Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Weeping Willow Race Report

There was a moment on Friday when the word "Noreaster" was getting thrown around, and I was thinking that this was going to be the raddest/most-trail-damaging race ever. But the ever-fickle New England weather changed yet again, and it dumped rain 100 miles off the coast. Willowdale State Forest? A bone dry, blazing-fast dustfest as always. But I'm not complaining.

Being just 45 minutes outside Boston, and very beginner-friendly, the place was packed, just like every year. We had 25 or 30 guys in the 30-39 Expert race, and passing on fast, twisty singletrack is pretty hard when everyone is amped up -- so getting stuck behind someone who wasn't feeling the flow (or the pedaling) could be pretty bad if you had podium aspirations like this guy. So for once I lined up semi-seriously and got into the singletrack in 7th.

And then we went faaaaaaast. I know we were going fast because I was immediately making deals with myself -- "it's okay to let those five bike lengths open, you can close it on the next tight section" -- and while you could claim that this was "riding smart," if you all you can think about is "wow I need to ride smart" five minutes into a race, that's probably not a great sign. The dudes at the front were not thinking about riding smart, they were thinking about RIDING SUPA HAAAAAHD (and then jacking their brakes in the corners so I could catch up).
At least going super fast is fun: Create, Discover and Share GIFs on Gfycat

Here I am using my "catch back on during the twisty parts and pay the hosting bills so you get in the highlights" strategy.

After a few miles we reached the one extended fire road section and coalesced into a leading group of 9 or 10 riders.

Obviously, this calm lasted for about five seconds until one guy was like "I'm recovering?? In a mountain bike race?! This cannot stand!" and attacked, and with a bunch of other guys who had also now recovered for six seconds it was time to FREAK OUT AND GO GO GO GO.

...but even doubletrack is kinda narrow when everyone is sprinting with 800mm bars, so this happened: Fast and Furious - Create, Discover and Share GIFs on Gfycat

This kinda put a damper on Ben and Kevin's day, but everyone was okay and they both finished the race. I chilled out and drafted some dudes and the lead group was all back together by the end of the doubletrack. I remained acutely aware that we were going STOOOPID HARD, but hey, I make a living ("living) clinging to guys faster than me in cross races, so maybe this can work?

We came through at the end of lap one and I was chilling quite uncomfortably at the back of the group with Carl DeVincent and Alex Grabau.  Going into the singletrack Carl put in a massive acceleration to move up into the front end of the group, because apparently he needed to win the race or something.

I definitely did not need to win the race, so I hung with the increasingly ragged and separated back end of the group on lap two.  Alex and I slowly melted off the back into the singletrack, and then Scott Yarosh rode into a tree and (slightly) taco'ed his wheel, and when I rode past him while he recombobulated, there was no one in sight.

Ah well, 45 minutes of being able to see the leader, that's not bad.

I gapped Alex pretty substantially and for a while it looked like I would just be able to merrily time-trial the rest of the day and collect my finish position (note:  currently 4th, which is not terrible!) but then we started lap three, and the cross race didn't end, and I got saaaaaaad.

I kinda just felt loopy.  Adding gels didn't seem to help.  My brain decided to divert what little focus it could muster from steering to figuring out what my excuse was gonna be (we settled on dehydration -- shouldn've had all that coffee with so little water on the 2-hour drive to the race) and all of the sudden, guys started showing up behind me.

First Ben Sawyer came blazing up to me, still running on adrenaline from the crash he was in 1.5 laps earlier.  I think I actually saw the adrenaline wear off in front of me, as the rate he caught me at dwarfed the rate he pulled away from me at.

Then Scott Yarosh and his taco'ed but not unrideable front wheel showed up, followed shortly by Grabau, and ughhhhhh I am a mess and we are gonna race this last twenty minutes really hard, aren't we?

Ben was a bit ahead of us, but Scott, Alex and I rode together on the long doubletrack.  I shirked pulls (as always) while clinging to various accelerations and hoping I could pull out some tricks at the end.  Scott attacked into the singletrack, which was a smart move, and I popped off the back, because I did not have a choice in the matter.

There was a brief slowdown as we caught someone from a field ahead, and I noticed we'd caught back up to Ben, yay!  Then the traffic cleared and I popped straight back off the back again, boooooo.

This is how gapped I was at the log up-and-over with 0.5 miles to go.
But I was never so gapped that I couldn't see Alex's bright red jersey through the trees, and there was still a bunch of twistly rooty turning, and we were approaching the final 60 seconds of the bike race, during which I frequently do things I did not think were possible five minutes earlier.  So I kept trying as hard as my little crampy legs could try.

And it worked!  Kinda sorta.  I don't know if the group got tactical, or if my on-the-limit suffering was actually effective, but I made contact with the back of the group (ok, a 19-29 guy who they had just passed, but still "the group") just in time for the finish sprint.

Unfortunately the finish sprint at Willowdale is around a loose corner, so the passing opportunities afforded to a guy coming out of 5th wheel were pretty limited.  Almost like you shouldn't be 5th wheel and trying to gain 3 places in a sprint at the end of a 90-minute mountain bike race, huh?

