic on how we all dream of being a pro cyclist, or like mountaineers I do it simply because it is there. Or maybe to convince you (me?) that I thought I could compete at the top. But to be honest, there is no simple answer. Probably all of the above, along with taking advantage of an opportunity to do something different. If I didn’t know anyone in L’ville there is no way I would have done this. Am I glad I did it? Definitely. Will I do it again? No comment

In sum, it was definitely good to be able to get out and experience what ‘cross is like elsewhere; and to race against some really good competition. I think the podium in my race the first day had at least 2 former national champions on it, while day two was won by current national masters champ Feldman. The competition up front, at least, was steep. Also in looking at the times, I was no further from first place than Molly Cameron or Erik Tonkin is from the winners of their races. So I can try to justify it that way. Not that I am in the same country code of either of them.

I also had a good time seeing Brian again, and getting to hang out with him. And I definitely can’t thank him enough for his hospitality. Driving us around all weekend and giving me a place to sleep. I just hope he gets his furnace fixed soon. I also want to mention that he had a great race in the Men’s 2/3 (B’s) on Sunday. He also started in the last row and was able to move up to 18th. A real solid race. Keep given them boys hell!

I didn’t get to report on the main events of Sunday in my last post. In summary, Katie Compton rolled away again, but not quite as much as Saturday and she had a strong Georgia Gould chasing after from way back at the start. I am looking forward to watching them race in NJ when they should have similar starting positions. Wendy and Sue Butler, the local P’town ladies, had solid top 10 finishes as well. They are looking strong this year, even if they are not as happy with their results as they’d like to be.

In the Men’s the start was a replay of Sat. Wicks had the hole shot with Powers, Johnson, Trebon et. Al. following. Something must have happened to Wicks in the first lap as he was way back in 20+ with Adam Craig, while Johnson, Trebon, Powers and Chris White were in the front after one lap. As things shook out Johnson and Trebon eventually dropped Powers and White, with Johnson eventually dropping Trebon. Wicks and Craig moved all the way back up to 4th and 5th respectively while Powers held on to 3rd. As for the locals, Molly was able to start, and even though she was visible in pain from her wreck on Sat she raced solid and finished in 18th for the elites (22nd overall counting U23s). Tonkin was up in the low 20s after one and moving up, but unfortunately his back got all aggravated and he was forced to withdraw. He told me later he just didn’t feel like he was racing because of his back, and so there wasn’t much point in continuing. Bummer.


Speaking of locals. It sounds like Sunday’s Halloween crusade was another fun race. I think it may have been the first Crusade I have missed since I started racing three years ago. Feels weird. Margi told me she had a really good race and may have finished second. Very well done. At least one of us is Podiuming [yes that is a word, the conjugation of the verb to podium]

From witnessing two races in KY, I have to say they don’t hold a candle to the scene in Portland. The amount of spectators was about to equal to a normal Crusade race. With the exception of the elite races, the fields were significantly smaller. It makes me feel really lucky to be able to race in Portland. But maybe being in Portland is why I race.

OK, enough of this nonsense. I have passed the halfway point of my season, Barton Park is coming up this Sunday with Estacada the following week. These will be my last 2 crusades for the year. After that I am off to NJ. Back for some Tofurkey and Krugers Farm, then the finale’ USGPs in Portland. Assuming I stay healthy and all that. Knock on wood.

Livin like a pro

Racing like an amateur.


I think that sums up my foray into racing under the big top so to speak. After a 27th finish on day one I was hoping for a better line-up, you know, maybe one based on performance. Unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. While I had a second to last row line-up on day one with number 51, day two gave me number 55 and put me in the last row. The day’s course had been changed some, they took out the 180 turn before the barriers, and the long straight aways. These were replaced with more sweeping turns on rough grass. The other turns that were slick the day before and had me riding more tentative had gotten tackier overnight so you could really rail those corners. The only part that seemed harder was the sand. It had turned wet and heavy, but only one pit was really that long or deep.

