Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Whitmore's Cross Cup Day 2 Race Report

The last post contained one huge error -- I didn't mention my choice host housing courtesy of Day 1 B Men's winner and all around nice guy Brian L. Yeah, that's right, I'm calling it host housing because it's a lot more pro than "staying with a friend." We had a nice floor spot on a thick carpet, in a room with its own thermostat. You might think I'm joking, but that's the perfect set up for me to get some damn sleep. Temperature control trumps bed any day.

Rested and refreshed we headed back for day two, which was a whopping 8 degrees warmer than day one. The course was the same except for one added runup and the whole thing was run backwards -- I gotta to say, this was a great way to make a course feel totally different with minimal work. The new course had anywhere from 2-4 dismounts depending on how well you could crank super-steep uphills, so it was more "crossy" (day 1 had but one dismount) and also more painful. By the last lap, scaling a bumpy wall of grass at a 35% incline is really, really hard.

This time around I was hip to the MAC staging strategy so I was totally ready to jump on the line when they did the "ok, now the rest of you line up" bit, unfortunately there was no jumping whatsoever because everyone just camps out about 6 inches behind the callups. Argh. I improved my start spot by a row or two and lined up on the outside, which immediately paid off when a guy in the center botched the clip in and put a foot down. Ten guys and twenty brakes started screaming, and I snuck around the edge into clear space as the rest of the field accelerated away. Much better progress than before.

Of course, "better" is still not "optimal" so we had plenty of first lap bottlenecking. I made what turned out to be lead-group-losing decision by NOT flipping out and sprinting around a guy who scaled half of a narrow climb straddling his top tube (see video!).. by the time we got back to the road the lead 10 had gapped us hard.

Will Dugan was racing B's to qualify for collegiate nats and he also missed the split, so he decided to close it with 1000 watts of UCI-quality power. I think I was riding with him for a few seconds there, it was hard to tell. He eventually broke his chain while leading the race, one of the dangers of putting out mad watts.

There was a short, steep, bumpy hill known as "methane hill" (I think it had a landfill's methane exhaust vent on it... welcome to Long Island!) that was the cause of countless acts of drama, you could only ride it if you were in the clear and had good balance because your bike would skip around like crazy on the bumps. Of course that didn't stop me, or anyone else, from trying to ride it on lap one, which led to a collection of bodies at the crest and me lying on my side just below them. Somehow I got through the carnage fast enough to gain some places anyway.

Next lap it was even more exciting, I had some clear space in front of me, time to ride it like a pro! Except, the two guys just up the road got tangled at the top, and right where I need to stomp that last pedal stroke there's a guy lying down trying to get his foot out of the other guy's wheel. So I lay down again... but not derailleur side!

The carnage and barely rideable climbs were gaining me steady places and after two laps the announcer told my group we were "unofficially top 10." Sweet, already better than yesterday. Richard Fries, if you're out there reading this, next time maybe you can tell me what place I'm in instead of heckling me about

Just kidding, I love hearing about crossresults on the PA.

Just like yesterday, steady progress through the field made for minimal group racing. I was an infuriating 5 seconds behind Soren Klingsporn (aka Canton Crash Guy) and I could. not. close. it. I got close in the woods every lap and he'd just open it back up on the road like it was no problem. I should take my own advice and "close the friggin gap."

While chasing Soren around I had an unfortunate lapped rider incident during which I said some things that may not have been especially welcoming to someone who was apparently in his first cross race. Yeah, that's how the roll down in Southampton, the B race is a 2/3/4 (?!) so you get some first timers and about a third of the field gets lapped. Not exactly a Verge-quality field. Sorry about that, first-timer-guy.

With the race winding down, I finally picked up a hanger-on, just like before. This time, though, my hanger-on miraculously tripled my cheering fans. For the next twenty minutes I just kept wondering, why don't I recognize any of these voices screaming my name??

That's right, it was time for another alpha-Colin battle as the guy on my wheel was Colin Prensky. I was expecting to shake him, as I caught him pretty swiftly at one point, but apparently that was more of a "bad lap" than a "bad race" because he was glued to me from that point onward. I kept thinking I was going to ride away so strategy was out the window, just race haaaahd in the woods and get some space, right? Right. Finally with about two minutes to go I realized he was still right there and it was going to be sprinty time real soon.

The sprint was tricky -- 150+ yards of pavement, then a bend onto 25 yards of grass, then 40 yards to the finish line. It was either really long if you went from the start, or really short if you went from the grass. I didn't get into complex analysis of this situation until after the race, of course. We hit the first paved section and I thought to myself "my god, starting the sprint from this far out is going to hurt sooooo bad," so I sat up.

Then I decided to be a really clever guy and ride tight against the barriers so he could only come around on one side when he jumped. Oh yeah, I watch Le Tour, I'm not just some dumb mountain biker, look out!

