Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 Season Retrospective


Another glorious cross season has ended, and now I'm heading into the blog-sparse void of cross country skiing. I've already been on skis twice, and the initial prognosis is "this isn't going as bad as I thought it might," which isn't to say I'm feeling faster than, say, Alex.

But if you're anything like the typical reader you couldn't care less about the abuse my hip flexors are taking, you just want to hear about bikesbikesbikes. And that's cool, because this season was awesome... at least for me.

Despite my best efforts to race myself into oblivion, my body somehow made it to cross season still functioning and I ended up being a contender in 2/3 Men. As Cary has repeatedly reminded me, I was riding slowly in July, but somehow turned that into cross fitness by doing 24 hour races. Surprised and confused? Me too.

I added it up and I think I did 59 races this year.

9 "Real" Weekend ski races
7 Tuesday night ski races
13 Root 66 MTB races (11 XC, 2 short tracks)
2 24 hour races
4 other mtb races (King of Burlingame, Jay Winter Challenge, Ice Crit,Nationals)
1 Road race (Tour of the Hilltowns)
3 Dover TT's
20 cross races

That's pretty stupid, right?

I thought so. But, the other day Johnny Bold said this on the New England cross list:

I train 7 -8 hours a week....on a good week.


Just like me.

You know what else he does? Race every single damn weekend, from March to December.

Just like me.

I'm officially renaming my training plan to "Johnny Bold Style," as in "yeah, I didn't really ride my bike this week, but I've been on it Johnny-Bold-style since March so I'm not too worried."

Really though, it kind of makes sense. 58 races is a lot, but I'm not a big interval guy -- for no other reason than that I'm a big wuss who can't hurt much unless he has a number on. I'm positive that if you add together my race days and "hard workout" days it would be less than 100 for the year. And that doesn't sound like too much, I bet plenty of folks out there doing 30 races or less are still doing around 2 interval sessions a week for the 30 weeks of spring and summer, which would be about 90.

Empirically, it worked for me and it allegedly works for Johnny. Next time you set your alarm for stupid-o-clock so you can get up and do yet another AM interval session, think about this.

Questionable training "programs" aside, this year saw a tight battle for the final 2/3 Verge podium spot that went down to the last race. Here's the final standings:



Like any series that doesn't drop any scores, the tight overall races was decided by consistency more than head-to-head matchups. I beat Jeremy Dunn 6-2 in the races we both finished, but I flatted out of Gloucester Day 2 and rode like an idiot at Vermont Day 2, which gave him the upper hand. Lest this come out sounding like sour grapes, Brian did the exact same thing to me, so it's not like I was the third-fastest guy in the field, and as previously mentioned Jeremy partied all night with the series on the line, and still rode fast enough to keep 3rd.

I've used my massive social network to determine that Dylan, Jeremy, Brian and I are all planning to ride the elite races next year, and I can only assume the James Tosca will do the same after winning the series outright. Patterson is an unknown, I get the impression that he will either be incredibly fast or living in a cardboard box next season. Possibly both. If you take the top five out, he's going to slay the field, so I hope he either upgrades or gets slower.

Last year's top 5 basically retired from serious 'crossing instead of racing a full UCI season, which is a shame since the back end of the elite race definitely needs more pack fodder. That's actually what bothers me about upgrading, more than getting lapped, or riding 60 minutes, it's the prospect of switching from tight, group racing to lonely time trials. Hopefully we'll all stick with it, and maybe Ryan will quit hating his bike, so we can have a back-of-the-lead-lap party train, at least until Trebon and Johnson show up.

I had initially planned to do a 2008 version of the golden top mounts here, but I took the top mounts of my bike, and spent this entire post talking about how great I am. Which is not very great at all. Oops. Guess we'll have to get to that in a future episode.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The PVB Shirt Becomes a Collector's Item

Oh sure -- you might own a PVB Shirt, but is it signed? Could it fetch hundreds of dollars on ebay, if you were foolish enough to sell it?

I think not.


From RMM.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 Best of Seat Cam

Cross season is over! Here's my attempt at getting the holeshot on the rest of the blogosphere, in terms of season retrospectives.

Best of Seat Cam Edit 3 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Music: Justice - Genesis

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Ice Weasels Cometh -- Promoter/Race Report

Promoting a race is one of the hugest piles of work you can ever wander into. It's not hard to get any one of the millions things you have to do right. It is hard to get every single thing right. When people complain about races, or promoters, and other people jump on them for not promoting anything themselves, I can see why now. When you give up days, if not weeks of your life to make a bike race happen -- for free -- you don't take criticism very well.

But you know what? Screw that. No one's work should be above a fair critique, not when it's experienced by hundreds of racers. That's part of why it's so stressful, because if you screw it, you're going to let a lot of people down.

So if you thought any part of "my" race could have been better, feel free to let me know. And if you're thinking of promoting your own race sometime -- try to guess how much work it will take, and then triple that number.

