Friday, November 27, 2009

End of an Era?

Lowell was going to be my last shot at winning anything this year. I have been getting steadily better and better results. Some of that is due to fitness and some of it is due to folks upgrading to the big kids race out of the top 5 of the cat 4. When Robert told me he had upgraded to 3's the week before lowell i was glad i had set Baystate as the deadline. Back when we were all camping out on bikereg I figured late November was a good time to aim for the upgrade to cat 3, and I called my shots, like babe ruth, with my race reg. I had figured on NoHo/Plymouth/Lowell as my best shot at winning something, based on fitness and early results. But Swine Flu kept me from racing Noho (Sadness!) and not checking drive time/recovering from swine flu kept me from getting any results at plymouth. (though i did get the experience of rolling a tubular, running a lap, and getting lapped in the 3/4 at plymouth

SO Lowell was the last shot unless i was willing to write the super embarassing email "so I regged as a 3, but i really want to race against the 17 cat 4's I see on bike reg, so can i switch..." Yeah that would be the most lame. I was serious enough that I made sure to preride the course while we were staking in on saturday, I actually glued tires on instead of taping them, and I made an effort do a trainer warmup. The callup for CB due to co promoting was a bonus. Lowell is the right amount of technical for me, enough that my "better than the average roadie" skills can keep me ahead of folks (the ruts in the Lowellberg forest didnt show up until later in the day. And there is a enough power sections that I can keep a gap on the MTBers.

We started, Me and Billy and 2 HUPsters (Mark and ?) got the hole shot at the "ring around the tree" and I was pretty content with that. Billy is a fast wheel, usually better than I on the road and I was content to sit on wheels with him and HUP. We shed some chasers at Spaits's "spiral of Death" and into the runnup the 3 of us had a gap. Around the back 9 we were moving pretty good, with me third wheel. Billy hasnt raced much cross though and on a sneaky left hander next to the tree before the course starts switchbacking back down the hillside, we bit it hard. Mark was right on his wheel, tried to dodge, but went down on top of him. I tried to shoot the hap between mark and the tree, but it closed up. And we were caught. I figure Billy would be up again and was mostly bummed that we had blown our groups lead. Marc got going right behind me and made a pass on the hillside. Billy never showed up. Somewhere in that first lap I made a pass on marc, I think it was before the woods, but i cant say. I think it was in the woods, I think i was first onto the track...

It was bizzarre to ride off the front. Through the middle two laps, I was focused on not being stupid, I felt slow on the technical sections, but was driving it in the drops on the straights. I dont know what the time gap was, but I had quite a bit of daylight in those 2 laps. That course is fun, but riding it in the lead, with something to lose, adds a weird element of gravity to all your decisions..."brakes on this turn or not?"" high line over the exposed root or low?" Its easy to race from second place, its tough to not know whats coming.

On the 4th lap all the BS 30 minute cat 4 races+swine flu training camp started catching up with me. I felt the bonk coming and saw the gap shrinking. I had been riding the second runnup all race and on the last lap Mark was running it right behind me. I pulled ahead into the woods and kept him off my wheel. I know I have a "climber sprint" and I tried to open a gap early to protect the lead. I went hard around the barrell into the first short stretch next to the cinder track. I was bouncing off of roots in the quick loop through the woods before shooting back onto the cinders, and I just went hard for that half lap. I felt Mark coming at the backstop and heard him at the pit when he came around me, about 50 meters from the line. It worked well enough to keep 3rd and 4th place behind me, but not enough to win. Still pretty cool!

I wrote an email on monday and got this response...

USA Cycling Response from Diane Fortini:

I have approved your cross upgrade to cat 3. You may print your authorization to ride from your account page to use as confirmation of the upgrade until your receive a cat 3 CX sticker for your license. If you will be racing in Sterling this weekend at the Baystate Cross Race I will be officiating and can give you a sticker there.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Diane Fortini

Yay back row! Ive missed you!

Friday, October 30, 2009

They race cross out west?

Boy do they!

As the several avid followers of this blog will no doubt know, New England Cross is the O.G. (Original Gansta for all you white folk). Everything else tries to be us. I guess....

I did a Bay Area Super Prestige last week and have to say that different is kinda neat sometimes. It seems like riding out west its own thing. I mean there is a reason that In its history the Handmade Show has always been out west, and in San Jose for 2 or 3 years. Bay Area likes to bike, and they race like they cook, mixing all kinds of crazy stuff in.

Here are some observations from BASP #2, Coyote Point!

