Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quad Cross Race Report


Quad Cross Bar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.
I kicked off my ninth (oh jesus, really?) season of cyclocross at Quad Cross this year.  They had flipped last year's course and it was so.  much.  better.  in this direction.  The punchy climbs were now fun euro-chutes and the long maybe-pedaling downhill was now a long pedaling uphill.

Wait, did I just praise a long pedaling uphill?  Yep.  That's how you know it wasn't a UCI race.

The miracle of pre-reg got me a front row start, which I uncharacteristically missed my pedal on. By the time I was going faster than the people around me, we were into the first turn and I decided not to doing anything dumb trying to move up (see:  not a UCI race).

I may have chopped Mike Wissell anyway, just out of habit.

I spent most of the first lap waiting for the race to start hurting, which is what happens when you haven't raced cross in a year and your legs got torn off at the last race (Dirty 40) so badly you didn't want to write about it.

Eventually I was like, whoa, I feel strangely decent (probably because the course was mostly technical sections) and I started moving up.

I moved up until I got to Tim Ratta, and we were racing for fourth.  My plans of drafting him on the doubletrack climb were thwarted by him attacking me with the fury of a thousand suns every time we got onto said climb.  Turns out there IS a limit to how hard I'll sprint to stay in the draft.

After the climb was a good five minutes of technical cornering so I was able to undo the damage each lap in that section and get back on his wheel, just in time to get to the power climb and get attacked again.

This seemed like a recipe for not getting fourth (I had even told myself "it's ok little buddy, the money pays five deep"), but I forgot that on the last lap I my ability to suffer is basically triple what it was before.  So this time, I went with the attack, and counterattacked at the top into the hairpin that marked the start of the technical section that had been getting me back onto his wheel all day.  And then it was basically a "don't screw up" contest from there.  Which I won.

Thus marks my traditional "better than you really are" race.  Gotta love technical local races when everyone fast is at a UCI race or raced the day before!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Attitash Enduro Race Report

Ever since I snagged a sweet deal on a long-travel trail bike (thanks, universal 29er adoption!), I've been meaning to try racing it.   I had this idea that since the best part of an XC race for me is the descending sections, doing a race that would be EXCLUSIVELY descending sections would be great for me.  Because there's no way that kind of race would self-select good descenders or anything.

Unfortunately, to properly ENDURO you need to preride, because it's not like an xc race where a few mistakes on lap one aren't a big deal.  The whole race is about 15 minutes long, and you only get one shot at each section of trail.  Knowing what's coming up is pretty essential.  So I had to go up a day in advance to preview the course and try to commit every single turn to memory.

Obviously, I flatted exactly one minute into the preride.  Did you know that when you're flying down a hill, slamming on your front brake and turning puts a ton of force on your tire bead, like maybe a lot more than the normal xc riding you've been doing?  That thing didn't burp, it VOMITED.  Flat in under a second.

So then I rode a tube for the rest of the weekend.

My dreams of being a secret enduro prodigy held up through the preride.  Note that preriding has the word "riding" in it.  Riding and racing aren't the same thing... but they're pretty similar... right?

Then it rained overnight.  Adam Snyder told me it was going to be hairy.  Adam Snyder knows what he is doing.  I did not like this information.

Before we could race, we decided to do one last preride run on stage 5 in the morning to see what it was like after the rain.  Tom Sampson, Mike Sampson, Steven Hopengarten and I started down the trail.  We made it all of ten seconds in before we got to a wet wood bridge.  Mike and Tom went straight over it.  Steven's brain had been replaced by GIDDY ENDURO STEVE's brian and thus he may have been slightly more aggressive with his line selection, which led to him flying through the air horizontally before hitting his EYE SOCKET ON A ROCK.  Right in front of me.

Happier times for Steven and his bridge.  [pinkbike]
Seriously, he fractured his freaking orbital floor.  And then did the race anyway.  And then went to the ER and they were like "we have to fix this so your eyeball doesn't fall into your sinus."

But this blog is about ME, and for ME, seeing that crash was BAD BAD BAD.  One of the many keys to racing downhill fast is to never, ever, ever think about the consequences while you're doing it.  You can think about them before, and after, but in the moment, thinking about what could happen to you only makes you ride badly.

And now I couldn't stop thinking about how much I didn't want to hit my eyeball on a rock.  And how many dudes were wearing full face helmets.  And how despite all this, it's probably not less safe than racing a crit.  Maybe.

ANYWAY at some point it became time to race bikes, and Steven was full of ibuprofen, and blissfully unaware of his eyeball's potential to make a run for it, so we hopped on the chairlift and tried to pretend we weren't terrified.

(My personal goal had been lowered from "prove secret Enduro prodigy status" to "don't die")

Stage 1 started straight down a work road on a blue ski trail so "don't die" speed was achieved in three pedal strokes.

There were some parts in the woods that were rocky rooty cliffs of terror.  In between them there were some parts where I reckon the fast guys were pedaling.  I did not pedal those sections.

At the bottom I was like "oh, here's that part with the big slippery rock and the tree right next to the line that you don't want to hit," so I stared at the rock, bounced off it and hit the tree.

Somehow this ended up being my best stage (ranked second in Amateur 30-39!) so I'm guessing a lot of people ended up at a complete stop with their bars wedged into that tree.

