Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BRC Shedd Park Race Report

So, the plus side of having a terrible weekend of racing at Sterling is that I don't really want to write about it, so I can roll back the clock to TEN WHOLE DAYS AGO and talk about the most epic cyclocross grudge match in the world, instead.

Quick Sterling recap -- Day one was one of those days where you ride around and think about how NEXT YEAR I'M GONNA TRAIN BETTER.  My legs were flatter than Iowa.  Cary smashed me in our Cross Clash, and with two laps to go Richard Bardwell and JP T-R attacked me so hard I thought about downgrading to Cat 3.  I beat all of five people.

Day two was totally different, the course was technical and I felt great!  So of course I had a SRAM shifter malfunction on lap three, disengaging the cable and leaving me with a 34x13 singlespeed.  For the first time in my life I threw my bike in disgust.

(I already talked to SRAM about it, and it turns out there was some kind of defect in the shifter they sent me, as it has a gap that allows the cable to slip out that no one else's 2011 Red shifter has.  I'm getting a new one. Doesn't get me a finish, though)

Sooo anyway.  Pictures!

Hoppers gonna hop

Tasha makes me look so much better than I am.
 So a few weeks ago, it was announced that the BRC Shedd Park 1/2/3 field would be racing at NOON for $750, which I thought was pretty cool.  I tweeted about how into it I was, and Chanbagger agreed, and then I said something like "oh shit, Chandler, it is SO ON."

Chandler is a Cat 3, so we never get to hang out, and he's obnoxious on the internet, so I want to beat him.

Then he started talking trash for two weeks straight, because he's obnoxious on the internet, so I wanted to beat him.

It got to the point where "everyone" knew about it, and I had random people texting me, emailing me, and direct messaging me their encouragement to beat him.  My favorite quote came from Mike Golay:  "Colin, if you don't win this, I might have to quit social media."

I suppose I should admit at this point that I don't race well under pressure.  This is why I have my best rides when I screw around and reverse-holeshot mountain bike races.

When we lined up at Shedd Park, I was *definitely* feeling the pressure.  And I did not like it.

The gun went off, I had a mediocre start, and I started playing a game called "where's Chandler?"

The answer to the game, at first, was "a few riders ahead of me," and all was well.

Soon it was "a few groups ahead of me," and all was no longer well.  Shedd Park is a fast, power course with plenty of drafting.  I was terrified that Chandler would end up in a group with enough horsepower I could never catch it.  So I panicked.

I was pushing too hard on the turn back onto the track, that I'd neglected to preride, and BAM!  I got way off the racing line and went sideways through a wood stake, breaking it in half and ending up on my ass.  Panic factor:  doubled.

Surprisingly, panic does not motivate the legs to give 110% like desire does.  I felt sick, tight, and weak.  Chandler's lead got larger.

Stephen Pierce rolled past and said "I have a vested interest in helping you beat Chandler, get on my wheel."  I lasted all of 10 pedal strokes before he dropped me.  Things looked grim.  I made sad faces at people who cheered for me.  I made extra-sad faces if they exhorted me to "beat Chandler."  Oh, if they only knew how bad I felt....

Thank god 'cross races are LONG.  I rode a few laps while feeling bad for myself.  Either everyone else slowed down, or I started to feel better, and while I never figured out how to "go hard" I was at least now "going."

Chandler crashed on the lone technical spot on course (duh), dropped his chain, and suddenly his 25-second lead was down to 10 seconds and his group was gone.  My spirits rose from the ashes like a phoenix.  I've got a chance!

I made contact a lap later.

Since Chandler and I are both wheelsucking sprinters with embarassing power numbers, we now had a problem.

No one wanted to work, but no one could make an attack stick.  He barnacled himself to my hull the same way I do the Wilcox.  I tried hitting the ride-ups with four-figure wattage, but it didn't matter.  You think you're gonna drop a guy who wins 1/2/3 crits with a 5-second burst?  Riiiiiight.

When I wasn't attacking, I was softpedaling, going so far as to take my hands off the bars and move over on the track.  Of course, he didn't pull through.

Finally John Burns (and some other guys!) caught us, so now we could both follow a wheel.  The pace picked up markedly.
All aboard the Burns Express!
While my track record of sprint finishes in cross races is really good, I was afraid of riding around for another half hour with Chandler. Like I said, the dude wins 1/2/3 field sprints on the road, which is more than I can say.  Weird stuff happens at the end of 'cross races.  Don't wait until the last lap unless you have to, right?