I had this clever idea that allowed me to minimize how long I would have to sprint, because I had developed a bizarre aversion to pain in the last 30 seconds. See, I was going to let him jump first, and then I'd get his wheel, and then I'd come around on the last paved section and man, I am sooooo clever, you know?

Nowhere in my (clever) plan did I account for the possibility that he might not jump super early and give me a nice leadout, so we just kept softpedaling up the finish straight we me eying him warily.

Finally, 30 yards before the grass bend, he went and I grabbed his wheel. We turned onto the grass and I immediately realized that I had screwed up royally. The grass was super rough and pretty much un-jumpable as we both had to stay seated. The last section of pavement was gone in a flash, long before I could do anything with the draft I was allegedly experiencing, and just like that it was over, and I had lost my first sprint since I started blogging.

Seriously. It's been two years.

I've only replayed this sprint in my head about a thousand times since. I've only woken up crying twice. We're going to be okay here. I think. Then again, it's only been two days.

Linnea's Day 2 points-and-cash quest ended much like Day 1 -- a scant three places out of the money. To a spectator it looked like nothing, but after utterly failing to close even a modest five second gap to Soren earlier, I kept quiet.

Just kidding, I said a ton of stupid stuff anyway!

The video collection:

Whitmore's Cross Cup Day 2 2/3 Men Handlebar Cam Lap 1 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Whitmore's Cross Cup Handlebar Cam Day 2 Part 2 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Some incidents from the off-camber on Day 1:

Whitmore's Cross Cup Off Camber Excitement from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Whitmore's Cross Cup Day 1 Race Report

This weekend was the second in a row of the "big travel to big races" lifestyle. Linnea is so pro now we have to go to any UCI C1 race within 600 miles of Boston, it's the contract I signed to keep hanging out with her. After another 10+ hours in cars and a much nicer hour on a ferry, I gotta say that I am burnt out on travel. I have no idea how some of the elites go points chasing to the Mid Atlantic and further every weekend. Man, I am so ready to sleep at home and not rush out of work on a Friday.

Travel aside, the event itself was pretty good, as long as you could look past the 20 degree windchill. I contemplated a nitpicky list of complaints about this one, USGP-whine style, but I'm making an attempt to grow up and not put every bad idea I have on the internet.

The course was tough to decipher, plenty of climbs and straights made it power-friendly but there were some tight, twisting wooded sections and on super-sketchy off camber descent. After two days of it (we rode Day 2 in the other direction) I think it's solidly in the "power-course" spectrum because the sandy turns are so loose, and the off-cambers so bumpy, you really can't ever rail the turns Noho-style and open up a noticeable gap on the more tentative turners.

My race got off to a poor start when I failed to understand the "unique" way they stage B races in the MAC. They started calling people up by MAC points, ok, that makes sense, after 15 or so people were up they called Cort, who had no MAC points, so they must have gone into calling up by reg order. Thinking I had some time I turned away and started taking off my jacket, at which point the official said "ok, everyone else line up" and 30 more people jumped into the grid. No wonder they had been crowding the callups. I sheepishly took my position at the back.

Before we could start (this race report may never actually get to the race...) the promoter came over and berated the field for "changing in the locker room in front of six-year-olds." I started having some deep thoughts about the Puritan roots of our country, until I realized that goddammit I drove all the way to Long Island and I can't even get naked in front of the kids??, and also if you don't want people using the locker room for its normal purpose, you might want to put up a sign.

IMPORTANT REVISION: The promoter I was just ragging on here (Myles) dropped me an email and apparently he was yelling at "us" for changing in the lobby in front of children of mixed gender, so my above paragraph is totally inaccurate, and whoever was getting naked in the lobby area is a freaking idiot. If you get naked in front of toddlers at my race I will yell at you also.

Finally I stopped introspecting and we got to the racing. Like a true pro I got a wicked jump on the start (pretty easy to do from the back row) and immediately boxed myself in between two guys with less than wicked jumps. I eventually had to back out of that and go around, at which point I actually started sprinting while being called out by my cheering section for being way, way back.

The first lap was a predictable mess -- quick ups, tight turns, single-file off cambers, you think 50 B men are going through that cleanly? Yeah right. I ran a lot. There was one guy back there with us who was blown away by our collective incompetence and was getting really aggro about it, which livened things up. Any time we bottlenecked and dismounted he'd groan at the top of his lungs "OH COME ON GUYS," and start trying to bully his way through while riding, which wouldn't work, so he'd let out another disgusted sigh, get off, and start trying to run through the crowd. The thing is, everyone running, we're all carrying bikes, so of course he made no progress other than entertaining us and warming up some air.

And hot damn did the air need warming, it was 30 degrees and windy and much of the course was in the shade. I had proper ski gloves and my hands went insta-numb when the race started as all the blood headed for my legs. Strangely enough they came back after two laps in a not-that-painful tingle, while my feet started warm and then just got worse and worse, until my toes quit working entirely and I could barely walk afterwards.

