Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fat Tire Classic Race Report

Let's see:

1) Cold that is lingering long enough I'm starting to think it's more than just a cold? Check.
2) Knee pain when I ride more than an hour? Check.
3) Bike that creaks like a haunted house in the wind when I stand up? Check.

Alright, it must be time to mountain bike race!!

So today I was back down at Winding Trails, home of the Chainbiter, to restart my mountain bike career. I had only just registered when panic time started... not only because that's my default action 60 minutes before a start, but also because I heard that some guy had won beginner class on a cross bike. A cross bike!

Suddenly my dual-suspension Jamis seemed very, very heavy.

(As a side note, if you're clever enough to bring a cross bike to a mountain bike race because you know the course is easy, then maybe you should try riding sport, hmmm?)

Preriding the course with Linnea confirmed my fears. This thing was flat, short and fast. I'd describe it but it's pretty simple... 20-25 minutes of flying around smooth double track in the big ring with the occasional fast and smooth singletrack section thrown in. I had been hoping to start slowly, see how I felt and then settle into whatever pace I could manage, but it was obvious that was a recipe for failure today -- with that much drafting to be had, it was going to run a lot more like a cross race than a mountain bike race.

So I lined up near the back of 20 or so people riding the 19-29 sport category and went tearing into the woods in an absolute cross-tastic start. The first singletrack section came about 4 minutes in and when the leaders looped back I could see I was up to about 8th place. Not bad. Also, we were really hauling.

Pretty soon things started to break up and I found myself on the wrong end of a gap, with 30 yards between me and the lead group. I ignored my brain's warnings that I really shouldn't be going this hard less than 10 minutes in and tried to bridge across, and got up there with relative ease. Well, if you had been watching me, you would have thought it was easy, but inside the control room there were all kinds of lights and klaxons going off. I got onto the lead groups wheels and tried to rest a bit in the draft.

The problem was that we were freakin' flying. I was going nearly at my max just to sit in on the gradual climbs, and did I mention we still weren't even 10 minutes into the race? This had the makings of an awesome bonk. But it just seemed too much like good ole' cross for me to back off -- just kept coming out of turns, grabbing a wheel and hammering. Eventually a pretty strong guy from UMass caught us to make it 5 at the front.

As we neared half a lap down, the guy leading (from Harvard) sat up and announced "anyone else want to have a go?" The adrenaline was wearing off and I was thinking about the hour of pain I had left so I wasn't taking any pulls. But it didn't matter because the guy in front of me got out of the saddle and raised the tempo even higher. It wasn't even taking a pull as much as it was an attack. 60 seconds later he was ten yards off the front and it seemed like the other four of us were just going to let him go.

Well, not quite, since the UMass guy realized how useless we were and went chasing after him. I tried to get his wheel but it proved to be quite elusive, and next thing I know we're coming back through the start/finish area with me leading two other guys in the 3rd place group. Oh, and my legs really, really hurt.

I was setting a pathetic enough pace that Harvard dude and the other guy both passed me, so I got back to staring at their back tires and suffering. I think this continued for the entire second lap. A couple times I started to crack and would get dropped a bit, but I was riding the singletrack more smoothly than them so I seemed to be able to roll back on each time. We were definitely slowing down, too.

Coming through for the start of the last lap I'm feeling pretty cooked and Harvard dude is 25 yards in front of us. I'm riding in 5th and haven't taken a pull in 2/3rds of a lap, and I think the guy in 4th is not amused. He looks back at me a couple times but never really swings off the main line... so I don't really know what's going on. I don't think I'm really going that fast on the double track but, his glare finally gets the better of me, so I try to pull through and reel Harvard dude back in.

Five minutes of hanging out in the hurtbox later, I'm back on the wheel of the Harvard guy. Hmm, I guess I wasn't in that bad of shape on the flats... now I feel like a lame wheelsucker for my complete lack on contribution on the 2nd lap. Oh well. Even worse, the guy who pulled me for the whole 2nd lap couldn't stay with me and is still 20 yards back.

Well anyway. I pull past Harvard dude to show I mean business and try to put the hurt on him in one of the "tougher" (they're all pretty easy) singletrack sections. I get a tiny gap so I hammer some more double track and another singletrack section and pretty much succeed in putting some serious hurt on him... and me.

So I give up, he's still on my wheel. I'd rather sprint it out than hurt this much for the rest of the race. He leads for a while as we navigate lapped traffic on the way to the finish. We have an exciting exchange with a lapped woman when he says "on your left" and she screams "NO!!" at him. I just hang out in back.

He's taking himself pretty seriously with regards to lapped traffic, basically yelling "left" at anyone in front of him regardless of trail width, which is pretty silly since the only guy he needs to worry about (me) is right behind him. Trying to pass people who are a lap down in a sport race at high speed in singletrack is not an easy proposition, they're fast enough to not want to stop and clumsy enough to get in your way... so Harvard dude's hyper-aggressive passing finally costs him, big time, when he tries to squeeze past a masters rider in a space that's too small, hooks his bar on a tree, and flies over the bars with a volley of curses.