I was feeling good about the day, despite my start number. I just dropped all expectations and only focused on having a strong race. Sitting in the last row for the start, I remembered reading, or being told, about a Belgian rider who, when stuck in the back at a start, would actually move about 5 yards behind everyone else, like a full back in football, and when the gun went off, would get the momentum going and just surge into the gaps of the pack in front of him, just like a full back looking for holes in the line of scrimmage. I thought I’d try it out, and it worked pretty well, right away I was past 10-15 guys, and had more momentum than most of the other riders. So far so good, but not for long. Into the second turn, some yahoo in front of me got all tangled in the tape and crashed. I had to stop dismount and remount to get around/over him. That cost me most of what I had gained. Ughh. From there all I could do was attack. I was feeling good and really moving up. By the second lap I was up to 28th. With a group of six or so a ways in front of me. I slowly worked my way up to 22nd, and as I came through with one lap to go a group of four had worked their way up to me. Here I was with 4 guys all racing for 22nd. One guy slipped around me, and went right past him. I was trying to lay it down as best I could to break up this group as I didn’t think I could hold off a finish line sprint. While really pushing it with less than a half a lap to go, my front wheel slipped out on a turn, the guy behind me ran over my rear wheel, and as I reached down for my bike, the next guy hit it and knocked it 5 feet away from me. I grabbed and jumped on, but my rear wheel wasn’t spinning. My brake pad had been jammed below the rim. I had to stop and pull it out. Then get going again. All this took only 5 seconds or so, but enough to leave me too far behind those guys and left in 26th place. One better than the day before. Aside from the final place, I feel like I had a lot better race than Saturday, and looking at the results, I was a minute closer to the race winner, but still 3 minutes behind.

Gotta go catch a plane.

livin like a pro……

Little Fish…..

In a bigger pond.

What the hell am I doing here? That’s what I was thinking part way through the race. I can’t say I had the best race ever. It’s not that I didn’t feel strong, I just did not ride the course well. For starters I was randomly given 51 for my number. This put me in the second to last row. Then the course had a short straight then right in to a series of turns and then the screwiest 180 hairpin turn right in front of the barriers. This lead to a total cluster at the start. There was no room in the front to let things shake out and then we hit a crazy bottle neck at the barriers. So if you weren’t at the front forget it. To be clear here, I am not saying I could have been a top finisher if I was lined up in the front row, but I’d like to feel I would have beat some guys in front of me if given a chance. But hey, them’s the breaks.

As for the rest of the course; It was held on an old golf course, so it was flat. It had a lot of tight twisty turns, some of them slick form rain earlier in the week. It had a couple long straight sections as well. Mostly on grass, with a couple sand sections thrown in. Then there was the green monster. A flyover, which is a set of stairs with a flat section on top and a ramp going down. This crossed part of the course, so you would cross under the monster , around a big left sweeper and then up the stairs and down the ramp. Wasn’t too bad. You had to clip in quick or ride the ramp unclipped, but that was doable.

In the main events of the day Katie Compton showed why she is the National Champ. She opened a can of whup-ass on the rest of the field, over a minute lead. Sue Butler and Wendy scored top 10’s I believe. In the men’s race, the first half was a four man fight of Trebon, Wicks, J-Pow and Tim Johnson. Wicks was the first to pop, then Trebon fell off. Johnson and J-pow went back and forth with J-pow taking it in the last lap. While a resurgent Wicks took Trebon for third. Adam Craig had an amazing race, starting in the fourth row and finishing 5th! So I guess I should quit my whining and just try to ride like Craig (HA HA). Unfortunately Molly crashed hard and DNF’d. She looked pretty banged up. I hope she is ok.

As for our friend Silent Bob, he got screwed by the Officials, they didn’t let him start because he had a “day license” to cover his OBRA license. The registration guy said it was a total screw-up. I am not sure how I got away with it, but I ain’t complaining. I hope they don’t try to mess with me tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bits and Pieces

Mental note: ALWAYS check tire pressure on the pit bike before the race! I was going over the bikes last night, and getting the pit/training bike ready for a ride after work today. As I swapped out my wheels (yes, I have a race set for my pit bike, doesn’t everyone?), I noticed the tires seemed a little firm, so I checked the pressure, and sure enough I was running 50+psi on the pit bike! Well, that explains why I had such a hard time climbing some of those hills! Brilliant Scott, brilliant.

Shout Out: I forgot to thank Bro-man for running to the pits on Sunday to give me a bike exchange. After Alpenrose I showed him how a bike exchange would ideally happen, and he pulled it off like a pro, that is after he saw me running to him and realized he was on the wrong side of the bike, but it looked so pretty I even heard a compliment from someone nearby. Nice work Bro-man.