The thing about starting from the back is you always need to go around. Anyone you catch up to is going a tad slower (that's why you caught them... right?) so anytime you think you're being a sneaky drafter you're actually just riding slower than before. I actually learned this lesson last year so it wasn't too tempting to stick with people. It does, however, make the race report pretty dull, since I slowly and steadily caught of stream of people I didn't know.

But wait! Finally at the end I rolled up to an NYC Velo guy (Andrew Crooks) who stuck with me when I came around and soon had the audacity to pass me back. On the last laps we were smashing through lapped traffic and changing the lead back and forth, it was both exciting and painful. Every time I thought I'd put a lapped rider between us I'd pick up the pace, and every time he'd come back and retake the lead. With half a lap to go I realized I wasn't going to be able to ride away from him, so I quit coming around to try to win the sprint from behind.

The last turn was a nice slow 90 degree one onto pavement and the straight was short enough it was a pure fast-twitch drag race, no time to sit on a wheel and come around. That's pretty much the perfect setup for my "style," so I was able to manage some great suffering staying with him across the field and sand before it, and it paid off as I won the glorious sprint for 11th.

Post-race it was the usual running around like an idiot telling Linnea how far she was from getting paaaaaaaaid. Unfortunately UCI C1's with a $3,000 purse attract pretty fast competition (Lynn Bessette had a very lucrative two days of un-retirement, for example) so she missing the cash, and points, and finished in 17th. She did win the 3-way race for 17th like a rockstar (from the front), so at least my 40 minutes in the cold were somewhat rewarded.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Who's the Alpha Colin Now? Round 3


The history.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

USGP Mercer Cup Day 2 Race Report

After a brutal day of running through deep mud at 60 degree temps, mother nature decided to up the ante for day 2.

Post-race, a line of severe thunderstorms came through, re-saturating the course and destroying what little course tape hadn't already been ridden through. And then the temperature dropped twenty degrees.

Sunday morning's temperature hovered around 45, with wind gusting to 30 mph -- the most significant change to the course conditions was that warm, sloppy mud had been replaced by cold, sloppy mud. The course was effectively the same, except it had been shortened further, leaving "only" four length running sections. Actually, if you ran down the hills (which was becoming more and more popular), you could join some of the running sections together... so maybe it only had two running sections! Yay!

As you might imagine my motivation and core temperature were pretty low, and based on the number of people preriding (zero) I'd say my feelings were representative of the crowd. A surprisingly large field (87, after 92 the previous day) showed up for 2/3 Men -- the "beauty" (if you're promoter, which I sometimes am) of forcing prereg.

Off the line I took a very laid-back approach, and actually dropped some spots on the start straight. The caremeter, as they say, was reading zero. You guys can go ahead and get in the "draft" up there.

The course conditions had changed a bit -- the brisk wind was drying out the thinner areas of mud, and hardening up the deep areas. Deep tacky mud is absolutely unrideable, but the other sections were getting faster. There were a few spots on the back side of the course where -- gasp -- I had to brake before a corner. Gosh, it was exciting! I might even go so far as to say I liked it.

After a lap I started to get into it a bit more. The running was still horrendous (have I used that adjective yet? I've said "the running was X" about 100 times in these two reports) but the race was much shorter (3 laps) and there was a hint of technical skill required to ride the back section cleanly.

Linnea hadn't arrived at the venue yet after getting sick overnight, but I had her bike in the pit and took the opportunity to pit myself after 1.3 laps. It raised my level of happiness even further, because pit bikes are PRO and damned if I don't want to be PRO. It was also clean, for about two seconds. Best of all, I caught Pierre and had the pleasure of passing him while riding his former bike, and I wasted a lot of oxygen letting him know about it.

On lap 3 things got more exciting as Linnea arrived and started pitting for me. Another bike change, huzzah! One of my close competitors was also getting a fresh bike each half-lap, so we were having a jolly good throw down, and our pit crews were fighting each other for the hose. You know how the mid-20s of a B race are. Serious business.

As the race drew to a close I took one last bike change and applied the "advice" I'd given Linnea on that last lap to myself -- "Race ends at the top of the flyover, GET THERE." My bike-changing foe had been hurting me on the run, but with the end in sight I was able to pick up my stride in exchange for super duper pain and get ahead for the flyover. I scaled it with legs of jelly and sufferred on in for a scorching 24th place and the knowledge I didn't have do any more of the crap, at least until next weekend.

After how hard it was for me to find the motivation to race, there was no chance that a growing-iller-by-the-minute Linnea was going to line up for the same thing. We took the opportunity to get home a few hours early and left after pitting for Matt in the Masters race.

He used my bike for the short half of the lap and I ran the handlebar cam for him a few times. You won't believe this, but it's not exciting at all. Nevertheless, it's worth a look (four minutes) just experience the course. In the below clip Matt runs for 1.5 minutes of a 4 minute stretch... breathing as hard as he can the whole way.

