30 October 2012

Big Boulder CX Weekend

This past weekend was the big race weekend of the season in Boulder with 2 UCI races. Saturday was the Colorado Cross Classic at the Boulder Reservoir and Sunday was the Boulder Cup at Valmont Bike Park.

We had over 5 inches of snow on Wed/Thu so there was some moisture to deal with as the snow melted on Friday. Saturday had some mud, but Sunday was mostly dry.

I've been training pretty hard and took two days off before the weekend. This left me a little flat on Saturday and the result showed it. I decided to race these two races as 35+ instead of 45+. The level of competition in 45+ is solid, but 35+ is a couple notches up and probably deeper. The field was stacked as any 35+ guys wanting to ride Worlds avoided the UCI race.

The short story was that I was not ready to be as aggressive as necessary off the start and ended up way back after the first 2 turns. I also had some trouble with mud buildup on my shoes and a couple slow remounts on the first lap put me even further back. I was way off the front of the race, and I just tried to get into a hard rhythm and hope to move up over the course of the race. I felt like I was working hard enough, but I didn't seem to be making too much progress towards the front. I guess I picked off a few guys here and there because I eventually made it up to 10th by the end. Not too bad, but I couldn't help but think I should have done better.

The big sand pit at the Colorado Cross Classic

Sunday was better. It was basically the same field with the absence of Brandon Dwight and Russell Stevenson (1st & 2nd from Saturday). There was still plenty of depth int he field though!

I ended up getting a better start, but still got pushed back in the first sand pit because of some poor riding by others. I don't like to complain about other riders, but it just doesn't make any sense to me. Too many guys try to cram into bad lines and create massive congestion. This really doesn't help anyone's cause. It is much better to just stay single-file on the best line. This way everyone stays connected to the leaders and you can move up as gaps start to open in the line. Its just like on the road where everyone rides the gutter in crosswinds instead of forming echelons. I suppose its useless to complain, it will probably never change.

Finally things started to shuffle out and I started moving up. I made my best progress on the hill, but seemed to be leap-frogging riders all the way around. Finally, I was looking good, riding with some good names in the top 6. By the stairs on the last lap I actually made it up to 2nd place's wheel. However, I then proceeded to make a few mistakes, including a fall, which slipped me back to 4th place.

I'm satisfied. Need to keep the nose to the grindstone for the next 2 months and continue to build toward Nationals and Worlds.

25 October 2012

Interlocken BR #3

A little late on the report...

Raced on Saturday last weekend. The weather was almost perfect, upper 60s and partly sunny. The race should have been dry and fast, but someone ran the sprinklers the night and morning before...so we had a muddy race without any rain!

It was a fun course, with some interesting features. The moisture turn the thick grass pretty boggy in sections and this probably defined the course and the race outcome.

I have now established my front row status in the 45+ field, thanks to some good results. So, I got off the line in decent position allowed myself to just ease into the race. I bobbled the corner right before the barriers in the picture above, which put me back to about 7th or 8th. I didn't panic and just watched to make sure the group was staying connected to the front runners. Tim Godby ended up setting pace for 2 laps and no one would come by him.

Our race was to be 6 laps. I had moved up a few spots over the first 2 laps and after the start/finish I put in an acceleration. I planned to gas it through the section in the photo above and through the backside bog before taking stock of how the group responded. Apparently, no one tried to chase me because I was on my own. I settled into a hard rhythm and tried to time my passes around the lapped riders. I wasn't getting any clear time gaps, so I wasn't sure how close everyone was and how vigorous the chase was. As it turns out, I was extending my lead about 10-15 seconds per lap. Ultimately, I was able to cruise in for the win after 6 laps. It was a hard effort, as any Cx race is, but it always seems relatively easy when no one is nipping at your heels.

This keeps me in the lead of the Boulder Racing Series with 2 races to go. I'm starting to look ahead to Nationals and Worlds and I need to take my fitness up a couple notches. To that end, I will race this coming weekend in the 35+ races (Colorado Cross Cup and Boulder Cup). After that, I'll probably try my luck in the Open races.

Apparently EVERYONE is getting outed for doping!

15 October 2012

The SmartWool Cup - USGP Fort Collins

Big time cyclocross comes to the Front Range!

Fort Collins was host to the latest USGP race this past weekend. I have only ever done the Louisville race so this was a first for me.

