Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Canton Cup Race Report

I want to hate Canton, but I can't.  This year's edition of the race somehow managed to have even more pavement and even less turns than past versions, to the point where I asked Uri, "so do we put this one on road-results when they send it in, or what?"  AND YET, I had fun!  It's almost like one's perception of race quality are driven more by attendance (55 dudes, including pretty much all my Cat 2 "buddies") and legs (shockingly functional!) than course conditions.

The starting grid was thirteen rows wide for maximum excitement, but somehow, there wasn't a single near-fatality in the start (we were saving that for later).  I basically held my second-row position for the first minute and settled into a train of guys that was connected all the way to the front of the race... that's right... you're in 15th place but you're also in the "lead group!"  Only at Canton.
Jesse Keough with the holeshot.  Kevin with the INTENSITY.

This arrangement held up for an entire lap!  Because the race ended up averaging over 18mph, so you know we did lap one at like 22, and at 22 freaking miles an hour, even scrubs like me can hang on for a good while.

That being said, "sitting in" a 22 mph in a cross race is still pretty unpleasant, when I would be just setting up for the ride-up onto the track and I could already see Big Al out of the saddle, on the track, sprinting.  The whip was a'crackin', much like myself, because everyone was going ludicrous speed into the power sections, and guess what, THE WHOLE COURSE IS POWER SECTIONS, separated by like, one turn.

It was one of those situation where, had it been a group of my peers, I would have freaked out to get off the back of it.  But I had already mentally decided that I couldn't hang (yeah, that's the attitude!) so I just hung out at the back, getting battered.

CJ Congrove, Nate Morse and I established our status as "the danglers" and we dangled the CRAP outta lap two, taking turns getting gapped off the back (taking the other danglers with us) and then chasing/rolling back on in the braking sections, because a 12-man lead group slows down a LOT.

And of course, the reason you're dangling is the same reason you can't STOP dangling, because you're going just a little too hard.  One time the gap got a little too big, and I thought, this is it, either burn a match to get across the gap RIGHT NOW or your time in the lead group is DONE.  And my legs were like... waaah.  Sigh.  The anticlimactic death of the dangler...

Still though, two laps in the lead group, that's the kind of thing that you could totally examine without context and convince yourself that could probably be there next week!

Post-dangling, I settled into a group with CJ, Nate, and Ben Padilla, who had missed the initial party but had bridged up with what was apparently SUPERWATTS.  Sadly his inability to shred what little turns existed meant he wasn't towing us back to the leaders, but still, FREE RIDE!  Yay!

Then Ben flatted and it was back to the original dangler trio.

Actually, CJ and I might have taken it to the next level and been dangling off Nate at this point.

"Luckily" our next ride was coming through, as Mark the Shark had also missed the group and was now old-man-powering his way up to the front.  I eased a bit to wait for him and then became "Colin the Pilot Fish."  Mark takes me back to Nate, I clean parasites off him (I think I just called CJ a parasite), everybody wins!

The plan worked great for about half a lap, right up until I had the standard "did I get a rear flat?!" series of corners.  No Colin, your tire is just as inflated as it always was, but now you're fatigued and getting sloppy and it's drifting like crazy.

But by all means, get ridden off Mark's wheel because you think you have a flat and have zero confidence.  Good work!

Once again the dangler trio reunited as Mark disappeared into the sunset.

We established a common enemy:  a group of Masters riders (ewww, Masters riders) about 15 seconds back being driven by Mike Rowell and Keith Gauvin.  My dreams of winning the 45+ race someday rested on holding them off today and then not getting ANY slower for fifteen years.  Let's do this!

Nate might not have been fully on board with team beat-the-masters, probably because he was riding guys who are basically masters from his perspective.  So he pulled through just in time to gap us hopping the low barriers are a zillion miles an hour (get off my lawn) and then it was just CJ and I time trialing around together.
I thought my hops were fast, but they weren't fast enough to not end up chasing Nate on the road after this EVERY LAP

My dreams of winning the cat 3 race RIGHT NOW also hung in the balance, which is why I was somewhat relieved when CJ crashed on a hairpin with 3 or so to go.  What's up now, Cat 3 race!  I have bested your champion!