The upside, of course, of running a race is a kickass sense of ownership, so when you see people taking waffle feeds, drinking beers, and screaming at racers, you can honestly think to yourself "I helped make this happen."

It makes you look like this:

(From MegA)

I will try to formalize what I've learned about running a race in a future post. If I had to summarize, though, I would say: Get Thom P to help you. Do this and everything else will work out.

Here is a brief list of things that made me happy on Saturday:

1) We had 17 Cat 4 women racing in 25 degree weather at 9:15 AM, including two girls who apparently decided to do this at the last minute and now want to do more cross.

2) We had 18 Singlespeeders including 3 women and framebuilding legend Chris Igleheart, who hadn't raced "since 1984." He also had a sweet bail trying to ride the mini barriers.

3) Meg probably wasn't the first person ever to pregame for a cross race, but it the first time I've seen it.

4) Dave Wilcox led the Elite Men's race for the first three laps, ahead of Alec-freaking-Donahue, while wearing a skinsuit with a shark fin.

5) There were at least 40 people spectating during the elite men's race, drinking beer, giving malt liquor feeds, giving waffle feeds, and generally creating one of the best atmospheres this side of a Verge race I've ever experienced.

6) I unwittingly built the official "get-gapped-by-Mike-Patrick" course feature -- a single barrier into a shallow, rough frozen run up. I came into this section, he rode the goddamn barrier while I dismounted and ran awkwardly up the hill. It took me the rest of the lap to close this gap down, which brought us back to, you guessed it, the same single-barrier hill again, which he rode again and gapped me again. After this happened for a third time I was unable to chase back on. I love it.

7) Matt cracked really badly at the end of the race and I caught him. I convinced him to do a beer feed with me, unfortunately the previously ubiquitous beer handup was nowhere to be found. Lots of yelling on our part got Rosey to bring a single cup of beer to the runup for us to fight for. The second Matt saw the single cup he put in a huge sprint while running and beat me to it handily, only to stop completely to drink it. I convinced him to give me a small part of it.

8) Long after the course had been set, I counted how many 180 degree turns the course took in the "house section" and came up with 22. We made a course with 22 freaking turns! That's one more than L'Alpe D'Huez. The awesome thing is, anyone who saw the venue knows how little space we had to work with, and how necessary that was. Sorry about that, long-wheelbase guys.

9) Dave Foley showed up with short shorts and a 56T ring on his singlespeed. Words fail me; just click that link.

10) With 2 minutes to start I realized I was wearing my long underwear over my bike shorts, under my windpants and I was going to have to take off my shoes and booties to remedy this. I managed to get all off, got my shoes back on, and jumped the tape to line up dead last, with no warmup, right as we got the 15 second warning. This allowed me to heckle 2/3rds of the field as I gradually moved up to 7th place over the course of the race. Actually making it to your race is a common promoter problem -- apparently Linnea didn't even know her field was going at noon until 11:45.

11) My idea to run the course through the mulch-covered garden (twice!) worked out really well, it didn't pack down and become boring, it rutted up and became difficult.

12) Mike Rowell pushed a supa huge gear in the singlespeed race because he took Thom P's gearing advice, which applies more to Verge 2/3 races and less to crazy-tight farm races. He pulled off third anyway, then grabbed his geared bike and crushed me -- and a lot of other folks -- with a 5th in the elite race.

In case you can't tell, I had a ton of fun. Next year, I want someone else do the actual work so I can just hang out and enjoy it.

In addition to all the volunteers from IBC who helped out, and all the individuals who helped out or just showed up and partied -- we were helped greatly by HUP United, Minuteman Road Club and Cambridge Bikes making a strong showing and sticking around to the very end.

It's funny how you do tons and tons of work trying to insure that your event will be a success -- and yet 90% of what defines success comes down to getting the fun people to show up. We could have done a million things wrong, but if you get beer and waffles and screaming to happen -- all your shortcomings will be forgiven.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ice Weasels Course Preview

Boston got two inches of rain in the last 24 hours. Tomorrow's high is 30. I got up at 5:30 today and it was still pouring. Heading down to the Ice Weasels course, I was expecting the worst -- a small lake that could potentially freeze for tomorrow, or perhaps a sea of mud so soggy it wouldn't freeze, just become unrideable.

My fears were completely misplaced. The dense grass in the field ATE UP that rain like it was no problem. After building the course today, I would say that already 85% of it is "fast" and only 15% is "soggy." With humidity dropping along with the temps, I would expect tomorrow to be completely dry and quite possibly frozen solid. This thing is gonna be fast.

So while you might live in a place that just declared a state of emergency, you might not have power, the fields outside might be covered with ice -- GET DOWN HERE tomorrow morning because the riding is gonna be GOOD, you don't need mud tires or studded tires or whatever else you were worried about.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NBX GP of Cross Day 2 Race Report

All week I had been hearing hype about the Sunday weather at NBX, the kind of hype that far outstrips what the weather forecast shows. People who get paid to predict the weather were calling for light snow and/or snow showers; people who pay to bike race calling for inches of pure ice and/or fatalities.