I did manage to go by Alex on the outside, which surprised the CRAP OUTTA HIM and gave us a lot of great internet chatter after the race, so that was pretty cool:

Sneak Attack - Create, Discover and Share GIFs on Gfycat

I ran out of course before I could pass Scott or Ben, but clearly if you extrapolate my closing speed in that gif to another 20 minutes of racing I was going to catch Stephen Hyde and win the pro race, so that's cool.

After three straight weekends of TOTALLY AWESOME KENDA CUP EAST MOUNTAIN BIKE RACING WOOOOOOOO I am gonna take a weekend off and then go get like 800 flat tires at the super-burly Bearscat 50 on June 5th.

Then I'm gonna promote a crit:
Then I'm gonna promote a mountain bike race:

Both of these things are gonna be super and you should register now.

Yay bikes!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Eastern Grind Race Report

The Eastern Grind was awesome.  After the first two Kenda Cups were blazing-fast, drafting pedal contests (note:  not a complaint), it rained the night before the Grind and turned an already somewhat technical course into a GNARFEST.

But the weather was terrible (50 with intermittent rain) and the weather was terrible last year, too, and it was far from Boston (like 3 hours) so tons of people skipped it.  Because "people" don't always like the things I like.  Ugh.  People.

The race was promoted by the Bicycle Express team, a bunch of wicked fast guys and girls from Vermont (note:  probably redundant) and they had built a special A/B line coming down from the high point of the course.  Lea Davison tweeted that it was "a legit World Cup A-line" and she knows about these things so the #hype was strong.  And then it rained, and I hadn't preridden said A-line, but I knew I had to ride the A-line because I have a reputation to uphold.  So I was scared.

(What's that, you say, no one actually cares what I do at a bike race unless it's expose a 24-hour cheater?  UGH EVEN WORSE)

IT WAS STEEP!  But the steep part wasn't the hard part.  (via Christin)

Anyway, on the start line they told us not to ride the A-line unless we had preridden, which is the same type of thing I say when I'm promoting and don't want to deal with ambulances.  Because when I'm promoting I HATE FUN.  But I was not promoting today.

The race started and the first half mile was ridiculously soggy xc ski trail.  I ate a bunch of water and other unknown substances flying in the air, and realized that in these conditions 22 miles was going to be a LONG FREAKIN' DAY, and there wasn't gonna be any "go out hard and make the selection" business, we were just gonna ride time trials in the general vicinity of each other until it was over.
This is soggy and slow.  Also, Carl, you missed the bridge.

That's a long-winded way to say that I got insta-dropped by the fast guys, but it was, like, on purpose.  I swear.

We reached the A-line on lap one and I knew that I had to just go for it and not think too much.  But it turns out that half-way down, there was a big off-camber wet rock that required a little more finesse than "just go for it."  So I got off my bike like a total cyclocrosser/failure and ran it.  There are no pictures of this.

The second half of the course was way easier/faster so I brapped around with much less fear and much more big ring until the lap was over.  It was quite nice, but that's all part of how lap one is a lie and no sensations you experience can be trusted (tm).

Somewhere along the line I ended up riding with Scott Yarosh and Carl DeVincent for a long time.  Carl had half-fallen off a bridge at the start and then told me he was "just having fun," which was obviously code for "I'm gonna surge so hard later on you have no idea."

This time around the A-line, though, I was prepared for the off-camber gnar-rock, and Scott (and maybe Carl?) got caught up behind slow traffic on the B-line so I gapped those suckas and it was off to the races!  Oh wait, we aren't even halfway done yet?  Ouch.

Starting lap three I saw Doug Thorp ahead of me, and since Doug won Kenda Cup #1 this meant I was probably doing SUPER AWESOME, but then Carl caught me on the climb and I decided that maybe neither Doug nor myself were actually doing that SUPER AWESOME but everyone was OKAY AT THIS.

Then Doug let me lead the A-line, and my weird-awesome high line on the gnar-rock blew his mind so he got distracted and crashed.  I will only post the pre-crash photo though:
If I don't post the crash photo, maybe Doug will let me live during cross season (Tim Burgher photo)

Once again this allowed me to drop Carl and think about how awesome I was maybe doing, right up until he appeared behind me on the climb on lap four AGAIN.   By now, though, I knew all I had to do was gap him on the A-line and then go as hard as I could go for the last 15 minutes, should be no problem, right?

(quads cramp in protest)

Luckily everyone else was kind of a mess by this point, too.  I started to see a dude ahead, who I last saw 2 hours ago at the start line and was like "oh I'm totally beating this dude..." and you know how that goes, ten minutes later I was like "hey where did that dude go?"

"That dude" had disappeared, but he was replaced by Kevin Sweeney which was even more exciting/painful because Kevin's been on my team basically forever (2009 IBC ELITE MTB TEAM REPRESENTTTTT) and while he usually beats me at things, sprinting is not one of them.

So I knew if I could just get to the finish line with him I could probably take it.  Unfortunately, he also knew this so we rode the last few uphill singletrack sections at warp speed with me questioning my assumption that I was going to take anything.

