Thursday, May 26, 2011

Glocester Grind Bar Cam

I started experimenting with running the bar cam in mountain bike races.  Not sure how I feel about it yet.  There's lots of action, but it requires a lot of editing to pull together, unlike cross where you can just show lap one and it's wheel-to-wheel madness.  But hey, here's some stuff!  Highlights include Dan Ward hitting a tree around 3:15,  Will vs a Rock Garden at 4:20 (heh heh) and me smashing my knee/cursing loudly at 4:40.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Weeping Willow Race Report

I did this one last year and it was so awesome that I told all my MTB-owning-but-never-racing friends that this was THE RACE for them to do in 2011. Seriously, I got the "what MTB races should I check out?" question from a multitude of sources this offseason, and I told EVERYONE about THE WILLOW.

...and then they changed the course to have tons of doubletrack. Doh!

But the non-doubletrack sections were still dope enough for me to forgive them. But not enough to keep me from registering my preference for the 2010 course over 2011 on the internet!

ANYWAY. Twenty guys showed up to race DA BIKES in the elite class (and 440 people total!) and just like last week there was a woeful shortage of scrubs. Mike Wissell made an early bid for "scrub" status by somehow finding an off-camber on the doubletrack start and nearly crashing on it, but then he chased back onto my wheel (which was nearly the last wheel) as we hit the singletrack.

And immediately... some dudes let huge gaps open, because now we had to STEER. Thanks, dudes. This must be why other people were sprinting. That's ok, I didn't want to beat Kevin anyway.

I tooled around with Mike and Will on my tail while I tried to figure out how to get past the non-steering dude(s). Then there was a random and inexplicable crash, and suddenly I was free! I pedaled as hard as I could while yelling "Sweeney, wait for meeeeeee," but it didn't matter, Kevin was gone and on his way to putting five (!!!) minutes into me.

Meanwhile Mike and Will rode directly behind me and we had a cheesey and useless B2C2 team time trial going on. I was able to use an overtrained Mike Rowell (is there any other kind?) as a blockade to briefly get away from them, but then we hit the MONSTER DOUBLE TRACK SECTION and Mike effortlessly towed Will back up to me.

This made me realize that maybe I should try doing some of these 20-hour weeks Mike likes to do. And that I was going to have a problem in about an hour, because Mike DOESN'T GET TIRED. He's like a budding Alec Petro.

But me, I get tired like it's my job. So I hung out on Mike's wheel in a desperate attempt to not get tired. Will and his dad legs did the same to me, and after one lap the team time trial was in full effect.

Somewhere on lap two we gapped Will and I breathed a sigh of relief, because I was worried about getting beat by a guy who trains by sleeping 4 hours and night and changing diapers. Mike, on the other hand, has not reproduced, and was abusing me mercilessly. He had a sweet crash that might've been my opening, but he cleverly blocked the entire trail with his bike while ejecting from it and I couldn't get past.

At least when we got to the double track section, I was already set up to draft him like a jerk. Which I did. We talked a lot, mainly about how we were glad that Will was gone. Teammates!

Right about the time I was approaching a solid hour of looking at Mike's butt, he crashed again (now on lap three) and it was HILARIOUS. He hit a wet root, then a tree, and the blew up like he had ridden over a land mine. In between laughing I determined that he was okay, and then it was time to FLEE.

I rode the last 30 minutes looking backward every 10 seconds and pedaling as hard as I could, which became increasingly less hard with time. I also lapped roughly a bazillion sport riders, which was super fun for me, and super fun for them if they liked sketchy passes. I tried to compensate for my passing style by heckling people I knew and being jovial to everyone else.

Any time I wasn't talking to/at sport riders I was praying for death, because it had been two hours and my stupid body has no endurance, because the stupid guy who lives in it never does any long rides.

Instead of death I found the finish line, in 8th out of 17 finishers. Kevin managed to completely change his clothes in the 5 minutes he had to spare, which was annoying, but Mike and Will weren't there yet, so I bet they were even more annoyed. Eventually we all finished and drank beers and Red Bull until I felt sick. Because that's what MTB is about!

Bar Cam Snapshot:  Mike is in way too much of a hurry to use bridges.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Glocester Grind Race Report

You can tell I drank coffee before I wrote this, because I used half as many commas as I should've.  I'm not fixing it.

I have a problem.  I really like the Glocester Grind.  It's rocky-rooty-technical, like get-off-your-bike-and-run-hard in places, and that's when it's NOT raining.  It rained the night before.  Holy crap this was going to be awesome!  Bike racing!!

Despite a competing MTB race on the same day (do we really have to have this problem every season, guys?), we still rallied a 19-rider elite field and a disturbing lack of SCRUBS in it.  Will Crissman, Jeff Landfried and I discussed the lack of scrubs on the start line, and drew the unfortunate conclusion that anytime you can't figure out who the scrubs are, that means you're one of them.

Then the race started and I never saw like, uh, half the field again.  Like I was saying.