So, when I woke up to see it snowing lightly in Boston -- not even sticking to the ground -- I was feeling pretty smart for not buying into the hype. I loaded up the car with not one, not two, but three female cross racers and headed for Rhode Island.

Twenty minutes into the drive, the snow`was getting heavier, the lanes were getting whiter, and the cruise control was dropping along with my smugness.

We arrived in Rhode Island to a wet two-inch snowfall, the kind that packs down into a hard, slick surface, the kind of snow that makes you get your stupid rear-wheel drive SUV stuck on a small hump in the parking area, spinning your rear tires loudly in futility, alerting everyone to your vehicle's pathetic abilities and your own stubbornness.

When that guy finally got himself unstuck, I drove my little car through with no trouble.

The course was the "classic" Day 2 NBX course, the same start/finish as yesterday, but with a much longer second sand pit and a lot more dirt corners than the first course. This was the Rhode Island course I remember and loved, and now it had packed snow on it, it doesn't get any better than that.

But only one thing was stuck in my head from the day before, all I could think about was dying a slow death in the sand again, if Brian and friends dropped me yesterday in the sand they were sure to do it this time, right?

Well -- let's find out.

The pavement was free of snow, but loaded up with water, so the holeshot was disgusting, nothing but flying water, salt and dirt for everyone not leading. My forward-facing camera picked up some water on the lens and started flipping out, but the stupendous speed we were traveling helped clear it off and ended up creating a cool trippy effect, like what you'd see in a movie that had a dream sequence about racing cross. Just watch it.

I rolled into the opening sand pit in 5th and ran all over James Patterson on the way up, I was so impatient to go around him I remounted right at the very crest, still in the gear I had been racing on the pavement in. Pro tip: don't do this. The four guys ahead of me ran away and CCB's Jon Bernhard ran around while I was clunking along at 15 rpm.

Unlike the previous day the leaders were going out fast and I was already gapped, while the drafting was reduced it certainly wasn't absent. Some sketchy cornering got me back to the front group (check out the tape rubbing on the camera) which I then got gapped from AGAIN by almost eating snow exiting the hard, off-camber downhill. Chase back on. Sounds like yesterday already.

The big difference from yesterday was that behind me was a yawning chasm of open space, five or ten seconds back to 6th from our lead group of five on lap one. I thought to myself, "nice, stick with these guys for another lap and you'll be racing for fifth at worst!" and not thirty seconds later, Jon Bernhard and I got dropped during sand run #2, and that's the end of that line of reasoning.

Suddenly five or ten seconds seemed like no cushion at all, without McNicholas and Tosca dragging us along. I noticed on the switchbacks that the chase group was BIG. I DID NOT want to go back there.

Jon and I did something like "working together," where the guy drafting gets fed up with the pace and goes around, then realizes how much harder it is. Meanwhile the original leader is now drafting and thinks to himself "man I gotta go around, we're slowing down." Combine this logic with the short term memory of two goldfish and you have something approximating a paceline. Two laps of this process had us opening the gap steady over a dwindling chase group.

Unfortunately, one man was bringing across from that chase group and it was the guy I least wanted to see, Jeremy Dunn. As mentioned yesterday he was leading the race for third overall and I was 15 points down, so I need him to be many places behind me. Not just one place.

I felt like we were keeping it steady, but it wasn't enough, when I remounted early (again?? you idiot!) after the barriers I saw a flash of turquoise to my right and Dunn was there, running past me as I bogged down. He started to close the door, but I started to get on top of my gear. I hit his calf with my wheel to discourage him from cutting me off completely. He ran harder, and then, undoubtedly full of lactic from chasing hard for two laps and then sprinting, blew the remount and hit the snow.

I have never been so relieved in my life.

Our gap went back up to five seconds, and we went back to our "I could totally be going faster that this -- no, wait, no I can't" paceline.

With just under two laps to go I finally figured out how to ride the first sand pit, come in hot, maybe even hawt, in a wicked easy get and you could spin spin spin your way shockingly far up the hill, plus when you finally got off the bike your legs had just been doing 120 rpm and it was impossible to keep yourself from sprinting the rest of the way. I crested the top and immediately regretted my excitement, but after 20 years of "doing sports" I've finally figured out that it hurts for everyone. It took Jon quite a while to get back on my wheel, and Tosca had already flatted out of the race ahead of me -- I started thinking about podiums.

Of course while I was dreaming about podium girls, Jeremy was somehow bridging up to us AGAIN, and Jon happily drafting once again, so there was still plenty of hurt to be had. With one lap to go we were holding a tenuous five seconds or so over Jeremy and Jon went back to the front -- either in a brilliant attempt to stop me from repeating my spinny sand pit ride or a foolish move that gave me a rest just before the sand. You be the judge.

