Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NE Regional Championships

Last year I attended both days of the inaugural NE Regional Championships. I had a good time, despite the field sizes being low, and the temperatures being even lower. I was happy to see that more people were pre-registered for this year's edition of the races, even if it meant that I wouldn't get an "attrition" podium in the SS race. I didn't really have very high hopes for the Cat.3 race. While only 70 guys were signed up, at least 45 of them were listed as faster than me according to points.

The course was pretty much the same as last year. It was pretty flat, but far from boring. I was happy to see the "spiral" feature was back, along with the much used flyover from the MRC and Weasel races. The sandpit was loose and much more of a challenge this year, especially during Saturday's races before a line was packed out. There were two sets of barriers, one low for hopping, and one taller than normal set. The ride up back in the wooded section felt a lot less sketchy than last year, since the pavement at the top wasn't covered in ice. Overall the course was very fast, but there were plenty of turns, and little technical off camber sections throughout the course, to keep you on your toes.

Saturday I was signed up for the Men's SS open. Knowing that the course was pretty flat, I debated putting on a smaller cog. In the end laziness won out, and I stuck with a 36 x 16 gearing. There were only 18 of us signed up, but we were also racing with the 15-18 junior boys on their geared bikes. The juniors were given a 2 minute head start on us, which left me wondering how many laps it would be before one them lapped me. The call ups for my field were by the Zanconato SS series points first, which put me in my only front row start of the season. Todd and I were joking that neither of us felt like we belonged in the front. I figured that it would take about half a lap before I squandered my starting position, and let one of the faster guys behind me get by.
Front row of the Men's SS Open.    Photo: Mike McCabe
The juniors went off, and the 2 minutes before we got our starting whistle seemed like an eternity when I thought of how far ahead of us the juniors were getting. It was a clean start, and knowing that I wouldn't be able to hang with the lead group for long, I settled into a comfortable pace for me. This had me in about 6th positoin. The lead group jumped off the front immediately after the spiral section, but got slowed down by a crash at the sandpit. They were still in view as we hit the tall barriers, but steadily pulled away through the rest of the first lap. I lost a few places sliding back into 11th as a few guys got by me: This included the hairier of the Durrin's, Tim, Jerry Chabot from the team, and the same Team Psycho rider who lapped me on a Surly Pugsly at my first Ice Weasels. I did my best to latch onto Jerry as he came around me, shamelessly sucking his wheel through the finish straight.

Spiral of Doom!     Photo: Mike McCabe

Jerry kept trying to shed me at every opportunity, but I was able to close down any gaps. In the mean time, Brad from Geekhouse, Brian from SLIJK, and my cross clash nemesis Mark Bernard from HUP were closing with us. Jerry and I both drilled it through the paved section, and opened up the gap through the turns on the baseball field. This also got us back up the the Team Psycho rider, who Jerry got by before the flyover, but I was stuck behind. I made my move at the short barriers, passing on the run, and getting a small gap by the time we exited the spiral. By this time, Jerry had gotten about a 10 second gap on me. I was never able to bring him back, through the last lap, and came through the finish solo in 9th. The juniors had been flying, but I never got lapped, in fact I actually caught 6 of them through the race.  It was a great finish to my single speed campaign, and gives me hope for doing even better next season. In fact, it would be great to try racing SS at nationals for 2013.


I picked up my friend Susan early in the morning, and we made our way out to the venue. It was to be her second race ever, and her first on her new cyclocross bike. She was excited to race, and I was just as excited for her. We watched some of the men's Cat. 4 race, before we headed over to registration to grab our numbers, and get out of the cold for a bit. We ran into Cait, who was having a skinsuit zipper malfunction, which she solved with a multitude of safety pins. After a quick course inspection with Susan, it was time for her to line up. I planned on cruising around the perimeter of the course to cheer on the Susan and the rest of the women's 3/4 field, instead of actually warming up.

Velogremlin at the barriers! 
Susan did really well, and met her goal of not being DFL, but got lapped right at the end by one of the super speedy juniors. Cait pulled off the victory in the 3/4! Not only is Cait fast, she is also much tougher than I am. She did the race in 20 degree weather with no gloves. 

My race was up next, so I quickly gave Susan the car keys, and her jacket so she could go warm up. I then headed over to line up, in what was the biggest field of the day at 60 riders. Crossresults had me staged in 41st. My goal was to try and make it into the top 30. I had a decent start, and was about 30th overall, as we headed into the sand pit for the first time. There was a crash just ahead of me, that I was able to run around, and picking up several spots as more people got caught in it. I was running about 25th as I came to through the smaller set of barriers, but ended up crashing with  CJ. I didn't realize that he was bunny hopping them right behind me, and I must have drifted in front of him as I was remounting. Neither of us were seriously hurt, but I found out after the race that CJ busted his rear shifter, which I felt terrible about. Thom Parsons took a nice video of the race, and the crash(at 1:07) which can be found here, on 

The crash allowed several people to get by, including my friends Jon Barry, and Mark Bernard, which I then spent most of the race trying to chase down. I had a pretty good handle on the course by this point, and knew which lines to take, which helped me bring back a number of riders. Unfortunately for me, both Jon and Mark were flying, and I was never able to catch them. In the last lap, I caught one of the MIT riders right before the last little 180 that led onto the off camber section, before the finish straight. I played it well, big ringing the offcamber, and sticking his wheel, before making a good jump with 30 yards to go. I really like sprint finishes, even if mine are not for a podium spot. I met my goal for the race, and finished in the top 30, 28th overall. 

Post Race Observations:
The Good
-Raced hard both days, and minus the crash with CJ, kept it upright.
-Met my race goals.
-Had a lot of fun.
-Saw my friend Susan have a lot of fun, in her second race ever.
-Cait won a Christmas tree jersey.

