I think I make the same joke here every year -- "each Ice Weasels must be more difficult to promote than the previous year." This year that "joke" hit new heights... here's the story.
So we lost our original venue. Five years of increasingly drunken and muddy farm-cross took its toll, although it was not the landowner that requested we leave -- it was the town. White Barn Farm, we'll miss you. It took us five year to nail it, but I think we really did manage to put on the best possible cross race you could do at that tiny field, hemmed in by an ever-rising tide of suburbia.
But it didn't matter, it was gone and The Weasel needed a new home.
We tried to move the race to Adams Farm in Walpole, a venue EVEN CLOSER to Boston, which had just put on a successful mountain bike race this summer.
To make a long story short, the difficulty of getting a permit to use Adams Farm and our perception of that difficulty turned out to be entirely mismatched. By the time we realized the scope of the hurdles between us and venue permission, what had initially looked like a cakewalk had turned into Mt Everest, and while there's a chance we could have scaled it -- we wouldn't have known until December 3rd.
So I started looking for alternate venues. We had three weeks.
This is where Paul Boudreau came in.
Twitter Paul is the king of "alternate cyclocross venues," having successfully waged a half-year war with some residents of Gloucester for the right to continue putting on the biggest bike race in New England in their backyard -- and while he might have won that battle, like any decent general, he had a variety of exit strategies for what to do in the event that battle was lost.
So that's how we ended up at Grandview Farm, one of the venues on Paul's retreat path from Gloucester. I first talked to the landowner 19 days before race day; by the time we reached an agreement, it was 12 days before the event. We moved the race officially, gave everyone a chance at a refund (about 8% of racers took this option), and started planning anew.
Then the weather started deteriorating. At first, the long-range forecast showed signs of a Thursday storm, and I was excited; there's almost nothing as fun as a proper snowy cyclocross race. But as race day approached, the storm moved to Saturday, and the weather networks started hyping it up as a Noreaster. I had visions of 300 cars marooned in snow drifts in that field.
And the forecast high for race day kept dropping; it was predicted at 39 on Monday, but down to 22 by the day before the race -- almost 20 degrees below the seasonal average.
Our plan of holding the race in the middle of an empty, windy, frigid field started to look problematic.
We called tent companies. They didn't even want to rent to us, the weather was so bad. I signed a contract saying I was responsible for all damage to the tent; we watched the forecast. I realized my Saturday night might consist of camping in the field and clearing snow off the tent hourly to avoid the five-figure replacement cost.
The tent rental guys decided to work Saturday and break the tent down at 4pm instead.
We built much of the course on the Thursday before the race. I brought some tools to pound stakes into frozen ground, but it was largely unnecessary. We ran out of stakes, but it's ok -- we had a deal to pick up 100+ stakes from ECV that night, and I bought 50 more at my local Tractor Supply Company.
We returned Friday to find an additional night below freezing that rendered the ground impenetrable, and every stepin had to have its hole pre-hammered. If JD Bilodeau hadn't loaned me some tools for this (along with a generator), we'd have lost at least an hour going to buy something for this purpose.
Around this time my hubris with regards to volunteers ("don't worry about it, we're fine, show up if you want") started to rear its ugly head as it was now midday Friday with just myself, Kevin and Thom trying to complete a 1.5-mile cross course.
Toby Wells and Rob Roeslma showed up more-or-less unsolicited and saved our asses. Toby was there to deliver the podium he made and wouldn't take any money for. Rob was there because he follows me on twitter, I guess.
We finished the course with about 30 minutes of daylight to spare.
Somewhere in the middle of this I realized my EMT plan had never come to fruition.
I asked the internet for an EMT and 30 minutes later, Sharon bailed us out.
Noticing a theme, yet?
I realized we had been bringing course material to the venue for three days in all of our vehicles, and were going to have to clean the whole thing up in 90 minutes between the last race and sunset, during a snowstorm.
Chandler gave us his truck to use.
I needed someone to score the races in frigid temperatures, staying stone-cold sober and focused for hours on end.
Christin wouldn't even let me try to find someone else to do it.
We didn't have enough snow fence, but the Goguens brought some.
I didn't have a tent with walls for timing, but it's ok, Kurt Johnson let me use his.
We weren't able to track down our (six!) kegs far enough in advance, but no problem, Chip Baker spent half his Friday driving around to get them for us.
We didn't get our barriers until 7am Saturday morning, and we didn't get them into the #@$%$ frozen ground until forty-five minutes before the first race, but it was worth it because Dan Barrett made us the best looking barriers in the history of cyclocross.