-Mountain bikes are ok. Im fairly certain that several top 20 riders in the cat C were on MTB's. The course was soft and slow so i dont think it hurt, and was clearly laid out by mountain riders. Lotsa stuff that made a roadie like me nervous about my tire sliding around was getting bombed by guys on heavy bikes with 52mm tires. I sorta hoped to see some Monster cross rigs, but maybe all those guys are racing elites, or else a myth. The course had a really fast off camber dirt descent with looseness and gravel and roots. The kind of thing that all the masters preride and call shenanigans on in NE, but no one complained about it and i didnt see anyone die on it either. ALso a lot of climbing, I shoulda plotted it but when you come from thinking that Providence is a race with a lot of climbing, its shocking to hit a couple hundred feet of climbing each lap.

-No-one shoulders! I was so proud of my moves! I was racing the new igleheart and the front triangle is much easier to fit my arm through, plus i had been practicing the "throw to the shoulder" i kept seeing in the elite race. But no-one was impressed! The rest of the field was content to just push their bikes. There were some long (like 20 second) runs, and they were close together. It was definately worth it to pick the bike up. At least i was bad ass in someones photos.

-No USAC means no helmets. I dont know if this was random or what. But in my last lap i found myself lapping a rider wearing a ballcap. at least it was a trek ballcap, but still. He may have been warming up (like an ass) but he moved over like a lapped rider and was riding at that hard but slow pace of lapped riders, so im guessing he is also the type who rides a motorcycle and pulls over when he enters a state with no helmet law, just to take his off and strut his "freedom to choose". seriously WTF!

-Tailgate! there was a designated team tent area next to reg and the finish line. At most races we are one fo the few teams with a tent and a cooler. I saw a dozen teams with grills, beers snack tables and soignoirs. Maybe not all of that, but a mini city sprung up and it was pretty cool to see so many teams encamping for the day.

-prereg and results are good things! we come to expect that results get posted within 20 minutes of a race ending and that reg is quick. but these things are luxuries not known around the world! My race was 140 starters. I was told that they have been so overwhelmed this year with racers that they tried to use chips to get results, like at triathalons. This weekend they brought in 2 teams of officials just to score races, and they still took an hour and a half to get things up. All day there was a line at reg because everyone was day of. Its nuts!

Overall the vibe was chill, the air was warm and the race was right on the water. Beach and everything. If you can get there early enough to lineup for reg, its totally worth trying to hit one of these races.

a race happened in Kalifornia...

Here's a race report;

There were 3 CB kits, including me, racing in other catagories. Thayne
and a guy named Brad (who had helped kip remodel the shop a while
back). I showed up early since there is no pre-reg out west ( unless
you placed top 20 the week before and earned a call up). I had plenty
of time to ride the course and then warm up while the combined
juniors/C women/ masters 55+/ junior girls raced. I got a partial lap
in before staging, which was helpful but cost me a couple rows on
staging. I pulled a Mashburn-esque move and showed into the top third
of the 140 riders in the cat C race and waited for the gun.

The course stared on a long soft climb. I mean long! We were over a
minute in when we hit the flat paved finishing section. So many
riders meant a lot of passing, but also that the leaders put a lot of
time into us pretty quickly. Most of the course was very technical,
bur weirdly so. Soft earth covered by strips of bark and leaves. It
made for some very tentative riding by the roadies in the pack,
including myself in parts.

I was able to do a lot of passing, especially on the 2 long loamy
run-ups. I am proud to say that I can shoulder my new Igleheart like a
pro, while a lot of the guys I passed were pushing or sorta suitcasing
their bikes. After the two runs we hit some flat power sections and
then the ironicly named "TRP brake zone" which was a long s shaped
sandpit that wasn't ridable for the early races. More running and
another soft bumpy grass section meant that when we finally hit the
pavement before a fast dirt descent, I heard a lot of free wheels
behind me. I heard a spectator counting places say 26 near the end of
lap one.

The rest of the race was pretty open till the last lap I was catching
people one or two at a time. Usually passing on the power sections or
by running early on the runups. One the last lap I started catching
lapped traffic pretty hard. Every one was pretty good at giving up
the line if you yelled at them. But it definately helped out some
guys I had just passed. Noons came around me and I finished pretty
strong (for me). Once results went up I realized I'd gotten 14th.

Tyler says that waspretty good. But I think I should have staged
better. Most of the race was againsn the course, it was really tricky
and the mountain bikes did well. There were definately people I could
beat who placed better than I did. I gotta say that as different as
it was,( no USAC rules lots running, dudes without helmets, a
feedzone...) it was a blast and I'm glad I had my Igleheart built as a
breakaway so I can race my "A bike" even when traveling. Bay area
super prestige is legit! There is even a lit night race in San Fran
in a couple weeks.