I threw down an attack just before the sand to get the clean line and spun like a man possessed, rounding the corner at the top I saw Jeremy running just on the other side of the tree -- while an uphill, sand run certainly foreshortens the gap, he was close.

This time I had a slightly bigger gap on Jon -- time to end. the. season. right. I sprinted out of every 180, I'd just be starting to accelerate when he was braking, oh man he's right there, gogogogo my brain screamed. Soon Jeremy overtook Jon, but it didn't matter to me, I was still barely surfing a three-second gap to stay on the podium.

Finally I hit the last sand run, all I had to do was kill it for third. A spectator yelled something about "he's got a flat" to me, and I saw Dylan running through the sand ahead. My lactic-addled brain thought that spectator was an idiot, Dylan was clearly running because he's in a sandpit, heck look at me, I'm running too and I don't have a flat! Man, that guy's stupid. I wonder why I can suddenly see Dylan, when the gap was 35 seconds two laps ago?

OH WAIT HE'S GOT A FLAT! WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE TELL ME?

I passed him to move into second and he ground along on his rim. Suddenly, it seemed as though I could make a miraculous leap to third overall -- I was riding in second place, Jeremy was fourth. Second place outscores fourth by 15 -- my deficit when the day began? 15. Ties are broken by the final race.

I'd like to pretend I did all this math while riding crosseyed for the last two minutes, but even I am not that much of a nerd.

A few more corners of all-out sprinting, we're talking about two shifts per acceleration here, and I got to the line, preserving my delicate four second lead over Jeremy and pulling off a better-to-be-lucky-than-good second place. Dylan faded to fourth -- not surprising when you're riding on 0 psi.

I ended up fourth overall for Verge 2/3 men. After the race I found out that Jeremy had been out partying until 4 am, which made me realize just what a huge pussy I am compared to some people.

There's a ton of "multimedia" from this race, check it out:

Thom wrote a ridiculous blog post that demonstrates how not racing for two months and eating nine thousand donuts can make your buddy podium'ing seem really cool.

Colt McElwaine made a moving video about the greatness that is Dave Chiu:

David Chiu from Colt McElwaine on Vimeo.

And of course, I took some handlebar cam:

NBX GP of Cross 2/3 Men Day 2 Lap 1 Handlebar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

I have a bunch of other post-Verge-series thoughts, but I have a freaking race to organize, so that will have to wait until later. If you haven't registered yet, you have 24 hours left. REGISTER NOW, IF ONLY FOR MY SANITY.

Crossresults.com -- Who's going to win Nationals?

Cross nationals are theoretically a great place to test the legitimacy of crossresults.com's points system -- it's the only time of the year when racers from every part of the country go head-to-head against each other. If the points system could correctly predict where a New Englander matches up against a Portlander -- and where they both fall against a ride from Kansas City -- then we'd really have something.

After running the points against almost every field out there, it was interesting to see what percentage of riders were unranked in the crossresults.com database -- almost 50% of non-elite riders. This is a good thing, really it is, because it means cross is even bigger than I realized. There were 80+ races added to crossresults.com in November, and it's quite possible there's 80 more we don't know about yet.

So, the first disclaimer is that we're only looking at about half the data.

Let's check out the women's race. Common sense should tell you that this is a two-woman race between Georgia Gould and Katie Compton. Here's your top 7:

Georgia Gould 248.532002836
Rachel Lloyd 266.668229669
Kelli Emmett 284.587457081
Sue Butler 290.630611044
Katie COMPTON 291.063175498
Laura Van Gilder 300.012391789
Maureen Bruno-Roy 303.89

How the heck is Katie ranked so low?? One word -- quantity. Katie's done (according to us) six races this year, and half of those were in Europe. When she's actually on this side of the pond, she's dominated Georgia, but when she's in Europe she's doing not quite as well, against competition without quite as low points. Meanwhile Gould has been killing the much more established (in our numbers' eyes, at least) women's scene stateside.

Yep, another flaw. We've only been tracking European races for a season -- things are still stabilizing over there. Remember that all elite women, regardless of intrinsic awesomeness, are worth 440 points the first time we see them. That's why winning a World Cup can be worth 287 points but winning a USGP is 246 -- we have a lot more data about the US scene, and the algorithm can tell that USGPs have all the best riders.

The other problem is that the European racers and North Americans don't cross-pollinate enough. If they raced each other regularly, the points would "match up" quickly, and soon Hanka or Daphny would be at the top of the charts by "stealing" the low points from the top US riders. But if they never race, the system just doesn't know! Seeing a rider like Compton go from being cream-of-the-crop here to cream-of-the-crop there (she's got two wins and a second in Europe, you know) doesn't give enough information about the relative speed of the fields.

I don't think anyone will argue that the racing is faster in Europe, but I'm not about to "hack" the points to reflect this.

