Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Night Weasels Cometh

I did not race my bike this weekend.  It was a combination of post-24HOGGum depression and lack of appealing options.  This lead to some incredibly productive downtime, some of which even happened without the aid of caffeine.  Check it out.

I made the team site.  Did I mention that I started a team?  I think so.  So far they are a beautiful army of misfit cyclist who heed my beck and call.  This past weekend they kicked off the season and did hilariously poorly.  I already love them.  Except for Kevin.

The kits came in this week and they look fabulous.  One thing I forgot to mention last time I was gushing about them, these aren't the team kits so much as the website kits.  The team will be racing in skinsuits with a different but equally sexy color scheme.  If you were avoiding purchase of one of these because you didn't want to own the kit of team you don't race for... fear not.  This will just let people know that you like THE INTERNET, and especially RESULTS.  Which is a good thing to put out there when meeting new people.

Here are some true quotes from the first few folks to sport the kit publicly:

"Why yes, I did design this kit, ladies."
"I'm still wearing the kit I designed yaaaaaaaay"
"I probably shouldn't tell Embro James that my HR is 170 just wearing this kit."

If you want to join them in heart-rate-elevating sexiness, email me!  Quantities are surprisingly limited. 

Aside from all the teamsturbation I've been doing, Linnea, Chip and I have been cooking up a pretty exciting night race.  I've been trying to find a venue for a night race near Boston for over a year now, but after getting rudely squelched by Nashoba last year I'd kind of given up hope... until Chip-o-lini got involved this summer and started doing the dirty work of cold calling people on the phone and charming them into letting us use their property.

Chip hit the jackpot with Ski Ward in Shrewsbury.  They're close enough to Boston and Providence, (35/50 miles), they've got a huge amount of cross-rideable terrain under lights, and they're nearly as stoked on doing a cross race as we are.  It's pretty awesome to walk around a venue and have every single what-if question answered with a positive from the owner himself.

So it's totally on.  October 6th, the Wednesday between Gloucester and Providence.  I should stop writing this blog post right now and start filing USAC forms, but let's do a quick information dump before we go:

Race Schedule:
5:30 PM - Cat 4 Men (Merch, large bag of sand)
6:30 PM - Cat 3 Men (Merch, small bag of sand)
7:30 PM - Elite Women 1/2/3 ($1999/15)
7:30 PM - Cat 4 Women (Merch, possibility finishing on the lead lap, ziploc bag of sand)
8:30 PM - Elite Men 1/2/3 ($1999/15 + $175 bonus money for the top 40+ dudes)

Three dismounts per lap
Quite a bit of climbing, but we've got JD doing course consulting so it will be cool
Quite a bit of descending, and I'm a mountain biker so it will be cool
Richard Fries being Richard Fries staging
As many Pro riders as I can possibly bribe into attending

In short, it's basically going to be a Verge race.  But at night.  Should you be there?  HOLYSHITYES.

If this sounds so awesome that you and your business would like to be a title me, and I'll even throw in a kit on the side.  That's right, your employer/business could potentially be buying you one of those baller kits I started the post with.  Come on man, you read all the way to the end, you deserve it!

Course map by Linnea -- 100% accurate

Thursday, August 19, 2010

24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report

The 24 hours of Great Glen is pretty much the highlight of my summer mountain bike season. It's not so much a race as an experience... as most normal races don't involve days off work, night rides, light warrantees, loss of sleep before the race, loss of sleep during the race, loss of wakefulness after the race, and a total inability to get of your own way for the next 3 days.

Yeah, it's Thursday and I'm just getting around to the blog. Hey. At least I'm doing it at all.

So this year I finally got on a proper bikin' team, and lo and behold I have 3 teammates who ride mountain bikes fast, sometimes faster than me. A 24 hour pro team was a given, the only question was how much ass we were going to kick. Right?

Well, I like uncontested victories as much as the next guy, but Adam St G must not, since he had the audacity to register a 2nd pro team. Didn't he get the memo, only one pro team allowed?

We scouted their roster and it seemed like we had a chance. They had three guys our speed, and Justin Lindine. Ok, so Justin Lindine is lapping-me-in-a-cross-race fast, that's a problem, but let's say he beats our fastest guy by two minutes per lap -- we still only need 40 seconds per leg on the other three stay even. Pete Ostroski was taking 2 minutes a lap from us last year, and he's the fastest guy in New Hampshire. We can totally do this.

Yeah, well, then the race started, and we lost six minutes to Justin on lap one.