Since this is Enduro we got to ride to the top of the next stage.  I discovered that "gravity athletes" just get off and walk their bike on steep fire roads.  It was very civilized.

Stage 2 was a fresher-cut trail than Stage 1, and had no terrifyingly fast fire road sections.  It almost "flowed," as long as you consider "flow" to be sliding down a mountain of muddy, loamy roots with your back wheel locked up about half of the time.

The only mistake I made on this stage was unclipping a foot when I had all my weight behind the saddle, which led to my pedal trying to go through my shin.  My shin was up to the task, but holy cow, it's still swollen on WEDNESDAY.

The we rode back up because Enduro!  It turns out a 26'er with a 24x34 low gear can comfortably be pedaled at about 2mph.  I rode while talking to people who were walking.  I hate walking.

Stage 3 was like a steeper version of Stage 2.  It was going SWIMMINGLY until it dumped out of the woods onto a ski trail and a bunch of high-speed slalom turns, and I made the mistake of letting go of my brakes for a second.  My bike accelerated to the speed of sound (duh) and I immediately overcooked the first turn.

Since this was my first enduro I was taking the "stay on the trail" ethos (far too) seriously and locked up the brakes to avoid breaking the tape... at the price of coming to a dead stop.  So that would be a "mistake," I believe.

One of the weird/cool/favorable things about the Eastern States Enduro series is the "climbers prime."  Basically, whichever amateur goes the fastest on one of the transfer sections gets a $200 dropper post -- and while I usually hate pedaling uphill (see:  every other blog entry here, ever), the idea of racing a bunch of dudes who don't shave their legs up a hill seemed like something I should probably take advantage of.

So... I did that.  I went as hard as I could and finished the transfer in 12 minutes.  I have no idea how close the 2nd best time was, but I did get to stand on a podium for it and I did get a magical seatpost for it.

The downside to "winning" the transfer is going into Stage 4 totally cooked -- because you're not off the transfer until you tag into stage 4, and then you're on the clock for stage 4 .  So the mistakes-per-minute rate increased significantly.  I ended up straddling my top tube in the middle of a stream (not fast), falling in the mud after failing to ride a snowmaking pipe (not fast), and flying off a fire road into some deep grass (not fast, not safe).

One thing I now appreciate about racing enduro is how hard is it to gauge your performance.  We're racing down a hill of wet roots, mud and rocks.  You are screwing up CONSTANTLY.  For me, I spent the entire race either braking (and then wishing I hadn't) or overshooting corners (and wishing I had braked more).  For every line you hit and think "ah, that was correct,"  there's at least four more where you kind roll your eyes as you go through it.  I could have gone faster!  Ugh, why am I on this line?  OH CRAP I SHOULD HAVE BRAKED MORE.

So this is why, after four stages, I didn't actually know that I was in 2nd (out of 15) dudes in Amateur 30-39.  I screwed up a lot.  Turns out everyone else did, too.  The guys who don't screw up every stage race the Pro/Open class I guess... or maybe they just screw up while going faster.

(Note that Tom and Mike Sampson both beat me by over two minutes and didn't even make the podium of the pro race)
You don't even know how much of a roadie I look like here, because you're a roadie, too.  [pinkbike]

Stage 5 was the last stage, and it featured the-bridge-that-killed-Steven.  It was fast and rocky on the fire roads and steep and slick in the woods.  It had a step-up jump that I had taken the B-line on in preride, at the cost of many seconds.  I was apprehensive.

But, the nice thing about never racing downhill is that you actually learn how to do it DURING the race. By the time I hit the last stage, my downhill skill was the highest it's ever been in my life.  I held decent speed on the rocky fire road, held it together on the dark, muddy cliffs, remembered the giant log in the woods, cleaned the step-up (not without trepidation) and by the end of the run, I was even thinking about pedaling between the turns.
If one did not clean the step-up it would look like this. [pinkbike]

Came out of the woods, into the last turn, in front of the only spectators I'd seen all day -- and promptly laid it down, sliding on my stomach down a hillside of grass, mud and rocks.  It only took me ten seconds (thanks, Strava) to run back up the hill, straighten my bars and get moving again -- but it was enough to cost me second place.

Game of mistakes, this enduro thing.  Just to underscore that, the guy in 4th (Rob Westover) beat me on four out of five stages by some healthy margins -- but I beat him on stage one by over a minute.  Now THAT'S a mistake.

The worst part about making that many mistakes in a bike race is that it makes you want to go back to see if you can do it better.  So I guess I'll see you next year, enduro...

Pinkbike coverage with a video that makes this look much easier than I remember

Results




Monday, August 18, 2014

Another 24 Hour Lap Time Post!

I'm still working on getting the full lap data for Great Glen, because I'm sure there's a lot of cool stuff in there.  In the meanwhile, someone sent me this email that was too well done not to post (with his permission, of course), which answered some of the "but what's the statistical certainty???" questions that were posed in the comments last week.  Enjoy.

"Hi Colin,

Don’t know if you remember me.  I’m [explanation of how we know each other redacted].  Anyways, I enjoyed your cheater writeup.  You’re probably done with comments about this whole deal, but I was bored at work this morning and took a look at some of the lap data.  Some of the comments were asking about statistical certainty of Sam Anderson’s night lap times being fake.  The short answer is “oh my god, yes”.