If you look at the head-to-head matchups between the top 5, you can see how much this is Compton's race to lose - she's 4-1 against everyone else combined, with her lone "loss" being the World Cup she DNF'ed from. Georgia Gould hasn't lost to anyone in that group since USGP #1 -- she is as much a shoo-in for 2nd and Compton is for first.

With Lloyd leading Emmett by another 22 points, it's safe to say that the top 3 is most likely to look like this:

1)Compton
2)Gould
3)Lloyd

The men's race is, unsurprisingly, less cut-and-dried. Here's your top seven:

Todd Wells 129.666681648
Tim Johnson 130.063377424
Jeremy Powers 135.700068861
Andy Jacques-Maynes 150.424373869
Ryan Trebon 150.461717657
James Driscoll 152.700823423
Troy Wells 152.978070

The men's field is way tighter. But the top men have barely half the points of the top women -- so the points gaps, as a percentage, are actually similar. Look at the 15-point drop from Jeremy Powers in 3rd to Andy Jacques-Maynes in fourth -- that's over 10%.

And it matches up with common sense, too -- if Andy, Jamie or Troy Wells won Nationals it would be a huge upset. Those guys are 10% back of the leaders on points. You can effectively remove them from contention.

You probably noticed that I didn't put Trebon in that group, despite his points score of "only" 150. This number should be surprising to you, because Tree Farm is a favorite on just about every nationals prediction out there. Why does the crossresults.com points system hate him?

Unfortunately, there's a blip in Trebon's race history where he apparently decided to go back to Portland to "have fun." A good way to loosen up during an otherwise intense cross season -- but a terrible way to impress the points system. In Portland he had the following results:

SSCXWC SINGLE SPEED MEN 8 (277.3)
Cross Crusade #7 Singlespeed Kona 1 (228.72)
Cross Crusade #7 Category A Kona 1 (180.11)

The points system rightly detected that the SSWC race was full of clowns, and placing 8th against a bunch of clowns is baaaaad. Luckily Trebon gets to drop that one, but now he's used his drop -- so winning such B-quality races as Singlespeed and A's at a cross crusade goes on his points. That's right -- winning two cross crusade races, in the same day, is still bad for your points when you're as good as Trebon. It's basically like a A racer winning a C race -- the points algorithm scores you as "slightly faster" than second place, when in reality you were miles ahead.

Drop those two results and Tree Farm's points would be 130.14. Sound better?

With that issue out of the way, we're left at Wells, Johnson and Trebon in a dead heat with Powers slightly behind. Check them out head-to-head.

You can see why Powers is trailing -- against these three opponents he only has 3 win in 18 tries when at least one of them is present. He's never won when all 3 were there. While he's in the discussion -- he's definitely the outsider. Him winning Nats would be a minor upset.

Drop him from the comparison and you'll see how it's almost a dead heat... between Trebon and Johnson. Shocking, I know.

Trebon has won 8 in 17 tries. Johnson has won 7 in 15 tries. Wells is only 3 for 13 -- so now he's the outsider. The prediction is, then:

1) Trebon, by virtue of going 8-6 head to head against Johnson this year
2) Johnson
3) Wells
4) Powers

Isn't that some boring stuff? Did you really need this much math to determine that?

But wait, you ask, what about Jonathan Page? What's his deal?

Sadly he's suffering from the same Euro-competitive-imbalance Katie is. He's ranked a piddling 25th, with 206 points. There's no way JP will be 25th in this race, but with hardly going up against Trebon and Johnson this year, there's no way to know how close to the front 206 European points will put you.

Don't like it? Get the Euros to come here -- or North Americans to go THERE -- and it would all straighten out in about 8 races. Just like everyone else, I can't wait to see how Page does here.

This "article" should have revealed the biggest flaw in crossresults.com's points -- separate bodies of racers that don't meet up often enough to stay "connected." This affects European and North American elite riders -- but also New England and Californian masters riders. Within a population of riders who race regularly, it's often an amazingly accurate summary of an entire season, but across multiple populations it's only an approximation. Getting beat at KC by a guy with 40 more points than you shouldn't hurt too badly -- unless he's from your home region.

The off-season should see a few tweaks to the points algorithm, but there's no way to fix the "separate populations" issue without adding a lot bias, which would be even worse -- because then instead of defending my vague math here, I'd have to defend my personal judgement.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NBX GP of Cross Day 1 Race Report

Updated: Video Fixes

The NBX Verge races at Goddard Park have always been my favorites of the Verge series. The best sand, the tightest turns, and the most burned out competition means I almost always pull of a good result. Last year I finally got my first Verge points here, and the year before it was my first respectable B race ever. That's right, I'm into my third year of blogging and I still don't do anything except write ridiculously long race reports and talk about myself. I'd apologize further, but you're the sucker reading this.