He did a faster lap including the run than anyone else did all day. As in, I could start from the tent and ride as hard as possible. Justin could start from the tent, run for three minutes around a pond, sit down, spend another minute practicing dance moves for when he gets the "fastest lap" prize, and then go ride as hard as possible. We would finish the lap at the same time.

Oh man, we are screwed.

But never say die! Kevin took back 50 seconds on lap two. I was amped up and rode lap three "Wilichoski-style," which is to say full gas, no finesse. 40 more seconds! Mike effectively tied Rob Stine on the final lap of the rotation and we were only down four minutes after four laps.

Then Justin took six more minutes from us. It's not that Greg was riding slowly, it's just that he was riding local-Cat-1-fast instead of pro fast. Justin was 13th at MTB Nationals in 2008. Why are we even in the pro race? Oh yeah, thanks, Kevin.

Fine. Time to quit worrying about Justin and start riding hard. Only 21 hours to go!

Kevin left it all out there to post the fastest team lap of the race, 36:59, and make up two minutes.

I rode a minute slower, but Greg and Mike both sped up, so rotation #2 was "better," in that we only dropped another 3 minutes on that go-round.

Justin took six minutes yet again on lap 9, but hey, shut up and ride your bike. We knocked out three more sub-39 laps (the highlight, of course, being me finally beating Kevin) and checked the leaderboard. Holy crap, the gap was down to two minutes?!

Adam had flatted, and Shawn had ridden a double, and just like that we'd made up ten minutes in three laps. Greg took another minute from Rob Stine, and suddenly it's 9pm and we are 30 seconds down.

We were close enough that Kevin actually got to see Justin run out of the tent starting lap 13. Of course he lost five minutes on that lap, but it's night now, lets see how it shakes out, huh?

Justin rode a double. It turns out that lap two of a double from Justin is still way, way faster than what any of us can ride, especially when my light turns off six times during the lap. By the four mile mark of the lap, I was holding my headlamp in my hand on the bars, just so I wouldn't die if my light turned off on a fast downhill.

In the technical section before mile five it turned off, and while I was trying to get my headlamp pointed down the trail I hit the dreaded roots-spaced-apart-at-exactly-wheelbase-distance. Wheee, I'm flying! Thud.

By the end of the lap I'd decided that having a light turning off was more distracting than not having one at all, so I was running handheld-headlamp only. Thanks to some lucky lapped-rider placement I was able to survive the plunge in this condition and finish up the lap in 41:17.

I took my tale of woe to the NiteRider truck, where it was swiftly diagnosed as a failing ballast (my light is a submarine?!) and replaced with a demo light. Score! Too bad we're back down 11 minutes.

At this point it was clear that they could pretty much bring Justin out for as many laps as necessary to secure the win, so we were riding for pride and pride alone. But HEY, don't accuse B2C2 of not having any pride, alright? I spend an entire cross season pining for the lead lap, might as well start practicing early.

And we held up pretty damn well! We were 14 minutes down after 19 laps. We were 14 minutes down after 35 laps, with two flats in that time span. We learned that Mike is the most ridiculously consistent 24 hour racer ever, with less than 2 minutes between best lap and worst lap. Kevin had his typical back-from-the-dead lap and dropped a 38:07 when the sun came up. I finished with four straight sub-40 laps (including one in the dark). And Greg... well, it's always nice to have someone around camp who is a total zombie, to remind you how much worse it could be.

Sample 6am conversation with Greg:

Greg: Ungggggggh. Time for my lap. I'm hungry.
Me: Did you eat?
Greg: Not really.
Me: Do you at least have an emergency gel with you?
Greg: Nah.
Me: Maybe you should take one.

(Greg leaves without a gel)

So, as expected we finished second. Adam's team finished lap 36 nineteen minutes ahead, good enough to start lap 37, while we missed the cutoff and only finished with 36. But make no mistake, we weren't lapped. And the two pro teams did exactly what "pro" teams should do: beat the rest of the field by four laps.

This is what it looked like:
But this is what it felt like:

...and now we have to come back and see if we can find 20 minutes next year. Or just break Justin's kneecaps.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gran Prix of Beverly Bar Cam

Amateur bike racing at its "finest."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gran Prix of Beverly Race Report

I think I decided to do this one last year, when they ran the first edition and everyone said "wow, that was like a cross race!" You can compare pretty much anything to 'cross and get me excited. If someone ever says "jury duty is like a cross race" I'm gonna be so disappointed.

