Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NBX GP of Cross Race Reports

So, that whole Ice Weasels thing kinda got in the way of talking about the season finale of actually-trying-hard at NBX. But, I did eventually pull together two relatively nice chainstay cams from it, so now that the dust is settled, it's time to LOG THAT CONTENT.

Day one of NBX is my favorite dirt crit in the world. I don't know what else to say. It's not especially technical, and there's lot of pedaling, but you do it at such a high rate of speed that as long as you can find a suitable wheel-teat to suckle on, it's fun! ("fun")

This year they had two new randomly awesome features, the mini-flyover and "the logs." The mini flyover was a totally pointless, er, sweet bridge over a fence that even relatively non-rad XC mountain bikers like myself could gap jump. The logs were some big-ass logs that were basically as tall as regulation barriers, but had a nice flat spot on top for all your front-wheel tapping needs.

This is what passes for "getting rad" when you're an XC racer

(Mountain bikers need that front wheel tap, we aren't smooth like those damn bmx kids)

But ANYWAY I was hopping them and it made me feel special, especially when I could pedal hard while everyone else was clipping back in!

As for the actual race.... hmmm... I got a QUALITY start which made filtering back to my proper spot in the first two laps quite comfortable.

At some point I decided I had missed a split and I needed to GET DYNAMIC, which meant attacking into the rideup and then crashing on my face (see video).

I ended up with Matt Timmerman, the long-lost older Timmerman brother, and we cruised around for a while. I did that thing where you ride behind a guy and think "oh man I'm gonna drop this fool" and then you get on the front and try to drop him and you're like "no wait, this isn't going to work at all."

Somehow I eventually coalesced into a group with Mike Wissell, Sheldon Miller, and Evan Huff. Mike had been chasing his face off for, like, the entire day to catch up with us, while I think Sheldon and Evan were coming backward. Being around Evan, of course, meant that #officeclash was in play, and Sheldon... well, I used to beat on Sheldon back in the B race in 2008, and I'm still struggling with the fact that he's WAY BETTER THAN ME now. So let's just say I had a lot of clashes going on in the group.

(I love that my 2008 blog calls him "some local guy named Sheldon.")

ANYWAY Huff was clearly not having a great day since he was riding with us. However even bad-day Huff is not dumb-bike-racer-Huff and thus, with two to go, Huff started sitting in like he had been taking lessons from ME on how to be useless.

Meanwhile Mike and Sheldon took turns pulling because they like pedaling hard. I guess.

Then, of course, with one to go, Huff attacked us like a real bike racer and I could do nothing except watch myself lose office clash for the ninth time all year.

At some point Jesse Keough came out of the pit after a mechanical and started hanging out.

Eventually it came down to our group of four (Huff was obnoxiously close-but-not-close-enough ahead) and even though we'd been racing for 67 minutes, Mike STILL thought we had another lap to go. So when Sheldon attacked and then I countered on the sprint-before-the-sprint section, he was just like, "oh sweet you guys really want to pull!"

He was sadly mistaken, and I was able to hold off Sheldon to win the group and be MAYOR OF THE EIGHTEEN DOLLAR ZONE, which is unironically my goal these days. Looking at the names in the top twenty, I was just like, DAMN, these races are full of guys I cannot beat. Such is life in the NECX.

Day two at NBX is a harder course (but still with rad log hops!) and it turns out that sixty seven minute of racing your heart out is HARD! So my legs were, um, only kind of present. NBX-Day-1-Colin was a dynamic bike racer (he closed gaps, and took pulls, YO!) but NBX-Day-2-Colin was a tired leech of a man who could only follow wheels while praying for the race to end.

I had a mediocre start, but I ended up with Mike Wissell again, and Mike is nothing if not a useful engine, so I planned to hitch my wagon to his oxen (does that make sense? I'm not sure. Is there a river to ford? Will he get dysentery?) and make another run at the eighteen dollar zone.

It was all going adequately well, right up until my ROCKSTAR LOG HOPPING finally failed me and I bobbled the first log, riding a sweet nose wheelie into the second, flying over the bars, and yet somehow not dying in the process.