I lived at Ryan Kelly's house for three days and he personally worked a 12-hour day with me on race day, setting up, announcing, and tearing down, for which I repaid him for with... um... a loaf of bread and a bottle of Russian dressing.
On race day, every single time I turned around someone asked me if there was anything I needed help with. Lesli Cohen, Ian Schon, Matt Sousa and Ford Murphy were there from 7am to 4pm.
At race's end, with the sun going down and a snowstorm barreling down on us, a small army of racers stayed around to help us tear down the course, clean up the trash, and load Chandler's truck in record time.
For the first time in Ice Weasels history, I was too cracked from promoting it to even try racing. Instead I "relaxed" during the elite race by attempting to announce it with Ryan.
The next morning, I looked at the internet, and Vickie had completely broken it.
Christin and I spent the entire Sunday sorting course material in Ryan's barn, driving 4 hours all over Massachusetts returning said course material, and posting results.
And you know what? It might have been the greatest four days of my life. But I hope I never have to do it again.
Thanks to everyone out there who helped us, thanks to everyone who made the decision to come out and race despite the venue change and extreme temps, and thanks to Grandview farm for letting our merry band of misfits take over the place for a weekend.
Monday, December 16, 2013
I think I make the same joke here every year -- "each Ice Weasels must be more difficult to promote than the previous year." This year that "joke" hit new heights... here's the story.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Baystate Cyclocross Chainstay Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.
The story for this race actually starts the Friday after Thanksgiving, where my brother, his wife, Christin and my Dad and I went for a winter hike in the White Mountains. The initial plan was to just go to Crag Camp (3 miles and 2500 vertical feet) but the weather above treeline was astoundingly good for November so three of us ended up going all the way to the top of Mt Adams.
Unfortunately the summit is separated from the car by 5 miles and 4500' feet of descending, and by the time I got down I was pretty sure I would never be able to walk again.
But! The healing powers of STOKE are quite robust. On Sunday morning, I was still sore as hell, but the weather was looking GNARTASTIC in Sterling. The race was delayed in the morning because everyone was wrecking their cars in freezing rain on the highway, but as an elite racer I had none of that to deal with... because it was 35 and misting when I got there. Then it started raining. Then misting. It was super gross.
Luckily the year has been so dry that instead of being burned out on muddy suffering, everyone was pretty into it. The course had as much off-camber as Tom Stevens could possibly locate, and said off-camber was mostly ice, with a layer of mud over it.
Pedaling required extreme finesse, and that might actually be my only skill! So I was excited.
If you want to see some race action, check out the dirtwires:
I make some special appearances in this video with my "special" dismount around 6:15 and a sweet crash-avoidance at 7:30.
That crash avoidance should actually be fully credited to Thierry Lalibertie, because he popped up milliseconds after hitting the group and ran out of the way before I could send both of us to the hospital.
Because it was a muddy, gnarly race, I didn't interact with other racers as consistently as I would in a faster race.
I hung around near Bill Elliston for a while, and he really liked running on the off cambers while I rode them. This seemed like a lot more work though. I think he crashed (?) at some point and that was the end of that.
Near the end I rolled up on Mike Wissell, which is strange because he is way better that me. However his disc brakes were pulling to the bar, which was making the GNAR FACTOR a bit unacceptable for him. He used this to become a legend on the internet. And I used it to beat him. So we both win!
Meanwhile, I was hopping the barriers every lap because it was at least as fast, and dudes were crashing on the dismount anyway, because it was an off camber, like everything else.
Obviously the one lap someone took a photo is the one lap I crashed.
|Apparently it was getting quite dark. Photo: Thierry Blanchet|
During this crash I launched my bike into space, and it landed on my derailleur hanger when it came out of orbit, and nearly murdered it, leaving me with roughly one gear.
While I tried to figure out how to handle this predicament, I rode by the start/finish line, and the officials pulled me because Jeremy Durrin was TEARING IT UP and I was over 80% back.
Since my bike was mostly dead and I like Jeremy I was actually quite okay with this.
Anyone who tells you this race wasn't awesome probably got hypothermia and doesn't ride mountain bikes very often.
|I was exerting myself enough that addressing the phlegm situation seemed optional. [russcam.com]|
Posted by Colin R at 7:25 PM
Friday, November 22, 2013
Posted by Colin R at 7:49 AM
Friday, November 15, 2013
I made this video on Tuesday and I thought I was going to blog about the race but then... I don't even know what happened. Let's pretend I have kids and they got sick or something.
