Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Downeast Disasters

What can I say? This weekend was so frustrating, nothing went my way, but whatever, there's always another bike race. I've just got to put this behind me.

Oh, wait, I've started summing up before explaining what happened.

Day 1

Right, so day 1, was cold, wet and muddy. I had a slow start and didn't care. The course was so wide I figured that people would just fall over and I would move up. Which is exactly what happened. I didn't try to pace with people, I didn't try and chase, I didn't to anything but ride a pace I could manage.

It working out great, I was in the top 25, VERGE POINTS! I was riding a good tempo and I just was hoping to hang on. But of course, I flatted just before the bell, lost 10 places, got a neutral wheel and eventually came in 35th. F@#K! Oh wait, that is still my best Verge finish. WTF! Why am I so mad!?

Day 2

Day 2, not much better. While the skies had cleared, and it was a beautiful sunny day, the course was still a super muddy affair. The game plan was the same, stay upright and on the bike, ride my tempo and pass people who fall down. Again, worked out great, I was moving, the first climb I must have passed 20 people. I was moving up so well I was in the top 10 or 15, just slogging along without a care in the world.

Then disaster strikes, coming around a corner I bashed my shoulder into a fence post, and crashed. Then I come through the barriers and not 15 seconds later I crash again on an off-camber dip. So I quickly get up, run to the pit and get a bike, which Buckley had graciously lent to me for the day.

I was like, "ok, I've got a clean bike, I can see the leaders and I'm feeling good. What the hell is this red stuff on my hands and top tube? " Apparently it was blood gushing from my nose as I bombed down the hill, and it was not clotting. So I did what I thought was the wise decision and dropped out before I got too light headed. Argh, frustration, but yeah there's always another bike race.

Redemption... Kind Of.

After the race though, things picked up, I was asked to pit for Canadian Couple Natasha Elliott and Derrick St John for both the Women's Elite race and the Men's elite race. That was cool, I stood in the pit (with Frances) and we tag teamed the catch and release pit method, and washed Natasha's bike. It was pretty fun and Natasha got 3rd. Then I did the same for Derrick on my own and he got 8th, after breaking his A bike on the last lap.

So, it wasn't a total loss. I didn't race well, but I had a good time.

Other Stuff from the weekend
  • UVM kids, Lee, Buckley, and even Pat are hilarious.
  • I heckled Nate Ward with "I wish I took a class at Schenectady Community College with Professor Ward!" His response "That's INSTRUCTOR Ward to you!" with a big 'ol smile.
  • Nevin and his parents being Awesome hosts
  • Frances is now a sandbagger, she won both of the Women's B races.
  • Colin flipped me off on day 1, not really sure why....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MRC Cross EPIC Race Report

So, MRC Cross happened down in Wrentham on Sunday. It was "INSANE" according to Jeff Z, I would agree.

(Best part of this post is the post race recap)

Pre-Race

First, let me state that I decided to do the race THAT Morning. That's right, it wasn't a situation that I had pre-registered and I was like, "I paid, I'm racing," which happens on a occasion. Nope, I woke up at 8, got a call from Jeff Z and knowing the forecast was in the Low 40's, high winds and heavy rain, still decided to go do the race. OH YEAH, it's on!

So, we get to the race and register. By this point it was still relatively manageable, rain, upper forties and there was a crowd. Takes little bit, but we set up the tent and hang in the car to stay warm. But then a few minutes later a woman and some dude just walk under our tent and start pinning numbers or something.... Jeff and I look at each other and are like "Is this chick seriously under our tent without at least asking us if they can use it?" So we get out, say hi and then they ask us, of course we say yes, but it was still pretty weird and awkward.

Then we spent a while talking to Wheelworks Master's Bad-ass John who was doing his third race of the weekend (after winning the Mansfield Masters 2/3/4 and 4th in the regular 2/3/4 the day before). He later goes on to get 3rd in the Masters 1/2/3 race. Dude is a machine.