Sunday was also Margi’s second cross race. She continues to race really well. Last week she was 5th in her first race, and she moved up to 4th yesterday. Look out ladies, there’s a new force to be reckoned with! Speaking of ladies to be reckoned with Heather had an awesome race on Sunday. In her second race in the B’s she took 2nd! That is awesome Heather. Keep it up, you’re riding real strong.

I stole this cool photo from Bob Libby, Cary the Miller Kid is battling Hulik for the hole shot, but notice to the right, Decker is pulling a wheelie through the puddle off the start!


US Grand Prix of Cyclocross
This weekend is the start of the USGP of Cross. It is a six race series in held in three cities. This year’s races are in Louisville, KY, Mercer, NJ and Portland, OR. It just so happens that my good friend/teammate/riding partner and the guy who pretty much taught me to race cross, Brian, just moved to Louisville this summer, AND I am from Jersey, with my mom living about 45 mins from the race. Sounded too good to be true, so I cashed in a whole bunch of frequent flier miles, and was able to get flights to both KY and NJ. So I won’t be in Astoria this weekend, I’ll be racing in Louisville. Yup that's right, I'm living like a pro, and racing like an amateur! It should be interesting to say the least. I have no idea what the competition will be like, so I am really hoping for is a couple of good solid races. It’ll be hard, I think there will be some real fast guys there. Anyway, I got myself a new camera, so if nothing else I will try to get some video and shots of the Men’s and Women’s races. And if I can find a wi-fi hook-up (not sure if they have internet in KY) I’ll post some results, so come on back ya hear!

Speaking of the new camera, I shot a couple videos of the B’s Sunday. Here’s the B men coming up the hill off the track:
video
And here’s one of them in the Sand pit:
video

Monday, October 22, 2007

Priceless

Cost of a race: $20

Cost of my spare bike: $300 (I got a great deal!)

Cost of being able to run to the pit for a bike change: I don’t know, but it sure isn’t worth $320!!!!!

Yesterday was the Crusade race out at Ranier HS. It was a great venue, and before the race everyone seemed really psyched for the race. The course had a long paved uphill start, with a turn on to a tacky muddy grass/treed section with a long gradual decent. Then on to the track, up a steep but rideable climb, down to a sloppy muddy section along the pits. From there it entered the woods, or as I like to call it, the back 40. A wooded off camper slick, slightly climbing section with two short climbs at the end. This lead to a quick run along a sidewalk then around to the crowd pleasing sandpit, back around and down to the pits, then the long painful climb back up to the start and into the start climb.

For the Master’s 35+ race, there was a crusade first; Call-ups! I am not sure how they figure out the call-ups but I got the second call-up, pretty cool, my first ever. I tried my best to live up to it, and got off the line first and lead it through the start line, but then I thought I rolled my tubular, glanced down and in that split second a half dozen or more guys slipped past. That’s how fast, and heartless these guys are! Unfortunately for me, my sucking was just beginning.

I started fighting back some spots and was somewhere in the top 10 or so, but I kept taking horrible lines, or I would be in the wrong gearing. Just ugly. Then coming out of the “back 40” I broke my chain! My first thought was that I could now drop out and save face from my sucking. But, having a second bike had me feeling like I had to run to the pit. I haven’t run that far in months. Not very fun. And when one guy passed me and joked with “if you need a chain there’s one back there a bit (meaning my broken one on the course)” I wanted to strangle him. Lucky for him, he was on a bike and I was running, and I was too winded to even shoot back a witty retort like "screw-you!" My only bit of luck was having Bro-man watching at the sandpit. He ran ahead and got my pit bike ready, and executed a great hand-off.

From that point on all I could do was just hammer it for the rest of the race. It just became a hard training ride for me, and I tried to take some more chances and push things a bit more since I had nothing to loose. After working my through the first clump of racers I came across David Davini, and I asked him what happened as I was surprised to see him back this far. His response “Nothing, I just suck”. I hope I didn’t offend him. He’s a good rider who kicks my butt in short track and a nice guy, but that response cracked me up!

Anyway, I finished the race feeling more exhausted than the previous few races. That one took it out of me. I must have done ok once I got going as I ended up in 14th. Not too bad all things considered.