Will and I had talked about how we were going to be chill, though, and how pedaling hard to get a good position on lap one is for losers, so it was all part of the plan.  We duffed around in traffic for a while and then we got to a totally unrideable mudpit/rooty/rock garden thing.  Since none of us were Kevin Hines we all had to get off and start running.

As everyone knows, the race is won during the running sections in the first ten minutes so we were all bookin it like it was a cross race when I slipped on a mud-covered slanted rock and used every part of my body that wasn't my knee to body-slam my knee into said rock.

Unlike my shoe, my knee got quite excellent traction on the rock and shaved a nice layer of itself off when this happened.

Then I had those 10 seconds where you look at a mud-covered injury you've just acquired and try to figure out how bad it is.

Eventually I determined that it was merely a flesh wound I started pedaling my bike again.   Ten minutes later, the pain from my legs started overshadowing the pain from my knee, and then I started racing my bike again.

I rode behind Will for a bit and harassed him verbally, because Kevin Sweeney wasn't present and I cannot do mountain bike races without annoying my teammates.  Eventually I tired of this and rode off to find other people to annoy.

I found Jeff and Paul Simoes and we hung out for a bit.  I passed Jeff, he said something, I looked backward to talk to him for some dumb reason and almost rode straight into a tree.  I might officially be too relaxed about bike racing at this point.  Focus, Colin!

Now that I'm old I should probably start warming up, because around the 40 minute mark I suddenly started to feel GOOD.  So I passed Paul with my sudden old man power and started kicking asses.  I could see John Foley, who is way better than me, up the trail, which was confusing.  Turns out he crashed early and was pretty much crippled or something from that.  Whatever.

Then out of nowhere it started FREAKIN POURING RAIN and I had to ride even faster so I could catch up to John and tell someone how RAD it was.  He humored my midrace discussion of RADNESS and the course when from slippery to greasy and it was good.

Somewhere along the line I lapped Lauren Kling who I gave a ride to the race and yelled at her about how rad it was.  And since she is even more excitable than me, she yelled back about radness and hanging out.  So I said "yeah come on let's hang out" and then I DRILLED IT and DROPPED HER because that's how I flirt with girls.  Or something.

So lap three was pretty rad, because the coefficient of friction was basically zero and you could only turn by hitting rocks.  Luckily there were a lot of rocks to hit, so I kept moving pretty good and riding with Foley (!!!).  He was being a party-pooper and running all the rock gardens REALLY FAST, so I would triumphantly clean an insane rock garden, and not only was he not watching how awesome I was, he was now FIVE SECONDS AHEAD and I would have to chase him down.

But somehow I kept chasing him down, which really confused me, because the closest I ever get to him in most races is the start line.

Starting lap four he set up kinda wimpy for a turn and I had the bright idea that I would take the lead and use my mad technical skills to pull away.  So I dove for the inside line, and my mad technical skills didn't realize how greasy the exit was until I was already next to him.  Thus I laid it down and my bike slid under him while was trying to peacefully ride his bike around a turn.  He fell on top of me and then I played a game called "apologize as many times as you can in ten seconds."

BIKE RACING!

My chain was off so he got a gap, and wisely decided that maybe he should ride a little harder before I caught up and crashed him with terrible line selection yet again.

The course at this point had turned from greasy to sloggy and my legs, tires and back were no longer enthusiastic about dealing with it.  I limped around for one last lap while other guys broke their bikes (Timmy D, Matty O) and snuck into 7th position overall, which is somewhat non-scrubby in a field of 19 people, I would like to think.


After the race I futilely attempted to clean my wound in a stagnant body of water, and then non-futilely attempted to drink a beer that Rob Stine gave me.

Here I am telling Christine that I am already washed, dressed and boozin' while she has just finished:


Right after this photo I squeezed her tire and almost threw up.  Roadies, listen to me!

[obnoxious mtb'er elitism]
If you had incredible problems handling your bike at the Grind, and you had more than 25 psi in your tires, that's your problem.  If you were afraid to go below 25 psi because it's 2011 and you still put tubes in your MTB tires...that's your other problem.  For reference, I had 18 front/20 rear.
[end cockery]

Any day I get a top-half finish in elite AND get to dig mud out of an open wound in a puddle is a good day.  Thanks, Glocester!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blue Hills Race Report

Note:  this is the same report I posted on the Back Bay Team Blog, except with 2 pictures added.  When I do road stuff with the team I tend to post there first.  So you should put that in your RSS feed.

One of my favorite things about road racing is how much time everyone spends talking about team tactics, just to have them all go directly out the window as soon as the race starts.

Take, for example, my internet friend Mr Steve Hopengarten, who went on a mountain bike ride with me a week ago and told me all about how Green Line Velo was going to be all over the Blue Hills Cat 3 field, and how victory was inevitable.

After the ride, this trash talk continued onto the internet.  @shopengarten had already made it clear that he was not personally going to win the race, but one of his teammates surely would.  And since cycling is a team sport, that would in turn make him a better human than I, regardless of our own personal placings.