NBX-praise aside, the Saturday course was about the least Colin-friendly thing they could build there. I believe they were trying to develop a nice contrast between the days (power day 1, technique day 2) with this setup, which is a legit goal, but not the kind of thing that I dream about racing on. In my ideal world, straightaways longer than 100 meters would be UCI-illegal, and the Saturday course was basically long straights connected by one or two technical corners. Every time I'd have the bright idea to get to the front and try to attack the corners I'd realize that there just weren't enough to do any damage before getting back into the open. The life of a mountain biker is hard, I'm buying a power meter.

Unlike previous years, we had a strong turnout here, I think around 80 (!) prereged. Last year when I got 12th there were only 55 guys or so, which cheapened it a little, but this year NBX was BIG. If you weren't there you missed a great time.

I was a tad slow on the start, or maybe other guys were a tad fast, whatever happened I was back to 8th or so just five pedal strokes off the line. Luckily, the guys in 2nd-7th were all satisfied with their positions, so I freaked out like it was a finishing sprint and moved up to 2nd. Oh holeshot, why are you so tempting?

Hunter P led the field though the first sand run and first tech sections with me sitting second wheel. As previously discussed I find riding behind him a challenge and today was no exception, first I'd be like "auugh why are we braking here?!" and have to shoot to the outside, and then I look up and he's already got two bike length on the next straight, "auuuuughhh why are we sprinting here?!"

Nevertheless I stayed on the wheel enough to be the first guy he looked at on the road, when he realized he was towing 20 people. He swung out and I kind of looked the other way and whistled innocently, oh, you couldn't possible want little ole me to pull now, could you?? I stalled a little bit and then took the lead at the end of the second pavement into the big off-camber turn, if I'm gonna be on the front it will at least be into a hard corner!

My time on the front was short-lived, as a motivated James Tosca quickly took the lead on the next power section. I was happy to oblige. Soon after that, the generally unbeatable Dylan McNicholas came around to lead, and you could kind of sense the whole field thinking "ok, now it's go time." We still had a monster 20-person group going at the front, and the guys at the back were about to feel some serious whip-cracking pain, right?

I was positioned as second wheel so I was ready for it, I figured riding Dylan's wheel until I detonated was the ticket, but strangely enough he just led us around at a moderate pace for nearly a lap. Guess he wasn't joking about not feeling it today. Finally on the upper road section he decided to put in an effort, I was right on his wheel, I saw the gear change, I was ready, and I still almost got gapped. Somewhere behind us the elastic broke and the 20-rider front group was down to seven or so.

We still kept sitting on Dylan, that's the price you pay for sandbagging dominating the crap out of 2/3's, we look to you for guidance! After another lap of hard but not insane exertion, the front group had gain a bit in size and Brian caught back on. He quickly decided that the group was too big and hit the front hard on the road section. This was another one I saw coming that still hurt like hell, in fact, this is where the race turned from me being in control of things, sitting second wheel, to hanging on to whatever body was in front of me. Brian's attack stretched it out again, and I was the last guy to stay in tight contact, with Todd Burns, Hunter and Pat Goguen strung out behind me (thanks, seat cam!).

While I was clinging for dear life to the lead group, somehow Todd bridged across to it, and he quickly realized that I was not the wheel to follow. He moved around, relegating me to 5th, and if I had been cheering at this point I would have screamed at myself "get off the back (you idiot)." And I did want to get off the back, believe me, but soon enough my goals had changed to "get back on the back" as I started getting gapped on the sand runs, and I started having to DRILL. IT. after them close up. You've probably never read the phrase "then I drilled it on the straightaway" here, so yeah, this was getting pretty taxing for me.

I wasn't the only guy doing it though, the seat cam revealed Pat Goguen putting in an insane effort to close a 50 yard gap to us on the upper road. He briefly made contact, but staying on after a sprint like that is really really hard, as I was currently proving.

So he popped off, and then I popped off, then I sprinted back on, and the pace stayed stupid-fast because Dylan, James and Brian were basically punching each other in the face up front.

Finally with just under two to go we hit the uphill sand run with me tailgunning, Brian was fourth, and somehow a gap had opened in front of him. He put it into overdrive, and since there's not exactly a draft while running, kindly transferred the three-second gap back to me. This was about the 4th time I had gotten broken off in the sand, but this time I wasn't coming back, it was time-trial-to-the-finish time.

There was a nasty looking group of six guys behind me, luckily with 1.5 laps of power sections left and a 30 second lead on them it was a holdable gap, such is benefit of getting dragged around by Dylan's group for most of the race. I tried to focus on putting in harder-than-usual efforts on the road, which isn't saying much, but was enough to keep the dogs at bay and get me to the finish line for fifth place.


NBX GP of Cross Day 1 2/3 Men Lap 1-2 Seat Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.


NBX GP of Cross Day 1 2/3 Men Lap 3/4 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Post-race we had tightened up the battle for third, the current standings were:

Jeremy Dunn 152
Brian Lawney 150
Colin Reuter 137
James Patterson 118

SO MUCH DRAMA!