West Hill Shop CX Bar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.
ANYWAY the video is nice, you should watch it.
I made the lead group on lap one, which was cool, because it had roughly half the field in it, but not cool because I was the weakest dude there and guys wanted to pedal hard (shocker). So I made some big efforts to stay attached, and it turns out there's a price for that, especially when you have to run up a freaking wall right after the big pedaling section.
Soooo eventually I got sawed off the group and rode around by myself, trying my little heart out, until I realized two dudes chasing (Eric Follen and Craig Calhoun) were steadily taking time out of me. When they got to within 5 or 10 seconds with 3 laps to go, I decided that I would rather hang out with them than continue TT'ing and probably get caught anyway.
Hanging out was a lot nicer it turns out.
Eric seemed to be driving it and putting us under pressure, so I encouraged Craig to "close that gap" because that's the kind of game I play when I don't feel like making a pass to do extra work (aka "all the time"). Craig closed said gap and then we dropped Eric right after that, so man, I don't even know what was going on.
In any case it came down to a sprint between Craig and I on the road, which is the 4th time in 6 times at Putney this has happened to me. You might think I have it dialed by now, but apparently not, because I almost crashed into the ditch at the base of the runup and then smacked my bike on a tree while freaking out. (watch the end of the video)
That being said I did win the sprint for the first place out of the money. Yeah!
I must say the new version of the Putney course, with turns in the field instead of just riding around the perimeter, is a much less horribly painful bike race, and has the nice side effect of making the lap length reasonable, too.
Posted by Colin R at 12:14 PM
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
I finally did it! After eight seasons, a double-DNF weekend. It's exactly as fun as it sounds.
The best ten minutes of racing I did are in this video:
Cycle-Smart International Chainstay Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.
Day 1 I drew a back row start, somehow sliced my way to thirty-sixth in a lap, broke a spoke after 15 minutes and decided that "it wasn't that bad" and "my pit bike has mud tires and janky shifting" so I should just keep riding it.
Thirty minutes of being inexplicably unable to hold a wheel later, I stepped off the course thinking about what a failure of a human being I was. Tried to roll my now-dismounted bike away and....ka-shuck. Brake was hitting the blown wheel in a spot so bad it barely turned. How did I not feel this riding? Nevermind. I'm an idiot. Good thing there's Sunday...
Day 2 I had just reached the "hey, you might be able to do this for the rest of the race" point, and Charlie Schubert had just come by so it was clear I wouldn't have to take any pulls for the remainder of the day. So then I dropped my chain, jammed it into the chainstay, and threw it into the woods. It was jammed so bad that three spectators couldn't get it out, hell it's STILL there as I write this blog post on a Tuesday.
Of all the drivetrain problems I've had this year, this is the first one that wasn't Di2-specific, anyone can chain drop and anyone can have the spider push the chain up into the chainstay -- but on my Focus the clearance in that space is such that if you get your chain in there with mechanical advantage (i.e. pedaling), you're never getting it out.
If you need me I'll be rebuilding my pit bike and making it my race bike for the rest of the year.
Posted by Colin R at 7:55 AM
Monday, October 28, 2013
(First things first, I wrote about two weeks ago but never really publicized it, so no one read it. Read it now, or not)
The course is noticeably improved from "back in the day," which is to say a bunch of unfun power sections were taken out and replaced by twisty things. There was still quite a bit of pedaling and sketchy-loose-rocky-sandy turny stuff, so it was legit. As Adam Myerson said, "this is like a Belgian B race."
One of the "B race" attributes of the course is that it gets narrow really fast. I do not think starting at the back of a large field would be pleasant here. Luckily, we only had four rows of guys, and I was on the second row, so I got out pretty cleanly and was off to the races.
The four fastest guys in the race checked out pretty immediately, and behind them we strung out into a party train of elite scrubs, fast juniors, and fast masters. Super fun mix of guys to race with, and some faces you don't see on the usual UCI circuit.
The official guy-we-love-to-hate-on-the-blog was present, Chandelier Delinks, and I thought we were going to have an epic sixty minute battle, but then he laid down and hit a tree branch (possibly not in that order) and we almost all ran over him and that was the end of that.
Eventually "we" started to have a bit of definition as the party train coalesced into a party group with a gap over other groups, which I also hope were partying in their own, not quite as fast, way.
There was an underage child (Josh Anderson) at the party (it's New Hampshire, what else is new) and we COULD NOT get rid of him with our cat 2 scrub power, he was sitting in like he had been taking racing lessons from ME. This kid turns 15 in two months (I seriously looked up his date of birth) so, hey, I'm not that good at this.