The Bad
-The combination of the sun, cold, dry air, and dust screwed up my eyeballs for days. They felt like they had been sandblasted.
-Being so tired on day 2, I didn't even have enough energy to drink a beer.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Ice Weasels Cometh

Dah Weasel has been good to me, over the past couple of seasons. While the vicious little rodent has eaten it's fair share of derailleurs, it has spurred me on to race my face off. Colin's Weasel franchised races, have led to some of my best results of the year. More importantly, they have led to the most fun I have had on, or off of a bike. The fun factor is one of those intangibles, that is really hard to plan for, but can make for a cult like following when executed well. In addition to his wonderful algorithm, he seems to have discovered the formula for a good CX race. Now if we can just convince him to promote a MTB race in the summer,("Dirt Weasels" anyone?) I can get my Weasel on year round.

My first Ice Weasels in 2009, actually involved ice. I had just purchased a cyclocross bike, and it was my 4th race ever. I got lapped by a tri-athelete on a Surly Pugsly, but it was my best finish of that year. I also gave out donut handups for the first time.  In 2010, I doubled up, racing the Cat.4, and single-speed. I finished in the top 10 for the Cat. 4, and got myself hooked on single-speed. I also managed to give out more donut hand ups, as well as take more than a few myself. For 2011, I debated doing 3 races, but decided that two was enough.  So I registered early for the Men's 3/4, and Zanconato SS series finals.
Rocking out, at Dah Ice Weasels Cometh.

My wife and I got up early, made some bourbon infused syrup for waffles, and picked up 50 munchkins for hand up use. We hit the road at 8 to avoid parking issues, and to watch the morning races. The HUP crew was great, and let my Sarah and I hang out at their compound, while we watched waited for the first race to start. The Cat.4 race, saw Andy Huff take the very first hand up of the day, a chocolate munchkin from me! He also took an iPhone hand up(at 25:25) from the Schon, much to my amusement.

Coming through the barriers, with all my nemeses in hot pursuit.
Soon it was time for my first race, the Men's 3/4, which also featured the very fast Crystal Anthony vs. her brother Josh. At the line, the "fun police" let us know that they would be DQ'ing people for taking hand ups, to the astonished gasps of the field. I started in the 4th row, and had a good start, moving around the outside in the first turn, and picking up a number of spots. In the first lap, I found myself chasing people I didn't have a real chance of staying with, all the while being chased by some very familiar faces.  Jon Barry, Robert Hale, Ryan White, and Conor, were all right behind me. I tried to stay smooth through the corners, of which there were many, and pushed hard out of each one in hopes of keeping my nemeses at bay. I picked some slightly different lines from the majority of people, which I think made all the difference in the end. I had a lot of fun coming through the high speed barriers, where I didn't brake at all on the approach each lap. I was able to create small gaps there every time.

 Bermingham added a new twist to the course, and the loose runup was actually much nicer than the old one from the last couple of years. Coming through a 180, Robert made a move on me, and we had a little friendly shoulder rubbing, as we fought for the line. At least I hope he saw it as friendly since I was laughing the whole time. I chased Rob for a full lap, before I was able to get around him again. Ryan eventually came around both of us, and I fought hard to catch him, trying to even up our "Hobbit Cup" standings. I eventually caught him on the flyover, and got a little space on him through the next couple of turns.

Neck and neck with Ryan. Rob and Dave in pursuit, and someone confused  by the flyover.

Throughout the race, I was getting cheers, and encouragement all over the course. Enough people seemed to recognize my mustache, that Ryan claimed I was the most popular guy in our race. I also kept hearing what was going on with the leaders, and wasn't surprised to hear that Crystal had made her way to the front of the pack. I was also happy to hear another of my favorite racers Ian, had made his way into the lead group. Meanwhile, I found myself in a heated battle with HUP's Rob Hale, Jordan from CB/Iglehart, and Dave from BRC. I eventually got on the front of the group, after making an attack through the finish sprint. I was leading through the bell lap, continuing to push hard, but took a bad line as I tried to get by a lapped rider. This allowed the 3 behind me, to cut under in the corner, and I didn't have enough real estate left to get by them before the finish. On one hand, this knocked me out of the top 10, with me finishing 13/71, but on the other hand it was also my best result of the season! Knowing that hand ups were once again verboten, I decided to take in a few beers and donuts before my next race.

I missed part of the women's race, as I got cleaned up and warm, but I did get to cheer them on and got a few pictures. Including this gem of Megan, taking the fight to her anti-power animal, Giardia.
Take that, Giardia!
The single speed race, was the last of the day. The temperatures had dipped quite a bit, and my legs were toast from my first race, but I was VERY excited to get out on the course again. Not only was this the finals of the very cool Zanconato Single Speed Trophy Series, put on by Mike and Chip, but it was also the largest field of the year! Mike and Chip did a great job putting the series together, and promoting it. It brought a lot of added fun to my season, and let me race against a completely different set of people. I see the SS category as a great melting pot of like minded riders, and am happy to have been able to take part in it.

The staging was by series points, which meant I got my first call up! I started second row, seeded 13th, which is much better than my normal pack fodder starting position. I knew that there were quite a few very fast guys staged behind me, who would likely pass me at some point, since I was predicted to finish 28th. However, I was determined to finish in the top 20, despite my leaden legs. I got another clean start, and was in 10th position at the first set of barriers. I held onto this for a bit, but soon saw some of those fast guys, like  Scott Rosenthal, and Andrew Kruelwitz in his daisy dukes make their way past me. My SS friend Ben also shot by me on one of the straightaways, as I told him he would with his higher gearing.