But then there was a 15-second downhill before the sprint to recover on, so I turned back into a pumpkin, er, sprinter, and took care of business to snag the last spot on the podium.

I had a grand time racing my bike and will be back next year, even if it is dry!
48 and windy = reduced podium enthusiasm (Kristen Seib photo)

Here is my post-race interview. I couldn't put it at the beginning because it's full of SPOILERS and I know you would never read this blog if you knew how it ended.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bear Brook + Seven Sisters Sufferweekend Report

This past weekend I did two competitive athletic events.  It was like cross season, except totally different.  Here's how it went down:

Bear Brook Classic Race Report

This was a new race at an old venue.  The venue is still close to Boston and Concord.  The turnout was still great.  The course was still pedaly.

It was actually a very nice course, in that the singletrack was fun and fast, there was a descent that was hard enough you could make up some time, and there was enough mindless fire road pedaling that I still had something to complain about.

I had recovered from the chest cold that caused me to both reverse-holeshot and not-blog about the Fat Tire Classic, so I was "excited" to actually race my bike instead of just ride it at Kenda Cup #2.  We had 17 (?) guys in the 30-39 race and in typical fashion I was the last guy to make the "selection" of eight as we motored up the climb on the lap.
Team Time Trial with Charlie and Kevin.  KEVIN CLOSE THE GAP!

The situation seemed entirely manageable until there was a change of leadership halfway up, and then we started going 10% faster and I got about 100% less confident that I could ride with these guys all day.

As such, tailgunning position was maintained all the way up the climb and into the "enduro section" on Carr Ridge.

If I was a smart person I would have chopped and slashed my way out of eighth wheel before this descent, because OBVIOUSLY with eight guys, someone was going to be a mediocre descender, and OBVIOUSLY he was going to split the group.

And then OBVIOUSLY when we got to the fire road climb at the bottom, Scott Yarosh and Charlie Behrtram would see the split and pedal wicked hard to go across the gap.

And obviously I had not preridden, so when we rounded the corner and I realized how much longer the climb was, I pulled out my parachute and flew off into no-man's-land.

So that was the half hour of the race during which I thought I could maybe get on the podium.

After the next descent (easier, swoopier, faster) and the river trail (extremely photogenic and a good place to chop someone into flowing water), I somehow regained contact with Scott and Charlie while they were being nice guys and not pushing juniors into the water.  The lead group was gone, but hey, guys to draft!  And just in time for another long section of pedaling hard (whine).
River trail:  good for photos, bad for passing

I have an extensive relationship with Charlie's back wheel due to cyclocross, so I was pretty sure that the longer I stayed on it, the better I would do.  But, ten minutes of staring at it like it was a Magic Eye poster later, Scott has dropped us and I was feeling...comfortable?

It's possible that Charlie is the only person at a bike race who isn't lying when he says he's "not in great shape."

Approaching the Carr Ridge descent on lap two, things got exciting: we passed Carl DeVincent with a flat, we caught a tiring Josh Anthony, and since I can't count and could still see Scott sometimes, I was like "maybe you can get on the podium!"

(Podium was actually long gone at this point and Scott was in 4th)

So I passed Charlie going into the enduro section and planned to shred across the gap to Scott, and yeah that was definitely working up until the part where I went off the line I wanted, up a giant rock, and instead of going FULL SEND and laying off the brakes, I grabbed all the brakes while thinking "I don't want to be riding up this giant rock."

So then I toppled off the side of the giant rock and ripped my number plate off and didn't catch Scott at all.
This rock was way bigger in my mind shut up

He was nice enough to remain occasionally in sight for the rest of the lap, forcing me to try as hard as my little legs could try even though it was hopeless.  I eventually finished 18 seconds behind him in 5th.

BUT I did enjoy my bike racing experience at Bear Brook even though I had to pedal a lot.  Then I ate all the food available to me and drove home, SKIPPING POST RACE BEER, because the next day was the Seven Sisters Trail Race!

Seven Sisters Trail Race Report

I am not a runner.  I think that's why I wanted to do this race.  It's billed as "mile-for-mile, the hardest trail race in New England" and while I have no interest in trying to pound out seven-minute miles on pavement, tell me something "is like wicked haaaahd, guy" and you'll pique my interest.

I also feel like it's required at some point for any serious amateur athlete in the Pioneer Valley, but that could just be me.

In any case, training for this was really hard for a few reasons --

1) I hate running
2) I have to do all this PT to strengthen my hip girdle so I can run without injury, and I hate PT
3) I kept getting blisters when I ran, and everyone hates blisters

So back in January I was pretty sure I could run 2 or 3 times a week all spring and be "in shape" and then on May 1st I realized that I had run three times in the entire month of April.

LUCKILY!  It turns out that Seven Sisters is not a running race at all.  It's a hiking race, and hiking is about quads, and do you know what cyclists have?  QUADS!

So if you're a bike racer who doesn't really want to run, but does want to have a unique and sufferfesty experience, Seven Sisters is perfect for you!

It was 50 degrees and raining at the start.  Good thing running is the hottest sport in the world, so I dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and was totally fine...even hot at times.

