31 October 2010

Boss Cross #3 at Barry-Platte Park

For me this was the last race of the first half of the CX season. September is basically getting the feet wet and October tells you where you are and exposes any weak spots. November is the time to fix any weaknesses, hopefully kick your fitness up another step, and get your messy conditions technique working.

As has been typical this year, we had balmy conditions--70 degrees and sunny. Friends and family came out to enjoy the day and cheer me on. I definitely was hearing my name and words of encouragement ("C'mon Old Man!!") all over the course.

This was a new course for me, as I didn't race this event last year. It was a compact course, due in large part to the size of the park. As a result, it was quite twisty and turned back on itself in order to get the lap length up. The course definitely had some interesting elements: sand runs, tough off-camber turns, and some slow-speed, elevation changes.

In particular 2 turns were the primary technical challenges. The first is pictured here: you could get in trouble if you tried to rush this one. Basically, you needed to drop down all the way to the tape and then make your turn and ride straight up the hill. The second was a short, steep uphill chicane. There wasn't much grip on the upslope, so you pretty much just had to come at it with speed and just launch up it right to the tape. Once over the lip, then you could make your turn. Fun stuff.

In addition to testing your your technical skills, the course required a decent amount of power too. I definitely underestimated this aspect of the course after the pre-ride. There were some bumpy sections which generally aren't my favorite, but what are you going to do, it isn't pavement!

So, this was the third race in the series and I had the points lead going in, having won the first two races. Jon Schottler looked to be my main points competition, and of course teammate Joe Schmalz was there as likely winner for the day. Going in I couldn't really tell how I was feeling. I figured I had no known issues that would make for a bad race. As it turns out, I was a little flat. I didn't seem to have any punch and I couldn't seem to kick it up above a steady, hard pace. Last weekend I had that next level, not here. I actually think it might be due to riding too easy the day before the race. I think everyone is different and you need to figure out the best way to ride the day before so that your legs are at their best on race day. This can even change from year-to-year. Last year, I needed that easy day before race day, this year I think i need a little more intensity.

As points leader, I got a front row position. I had a decent start and got off the line behind Joe and Travis. I went by Travis as we passed through the finish line. By the time we got to the first sand pit, Joe, Jon and I had a little gap on the rest. That was pretty much it for the top three. With Joe driving the pace, we gradually rode away from the rest over the next few laps. Joe clearly had the most gas of the three of us. For the first half of the race, Jon seemed to have the upper hand on me. I was able to hold position a few seconds behind him, but just didn't have the snap to accelerate well out of the turns or press the pace. Joe eventually was off on his own at the front. As the laps ticked off, Jon seemed to lose some power, don't know if it was his back or just racing, and I was able to ride up to him. For my part, I seemed to be doing a little better as the race progressed. Around halfway, Jon and I had a little over a minute on the chase, first Brian Jensen (retired with mechanical issues) then Andrew Coe. I was able to get by Jon after halfway and eventually put about a minute on him. I ended up about 30 seconds or so behind Joe. Andrew came fourth, and Adam Mills was fifth.

On the whole, it was a decent race. The big takeaway for me is to nail down the best day-before workout. I may have to rearrange rest days so that I can hit it on Friday to open the legs.

October is the books. Compared to last year, it has gone well. The training has been good, and fairly consistent. I'm happy with the race results, in 7 races I ended up with 4 wins, 1 2nd, 1 3rd, and 1 8th. Time to buckle down and make November a good training month. I will probably race a little less in November to compliment my training and to keep the motivation high. I'll do Jingle Cross and St. Mary's at least.

Hopefully, everything will fall into place by December for Nationals.

24 October 2010

Berryman Epic and Smithville Cross

Berryman is a short story. A bunch of guys rode away from me on the starting climb. I started to reel people back over the next 10-15 miles. Then I shifted my rear derraileur into to the wheel and my race was done. I had to walk 4-5 miles to the next checkpoint to get a ride back to the Start. Thanks Trudi! I didn't hang out, but just started driving home planning to ride Smithville on Sunday.

