Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Coyote Hill XC Race Report

This weekend the Root 66 mountain bike series picked up again, this time up in Vermont. There were two races on the schedule, a short track Saturday and an XC Sunday. For some reason, everyone other than me doesn't want to race short tracks, so Saturday was like 40 people total. And that might be high.

You might think short track is like cross, but you'd be wrong. For one thing, this short track course was 3 minutes long. Seriously. And the only flat section was the start/finish. It was basically a two minute climb and a one minute descent. The climb was no joke, either -- if you put this thing in a cross race, there'd be a line of sniffling roadies a mile long crying about how "that hill is too big for a cross race."

Also, it was only 20 minutes + 3 laps, instead of 45 minutes, which allowed for even more efficient suffering.

Anyway, there's not very much to say. I beat like 7 other guys (one of whom was even in my category) to win the sport race. It hurt. My legs were not good. The end.

After the short track we prerode the XC course, which was AWESOME. 6 miles, 85% singletrack, one lengthy (10 minutes?) climb with the start/finish halfway up it. The descents were steep enough there was no pedaling, there were lots of little bridges, there was nowhere to pass and nowhere to rest. Fabulous course.

So the course was great, but my legs were not. I actually trained in a halfway respectable manner this past week and it turns out that's a good way to feel sluggish on the weekends. While I'm sure it's good in the long run, when combined with Saturday's short track it left me feeling like crap on Sunday. It was one of those pre-race situations where you're supremely unmotivated and end up spending more time in the port-a-potty than warming up.

I rode for like 6 minutes and decided to let my adrenaline response take care of the rest of things when the whistle sounded. This didn't work at all, because everyone else in my category was hellbent on getting the holeshot for a 20 yard section of singletrack despite the fact that there was a nice five minute climb after it. So my compatriots tore across the field like their lives (or egos) depended on it while I tried to jump start my engine. I hit the singletrack last out of about 20 guys. Alex was nice enough to yell "Colin, you're last" from where she was lined up for her start and I was nice enough not to give her the finger in return.

If you look waaaay in the back of this picture you might see a little patch of red jersey. That's me about a minute into the race. There's still plenty of climbing before you hit the singletrack, so I had some time to move up, but my vast cheering squad (Linnea) was understandably disappointed.

I picked off a small number of guys (4 or 5?) before the top of the climb, because everyone was still hyped up from the start. I hit the singletrack feeling like I had no legs, but after some fast descending things started to get better. Just like last time the preride was paying off and I was cleaning sections that other people weren't prepared for, which was basically the only way to pass anyone.

So I thrashed around the woods for a while, riding people's asses until they made a mistake and then riding around them. There was one short muddy, rooty, off-camber climb that I passed at least 3 people on -- have I mentioned that preriding is worth the effort?

I had been seeing people through the woods in front of me for a while, and then about halfway through the lap I passed someone and couldn't see anyone else. I figured this meant that there was a group of guys well off the front that was most likely uncatchable, since I had just wasted much of the lap waiting behind people. I hammered for a while but couldn't seem to find anyone in front of me -- then I asked a spectator breathlessly "what's the gap??" and they just looked at me funny. Then as I was heading away he said, "uh, you're first."

Wow, I wasn't expecting that. I figured that if I had ridden off the front that quickly after my terrible start that I probably had this thing in the bag, so I flew around the rest of the lap thinking about how awesome I was. Unfortunately the lap ended with the first part of the big climb, so my daydreaming was cut short by lactic acid and the sound of someone gaining on me from behind. Ugh. On the dirt road section of the climb I ate my Powergel and two guys pulled up next to me while I finished my tasty snack.

Neither of them seemed interested in leading so we all kind of churned in silence up to the start of the singletrack. Since these guys were clearly climbing better than me I realized I needed to lead the downhill and get away, so I "burned some matches" (as the kids say) to hit the singletrack first, and then I just let it rip. For the next 10 minutes I was hauling steadily downhill, letting the dual suspension fix my plentiful but minor mistakes.