Unfortunately this meant that team beat-the-masters was now down to one member, and the gap was down to like ten seconds, and all I could think about was Mike Rowell's CBTT wattage (spoiler:  it's closer to 400 than 300) and how totally screwed I was.

In a remarkable display of "hardening up" I somehow managed to ride back up to Nate Morse instead of wilting like a delicate flower, although at one point I did very genuinely shout "wait up Nate!" as we passed on a hairpin.

So maybe he waited.  But come on.  LET ME HAVE THIS ONE!

My high school buddy and I then proceeded to cooperate VERY nicely for the rest of the race.  I was taking actual, elbow-flicking pulls for him, that's how scared of Mike I was.  I think Nate was probably less concerned, and sure enough, with half a lap to go he decided it was time to prove he better than this masters clown who was riding with him.
"I will totally buy you beer if you take some pulls for me"

I was secretly hoping to go to a sprint with him (get off my lawnnnnnnnn!) but apparently he was too smart for that.  And since we'd managed to hold off Mike, I was officially COMPLACENT about it anyway.

So I rolled in for twelfth of a pedaler's course and I was okay with that!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Downeast CX Race Reports

As the promoter of a 2011 race that was known as "Bog Weasels," I definitely felt for John Grenier as the internet talked all week about how much mud and broken derailleur hangers would be at Downeast CX.  Of course, it was dry all week, but that didn't stop the peanut gallery from talking about how the course is "always muddy," and then it rained like 1.5 inches Friday night.  So everyone gets to keep thinking "Downeast CX is always a mudfest" when the actual conclusion should be "races after multiple inches of rain on the course are always muddy."  Downeast has been muddy 3 of the last 4 years.  It has rained directly before OR DURING the race for 3 of the last 4 years.  If the conclusion you draw from that is "Downeast CX causes mud" instead of "rain causes mud" -- I don't know what to say.

Why YES, we did start today's blog post with a somewhat pointless rant!

Downeast CX Day 1

Anyhow, the internet was right (but for the wrong reasons, dammit!) and Saturday at Downeast was GNASTY.  The rain was so hard overnight that it woke me up, and the day was foggy with just about 100% humidity, so all that moisture wasn't going anywhere.  Except into one of the many drainage ditches we had to cross every lap:
The photographers were LOVING this mud hole, for obvious reasons.  Photo:  Carol Liscovitz
The course had a hefty amount of off-camber and an even heftier amount of pedaling, but what do you expect when it's that muddy?  Evan "Boogeyman" Huff called it "the most Euro course in New England" and I had to agree.

The day started off with Christin smashing the 3/4 women's race and getting 3rd.  Of course the only video I took is the only mistake she made all day (OTHER THAN NOT WINNING, HA!):

At some point I started racing my bike, and realized that I hadn't done a great job warming up, but that's okay because there's no drafting and have sixty minutes to "ease into" this effort!

I remember very little from the start of the race except telling myself to be patient and that my legs would come around.

Around the time that my legs came around, Cary did too, unfortunately.

Cary's month in Texas is getting further in the rear view, so he's starting to ride more like a New Englander and less like a Texan (i.e. he's racing clean now.  zing!).  But this was the first time I'd seen him ahead of me all season, and the first time I'd seen him start opening a gap on me all season....

So I thought to myself, wouldn't it be awesome if he snapped his frame in half?

So I turned on my mind-laser and put a crack in his downtube, and half a lap later -- BAM!  Problem solved!

"I wanted a folding bike for Christmas, but I guess it came a few months early" - Cary  (Photo:  Starr Walker)
While I was rejoicing over that turn of luck, I got WILCOXED like it was 2010.  It turns out that the beat-Dave-handily-because-he's-returning-from-injury streak lasted exactly ONE RACE, and now Dave and his leg breaking diesel are back and taking my lunch money once more.   And he's so nice about it!

I settled into a "battle" with John Burns, in that we rode a few laps near each other, and might have even drafted at one point on the only spot you could go fast enough for it to matter.  John is going "full mountain biker" this year with his setup, which means disc brakes and tubeless.  I was mildly envious of his discs, but not at all of his tubeless, especially when he burped it with 1.5 laps to go.  I'm not saying I used the mind-laser on his tire...but I might have.