We had a healthy 5-man team from Back Bay in attendance, myself, Kevin, Mike, Harrison and Avi. We were the 3rd largest team behind ECV and Minuteman, so we concluded prerace that "we better do some shit."

The only part of the plan that actually got enacted was the string it out early. We were those guys who get to the start line ten minutes early and staked out the front row, but with 3 turns of 90 degrees or more in the first quarter mile, I think this is a rare case in which it's a good idea.

We rolled out and I got the holeshot thanks to my mountain pedals. Wow, this IS like a cross race! I hit the first three turns, swung off, ECV guy comes through going HARD with three Back Bay riders on his wheel. Oh man we are totally dominating the beginning and almost certainly inconsequential part of this race!

On lap two Avi took over pulled for the entire lap at like 27 because HE WAS ALSO EXCITED. There was a crash in turn 3 (congrats on making it seven turns without a crash, Cat 4 field) which reminded us all why we were at the front. This crash turned out to be decidedly non-humorous with Nick from Threshold getting an ambulance ride for his participation in it. We were neutral for four minutes or so while the ambulance was blocking the course.

So, late start + two laps + neutral stoppage. Can YOU guess how long the race is going to be, after we restart? Hold that thought.

On the restart I was considerably further back in the field and tiptoed around a few corners in traffic, just long enough to decided I needed to get the hell out of there. I wouldn't say it was unsafe, it was just tedious, coasting for 10 seconds before each turn while your personal space got smaller and smaller.

Somewhere along the way a dude who could only be described as a huge piece of man got rolling off the front and proved surprisingly hard to bring back. I tried to bridge to him on a prime lap with no success, although I did just get a check in the mail informing me that it was a two-place prime. So that would be a success, huh? But it didn't feel like it at the time. Huge man kept on truckin' while I was gobbled up by the field.

Two laps later, he is STILL away solo when Matt from Threshold starts chasing hard. It's been three minutes since my horribly failed bridge so I should definitely get involved here. Getting involved ended up meaning "sitting on Matt's wheel for most of the lap, and then yelling 'NO!!' when he flicked his elbow at me."

At least I'm communicating!

So Matt's effort did bring back the monster man, and get him a prime as well, while I went back into the field to recover.

This was pretty much the state of things until I decided I should check the lap cards five minutes later. It's probably seven or eight to go, right?

WRONG. That bell isn't a prime lap, it's the final lap, because the lap cards say "1." And I'm 20th wheel. Didn't I just give Avi a lecture on how positioning would matter more than power in this race??

I would guess that half of the field (including Kevin, heh) didn't even know the race was ending, so that may have helped me move up. I punched it on the first backstretch, passed five or six guys, dive-bombed a Goguen on the turn, (#0326-D I think, but all the clones look the same to me), and suddenly found myself on Mike's wheel with under a k to go.

Greg has proved that riding Mike's wheel to victory is the best way out of Cat 4, so I took the opportunity for some rare team tactics to yell "Mike, drill it!"

Mike seemed hesitant, so I decided to repeat my instructions with an F-bomb added, which spurred my trusty steed into action. It turns out that all Mike had left was 10 seconds, but that was enough to move us up to 6th wheel. He finished his leadout by pulling off into the field and leaving me in the wind, because we really have no idea what we're doing. I fought my way into the draft and got ready to rail the last turn (ftw).

Last time I took a corner in a crit flat-out I ended up on the sidewalk. With that fresh in my mind, my line was considerably softer, and I didn't jump until I'd finished turning. This is not a good way to make four places in 150m, it turns out, so I could only pass two guys in the sprint and took third with an unnecessary bike throw:

But it was still enough to get a Cat 3 upgrade!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Darkhorse 40 Race Report

Last year, I did the Darkhorse 40. It was 90 degrees and humid. I flatted out like a chump after 15 miles, sparing myself a good 2 hours of suffering in the heat, and also allowing me to be back home in Boston by 4pm. This might be why I was convinced that the event was SO AWESOME that I HAD to come back this year, even though I could've just driven to the local Root 66 race just an hour away.

This probably sounds like a segue into "so it turns out the Darkhorse isn't awesome at all" but guess what, it's not! The Darkhorse rules, which is why it registration filled up three weeks ago.

My hotel companion was the lovely MegA, because Linnea has started transforming into a cyclocross killing machine and no longer has interest in 4 hour mountain bike races. It is August, after all.

It was Meg's first mountain bike race of the year and first-ever 40 mile mountain bike race, so I spread as much lies and false information about what was up as possible. Despite my best efforts, she ended up having fun and doing well!