USGP Mercer Cup Day 2 Handlebar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

I'll be interested to see if the Mercer Cup happens next year. The park itself was destroyed until spring -- the mud will go away, in time, but people will have plenty of time to get upset about it first. The park ranger we had a run-in with on Sunday was a complete dick, no doubt because those damn cyclists had ruined his park.

On top of course destruction, there were some organizational issues that I'd like to point out. Generally, one cannot complain about the way a race was run without getting a bunch of crap about "you're not a promoter so shut up" -- luckily, I'm running a race in 3 weeks, and while it's no USGP it's still plenty of work. Anyway, the race was certainly run acceptably, it just lacked the polish of the Verge Series. Half of these things are probably out of the promoter's hands, anyway. Screw it, I'm complaining anyway.

1) We reused the same numbers from day 1 to day 2, except no one actually told us this. There was allegedly a sign at registration somewhere, and you know how easy it is to see any given sign when you're in a sea of people registering. I talked to other racers and the message had gotten around almost entirely by word of mouth.

2) The race lengths were ridiculous on each day. Day 1, they ran every race too long. There's no times on the results (sneaky) but my opening and fastest lap was 13 minutes, so I was probably out there for 55 min. Given that our posted race length was 40 min, 3 laps was obviously the right call. Day 2 had the opposite problem, the course had been shortened yet they told us three laps on the start line. This time we actually could have done four laps (like the A Masters did) to get the appropriate race length, but they kept us short, and also...

3) Stopping racers early. Because they were behind schedule on both days, they started barring racers from the finishing straight once they started staging the next field. While obviously you can't have people finishing while the next race is starting, my experience showed they were being way too aggressive about this. On day 2 I was kept off the finish straight, so I decided to watch the start of the 45+ race (which must be imminent, right?). Four minutes later, I left in disgust. Let people ride to the finish line until there's a minute to go, just make sure they get off the course once they cross the line!

4) Why were they behind schedule on Day 2? Because everything was pushed back 30 minutes because the course was still in tatters at 8 AM, when the Cat 4 race was supposed to start. After a thunder-and-wind-storm at 6pm the previous day, no one should have been surprised to have to restring a lot of course tape that morning, but apparently they were.

5) As long as I'm pointlessly and aimlessly whining, they called us up ONE AT A TIME for staging, right down to the last two guys. On Day 2 it took even longer because they had to cross names off the sheet to see who was DNS'ing from the day before. It's not a big deal, (that was a freezing five minutes I could have done without), but it makes me want to hug Alan Atwood at the next Verge.

If this post didn't do it for you, go read what Matt wrote, it's the same message but more eloquent.

Fantasy Nordic PSA

A quick heads up to all those nordic skiers who read this -- lets pretend for a second you are a proud and numerous people -- we are running Fantasy Nordic again this year. I have the teaser posted at my other blog if you need to be teased a bit prior to signing up.

Auctions start Monday, so get on it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

USGP Mercer Cup Race Report

One of the "perks" of dating a semi-pro athlete is that instead of staying local and throwing down at BRC's Shedd Park race this weekend (which was allegedly AWESOME), it was time for a road trip to New Jersey, the mall and swamp capital of the world! That's right, Linnea only races UCI races these days, so we were off to the USGP for a weekend full of cramped cars and cramped hotel rooms with Matt, Kenny and Diana, with guest appearances by Chris Bailey and the incredibly numerous Cambridge Bikes team.

The initial call by Matt was "bring your mud tires," a phrase that usually excites me, conveying images of slicked up turns where you can ride a berm built from the bodies of your roadie opponents. Some rain on the way down made it all the more promising -- no grass crit here.

This optimism was brutally crushed within seconds of arrival on Saturday. We rolled in to the sight of people dressed like they should be working on fishing trawlers, rubbery jackets and pants covered with mud. This wasn't slick so much as a slog.

One preridden lap later, I was wishing I had brought some proper rain pants, having just destroyed the chamois I was going to race in. The course was disgusting, it was sloppy in an old-school cross kind of way, back when 8 dismounts per lap and minute-long runs were cool. There was a big field with a flyover in the middle of it, and the course went up this field (at a daunting 4% grade) four times. Each time up it was barely rideable, running was certainly faster, but probably more tiring. The rest of the course was hardly better. Top speed, excluding the pavement, was probably around 10 mph, and it was reached in the soaking-wet sand pit.

Sounds like fun, eh?

2/3 Men were running at 9:30 AM, traumatically early, but also a bit of a blessing as we only had two categories ahead of us to destroy the course. My extremely late prereg (certain people told me it was going to be randomly seeded instead of ordered by registration) put me in the 7th row or so, far enough back to have zero chance of escaping the lap one mud scrum. Resigned to my fate, I got ready to eat mud and bust course tape.

I haven't started in the back half of a big 2/3 race all year and I was pretty sketched out by the number of guys who changed 3-4 lanes trying to find a hole through the traffic. Much to my surprise no one went down and we hit the grass in a flying shower of mud.