Well, it was actually 2.5 laps to go, but Lindine and Timmerman were smashing each other's faces off, and everyone else as well, so it was time to GET LAPPED!  Five UCI races, zero lead-lap finishes.  But who's counting?

I cheered for Timmerman as they lapped me, but only because he was gapped and I wanted the race to be interesting.  JUSTIN I'M SORRY!

The attrition rate was high (Synjen dropped out with literally 100m left to race!) so I ended up being the mayor of the $18 zone in 21st place.  I'll take it!

Downeast CX Day 2

Overnight, the clouds and humidity lifted, and on day two we got a classic will-the-course-dry-before-I-race? day.  Christin, racing at 9:30 AM, had a muddy disaster to ride on, that she of course surfed to a second place;  but I still had 5.5 hours and 4 intermediary races to wait.  

I prerode at 1:30 on Challenge Limus.  Didn't like 'em.  Switched to Grifos;  didn't like 'em.  Went back to Limus.  Talked to Adam;  went back to Grifos.  This is why you shouldn't own so many wheelsets.  

And of course, things were drying so fast that at 3pm, we lined up, and Nick Keough had FILE TREADS on.  Which was either totally baller, or totally insane.  As someone who aspires to being INSANELY BALLER I was actually pretty jealous.

The day 2 course was missing some of the off-camber and a lot of the moisture from day 1, so it was EVEN MORE watts that the day before, plus we were rolling a lot faster, so drafting was a thing.  It did not, however, bear any resemblance to what the tech guide had promised (AHEM).

Adam Craig showed up to line up at the back and make us all look like amateurs.  Oh Olympians, you so funny!

Thom made a great video of Adam Craig shredding everyone here.  I have watched it like five times.

I had a far-too-relaxed start and ended up deep in the scrub zone.  And, being a scrub myself, it was a tough place to dig out of.  I don't remember much, except that after two laps I was think "criminy, this is painful, and will stay that way."  

I knew it was going to stay that way because Cary had once again appeared in my rear-view mirror, having replaced his broken, handmade, steel, bike with a carbon, factory-made, unbroken, Trek.  The drastic change in steed didn't seem to be a problem for him.

Ahead of me was John Burns (again!), and this time his tires were staying inflated.  With Cary, Mike Wissell and Adam Sullivan all lurking close behind me, I made the calculated decision to try to bridge the gap to Burns rather than wait for them.

I was feeling pretty good about the plan, until right as I made contact with Burns I lost my shoe between the barriers!

My shoes are always loose because it hurts my feet otherwise, but today they were especially loose.

I threw my bike into the ground, confusing the spectators greatly, and then did the ANGRY-CASUAL shoe retrieval:

Disgustedly sigh.
Walk/stomp back over the barrier.
Pick shoe out of the mud.
Angrily slam foot into shoe.
Sigh again.
Walk (don't run!) back to your bike while muttering under your breath.

It turns out this process took exactly as long as the lead I had on Cary, so he came by right as I stopped muttering and got back on my bike.


Two frame breakages in a weekend were too much to ask for.

Along with Cary came Adam Sullivan and Mike Wissell, but for the time being they were just along for the ride -- Cary was going hard at the front and not interested in anyone else leading.  I tried getting in his way before the big hill, but he was wise to my tricks and wanted to GO HAAAAHDAH so he passed me back and we went ludicrous speed (for cat 2s, anyway) up the damn thing.

I rode with grim determination.  There are times when you're doing well, and excited, and that motivates you to go hard -- and there's time when you really, really don't want to lose, so you go hard.  This was the latter. It's way less fun than the former.

Cary's expression says it all:  #roommateclash is serious business.  Photo:  Todd Prekaski

While I was obsessed with our personal battle, it turns out that Mike and Adam were sitting on my wheel quite comfortably, and with 1.5 to go they started playing bikes, too.  First Adam attacked, into a technical section, which didn't work at all, and then as we got the bell Mike started hammering just a little too hard on the front, which worked quite well.