This late in the day, the kegs were running low, and the spectators spirits were flying high at the high speed barriers. The cheers for all the racers were non-stop, and could be heard from the other side of the course. I didn't take any hand ups, since I was moving through the barriers too fast, but I did get a high-five from Patrick and almost crashed into the tree. Andy Huff also gave me a small change hand up, but I couldn't hold onto it with my frozen fingers. Out at Bermingham, I got compliments on my handlebar mustache, from two of the juniors camped out there. I tried to gasp out a thank you each time, but I'm sure it sounded more akin to a death rattle by that point. My favorite part of the race, was probably when 40 toting announcer Ryan Kelly, went off on my mustache for some time. Apparently, my 'stache is very hug worthy. Late in the race, I had finally caught, and re-passed Ben, but found myself stuck between an ECV rider just out of reach, and unable to shake Ian from CB/Iglehart. Our "group" never came together, with each of us trying to lose/catch someone, all the way through the finish. I beat Ryan, taking the prestigious "Hobbit Cup". I made my goal of top 20 though, finishing out at 17/61. This also had me finish up in the Zanc Series, 13th overall. Not too shabby for my second race of the day!

Post race, we had the amazing raffle for people who had participated in the SS series. Chip did an amazing job getting sponsors on board for this. While I didn't get the top prize of a beautiful, custom made Zanconato frame, I did come away with a very cool prize. I am now the proud owner of a gorgeous Lazer Helium, warrior series, in the Belgian color scheme! The fit is great, and with the dropping temperatures, I've already fallen in love with the rain shell that was included. Now I know why everyone is so keen on these helmets.

Left: My new Helmet!

Post Race Observations:
The Good:
-Rode well in both races.
-No crashes.
-Fun times at Bermingham.
-Won a new helmet.
-Hobbit cup win!
-Rob Hale's super tasty chili, and Hupcakes a plenty at the HUP tent.
-Lauren Kling's pastry stand!

The Bad:
-Hand up crackdown.
-Couldn't make my lazy butt race 3 times.
-I didn't buy all of Lauren Kling's mini-pies.
-Can't really think of anything else that I didn't like.

Monday, December 5, 2011

NBX Day 2

This was my first trip down to Warwick. Everyone told me it was not to be missed, and that I had to go. I talked to Ben the night before the race, and we decided to carpool since he lives close by. We picked up Susan, and stuffed her in the car as well, amid all of my ever growing pile of race supplies. It was really nice to drive down with a full car, and have folks to talk with.

The venue was impressive, with the course taking good advantage of it all. There were two long beach sections, lots of tight turns in the trees, some loose corners, a berm, an uphill barrier, and a paved downhill finish. The course was generally dry, and very fast. There were lots of great areas to spectate, and the course crossings were all well manned, keeping everyone safe.

Ben, Susan, and I wandered around the course, watching the 3/4 Women, and 10-14 Juniors. I took some photos, and then it was time for Ben and I to get ready for the Cat.3 race. Ben had taken a chance, and registered day of. This placed him at the back of the pack at staging, with me about  4 rows ahead of him. We joked that he would probably beat me anyway on his single speed. Guess what, he did.

My race went really well for the first 3 minutes, before things started going sideways. I had a great start, being lined up on the right side, right next to the fencing. I used the "pro" hold the fencing, with both feet clipped in technique, and picked up 30 spots before the first turn. The traditional Cat.3 scrum for position was at an all time high as we bounced over the roots, and through the loose turns leading to the first beach section. I held my own through the first beach section, and was feeling pretty good. As we approached one of the loose 180's, an overzealous junior decided to dive bomb me. Rather than being aggressive, and running him into the tree at the apex of the turn, I instead got shoved to the outside into the loose stuff. I then proceeded to go down hard on my right knee. So hard that I had trouble forcing my body to cooperate, and get back onto the bike. With the field not really strung out, 20 guys must have gone by me in just a few seconds. This included my buddy/cross-clash opponent Matt, who yelled at me to get moving. I certainly tried to, but with less than satisfactory results.

What a beach.
Back on the bike, I tried to hold onto my position, but it took a little while to get my knee to agree to stop screaming at me to pullover, and remove the handful of sand out of it. I was starting to feel better in the second lap, and had stopped bleeding spots, when things went sideways again. This time I managed to clip the inside of my left ankle on my pedal, when I slipped coming into the barriers. There was a quick jolt of pain, and then my entire foot was completely numb. I found myself stumbling through the barriers, and then trying to get back into my pedals with the block of wood I called my foot. All the while Susan was yelling at me to suck less.

I continued to "race" for the next half a lap, as I started to regain feeling in my foot. Unfortunately the feeling I regained was agonizing pain. Still, now that I was able to tell what my foot was doing, I was starting to get back up to race pace. Just as I got back up to speed, HUP's Robert Hale came up behind me. I was hoping to  battle it out like we did at the end of Baystate, but Robert decided to not to, and dropped me like a bad habit. Next Uri, and an ECV rider caught and passed me before the first beach. I chased them, but then they both went down in the sand. I ran around then, and got a small gap on them. I then proceeded to ride off course after a tight turn, where the course tape was down. Goodby Uri! At this point I was fairly certain that I had angered the cyclocross pantheon of Gods. Mud, Blood, and Beers had forsaken me. I told myself with what little bit of race I had left, I would try to regain their favor.

First order of business, focus, and actually start racing again. Second order of business, not let myself be passed by anymore of the juniors. I was riding with one of the Killington kids, and another junior from Union Velo. They were both good riders, but I was able to use some of my old man watts to drop them on the downhill paved section. I soon found myself riding with my fellow MRC member David. He passed me when I took a bad line, and I chased him for a full lap and a half. I was having a great time, before getting a little space on him at the run up on the second beach. I made it cleanly through the barriers at a full run, and was able to attack again on the punchy little climb back to the top of the course. I held him off through the last half of the lap, but it was a great battle.