Unfortunately I couldn't hang out with Thayne. They do the B men last,
with the single speeds, I guess to build crowds for the elites. But
we couldn't hang around that late to see him. But it was cool to see
CB colors and a couple green iglehearts racing. Also I saw a fan in a
PVB (designed by Pedal Powered) shirt yelling and chasing a racer in the masters race.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Am I sandbagging now?

Now is the time to decide when I have reached my goals. I got my first Podium at Verge VT on sunday. It was awesome not to feel like a failure! I sorta knew i had a shot at doing well, it was a small field and I was psyched about the mud after flatting out of 4th on saturday. I had done a good job of passing folks the whole race until the flat so i figured I was stronger enough on the power sections to do some damage, but I couldnt let the leaders get too far out.

I sorta didnt do that part very well. Mid hole-shot I was up with the leaders, but I was trying to find a good line and let a few people, including John from BackBay, come around me while we sorted out the first lap. I hung back, not wanting to get bounced off my bike by someone elses line or misjudging the edges of the dirt track we were all riding. I knew I had caught all of the guys in my group on saturday so i gambled i could do it again and waited for the straighter sections of course i knew were coming. I kept seeing the top 2 riders just up ahead.

As one of the three infront of me would get gassed and start slowing i would make a pass. I was in 5th halfway through the first lap, and feeling pretty strong. The first time we hit the whoopdies I was in 4th i think. I left some room to get a clear run and rode the runup without much trouble. I was really able to wind it up the back half of the course. I was in the drops across the straightaway, almost overcooked the turn to the barriers, then was back in the drops chasing through the wide path on behind the finish line. I caught 3rd place through the finish line, and came around him convincingly (ihoped) in the twisty stuff just after.

This was the first time i had something to lose in a bike race and I wasnt quite sure how to handle it. The course was getting noticably slicker each lap, and I was nervous about the worn in track after Nick had wrecked his bike and his hand last year in them. My caution meant that the second lap had a little back and forth, jockeying for 3rd. I was having a blast though, getting in the drops every time there was a straightish section. I gapped 4th place before the stair run and started trying to reel in 2nd.

there were times when i could see him just a turn ahead of me, Matt Green from Spooky, and times when i couldnt. I found out he was a downhiller and the mtb riding definately helped him. Into the whoopdies I was close. After riding the runup and the fast grassy descent I was not. I was making up ground on the power sections, but losing when bike handling could give you an edge.

I spent the whole last lap trying to balance not falling down and maintaining my podium, since 4th place was still in sight, and pushing to close the gap on #2. He must have been flying on the final lap, coming off of the whoops. I drilled it and was scaring myself a little in some of the turns the 2nd half of that lap, but still finished about 10 seconds back.

My dad had come to the race and i thikn got some pictures of me looking tough on the course, which was awesome! There was no podium becuase of the weather, and no medals because of fedex. But it still was pretty neat to have finally done well and almost won something.

Hopefully i can keep it going with a front row start at gloucester

Monday, September 21, 2009

They are on to me!

This past weekend was the un-official official opening to the cyclocross season in new england. You could tell because it suddenly became necessary to embrocate for simple tasks like dog walking.

There was this bike race too, its called suckerbrook. Its a pretty fun course, nice and fast, not a lot of tough stuff, but enough speed you can get yourself in trouble and fall down if you are not careful and are a fan of file treads. I personally witnessed two slideouts on the off camber grass, and one full yardsale at the bottom of the stairs. i rode a relatively uneventful race. I passed some people, didnt fall down, rode the sand yada yada. I got 12th, but the best news regarding my quest to be the fastest slow kid is that two of the folks who beat me, teammate nick and team villian Jeff, both upgraded because they dont like winning races and dont want to do it anymore. Nick won sucker brook and Jeff won waterville valley the day before. Im most excited about this because I like winning, and now two people who are better at winning than I am are not in my race anymore. sweet!

I was not content to let other peoples upgrade and just cruise to eventual victory in the cat 4's. I figured i ought to get faster as well, and since the races were only 30 minutes I looked into racing again like i did at quad. You know "for training."

I got a bit of a runaround from the volunteers and eventually found myself asking Diane (USACycling's New England Czar) about a hypothetical racer who wanted to race with the 3's. I think she is on to me now though, she offered to sticker my race license right there and make me a cat 3 so that i could race again! Luckily i hadnt told her my name so she cant chase me down and make me upgrade, but she might recognize me at a race somewhere now. I just cant have my quest for domination set back by having to race faster people! Not now while I am so close!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Look how i nervously race bikes!