I got back to the base of the climb to the finish with no one audible behind me. I could taste the finish and had a healthy amount of fear-based adrenaline fueling me, so this time up no one was catching me. I rolled through in 1:06:03 (short race, I know) to win one for Mother Russia:

I guess if I can win my class on a bad leg day then it's time to move up to Expert. Extrapolating my lap times (not that I could've actually maintained that) to Expert distance would have put me in the middle of the field, so I guess it's time. You can rest assured that the next entry here will have more of a "dear god I got smoked" tone to it.

Linnea raced her first expert race (which is why I have pictures for a change) and it looked like this:

She was in contention for 2nd place, racing against Jess Ingram, until she laid it down on a corner and embedded a fair amount of the course in her arm.

And here's a nice picture of the women's sport start, prominently featuring Alex riding for IBC, before she decided to liven up her race by crashing off a bridge.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Fighting with Blogger

New title bar.

Now I know why everyone else just sticks with the default.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


A random video from the blogosphere featuring Kraftwerk's classic techno song "Tour de France" and, of course, Le Tour.

You know it's a well done video because it's hard to imagine the song without it. Even if you don't like classic techno you might appreciate the production and imagery. But you know what? If you don't like classic techno, never read this blog again, dammit!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

UCI Cyclocross in Providence Holy Crap

The title says it all.

Props to gewilli for being the first to alert me to this.

Doesn't this conflict with Gloucester though?

Friday, May 18, 2007

So done with pro cycling

Everyone who reads this probably knows how ridiculous the Landis hearing has gotten, and I have nothing to add to that. But what about this?

You'd think with all that going down Oscar Pereiro might be lovin' life, but actually, he's busy telling people he'll quit cycling before he'll give DNA.

So what's more likely -- Oscar is taking a stand for innocent cyclists everywhere and has nothing to hide, but would give up his sport for his principles, or he realized that giving DNA will end his career anyway, so he might as well take a stand instead of leaving the sport disgraced?

Occam's Razor says Pereiro's just as doped as the rest of them.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Brialee Ramblin' Ramble Race Report

One thing about mountain bike races -- you get some interesting race names. And I'm still not sure how to pronounce "Brialee."

Brialee is actually the name of a camping resort in northeast Connecticut. It has a lake, a pool, a ton of campers, and a lot of hick-types sitting in lawn chairs next to their campers, wondering what the hell 270 lycra-wearing, gel-eating, camelback-slurping bike yuppies are doing tooling around their campground.

But I'm sure I can equal the derision they were sending my way -- since Brialee is basically a sea of immobilized campers, a glorified trailer park with a nice location. Apparently a significant number of people who own campers don't actually want the mobility associated with them, so they park it permanently at Brialee and build a deck attached to their camper.

I could go on for a while about what sucks about this, but let me just say that my idea of a getaway is not sitting in my folding chair in front of my camper, with a whopping 20 feet of dirt separating me from someone else's permanently beached camper... and coming back here regularly, because they offer such amenities as a pool and a field, which are basically impossible to find elsewhere.

Enough of that. In addition to adding campers to my "often misused vehicles" list, there WAS a bike race, and unlike last time it was on a course that would eat up and spit out a cross bike, probably while sterilizing the rider of said cross bike. In fact, sections were so rough that I wouldn't entrust my fertility to a hardtail, although a certain number of my competitors were willing to try it.

Adding to the fun was a 5.5 mile course that wound through roughly a postage stamp's worth of area, meaning we rode the same 3 muddy streams 16 times per lap. Every section of the course was basically a body-destroying rock garden, a barely rideable mud slog, or a short, steep climb. Or the dirt road through the finish area... but you get my drift.