The first lap was marked by some bottleneck induced running and the sickening realization that the course had actually gotten less rideable as it started to dry out. Previously soft and pliable mud that had pushed out of the way was getting churned by 200 wheels each lap -- getting deeper and drier. The first time into the big field, some people were running up the 4% grade ahead of me. "That's a stupid idea," I thought, and then I reached the deep mud halfway up, got off, and ran. This pattern repeated itself on the next gradual uphill. And then next.

And so it went. There were other racers on the course, but it was effectively a time trial against the mud. No drafting at 4 mph -- other racers were at best obstacles, not allies, as you trudged from one edge of the tape to the other, trying to find a slightly less horrible line.

Our first lap took 13 minutes, and that was when we had the most energy and the course was most rideable. Knowing this, the officials wisely decided that our 40 minute race should be a 4-lapper.

Wait, what? The officials displayed an impressive ability to not learn from their lap count mistakes on the day, so after running the Cat 4 race too long (30 min race ended up being 40+ minutes for most) and the 3/4 Women too long (30 min race was 45+ for many) they left us out there for 55 minutes of hell.

I've done plenty of 60 minute races, but I sure didn't need a 4th lap of mud jogging. The running was killing me and my bike was becoming uncomfortably heavy to shoulder. Cambridge Bikes' Dave Wilcox took advantage of my final lap misery and crushed me on the longest running section. PvB was a scant 30 yards behind as well, which filled me with terror, and pushed me to run until my legs were going numb. It wasn't until I finished and PvB didn't come charging in 5 seconds later that I realized -- being 30 yards back during a bog run could easily be a 30 second gap. Opponents in mirror may be further than they appear.

Anyway, I rolled across in a fairly dismal but totally deserved 20th place and immediately started telling everyone who had yet to race how terrible it was out there.

USGP Mercer Cup Lap 0.5 Handlebar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Linnea was racing the biggest Elite Women's field of her season so I actually had to back of the "dear god it sucked vibe" around her. After riding 55 minutes in my 36x26 and lifting a 30 pound bike onto my back, I knew two things -- she HAD to have a pit bike and she HAD to put a smaller single ring on her bike. So we did. Matt O'Keefe also recruited me to pit for him so I was signed up for two hours of additional mudding in the pit.

The pitting experience when conditions are full-on mud is pretty interesting. Linnea (and everyone else) was taking a bike every half-lap, so we did six bike changes in the race. Each time through, Chris Bailey would catch her old bike, I handoff the new one, I run through the mud in the pit, across the mud on the course, to the wash line. Wait, wait, wait, get sprayed by the washer guys, run the bike back. A brief moment to rest, or lube the chain if you're feeling ambitious, and then she's back. Chris catches the bike, then I run to the wash line...

It was intense, but it was nice to feel like I was providing a tangible benefit. As you might imagine, with 40 racers changing bikes the pit can get a little testy at times. I was certainly part of the problem.

On the last lap Linnea was battling for a prestigious 21st place with Amy Wallace and Rebecca Wellons. A woman who was pitting for the racer ahead of that group took a dirty bike and started meandering up the riding area. First, she got in Rebecca's way, forcing her to dismount in the deep mud. Recognizing she had done something bad, she moved out of the riding area and started strolling directly in front of everyone holding a bike on her way out of the pit.

Then, she saw me holding a bike, Bailey with his hands out, both of us looking through her with increasing anxiety. She sensed that she might be in the way again. She stopped.

Linnea was 5 yards behind her and needed to go directly through her for the new bike. She feebly tried to announce her presence, but everyone knows you can't yell loudly with a Kiwi accent. I bellowed "MOVE" as loud as I could, directly in her face, from about two feet away. She jumped like a scalded rabbit. Linnea got the bike.

It was the highlight of my day. Thanks, confused-pit-lady!

Fun with $10/month hosting

My site went down two days ago and they're still working on restoring everything that was on their server that died.

I can't even post a static HTML page there to tell people that will be back online shortly... it's just been a 404 now for two days.

I can't complain because their customer service is great and the price is good.

I just talked to them and they said they're hoping to get everything restored by the end of today. I'm just mentioning it here in case anyone comes along trying to find out what the deal is.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not Going To Nationals?

I cannot officially promote this event until the USCF paperwork is squared away, but I would suggest you keep your cross bike in working condition until at least December 13, especially if you live near Wrentham, MA.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Putney Cyclocross Race Report

In the midst of 60-hour work weeks and yet another week of sickness, I went to Putney to race the 10-person elite field in this New England cross classic. Why? Because cross is awesome. If Monday-Saturday of my week sucks, there's one way to fix it -- racing Sunday. Tiredness and health be damned!

Matt and Toby showed up to keep me company and ostensibly provide competition. And race we did! Well, for a lap and a half. We got gapped by the lead train of five quickly and then it was just the three of us. For reasons unknown (ok, girlfriend on the runup) I went around Toby after a lap and immediately realized that today was going to be a survival day, not an attacking day.