I looked at the lap times from the top 10 teams from the 2011 24hogg.  I discarded the first lap (running) and then averaged every rider’s laps started before 8 pm and called those day laps, and averaged every rider’s laps started between8 pm and 5 am and called those night laps.  So from the top 10 teams, we have a population of 32 riders, and I added Sam Anderson’s laps to the data set.  When you plot them, you get this graph:



The dashed blue line represents even lap times day and night.  As you would expect, every legit racer is, on average, at least 2 minutes slower in the dark.   If you look at the ratio of night:day for the 32 riders, you find with 99.9% confidence that all riders should run lap times 1.078 to 1.147 times slower at night compared to day.  And this makes intuitive sense as a good rider running 40 minute day laps and going 8% slower at night would run 43 minute laps.

So onto Sam’s night:day ratio of 0.998.  If you run a t-test to determine if his lap ratio is significantly different from a normal person's, you find that there is 99.999999999% confidence that his is an outlier.  This translates to a 1 in 1.3 million shot of his lap times happening without some outside influence (cheating, mechanicals, whatever).  

You made a great case that something fishy was going on with his lap times.  Just though you should know statistics is on your side.




Graham"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report

Ah, the 24 Hours of Great Glen.  I've done this race six times now, and I've been writing about how rad it is since 2007.  After finally managing to pull of a win in 2011, I'd missed it for two years straight.  Not just physically missed it -- emotionally missed it.  A lot.

So when MY BOSS (of all people) asked the office "what do you guys think about doing a Great Glen team?" it took me less than a second to say "ohmygodyes."  Evan was also on board within about five seconds, and that was all we needed.  It took a lot more digging around the valley to get a fourth teammate than I expected, but we had a lot of ideas.  We eventually ended up with former-pro-team-director and Valley-Strava-legend Jay Gump as our last guy.  Note that Jay's palmares do not include "mountain bike racer."  But he did race the Widowmaker Challenge at Sugarloaf in 1992, which was only 22 years ago.  I'm sure the sport hasn't changed in that time.

Did I mention that Ross (the aforementioned boss) actually did a year as a pro on the road back in the day?  Or that Evan's a cat 1 on the road currently?  We should have just named the team "A lot of hard pedaling.  And Colin."

I regaled the office with tales of how Great Glen is a roadie course that's like 50% gravel road.  The office was EXCITED.  If you called BikeReg at any point between June and August, the reason the phone rang four times is that someone had to finish a sentence about Great Glen before they picked it up.

As is required, there were rumors of a super-team showing up and blowing everyone away.  Those rumors didn't materialize, luckily, and we went into the race with a very real chance of winning... assuming that the survived racing mountain bikes at night.  Which was possibly a tall order, since on the one training night ride we did, Ross hit a tree and had to take a week off to recover!

The planning around who would do first lap was intense, as always.  Evan ended up drawing that straw, mainly because Ross's ankle was STILL not right after crashing on that night ride.  Obviously we got Evan totally wound up and he was 2nd out of the gate, but managed to calm down enough to drift back to 5th on the run.

(Don't try to win the run, ever.  There is always someone who is a great runner and a mediocre rider who wants to win it.  It's only 2 minutes out of 24 hours)

Giddy Huff kept himself together for the whole first lap and came to the tent in 2nd, narrowly ahead of third (another expert team). He was pretty far behind a singlespeeder in first (damn singlespeeders), but that was okay, singlespeeder was on a coed team.  We got this.  Giddy Huff passed off to Giddy Gump with third place hot on his heels...

So we've been joking about Jay's possible mismatch between his power and handling skills ever since he got on the team, which really speaks more about his power (insane) than his handling (pretty decent).  The joke was always "Gump will totally be our fastest guy as long as he doesn't pedal 600w into a crash."

Uh, guess what happened on lap one?

So Jay has a HUGE wreck.  Right away, over the bars on one of the whoops.  He said he was going so fast he landed "halfway down the bridge", which is a course flyover you hit right out of the start.  By comparison, I never even gapped this bridge once during the race, never mind overjumping it.

The good news is, Jay's not dead.  He turns a 44-minute lap, which is fine, but when he gets off his bike to run into the tent he looks like he's 80 years old, putting all his weight on his saddle and basically using his bike as a rolling cane.  We're down to third place.

Oh crap, right, I have to race my bike now.

They changed the direction of the course at Great Glen this year, and made it a bit longer.  I like the new direction, but man, when you've got six years of memory IN THE OTHER DIRECTION, lap one is HARD.  It seemed like I blew every other gravel turn, outriggering and over-braking to stay out of the woods.  But, it was LAP ONE, so I was making up for these mistakes by dumping watts all over the place on every hill.

I caught the coed team that had been leading.

I could see the expert team that was now leading.

My seatbag started to come loose, so I stopped to put it in my jersey.

I caught the leader.  I was full of adrenaline!  I attacked the leader as soon as I got to him, hoping that the 'ole go-right-past would break his spirit and he wouldn't even try to draft me.

Much to my surprise this didn't work.  It did hurt a lot, though.  He happily slotted in behind me for much of the lap... even pulling alongside on the paved climb across the road.  Ruh-roh.

It wasn't until the technical section at the top of the hill across the road that I was able to start putting distance in.  Adrenaline-based decisions about how fast you can jump onto a bridge with a turn in it?  That's my wheelhouse, man.