That pretty much gift-wraps third place for me. Harvard guy went down pretty hard and other dude is 20 seconds or so back, so I ride smart for the last 4 minutes and finish in a blistering 65 minutes. Cross-tastic!

Meanwhile, Linnea stomps the women's sport field and probably could've been in the middle of the expert field, all on a bike that her brother got for free from a scrap heap at Dartmouth. So I'm the underachiever here.

I guess what all this means is that I'm in surprisingly decent shape given all my excuses. I think if I can ride well on a hilly, long and/or technical course (since this was none of those) I'll have to think about moving up to expert. So I can really get it handed to me.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Boston roadies do not like me

So I've been actually getting out on the "road" bike quite a bit this last week (road is in quote because it's actually my cross bike with road tires on it) and I've noticed a kind of sad trend -- roadies don't acknowledge each other. Or, at least, roadies don't acknowledge me.

So, a little back story -- where I come from, the uninhabited woods of Maine, most of one's ride consists of being totally alone on a road wondering when the next pickup truck is going to try to run you off the road. Seeing other bikers is incredibly rare, so of course you acknowledge their presence. "Greetings fellow cyclist, it is heartening to see that you too have survived the swerving pickups and nonexistent shoulders long enough to pass by me in the opposite direction! Good day to you!"

Really though, you always give the other guy a nod or a wave. He's a comrade.

But now, as I dawdle around Boston, the nod is coldly ignored by every serious cyclist I pass. It would be one thing if we were riding in dense traffic -- a dude's gotta look out for cars, you know. But this happens with 100% frequency out on the "country" roads around 95, too.

So what's up with this? I know very little about roadie culture, so am I just an idiot? Do you, actual road racers who read this blog (yeah, both of you), acknowledge one another if you pass out on a ride? Or are you so intent on your Powertap that you can't be bothered?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The IOC doesn't screw around

Hey UCI/FIS, this is how doping should be dealt with. From the IOC:

You have to imagine athletes living in apartments during the Games surrounded by blood bags and syringes. All these devices...this means it is almost impossible that these athletes did not know what was happening.

"If you live in a room with another athlete, or eat together, drink together, you can draw the conclusion that these athletes knew from each other what was happening and were even collaborating.

"This required a severe sanction because behaving in such a way shows a kind of mentality which the commission did not deem to be acceptable for people in the Olympic Games.

Basically 6 Austrian guys got caught at Torino with blood transfusion equipment and the IOC banned them from the Olympics for life. I can't say I have a problem with this... not much question that they were blood doping. What's that you say? You can't prove they all were doping?

The IOC doesn't really care... apparently they will ban you for life if hang out with dopers and don't turn them in.

I'm trying really hard, as an American, to think of this as some kind of violation of their rights, like they should be innocent until proven guilty or something. But I can't do it. They're all guilty of conspiracy to commit doping even if you can't prove they did it. So the penalty for the crime is a lifetime ban -- I've got no problem with that.

Will be interesting to see what FIS does with them next year.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dirty Sandbaggers

It's raining and it's tax day. Should I do my taxes or should I program stuff for fun? Hmmmm...

Ok, ok, so I did the sandbagger search page on I was hoping it would be enlightening, and the results were... somewhat interesting.

1) Some people are showing up on the list because they crush everyone at the highest level (Tim Johnson, Lyne Bessette)

2) There's a bunch of guys who are consistently at the top of B men in New England who don't want to move up (Pete Smith, Damien Colfer, Nathaniel Ward, Hunter Pronovost, Gary Douville,
Andrew Boone) to ride As.

3) There are some A masters that are so fast they would be fine in A men (Johnny Bold, Mike Yozell).

4) There's "Feltslave" whose blog I read and will be moving up a category next year.

5) There are some other random folks, like Cub Juniors and fast chicks.

What does it all mean?!

I don't know. I for one don't really care about "sandbagging," I just like pushing around numbers. No matter what you say about people you think are sandbagging, the bottom line is that you're complaining about someone riding fast. Which is kind of weak.

Part of me thinks those guys tearing up Verge B's every week should man up and get crushed by Tim Johnson next year instead of picking on poor fools like me. But on the other hand, it's good motivation. I don't want to get better because the fast guys don't race me anymore. I want to get better because I'm faster.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


Not much going on right now, dealing with the transition from ski season to bike season and ultimate frisbee season. I went out to the Beanpot road race last weekend to try to heckle some people but was only moderately successful. I decided that road races are unamerican because they are not action-packed, and you have to chill by the side of the road for potentially a long while just to see basically nothing. I did see a crash in the D race and the crashed Princeton guy throw his glasses and have a biker tantrum, so it wasn't a total loss.

Anyhow, in lieu of actual content, I will direct the reader to Cedric and Gerard, which might be the most consistently funny web comic I've ever seen.

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