I realized I only had one tactic I'd yet to try:  hopping the barriers.  I did it a bunch warming up, and it was a tiny bit faster, and I figured it would give him something else to worry about.  If I pulled out the hop after five laps of racing, maybe I had other tricks up my sleeve, right?  (spoiler: no, I don't)

Since he was staying directly on my wheel at all times, it was pretty straightforward to bust THE HOPS straight in his face.  And apparently, this psychological warfare was the straw that broke the barnacle's grip, because when we crested the rideup thirty seconds later he was GONE.

This motivated me in a way that panic had utterly failed to motivate me half an hour prior!

So then I went really hard for a lap, and he dropped out, and that was that.

Then Burns and I rode around for the rest of the race with a junior and a 45+ guy.  The 45+ guy crashed, and the junior made the mistake of taking a pull, and then it was just me an' Burns.  Obviously, I drafted him for most of the race, and then dropped the hammer when he bobbled, to roll in for a totally mediocre 16th place!

Due to the magic of Chandler talking trash on the internet, people seemed to think I rode really well, even though all the elite scrubs I usually hang out with were minutes ahead of me.

Thanks Chan!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Northeast Velo Cross Race Report

I think my GoPro is starting to show its age.  Today's course was super fun, the racing was great, the field was large, and I wanted SOOOO BAD to make a sweet video of it.

And then... on the start line... ye olde bar cam inexplicably keeps turning off instead of recording DAT FOOTAGE.  Nooooo!

Anyway.  Text it is!

People kept calling the VeloCross course "mountain bikey," but I like to think it was "euro."  Steep drops, sharp ups, velodrome section, whoops, and not much grass?  EUROPE.  Or as close as we get in New England.

We staged by points (gosh, what an awesome website!) and I got #9, which shows you how leeeeegit this race was.  Eight guys in one place who are better than me on a bike, that's preposterous!

Because the course was fun I may have preridden my face off and felt very not-snappy on the start line.  Which is not a good feeling, especially when Anthony Clark is next to you.  The gun went off and I chiiiiiilled into a very casual 30th-position start.  The only way I knew everything was going to be ok is that Mark McCormack was next to me, and if a diesel like him can start at the back then a snappy sprinter with no endurance like me can... wait.

Leaving the track I had an awesome bar-to-bar corner with Mark where I showed absolutely no respect for his seniority and he, in return, let me live.

I spent the rest of the lap playing in traffic and trying to figure out where Chandler was.  I race best with a clear nemesis, and somehow my declaration of it "being on" with him at Lowell (aka tomorrow) spiraled into a twitter campaign of trash talk and wagers... and yeah now I really have to beat him, because random people keep saying to me "you better beat Chandler."

Where was I?  Oh yeah, so he showed up to Velo Cross for a race-before-THE-race and I knew that letting him beat me on a mountain-bikey (er, Euro!  dammit!) course the day before the showdown would be catastrophic.

I located Chandler about 20 seconds ahead and decided it was going to be okay.

Then Pete Smith buried it on the track and we cut that gap in half.   It was hurty and efficient.

Somehow I got ahead of Pete later on and bridge up to Chandler.

Then, Chandler and I rode together for a while, and it was hilarious.  Because we are both merciless sprinty wheelsuckers, no wanted to pull and no one could gap anyone.  We rode SLOW.  Very slow.  So then Pete caught us and went tearing past and we were both like SUCK THAT WHEEL!    And then we went race pace again.

Somewhere along the line, Alec Donahue and Peter Goguen had a barrier incident which led to Al drifting back to our group, and Mark dieseling his way up to our group, and then we had a five-man party train!  Whee!

Al and Mark were the strongest dudes (BY FAR) so of course Pete Smith did all the work.  Chandler rode around behind me all the while, and I was started getting worried that he was not going away.

So I attacked.  For the first and probably last time in my life, I was in a group with Al Donahue and I was like I NEED TO GO FASTER.

Al and Mark were still in chill-mode so it actually worked, although it's possible a crash may have helped my cause.  I didn't know because I was OFF THE FRONT!

I had enough of a gap on the track that they didn't even ride all the way back to up to me.  I was so confused!  But I kept hammering.  It seemed like a really dumb idea, because obviously Mark and Al were going to drag Pete and Chan back to me and then I would have ridden really hard for exactly no purpose.