The course has 3700 feet of climbing in 12 miles, which means 3700 feet of descending, and did I mention it was raining?  That's a lot of steps on wet rocks, wet roots, and mud.

...and it turns out that most runners have WAY LESS PRACTICE with line choice and sketchy traction than the average mountain biker.  I'm sure the guys at the front were flying, but most people were crawling on the descents, which as far as I could tell were pretty easily handled using mountain bike principles.  

Basically, don't try to turn much, and don't try to slow down too much, and you're fine.  Once you get squared up with the exit of the descent, let it rip!  Trying to run down a hill slowly is awful.  It's going to hurt either way, so you might as well do it fast.

(Look at me posturing like a trail running expert when I am actually a Cat 5 runner who just did his first Gran Rundo)

Jon Nable had signed up for the race, but fractured a rib and couldn't race, so he was hanging out in the mist/rain at the Skinner Summit house (mile 4.5) and took this "sweet" sequence of me runduro-ing:

(Gif by Uri)

If you look at the final frame you'll see there is someone going up the trail, because this is an out-and-back race and I was literally miles behind the leaders at this point.

On the descent to the turnaround point I caught up with Christin, who had had a 3-minute head start on me (she was wave 3, I was wave 4).  She basically threw herself off the trail yielding to me because she is very polite and didn't know it was me.  Then I listened to her cheer for every single racer coming back up the hill because she is very nice.  

During this time I think the only noises I made were to yell at a dog that was in the way because I am less nice.

At the turnaround, former Seven Sisters winner/AthleteReg CEO/supervolunteer Ross Krause gave me a flask because drinking during endurance sports is how you let people know you're cool and could totally be going faster if you wanted to.

(JDBilodeau photo)
For some mysterious reason I was a lot chattier on the climb out of the turnaround, almost like I had ingested some sort of mood-altering substance or something.

This lasted for about ten minutes.  The chattiness, not the climb.  The climb was 20 minutes.  By the top of the climb, I was finally where I thought I'd be much earlier:  the PAIN CAVE.

At 90 minutes of running, we were already 30 minutes past my longest training run, so that probably had something to do with it.  We were also not very close to the finish.  But I came here to have an EXPERIENCE!  And this would be an EXPERIENCE!

As I was feeling progressively more and more terrible, I ate gels trying to fix it.  This is when I started to appreciate that there are running-specific muscles in one's body, and when they fatigue (because you didn't train for this), you can't fix them by adding glycogen like you could when you start to crack during a bike race (because you ride your bike like a thousand hours a year).

But I tried anyway.

I was not alone in falling apart, luckily.  I had long since abandoned running any but the shallowest of climbs, but I was still passing people just by walking uphill faster, and I was still running downhill as if I couldn't knock my teeth out if I made a mistake.  So I kept picking people off here and there.

The one thing I could NOT do anymore was actually run.  At mile 10 is one of the only "running" sections of the course, maybe a 2% false flat for a quarter of a mile?  After 90 seconds of progressively sadder and sadder jogging, I gave up and started walking.  

God I hate running.

I counted off the remaining climbs (note:  more climbs will remain than you expect, no matter how much you try to account for this) and eventually summitted Bear (Bare?) Mountain at mile 11.  Nothing between me and the finish except a steep, rocky, rooty descent!

I went full runduro and passed a bunch of people.  YES!  I am so good at running!  I caught the leader of wave five, who had passed me a mile earlier.  WHAT'S UP NOW WAVE FIVE LEADER I RIDE MOUNTAIN BIKESSSSS!

We got to the bottom of the descent and it was time to run a quarter mile of flat ground to the finish line, oh man oh man I'm gonna smoke Mr WAVE FIVE LEADER in a sprint, haha just kidding I'm gonna totally cramp up and basically have to speed-waddle to the finish.  

Thus endeth my running career.  Until the next time a bunch of my friends are doing Seven Sisters.  Hint, hint.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Post Nationals Hype Post!!

Is it possible to HYPE nationals five days after it's over?   I'm not sure.  But I started looking at these numbers and I got psyched for the 2016-17 'cross season, so it was good for something.

I wrote about the crossresults vs USAC predictions last week, but now we can look at what actually happened!

The problem is that you really can't judge the quality of a prediction off a single trial.  Take, for example, my latest favorite thing to hate:  Powerball.  Anyone who bought a Powerball ticket I would predict to lose.  However, some people won Powerball -- but that doesn't mean the prediction that they were going to lose Powerball was the wrong prediction, right?

Nevertheless, it's fun to look at, anyway.  Let's go.

Elite Women

Katie Compton collected her 12th title in a row, but Georgia Gould gave her the toughest run for her money she's gotten in a long time.  Guess whose got two thumbs and a website that predicted Georgia on the podium?  this guyyyyyy.  But guess whose got two thumbs and didn't pick Georgia for a top-5 in his own picks?  THIS GUY.

Anyway, big ups to crossresults for calling/getting lucky on Georgia, who skipped all that Europe BS to lay low in Colorado and come out flying at Nationals.

