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.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Orchard Cross Race Report

I raced Fruitlands Cup of Cyclocross on Saturday.  It went very, very badly.  Apparently not sleeping, not eating, and not riding for a week and then riding the most physically demanding cross course in New England is not a good plan.  I was sad from the gun and got sadder.  My major achievement was not dropping out in the hope of "getting open" for Orchard Cross, The Biggest Grassroots Race in New England (tm),  the following day.

It kinda sorta worked.

It certainly made me appreciate riding quite a bit better on a quite a bit easier course.

Rumors that Orchard Cross was much more power-oriented than years past proved to be a bit overblown -- I thought it still felt much closer to "balanced" that "disgusting roadie power fest and I hate you guys."

The holeshot was a total downhill sketchfest on tractor ruts.  I survived.  I might have advanced my position (27th?  seriously I am staged 27th in a local 1/2/3 this is what I have become?!?!) a bit in this process, but I was mainly stoked about coming out upright.

Lap one was obviously full blast.  I dangled in the generally vicinity of the Kevin Sweeney group, which seemed like a decent place to be.  I certainly never got any closer than tailgunning it, though, and I kept electing to not pedal hard and "catch back on in the technical sections" -- so of course after a few laps of this, I didn't really get back on in the tech sections, and you know what, maybe I'll just ride by myself for a while.

I turned a corner in the Orchard on lap 3 to find an apparently dead Doug Thorp lying on his back and an apparently murderous Mike Wissell remounting.   So that was great, temporarily.

After half an hour my back stopped working (note:  15 minutes longer than yesterday) which really put a damper in my zest for suffering.  Andrew Lysaght closed the ten second gap I had been holding for a few laps and dropped me like a stone.  He still has to pay me rent, though.

From there on out I mainly rode around waiting for the race to end, shralping the berm, and coating my rims in mud once a lap in the bike wash runoff just to experience the joy of carbon braking surfaces in the wet.

Entering the final lap it was clear that I could mail it in and maintain my position.

Entering the final time up the runup, though, zombie Doug Thorp was suddenly five seconds behind me, which was really bad news because if he had appeared that rapidly, it meant he was going a lot faster than me and probably hungry for BRAINS.

So then I had to ride my damn face off for the last four minutes of the race to save my brains.  Which I just barely did -- holding a gap that was measured in bike lengths and not seconds into the final turn, but no one comes around me after the last turn, so WHATEVER.

Then I talked to Thom about how Orchard Cross is huge and it's super cool.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

HPCX Race Reports

Last weekend Christin and I went on and adventure to the Mid-Atlantic, because there was a UCI doubleheader four miles from where she had to be for work that week.

Mid-Atlantic UCI racing is an exotic thing that I rarely sample.  It is a mysterious land of single tape, @gregwhits, and a healthy scrubzone full of dudes I have never raced with before.

But!  Lest you measure your race quality in double-tape, let the record show that the day one HPCX course was DOPE.  There was a lot of turning and a lot of climbing, but somehow the climbing was broken up enough to be shockingly tolerable, except the finish straight which was just a good old fashioned WOW THIS HURTS section.

I drew a crappy start spot but nailed the clip-in and was shortly having to back off before I accidentally passed someone who was actually good and got in their way soon after.

Then some dudes tangled going into turn one and a lot of us put feet down and that was the end of my good start.

The descending portion of the course was not easy to pass on, which meant lots of time for making jokes while hanging out in traffic and not yet feeling the effects of the effort.  It was a lot of fun. In the highlights around 1:30 you can hear me and Greg yelling at each other:

Eventually the effort put a damper on jokes, and around 25 minutes in I started to feel quite feeble, and whole host of dudes I wanted to beat rode away from me.

Around 45 minutes in, the gel I had eaten on the start line kicked in and suddenly I stopped getting sand kicked in my face going up the hill.  I settled in with a group of two other guys and we rode around merrily not getting 80-percented.

On the last lap, the guy at the front decided he was sick of going super hard, which meant we all got to recover, so when the race started up again I felt AWESOME and won the group so hard, if you look at the times you'd think I lost the group ahead of us.

HPCX Day 2

Day two's course was allegedly "less climbing" but what climbing remained felt longer and steadier than anything we did on Day one.  There was also a rad downhill sandpit and a difficult uphill sandpit:

This time I drew a back row start and definitely didn't get anywhere when the whistle blew.  So I rolled around near the back remaining competitive with a few gentlemen and dangling annoyingly close to the @gregwhits group.   I was slaying the downhill sand but having to run the uphill sand, which left me totally freaking winded at the bottom of the climb, which led to me eventually giving up on ever hanging out with Greg.

Just like the day before, I eventually found a scrubbuddy and he was very enthusiastic about pulling on a windy day, so clearly we were going to be buddies for a while.  He wanted to chat, which was great, except when he told me we were going to "get this guy on the hill" which made for a quite uncomfortable two minutes.

We did get that guy though.

I added value to our group by riding into his back wheel when he botched the sandpit.

When we got to the last lap I prepared to THROW DOWN, but I guess not everyone has the same final lap adrenaline spike I do, because I kinda just gapped him two minutes before the sprint, and once again bridged far enough ahead to the next group that I appeared to lose a sprint.