Luckily Mark the Shark has been racing bikes for roughly a century now and he doesn't "help other people" in bike races, ever, so instead of dragging the group up to me he just attacked it and jumped across the gap in a flash.

And then Al was like, oh crap, Mark is racing now! and he had to race now! too, and no one helped Pete and Chandler at all.  GLORIOUS.  Mark caught me and said "let's go Colin, you and me" and I pretended that there was a chance in hell that made sense.  I rode behind him for sixty seconds and then cracked like an egg.

Then Al went roaring by me without even pretending we should work together.

But meanwhile, Chandler had crashed his face off on the BMX track and DNF'ed!  I claim he crashed because he was under so much PRESSURE from my "attack" that I can take credit for it.  Yes, that is surely what happened.  It's either that or he was totally composed and just can't handle his bike, right?

(I realize that taunting Chandler when we have the ultimate grudge match tomorrow is probably unwise.)

So that ended up being kind of the end of the excitement for me.  A lap later I had a healthy gap on Pete behind me and a healthy-and-growing gap ahead of me to Al and Mark.  Time to mail it in!

I lapped Steve on the last lap, and we hung out and chatted for a bit and then tried to get wicked rad air on the bmx track.  There were no photographers around at that point so as far as I'm concerned, I did this on the last whoop and was then relegated to 8th place to being awesomer than was UCI legal.

Or maybe I just got 8th place because I'm a mediocre elite rider.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Eco Cross Race Report

Dammit!  I posted this video to vimeo on Monday and then totally forgot to give it any kind of race report justice or bloggage.  GO GO GO!

So for the first time in my life I had Veteran's Day off (thanks Steve) and there was a HOLIDAY BIKE RACE to attend.  Awesome!  The fact that it was 90 minutes away and the 1/2/3 race started at 10am was but a minor hurdle... until I set my alarm for 5:45.  What am I, a Cat 4?

I met up with Jeff Elie in Medford and we rocked down to the cape to resume our mediocre elite rider vs elite mediocre rider battle from Canton.  The course was jungle cross at it's "best," super short laps, tons of effective singletrack, weirdly tight 180s -- basically Ice Weasels 1.0 -- but it doesn't matter because TWENTY FIVE dudes are here at 10am to race bikes on a FRIDAY!

The race itself was pretty straightforward, as jungle-cross basically turns into a time trial for an hour.  Mark the Shark was going super slow on lap one so I freaked out and passed him.  He did not freak out at any point in time, but he did MERCILESSLY CRUSH MY SOUL on lap three once he was properly warmed up.

Old pro power is even scarier than old man power.

I got an early jump on Das Wilcox and held him at 10 seconds behind me for the first 20 minutes or so.  Unfortuantely, I'm a fader and he's a surger, so this was bound to fall apart at some time.  I had the standard bad-lap-because-the-lap-cards-say-8 and he blew by me in standard Wilcoxish fashion.

I was able to rally somewhat, mainly due to the prospect of not one, but TWO fading Keough's coming backward.  But then Nick crashed out before I could get to him, and Jesse crashed out spectacularly (see 7:00 into the video), and next thing I know I've got no one ahead of me but ye olde Wilcox.


I kept heckling Dave to wait for me (thanks, out-and-back sections) but a 15-second gap is so much harder to close than it looks... and Dave wasn't waiting.  I think?  In any case, I was over a minute up on Jeff (AHEM!) so I had the option to mail it in... but instead I buried myself in the vain hope of Wilcox'ing the Wilcox.  Which of course didn't work, but at least it kept him honest.

I rolled across the line in 7th, eight seconds down on Dave.  And it turns out that they paid the top six!  Which saved me the trouble of "finding the prize money" so I could rush home.  Perfect....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cycle-Smart International Day 1 Race Report

Traditionally, CSI is where I save my cyclocross season, because it's a crazy-fast grass crit that lets wheelsucking sprinters like myself ride waaaay over their heads.  Despite this year's October snowpocalypse, Look Park melted in the nick of time and we got the file-tread conditions I was praying for.  The true professionals were in Cincinnati, but everyone who MATTERED (aka my cat 2 scrub brethren!) were present.  Let's do this!