Things went a little better Sunday at Sailboat Cove! I psyched myself up to ride hard for the whole 50 minutes, especially with having the MTB race cut short. Off the start I didn't get into to my pedal right away and lost the hole shot. I slotted in 3rd behind Travis who got the hole shot, and another rider I didn't recognize. I was going for the hole because that first turn off the pavement into the grass is always a little sketchy. On the start line, Britton predicted trouble and he was right.

The rider in front of me lost his front wheel right as we left the pavement and basically blocked up the best line. Out of caution, I had given him a little space entering the corner and as a result I was able to squeeze around him on the outside. I don't think anyone else got through clean. Travis had a little gap on me and I set about to closing it up. He held the lead through the roller coaster turns after the start and then the second set of turns by the parking lot. Once we got on the bike trail heading to the beach I put down the power and was able to pass for the lead before we got back on the grass.

The next interesting section was the beach. This year the sand was basically packed down and the exit was a pretty easy ride up. I gassed it hard from there and made sure I was accelerating hard out of every corner. Over the course of the first lap I had built up an 18 sec lead over Travis with Brian Jensen at 25sec (mostly due to the first corner crash). Somewhere on the second lap the lead had grown to 25sec and 32sec. Brian overtook Travis on the 3rd or 4th lap. Somewhere close to halfway I think I was told the gap was over a minute. We were doing 10 laps and the finish seemed pretty far away when I saw 5 laps to go.

Basically, I just tried to continue to give it my all on the straight sections and be smooth and fast in the corners. I started to get into lapped traffic pretty quick, I think around half way. Everyone was great and let me by without much delay. I especially have to thank Tyler Henson who took the slow line on the beach (caught on film even!) to let me hit the exit with a clear run, muchas gracias!

Unlike Saturday, I had no equipment issues. I rode which Challenge clinchers--Fango up front and Grifo XS in the rear--and they worked great. I had the pressure just right and I didn't have any issues.

I got another time check on the penultimate lap, and it was 2:05. I managed to stretch it out to 2:15 as I hit the last lap. This is great because it means I stayed on the gas and the power didn't fade too much late in the race. I don't know what our lap times were but I suspect we raced close to 55min.

As usual the Smithville course was awesome with the classic elements from years past, as well as some new elements. On the whole I think this year's course was an improvement over last year.

Last, but not least, a big thanks to Chris Locke and all the other people and sponsors who made this race happen.

17 October 2010

Tulsa & Boulevard Cup

A full weekend of CX, two days in Tulsa and one in KC.

Friday: Ruts 'n' Guts
Friday night was a dusty, bumpy, dark affair. I started out fairly well sitting pretty good in the first few riders. The main "barrier" on this course was constructed by stealing flat rocks from a nearby rock wall and piling them across the course. It was a single barrier so all the riders at the front were hopping it. Let's just say I don't bunny hop well and I don't practice it. Somehow I got over the wall the first lap and unfortunately convinced myself I should continue to hop it. Second time through...game over, express elevator to Hell going down, total endo. In the process I managed to take out Shadd and almost Andrew too. Needless to say, that kind of jacked things up for the rest of the race. I nursed a crushed carbon wheel through the rest of the race and tried to make the best of it. I was able to continue at a fair pace but struggled seeing in some of the darker parts of the course. Guess i need some prescription Oakleys. I rode most of the race trailing a small group with no one behind me. Finished up 8th, probably 30 seconds or so behind the group going for 2nd-6th. Brian Fawley took the win solo. Shadd rallied from me crashing him and beat all the chasers for 2nd. Teammate Bill Marshall finished in the money at 16th.

Saturday: New Cross on the Block
This was a totally different race than Friday. It was completely wide open grass and gravel. There were a couple of relatively short uphill sections and one steep run-up. For me the feature was the temperature--85+ degrees. I don't dig the heat. At least they allowed water handups on the uphill, small favors. The field was about half the size, but the top 8 from Friday were there, minus Shadd.