I finished the lap, carefully navigated the floating bridge, and sent Ross out with a thirty second lead.

Bridge of Absurdity!  [Ernie Mills]

(In the interest of brevity I'm not gonna talk too much about this bridge, let's just say it was an AMAZING course feature)

I got back to camp, and Jay was nowhere to be found.

Some investigation revealed that he was lying in his tent.  On his back.  And had taken some muscle relaxers.  And didn't know if he could ride his next lap.

This is generally not what you want to hear from your teammate after one lap.

It turns out Jay's had some back issues (maybe a lot of back issues) and his back was totally seized up after that crash.  Luckily he rolls with muscle relaxers these days, and reported that he felt "better than expected" as long as he lay there and didn't move.

Uh, great.

Ross padded our lead a little bit.  Evan had a small mechanical and lost a bit of the lead.  Then Jay went back out for the great "can Jay still pedal a bike" experiment.

(I actually never really understood how close Jay came to not being able to ride until after the race, because he's one tough dude and didn't tell us how bad any of this was until afterward)

Jay survived his lap, but we lost another minute of our lead, and I went out with only 10 or 15 seconds over 2nd place on my second lap.

Recalling my last lap, I did NOT want this dude on my wheel.  And he REALLY wanted to be on my wheel.  We started the lap HARD.

I was stomping up a climb about a mile in when all of the sudden, there's a buzzing sound and my back wheel slams to a halt.  What just happened?!  Oh, my seatbag came loose again.  And this time it fell down and jammed in my back wheel/frame.  And then got ripped off.

Excellent.

I stuffed the dead seatbag in my jersey (AGAIN!) and frantically took off with a lead that was now better measured in bike lengths than seconds.

But, now we're on lap two, and I am *learning*.  Giddy pedaling was down, but mistake-free riding was way, way up. I ended up clocking almost an identical lap time to the first lap and sent Ross out with a one minute head start.

We finished the rotation and had extended our lead to a whopping four minutes after five hours.  After eight hours, 10 minutes, because 2nd place had flatted.  Every lap Jay did was a dice roll -- if he had another crash, he might not be able to finish his lap at all, and we wouldn't even know.  Waiting for him the tent was nerve wracking.

The sun went down and we knew the next 10 hours would decide the race.  If the roadies (and Jay's back) could hold it together for 12 night laps, we had it.

The first night laps went fine, about three minutes slower than day laps, although the fact that Jay had to use his bike as a cane whenever he dismounted was definitely costing him more time, since he was dismounting more at night.

I've ridden this race a lot, and I really like the challenge of riding fast at night.  My first night lap felt GOOD.  But, night laps always feel good, that's the problem -- the reduced visibility increases your sense of speed.  This is why people will claim things like "I ride faster at night" sometimes.  But the clock doesn't lie -- my first night lap was a 42:54, my slowest of the race by over 90 seconds.

But when I went back to the tent for my after-midnight lap (lap five), they had posted the "fastest night lap" standings.  And that 42:54 was the best, by almost a minute over Sheldon Miller.

I was only sitting fifth on the day-lap standings, though -- I'd been beaten by Don Seib, Sheldon, Brian Lyster and Sam Anderson on the first afternoon.  Some of them were on five-man teams, or cruiser teams, so I didn't know if they'd even ridden a night lap yet.

I started my fifth lap feeling kind of queasy, because it's a 24 hour race and that's how the low points go.  But early in the lap, I realized that the cramp in my side that had been present for the last three laps was gone.  And we were over halfway done.  And every line I'd blown on my first night lap, I remembered.

After two miles, the lap was going well and I was feeling decent.  I realized this was my last shot at a fast night lap, and who knows how fast the guys who beat me on day laps were currently riding.

I went as hard as I could hold, and took as many risks as I dared.  Zero mistakes.  It felt fast, but the last one felt fast, too.  The time?  42:20, 34 seconds faster than my previous night lap, and slower than every day lap I'd done that far.

(Laps like this are why huge improvements at night are such a red flag)

But it was enough to hold up as "fastest night lap!"
I'd like to credit every ride I've done with just a crappy bar light for this. [Christin]
We ground out the rest of the night.  The team was amazing.  Even with a guy who could barely walk, we never had a "disaster lap."  Evan and Ross never even crashed.  We slowed down, but so did everyone else, especially our competition.  The gap was up to 18 minutes by midnight and stayed there until the sun came up.

My final night lap, the growing fatigue and wet roots turned me into a pinball machine on the singletrack.  I tried to make up for this by getting out of the saddle and going harder... which just led to more pinball.  Duh.  44:15.

After this lap was my absolute low point.  The sun was just coming up, I was feeling kind of ill, but I knew I needed to eat more.  At 6am the Gorham Girls Something Something Team was there serving breakfast.  It was... delicious.

But you know what happens after you eat meals, right?  FOOD COMA.

I slept face down in my tent for 20 minutes at 7am, my first sleep of the race.  I didn't want to, but my body demanded it.  It sucked.  I woke up before my alarm.  I felt terrible.  It was the obligatory "why did I think this would be fun?" moment.

As the race wears on, the easy part of it starts to be the riding.  The hardest part is the half hour before you ride again...

And sure enough, a mile into lap seven, my funk was over.  It's a beautiful, cool morning in the White Mountains.  I'm shredding a mountain bike on trails I've basically memorized by now.  We're almost done.  We're winning the damn bike race!  What the heck was my problem?