I can survive, though... right? Maybe? Matt came past as we circled the West Hill Shop, realizing that I wasn't exactly riding away with it. I responded to this affront by crashing on the muddy corner behind the shop, nearly getting run over by Toby, and then ceasing to put up a fight for the next forty minutes. Take that, guys!

Worst of all, I was nearly lapped by Ethan Gilmour and Robbie King on the low-five-minute-laps course. I suffered as best I could to hold them off for the last two laps, eventually cresting the runup ten seconds ahead of a sprinting/winning Ethan. My reward? Getting pulled anyway. Bollocks.

The video is short and sweet, but does contain three crashes and a variety of nonsense being spoken. I took Jerry's advice and ran the camera forward-facing this time, correctly predicting that the action would be in front of me.

Putney Cyclocross Handlebar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

My faster half was present and bringing home the bacon as usual. She had some friends to play with:

Then she took a dirt nap:
Then her friends were gone:

Sounds like my race.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Northampton Day 2 Videos

I actually can't put up the middle of the race (lap 3-5) until next week because I hit the vimeo upload limit. Whoops.

Northampton Seat Cam 2/3 Men Laps 1-3 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Lap 3 contains my awesome barrier pirouette that Richard Fries severely understated as a "bobble." What happened is that I flipped the bike out to the side and hooked the front wheel on the wrong side of a stake, and had to spin 360 degrees while running to get it out.

Northampton Cyclocross 2/3 Men Laps 6&7 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Lap 6 has Pat Goguen's barrier crash and Jon Bernhard's derailleur explosion (guess I was wrong about that breaking up the group!), Lap 7 has Ryan Rumsey's barrier crash and the final sprint, complete with me being a drama queen afterward. Both barrier crashes only have the audio and aftermath visible.

Race report revision: I watched the full video and the group splintered when a Verge guy (Sean Mannion I think?) had to put a foot down on the rideup and him and the four guys behind him all bottlenecked.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cycle-Smart International Day 2 Race Report

ohh crap Toby just crashed on my line [ from ryank ]

A lot of stuff happened between the end of my race Saturday and the start of my race Sunday. It highlighted how awesome most people on the cross scene are, you know, that thing you take for granted?

So, one snapped SRAM Rival shifter. The good news was, Joe from Joe's Garage was in the pit, and he had a right shifter to sell me. The bad news was, it was SRAM Red. Get out your checkbook. Wait, good news, he sold it to me at cost (PEOPLE ARE AWESOME)! Bad news, SRAM Red at cost is still $170. Wow.

So I went over to Meg and JD's house, our awesome hosts for the night. Dinner was given to me. Breakfast was given to me. Extra brake and shift cables were given to me, which was really important after I kinked the everloving crap out of one and had to disassemble my new shifter to fix it.

During my disturbingly lengthy shifter installation I discovered my derailleur hanger was bent in and hitting the spokes. A quick email later, as-pro-as-it-gets mechanic Dave Drumm said he had a Park Tool hanger straightener (oddly enough, I haven't got around to buying one of these just yet), and after a few minutes of magic in the morning I was back to PRO shifting and my spokes were safe.

Of course, I wasn't done leaning on other people's generosity just yet, I still had to borrow a front tubular from Matt because I'm a spoiled brat who can't possibly be expected to compete on a mud2.

I'm just trying to say, you people are great.

After all that, I had a lot of people and equipment to not let down in the race. I just barely snuck into the last spot on the front row -- down to 8th in overall, one point ahead of Hunter and two points ahead of Todd. This one-point difference turned out to have huge consequences.

Just like the day before I drilled the clip-in, only to have someone else hit it even better and take the holeshot. This time it was "Slim" Patterson from UVM.

It turns out that Slim was 2nd in the Semi-Pro DH Race at Mt Snow Nationals this year. I remember watching that race and thinking "these guys have amazing skills and no fear." And now I was going to have to stay on the wheel of one of "those guys."

Unlike when I took the lead yesterday, Slim went full afterburners from the first corner. He wasn't just trying to get to the front, he was committed to riding off it. I got on his wheel and hung on for dear life.

I thought I was good at riding bikes around corners. I was wrong. We hit every single corner faster that I thought was rideable. I leaned as hard as I dared and followed his line, and was shocked to stay upright.

We got off the front incredibly fast. At the sandpit, two minutes in, someone told me we had eight seconds on third already. I came around on the straightaway, let him know we had a big gap and I was willing to work, and we got down to the business of trying to pull a fast one on the field. Two technical specialists in front of a herd of raging roadies, this could be so cool.

I actually led through a few turns, letting it all hang out, but it wasn't fast enough for Slim so he came back around. I narrowly avoided sliding out heading into the rideup and ended up slightly overgeared, getting gapped just a bit over the top...going into the looser, dirt corners. The corners that might remind a semi-pro downhiller of what he does all summer.