Did I mention I didn't get pulled on day 2 either?  WOO FINISHING RACES

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mansfield + Minuteman Race Report

Mansfield Hollow
I found out this year that Ron, the Mansfield Hollow promoter, first ran this race in 1983.  This race is ONE YEAR YOUNGER than me.  Apparently there were a few years in the 90s that it didn't happen, so it's not the longest-running race in #NECX (I think that would be Putney, right?), but still.  32 years and counting of a surprisingly good course on the shores of some artificial lake in middle of nowhere, Connecticut.

Because the race is 32 years old, it doesn't buy into modern BS like crossresults staging, so we lined up in proper scrum fashion, and I missed the scrum.  So that was back row out of almost 40 guys.

And the holeshot was like a 12 second sprint into one of the twistiest parts of the course so... at the back I stayed, more or less.

Then we got to the downhill angled flood-control-log hop and I yelled "hopping in traffic, let's get wiiiiiiild" at Jesse and he repaid me by bobbling his hop and kind of sitting down on my front wheel as I landed my hop, stopping my bike.

Luckily the mass of my body was not so encumbered so I was able to fly off my bike and roll down the hill while swearing at Jesse.

When I got back to my bike, I was in last.  The rest of the race was a time trial as I attempted to ride back to where I wanted to be.  Toiling alone on the course (note:  not my forte, in case you're new here) was actually going pretty well for a while, to the point where I was SO SURE I was catching The Sweens, because the gap was down to 10 seconds and we still had two laps to go, right?

Then we had one lap to go and the gap was still 10 seconds because I only had 45 minutes of riding hard alone in me, and then I stuffed the sand because I was le tired and that was that.  I rode in for 20th out 35 which is, um, not good at all, but I still had fun, and here's a video!

Minuteman Cyclocross Race Report
The two races at Bolton Fairgrounds always end up being courses that suit me, because it's smooth and flat and there's a lot of GRASS TURN SHREDDING.  MRC in particular has tended toward "the turns you need, not the turns you want" over the past few years so I had high hopes that I might be able to not-suck on Sunday.

But then my guts got all weird and I didn't want to eat breakfast but I had to eat breakfast and yeah, you know how that goes... too much portapotty time and too little motivation on the start line.  I let Matt Sousa take the last spot on row two even though I got to it first, which pretty much summarizes how bad I wanted it when the race started.  And when the race starts with 90 seconds of pedaling, followed by five minutes of turning-sprinting-never-passing-anyone hell, you really benefit from wanting it off the start line.

So my lackluster start turned into extreme frustration in a hurry, because when I decided that I did actually want to race my bike, it was hilariously impossible to rectify the situation since the course was nothing but slow single-file turns with the occasional 10-second max-power-sprint-because-we're-all-recovered thrown in.

Protip:  the start at MRC matters, and it matters a lot.  Don't be a dumby like me.

Eventually we got a few laps in and people were no longer MAX POWERING the max power sprints and I was able to move up a bit, and I got like 5 spots into "moving up" before realizing that I felt like crap and bikes were dumb.

Then Cary caught my group, which reminded me that bikes are dumb and friends who are gonna beat you are dumb.

My group was like seven guys, and Cary went to the front of it on the start straight, which made me think "sweet that chump is gonna pull us around," but then we hit TWISTY HELL again and certain people who are not me were unable to match Cary's shredding ability... and now Cary is pulling some people around, alright, but not me because I am now in "the chase group."

Due to aforementioned lack of passing, fixing this situation took a WHILE, but eventually I got myself into free space five or ten seconds behind the Mantis group.  This was the point at which knowing people makes a big difference, because if he had been some random guy from Ohio I would have taken my bad feelings and gone home, but instead he was THE MANTIS and an annoying number of people think "hey Cary's beating you" is a "cheer" so I really did want to fix the situation.

Thus through some character-building suffering I clawed back the group, now containing Chris Merola, Bill Kenney and Cary.  Cary somehow managed to out-turn the group one more time (he was turning really well, it was obnoxious) but this time Chris brought him back and even counterattacked going through the start-finish at one lap to go, taking Bill with him.

Obviously I didn't cover that attack because I am a lazy piece of cyclist and Cary was right in front of me which is all that matters.

So then we go back into twisty hell a few seconds down on those guys, but Cary has been shredding turns all day so we can probably close it back down, no problem!  Except Cary turned back into a pumpkin and exploded randomly at the apex of a turn, and I was a hot tired mess so I couldn't summon up the sick balance move to avoid him... I just jammed my brakes on, tried to get by, failed, and then toppled over him at 1 mph.

Bikes are dumb, friends are dumb.

He got up first but I chased him down and decided that he would pay for crashing us by beating him in the sprint.

He decided that if he was going to lose in a sprint he could at least crash me again, so that's what he did on the dismount for the logs!  This time I didn't actually go down, but I did get to stand there and wait since he blocked the entire course with his prone body and bike.

Then I roasted him in a sprint because that's what friends are for.

I think next week I'm gonna focus on my start a bit more.

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