I did, of course, COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY LOSE THE GROUP, and my legs weren't worth jack so I wasn't gonna catch up with those guys. However, when I stood up, and realized neither my body or bike had been destroyed by the crash, Cary had just passed, which meant #roommateclash was in play, and dropping out was not.

I used Cary (like a kleenex) for a bit and then bridged across from him to John Burns.

Burns had this funny idea that I was going to be a useful human instead of a guy with junk legs sitting on his wheel.

Actually, wait, I couldn't even sit on his wheel. It was more like, repeatedly-and-surprisingly-chase-back-onto-his-wheel-in-technical-sections-for-half-an-hour. He dropped me like a million times, and I reconnected like a million times, and I'd be totally gassed and he'd be like "c'mon we can get these guys," clearly not understanding how on the rivet I was.

I even told him I was blown and couldn't pull, but he's a nice endurance mtb type and didn't use this information to mercilessly attack me.

With 2 to go we picked up Manny Goguen on his way out of the pit, which was fun, but then with one to go his dad reminded him that he's going to Europe in a few weeks (DUDE EUROPE!!!!) and mailing it in with cat 2 scrubs isn't good training, mechanicals or not. So he dropped us like a bad habit. While I stared at Burns's butt and dreamed of a world in which I could actually take pulls.

However! Manny got kinda tired and tried to be a sand-riding-rockstar and SOMEHOW we regained contact with him leaving the final beach run. It did not make sense to me, but I didn't question it, I just turned my brain off and prepared to do the thing I always do -- WIN DA GROUP.

On the sprint-before-the-sprint there was a mild hesitation from Burns, which I took as my cue to GO GO GO, and it worked in that I was leading at the end of the sprint-before-the-sprint. However Manny was right on my wheel, and he is like a real-deal road sprinter, so I kinda knew things weren't quite settled just yet.

Sooooo we came off the last corner onto the pavement, and I started dumping gears and freaking out, and usually when I do that I win the sprint by a mile (see: previous day. Sorry, Sheldon!). However this time my own shifting was drowned out by the sound of Manny's freaking Di2 setup dropping gears at exactly the same rate as me and basically doing it from INSIDE MY EAR, which is much closer than I would like my competition to be.

Fortunately I was composed enough to keep my head down and watts out, instead of checking to see if someone had somehow put an electric derailleur in my ear canal, and managed to hold Manny off by about half a bike length at the line. I will say that it was probably the hardest I've ever gone in a sprint in my life, and YEAH, when Manny goes to Europe this week I will totally check on every result of his and pretend that coulda been me.

Best of all, that sprint ended up being for 25th place, so I got to rub my EIGHTEEN DOLLAHS in his face afterward.


"Remember that time you beat me in my 2nd cross race ever, when you were 14?  No?  Cuz I do."
Dudes, bike racing is so fun. See you in 2013!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ice Weasels Cometh Promotion Report

This year's Ice Weasels was, like every year, a new level of insanity.  This time around we bought a flyover, cut a woods trail, and dropped USAC sanctioning.

Each of these things ended up being a ton of work.  The flyover, especially, was an epic boondoggle that we are still trying to figure out the cost of.  The only thing I'm sure of, so far, is that the prices the Goguens had been charging us to build the flyover each year were a STEAL.  This year's flyover is looking like it will end up costing nearly 3x what a Goguen-flyover costs, so even if we set it up for free for 2 more years (which we won't), we still don't break even until IWC 2014.

That being said, it was a totally baller flyover and I'm ecstatic with how smoothly/safely it rode!

Between the flyover and the woods trail, we spent an entire extra day building the course over years past.  By Friday evening, my frail programmer body had been SHATTERED by two straight days of manual labor, and the actual race day hadn't even arrived yet!

 Screaming as loud as you can is sooooo 2008.  Sweet megaphone hookup from Matt Pierson and MRC! [ Russ Campbell ]

The only thing I learned for sure during this process is that JD Bilodeau is a freaking cyborg for functioning flawlessly through the four days of CSI.  By Sunday morning, if you had told me I had to get up and put on day two of a UCI race, I would have laughed in your face, kicked you in the nuts, and gone back to bed.

Oh and then there was the whole sanctioning thing.

I do not have any beef with USA Cycling.

Well, ok, so their website does seem to rip off more and more of my intellectual property each year, so maybe I do have a little bit of beef, but it's directed at the kind of people at the top who make those decisions, not your local, friendly USAC officials.