My goal for the Crusade series has been to finish top 10 overall for the series. Right now that is going to be a tough one to accomplish. With the Alpenrose barrier issues and yesterday’s race result, I am left with just two races that I probably need to score top 5 or better, as I will miss two races; One of them a double pointer. It’s not impossible, just going to take some good riding and some luck. But no matter what, I am racing well this year, so I got that going for me……

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bonus Footage

At Sunday’s race, Adam Craig, world cup Mt Biker and Single Speed Mt Bike world champion, graced us with his presence at the race. Or should I say disgraced all of us while he raced!

Even the pro's don’t pull it off perfectly every time. Below is a little footage of Craig almost taking out the crowds with his bunny hopping madness:

My Nemesis



Sunday brought us chapter 2 of the Cross Crusade Cyclocross series. This installment was held at Horning’s Hideout. A venue more often associated with Jam bands and their patchouli wearing, pot smoking followers. So I am sure the resident peacocks were in hiding at the sight of the 906 lycra clad bike racers that descended upon the hideout for a cross race.

The course was a tough one. Last year a racer crashed bad and was airlifted out. As we rolled in this year a fire engine and two ambulances showed up, quite a foreboding sign. Luckily, the course was little more tame for cross bikes, just a little. It was a no rest rough and tumble course. Quick descents, short punchy climbs and lots of kidney bruising bumpy fields. Leaving hardly anywhere to rest.

This week, Margi was along not just to cheer on her favorite racer, but to give ‘er a go in the women’s beginner race as well. She did AWESOME. Taking sixth place in her first race*. She seemed really psyched afterwards, and I bet you will be able to find her in a park this week continuing to practice those cross mounts in preparation for the next race. Another addict is born!

Once again I was giving it a go in the Master A field. I got a good line-up on the front row, and narrowly avoided McCaferty’s mechanical in the start. That may have broken the field a bit, and I was in the front group, 5th or 6th, and we were off. Halfway through the lap it was three of us, John Michum, Tre Harris and me. Tre won last week, and finished second to me at Hood River, so it looked like it would be a good battle. I sprinted past him to take the first lap (hey, there was a bottle of wine on the line) and for 3 or 4 laps we switched off. He was better on the descents, especially the hard right turn in the field. I had him on the hills. It was a lot of fun racing him neck and neck. At one point I thought I was gapping him off, but he got back on me on the descent. Then on the next lap we caught up to the back of the A men, and on the descent he got away from me. It was that moment in the race were I was hitting the wall, and even though I was thinking I had to stay on his wheel, my body just didn’t listen and in frustration I watched him open a lead on me. It took me a lap or two to “wake-up” again, and I started to gain back on him, at one point I got within a couple seconds, but I bobbled a turn and lost some, by which point he had me and I just hung in for second.

It was a fun race. And except for those two laps I felt real strong. And I certainly can’t complain about 2nd. After the race Tre was gracious enough to not count last week’s result due to my crash, leaving us tied at 1 apiece. You can bet I will be gunning for him next week.

Look, I really can clear a set barriers:


*In the spirit of full disclosure Margi did do a cross race 2 years ago. On a borrowed bike, with no prep or prior practice.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Man Down

I was just sent this wonderful evidence of me biffing it in the barriers
And the aftermath:
http://photos.oregonvelo.com/p/cc070107/cc0701a05896#photo_s
http://photos.oregonvelo.com/p/cc070107/cc0701mjb010838
http://photos.oregonvelo.com/p/cc070107/cc0701mjb010947#photo_s
http://photos.oregonvelo.com/p/cc070107/cc0701mjb011056#photo_s
http://photos.oregonvelo.com/p/cc070107/cc0701mjb01114#photo_s

Awful nice of them to document it all and post it on the web. Remind me to thank those guys! Luckily the only bruise was to my ego, and after seeing these it just got worse.

Leave it me to show you how the Pros do it!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Crusade Begins....

The Cross Crusade Cyclocross series started on Sunday, and once again that meant racing at the popular Alpenrose Dairy. And once again that meant near record attendance, some where near 1078 racers in 6 races.

I was back racing with the Masters 35+ A race (the fast old guys). After last week's fiasco with the bike I felt I had gotten the shifters working well, that and the course was pretty dry, so I was feeling better. The course was a little softer than last year, but no mud as the rain had let up the past few days. Either way I was taking no chances, thanks to the guys from Sellwood Cycle I was able to get a second bike built up for the pits. Together, they make the Fluorescent Fleet.