Lap seven was smooth, if not powerful.   42:22.  And now that Jay could see again, his lap times dropped five minutes!

Barring a frame break or other huge mechanical we had it.  I relaxed, knowing all I had to do was survive a final lap and it was over.

Evan clocked a 44:13 on his final lap.  Did I say all I had to do was survive the last lap?  Because what I really meant was "beat Evan's time to maintain bragging rights."

I got to the tent at 10:30 and I was hungry.  Way too hungry.  Shaking-hungry, in fact.  I ate a gel.  I sprinted back to the tent and got another gel.  Ate that gel in the first mile.  It's the last lap, the "eat real food" rule goes out the window.  Just get it done!

Final lap adrenaline is the best.  It hurt, just like every lap, but you find little bits of extra motivation to pedal the sections you were coasting before, when you know you don't have to do it ever again (until next year).  I was hungry, but only had to ride the sugar-wave from two gels for 40 minutes.  I survived.

Heck, I more than survived, closing out the race with a 42:03 (omg negative split u cheater) and high-fiving Ross out for our team's final lap, lap thirty-two, with a twenty five minute head start on second place.

Holy cow, we did it! [Christin]
Thanks to Pure Adrenaline (second place) and Bikeman.com (third place, with two teenagers, one female!), we were pushed the whole way.  I veto'ed the vote at 9pm to do double laps at night because we couldn't afford the time loss.  It was a great race the whole way, and unlike the other time I won this race, it wasn't truly in the bag until Ross rode across the floating bridge at 12:05.

Thanks to Great Glen for putting on an amazing event, year after year.  The new course changes and the floating bridge were rad.  The organization and timing is top-notch, and honestly, and the WEEKS, if not MONTHS, of entertainment we got from the planning/camping/racing/rehashing process make it more than worth the price.

Thanks to the Creature Feature ladies team for being awesome campsite-mates, smashing the women's race (14th overall) and having more fun/looking better than we did while doing it.  Bonus points for THROWING DOWN at the end of the race to pass some men's teams when they already had the women's race locked up.

Unlike most endurance races I do, the phrase "next year" was already getting thrown around on the drive home.  See you there!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cheating at 24 Hour Races, Part 2

Well, THAT was an interesting day on the internet.

I got a few questions that I'd like to address.

Why did you link to Robert Anderson's USAC profile?
1) Sam Anderson goes by Robert Anderson on USA Cycling.  When Sam Anderson registered on BikeReg, he used the license number that matches this USAC profile ("Robert Anderson").    Furthermore, in 2009, a 20 year old named "Robert Anderson" raced Great Glen in the solo category riding for "Red Jersey Rockets" (the shop he worked at).  They're very definitely the same guy -- sorry for not outlining how I made that connection.  At no point have any of his defenders disputed that the USAC results I linked to are his.

Why didn't you ask him directly?
2) Sam did get in touch with me via FB soon after it went up, and made some spirited attempts at misdirection while ignoring most of my questions.  While he did give some racing history background, at no point did he provide anything that indicated elite ability, nor did he provide any explanation for his lap times other than "I never shifted out of my big ring."

I don't think a bunch of numbers jumping around really prove that much.
3) I probably assumed too many people reading this had 24-hour team racing experience, so I felt like the facts stood for themselves more than they did.  Posting a 3-minute negative split on your 6th lap, as the first lap of a double, when you've been racing for 21 hours (what Sam did in 2010), is utterly implausible.  It's beyond belief.  It's like the 24 hour version of climbing Mt Washington at 7 w/kg.  The number alone proves the cheating.

In 2011, his fastest lap was done at night, and it was the fourth-fastest lap of the entire race.  This is another one of those things that JUST. DOESN'T. HAPPEN.

If I can get the lap data from grannygear, I can show you how rare this is.  We'll see.

Why didn't you just go to the promoter with this information?
4) Another side benefit to making it at a public accusation instead of a private one is that it led to even more damning evidence hitting my inbox.  A helpful commenter noticed that one of Sam's suspicious laps (40:08, starting in the dark) started a mere 4 seconds ahead of Sheldon Miller's lap.  Sheldon was the owner of the 2nd and 3rd fastest laps of the whole race -- but he lost over four minutes to Sam on this particular run. I thought it was likely that Sheldon would remember someone starting four seconds ahead of him and riding away.

Sam and Sheldon headed out at 5:12 as the sun was coming up.
I emailed Sheldon to see if he had any recollection of this, and got a pretty detailed response:

"No one passed me in the entirety of the race except when I repaired a rear flat on lap 3. Nor did anyone ride away from me at any point during the race (that I saw). I must allow, I'm not at my peak at 5am on minimal sleep - but that was the first lap I felt human again. I rode hard out of the tent, caught someone - maybe even two people? Don't exactly recall. I do clearly recall however that one person I passed at that time was on my ass for much of the first climb; remarkably so in fact. It was the only close racing of the event I experienced, aside from a couple of minutes w/Ross later in the day.

So I started pushing, pretty hard. Person tailed me, never coming around, and remained around into the Strava Polka dot climb, until the first steep/cobble-y part, followed by the uphill more technical section, just prior to the 2 mile point. Right about at that steep/cobble-y part, that's when this person started to lose my wheel. By the Strava polka dot finish marker, this person was probably 20-30s behind me. I pushed hard over the top, and then did not see the racer after the downhill at all - no one was even close frankly, and we were still using headlights then, so could see where people were more easily than later in the day.