I drew a sweet fourth-row start and lined up behind FREAK OUT on the outside.  There's basically only two ways this could go:  either he freaks out and we get a great start, or he freaks out and I end up in a crash.

The gun went off and we freaked out on the outside line into a top-15 start!

Any time you find yourself coasting in a bike race next to Justin Lindine, things are going well.  Unless he is lapping you.

Unfortunately when we hit the first turn, everyone dive bombed it and got jammed, and when Anthony gets jammed he FREAKS OUT (of course, in general, when X happens, Anthony freaks out).  So he swung wildly into traffic, and I swung out to stay alive, and the guy behind me swung out... but there was a fence.  So he bounced off the fence, and back into me, and I started slowly but surely crashing as we entered the pavement.  PERFECT TIMING!

Of course in retrospect I pretend I know exactly what happened, but I am almost certainly wrong about something.  I think that Stephen Pierce, and John Burns and I ended up lying on the pavement while everyone else was sprinting as hard as they could, which really sucks for us.

But you know what they say, live by the freakout, die by the freakout.

I got back on the bike and had that sickly feeling you would get if you stepped on your cat by accident.   I was ahead of approximately no one.  I was NOT HAPPY.

But!  Two minutes of riding later on my favorite cyclocross course ever, I had forgotten everything and it was time to RACE DA BIKES.  There were a lot of people watching us race the bikes and there was no time to explain to them that I didn't actually stink as much as my current near-last position would indicate.  So I better move up!

I did my standard racing "strategy" of sitting on wheels and passing dudes every time there was a course feature other than "straightaway," and after 20 minutes of this I had attained respectability.  It was actually working much better than usual, which confused me, and eventually I ended up off the front of one of the groups I had been working through with pretty much nothing ahead of me.

Well, there was a group of like seven guys twenty seconds up, but that group contained Sweeney and The Wilcox, and if there's anything I CANNOT DO it's bridge a 20-second gap, solo, to a group with that kind of firepower.  Right?

Half a lap later I realized I was actually closing the gap, and while I didn't understand how it was happening, I sure wanted it to keep happening.  I ramped it up to bridge-or-bust intensity instead of just "ride pretty hahd" and sure enough, it WORKED.  Uh, wow.

Interestingly, at least three dudes in that group ended up dropping out with perfectly functioning bicycles, proving that for the aspiring UCI-points-scorer, "Colin Reuter just bridged to your group" is a sign it's time to throw in the towel for the day.

But if they don't want to hang out and fight for the eighteen-dollar-zone it's their loss!  I fought my way through the group with a rare sense of urgency as dudes fell off the back of it, and eventually it was down to just three of us:  Sweeney, Bobby Bailey, and myself.  The Wilcox, unfortunately, had noticed that I was in the process of attempting to WILCOX HIM (how ironic) and had attacked the group before I could get to the front.  But everyone else was dropped!
Fastest (easiest) sand pit EVAR.  I have no idea how you could crash in this.
I don't know much about Bobby, except that he's one of Jerry's boys from the great white north, and that he is a large man who puts out and absurd amount of power (and draft).

But Sweeney I am quite familiar with.

In any case, it was definitely time to enact the tried-and-true strategy of sitting on and smoking 'em at the end, because I was le tired from my earlier pursuit.

Kevin might've thought that I would pull through since I was his teammate, but the presence of Bobby made me disinterested in helping.  I also knew that if I attacked, Kevin would cover it (the same way I'd cover his attack) because THERE'S NO TEAMMATES IN THE EIGHTEEN DOLLAR ZONE!


Well anyway, Kevin was annoyed that we were drafting him, so he decided to crash on a root on the last lap. Bobby drilled it, I went with him, and now it was just the two of us!

Years of coming to Northampton have showed me that the final straightaway is actually impossible to sprint on.  Unless you're Luke Keough sprinting against my grandmother, you can't come around ANYONE in those last 100m, so the real sprint comes on the straightaway before that.

It's possible that Bobby didn't fully appreciate this fact.

In any case, I hit that straightaway with a final-sprint effort and got around Bobby AND a rocketing-backwards Manny Goguen* to become the MAYOR of the $18 zone (21st!).  Which was pretty awesome considering that I one point I was lying on the pavement wondering if I was going to get run over.

Team tactics:  lead out the REALLY STRONG guy from another team.
*Every time I beat Manny, it's payback for that time he beat me by one place in my second cross race ever when he was 15.

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