Leading up to the race I was a nervous wreck. I kept trying to convince myself that it was just a race, and meant nothing. But it didn't work. I was nervous, stomach cramps and a headache nervous. Not good. Made we wonder why the hell I do this, but once I got there, rode around a bit, joked with some folks I felt a lot better.

I got a good line up, in the front row, and was feeling good. From the gun I was off the line with the top 5-10 guys until one of them pinched me off against a curb. That just pissed me off, and I motored back up. I worked my way up to around 6th. Then, remember that right shifter from last week? Somebody (me) didn't tighten it up enough and it started flopping around, making the climbs and the decents pretty tough. I wanted to make a bike change but I was afraid to loose too many places. I was looking for someone I could yell to to grab my pit bike so I could have a quick exchange, well, lady luck, or as I now call her, the bitch of misfortune, smiled her gap-toothed grin at me again. While going through the 6-pack. I went down. Luckily right between the barriers, and luckily in front of Bro-man. I yelled "I need a bike change, same bike, in green!" After putting my chain back on and losing 3-4 places I was back on. I came into the pits and Bro-man was waiting like a good pit bitch with the bike change. As I change bikes a group of 4 or so got past me. From there I just did all I could to get as many spots as I could back. I did ok, finishing in 11th. Not too bad.

Overall I felt good, and am happy with an 11th. I think I could have pulled a top 5 finish, and the guy who won it I had beat in HR, so if nothing else I feel like I am up there with the top guys in the field.

The nice thing about the dry course: No bike cleaning to be done!!!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Time Out!

We interupt the bike interuption to bring some very important information about:

SNOW!

That's right, one day it was summer, and the next it was fall, and week later it's winter! Pretty fast changes this year. So fast that I have been caught off guard and haven't had a chance to get my winter forecast up.

Well wait no more Snow Curmudgeon fans, it is time for the Winter Outlook.

After painstakenly looking at all the data, historical trends and mostly just reading a few other forcasts and plagarizing, I have a good grasp of the winter forcast.

Some background:
Pac NW winters can often follow the trend of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Two year's ago we had a record winter, that was following the busy Hurricane season that included Katrina. Last year we had a close to normal winter that peetered out early, and a correspondingly unremarkable Hurrucane season. This year we have had a somewhat average to quiet Hurricane season. There were a few early, and they were big-uns too. So maybe we can expect some early winter activity, then leveling off?

There is also some correlation to years when we have a wet spring we have a dry fall and vice versa. We certainly had a dry spring this year, and so far a wet fall.

We also tend to have active Winters in La Nina years, and miserable (dry and sunny) winters in El Nino years (see 04/05 the year without a winter). Right now we are boardering on a La Nina year, some forecasts call for it to weaken as the winter goes on other call for it to remain.

I think you have figured out where I am heading with this one. Expect this year's winter to come in roaring and then temper somewhat. But I am going to keep uncharacteristically optomistic and call late winter as average. I envision an early build to the snow pack with above average snow and below avergage temps through early January, with close to average temps and precip mid-January through may. That second half is hard to predict, but it looks pretty good for the first half right now.

I am not saying we will be skiing by Halloween. These early snows are exciting, but there will still be soem dry periods and warm fronts to keep the pack from building too much. But I think we can expect soem wild weather none the less.

For more enlightened forcasts check here:
http://www.ocs.oregonstate.edu/index.html

I now you return you to your previously unscheduled interuptions, I gotta go tune the skis and sno seal the leather boots!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mud Snot and No Gears

I had somewhat jokingly thought to myself the other night, that I should change my Ridley into a SS and do a double race, since this one was just going to be for practice. Well I didn't, but I ended up racing with a SS in the end.....

September went out as one heck of a wet month. I believe it set a record for rainfall for the month, if not, Friday and Sunday certainly set records for the day, but I'll leave the weather for the Snow Curmudgeon. Either way, it resulted in the Barlow HS course being a muddy sloppy mess of a course. I mean ridiculously muddy. With plenty of running to be done. Overall though, I think it was the same course as last year, more or less.

I lined up with the young fast guys to try to gage where I am in that catagory since this was an independent race with no real bearing on the season. I was pretty much in the last row at the start and managed to move up a bit to the back of the second group on the course, which was most of the field. Early in the race (after the Finish line barrier)I was running on an off camber spot and slipped, and went down with the bike, dumping the right side into mud (foreshadow). I regathered myself and for the next lap or so I picked up the momentum and started moving through some riders, starting to feel good, by the third lap though things started to change.