Finally, I change, ride a couple laps of the course and learn that basically, the 3 uphill sections in the field are totally muddy and need to be run (one has barriers), also the long wooded section of the course has 6 inch deep puddles with rocks at the bottom that you can't see, and all the grass switchbacks are totally rutted out and muddy. Oh, and now the temperature has started to drop and the winds have picked up. Awesome, I hate running.

Race

Go to the start, see like 25-30 dudes who have also decided that it would be a good idea to race in this non-sense and get the whistle. Had a bad start, what did I care, it was the P/1/2/3 race and I was doing it for no apparent reason. Anyways, I try to sit on Colin's wheel with no success, and I see somebody on a 29'er single speed, (the only better bike choice would have been a rigid 29er with gears). Anyways, I stay the main group for the first lap and then slowly fall off. Find myself in a chase group and fall off that as well.

A few laps later I see 5 to go and I'm thinking holy shit. But by this point I'm 30 seconds behind the guy in front of me and 30 seconds ahead of the guy behind me, so I just ride my race. I spend the most of the race in this limbo and at 4 to go get lapped by a Keough (now 3 to go), then 2 minutes later lapped by BW and Dylan McNicholas, whatever, I'm not too worried about it.ing. And just after that things become really miserable.

I lose all feeling in my fingers, and shifting on SRAM Rival becomes a complete nightmare, and it's pretty much a miracle that I can shift at all anyway because of the 9 pounds of wet grass and mud that has accumulated on my bike. But I see the 2 laps to go and think "Fuck it, I'm almost done. Just two more laps with 8 more dismounts and 6 more run-ups."

During this period I actually pass a Landry's rider and think I'm not doing that bad. Then I do the final agonizing lap and make it to the finish at a blistering 3MPH. The official says,
"Can you believe you paid for this? Now go warm up, the results will be posted online tomorrow. Looks like you did pretty well," Me,
"Sweet."

Post Race


Now here's where the day get's interesting. Since I've stopped racing my body essentially shuts down as I stand under the tent. So first I take off the top of my skinsuit and my base layer and I immediately begin to layer my upper body with:

1) T-shirt
2) Hooded Sweatshrt
3) Fleece Cycling Jersey
4) Softshell Fleece Jacket
5) Snowboarding Jacket

After that I spend a solid 5-10 minutes shivering uncontrollably, and wincing from the pain in my hands. Highlight though is just before get I my dexterity back and can take off my shoes it starts snowing. A few minutes later I take off my leg warmers, and my skinsuit and finally put on pants and shoes and jump in the car with the heat full blast. I spend the next 30 minutes sitting there as waves of chills come through me and I stuff my face with Pizza and a sandwich. And eventually I get the feeling back in my toes and then it's time to pack up the car.

Jeff and I then get around to taking down the tent which has an inch or so of snow on top and loading up the bikes and our gear before getting on the road. We were the last people out of the parking lot. The race had ended an hour and a half earlier.

On Wednesday I get to see the results, 11th of 17 finishers, I'm guessing 15 people or more did the logical thing and dropped out.

I'm so glad I raced.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New England Velo-Cross Challenge Race Report

I arrived pretty early, I'd say 10:30 for a 1pm start, just enough time to watch a couple of the Men's Masters races. Then I went around and checked out the course, pretty odd for a CX race. Had some woods sections with tough uphill turns, some single-track and some off-camber stuff and other wooded sections, followed by 3 or 4 incredibly tight turns on gravel. Then you went on a flat for a bit and did some super bumpy loops on the track infield before doing 2/3 of a lap on the track before going back up the hill into the woods. Basically, it was a mountain bike race, it was awesome.

Got a front row start, which of course amounted to nothing and immediately found myself at the back. Had to run the initial wooded section amidst twenty some-odd Cat 3's and 4's as it was a total clusterf**k. Anyways, race lines out, I pass a few people and then settle into a rhythm. I moved my way up with a Seven Cycles rider and heard a fan say he was in 9th place (putting me in tenth). This was the closest I'd ever been to the front of a cross race, EVER. Unfortunately sometime later a crashed a bit and lost 3 spots. But I quickly got going and fought may way up. At the halfway point of the race I had cleared my core of chasers and only had a geekhouse rider to contend with. He continuously would catch me as we hit the track and then I would sit on his wheel and then get around him and go into the woods first. Anyways, this tactic worked for 3 laps until he passed me much earlier in the infield and stayed away at 1 lap to go. But I figured I was doing pretty well and I'd continue to ride my race until the end.