Chasing David.  Photo by: Thierry Blanchet
After starting in 66 position, and moving up into the 30's, I finished 72/97. Certainly not what I had hoped for. Even more frustrating, is knowing that I am capable of doing so much better on a course like that. Oh well, it just means next year, I will be coming back to Warwick hungry. Hats off to Ben, and Matt though, who both had very good races.

An even bigger congratulations goes out to my friend, and cross hero, Andrea. She won both days at NBX, and after seeing her really drive the pace on Sunday, I hope to see her do big things at the USGP in Bend.

Andrea with the win!

Post Race Observations:
The Good:
-I didn't break anything.
-The course was great fun to ride when I wasn't crashing.
-Even hurt, I was able to make some good attacks on the pavement.
-Given a beer post race by the Cape Cod racing crew, to chase my super tasty recovery burrito with.
-Susan yelling, "Go Team Buttwatts!" when I ran through the barriers.

The Bad:
-I bruised everything.
-I let a 100 lb. junior dive bomb me.
-Movember 'stache watts do not carry over into December.
-Staying on course was hard.
-Still trying to get the sand out of my shoes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Baystate Cyclocross Day 2

I missed out on racing day 1 of Baystate, having to work instead. So I was well rested heading into day 2. Sunday's course almost everything thing I could have wanted. There were loads of greasy off camber sections, tight turns, a sketchy descent, some single track, a set of low barriers, and two sets of stairs. The only way I could have been happier would be to add more mud, a beer tent full of rabid drunks, and a sandpit. I do love a technical course, and this is one of my favorites.

I had heard via the interwebs, that the staging on day 1 had seemingly  been a random draw for anyone without Verge points. This doesn't really bother pack fodder like me, but I could see it being bothersome to some folks. Especially those who had fought their way into lower points, only to be randomly staged at the back of the field. Maybe we have gotten a little spoiled by the Crossresults staging protocol, but it does seem to work pretty well. When I picked up my number I saw that I was number 157, which I figured would place me near the back of the 75 man field Cat 3/juniors field, but I ended up in the third row behind the call ups. This placed me closer to the middle of the field.

The start was surprisingly clean, with everyone tearing around the track. I got through the stairs, and made sure to stay below the off camber for an easier remount. The first lap was a bit of a blur, I held my position well, but had to dismount as I approached the ride up in traffic. The mud was really tacky, and combined with the stair dismounts, it clogged up my cleats quickly. This made it difficult for me to re-clip, and cost me a spot or two. It also happened several times on my remounts after the stair sections. Aside from failing less, and staying on my bike all the time, I'm not sure how to keep my shoes from clogging up so badly. Maybe some kind of a Teflon spray for the area around the cleat?

Clogging up my shoes. Photo by: Mike McCabe
The guys passing me were a bit more timid(or smarter) on the steep descent heading into the woods, letting me get onto their wheels. By the end of the second lap, all the faster guys who were staged near the back had started making their way past me. I was able to stay close enough to make some of them nervous that they would fall to the mustachioed, Cat 3 "grim reaper", but my gentleman's slide had started. With 1.5 to go I found myself in a mini battle with HUP's Robert Hale. Normally the only time I see Robert, is at the start, before I see one of his styling HUP kits disappearing ahead of me. I was a little shocked to see him coming up behind me. It turned out that he had flatted, and fought his way back up.

I now got to experience being chased by my own personal reaper. It did get me to ride much faster, so much so that I overcooked the tight turn right before the hop onto the pavement. I pretty much rode right into the last tree, much to my amusement, as well as that of Jeff Bramhall who happened to be watching that part of the course. Thankfully Robert saw it happen, and was laughing even harder either of us, and was unable to make an attack. I gunned it as hard as I could through the last section past the pit, and up the hill to the off camber before the track. I was determined to hit the track first, and make Robert sprint around me. Thankfully I did, and was already in my high gear when I hit the cinders. I wound up, and held Robert off by a couple of bike lengths.

Edging out Robert at the line. Photo by: Mike McCabe

I finished up 43/75, making it one of my better Cat.3 results in terms of Crossresults points. It should net me a slightly better starting position at Warwick. I also was a little surprised to see PJ come through the finish line after me. The mustache finally got him! I'm baby stepping my way closer to front half of the field. It's a little premature, but maybe I can cancel my appointment for a "Cat 3 Pack Fodder 4 Life" tattoo across my stomach.

I also had the terrifying realization that cyclocross season is almost over. With no realistic way to finance a trip to Nationals, or Master Worlds, January will find me itching for a race; Like a junkie looking for a hit, I'll be on the lookout for a snowy bandit cx race.

Post Race Observations:
The Good:
-Sometimes random staging works in your favor.
-Stayed upright through all the muddy/off cambers.
-I had good power on the track.
-Had a great battle for the last lap.
-Finally beat PJ. (Shhhh, so what if he was staged way the hell behind me.)

The Bad:
-Squandered my better starting position, by letting too many people by me.
-Hugged a tree mid-race.
-My mustache makes people in front of me ride faster. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

BRC Cyclocross at Shedd Park

I returned to Shedd Park, to redeem my DNF there last season. I had a terrific start last year in the Cat. 4 race, making the lead group, before cutting my tire on a piece of glass shortly after entering the woods. I found myself standing off to the side of the course as I watched 140 guys ride by me, half of them asking what happened. With no wheels in the pit, I pulled out of the race. This year, I made sure to bring an extra wheel set to put in the pits, and planned on finishing even if I had to run the entire course.