My right shifter no longer wanted to shift into a smaller cog. And ended up stuck on the second to largest. With my front derailleur this left me with 2 gears. The frustration of it seemed to just take me out of the race. Then to make things worse I had problems shifting to the large ring up front, leaving me stuck in the granny gear and just spinning out for a couple laps. Pretty frustrating. Then I just started falling. I think on the second to last lap I fell three times! If there was anymore than one lap to go when I came through I would have dropped out. But I continued to slog along and try to ride some sections I was having problems on, not very successfully either. In the end I was 30th out of 41. I'd like to imagine I lost 10 spots with my mechanicals and could have broke the top 20. Hey it's my blog and I can imagine all I want.

Well let's hope I used up some of my mechanicals for the year on that race. I was by no means the only one.

Anyone know the best way to clean out a Dura Ace 9-speed shifter?

Next Week: Alpenrose and the first Cross Crusade series race.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Hurt never felt this good!


After spending too much time writing the previous post (stupid blog), I had to rush to get my butt and gear into the car for the drive out to Hood River. Lucky for me there were no Smokeys on I-84 as I did 80 the whole way. I ended up getting there with plenty of time. Had a chance to get in a pre-ride of the course and get a good warm up. It was the same exact course as the previous year, a mix of open grass, single track, some gravel and pavement. There were 4 barriers (2 singles, a double and a triple). 3 of the four forced either a run-up or one run down. In general I think this is a really good course for me, the single track is fast, and there are not a lot of sharp tight turns. I won the B race last year on it, so I felt comfortable going into the race. One thing I have to remember is to not let myself get psyched out by the other guys on the line. I see these guys that look like they are in great shape and on the most beautiful bikes with top of the line gear, and I just think they are going to whip my butt. Anyhow, I was lined up on the outside, as usual, and in the second row in a field of about 20 or so Master 35+ A riders. They set us off about 1 minute behind the Sr. Men. I got a decent start and after going through the fence gate I was sitting in 5th or 6th wheel. I felt really good on the first barrier/run-up and passed two guys there to move to 3rd. Then on the next straight away I was feeling strong and took the lead. I was thinking it may not have been the smartest move as I was sure Saturday’s race was going to catch up to me eventually, and if I did a lot of the work earlier on, I’d blow-up. At the same time I didn’t want anyone who got a poor start to catch up and wanted to get away as soon as possible. Well by the time we got to the double barrier with the long run-up there were 3 of us off the front. I unfortunately tripped on the second barrier and fell flat on my face, apologizing to the guys behind me for getting in the way. I got up and ran back up to second, and the guy I passed from Dioscovery Cycles was nice enough to tell me my chain dropped, so I was able to shift back up before mounting so the chain just grabbed back on, thanks Dude! I sat in second for the next lap, trying to get a breather as my HR was pinned. Coming in to the double barrier the guy in the lead yelled to his support that he had a flat rear wheel and needed a change in the pits, so I hurried around him and tried to take advantage as the pits were just up the hill. For the next few laps it was me and the nice guy from Discovery Cycles off the front. I think somewhere in the 4th lap I finally got some separation. I did notice when I could see behind that Martin Baker was moving up, which had me worried, as I know he is a good rider, so I tried to keep it moving. I was worried that Martin and the Discovery guy would work together and get back to me like the night before. Luckily that didn’t happen, and I started catching the end of the Sr. Men, so I had some chances to rest. After 25 mins I went through the finish and saw 8 laps to go! I couldn’t believe it, we had only done 7 the night before. I thought there was no way I was going to hang on. Luckily a few laps later it was down to 3 and then the next lap I got the bell for one lap to go. I had opened up about a 20-30 second lead and just focused on keeping it upright for the last lap.

Success and the victory!

Not bad for a double race weekend. It also leaves me undefeated on this HR course, ha ha. (note: I did not win in HR two year’s ago, but it was a different course).

Not to diminish the other guys in the race, but traditionally the HR race does not have the fiercest competition. Bravard, Divini and Butler were racing at Steilacom, and John McCaferty was not there, among others. Anything can happen on any day, yesterday happened to be my day. I know that some of the guys in that race can beat me. I just hope I can continue to be competitive for the rest of the season. But it sure does feel good for now. Except for my sore calves an hip flexors. I am not used to running anymore! I can barely walk today.