Had I known where I was in the race I would have tried to sit on his wheel, because as I came through the finish after 56 minutes and 49 seconds I learned he finished 5th and I was only 5 seconds out of the money finishing in 6th. Dammit.

Whatever, great race, great weather, fun course and my best 'cross result ever, and best race result of 2009. Let's hope the trend continues.

Other Race Notes:
  • Shout out to Mike of Back Bay, who absolutely demolished the race, winning with a two and a half minute gap, it was pretty spectacular. Then goes on to get 2nd in the 1/2/3 race later in the day.
  • Some how JElie lost a cartridge brake pad, but the pin that held it in place was still there, WTF?
  • Heckle of the day goes to Emma: "I thought white shoes mean you don't get tired"
  • Second Placed heckle of the day goes to Andy "Steve Beat Jeff [pause] Jeff Beat Steve!" As Jeff and I are riding together.
  • Race winner clocked a time of 52 minutes +, we were only supposed to race for 40. Same kind of thing int he Men's 4 (winner at 40 Minutes, scheduled for 30) and the Women's 4 Race (46 Minutes, scheduled for 30). I mean, I'm not complaining that I got to do more racing, but just seems odd...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Providence Cross Day 2 Race Report

I seem to be having a trend of crappy day 1 races at Verge events, and then doing way better on day 2. Providence was no different.

Since then, I've realized that it's getting more important that I get to venues 2-3 hours early so I can get a solid course preview, cheer on friends and loosen up my legs. I think part of the problem on day 1 was that I really didn't warm up at all and then went all out to stay near the front.

So for day 2 I had 2 strategies for success. First, arrive wicked early, (9:30 for a 12:30 race) and second, don't destroy myself early in the race just to bonk super hard.

After watching my friend Frances, take a nice 2nd place in the Women's 3/4, and teammate John take 2nd in one of the Masters (1/2/3) events, I asked the both of them for some tips on how to tackle the twisty course, John's advice, "Recover in the corners here , and stay on wheels with the heavy winds." Sounded simple enough, in fact pretty obvious, but I hadn't thought about it at all before. Usually the in race plan is: GO FAST UNTIL THEY SAY STOP.

So after a few more laps of the course and time to test the tips pre-race I headed over to the beer garden and catch up with Kate, who was back east for the Interbike event and the races. After a chat, I said I had to go and get my act together for my race at 12:30, her response,

"What, your not in the elite race?"
"No, what made you think that?"
"You've got white shoes."

(Looking PRO on Day 1, despite being off the back, Photo: Wheelworks)

Anyways, over to the tent, popped on the skinsuit and a few minutes on the trainer and off to the start I went. Got to word go and tried to get near the top 20 from way in the back. Of course, the first few turns were so tight that the 100+ cat3's bottleknecked and I had to run. Eventually, the field began to split up, I dropped the usual suspects and moved forward, eventually finding myself with Matt Aumiller, who was feeling ill, but is still usually well ahead of me. Passed him and found myself duking it out with a guy in a pink Zancanato Skinsuit, at which point I decided to sit on his wheel and enjoy the ride, which lasted 2.5 laps. Somewhere in there I was riding along when a friend (don't know who) screams "Steve, your shoes are more PRO than you are, quit sucking!" Highlight of the race.

Later on we caught up to Jackson (Embrocation) and I sat on his wheel for the rest of the race, knowing he's a Cat 2 roadie, he might be able to pull me closer to the front of the race. Tried to sprint around him at the end, only to be unable to get my chain on to my big ring, Final result: 40th. Yet another improvement on my Verge Cat 3 results.