Through the twisty section at the start of the lap I struggled to stay with him, and even felt some cramps coming on, but sprinting out of each 180 I could see Cary was having the same experience -- so if I could only stay with Mike the useful engine for a bit longer, roommate clash would be mine!

We went up the stupid-hard up the stupid-big hill one last time and I hung on.  But then, on the neverending, muddy, bumpy, false flat, Mike kept going stupid-hard.   Arghhhhhhhhh that's not nice, Mike, I thought, as I cracked.

Mike's gap got just big enough that I started worrying about where Cary was, and then, BAM!  Mike laid it down on the weird rocky transition back to the field  (mind-lasers:  possibly a factor) and we were back in business!

In fact, we were more than in business, we were opening franchises, cuz I had a solid three seconds on Mike  by the time he got back up, and Cary was behind him, and we're into the final five minutes, where I have an elevated ability to GET HURTY.

So I got hurty.  Sticking a three second gap for the rest of the lap wasn't fun, but it was doable... go super hard on the straights, recover while not making mistakes on the technical stuff, repeat.  If I could do this for sixty minutes I'd be an actual bike racer.  

But I can't!  So I'm just a dude in 22nd place beating his roommate.

...and getting "interviewed" about it.  And volcanoes.

Watch more video of 2012 Downeast Cyclocross Weekend - Verge Series 3 and 4 on cyclingdirt.org

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mansfield/MRC Race Reports

What's up my bloggers! We last talked on Night Weasels Eve, when I was so serene I could actually blog, instead of running around an crashing into things.

 It turns out that was because Chip Baker and Sara Bresnick are an AWESOME copromoting team to work with, and we had that race on LOCK. Also, the race course wasn't a pile of mud in the shape of a mountain.

The weasel went off with nary a hitch, and I had so much fun that I blogged about it the next morning. Except I put some extra flavors in it, and made it official-like, and sent it to NEWS OUTLETS AND STUFF and called it a press release. But really, it was just a blog post, and I tricked people into reading my jokes under the guise of "news."

Another satisfied customer!  Must be the throwback kit...
Oddly enough my positive promoting experience had no effect on the traditional race-promoter-health-problems and thus I ended up donating my Providence entry fees to Richard Fries and turning into a spectator.  Luckily I actually love cross races whether I'm participating or not, so I SUPERFANNED Christin's race and the Cat 3 race to produce some footy:

Cat 3/4 Women's Bar Cam!

Cat 3 Mayhem Cam!

Obviously after that much time being-around-bike-races-but-not-racing-a-bike I was starting to freak out.  So I doubled up the next weekend.  Here we go!

Mansfield Hollow Race Report

I've done Mansfield Hollow a whole bunch of times now, and while I always like it, I gotta say this was the best course yet.  Possibly 'cuz it contained not one, or two, but THREE features I could ride while other people couldn't.  But also because it had a nice balance of features and pedaling.  Yes... even I appreciate some pedaling, now and again.

Also quite thrillingly, with the exception of Todd Bowden it was a SCRUBFEST!  When the race started, Todd shot off the line and the experienced cat 2 scrubs wanted NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT.  It was like Lance attacking a bunch of sprinters at the base of a climb.  We didn't even lift a finger, we were just like, see ya Todd.  Have fun winning!

Unfortunately, one scrub was not familiar with the Canadian-national-champion kit, and figured that being second-wheel in the holeshot would be a great idea.  So he and Todd tore off the front, and then four minutes later he came limping backwards and was never seen again.

The first lap I mainly hung out in traffic and freaked out when a gap opened ahead of me.  Even in a scrubfest, some scrubs are too scrubby to hold a wheel.  But as the lap ended, I think we had consolidated all the cat 2's present into a chase group:  Me, Mike Wissell, Hunter Pronovost, and Adam Sullivan.

Aaaaand then we quit riding.  Well, kind of.  It was windy, and we had a long time to go, and we weren't catching Todd.  About halfway through every straightaway, the guy on the front would swing off and we'd all kinda just go... meh.

This may be why Cosmo Catalano caught us about a lap later.

He was riding well.  But there were four of us, and one of him, and he is a CAT THREE.  THREEEEEEEEEEE.  

Like a good teammate, I waited for Cosmo to make contact before I attacked the group.