It does bring me to one point. Is there a time when someone who is of Masters age (35+) is considered to be sandbagging and should instead race Sr. Mens? If Shanon Skerrit lined up with the Master’s wouldn’t folks think he was sandbagging? I am sure this will be moot once the season is in full gear, but is there a point when a guy should “upgrade” from Masters to Sr Mens? Especially if he is, like me (36), barely a master?

In that theme I am planning to race Sr Mens at Barlow for kicks (in the butt), but will be back in Masters for the Cross Crusade series and USGP.


The Cross Curmudgeon

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Star Crossed Cyclocross


Or should we say, Star Crossed grass criterium. This year they changed the course significantly from years past, and added in a lot of long flat straight paved sections, making for a super fast paced course, without too much technicality. Just one set of barriers and the traditional log step run-up. Never the less it was a great time. The crowds are always good the atmosphere is awesome to start the year.

I was definitely nervous before my race. I was going up against Dale Knapp and some other dude wearing a stars and stripes jersey of a Masters national champion in cyclocross. I was lined up in about the middle of the filed, about 40-50 guys strong. Right next to me was John Bravaard, a Portland rider, real nice guy, who always does real well in the local races, as well as his team mate David Divinney and Tim Butler from River City Cycles. These are all guys I was hoping to keep up with as they are top finishers in the local race series. The start had some good jostling and throwing of elbows down the front straight, including some guy just leaning into me. By the second turn I was at the end of a big lead group; close to half the field, with no one too close behind. I spent the next 2-3 laps working my way through people. I was feeling good, but didn't really know how good until Margi told me I was 10th, sitting in the middle of a small group. So I dug in and broke free from that group, which included David Divinney and Tim Butler, trying to chase down Bravaard. I made it to 7th, and realized I was 2 slots behind Dale Knapp! The guy's a legend in US cross. I think I was so surprised with how I was doing I became a little too complacent to hold on to 7th, and I slipped from Bravaard some. Meanwhile Divinney, Butler and a couple guys organized a chase and working together they were making their way back to me. With a lap to go I had a 10 second lead on them and they were gaining while I was just trying to hold on. At the final turn one of the guys was right on my back wheel, and it lead to a sprint finish for 7th......he got me at the line.....oooommmpppphh. But still, I finished 8th in a strong field of really experienced and talented riders. I'm really happy with the results. I'm also really glad there were a bunch of people cheering for me. I don't even know who some of them were, but it helped to cruise past the beer garden and have people cheering me on!



The night ended with two awesome races in the women's and men's pro races. In the women's, a pack of 6 women formed a lead group that included Wendy Simms (Canadian Nat Champ) Josie Jaques Maynes, Wendy Williams and Sue Butler (River City) and two other women. They battled for the entire race, with the annoying announcers talking only about Simms the whole race, and how she was going to pull off the win. On the last lap the hammer was dropped and the two unknown ladies dropped off, leaving for a group sprint, with Wendy Williams taking it at the line!!! Way to go Portland.

In the men's race, right off the bat Ryan Trebon (Kona, National Champ) Teammate Barry Wicks and the Swiss National Champ Christian Hueler (sp?) broke free. By the end of the first lap it was a three person race. The Swiss just sat in and let the Twin Towers do all the work. You could just see it coming. No matter hard they tried, the Kona boys could not drop the swiss, which explains why he is 5th in the world right now. At one point Barry made a move and then stacked it coming off the track and fell behind by 10 seconds. Amazingly, a half lap later he was leading again. They are so fast and strong. But on the last lap Trebon poured it on, dropping Wicks, but everytime he got a small gap Hueler would get back on, resulting in a sprint finish with Hueler taking it in a near photo finish!!! A pretty exciting first night of 'cross.

video

Well time to get ready to drive out to Hood River for another race. My legs are toast, this is gonna hurt....Thanks to Miss Adventure for the photos and race support! Also a shout out to Matt Wills, who did the ballsy move of upgrading from B's to A's, buying a UCI license to race against some super strong men, got taken out by another rider in the first lap and had to drop out of the race. You're a bigger man than me, I would have taken the heckling and raced B's.