Thursday, July 28, 2016

Come With Me on a Lovingly Curated Backwoods Gravel Dirt Sand Wood Road Bike Ride

Hey!  Let's go ride some bikes.

This spring I got elected to be on the NEBRA Board.  NEBRA is a bunch of people who donate their time to making New England Bike Racing bettAr.    And one of my jobs as a NEBRA board member (other than sending emails... oh god so many emails) was coming up with the route for the NEBRA August Adventure, because I am a map dork who lives in the Pioneer Valley and that's where we're doing this thing.

The reason we're doing a gravel adventure ride is because (1) we like riding bikes, duh and (2) we're trying to raise some money for the bettArment  of New England cycling via grants for stuff like race motos, official training, junior development, and other stuff that makes your life as a bike racer qualitatively bettAr.

wait a minute, I have to race against juniors.

but motos are the only reason we could do a Greenfield Crit at all...ok yup this makes my life better

THIS IS NOT WELLS AVE
So what are you doing on Sunday, August 7th?  Do you have a road bike with 25+mm tires, or a cross bike you just built up for cross season?  Do you want to go on an adventure ride and then drink some beers and eat pizza?

I guarantee you've never ridden these roads before.  D2R2?  Fundo?  Those are on the west side of the river.  Dude, west side is sooooo played out.  We're riding on the EAST SIDE.   Even if you live in Northampton, you never ride over here.  That river is like a goddamn forcefield.  If you did ride through here, you were probably with Uri and didn't know you were lost until you hit the New Hampshire border.

"Yo I've totally ridden through Erving State Forest"

No you haven't, I looked at the Strava heatmap, there ain't NO ONE riding bikes up there.

But it's pretty cool, so let's go check it out.  There was this one spot where there was a frost heave in the pavement that was so big, I doubled off it onto the next frost heave.

Wait, frost heaves in July?  Ok, those were probably giant tree roots.  Either way.  ROAD BIKE DOUBLES!

If you're on the long route there's a section that is absolutely STUPID to ride on a road bike.  It's so stupid that we had to map a ride-around option for people who want to GRIND GRAVEL instead of GET STUPID.  Obviously I will be on the stupid route, because I love stupid road bike tricks.   If you're on a cross bike you'll crush it, but if you clean that climb on a road bike with 25s you'll be able to talk some TRASH.
wtf look at this there's not even a road I don't have cell service I might die out here


There's also two bridges that are closed to vehicle traffic.  Do you like bridges?  I like bridges.  There was actually 3 no-car bridges on the route, but one of them was like, legit-you-are-probably-trespassing closed, so we decided we can't tell you to ride that one (but I'll tell you where it is if you ask me).   There's also another closed bridge next to the last aid station so you can go ride back and forth on that as many times as you want while your friends fill bottles.
This bridge is 100% legal 

There is also a sand section.  Remember that #cxiscoming hashtag?  Let's ride some sand on road bikes and make fun of people who screw it up, it will make us better at 'cross, or something.  And it's like a mile long so everyone will probably screw it up at some point.  I don't have any pictures of the sand section because we were all too busy trying not to crash, but it was awesome.

If you ride Speedplays you are gonna be so sad if you put a foot down though.

Here are some totally official maps I totally just drew up!

This is the short route, if you're trying to have "fun" and ride like 3 hours or something reasonable
THIS ROUTE IS HARD COME DO IT
 Are you psyched yet?  Good, you should be friggin' psyched, this is way better than Wells Ave or whatever intervals you were going to do.  Registration is here:  https://www.bikereg.com/augustadventure.  Get on it.  You'll get some feed stops (yeah there's no convenience stores out there, holy crap) and if you flat 800 times someone will rescue you and if your bike doesn't work rOti will be there to fix it, and when you're done we'll drink beer and eat pizza (YES, it's Handcrafted Artisanal Pizza, this is the GODDAMN VALLEY you're in) and it will be great and you'll be like "damn that was a great day on a bike I just had."

And if enough people show up and we actually make some money off this curated cycling adventure every single penny of profit will go back into New England Bike Racing through moto grants or development grants or equal prize money grants, because that's what NEBRA does with the money it makes  (it sure doesn't friggin' pay me to send emails and tell everyone what's up on phone calls!).


It's so damn Rapha up in here guys


If you want to read some official crap about the event go check it out here but really this blog post tells you everything you need to know, cool-ass roads and stupid road bike tricks ALL DAY LONG!



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Greenfield Criterium HYPE POST

The Bearscat 50 was awesome.  Will I ever have time to write about it?  Probably not!  But Christin won so that's all you really need to know.  



The reason I have no time to write about 5+ hours of slippery bike racing is that I have to make phone calls (nooooooooo) and write emails (okaaaaaaaaay) and visit businesses (!!!!!!!) to make the Greenfield Crit happen along with Lydia Hausle and the Back Bay Cycling Club.

This is the grandest race promotion venture I have ever been part of.  We have been to TOWN MEETINGS!  We have passed out flyers to ABUTTERS who were either CONFUSED, SUPPORTIVE, or CRANKY!  We applied for GRANTS!  We have a CLINIC!  We have EQUAL PRIZE MONEY!  Thanks to Lydia this is WAY MORE TIGHT than [insert Weasels event here] and you don't need to worry about the venue changing or US RUNNING OUT OF TOILET PAPER!  It is going to BE SO AWESOME THAT EVAN HUFF IS COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT FOR IT.

Like any first year event, we HAVE NO IDEA WHO IS COMING AND IT'S TERRIFYING.  If you're the kind of person who wants to race bikes two weeks from now, want to do me a favor and REGISTER NOW?  We are using the Refund Policy of "It's cool, you can have your money back any time for any reason (tm)" so the risk to you is pretty low, and the benefit to me (not waking up at 3am in a cold sweat whimpering about budgets) is pretty high.

https://www.bikereg.com/greenfield

If you're the kind of person who could donate two hours of their time to chill on a street corner and make sure no one walks into the course, that would also be super and might help volunteer coordinator Greg Colby not wake up in his own cold sweats at 3am!

https://www.volunteersignup.org/E4PHW

Yeaaaaaahhhh race promoting!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Weeping Willow Race Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sneak Attack - Create, Discover and Share GIFs on Gfycat

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

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

Then I'm gonna promote a crit:  https://www.bikereg.com/greenfield
Then I'm gonna promote a mountain bike race:  https://www.bikereg.com/gnar-weasels

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

Yay bikes!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Eastern Grind Race Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(quads cramp in protest)

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bear Brook + Seven Sisters Sufferweekend Report

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

Bear Brook Classic Race Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Sisters Trail Race Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Gif by Uri)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I tried anyway.

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

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

God I hate running.

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

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

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

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


Friday, January 15, 2016

Post Nationals Hype Post!!


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

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

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

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

Elite Women



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Rides!

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

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

Elite Men




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Rides!

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

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

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

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Cross Nationals Race Predictor Throwdown!

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

And they did!  Like, all of it ...to 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

OBVIOUSLY THIS MEANS MY WEBSITE IS BETTER LOL

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
crossresults
1. Katie Compton
2. Kaitlin Antonneau
3. Georgia Gould
4. Rachel Lloyd
5. Amanda Miller

USAC
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

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

USAC
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?

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