Actually, I didn't know I was going to attack the group, but when Mike bobbled the run-up (or ride-up, if you were droppin' BALANCEWATTS), Hunter and I were suddenly the proud owners of a three-second gap.

The gap held through some technical stuff, and then we hit a big power section and I said "we've got a gap, I'll work if you want to" and so Hunter DRILLED IT and we were off!

Bike racing!

For the first time in recorded history I was taking straight-up legitimate PULLS in a cross race.  Guys!  Training is a thing!

Somehow Hunter and I managed to hold the Sully/Wissell/Catalano chase group at 5-10 seconds back for the rest of the race.  Entering the final lap, I was busying figuring out the plan to win (protip:  if you don't make a plan, you do dumb stuff) and I forgot that CORNERING IS HARD, so I laid down to think about it.  However, lying down when you had a plan to win (ok, get second in) the race three minutes later makes you FREAK OUT, so I adrenalined my way back to Hunter without too much incident.

He had a super-pro bike-block on the ride up to force me to dismount, but I was sticking to the plan, and THE PLAN was to attack at a zillion miles an hour into the final off-camber, and it WORKED!  So I got 2nd.
I was like, man, how cliche is it to post a picture of all the money I just won?  Then I realized I never win any freakin' money, so I better milk it the best I can!

Minuteman Cross Race Report

Minuteman ended up being Scrubfest 2:  Less Scrubs, More Mud, but it was still scrubby enough that I ended up with a front-row spot.  The course started straight into some wicked-technical off-camber mud, so with SIXTY clowns lining up behind me I was keen to get the hell outta dodge.  Thus, the holeshot!  This time there was no Adam Myerson to berate me for my foolishness, and more importantly, I was riding WELL!  

Jeremy Durrin was on my wheel and we were chatting about how sick it was (because talking in lap one of a cross race is how you let people know you're a cool kid), then he passed me, then he bobbled and I was like "NO RESPECT!!!" and went flying back past him, and the whole time I was like "dear god this is fun!"

Since Durrin has piles of UCI points and I don't, it was only a matter of time before he passed me again, and I was still like YAY BIKES until Chandler and Sweens also went ripping past me.  I was under the impression that Jeremy and I had been shredding so hard that all my scrubby peers were long gone, but it turns out that you can't make anyone "long gone" in five minutes of cross racing, you can only make yourself TIRED.

So then it was ON.  Sweens and Chandyland were both riding disturbingly well, and even though I had been thrown into my preferred briar patch of slippery corners, I was still struggling to maintain contact.  A few laps later, I had drifted 5-10 seconds back from them, but it's OK!  Because Shawn Milne is here, and Shawn has PRO ROADIE power, and those few times when the course did straighten out he would smash it, and I would make a pain face while eating a lot of mud on his wheel, and it was FUN.

Then I would recover on the technical sections while heckling him about how ironic it was that the CRITERIUM NATIONAL CHAMPION can't corner.

Then Kevin crashed, and Shawn put in the 20th monster pull of the day, and BOOM!  We made contact with the second-place group, and I was like, IT'S TIME TO MAKE A PLAN TO WIN (GET SECOND)!

The plan was definitely not "get so tired from holding Shawn's wheel that you crash on your face, bang your knee off your stem, and bend your derailleur hanger," but that is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.  Guys, bike racing is hard.

As usual, the crash produced an adrenaline spike that led to me near-crashing several more times trying to chase back onto the group, and when the adrenaline faded I was suddenly aware that I had smashed my PROBLEM TENDONin my knee and I no longer was having fun.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that the five of us were so far off the front that at least I would get the last spot in the money.

And then I noticed Nick Keough.

Nick had lined up at the back, for practice/masochism, and while it took him thirty minutes to get clear of the epic Cat 3 mud scrum, when he finally did, he was FLYING.

He gobbled up my 20-second lead in half a lap, proceeded to show me how to ride across to the group that had just dropped me, and then how to ride off the front of it and almost win the sprint for second.

So, that was nice for him.  Not so much for me as it changed my paycheck for the day to zero dollars, and as I frequently point out, I do this sport for the money.