I assumed my pursuer cracked spectacularly, and was stoked, I gotta admit. I have this lap on Strava, for whatever that's worth. It was one of those laps that feels fast, but frankly wasn't, but with the return of the sun, I was definitely feeling more like myself. That lap stood out, definitely.

I didn't ask who it was, I didn't talk to them (don't show fear of how cracked you are), and just pedaled. Don't know who it was, could only see 1300 lumens in my eyes." 
Unfortunately, I don't have the full lap time database (yet), so it's POSSIBLE that someone else started just ahead of Sheldon, and was able to tail him for much of the first climb before eventually getting dropped.   However, we know Sam started 4 seconds ahead, and Sheldon says  "Nor did anyone ride away from me at any point during the race (that I saw)."  The race starts in an open field, and everyone has a 1000+ lumen headlight attached to their head.  A racer four seconds ahead of you is almost impossible to miss, so if he rode away (opening up a 4:40 gap!), Sheldon would almost certainly have noticed.  And he didn't.

So the most likely explanation is that he cheated, drafting Sheldon as long as he could after getting passed, to the point where Sheldon distinctly remembered it and raised the pace to get rid of him.  Eventually he got dropped, and then later cut the course to get back to the tent 4:40 ahead of Sheldon.

If this doesn't push it past "reasonable doubt," I don't know what to say.
Update:  the data proves it had to be Sam Anderson in Sheldon's story, see below.

What's Great Glen think about all this?
5) I got a call from the folks at Great Glen this afternoon and gave them all the info I had, which is more than what I've posted here.  I didn't want to drag lots of other people into it, so I've avoided posting a fair amount of information that's been sent to me that could basically be summarized as "character references and anecdotes."  So they know everything I know, and will handle it as they see fit.


Update to the update:
An enterprising data elf who is not me, but has my email address, went through the data from Great Glen to see what riders left the tent directly ahead of Sheldon Miller at 5:12 AM.
The two riders who Sheldon remembers passing immediately were Sam Anderson and Ken Willey.  And since he passed them and dropped them, neither should have finished ahead of him.  But one of them did.  So if you think Sam Anderson's not a cheater, you also think Sheldon Miller is a liar.

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If you're here because you enjoy stories about data analysis uncovering cheating, you should read the Kip Litton story if you aren't familiar.

Sam Anderson Cheats at Mountain Bike Racing

Note that this is NOT the 24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report. 24HOGG delivered another AMAZING race weekend that reminded me how much I love this event and why it keeps going strong in its 19th year, long after the 24-hour craze of the 90s has faded.  I will be back in 2015, and you should be too!

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update:  I made a second post that answers some questions and has some more info.

The only individual prizes you can get at a team 24 hour race are the "Fastest Lap" and "Fastest Night Lap" prizes. If you're a serious racer (which most people at this race AREN'T), you pay attention to this stuff. Back when I used to do the race on the Back Bay Team, we'd fight over who got to ride 2nd because it was the "hot lap spot" -- the first rider on the course who didn't have to do the Le Mans start. This was better than going 3rd or 4th on your team because lapped traffic quickly started appearing -- your best bet at taking "fastest lap" bragging rights (and standing on the podium for it at the end of the race) was going out 2nd.

So this year, when I dropped at 40:36 on my first lap, and it turned out to be the fastest lap so far, I swaggered out of the tent proudly and started trash talking my teammates about it.

The time lasted less than an hour, though, because Sheldon Miller posted a 40:06 on his first lap, and then Don Seib (who had done the run leg on his first lap) put down a 39:50 on his second lap. And that was that. Going faster as the race wears on at Great Glen is basically impossible, as you know, this whole "fatigue" thing catches up with you.  Everyone's best lap is either their first or their second.

So all of us were a little surprised when, at 9am on Sunday, 21 hours into the race, a new "fastest lap" was posted. Sam Anderson did a 36:54, shaving THREE MINUTES off the old best time. Sheldon especially was a little skeptical about the legitimacy of his time -- but I was more accepting of it. I remember 2010, when Justine Lindine beat my best lap by 3:30, just like Sam did this year. I chalked up Sheldon's skepticism to typical local-elite hubris ("no one could be THAT MUCH faster than me!") and went back to finishing the job of bike racing. The race ended, we did the awards ceremony, Sam stood on the podium and got cheers and prizes and pictures for putting down a blisteringly fast lap time. We drove home and went to bed exhausted and satisfied.

Monday morning the BikeReg.com team was rehashing our race in the office and we started talking about the mystery guy that did the crazy fast lap. I relayed my story of how I thought I was good, right up until Lindine put over 3 minutes into me there in 2010. Some dudes really are just that fast. But man, we race a lot of bikes, collectively, and none of us had ever heard of him, so he must not be a serious racer. If a guy can turn Lindine-quality laps while being a NON-SERIOUS RACER, holy shit, someone should sponsor that man! So we started doing some internet sleuthing to see what else he did.

His USA Cycling results were unimpressive, to say the least, but they ended in 2012. No reason he couldn't have been a super talented guy who barely trained back in the day, but now he's getting serious and he's flying. He also clocked a 1:14 on Mt Washington in 2012 -- not exactly amazing, but we've already established he was pretty mediocre back then anyway.  Inconclusive.