The bottom line is that Ice Weasels has turned into a rowdy end-of-season party, and while I think that's awesome, I don't think it's appropriate to ask USA Cycling to sanction or endorse such an event.    For better or worse, they're THE MAN, and THE MAN only sees the world through the lens of insurance policies and rules.  Asking them to put their insurance policy on my event, but not give them the control to actually manage the risk they're undertaking -- yeah, that's not gonna fly.

So our choice was to either assume the risk ourselves, or scale back the madness to something that fit within the definition of a "normal" cx race that USAC would endorse.

We went with the former.

Beyond insurance, the other highly underrated thing that USAC provides is officiating -- sanctioning your event with USA Cycling means you get three or four officials who can run a race, regulate a race, and score a race, all for a VERY LOW PRICE.  We didn't want our officials to regulate the race, but I sure could use someone SCORING the race, you know?  Who's gonna sit at a lonely table in a field for five hours, logging an increasingly-drunk stream of riders, answering their idiotic inquiries, producing nicely formatted results on time?  All my friends just wanna party, you know?

This is where my lovely girlfriend became the secret 4th promoter, because she is actually professional doing-stuff-with-numbers-and-Excel person in her day job, and is willing to skip the best party in NECX to help me maintain my sanity.

I found a little program called CrossMgr on the web, which is basically some dude in Ontario's nerdcore project to create the ultimate cross race scoring application.  (It's like crossresults, but for timing!  And maybe even nerdier!)  It's 2012, why are we writing numbers down on paper when we score cross races, again?

So Christin spent her entire day in a field typing numbers into a computer and then wrangling the spreadsheets that came out of it.  At first, I thought this was going to be an error-prone and tedious task that would require two, if not more, people, but by the start of the second race it was clear that my presence was mainly for show.

The only thing I really contributed was lap-count-math, and (just ask the Elite Women) I wasn't actually that good at it.

In any case, SOMEHOW, we produced weasel-quality results (note I did not say "perfect") using a program that we had never used before, and it went so smoothly that I managed to sneak away and race my bike in the middle of the day.
Totally overlooking a dollar on the barriers here.  Not pro.  [Russ Campbell]

The race, of course, went horribly, but I screamed about PROMOTERLEGS, hopped stuff, cursed out anyone who was trying too hard, and generally had fun.  With one and a half laps to go I realized I could sit up and get lapped by Curtis White, which gave me an extra eight minutes of promotin' time over doing another lap.  So I took it.

My "race report" is the video at the top.

One misconception a lot of people have about our venue, I think, is that we're free to destroy it, because "it's just a farm."

We learned this year that that is not the truth.

Keep in mind that this "just a farm" also hosts things like WEDDINGS sometimes.  That lawn we turned into a rutted bog?  That's a WEDDING-QUALITY LAWN, dude.

And even if it didn't, that's someone's LAWN.  As in, "the thing outside their front door."  It's actually more personal that a city park, you know?  Someone has to look at that mess for the entire snowless period we used to call "winter."

Without getting into the details (mainly because I don't know them), let's just say that the future of Ice Weasels hung much more delicately in the balance this year than last year, and last year wasn't great either.  The fact that I can say right now that "Ice Weasels will probably return" is due entirely to Thom's ability to smooth things over with a fairly unimpressed landowner, and the relative coolness of the farmers who work said land.

In short, we really got away with something this year, and if it rains like that in the future, we're gonna have to make some changes.

All that aside, this was one of my favorite Ice Weasels ever.  We had the best iteration of the course yet, we had all kinds of people come out of the woodwork to help (I'd mention names but that would only lead to me forgetting some), we had the craziest conditions, and pulled it off so smoothly that the only people who knew how much duct tape the whole operation was held together with was us.

Oh, and we were the first cyclocross race in NECX HISTORY to be 100% sold-out (thank god for Gloucester's UCI fields!).

Oh, and I'm 95% sure that when we finish paying the landscaping bills, we still didn't lose money.

Ok, I'm done patting myself (and Thom, and Kevin) on the back now.  Thanks for another year of awesome weaseling, internet.

If it wasn't for the feeds on the barriers, this could be a shot from the USGP.

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