In the last post I highlighted the biggest disagreements between the predictor, let's see how those went:

Crossresults likes:
Elle Anderson (6th in crossresults, 12th in USAC)
Crossresults loved Elle's recent European campaign, and we were right.  She crushed it and finished 4th.

Sunny Gilbert (11th in crossresults, 16th in USAC)
Sunny finished 13th, hitting the average of the predictions quite nicely.

Beth Ann Orton (16th crossresults, 23rd USAC)
Beth Ann didn't even start the race because she had a broken hand.  Whoops!

USAC likes:
Jena Greaser (9th USAC, 14th crossresults)
Jena finished 11th, right in between the two predictions.

Arley Kemmerer (8th USAC, 15th crossresults)
Arley finished 15th, probably because this happened.  How did crossresults know?!

Megan Korol (25th USAC, 31st crossresults)
Megan finished 34th.

So based on this sample of size 1, crossresults was way more accurate on the women's side -- it won disagreements on Gould, Anthony, Anderson, Kemmerer and Korol and didn't really lose any.  Good thing I just told you that samples of size one don't mean anything.

Big Rides!

A few women significantly outperformed the average of their two predictions and should be mentioned:
Elle Anderson - predicted 9th, finished 4th. (+5)
Rebecca Fahringer - predicted 11.5th, finished 6th  (+5.5)
Amanda Nauman - predicted 11.5th, finished 7th (+4.5)
Cassandra Maximenko - predicted 15.5th, finished 10th (+5.5)

There were also some prediction-underperformances, but maaaaan, it's a cross race.  Stuff happens.  Don't dwell on it.

Elite Men

I gotta admit, the USAC numbers were better here.  While both predictions agreed that Hyde/Powers was a virtual tie, we said Logan Owen would be much closer to 4th than the lead.  Instead, he crashed the party until the final lap and ended up minutes ahead of 4th.  Whoops.  I blame Europe.

crossresults likes:
Cody Kaiser (15th crossresults, 24th USAC)
We liked Cody, but we didn't like him ENOUGH.  He crushed it with a 10th-place ride.

Tristan Uhl (18th crossresults, 22nd USAC)
Tristan had an amazing ride and WON!!!... the singlespeed race.  Then he got 30th in the main event.  Crap.

Kevin Bradford-Parish (22nd crossresults, 28th USAC)
Crossresults said 22nd, USAC said 28th, he finished 22nd.  TAKE THAT, GHOST OF STEVE JOHNSON

Zach McDonald (25th crossresults, 35th USAC) **
ZMD showed some signs of the form that has put him on Nationals podiums before with a 19th place, fast enough to make crossresults look good, but slow enough that Erin owes me a coffee.  YEAH ZACH!

USAC likes: 
Dan Timmerman (8th USAC, 12th crossresults)
Dan got the holeshot, went for broke, lost a cleat, finished 28th.  Shit happens.

Jeremy Durrin (16th USAC, 21st crossresults)
Jeremy split his predictions perfectly in 18th place.

Jack Kisseberth (21st USAC, 26th crossresults)
JAM Fund Jack had the RIDE OF THE DAY in 11th place, beating crossresults by 15 places and USAC by 10.

Tim Allen (19th USAC, 30th crossresults)
This guy endured more Home Improvement jokes than should be legal and finished a respectable 20th, proving that crossresults disrespects Colorado masters racing too much.

Adam Myerson (25th USAC, 34th crossresults)
Adam split the difference with a 29th place, but he doesn't even care because he has a baby now.

The men's side was a much more event split between the predictions.  Crossresults won on Kaiser, ZMD, Bradford-Parrish, and Timmerman, but USAC won on Kisseberth, Allen, and Uhl as well as getting the podium perfectly.  We need more samples!  Race again!

Big Rides!

Jack Jack Jack Jaaaack  -  predicted 23.5th, finished 11th (+12.5)
Zach McDonald - predicted 30th, finished 19th (+11)
Cody Kaiser - predicted 19.5th, finished 10th (+9.5)
Yannick Eckmann - predicted 16.5th, finished 9th (+7.5)
Tim Allen - predicted 24.5th, finished 19th (+4.5)
Ben Frederick - predicted 16th, finished 12th (+4)

As noted, shit happens, so there were some less-than-big-rides out there too.  Notably, both predictors liked Summerhill in 4th, but he landed in 17th.  Mechanical, biological, emotional?  Who knows.

In summary, you shouldn't draw any conclusions from small sample sizes and we should race Nationals every weekend for a month to figure out which predictor is better.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Cross Nationals Race Predictor Throwdown!

I distinctly remember Steve Johnson telling me that if we didn't agree on a price for selling crossresults to USAC that they would copy it.

And they did!  Like, all of it the best of their ability, which means it's a reasonable facsimile of crossresults now, but not an exact clone, and that clone also has a "race predictor." (I like the part where they didn't change the name).   In any case, now we live in a magical world with no less than TWO competing mathematical predictions for the United States Cyclocross National Championships! Amazing times we live in.  Let's check it out.