One minute later, I was gapped for good and thoroughly schooled. It was time to go into time trial mode and see who would catch me first.

Actually, a few more words about that lap. It turned my world upside down. To know that one can corner that much faster than I usually do -- now that I've done it once, all I can think about is doing it again. I'm going to go to a park one of these days, put down some cones, and corner until I fall. The traction limit on grass is even further away than I thought.

Oh, and he was running a Mud2 front/Jet rear tire setup. Everyone out there who thinks you need tubulars to fly on corners -- and I'm including myself, here -- think about that the next time you decide you have to buy speed.

Alright. Patterson-worship aside, there was still a race to run. The whole second lap I was riding solo in second place, until eventual winner Dylan McNicholas solo'ed past me. Knowing he was probably going to win, I didn't even try to up the pace to stay on his wheel -- just kept it steady to see how it would play out.

Eventually, on lap three, the rest of the race caught up, a large chase group led by Brian and Toby. I was content to slip back into the group for a bit, and next thing I know Brian is riding away from us. Stuck in traffic, I didn't have an opportunity to try to chase him down, and I doubt I had the legs to anyway. Still, it was a bummer to watch him ride off with authority, and third place.

I thought I was still sitting pretty in the fourth-place group, though, at least until I looked back on the start straight with three to go -- we had what must have been a 10-rider conga line going on. Winner gets fourth -- loser gets 13th. That's a big difference. Too big. From who I can remember, we had Pronovost, Tosca, Rumsey, Wells, Mannion, Goguen, Bernhard, and myself, and a few more (Todd R? Cary? Cort?) dangling near the back.

We responded to this situation with some of the ugliest laps of racing I've ever been part of. The whip was cracking mercilessly on the hairpins, we were spitting guys out the back every turn and they were clawing back on just in time for the next corner. It was tough sitting fourth wheel, it must have been murder at the tail end.

Understandably, no one wanted to be at the back, so we kicked it up a notch on the rideup. Tosca made a questionable decision to attack to try to hit it first and Jon Bernhard made the even sketchier decision to follow his wheel. We went in with two sets of people riding two abreast and the shit hit the fan. Tosca tangled with Goguen, Goguen dropped his chain, Bernhard and someone else came together and Bernhard's derailler got torn off. Somehow I pushed through the carnage to stay on the bike, but the group was detonated.
A rare, carnage-free trip up the rideup [from kris]

Pat Goguen fought his way back up to us and the group was down to five -- Me, Toby, Tosca, Rumsey and Goguen. As fatigue set in the sand got riskier and riskier. This time through I elected to ride and ended up bracketed by runners, throwing elbows while I churned, trying to keep them from closing my line down.
Ride or run, it's ugly either way [from Soups]

Back up top, the laps were ticking down and the ante was going up. Last time through the barriers Toby had picked up some places so this time, we were all pushing harder. With that many bikes in such a small space, disaster was bound to happen -- and sure enough, poor Pat got screwed yet again as he made contact with Toby during the dismount, smashing his bike into the second barrier, dragging his bike over by a brake hood as he fell.

Unsurprisingly, this took the wind out of his sails pretty badly, so we were down to four, although he did valiantly chase for most of the lap (thanks, seat cam!). We were pretty well resigned to a sprint finish, but given the accordion coming off the 180 turn into the finish, positioning was going to be crucial.

This meant yet another insane attack on the barriers, which came 45 seconds before the finish. Whoever was fourth after the barriers was basically out of contention, and we all knew it. This might be the first time I've ever sprinted it off a corner into barriers.

We came in going PRO speed with B skills, and you won't believe it, but someone wrecked. This time it was Ryan Rumsey losing it, all I saw was his bike flying past me in the air, I don't know if there was contact or what, I had bigger things to worry about, like a HR of 195 and the fact that I had just taken the lead.

On the bike path before the last sprint Toby came around, and I wasn't about to fight him for it on a narrow, twisting strip of pavement. I figured 1st position and 2nd position were just about equal in terms of win probability anyway. Tosca was third, so he was going to have to fight the full slinky effect to win.

Toby hit it hard off the corner and got a good gap, putting me a quick two or three bike lengths down. I thought he might have it, but it's a long finish. Even at two bike lengths there's a draft, so I just kept fighting and shifting up while staying in line with him. Finally I closed to one bike length, the slipstream picked up exponentially, and I went shooting by just barely before the line to snag 4th.

Without question, that was the hardest fought race I've ever been part of. Might be the most fun I've ever had, too. Fun after the fact, of course.