On the surface, the course looks like it is pretty well balanced, with some tight turns and loose technical sections, but very little of the course requires much slowing down to negotiate it. This of course benefits those who can generate some serious watts. With most of my watts being of the mustache variety, I would not say that is really suits my riding style. I can make quick accelerations and nice short bursts of power, but I really need places to recover. Shedd Park does not allow for much recovery at any point on the course. This place is still a lot of fun to ride though, with the two big ride up/ run ups attracting good size crowds to encourage/heckle the riders as they go anaerobic. 

I arrived early, to hang out with all my favorite NECX folks. This was the unveiling of the new HUP United Deathstar tent, by Chip and crew. They were set up right next to Andy, and the Wheelworks/NEACX crew. Both groups were kind enough to let me use their area as my home base for the day. Andy was making waffles, but told me that the officials had outlawed waffle hand-ups for the day. I don't think that the waffles could really be seen as a performance enhancer. I was a little miffed, since taking hand ups was part of my ill-advised nutrition plan for the day.

Chip Baker, floating up the hill.
With my race being the last of the day, I had plenty of time to watch the other races. BRC made the unusual, but pretty cool decision to run the Pro/1/2//3 race midday. This allowed me to watch Dylan McNicholas ride away from the field. He was so far ahead near the end, that he was appeasing the crowd at the big hill, by doing wheelies up it. Someone really needs to send this guy to some USGP races.

McNicholas with the wheelie ascent.

The women's race was a combined field, with the Pro/1/2/3, and 3/4's going off with a one minute delay between them. It was another great day for Ladies First with Crystal Anthony taking the win, and Andrea Smith in second. I saw some great stuff happening out on the course. Lodrina sprinting up the hill faster than I could even imagine going down it. Andrea Smith smiling, and encouraging the beginner women as she lapped them. There were even some encouraging ass-slaps from the likes of Cait Dooley. You really can't say enough good things about the women of the NECX scene.

I lined up with the 88 other guys in the 3/4 men's field. The 15-18 juniors were going to get a one minute head start on us, not that the little whippersnappers really needed it. Lining up in the 4th row, I had Matt and Mark, two of my Cross-Clash friends close by. Having been here before, I was well aware of the carnage that would likely occur rounding the tree at the first choke point. Wanting to avoid treemageddon, I made a point of going hard as we made a "parade" lap around the track. I got through the first choke point clean, and drilled it finding myself chasing Jon Barry of Bicycle Bill's. I was sticking to his wheel well through the first climb, and upper section of the course. My plan was to try passing him on the second hill. Things were looking good, until I overcooked one of the loose 180's on the descent, and launched myself over my bars. I bounced back up immediately only losing one spot, but Jon got away from me. I passed several people on the second hill, and made good time through the wooded section, which was very dry and fast. I picked a few more guys off on the track, and found myself somewhere around 22nd overall. 
Mark, about to even up our Cross-clash. Photo credit: Ernest Gagnon

I held my position well through the next two laps, making attacks on the hills. Eventually my former teammate PJ caught me, and made a pass on the track. I stuck to him as long as I could, but I eventually saw his new Cyclocrossworld skinsuit pull away from me after my right calf started cramping. I think that racing single speed at Velocross the day before had something to do with this. I tried stretching it out while on the bike, and not overdoing it, but behind me a large group was closing fast. I knew Mark was in the group, so I tried putting down some more power. This was a BIG mistake on my part. When you are cramping, because you are an idiot and didn't take in enough fluids pre-race, pushing yourself even harder will have consequences. With 1 lap to go, I found my other calf seizing up as well. I got it to stop briefly, but then both of them cramped at once, just before the barriers. I'm not sure what the people watching near the barriers must have thought, as they saw me reaching over and punching myself in the calves, all the while telling them to shut up and go. As I limped over the barriers, the group of 8 guys chasing me went by. I saw Mark riding off, but had no way to answer it. I soft pedaled my way over to the first hill, and pulled out some serious mustache watts to ride it. I pulled out the watts again to get over the second hill,  even picking up a spot in the process. David Chiu, caught me as I headed into the woods, and gapped me through the long straight section. I slowly started to reel him in as I came off the sidewalk, and he came in contact with his Ride Studio teammate Oscar. I overcooked the very last turn, almost hitting the stake, letting an NBX rider squeak by me. I wound up what little sprinting energy I had left, catching Oscar on the track, but I couldn't get the NBX rider or David. 

After spending most of my race placed in the low 20's,  I finished 30/88. While I know I should have done better, I learned a lot about how hard my body can be pushed. I'm happy with my ride overall, and feel like I am still getting faster. Post race, Steve tweeted,"Going to claim @bikeabel as the #NECX cat 3 grim reaper. Mustache+Movember=watts". I think this is a good thing? 

Post Race Observations
The Good:
-Another good start.
-Dominated on the hills.
-Generated good power on the track.

The Bad:
-Crashed myself on the first lap.
-Too timid in the loose section post crash.
-Did not properly hydrate before the race, and suffered for it.
-Waffle hand ups were verboten.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Northeast Velocross

I missed out on this one last season, and everything I had heard about it, made this race a top priority for me. I was especially excited by the idea of riding the BMX track, and getting RAD. I knew that I would be doing the SS race, to try and pick up some Zanconato Trophy Series points. I talked my friend and co-worker, Susan, into trying her first race. Not only was it going to be her first race, she was going to do it on her converted track bike, which only had clearance for 28's. Understandably she was a little nervous, but she also very excited, as only an over caffeinated Mogwai can be. My wife, and her sister who was there to watch her first cross race, also came along to cheer us on.