The major differences in the algorithms are:

- Crossresults includes non-USAC races, most relevantly stuff that happens in California, Oregon, Washington and Europe
- USAC's ranking is based on your best 5 results in the calendar year, while crossresults is based on the best 5 in the last 10, so crossresults theoretically pays more attention to recent results than USAC
- Crossresults has been running points for 10 years now, whereas USAC's points only go back five years or so


There's also some less obvious stuff in the algorthims involving biases in the systems that try to adjust (or not adjust) for masters and juniors, and crossresults gives higher points to women because I am a sexist pig, but those are the highlights. On to the predictions!

Elite Women

The top 25 women
1. Katie Compton
2. Kaitlin Antonneau
3. Georgia Gould
4. Rachel Lloyd
5. Amanda Miller

1. Katie Compton
2. Kaitlin Antonneau
3. Crystal Anthony
4. Amanda Miller
5. Rachel Lloyd

My picks:
1. Compton
2. Antonneau
3. Amanda Miller
4. Elle Anderson
5. Meredith Miller

Both algorithms agree:  the Katies are still the queens.   The biggest difference at the top is that USAC has Crystal Anthony on the third step of the podium, while crossresults places her 8th, based on a string of less-than-stellar results in Europe.  

Meanwhile, crossresults puts Georgia Gould onto the 3rd step based on her meager but successful racing season in Colorado this year.  

Personally, I think both Crystal and Georgia are being overrated by algorithms, and the American podium will be filled out by Amanda Miller, Elle Anderson, and Meredith Miller, all of whom showed good form in Europe over Christmas at one time or another.  

Rachel Lloyd makes the top five in both algorthims, but hasn't raced since November, so I'm afraid to pick her for a top five.

But Asheville is not Europe and predictions are fundamentally silly and yet HERE YOU ARE ANYWAY.

Outside the top five, there are a few top-25 riders that Crossresults and USAC have significant disagreement on:

Crossresults likes:
Elle Anderson (6th in crossresults, 12th in USAC)
Sunny Gilbert (11th in crossresults, 16th in USAC)
Beth Ann Orton (16th crossresults, 23rd USAC)

USAC likes:
Jena Greaser (9th USAC, 14th crossresults)
Arley Kemmerer (8th USAC, 15th crossresults)
Megan Korol (25th USAC, 31st crossresults)

Elite Men

Top 25 Men

1. Stephen Hyde
2. Jeremy Powers
3. Logan Owen
4. Danny Summerhill
5. Ryan Trebon

1. Jeremy Powers
2. Stephen Hyde
3. Jamey Driscoll
4. Danny Summerhill
5. Logan Owen

My picks:
1. Stephen Hyde
2. Jeremy Powers
3. Logan Owen
4. Danny Summerhill
5. Travis Livermon

The story this year has to be the rise of Stephen Hyde, as Jeremy goes into nationals with a legitimate challenger for the first time in a few years.  Crossresults actually puts Stephen ever so slightly ahead of Jeremy based off recent results in Europe, but it's close enough to be called a tie in practice.  

USAC agrees on those two at the front, but one difference that doesn't come through here is that they have third place (Jamey Driscoll) close behind, while crossresults says the drop to 3rd place is eighteen points (12%!).  So crossresults sees a two-man battle, and then a wide open race for 3rd, while USAC sees the entire podium as being much closer.

Crossresults (and my gut) think Logan Owen pulls off third place, while USAC likes Jamey Driscoll -- who had won 6 UCI races in a row before dropping to 7th at Kingsport -- to get third.

The big difference in the top 10 is Ryan Trebon (who has struggled with injury and hasn't logged a finish since early November) -- crossresults has him 5th, while USAC places him 10th.  As much as I'd like to see a big performance from Ryan, I think USAC's position is more accurate.  Ryan was putting in solid results before dropping off the scene, so his points are good, but there's no adjustment in the data for "hasn't raced in weeks and made a Facebook post about his injury struggles."

My personal pick for 5th is Travis Livermon, who quietly put in some very respectable rides in Europe over the past few weeks.  And I agree completely with crossresults that Hyde/Powers is too close to call -- but if I had to do it, I'd pick Hyde right now.

Outside the top 10 there's a few more notable discrepancies --

crossresults likes:
Cody Kaiser (15th crossresults, 24th USAC)
Tristan Uhl (18th crossresults, 22nd USAC)
Kevin Bradford-Parish (22nd crossresults, 28th USAC)
Zach McDonald (25th crossresults, 35th USAC) **

USAC likes: 
Dan Timmerman (8th USAC, 12th crossresults)
Jeremy Durrin (16th USAC, 21st crossresults)
Jack Kissebert (21st USAC, 26th crossresults)
Tim Allen (19th USAC, 30th crossresults)
Adam Myerson (25th USAC, 34th crossresults)

For the second year in a row, crossresults doesn't think Myerson will get it together for a lead lap finish at Nationals.  Personally, I think he goes out in a Flynnstagram-fueled blaze of glory and finishes way better than 34th in the last race of his career.

I maintain that predictions are fundamentally silly.  Give me a race with an undecided podium heading into the last lap and I'm happy, even if all my predictions are wrong.