SOmehow I dont think I have ever seen a photo of myself on a bike that I didnt think, "man I look like a weirdo." I dont know what it is. Maybe just cause i know its me. In trying to analyze this picture I cant really find much wrong.

Bike is jauntily leaned over into the turn-check
Outside pedal down for proper cornering-check
competitor so far behind me he is out of focus-check

I am on the brakes, which Tasha has said "just makes you slower" (true fact!) and my helmet does NOT match my kit, nor does it fashionably cover my hat. That must be it.

In any case. In my quest to eventually dominate the cat fours and at the advice of my new coach I attempted to race twice at the quad cross this weekend. I wont say it went badly, but i will say it only seemed like a good idea before the first race, and then again after the second one. For the 3 hours in between staging the cat 4's and wandering across the finish line with the 3/4's it seemed pretty dumb.

The cat 4 started like they all do. Rushing around to get #'s and bikes ready and kit on and then not warming up and staging way back. I have actually made it my move when i dont warm up to intentionally stage late so i can loosen up on an easy 1st lap because it always clogs up and slows down if you are not up front. 94 people (!) showed up for quad cross. I beat my DFL hole shot from springfield by a good bit but was still well back on the first lap. Once it opened up i started utilizing the 40 second intervals i have been doing all month and was doing pretty well at passing people when there was room, and on this course there was tons of room. The back field was nice and wide and tacky with damp grass over sticky firm mud. It felt great to set a turn on tires that i trusted and pass people on bike handling! I was even complimented mid race by a threshold rider I was passing. I kept moving up and at some point clint yelled that i was 16th. I was a bit impressed with myself but also quickly demoralized when the lap cards told that despite what my internal race clock told me, I had 3 laps to go. I kept moving up and didnt see anyone come from behind me until new team mate Lee powered around me on grassy section after the start. I spent the rest of the last lap feeling like a bully and chasing down a 13 year old Gougin/Kehoe kid who was racing with us. I didnt feel like I faded much through the race, but also had no idea where i was. Assuming clint could count I was top 20 maybe?

With $10 burning a hole in my pocket and not feeling totally destroyed after getting some water I "borrowed" Natalia's rimdrive trainer to stay loose for the second race. My plan, since this was all training, was to race in a gentlemanly fashion until i started embarassing myself. Sadly it didnt happen. I gridded up at the back and was totally DFL at the first pit. The start was noticably faster with a smaller field than the 4 race had been. I literally coasted into the first set of hairpins back in the field, with a pack of riders jammed up and running ahead of me. Inexplicably I had passed a rider by the time we went "all around the mullberry bush" the first time. I felt like I had the course pretty well dialed, but still spent the first lap feeling out how the sun and drying/churned up mud had changed things. But I was pretty confident and every lap picked up a couple places. I caught up to Scott and Spaits, fellow CB riders, just as spaits was having some technicals. He had wrapped up tall grass in his cassette and i could hear him complaining once he got moving behind me. I saw this as a perfect excuse to stop raceing and started yelling at him to figure out if he also had eggbeaters and if I could give him my bike next time past the pits. I would be a hero AND i would be able to stop racing for the day and drink! WIN and WIN! Unfortunately he was riding atacs, a bike several sizes larger than mine and also not into the idea even when his chain broke on the next lap (SRAM RECALL!) I started bargaining with myself that i would ride until the cat results went up, then i would go four laps, and when four laps put me at one to go I told myself to man up and finish, so i did. I faded a bit/scott put down the hammer in the last lap and he came back around me to gain back a couple places. But I finished a second race with a respectable number of folks behind me.

I found out later that my time in the 3/4 was better than in the 4, whatever that means. But all in all It was pretty solid. 13th in the fours and 26th in the 3/4's. Ill be warming up my victim list soon!

BTW, i totally used that photo without permission, so you should check out ejcphotography's photostream on flickr for more pictures to balance things out, Karmicly you know.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I always thought fancy gear was wasted on me and I couldnt tell the difference between the $1,000 frame and the $5,000 frame. I got the fancy stuff cheap from working for bike companies or shops so i just rode it.

I just rode the Edge Tubulars after a month on my clinchers (chris king and DT suisse R1.1). I was amazed at how much stiffer they feel! Even with big fat 34mm tubies with very little air in them I was bouncing off of stuff i got used to rolling over on the clinchers. Weird huh? i guess thats what deep dish carbon is for right!

Maybe the nice gear is worth it?