Susan and I got in a few warm up laps, but all I really wanted to do was play in the BMX section. The course started on the Velodrome, before taking a hard left into the infield. The infield including a number of hard turns, some mud, and two different sets of barriers. The course then took you up over the lip of the track, and down a loose descent, before heading back into the woods for some tight single-track, a steep run-up, and a set of tight turns exiting the woods onto some loose gravel. Then the fun factor jumped to 11 at the BMX track with number of doubles, berms, and rollers, before heading back onto the track. The course was pretty short, meaning that everyone would be doing lots of laps. This was perfect, because it meant more trips thorough the BMX section.

After warming up, we watched the 1/2/3 field compete. Several of my Cat.3 friends had stepped up to the plate to compete with the big boys. Hats off to Matt, Jay, and Jon who all looked very strong. This was also to be the preview race for the Resultsboy vs. Cyclo-What grudge match. Sadly, the course proved to be a man eater, taking out Chandler with a rolled tubular, and Jay with a broken derailleur. Soon enough, it was time for the SS field to line up.

Get spinny with it! 
We lined up based on Crossresults points, which had me starting in 12th out of 23 guys, but the NEBC crew got the front row call up, literally filling the entire first row. This had me starting in the 3rd row, but I snagged a great spot on the inside of the track. I was right behind Matt Aumiller, and Doug Kennedy; Two nice wheels to desperately try to cling onto for the next 40 minutes. They were going to put in a delay between the men's and women's start, but everyone agreed that would be lame, so we all got the whistle together. I got a solid start, and left the track in 8th position, marking Ben Stephens who had been edging me out by a few places in our races together. 

The top 4 quickly pulled away from the field, with Matt, Ben, and I giving chase. Matt then dropped some watts to bridge up, leaving Ben dragging me around. We eventually closed in on one of the NEBC riders, at about the same time that Ryan White was catching us. "Crap!", I thought to myself, "Ryan White!". I had almost forgotten about my Hobbit Cup challenge, I immediately tried attacking Ben, and was able to come around him, but got caught behind the NEBC rider Scott, as we entered the woods again. I'm not sure what happened to Ben, but by the I got to the run up, I didn't see him behind me. I couldn't shake Ryan though, and he was breathing down my neck as we hit the BMX track.

Two Hobbits chasing an NEBC rider.
The three of us maintained this little group, with Ryan goading me to attack Scott, until I almost lost it on the loose turn before the BMX track, executing a nice power slide. This let Ryan get around me, and using his superior pump track skills he was able to pass Scott as well. I tried to get back onto Scott, but Ryan was gone by the time we entered the track. We got the bell lap seemingly very early, leaving me with little chance of catching Ryan, and Scott dropped some watts gapping me pretty hard. I made chase, but couldn't catch him finishing in 8th. Overall, my best SS performance so far.
Berms, FTW!
All the while we were racing, I kept yelling encouragement at Susan, whenever I would see her. I was also getting plenty of encouragement from my wife, and sister-in-law, and other friends. I made point to rail the berms, and get a little air off the last double every lap. If I can't make the podium, I can at least have fun with my race. This all fits in with the "Safety Third" philosophy taught to me long ago by my friends Bethany and Holly. It states that your priorities should be; #1-Looking good(the 'stache); #2-Having fun(getting rad); and #3-Safety(not dying, while getting rad). 

A happy Susan. I think we have created a new cross addict.

Post race observations
The Good:
-Very strong start.
-Rode the pump track clean.
-Got RAD.
-Curtis gave me one of his podium beers.
-Susan tried cross, and loved it!

The Bad:
-Need to work more on my top end speed.
-Be more aggressive.
-Lost round one of the Hobbit Cup.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cycle-Smart Intl. Day 2

The crash at the start of Saturday's race, and my non-stop need to pass people after that, left me pretty wiped out. After having a tasty High & Mighty Purity of Essence IPA, and one of the now famous Jeremy Durrin sausages, Sarah and I left for our B&B in Easthampton. We checked into our room, got cleaned up, and then headed back to Northampton for dinner. At dinner we saw the weeenar of my race, Chandler, spending his winnings on some sushi. Chandler suggested that I call up Todd, since folks were headed out to the Dirty Truth for some beers. Since I had almost fallen asleep face first in my miso soup, I decided that some after dinner ice cream doping was a better idea. We drove back to the B&B, and I followed up the ice cream with some sleep doping, falling asleep at 8:30pm. This was not counting the daylight savings change, which means that it may be the earliest I ever have fallen asleep.

On Sunday we headed out to Look Park early in the morning. I was hoping to photograph the Men's Cat.4, and Women's 3/4 races, and cheer on some friends. I loved racing in the 4's last year. As a 4, you aren't racing for prize money, and nobody cares what you are wearing or riding; You are simply racing, because you LOVE cyclocross. I may have gotten slightly faster and upgraded, but I am still a 4 at heart. As I've gotten to know some of the 3/4 women, they have become some of my favorite people, period. Lodri, Cait, Cindy, Megan, Starr, the list goes on and on. The level of enthusiasm and support that they show, not only to each other, but to the whole cx community just exemplifies why I think this sport will continue to grow. I think everyone should be cheering these folks on as much as possible.  An early morning beer hand up probably wouldn't hurt either.
3/4 women ripping it up.

After cheering on my friends, I had to get myself ready. I got in an inspection lap, and was excited by the course layout. It seemed to flow together nicely, and I was happy that we wouldn't be shuffling up the loose run up again. I was a little worried about the sharp descent into the 90 degree left turn, knowing that it would be a dangerous spot in a crowd. My legs felt good, despite the crash and hard effort that I had put in the day before.  My sleep, and ice cream doping had paid off. As we were called to staging, I saw Todd, who looked like he had been beer doping at The Dirty Truth. He was accompanied by the smug looking pair of Matt and Dr. Jay, which explained why Todd was looking so hungover. Well played gentlemen, now I had my best opportunity to beat Todd.