After recovering from hypothermia I screamed obscenties at Linnea and provided helpful advice like "close the gap," and of course she did a much better job of that than I did in my race, so she ended up 10th. With more money and UCI points. As always.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Race Promoter Freakout Time


About a month ago Linnea and I started kicking around the idea of trying to host a cross race somewhere around Boston in December. I figured, keep it simple, keep it cheap, make it CLOSE to Boston and you're guaranteed a big enough turnout to cover your expenses. Simple, cheap, close. Only one problem -- where the heck are you gonna do it?

There's plenty of parks "inside the 95 ring" that would be great. Of course, how many of them could we get access to? Running a race in a public park requires talking to the authorities. I hate talking to the authorities -- so much that I let my car registration expire... three months ago. Trying to scrape up a venue on short notice seemed like too much hassle, too many phone calls trying to explain what cross was, too many conversations where I'd have to avoid mentioning that a cross race on a rainy day is going to make your park look like hell for a few months.

Then I made the brilliant decision to ask retired-from-cross Thom if he had any leads on a venue around here, after all, the guy's been living here his half his life and probably been chased off every piece of property in Wellesley. If that doesn't develop "rapport" with local landowners, what does?

Strangely enough, he DID have a venue idea. His grandmother's farm. I was skeptical, because the average septuagenarian is more interested in keeping kids off their lawn than inviting bike racers on. But he was right -- her exact quote was "anything that breathes life into this place is fine by me."

So here we are. Once we had a venue*, there was no reversing course, you can't leave someone's grandmother hanging after you beg to tear up her farm, you know? Luckily at this point Thom was at least as amped up as we were, so it all came together in a frantic week. Rob and Todd from MRC gave me the lowdown on Portajohns, and sneaking the forms past USA Cycling. International Bikes gave us the green light to start putting stuff on the shop's credit card. JD Bilodeau hooked me up with 500 step ins (no stake-pounding for this guy!), course tape and numbers. Just like that, it's on, for reals.

That's when things started getting out of control. We'd done the bare minimum and I was ready to run a simple race, get people out here and have some fun. But Thom's crazy, and he knows a lot of people in the bike industry, and he works in a bike shop in November. Do you know how little there is to do in a bike shop in November? It leaves you with plenty of time to turn Colin's simple little race into a monstrous production.

It started when we were talking about pits. Diane wanted to know how many pits we were going to have, I checked with Thom to make sure we could run a double pit somewhere, and he said something like "yeah we can run a double pit, it will be good for the Mavic guys anyway." Excuse me? We now have neutral support.

Then we had a discussion about the location, gee, can we really do parking in this area, can we do a kids course here? Nope, can't park here, turns out this is going to be the area for the vendors. We have vendors now?! Cupcakes, organic food, a popcorn vendor??

This week I get another email from crazy co-promoter-guy, we were scoping out the sheltered areas to try to figure out where we could do registration last I knew. But it turns out registration has moved inside a heated garage and the sheltered barn area is going to be a "trainer dance party." Because Saris is bringing us 10 trainers. Thom knows a guy.

Today's email? For some reason some "Mark" guy isn't going to Nats and lives just down the street, so he's going to show up. Everything I said about the 1/2/3 race not being fast -- that was a lie.

At this point, I'm just waiting for Thom to tell me that we have been approved for UCI C1 status and that Sven is waiting on the start contract to book a flight.

Trainers. Vendors. Propane heaters. Neutral support. 500 step ins, 12 rolls of course tape, freshly painted barriers. A new field (Cat 4 women). This is so much bigger than I was dreaming about. This shit is legit.

Dear god. What if we screw it up? What if our course is too short? What if it's too flat? What if no one shows up? What if everyone shows up? What if it snows? What's if it's really cold?? What if we lose all of IBC's money? What if someone gets hurt?

I might not sleep for the next seven days. Want to help? Go preregister, so I at least know how crazy -- or not crazy -- this is going to be.


* - Did you know that consuming beverages of any kind is completely legal because we're on private property? Unless the officials see you, that is. A handup is a handup, regardless of its benefit to the racer!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Things that are On

The race for 3rd overall in VERGE 2/3 Men:


I don't know if there's a prize, nor does it matter.

Baystate Cyclocross Race Report

It's been a "fun" November. Since Northampton I was sick, then I kind of sucked, then I sucked a bit less. If you click those links you will not find awe-inspiring tales of me overcoming adversity... but you will find enough bad results that Richard Fries told me I was "inconsistent," so apparently it's kind of noticeable.

Anyway. The expectations for Sterling were pretty tepid, the plan was to convert a front row start into a decent position and try to hang onto the top ten to stay on the front row in Rhode Island next week. That's right, the NBX courses are so suited to me, er, awesome, that my goal here was basically "don't drop out of the top 8 in the series."