(On the Hunt, Photo: Wheelworks)

However, the highlight of the day goes to Jeremy (who finished 23rd), crashing HARD on our cool down lap of Roger Williams park while trying to style out a speed bump. He tore up his jersey, bruised his left side and scraped up is left arm, it was pretty awesome.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Providence Day 1 Race Report

I've had fond memories of the one time I led a cross race, it was WAY back when I did the Ice Weasels Cometh, I won the hole shot and it was pretty sweet, heck they even gave me a brownie for it. But then after a short while I realized that the front of the race is fast, so fast in fact that I bonked hard and went straight to the back. Funny how history repeats itself.

But instead of doing a sweet local race with 17 starters, make it one of the biggest events of the season with over 100 cat 3s.

I started way in the back (cause that's where the party is, duh), and for the first time this year had an awesome start. Coming into the pit I could actually see the leaders, I would guess I was in the top 15. So I did what I thought was best, go all out and try and stay up near the front.

Of course, my body had a different opinion, and after 15-20 minutes of going all out I bonked, HARD. And suddenly I was going backwards, first I was caught by some random folks, and thought, "Hey, maybe I can hang on and get a verge point." But, that' didn't happen and soon I was caught caught by top nemesis Matt, who said hi as I was beginning to die a thousand deaths. And backwards I went, until I was caught by Chris and knew that I was way off the back.

Eventually, I was all by myself, begging for a beer feed from the crowd and basically crying blood. When low and behold, the Wheelworks fan base starts screaming at me that Jeremy, my so-called teammate, had flatted way early and was on the verge of catching me. Seeing as it was the last lap I tried to stay away and failed miserably as he caught me on the very last run-up just a few hundred meters from the finish. So of course as we hit the tarmac I figured what the hell and opened up my sprint, killing myself to get around him for 72nd place, he beat me.

Don't worry there were some selected Highlights of the day:
  • Andy (wheelworks) cheering "Steve, you are a pony!" As I climbed the stairs.
  • I crashed Colin, while spectating the elite race.
  • A good start for once.
Day 2 Report en route.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gloucester Day 2 Race Report

What a difference a day makes and let me tell you, after my awful day 1. I was looking for a chance at redemption.

I arrived wicked early for my 1pm start, probably around 9AM, which was great. Once again the Wheelworks crew was there with the tent and I had another home-base for the day. Shortly after arrival I kitted up and pre-rode the course. It was awesome, switchbacks, bumps, off camber turns, and a pretty minimal amount of long grassy sections. Between the Women's race and some of the masters events I think I must have gotten in 3 laps and I was feeling really happy with the course.

Eventually, I put on the skinsuit, hit the trainer and opened up the legs a bit while getting ready with a clifbar. After a while I went down to the start and lined up pretty far back, oh well. And of course it wouldn't be a cyclocross race if I didn't have a bad start, which I did, as I had trouble clipping in. But I managed to move up a bit and get in the mix.
(Early in the Race, looking Pro. Photo: Uri Halevi)

As the race went on I had a pretty good rhythm going, I was passing folk, gapping the people I was with and generally enjoying my self (despite my immense pain face) and loved being able to quickly power out all the corners and over the bumps and remaining mud.

I spent a while yoyo-ing with an Embrocation guy and eventually he got away from me, but I was not to upset about it.

(Still looking Pro. Photo: Uri Halevi)

I eventually rolled through the finish to find my parents greet me at the finish, which was cool cause they didn't know I was coming and they claimed I did pretty well. It was nice.

(Random Fans at the barriers, note: STILL looking PRO. Photo: Uri Halevi)

Final Result 45th of 90, a 36 place improvement and my best yet result in a Verge B/Cat 3 event. Hopefully I can move up another 36 places next week at Providence and into the top 10.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Season Goals

Ok,

I've got one new season goal and one amended season goal.
  • New Goal: Determine just who is this Sandy Baggins character and find proof to determine if he is in fact a sandbagger and just trying to divert attention from himself. (Kind of like former Senator Larry Craig)
  • Amended Goal: I'm going to change the original goal from a Top 10 in a Verge B race to a Top 25. Just seems more realistic now.
Gloucester Day 2 Race Report coming tonight/tomorrow, whenever I get around to it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gloucester Day 1 Race Report

All I really have to say about Gloucester Day 1 was that it was incredible in many ways and terrible in a few more. For starters I had finally really achieved the absolute "pro-ness" I think I could ever achieve. I had it hall:

(Team Wheelworks Set up, Photo: Wheelworks Flickr)
  • Team Van and Tent
  • Support Staff (Lindsay)
  • Trainer Warm Up under the tent
  • Skinsuit
  • White M-F'in Shoes!
  • Hell I had a Warm Up jersey and bibs, and shoes, then I changed to skinsuit and white goodness for my race.