Dr. Jay and Matt looking happy about Todd's condition.

At staging, we received a lengthy speech about how stupid it would be if we repeated our pile up of the day before. I was in full agreement with this, and was content to patiently wait for some extra space to open up off the start. Without the run up to throw a wrench in things at the start, the first real bottleneck was at the double sandpit. I chose to run it, since it already looked like a bunch of very skinny spandex covered walrus were flailing about in the sand. With Todd, Jay, and Matt somewhere behind me, I looked around for other riders I recognized. I quickly marked Conor from Geekhouse as my target for the race. We've had some good close battles this season, and the Geekhouse kit made him easy to pick out in the distance. I kept his brightly colored kit in sight, but it took some time to pull through to him. I finally caught him after the sketchy descent, when a pair of riders between us overcooked the turn, and crashed out. I barely made it around them  and stood up, quickly reeling in Conor.

Atop the sketchy downhill section.
We soon caught an NAV rider, and the 3 of us fought back and forth for most of the race. The NAV guy was pretty fast, and relentless. I am short, but sometimes this is helpful. Being the size of a Hobbit, and riding a bike with a wheelbase equivalent to a unicycle, allowed me to take tighter lines in the corners. I would pass the larger NAV rider, but then he would use his ogre like strength to blast by me in the longer stretches. This made for some exciting racing. On the bell lap, speedy MIT rider Andrew Lysaught, caught onto our little group, and I asked him what he was doing back with us. He quickly said something about a mechanical, and then blew past me right before the sand pit.

Chasing Conor and the NAV rider. Andrew is just passing through.

My wife and friends seemed to be everywhere on course, cheering me on. This coupled with the awesome sight/sound of Ryan Kelly and Reuter heckling on a portable PA system in the infield, gave me that extra little push I needed. Someone should purchase that thing for Ryan, force feed him a pot of coffee, and let him scream at people at every remaining race this season. I made a good pass on Colin after passing the pit for the last time, and then decisively passed the NAV rider in the club row stretch. It was a long stretch to the next two riders, as I hit the pavement, but I got close to catching them as well. I pulled out a 79th/136 place finish, placing me solidly as pack fodder. I felt like I had truly been racing the whole time though, and can't really complain since I finally got to beat Todd. I will give Todd props for finishing out his race strong, in light of his massive hangover. I'm slowly improving with each race, which gives me some hopes for finishing in the top 50% of the Cat. 3 field by the end of this season. I'm not sure about race plans for the upcoming weekend, but I am looking forward to doing some more SS racing at Velocross, and getting RAD on the bmx track there.

Post Race Observations
The Good:
-No crashing at the start.
-I was able to generate watts at critical moments.
-Took some nice lines in the corners, setting up attacks.
-Finally finished ahead of Todd.
-My friend Margaret handing me a stout beer, within minutes of finishing my race.

The Bad:
-Didn't ride the sand as well as usual.
-I need to keep stupid mistakes to a minimum. Every second counts, 10 secs faster per lap would have placed me 20 spots higher.

Purity of Essence

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cycle-Smart Intl. Day 1

Sarah and I drove out to NOHO Saturday morning, arriving at 10, for my 12:30 race. I was excited to be racing later in the day, after dealing with the Cat 4 Ice World of the year before. On my inspection lap, I found the course to be surprisingly dry, and very fast. The Cycle-Smart crew and JD, did a top notch job putting the course together. There was a nice mix of power sections, coupled with enough technical sections to keep the strong time trial riders from getting away. The start was set up much like I remembered it last year, with the first big bottleneck coming at the run-up. With a starting position near the back of a 150 person field, I knew that I would have to try to push hard from the start; I didn't want to be stuck at the back of the queue, zombie shuffling their way up the hill. I also wanted to beat Todd, who has been edging me out all season. These aspirations were dashed before I even left the starting grid, when I was caught right in the middle of a crash seconds after the starting whistle. After dislodging myself from the pile, and getting my shifter pointing forward again, I was ahead of 6 or 7 guys, 3 of which didn't have functional bikes.
After the starting grid crash, I was at the very back of the pack.

I counted myself lucky, since I wasn't seriously injured, and my bike was mostly working. I did have plenty of room at this point, so I got on the gas, and tried to get back a few places before the run up. I pulled back a few folks, and soon found myself making the obligatory cow sounds, as I got in line at the hill. I was joking with some guys that we were joining "Occupy the CSI Run Up". I was next to my MRC teammate Matt , who also happens to be one of my Cross Clash rivals, as we made our way up the loose dirt. After losing to him many times last season; I made it my goal to make sure I was ahead of him, no matter what happened.

My plan of attack, was quite simply, to attack. So attack I did, again and again. I spent a good portion of the race out of the saddle, pulling myself up to small groups; Fighting my way to the head of them, then trying to bridge to the next group. This meant that I was spending a fair amount of time out in the wind by myself between groups, but I was feeling great. Matt was also doing well, pulling through groups after me. He finally caught me at the top of the run up on the last lap, when I slipped. We worked together to try and reel in the next group ahead of us, before I blew a tight turn. Matt got a nice gap on me, before the sharp descent off the hill. Andy was right there yelling at me to catch him, that I couldn't let my teammate beat me. This gave me a boost, and I slowly brought Matt back. I was able to make a good pass on him right before club row. I saw an MIT rider about 15 yards ahead of me. I turned myself inside out trying to catch him, and keep Matt off my wheel. When we hit the pavement, the MIT rider only had a 15 foot lead on me. I dropped it into high gear, and still had enough in my legs to make a strong sprint. I was able to nose him out with a well timed throw at the end. Granted I was sprinting for 92nd place, but damn it it felt awesome.
Attacking through the barriers, with Matt in pursuit.