I started a little less effectively and was probably between 10-15 back for the first half of the first lap. Brian Fawley wasted no time getting a gap, and a chase group started to form behind him. Initially, the group was small, 3-4 riders. But, everyone was looking at each other and we were going pretty slow. Several riders came back to the group over the next lap or so. Finally, Andrew Coe applied some pressure and the group started to fracture. Andrew got a small gap and then Johnny Sundt crossed to him. No chase seemed to be developing so I made my own bid to cross the gap. I towed a couple of riders with me, but when they refused to share the work, I upped it again and crossed solo to Andrew.

As I caught him, Andrew said he was hurting and let me by. I built a few seconds gap but then lost it sliding out in a corner. He was back on my wheel for a while but ultimately faded back. He was having cramping issues and had a rough day. From here, Fawley, Sundt, and I were fairly evenly spaced and seemed to be going about the same speed. Things stayed like that the rest of race and I rolled in for 3rd. There was a battle behind, which KCCX came out on the losing side of due to ill-timed punctures. Tom fell from 4th to 6th, and Bill fell from 8th to 10th. Will Gault, teammate living in Tulsa (and our gracious host Friday night) finished 8th on the day.

Anyone got a camel-toe filter for Photoshop, WTF?!

Sunday: Boulevard Cup
After driving home Saturday night, it was catch a few Zzzzs and get up to do it again out at Wyandotte County Park. KCCX/Verge had some fresh soldiers with Shadd and Luke Lininger lining up. It was a strong local field with the addition of the Nebraska crew. The course had some familiar elements from past years as well as some new challenges. On the whole it probably rewarded fitness over technical ability, but of course required both.

Bill set the pace off the start line and I slotted in about five back. Mark Savery from Nebraska set a blistering pace on the first lap and split the group. First Shadd, then me, grabbed Mark's wheel and waited to see how things would develop. Mark started to fade and Shadd took over at the head of the race. After he got a few seconds I punched it up to him and it was just the two of us. Shadd set a fast pace for a most of a lap and our gap started to grow. We settled into a good steady rhythm and watched for a response from behind.

Over the next few laps we slowly grew the gap to the chase. Smooth and steady was the recipe for the remainder and we rolled home with a sizable advantage over Brian Jensen who beat out Mark and Matt from Nebraska for 3rd. Ultimately, Shadd and I crossed the line simultaneously for a tie. Tom didn't finish due to a knee issue and Luke had mechanical issues. Bill gutted it out and finished up in the top 10.

Post-Boulevard, I had Guts 2.0 as something evil took up residence in my intestines. So for dinner, I enjoyed an appetizer of an artichoke followed by Pepto for the main course. As I write this I am impatiently waiting for the pink stuff to do it's thing.

03 October 2010

Boss Cross #2

After a good dinner, nice massage from my superwife/soigner Gina, and a good night sleep I was ready for another day of racing at E.H. Young Park. The post-race massage was a first (at least since the old days), might have to make that a regular occurrence! It'll help keep my aging muscles supple and injury-free.

Got there with plenty of time to do some pre-riding of the course changes. I made more than a few runs through the new riverside section with tricky sand. Eventually I figured out how to ride it, but not without a fall and a nice bruise on my shin. Initially, I was dubious of attempting to ride this section, but I eventually changed my mind in favor of riding because of the advantage of being on the bike for the exit up the hill.

The field was just as fast today, but with a little loss of depth. The Tradewind guys opted to do a gravel road ride instead of race. The Columbians (not Escobar's gente, but Butthead's peeps) were back. I figured Josh for a strong ride today after getting a race day in his legs. Jon's back/SI joint seemed like a limiter but you never know.