Luckily for us, Shawn Milne was coming back from a crash and he did what we couldn't, attacking our group with such ferocity that the only person inexperienced enough to try to match it was... the 14 year old.
Josh went rocketing off the front in pursuit of Shawn and then we passed him about 60 seconds later and never saw him again. In about two years, though, he's gonna stick with Shawn and win the race, which is a hell of a lot better than I'll be doing in two years.
The cast of characters for "party group" turned out to be Kevin Sweeney, Mike Wissel, Kurt Belheumer, myself, and eventually Josh's older brother Jon Anderson (who is better than me NOW, instead of two years from NOW).
Like most parties that are entirely dudes, it was kind of awkward and we didn't talk very much.
I noticed with some regularity that Mike and Kevin (WHO ARE TEAMMATES!!) would hang out on the front, and then the guy in second would let the guy in first get a gap and then we'd have to DO WORK to bring it back together.
Well I didn't do that much work, it was mainly other dudes, but you can hear me lie about it in this interview:
With two to go, the situation had occurred once again, and in fact it was getting CRITICAL as Sweens had a seven second gap or so and it was definitely not coming down. Fine, I thought, it's time for me GET DYNAMICAL and make an attack, because work had to get done and by golly, I ain't pulling with ten minutes left.
This attack was of course, smoking hot and DEFINITELY gapped fools, although I was going so fast at the bottom of the hill I decided to take the bonus line on the outside of the trees, which turned out to be seriously not faster.
This mistake was compounded by hitting a rock so hard I could hear my skewer ringing in the dropouts, which as always made me assume I had flatted.
I hit my rim a few more times to thoroughly convince me I had flatted, and while I was processing my fluster (flusterwatts: mysteriously absent) Mike Wissell counterattacked and now both HE AND SWEENEY were off the front. ARGH.
This didn't lower my spirits as much as it should have because I was still in shock I had air in my tires.
Going into the last lap, I thought we dumped Kurt Belheumer, and then I thought I dumped Jon with an attack, but of course I am A BIG WUSS so they were both right back on me as soon as I backed off a bit because it hurt. And then Jon countered, and it still hurt so I kinda just let him do it. Yay!
That left me and Kurt to duke it out in a sprint (with three more places tantalizingly close ahead of us!) and I did what I always do, which is win DA SPRINT. And it turned out to be fore tenth place, and because Orchard Cross had 600 preregistered racers (uh, wow) they were paying tons of money to elites and I got my entry fee back!
I immediately turned this payout into a beer, cider donut, and a coffee, which might have something to do with the stomach ache I had for the entire 140 mile drive home.
|The key to getting pictures of myself is to race in the same group as Mike Wissell, apparently. [Caitlin Wissell photo]|
Posted by Colin R at 8:00 PM
Saturday, October 19, 2013
As has become traditional, I skipped the Providence Cross Fest weekend. While I'm sure it's a good show and all (gap jump photos can't be wrong!), paying $60 to get pulled in 45 minutes isn't my kind of value proposition... especially when I can barely function after Night Weasels anyway.
So! All that not-racing left me with a burning desire to race dem bikes on a double weekend. Which is a good way to feel, man.
Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross
This is one of the oldest still-running cross races in New England -- it might be the oldest, actually. Maybe Putney goes back further? In any case, the promoter gave us a nice speech on the start line about how cool it was to see Frank and Mark McCormack still racing there, since apparently 25 years ago they were the juniors who were begging him to get into the elite race.
The course is fabulously all-around solid, too. It's a pavement start stretch away from being a venue for a UCI race... but we "only" had 23 guys in the elite race because there was a competing race in Maine that day.
AND THEN THERE'S LIKE NOTHING THE WEEKEND AFTER DON'T GET ME STARTED!
Anyway! I don't freak out so hard when there's three rows of guys so I shuffled into a mediocre start. Some dudes hadn't managed to preride the little loop at the beginning, which was too bad for them because there were some barriers that definitely went better if you knew they were coming. I ended up behind John Harris after the barriers, and that name sounds familiar, right? But not from cross?
YEAH so Cat 1 road guys racing cross bikes that still have the reflectors on them are the BEST. And by BEST I mean "go eye-bleedingly fast on every straightaway and then crash." So he nuked me off his wheel like it weren't no thing, but by the end of the lap I was back ahead of him after a crash. But the lap ends on a straightaway, so no sooner had I noticed this than he went flying by me at 30 mph.