We found his Strava, which also showed no signs of greatness, but also very few rides at all. So it was really just as inconclusive as his race results.  He remained a mystery man

 So there wasn't much out there on this guy, but he had ridden two 40-minute laps and a SUB THIRTY SEVEN minute lap at Great Glen. His first lap of the day was a 48 minute lap, but whatever. Maybe he flatted, maybe he just didn't care because he was racing cruiser class. Meanwhile, here I am, wasting my day, google searching for race results just because I can't handle that a guy can ride a mountain bike faster than me. GET OVER YOURSELF, COLIN.

Then we found his results from Great Glen in 2010.

2010 was the year my team had an epic battle with Adam St Germain's team and their ringer, pro cyclist Justin Lindine.

Sam was on a 5-person coed team that year. This is how his race went.

On his first lap, he did a 45:27, including the run.

On his second lap, he did a 42:52, shaving 2:30 off his lap one time, which is pretty much exactly how long it takes to run around the pond on lap one.

At 7:41, as the sun set, Sam Anderson went out to ride a double lap for his team. His first lap took 38:44, shaving FOUR minutes off his previous best lap time. As the first lap. Of a double. At night.

(if you've ever raced Great Glen, this should be a smoking gun to you)

His second lap of that double took 41:17... still faster than any of his day laps.

However, at 8:30 pm that night, pro cyclist Justin Lindine turned a 35:40 lap, directly followed by a 37:00 lap. So while the lap time progression he's exhibited makes no sense, he's still well within the realm of "conceivable." Lindine did two more single laps that night, a 37:39 and a 39:40. Meanwhile, Sam got a longer break after his double lap, since he was a on a five-person team and everyone did a double.

At 4am Sam went back out for another double and did a 38:56 + 39:48 combo. So, an even better pair than his first set of night laps.

The sun came up and my team continued to keep Adam and Justin's team honest. They stayed on single laps all morning, holding a ~20 minute lead over us. As fatigue set in, Justin was unable to return to his day one lap times, clocking a 36:47 and then a 37:40 on single laps in the morning. Meanwhile, my team, also turning single laps as fast as we could, was barely able to break 40. Because it's the morning of a 24 hour race, and you're TIRED.

Meanwhile, at 8am, Sam Anderson set a new personal lap record of 35:38. Over a minute faster than pro cyclist Justin Lindine's best lap from the morning. You might think that beating Justin by a minute would make you pretty tired, but you'd be wrong -- this was the first lap of a double lap from Sam. His second lap was a 38:38... still the fastest non-Lindine lap ridden in the morning, and still four minutes faster than his first and second laps of the day.

Of course, it's entirely possible that Sam is a really talented mountain biker, and on his first two laps (when cutting the course would have been hard due to the traffic density) he just happened to have mechanicals (like flats) that made his laps look really slow. Then once it was dark (so cheating is easy, because everyone has a light on) he stopped having mechanicals and started turning Lindine-quality laps. In the morning (when cheating is easy because everyone is spread out, and the 12 hour teams are off the course, and half the solos have quit), he even managed to beat Lindine while he was doing a double lap and Lindine was doing a single, because uh, Justin stopped to pee or something, and Sam really should have gone to mountain bike nationals that year.

So yeah, maybe, I dunno, there's like a tiny chance than Sam Anderson isn't just cutting off part of the course that's about 5-6 minutes long on his night laps and morning laps. Maybe he's just a super fast guy who had some bad luck on his first lap in 2014 and his first two laps in 2010.

Sam Anderson's 2010 lap times

Which brings me to his 2011 results....

He raced on a 5-person team once again. He didn't have to do the run, so his first lap was a 37:51 -- one of the best laps of the day (I clocked a 37:40 on my first lap and almost threw up). His second lap was a much more pedestrian 41:32, but hey, stuff happens, especially if you went crazy hard on your first lap.

Then the sun went down. At 8pm, Sam did a 45:06 night lap, the worst night lap of his career. On a single lap, too, even though he was clocking sub-40 night doubles the year before. Clearly, he had a mechanical (broken chain? flat tire) ... or maybe when he got to the spot where he usually cuts the course, there was another rider behind him and he couldn't do it.

At 2am he went out for a double lap after a nice long break. Now all the 12 hour teams were off the course, and everyone has a nice 1000-lumen light on their head so you know where they are, and whether or not they can see you cutting the course.

His first lap? 36:52.
Second lap? 37:40.

So he broke his lap one record. Twice in a row. At night.

36:52 was the fourth fastest lap of the entire race. The only people to beat it were Kevin Sweeney's 1st lap, Kevin Sweeney's 2nd lap, and Max Judelson's first lap. But somehow, Sam's fastest lap came on his fourth lap of the whole race, at night, as the first lap of a double lap.

And then he only dropped 48 seconds on his next lap, once again beating his time from the first lap of the day.  If we assume that he actually has the physical ability to ride laps this fast, this late in the race, then why did he ride 37,41, and 45 minute single laps earlier?  Clearly he must have mechanical'ed on lap one.. and mechanical'ed again on lap two... and again on lap 3... all the while having his lap times decay at a totally normal rate as fatigue and darkness set in.  Then, as soon cutting the course gets easy, he's the best rider out there, by leaps and bounds, and he barely slows down.   Just like 2010.  And 2014.