Now I get to not ride my bike for a week while I ice my knee and wait for the swelling to go down, so I have extra energy for blogging!  Hooray!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gran Prix of Gloucester Race Reports

Night Weasels Eve is a weird time to blog, but hey, I'm so cracked from running around race promoting that I can't do anything else useful, and so wired from stress that I can't sleep. So hey! To the blog.

My Gloucester Day 1 race was pretty similar to everyone else in the back half of the field, I got into roughly 20 bottlenecks and mishaps in the first few laps. Half of them were my own stupid antsy decision making, and half of them were the natural outcome of racing with 90 other dudes as jacked up about NEW ENGLAND WORLD CHAMPS as myself.

So yeah, by the time I got it together and started bike racing proper, I was a long way behind Jeremy Powers and even pretty far behind the cat 2's I like to pretend are my peers. By lap four and five I was making forward progress, but then came through at 80.5% back and THAT WAS THAT. At least I have some sweet video:

Day 2, I woke up and it wasn't raining in Boston, which meant there was no way it could be raining in Gloucester at any time in the next 12 hours.

(If you were at the race, then you know how hilarious this is.)

By the time I got on the course it was a soggy mud chute with the shred factor turned up to about 11. It was heavy enough that you had to apply watts all the time (and there were multiple hills you just plain couldn't ride), but just barely light enough that you still needed to handle your bike NONSTOP to get it done. I prerode two laps wicked hard, because if you pedaled really hard, it was SUPER FUN.

Then I sat around and got cold again. And then it was race time!

The heaviness of the course meant that group racing was going to be not so much a factor on this day, which was good, since I drew a back row start. Lap one was a nonstop take-advantage-of-others-mistakes-fest and somehow, by the end of it, I was starting to get heckled for doing TOO WELL.
A rare photo where the observed radness matches my perceived radness [via Nick Cz]

On lap two I noticed I was starting to enter the vicinity of the "Evan Huff" group, which meant that #officeclash was officially ON, and since Evan is way better than me, my mere presence in his group would probably demoralize him enough that I would win.

We headed into the sandpit, aka the best feature in New England Cyclocross, and while I was doing that goofy body-english dance you do to stay in the groove, I went flying by a body in the fetal position with a bike on it! Which turned out to be Evan. I considered this to be wicked awesome.

This photo is not Evan's crash, but it is the best Gloucester sandpit crash photo that you will ever see.  [via davechiu]

Evan came back with the wattage-fury of a cat 1 roadie, but luckily I was in a briar patch of bike handling and was able to tie up the ole' #officeclash.  If I didn't know how doomed I am over the rest of the season, I would talk SO MUCH MORE TRASH right now.

Next, I got tangled with Josh Thorton's pedal in my front wheel, directly in front of a group of my friends who were "cheering" for me, and I managed to call him a "stupid M-F'er" AND apologize for it within the same sentence. And then I STILL had to race for the rest of the day thinking "gosh, I'm a real ding-dong sometimes."


Despite me being a doodoohead I continued to have a good race. So good that with two laps to go, I was only 79.9% behind Ryan Trebon! The UCI official was looking at his watch as I passed, but I was SAFE! Victory!

As luck would have it, I proceeded to rip my rear derailleur off about sixty seconds later.

And, since I didn't get pulled, I now had to start running if I wanted to stay on the results.

And since I had just won an #officeclash and two #roommateclashes, it was imperative that I stay on the results.

So I ran. Forever. One guy passed me, and then, loneliness -- everyone else behind me had been 80%'ed. Eventually, as I neared the beer garden, Ryan Trebon showed up.

I went through the beer garden in "second" place and collected $5 in dirty one-dollar bills towards the purchase of a new derailleur hanger.

Carbon cross bikes are really light, until you have to run a half mile with one on your shoulder. [via Jen Audia]

When I finally got to the pit, the officials told me I had to finish the lap to get pulled! So against all reason, I got sent back out onto the course in what was now "6th" place on Christin's bike.

A half lap (and beer feed) later, I returned to the pit, still not done with the lap, and now in "9th." At this point, sanity finally prevailed and I was allowed to stop racing my stupid bike.


Dave was playing with remote flashes and now I appear to be racing in the dark. [via Dave Chiu]

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