Somewhere along the line the crashing exceeded the sprinting and I got away from him.
I briefly hung out with Kevin Sweeney, but when I went around to "take a pull" he said "yessss leave me here to suffer in peace," which is not the kind of thing a cooperative or inspired bike racer would say.
I was ok with that.
I found out that cracked-ribs-Wissell is much more fun guy to race bikes against than intact-rib-Wissell.
I found out that Charles Clarkson is way, way fitter than last year.
So I hung out on his wheel, because that's what I do.
He is also a very good bike handler. I spend most of my racing life riding behind guys I can out-turn, which leads to me to get into the habit of thinking "I can close that gap in the turn," and it was NOT. HAPPENING. today. Seriously, it took me like 3 laps with him to adjust. And it was annoying! Those are MY CORNERS!
The only place I actually had his number was the sand (aside: raddest sand feature in New England), but that doesn't do much good when you come into the sand behind him and if bobbles, you automatically do too.
Best of all, he had NO interest in letting me pull, even when I rolled up next to him a few times after bobbles or whatever he would just accelerate to lead into the next turn. So he's not a reader of this blog, either...
I think at this point you can probably guess the conclusion, after 20 minutes behind him I won the sprint for 9th because that is what I do.
Minuteman Road Club Cyclocross
I have a rich history of doing better than normal at this venue (see: Midnight Ride) because of the smooth grass and RAD number of turns. This year, MRC turned it up to 11 (see what I did there?) and made a course that was actually so twisty it was silly.
Like Ice Weasels 1.0 silly. Anyone remember that one? 22 hairpins per lap? Good times.
|Lap one. The smirk is because Adam is hopping these barriers and I'm thinking about the amazing opportunity to stuff him for no reason that Mike just passed on. Really. [russcam]|
It was basically a five-minute cornering drill with a sprinting drill at the end of it. Which is actually the best possible course design for me, which is why I was IN THE LEAD GROUP WITH ADAM MYERSON after three laps. And it was hard! But not insanely hard. It seemed like I might actually be able to do it for the rest of the day. Mike Wissell and I were getting a little gapped, so I shifted into the big ring as I hit a bump and.... CRUNCH.
Chain of the top of the ring, and hooray, it's Di2 so there's no way to fix this except to stop and put two feet down! Bye bye, lead group. At least now I can pretend I was going to win.
The chase group of seven(?) went by me as well while I was debating throwing my bike in a tree.
Once my internal tantrum subsided, I actually caught the chase group pretty easily, which is a testament to how many freaking turns were on the course and how one guy can shred a lot faster than six guys.
However, moving up in the chase group was actually impossible. There were two? two and a half? straightaways per lap and everyone was very recovered and ansty going into them, so unless you were Mark Cavendish you couldn't accelerate enough to go by anyone before running out of straight.
(Ok, except the finish straight, fine, you had one passing chance per lap)
This meant that I hung out at the back of the group while Jesse Keough and Jon Anderson started attacking the front of it, and somewhere between us someone wasn't as interested in that kind of thing so they just rode away.
I'll admit I did experience some fatigue which is probably why I could never manage to go all-in on moving up on the finish straight, and if I could do it all again, I'd chop my way to the front like a Quebecois rider at Gloucester. But I didn't...
|Russ makes me look like a bike racer. I like Russ. [russcam]|
As the race wound down, myself, Sean Pantellere, and Chandler Delinks (CHANDYLAND!) ended up in a group that I would like to blame on Sean's cornering sawing us off the rest of the group, because blaming other people for outcomes you could've affected is a cycling tradition.
In any case the three of us were gonna have a grand last-lap sprinty chopfest.
So then I dropped my chain again, because kicking your pedals backward on a dismount kinda just happens sometimes, and guess whose chain is too long and flies off the friggin' crank when you do this?
(Well at least now I have another thing to adjust before I give up on Di2)
Once again I contemplated throwing my bike, but in a remarkable flash of #HTFU I instead got the chain back on FAST and started chasing like a madman.
Chandler is unfortunately not as much of a bike-handling liability as he would have you believe, and had flown the coop. Sean, however, was not lucky, and coming off the final turn I had just barely closed the gap enough to make it sprinty. He had a solid head start but also an affinity for checking on my progress over his shoulder, which is not the wattiest way to sprint. This might have been why I managed to get him at the line by a wheel, which would be so RAD if I wasn't still cranky about mechanical-ing out of the lead group half an hour earlier.
If you need me I'll be tightening all my limit screws now.
Posted by Colin R at 9:14 AM