Linnea and I showed up at 11:00 to get a barely-ethical preride in before the expert race (the sport race wasn't until 2:15 so you can bet a lot of sport riders were hitting the course blind). After the preride I took a bunch of air out of my front and rear suspension and sat around eating tortilla chips and working on my sunburn.

Finally, 2:30 rolled around (start was pushed back since some expert women were still out there) and we got rolling. There were about 15 guys in Sport 19-29 doing the typical sprint-for-the-singletrack start, and I hit the woods 7th. The preride paid off pretty much instantly when we went through the first super rough section -- 6th place got off line and clipped a tree, stopping him with authority, which moved me up to 6th. Then 5th place got caught in the mud in too high a gear and I took over 5th. Then 4th place dabbed on a hard, rooty, muddy corner and I rode into 4th. Like I said... barely ethical.

About 1/3rd of the way into the lap I had moved up to 2nd after two of the fast starters settled into a much more modest pace than they had started with. The leader was only 10 seconds or so ahead of me and when he failed to ride a stream and took his sweet time remounting... I was in first.

Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are. And I wasn't really thrilled that I had 2 2/3rd laps left to ride, but whatever, you can't complain about leading. So began a lonely hour of suffering.

There's not much to say about this part of the race. Sometime during lap one I came through a banked corner too aggressively and when my back wheel skipped out I couldn't get out of my muddy pedal in time to prevent lying down on my side. Sometime during lap two I noticed that I was starting to feel a lot of pain in left hand whenever I relaxed it on the bar. And around the middle of lap two I could tell that I was running out of gas on my solitary ride toward the hurt box.

Near the end of lap two I ate my gel, which usually remedies things, but this one just didn't work as well they usually do. Ending lap two, I was definitely moving away from having fun and starting to pray that the race ended before I completely blew up.

As every cyclist knows, with the bonk comes a stunning lack of technical proficiency. My last lap was marred by poor lines, forgetting to shift, and pathetic dismounts as the brutal course got its revenge on my flagging body. With ten minutes or so left I noticed a rider gaining on me with stunning authority -- was I bonking that hard??

He caught me during one of my worst moments, 30 seconds in which I dismounted, tried to remount, pedaled twice, dismounted again, ran a bit, failed a cross-style mount, and then ran some more. As he rode past me, cleaning the the rocky, muddy stream as had on previous laps, I noticed his number was over 100 different than mine, so he was probably in a different category -- which explained why he was going so much faster. He had made up 4 minutes to catch me.

My legs were running mainly on lactic acid at this point, so there's not much I could've done anyway, and convincing myself he couldn't be in my category was enough to keep from trying to up the tempo to stay with him. Instead, I churned through the rest of the lap at my own pace, fighting through the bonk with surprising resolve thanks to the knowledge that I was still probably going to win a mountain bike race for the first time in 6 or so years. If I had been riding expert at this point I would've been about 10th/14 with a whole extra lap to go -- I think it would've been a spectacular meltdown and I might still be on the course.

Anyway, I got 'er done and rolled across in 1:27, good enough for the 5th fastest sport time and 1st in my category, which got me $15 of my entry fee back. Which I quickly converted into a hot dog. Tastes like... recovery. And processed pork.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sometimes, you might want to race your bike, but instead you have to go up to Maine and tend to goats. These things happen.

It turned out to be worth the trip for two reasons -- first, I forgot how much I enjoy the simple pleasure of cursing at obstinate animals, and second, I was still tired on Saturday from doing hill repeats with Ann Hansgate thursday.

Gee Colin, why did you put a results link on Ann's name? That's not a blog. Well, go to that page and search for her name and you'll see why it took my three days to recover from riding Eastern Ave. with her. If you don't believe me, here's another.

Also, I upped the bike nerdom another notch (surely we're nearing 11 by now) with the head to head page on crossresults.com. Linked is a comparison of me against some other Cat 4 all-stars/blog readers. This definitely proves... something. Other than that I have too much time on my hands, I mean.

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