** Can we talk about how crazy ZMD's nationals results have been?  2nd in 2013, DNF in 2014, 3rd in 2014, predicted ~30th in 2016?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cycle-Smart International Race Reports

I've been remiss on the blogging front, because I killed my GoPro (more on that later) and blogging without videos just seems soooooo 2008.  But CSI was great, we've got a cup of coffee and an hour, let's DO THIS!

CSI Day 1

The Saturday course remains one of my favorite in New England, despite the fact that there is a GOD AWFUL WINDY POWER SECTION in the lower field, because everything else is jam-packed with FUN:  sandpit, runup, rideup with stairs that you could only ride if you were insanely motivated, pro line downhill, rad woods.

Stoke was high.  Random number was also high.  But it's okay!  I sliced and diced through the aforementioned power section and was deep into the core of the field heading into the fun section on lap one.  

But then, as I was passing some guys on the outside of a turn, the standard UCI-lap-one-almost-crash happened where a tangle led to a chain reaction of five people barely-not-crashing.  Which was great, except that Trent Blackburn's not-crashing moved his rear skewer directly into the line my front wheel was committed to, and then he and I were very much crashing.

Sorry Trent.

I swear I was up and back on my bike in under five seconds, but when the race is wheel-to-wheel that's enough to go from "comfortably in the middle" to "last." 

I immediately got out of last, though, because some guy hooked his bike on the unbreakable tape on the runup dismount, and had never dealt with unbreakable tape before (thanks JD).  So instead of unhooking it from his bars  he tried to break it by pulling his bike, and it's entirely possible he's still there to this day, uprooting more and more stakes with panicked tugging.

I started furiously chopping my way out of last place, because I am better than last place (tm).  

AJ Moran counter-chopped me while RUNNING down the pro line, which was great, there is a video of it on the internet but I can't find it now and speed bloggers don't have time to google "got GLVed at CSI video rad" for the next 10 minutes :(

My legs were refreshingly functional so I made some real progress for a while.  Right about the time that progress stalled, Eric Follen caught my group and he was in full Wilcox-mode.  Wait, do you guys even know what Wilcox mode is?  Sigh.  It's when you spend 15 minutes warming up during the race, and then become the fastest guy on the course and break scrub-zone hearts for 45 minutes.


So Follen cruises through with his sub-1-hour Mt Washington wattage, and then the game was to hack my way through traffic and shred technical sections to stay on his wheel for as long as possible. It was excruciating, but effective, and I think I managed to win the game for at least 3 laps, which is longer than anyone else around us did!

I finally gave up on Eric as he pulled me into Andrew Lysaght's group, because now #houseclash was on, and my body hurt.

Since I had caught Andrew it was clear that I was going to win #houseclash.

Then, as we rode along the upper road section, there was a brutal ping-chunk from my back end, as my rear wheel destroyed my chainstay cam.

After 5 years of running a GoPro less than an inch from my spokes, I finally got to find out what would happen if they touched!  It was surprisingly not-catastrophic... but it did leave me with a broken-off GoPro mount spinning wildly on my rear chainstay, which was loud, and distracting.  

So I stopped to take it off, and giving up 10 seconds at Noho with two laps to go HURTS.  I chased and chased and chased, and I watched Andrew sit in while some other jerk pulled the group around, and I knew exactly what was happening -- right about the time I started to threaten to regain contact, he attacked, shelled the guy who had been pulling (that's what you get for pulling my friend around, jerk), and rode away from me for the #houseclash win.

I ended up 37th/65, which was pretty tolerable for being 65th/65 at one point.  On to the next one!
Jesse Quags took this photo of me looking competent on the very legit pro-only section!

CSI Day 2

In typical double weekend fashion, day one left me thinking "wow, take away the crash and the chainstay cam explosion and you coulda had a great result."  Hopes were high...and legs were crap.  Dammit.

I had a much better random draw and a crash-free start, but you know what, being mid-20s on lap one when you're a mid-30s racer actually just means that you're going to have a pretty demoralizing race day.  Every group I was in was stronger than me, and the field was windy, and legs were bad.  I got popped from groups I really really really wanted to be in.  Over and over.

This also led to a lot of riding around in the wind by myself, which of course is my forte.  I built some character by going as hard as my little legs could go (that's how you're supposed to bike race, right?  I frequently try to avoid this) which still wasn't fast enough to avoid getting caught by Eric Follen (duh) with a few laps to go.

Eric had helpfully towed Preston up to me,  but he had also punched Preston straight in the face with his calves for half an hour.  I lasted about four minutes with the Follen group and pulled the plug when he accelerated to 0.9c on the finish straight.

Preston came around to try to close the gap, but the warping of space-time made it impossible, and soon it became cleared that Preston and I were going to have a classic end-of-race-throwdown-with-your-buddy.

I came up next to him on the runup and he was breathing like he was dying, which seemed like a good sign, so I pushed it a little through the next technical section and oh, crap, now I have a GAP with 1.5 laps to go, so I had to do real honest work, instead of just winning the sprint?  Sweet plan Colin.

But I did!  It's probable that Preston was totally slain from half an hour on the Eric Follen Express, but whatever, I'll take it.