This year they combined the pro field with the age-class cat 1 fields into a no-nonsense "Elite Men's" field. OTHER PROMOTERS TAKE NOTE! You can do this too!

We had 50 guys, and the guys I was most afraid of were all on rigid singlespeeds. Seriously. Harmon, Stine, and Montalbano were about to crush me without gears OR suspension. Well, that's annoying.

With minimal warmup in my legs and 40 miles to ride, I took it pretty easy at the start. We bottlenecked super hard at the first singletrack, of course, but I knew I was in for that -- what I wasn't expecting was the guy in front of me to start falling of the wheel ahead of him in the first mile of the race. At first I thought he was leaving some space ride to ride smoother, but when the gap grew to 20 meters it was go time.

Up to the next group and more of the same. My addiction to low-pressure, reverse-holeshot starts is starting to be a real problem. This time it's three guys letting the train go, and since it's nothing but SUPER SINGLETRACK in here I can't get around for a long time.

Eventually I broke free with on other guy who'd been similarly bottled up, but it's too late, we're on our own now. I can see one guy up the trail ahead and he promptly blows a right turn (four arrows! but it was at the crest of a hill, so I can see why he was looking down) and ignores me screaming at him to come back, so now I can't see anyone. 4 miles down, 36 mile TT to go. DO IT.

I soon realized that my modest breakfast was a huge mistake and I would be eating every one of the six gels in my jersey by the time this thing was done. My stomach was full of very little, least of all anger.

As a result I ignored the group of six that I eventually spotted up the road on the gravel climb. I am at peace with my pace. I am a zen master. I am one with my exertion. I will see you in twenty miles.

It took me most of lap one to close the gap to these guys, which was never more than thirty seconds (I timed it every chance I got; inner peace was not achieved). By the time I made contact they were far to strung out to be a group, but whatever, I had some guys to ride with.

Unfortunately, the two I caught first were in the throes of "omg we're not even half done" realizations and thus were riding slow as death in the tight singletrack. I once again tapped my inner zen master and rode slowly behind them for five or six minutes.

We finished the lap and I ditched my camelback, which was annoying my lower back, and threw a bottle in my jersey. My companions stopped for water as well, but I passed them on the road and soon found myself alone in the woods having apparently traded my camelback for ENERGY LEGS.

Mile 20 through 30 were amazing. The course seemed to be nothing but 2% downhill singletrack with berms. I was riding roughly 60 miles an hour through the woods in my 44x12 (do the math on how many RPMs I was spinning!) and passing the shit outta people. This feeling is why I'm addicted to starting slow...instead of bleeding slowly against the leaders, you get this idiotic notion that you might be gaining on them as you tear up the middle of the field.

Of course I wasn't, which was pointed out to me by some guy catching me from behind. He had flatted earlier and was going 70 mph to my 60. He had a black jersey. He was one bad motha. I did not stay with him for long.

Thus began my slide into the pain cave, as my gels fought a losing battle with my energy needs. ENERGY LEGS turned into WEAK LEGS turned into CRAMPY LEGS and hey, I'm ready to be done now.

With five miles to go my bike was starting to handle funny. I've only been racing bikes for what feels like my entire life, so figuring out what was going on was completely beyond me. Only when I went to hop a log at mile 36 and heard the dreaded "front-tire-fart-sound" did I realize what was going on. Slow leak.

And of course, my pump was in my camelback, back at the start line, so this one CO2 in my seat bag is my only chance. Fish it out, put it on the tire and... nothing. Empty. I've been thinking about this for 24 hours now and I still can't remember when I used it. Maybe the basement elves empty my CO2's while I sleep.

Well that makes it easy. Ride till it's flat and then start running. AND THEN COME BACK IN 2011 TO FINISH THIS STUPID RACE WITHOUT A MECHANICAL.

Somehow my tire sealed at 5psi and I was able to ride the last 3-4 miles. I was not, however, able to turn or descend with any kind of speed whatsoever. Twice I rode into the woods rather than attempt to turn under braking, for fear I'd burp the rest of my air out. As a result... eight guys (six elites, two singespeeds) passed me.

Good thing the riding was awesome, there was free beer & barbecue, and half of the field seemed to have flatted or missed a turn -- otherwise I'd be kind of upset about this. Oh, and by dropping to 14th elite, I was able to jet outta there early instead of sticking around to see if the promoters were crazy enough to pay 8th place. Because they probably are.

Say it with me: NEXT YEAR.

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