Additionally, it was so cool that Andy, Brian, Lindsay and Jeff from Wheelworks, were there at the crack of dawn to set up the tent, van and grill for the day. Aside from being pro, it was also extremely practical, as there were high winds, intermittent showers and it was in the low fifties or upper forties. So with such an awesome place to set up for the race I was feeling on top of the world.

Of course, then I got to pre-ride the course, and everything changed. It was hard, so hard, I was actually taking a few moments here and there to sneak into the back of the van and cry about it. The "run-up" was a 25-30 meter mud pit up a steep hill. By the time I was racing, it was ankle deep and the only way to get up it quickly was to take long, goofy duck steps and hope not to fall on your face. The rest of the course was a mix of mud, hard off camber turns that often needed to be run, a few long flat sections and a bunch of switchbacks that required tons of power to get through because of all the muddy ruts.

When I got to the start I was way in the back, but figured I'd have a good start and get past all the roadie converts who will freak out when their tire slips or something. My plan was to go up on the outer left side during the long start on the road and get to the front. Which worked out pretty well, I made up a bunch of spots until we hit the grass where I was too far to the outside and ran into a hay bale. After that I spent a while trying to get through traffic and move forwards. From there the race was a train wreck, I was slipping and sliding all over the place, I was constantly going backwards and I would lose tons of places when running was required, (barriers, corkscrew, run-up, off camber turns). Then lifted up my head and noticed that I was at the finish line thought to myself, "PLEASE BE THE BELL LAP, PLEASE!"

I had only completed 1 lap, there were 3 more.

After that I found myself somewhere near Cornell Jake but I somehow lost him and afterwords he told me that he'd passed me on the run-up. The only other highlights was someone yelling, "Steve, there is not enough pain on your face right now!" And Liz (CBRC/NYCross.com) telling me to think of Bethlehem (which had a similar run-up).

I spent the rest of the race pretty much by myself way off the back and my only solace came that when I got the bell I was 10-15 seconds from being lapped by the Winner of the Junior race. So i got to ride the full length, but after that I just held tempo for the last lap and some how got passed by my teammate Jeff Z.

Post race I went to the Wheelworks tent and when asked how the race went I responded with a very confused "huh?" I apparently was so deep in the pain cave that all I could hear was the echos of people at the entrance. I was also told "Steve, you look about 10 years older right now," Gee thanks. I finished in the 81st of 106, basically it was awful.

(Post-Race, Photo: Wheelworks Flickr)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Damn it I just bought these things

Ok,

So in my attempt to look faster this season that I actually am I made a few stunning investments. First I got a new bike from Specialized, and I replaced a few parts to make it better. Heck I even bought some Challenge Tires. But what I was really banking on for my "pro-ness" was my brand spanking new white shoes, which came in earlier this week.

The way I saw it was everybody has those yellow Mavic Fury shoes, and I thought to my self I could get those and follow the trend like all the other losers out in the CX world, but I said "no I'm gonna get me some white shoes and pimp it out like Cipollini and Boonen!" Problem is:

Dammit, now I'm going to get my fancy white shoes all muddy, I guess I'm the loser now. I'm going to have make up for it by passing all the roadies who fall over.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blogosphere Round 2

I miss collegiate. So I am going to do my best to make the rest of USA Cycling like collegiate. I started by creating the New England Cyclocross Blogosphere.

Hopefully it won't anger too many masters riders.

Gloucester GP is this weekend, I'm looking forward to getting my ass handed to me six ways from Sunday.