We got a clean start with Bill taking the holeshot and leading most of the first lap. I went by before the sandy river section so I would have a clean line to attempt to ride it. I got through clean but some chaos erupted behind and I had a 10-15sec gap just like that. I really didn't want to ride the whole 60 minutes by myself, but sometimes you need to take advantage of breaks when they go your way. So I set it on cruise control to see how vigorous the chase from behind would be. At first I thought this would be good because Tom & Bill could sit on the chase and save some juice for later. As it turns out, Tom had mechanical issues as a result of the sand chaos and would spend the day chasing. I think initially Jon was leading the chase, with Josh and Andrew Coe in close proximity. I more or less held the gap through the next few laps while the chase shuffled behind me. From my vantage point it looked like Jon faded back and Josh and Andrew were battling back and forth. About halfway through Josh seemed to be making some headway and was closing the gap. I had been holding back a little figuring I'd need some punch if he caught me. It held steady over the next couple laps though. With 2 laps to go I kicked it up a notch and I gradually stretched it back out to about 25secs at the finish. It was a hard way to win, but I shouldn't complain. Kind of boring race report from my perspective, but I bet Josh, Jon & Andrew's battle was pretty interesting.

(Photo credit to John Peck. He's got some great shots of the sand pit from Sunday on Facebook)

The team rode great as a whole with Tom riding back up to 4th place and Bill finishing 6th. Luke was up there too, we'll have to check the results for his final placing.

Technically, I rode a little better yesterday. I didn't seem to be cornering as well today. It may be that the slight increase in tire pressure meant I had a little less grip and a little less cushion on the bumps. I'll continue trying to dial this in just right. As for the sand by the river, I rode it successfully half to two-thirds of the time. A couple of my fails resulted in awkward dismounts which probably cost me a few secs each time. That's the risk of riding at the edge of your technical skill.

So I held on to the series lead and will hang on to the General Lee Jersey until October 30th. Yeehaw!

A big thanks to Jeremy Haynes and Joe Fox for putting this weekend on. Also to the officials and volunteers, we wouldn't get to play without your hard work...thanks!

02 October 2010

Boss Cross #1

So it's been a little quiet on this blog lately. Partly because I haven't really been getting too many races in and partly because there hasn't been much interesting to report. This weekend will change that...

Today was the first Boss Cross race held at the Riverside venue. Honestly, I was a little disappointed because I thought it would be at Parkville. I really like Parkville. At Riverside in 2007 or 2008, I sucked, so I don't quite have a positive view of it. Nonetheless, I was ready to get a good day of racing in. Physically, I didn't feel super before the race, but mentally I was good to go.

The course was fairly similar to the previous time I did it. Maybe technically a little simpler because of the absence of the hill run up and no stairs cut into the section down by the river. The sand was set up differently with us crossing it short ways but the entry was on a turn so no speed.

The field was BIG! Lots of upgrades, I hope those who had their first go in the Open field felt it was worth it! It was a strong field with the Columbia Wrecking Crew in attendance. There was also a full contingent of the Tradewind guys. Steve had problems last week, but I wasn't counting him out for today. The course looked good for Brian Jensen with some decent straightaways and a fairly stiff wind.

My strategy was to let the race develop and not get too involved with pacemaking in the early laps. I figured if I had any cards to play I'd do so in the last couple of laps. No such luck. My plan was foiled when I stacked it up in the sand on the 3rd lap. As a result my rear brake got all messed up and wouldn't disengage. I stopped a couple times trying to get it sorted out. Meanwhile the head of the race was riding away. I'm told I was back at least a minute and back around 20th. Maybe so, whatever it was it wasn't looking good.

I didn't panic and just figured I'd put in a good effort and see how much ground I could make up. I settled into a hard rhythm and started moving from group to group. I knew I had about 5 laps to make up ground so I didn't go Hogg-wild. I just tried to ride error free and push hard on the open sections. It seemed to be working because I was starting to see the two lead groups in front of me on course. Long story short, I ended up catching Brian Jensen near the end of the penultimate lap. He was leading with a 5-10 sec gap over Josh Johnson, Jon Schottler, and Tom Price. On the last lap I was able to get a little gap and hold it to the finish. I guess the moral of this story is don't ever stop riding hard, you never know whether you will ride back into the race. Also, you probably need the race effort anyway, so get to it.

As payback for my efforts, I have the honor of donning the "General Lee" points leader jersey. I'll try to do the Duke boys proud tomorrow!

See ya there....