In response to this challenge, we mobilized the Back Bay listserve and discovered that all of our riders are apparently Cat 4's.  Potentially sandbagging Cat 4's (ahem, Kevin), but Cat 4's nonetheless.

But!  I had another trick up my sleeve.  My friends Andrew and Joe from MIT were recruited to "guest ride" for us (doesn't that sound PRO??) as part of my plan to fill our Cat 3 ranks from the greater Red Line region, assuming that they would fight their natural enemy, the GREEN LINE, for us.

Kits were hastily procured and we rolled out with 4 riders -- me, Mike, Andrew, and Joe.  Of course I lined up all the way at the back, and spent most of lap one moving up steadily while learning where all the holes were.

No one had a better idea of where the holes were than Cambridge Bikes, who lost two riders to flats in the first lap, including noted loudmouth and intermittent strongman RMM.

I did not have a plan other than to hide from the wind as much as possible, and hope that any breaks that actually stuck contained Mike, Andrew or Joe.  Zero breaks were attempted in the first 2 laps.  I was bored.  But then, on the 2nd time up the finish climb, someone (Ride Studio, maybe?) rode into the shoulder and then crashed back into the road, making a ruckus and taking out several dudes.  In response to this we drilled it, cuz hey, that's what you get for riding in the gutter at the back.

In related news, I didn't see Andrew and his bloody knee again until the parking lot at the finish line.

On the third time up the climb there was a lot of pressure and a lot of single file at the front.  There were a few brief separations, but nothing that stuck.  This didn't stop me from wasting a lot of energy to hold my position in 10th wheel -- and it's not like I wanted to be near the front to cover attacks, because on the next time up the climb...

...three Harvard guys and a Matt Mitchell from 545 Velo gapped us over the top and it stuck.  I looked at the break and decided that I didn't have the legs to bridge to it AND stay in it for the 14 miles left, so I sat there dumbly like everyone else except Cosmo, who recognized a collegiate A TTT/winning move leaving.

But he didn't make it.

And then we chased.  Joe and I had "fortunately" climbed well enough on that lap to be at the front and take some pulls, but let's face it -- when I'm driving the chase, the break is sticking.  Especially when it's three guys on the same team.  We held them at around 6-7 seconds  for all of lap five, and for a while I thought we had cleverly gotten the 4 strongest guys in the race to kill themselves for naught -- but when they extended the gap up the finish climb instead of wilting, I realized that we were screwed and started thinking about racing for 5th.

Cresting the climb with one lap to go.  The guy on the front here had a Euro name and kit,  and was super strong.  I suspect these are correlated. [ 20#skull ]

Our only hope lay in Green Line Velo, who had eight riders in the race and hadn't been on the front en masse at any point.  Maybe a glorious stream of college kids will roll to the front and chase down the other college kids!  Oh yeah, that would be sweet!  Man, I feel old.

But GLV never really showed.  Steve made a brief appearance on the front, but enough of the field had given up that even his super domestique stylings couldn't really dent the break's advantage.  They had fifteen seconds or so as we hit the gradual 2k climb to the finish line, and it was time to GET HURTY.

It's a long big-ring grind to the top which means there's still plenty of drafting to be found -- but you wouldn't know that from some of the surges guys put in as soon as the road pitched upward.  Mike, Joe and I were all positioned outside the top fifteen, which was actually a good thing.

As we climbed, various dudes exploded (surely because they were leading out teammates, and not just because they couldn't pace themselves on the SIXTH TIME up the same hill) and other dudes surged forward.  The gutter became a place of much yelling as boxed-in dudes got cranky with totally-smoked dudes.  It was everything road racing should be.

Eventually the steam of smoked dudes vastly outnumbered the surging dudes, and I realized I had ridden into the top ten with one rise left to ride.  Joe was just ahead, and apparently Mike was just behind.  In true B2C2 Form we ignored this alignment and decided to all ride for ourselves.

But seriously, there were enough wheels to follow, enough lactic acid involved, and so little time left that a leadout was totally unnecessary.  Instead I got boxed in one last time, then squeezed through a gap and HIT IT up the last rise and over the top.

I noticed with some concern that I was going so hard that steering was actually kind of difficult.  Yes, this is the first time I've sprinted with carbon wheels.  I passed Joe and, it turns out, everyone else, and won the field sprint 10 seconds behind the break.  One of the Harvard guys in the break had cracked on the climb, so it was good for fourth place and $75, which I immediately took to the bank, converted to pennies, and filled a kiddie pool with.  Obviously.
SPRINTAGE!  150m to go or so here.  NEBC guy (Scott Brooks?) on the tops was leading it out and is going backwards... he is not sprinting on the tops! [ 20#skull ]

I still think road racing is kind of silly.  And I noticed it's lot easier to have "great team tactics" when your team is three of the strongest guys in the race (Harvard) then when it's a smattering of ability levels and race smarts (everyone else).

But I grudgingly admit I had fun and want to do more road racing, especially if I have teammates to hang out with.

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