I registered early so I was at least assured of a third row start. But, I did my homework and raced enough local races to be in the first 8 riders (I was 8th) in our local Colorado Cup Series. This got me a call-up immediately after anyone with USGP points from Madison. Lucky number 13, second row! As good as this was, it was still not an automatic route to a good wheel off the start. But, hey it was better than 8th row!

On Saturday we had cool temps and rain. Full-on slippery muddy conditions prevailed. As it turned out we were the only race with these conditions. It essentially rained throughout our race then stopped. The 35+ race had improving conditions while they raced. By the time the pros raced the course was tacky and smooth.

I got off to a decent start somewhere between 5th and 10th. Then on the second downhill turn there was a big pileup on the inside. Luckily I was in a position to skirt it and slipped up to third spot. I got stuck behind a guy named Tim Butler who was struggling in the corners while on the front Mark Legg was starting to ride away. I finally managed to get around Butler and set about closing the gap to Legg. I eventually did, but it wasn't to last. I ended up getting taken out in traffic as we started catching juniors early on. That pretty much did it. Legg got a gap and I would never get it going well enough to bring him back.

Meanwhile, Jon Cariveau had caught up and passed me. I was able to stay with him and as the race progressed I start to feel stronger. I was riding pretty sloppy and was probably losing little bits of time all over the place. But the biggie was going down 3 times in 2 laps. I would pass Cariveau then proceed to slide out or make some other bobble and he would pass me back. This happened 3 times on the 3rd and 2nd to last laps. Finally, I put the gas down going into the last lap and kept it together for a full lap. This was enough to get about 12 seconds on Cariveau and close to 20 seconds on Legg. Good enough for 2nd place. I'll take it, but I've got some work to do!

Sunday was almost a repeat, but with dry fast conditions. I did manage to keep the rubber side down at least. I had the same start position and managed to work myself into 3rd again somewhere on the 2nd lap. As on Saturday, Legg was away with a gap of 15-20 seconds already. I moved clear into 2nd place for the rest of the day but was never able to make any serious inroads into Legg's gap. I think it stretched to as large as almost 40 seconds, but I brought back a little on the last two laps and finished back 27 seconds.

The podiums was the same both days:  Legg, Me, Cariveau.

This weekend was a fairly stacked field so I have a good read on where I stand relative to my competition for Nationals and Worlds. Time to get to work and move up a couple notches for January!

06 October 2012

Running Late...

Busy couple of weeks. Last weekend, we buzzed back to KC for a good friend's wedding. Didn't bring a bike but ended up getting 4 days of riding in on a 4 day trip! Did 2 days on Giant Anthem 29er at Landahl. I'm sold, get me a 29er. Did a road ride with a bunch of the ol' peeps and the did Boss Cross #2 on the way to the airport.

The race was just like I remember, good stuff. It was missing the key technical feature from years past, but had two sand pits to make up for it. It was a big Open field, almost 30. Heavy hitters included Joe Schmalz, Mark Savery and Andrew Coe. I started from the front and hit the first sandpit, about 300m from the start, fairly well placed. The bunch was following a rut on the right behind Schmalz. I ended following Savery to the left and we scooted right by everyone but Schmalz. In the second pit, another 500m later, I got by Schmalz and on to Savery's wheel. He took it hard to the barriers and bunny-hopped them. I expected this and didn't panic to close down the gap he created. Things settled in over the rest of the lap and heading to the barriers the second time it was Savery about 5 secs ahead of Joe and another 5-10 back to me. Then Savery botched the bunny-hop the second time through. This was to be the defining event of his race. He ended up having to run to the pit from the barriers. It wasn't too far away, but enough to take him off the front of the race.

From there, Joe lead it for the rest of the day. I hung close at about 12-17 seconds the rest of the race. I might have been able to close it down on my own bike. My borrowed bike was just different enough, and then for the last 3-4 laps it wouldn't shift into the big ring. I'm not saying it was the difference, but I definitely wasted some seconds trying to get it to shift. Not to mention the annoyance factor of the chain rubbing on the front derailleur the second half of the race.

So, that was basically it. Joe was first, I came in for second about 15 seconds later. Savery chased up to third, but could never make any ground on me. After hovering about 25-30sec back for most of the race, he sat up on the last lap and drifted further back.

It was fun to be back in KC and see everyone. I guess it had been at least 9 months! Time flies when you're having fun...

Next weekend (this weekend) is off and then I'll race Saturday/Sunday at the USGP in Ft. Collins. Looks like some stiff 45+ competition will be there, might be a Nationals preview...