Unlike last year's debacle there were some things in my favor, the Baystate course crew had made the course waaay tighter than years past (thanks C Todd!) and a hard overnight frost was melting into a layer of slime on top of ice in some crucial areas. It was far more technical than in years past. The horse jump was downright terrifying because of how icy and slippery the ground in the dismount area was, it was impossible to speed-check with your feet, whatever speed you got off the bike at was how fast you were going to have to scale the jump. I discovered this on the preride lap and ended up running past the jump entirely, into a pricker bush.

We lined up in an inch of softening mud on the track and got ready for a disgusting opening lap. With the monster runup coming just a minute into the race, we all wanted to get there first, so the track lap was HOT, and also BLINDING thanks to gallons of water being thrown airborne every second. Everyone except the first wheel was eating mud, and I was not the first wheel.

Over the top and down into the horse jump I was hanging in, around 6th or so, when one of the Nantucket Velo guys did exactly what I did on the preride lap, bobble after dismounting at 1000 miles per hour on ice. I think his body survived but his bike definitely made a huge impact on SOMETHING, the jump probably. Anyway, free place, and another reminder that I would be taking that spot carefully for the remainder of the race.

Ten seconds later we headed into the icy corner zone with Slim Patterson leading, and his attempts to corner like a pro downhiller put him on the ground in a hurry because he's only a semi-pro. I moved up to fourth with Tosca, Pronovost and McNicholas ahead.

This is where my lack of confidence, thanks to three weeks of stinking up the joint, screwed me, because Dylan was in it to win it from the gun and we were cranking, going so fast I cleaned the rideup easily, in the 46 ring. I got slightly gapped after the barriers and made the "business decision" to let them go, I was happy with fourth and there was a long time left. In retrospect I feel like a chump, but at the time my legs hurt a lot. You know how it is.

Slim came back through at some point so I sat on his wheel, I figured after his results at Noho and USGP he was a sure ticket to the front of the race... but a lap later the train of guys we were towing kept growing, and I was feeling far too recovered so I had to go around. The train came with me and Slim drifted back.

Soon after a Lee-McCrae kid on Thanksgiving break came through going fast, he'd probably come off the back row and he was probably a lot faster than us. I continued my plan of "don't cover anything because you're scared of blowing up," and this time it actually worked because he crashed after opening up a decent gap and we brought him back. I think he crashed again later, too, which was fortunate since he had obscene amounts of power when the rubber side was down.

Eventually the guys up the road broke up, because riding with Dylan will do that to you, so we were steadily gaining on Hunter in third place. There was definitely drafting available and I was once again a bit recovered, so I tried to make an "attack" and "bridge across" to him after someone told us the gap was thirteen seconds. A lap of above average pain later, I made it. Man I am so smart, I will just sit on his wheel and then attack again and ride away with third place, yay! Except, not a minute later the rest of the old group showed up and we had four or guys together racing for third.

The tough course conditions and intermittent power sections kept the order changing, it appeared my companions were all of the "big power" variety so I spent a fair amount of time groveling on the back of train, and then moving up on the corners or when people crashed. Eventually with just over one to go the pace picked up enough that we started to drop Hunter, alas I was tail gunning so I also got dropped... that would be why I usually scream "get off the back" at people when I'm cheering. Some hard work and a scary-fast barrier entry got me back to the other two, Lees McCrae guy and Nantucket Velo's Todd Burns.

I was trying to figure out how the heck I was going to win the race for 3rd against these two guys, since LM guy had been flying on the road and Todd Burns has been previously noted here for being a "pile of muscle," and the last minute of Sterling is very roadie-friendly. My problem was partially simplified by LM guy turning on the jets with half a lap to go, apparently he had a lot in reserve, and he ended up putting 13 seconds on us by the finish. So it was down to me against Todd.

I was resigned to trying to win a sprint because the only other place that I thought I could make a move was at the barriers, and trying to stick a gap from there was gonna "hurt wicked bad." But then, he bobbled on the rideup and I got a small gap, giving me a chance to try to stick a gap from even further out.

So I hurt wicked bad for three minutes, and hung onto a four second gap and fourth place.

Linnea's race didn't go nearly as well, apparently sleeping for three hours in the car on race morning is not a recipe for success, while drinking tons of coffee and slapping yourself to stay awake is. Duly noted.

On Sunday I had high hopes to head for Palmer for some local-1/2/3-race throwdown action, but the check engine light in my car came on, and Matty O was offerring a 3-hour cross ride in the woods instead. When he mentioned that "Tim and Lyne" were coming that pretty much sealed the deal, so Linnea and I undertook the "Superfan challenge" on Sunday, where you ride around with two of the best cross racers ever to come out of North America and try not to be obviously giddy the entire time. I think we succeeded, but it wasn't easy.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly when I came into a recently melted, muddy, sweeping turn next to Tim and thought to myself, "oh crap, don't crash right next to Tim freaking Johnson!" and then immediately laid it down, sliding a good twenty feet and coating myself in mud. He thought it was hilarious, but only because I was on the outside. B racer crashing himself: funny. B racer ending your season: not funny.

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