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.

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.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Merry CrossMass Eve!!!!

With the giddiness of a 5-year-old waiting for Christmas, cross season is finally here. Tomorrow I will enter my first race of the year, heading up to Seattle for the Star Crossed event. It is a great event, I think the tag line a couple years ago was "Come for the party, stay for the race". It is complete with a DJ and beer tent in the middle of the race. And the main event, the Men's A race is under the lights. I, alas, am not racing in that one. I'll be doing the Master's A (35yo+). Yup, racing with the old, yet fast, guys. Should be good. I feel like I have trained pretty hard this year, and am feeling like my form is pretty good coming into the race. I hope I don't regret those words. I'll be racing against some really good racers tomorrow.
Check out this preview from last year's:

The exciting thing, is I not only get to race tomorrow, but I am going to drag myself out of bed on Sunday morning, drive out to HR, and race again. Hopefully there'll be a kids race and Lacy (my 4yo niece) will get to race too. And if you liked the clip above so much here's a clip from my men's B race at HR from last year. Yeah, I won it. That's right Wills, you may have been beating later in the year, but I beat you when the glory was on the line, But good for you for not sandbaggin the B's tomorrow. You're a bigger man than me. I'll still cheer you on...
Oh yeah the race clip:

Finally I want to thank the Snow Curmudgeon for letting me hi-jack this blog for the 'cross season. Hopefully he'll keep us posted on the snow as the fall progresses.

Thanks for reading.

The Cross Curmudgeon