I rolled in for 36th/63, getting basically the same result from Day 1 via totally different methods. 

And then I ordered a new GoPro.

In the meanwhile, you should watch the DirtWire highlights, because they are SO FREAKING GOOD:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Putney West Hill Shop Race Report

I just checked, and in my 10-year cyclocross career I've raced Putney eight times.  EIGHT!  Pretty sure the only events on the list that can top that are Gloucester and Cycle-Smart (9).  I remember cheering for Dan Coady there ten years ago, right before he rode into a tree in a downpour, back when I was a Cat 4 but I hung around the races all day because cyclocross was so cool.  Five years ago it was also the race I went to right before my whole life exploded, but the beauty of five years is that now that's just another funny thing that happened at Putney.

The old course (did you think we were done with blogstalgia?  HA)  used to be a sub-6-minute powerfest, with a brief technical section up around the shop and then riding the perimeter of the corn field, then the road, then the runup.  It was BRUTAL for people with bad steady-state power (hi) once they lost the draft.  

Slowly, though, the course has changed, and it seems like each year they add more turns in the cornfield.  The old Putney course is gone, and what remains is a cornering and sprinting extravaganza.

Hey do you know anyone around here who likes cornering and sprinting?

Unfortunately, my prerace prep involved 5 hours of riding downhill bikes at Berkshire East without food or water, and then certain hosts refilling my margarita glass against my will at least three times.  So when I awoke Sunday morning, it was clear that I would be MANAGING THE SITUATION and not SMASHING FACES once the race started.

There were 31 guys in the 1/2/3 race (I remember back when there were 10!  I finished in the money!  It was a niche sport then!) so the start was somewhat relevant.  I got away somewhere in the middle and began managing the frickin' situation, which on lap one meant "totally not reacting when the lead group of ten guys got a gap."  Nope.  I just stayed tucked in behind Andrew Lysaght and watched the race ride away.

A much more spirited Preston came flying by us and tried to go across the gap.  I don't know if he ever made it, but he eventually spent half an hour riding by himself, so I like to think my decision was appropriate.

Anyway.   The turny nature of the course led to minimal separation, and Andrew was still trying to figure out how much traction a downed cornstalk provides, so we spent the first few laps with tons of guys HANGING OUT, with me slowly realizing that I didn't feel anywhere near as terrible as I should have given the previous day.

Notably, Cary was dangling about 10 seconds behind the group, riding by himself, which I thought looked like deliciously more work than sitting in with five other guys on the road.

Despite my perception that we weren't really going that hard, we started both shedding guys from our group and picking up stragglers from the original lead group as the race wore on.  Somewhere along the line Andrew Borden (wait I just realized why so many people were cheering for Andrew Lysaght) came to the front and towed us around for probably three more laps.

Finally as we neared two to go he realized that watching my shadow coast while he pedaled on the road was not ideal, so he flicked me though, so I FINALLY took a pull, for all of one minute.  

The thing was, while I had been managing the situation, er, chilling, for the last half hour, Andrew Lysaght had been doing the same while figuring out how to beat me.  

So when we crested the runup, he attacked, and for the first time all day the wheel in front of me got really hard to follow.

I pulled my big boy pants up and stayed in contact, though, and after the turn fest in the field I was feeling like things were going to be okay, after all.  We had picked up a dangling Preston (30 minutes alone will do that to you), so the group was four.

When we hit the road Andrew L attacked again and I distinctly remember thinking "wow, if your line onto the road hadn't sucked you probably wouldn't have had to go STUPID HARD all the way to the turn to get back into the draft."

So I was at the back of the group.  And you better believe that when we crested the runup, and I saw Andrew had five bike lengths on us, and he stood up to attack again, that all I could think was "hey, hey, you guys shouldn't let that wheel go" as he rode away.

But it was hard so we let him go.

Any plans I might've had for heroic turn shredding and gap closing were squashed by Preston's presence in the group, because the last thing I wanted was to burn all my matches chasing Andrew just to get smoked on the road by Preston.

So we just watched Andrew ride away while preparing for the inevitable road-to-runup throwdown at the end of the race.

I have blogged about this here MANY times, which is kind of problem because I think Preston has read those blogs, and as we neared the cone in the road and I could see him looking around Andrew #2, I could tell he was going to attack exactly in my preferred attacking spot.

(I don't think Andrew #2 has read those blogs though)

So Preston lit it up, and all I could do was follow him, which meant he got to the runup first!  Luckily, I knew that the left line on the runup can be faster if you're freaking out hard enough (guess Preston didn't read far enough back in the blogs) so I smashed into the back of him on the dismount, ran up the left side, and drew even with him over the top:


"I totally got this," I thought to myself, right as I remounted and caught my chamois on the back of my saddle.

I regret to report that my balls might have been a casualty of the process of finding your pedals while your chamois is caught on your saddle and your heart rate is 300 and Preston is RIGHT THERE OMFGGGGG

Somehow I managed to get in my pedals and win the sprint by a wheel.

Then I lay down on the ground and flopped around pathetically trying to figure out how to get more air into my body so I didn't die.

It was awesome.


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