Post-race on a Sunday is always great because there's no reason to be nice to your body. The beer tent was down to $1 a beer and I had $4 in my pockets, enough to get drunk twice over with 140-lb-cyclist-tolerance. After 40 more minutes of running around being an overbearing boyfriend, er, cheering squad, yelling at Linnea ("shift up! corner! pass! draft! attack! dance, puppet, dance!") on her way to 11th, it was beer garden time. I hooked up Ryan K with the beer feed only seconds before Jamie Driscoll lapped him, almost got John Peterson to take a feed by screaming "RIDE FASTER OR DRINK BEER," and watched everyone's favorite ebay-auction-villain take a feed while in contention for 25th (that's a paying place!) and promptly drop out.

Drinking and watching a UCI race is as good as life gets.

[Seat Cam coming soon... well, pretty soon. It's a lot of footage!]

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cycle-Smart Invitiational Day 1 Race Report

Alex took this wicked picture of me.

After living out of a suitcase for two weeks and barely riding outside races for two months, I was chock full of excuses for why Northampton was going to be ugly. And yet, one minute into the race I was leading the damn thing, panting frantically, and thinking "I guess I really don't understand how fitness and training work... no wonder people pay for coaching."

Actually, I was thinking "ohshitohshitohshit" but in retrospect... I don't understand fitness!

My Vermont result continued to pay off and despite a DNF at Gloucester Day 2 I was still 6th in the series and still on the front row. The whistle blew and I nailed the clip-in, it was hot, but apparently it wasn't perfect because Hunter crushed it off the line and took the lead into the first corner with me on his wheel.

I immediately remembered that Hunter and I are two guys who can't work together at all, because he blows me away on straightaways and holds me up in turns. The course starts twisty and I was terrified of getting swarmed by the 100 maniacs behind me, so I sprinted around him as soon as I could.

I led until the lower pavement and then predictably Hunter came back past me with a train of guys in his wake. I fought my way into second spot in line on the runup and stayed there for most of the first lap. Over the barriers I swung out to get a clean line and whoops, now I'm in front again. Yikes.

Back on the pavement after one lap I gave the lead back up and got back into racing smart. I hung out without major incident in the lead train of 8 or so guys until hitting the deck on the roots before the descent. It was a stupid thing where I slipped, put a foot down, thought "whew that was close" and then promptly smashed into the ground a second later.

Something was immediately not right with my right shifter. It was squishy and not changing gears, which meant getting over the rideup in a sweet 46x19 or something. I started sliding backwards. My shifting kept getting worse.

Passing by Linnea a few minutes later I brilliantly yelled "I might need your bike," so she was like "might??" and then I yelled "MAYBE" really loud, because saying something straightforward like "I NEED A DAMN PIT BIKE" would have been too easy.

Seconds later my shifting went completely down the tubes and I became a 46x19 single speeder for the rest of the lap. I come up near the pit and Linnea yells "the bike is in there" to me, all I can think is "why the hell aren't you holding it?" and of course the reason is because I said "maybe I need your bike" like the wishy-washy moron I am.

Sigh. Anyway, a quick changeover and I'm back in action, with a slightly higher seat and sloping top tube. This was immediately cause for excitement going over the barriers as I very nearly whiffed on the the tube grab and just barely avoided the bike-barrier-slam. I followed up this pro move by almost stuffing the remount by hitting the back of the (higher) saddle with my leg. I was a mess.

Luckily we had a good four laps left and there was plenty of traffic to hang out with while I figured out how to ride her bike. Cort pulled through and said something encouraging (typical), it seems like he always comes by me on lap 3 or 4 when I'm having my worst lap and he always something like "come on, get on my wheel." So I did. We rolled around in gruppo el Corto for a while, Toby the best bike handling triathlete evar was there too, along with Pat Goguen and probably some more chaps. We were moderately cooperative, I guess, although I'm not really the kind of guy who is very useful to a group like that since I don't pull very fast. At some point Toby tried to ride away and then immediately stacked it in the sand, which gave me the brilliant idea to try to ride it, which of course failed utterly and led to the first successful drive-side remount of my life (score?).

Then with one to go Toby attacked again through the start finish, I barely got his wheel and no one else made it. We went rocketing into the dirt corners and that's when I realized he can really ride a bike (see above). Luckily I can too, when I'm not snapping shifters in half, so I hung tight and waited for the big sprint at the end. We were pulling back Hunter and someone else, too, so there was definitely no cat-n-mouse.

Up the rideup I made the poor decision to follow his wheel, and when he hiccup'ed over the top I hit him and had to put a foot down. Arghhhh bad decision, three hops later I'm over the top but a quick four seconds down. He was going after Hunter hard so that was the end of that, I rolled through four seconds down on Toby and two seconds down on Hunter for 8th place.

After getting that nonsense out of the way it was time to scream at Linnea in the Elite race, and she did my cheers of "daddy needs a new shifter" proud by scoring a 10th place, 80 bucks, and the last UCI point.

Wait a minute, 80 bucks?? Jeez, I'm not even sure that will buy me a 105 "brifter," and Yash told me that stuff's for peons. WIN MORE MONEY NEXT TIME PLEASE.

Just another boxcar in the pain train

Northampton Day 1 2/3 Men Seat Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

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