Sam Anderson's 2011 lap times
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I never wanted to believe that a guy was cheating at one of my favorite races, in one of my favorite sports.  While the other fast guys were calling bullshit on his lap record this year, I was rolling my eyes at the arrogance of local elite riders.  I absolutely believe a 36:54 lap time is doable -- by a few hundred guys in the country -- and this whole thing started with a "man, does that guy have a sponsor at least?" curiosity.

Sam's been cheating at Great Glen for three years, and this is the first year he got a tangible award from it -- the fastest lap prize.  I wish I'd been more awake to hear what it was, but based on the $200+ value of the fastest night lap prize I got, it wasn't just a medal or t-shirt.

If he was an honorable man, he'd apologize and mail that prize to Don Seib, the rightful winner, but if he was an honorable man he wouldn't have a 3-year history of cutting the course in the dark at Great Glen, so that's out the window.

If this story annoys you as much as it annoys me, pass it around to your bike racer friends.  People should know about this.  This isn't a guy who cheated once, this is a guy with a pattern of cheating, a guy who needs to cheat so badly, that even when he's on a cruiser-class fun team in 2014, he did it on 3 out of 4 laps.  Guys like this don't belong in mountain bike racing, or any sport where cheating is self-policed.  This guy should be out there on a soccer field flopping and trying to get away with accidental handballs, not racing mountain bikes at night where cheating is literally as simple as "turn off your light and duck a rope."

Three years of cheating is three strikes.  The penalty for cheating at your local, friendly, amateur mountain bike race three times should be a lifetime ban from your local, friendly, amateur mountain bike races.  Sam, don't bother registering for any of the bike races I put on, and you can count on the race promoter seeing this blog post any time I see your name on the results.

I acknowledge there's an imperceptibly tiny chance I'm wrong here.  Maybe Sam really is just an incredible talent with incredibly bad luck, who can never ride a lap at Great Glen that matches his talent level on the first afternoon of Great Glen because he just keeps getting flats.  If so, it should be easy to create some evidence of this.  The world is full of bike races, and you're almost 10% faster than everyone else at Great Glen, so clearing your name with an impressive result at anything where cutting the course is hard (road race, mtb race, hill climb, cyclocross, running race, triathlon) should be simple.

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Update:  Someone from the internet told me that Great Glen was aware of his cheating after 2010 and 2011, and he was warned (but not banned) because while his times were "suspicious" he was never visually confirmed doing it.  This is probably why he didn't race in 2012 and 2013.

To me, lap times are the biological passport of the 24-hour racer.  All kinds of crazy stuff can happen in a 24 hour race, but some numbers just aren't possible without cheating.  When a guy has a hematocrit of 60, he's cheating, period.  You don't have to see the needle.  When a guy posts his fastest laps on doubles at night, two years in a row, going over a minute faster than a professional bike racer who was top-15 at nationals -- you don't need to see him cutting the course to know what he's doing.  Dude is guilty and should be banned from the event, period.
Sorry bro.


update:  I made a second post that answers some questions and has some more info.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Concord Crit Cat 3 Bar Cam & Race Report

This is my new favorite crit, ever. The climb makes it reasonably hard in the cat 3 race, and it was long enough (1:15) that people were getting pretty tired by the end. I much prefer a crit with a little suffering than the old "40 minutes, eveyone's fresh and thinks they can win the sprint" that is so often the case. I know I was certainly starting to regret my fueling choices with about five laps to go, but I held off the bonk just barely long enough to mix it up on the last lap.

The team was myself, Preston and Ford and the plan was "leadout Ford if the break doesn't stick." Unfortunately Preston went rogue/plaid the last time up the hill trying to neutralize an attack and Ford and I didn't adjust appropriately, which put us on the front with everyone looking at each other with about 60 seconds of racing left ... unfortunately a bit too far out for me to take over on the leadout, especially after climbing the hill at Preston-speed.

So we got swarmed by GLV, which was well-timed, and Steven tried to human-pylon me, but I got through it, and fired up the adrenaline right into the enduro section and started fighting Kevin Goguen for 3rd wheel while cornering at 30mph. Kevin was all like "get off me, old man" and took 3rd wheel back, which I was sorta okay with since I didn't want him separating me from Ford anyway.

Unfortunately since we aren't actually crit experts (but I play one on a listserve!) I didn't think to confirm that Ford was on my wheel (I HAD ADRENALINE, EVERYTHING MUST BE WORKING EXACTLY AS I WANT IT TO!) and he didn't think to tell me that someone had slotted in between us. So I came into the last turn in 4th wheel thinking "I have failed as a leadout man, but if I open up this sprint super early I can still give Ford a nice launchpad." Unfortunately Ford was not on my wheel so I left Kevin Goguen's wheel to lead out a bunch of empty airspace instead.

So I was basically a ball of jello with 50m to go, which sucked because I was still in 5th place at that time, and if I had just managed to keep pedaling I would have held 5th. But my brain was all "this hurts terribly and Ford hasn't passed you, so you suck at leadouts too" and that made it hard to keep pedaling. So a dude rolled past me and I got 6th. And 5th place was the last paying spot. Uh, sorry, guys.

Luckily the video is really pretty fun. Check it out!

Concord Crit Cat 3 Bar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

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