Aside from the crash at the start, I felt like I had a very strong race. I don't think I could have put in any harder of an effort, and I managed to beat the pre-race predictor. I had fun, which is why I'm out there. So while the results didn't look that great, I will chalk this one up as a win.

Post race observations
The Good:
-Fun course
-Sprinted out of every corner.
-Attacked constantly.
-Passed 45 guys.
-Young kid at the run up, who told me I had the best mustache that he had ever seen.

The Bad:
-Playing pig pile at the start line.
-Todd not getting stuck in the pig pile, and pulling away.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Canton Cup

Canton holds a special significance for me, being the first cyclocross race I ever did, 2 years ago. In 2009 my friend Dave convinced me that I should try a race, and that we should do it in costume. "It will be great! You will probably throw up, and since you are in costume, no one will expect you to do well!" That year, Team Mario Party was formed. Dave dressed as Mario, Joel was Luigi, and I dressed as Wario. I raced on my '95 Stumpjumper, and while I wasn't DFL, I was pretty close to it finishing 105/110 that year. While my results weren't great, I was officially hooked on cross. 

Team Mario Party circa 2009 (check out Todd in the background)
The following year we decided to bring back Team Mario Party, and I upgraded from duct tape suspenders to real ones, got a cx bike, and lost 20 pounds. The team also grew, we had two Toads, and another Mario. Even with a mechanical, I placed a lot better that year finishing 41/131 in the Cat 4 race.
2010: Where are the red turtle shells when you need them?

Flash forward to 2011. After taking the prior weekend off, missing the Down East races in Maine, I was getting antsy to race. I had gotten in some good training, and was feeling well rested. The weather reports were ominous, with a nor'easter moving in predicted to dump rain/snow on New England. I had never experienced a wet course at Canton, and was rather excited to see how bad the conditions would get. With the expected cold weather, the return of Team Mario Party was questionable, but I decided to a show up as Wario anyway. Doing the 3/4 race was nice, since I didn't even have to leave my house until 11, to make it in time. I was able to get in an inspection lap, and was happy to see some minor changes, that made the course even more fun, as well as a tad safer. They eliminated the 90 degree left "sketchy turn" from the grass onto pavement, and changed the approach to the traditional run up, making it much more ride-able. They also decided to stage by crossresults points this year, avoiding the scrum that develops when you let large fields stage themselves. We had just under a hundred guys line up for the race, with only a few people in costume. Besides my Wario, there was a toilet(check out Chip's blog on this), a cop, a guy in a cape, and an octopus. Not many costumes, I guess 3/4 is serious business.

I lined up 5th row next to my recently upgraded friend John Barry, who has been doing great racing for the Bicycle Bill's team. Somehow one of the 4's was staged right in front of me, which didn't turn out well for me, since he missed his pedal on the start. I saw John power away, as I made my way around. I fought my way up through the pack as we crested the paved starting straight, and cooked it through the turn onto the double track road. It was a little crazy in the back field, with guys flying through the course tape on one of the first turns, broken chains, and crashes all before we got to the first set of barriers. I somehow managed to make it through unscathed, and avoided killing myself when I bunny hopped the log. I backed off the guy in front of me before hitting the ride-up, just in case he bobbled, which he did. I was able to squeak by, gapping him, and the guys behind me who got stuck. Shortly after starting the second lap, Uri caught me, and we proceeded to duke it out . I was able to ride a very clean race, through the next two laps, picking up time on Uri by bunny hopping the log each time, when he ran it. He would catch back on by the time we hit the track, but I think he had to burn some matches to do it. While I was racing hard, I tried to have fun, doing the Wario cackle/laugh when people cheered for me. I would also make the Mario Bros. jumping sound every time I went over a barrier.

Speed Boost!
In the last two laps, things got REAL. It started raining/sleeting, and the winds picked up considerably. The previously tacky sections became very slick, and guys were hitting the deck everywhere. I sought out the grass along the edges, which allowed me to put down more power, especially exiting the turns. I could see my nemesis Conor from Geekhouse, and John both within reach as I hit the top of the run-up. Uri was still on my tail, and John was about 25 yards ahead of me, when he almost got taken out by a tent that blew onto the course. Needless to say everyone was a little surprised by the new obstacle. I was able to close with John, and made a pass, setting my sights on Conor. With half a lap to go, Conor slid out through a particularly tight section, and I was able to get by him. At this point I just wanted to stay upright, and concentrated on negotiating the last few turns. I pushed too hard as I hit the track for the last time, and felt my calf cramp. I quickly stretched it out, and tried to get the power back on. This let John get back to me. Coming out of the last set of barriers, I knew that John was right on my tail, and gambled on trying to gap him with an early sprint. I thought I had him, but he flew by me so fast in the last 10 yards, that I could have sworn he used my suspenders to slingshot by. Overall though, I had a great race, finishing 29/84. 
Post race with John and Conor

The Good:
-Rode clean.
-Hopped the small log.
-Didn't injure myself in anyway.
-Raced in a costume, and beat folks.

The Bad:
-Got outsprinted.
-Wario was lonely without his Nintendo friends.

I look even shorter next to John.

Monday, October 17, 2011


2 weeks after tearing down our night course at the Bolton Fairgrounds, I found myself putting the finishing touches on the course in the same location. I had driven out early with my friend Lodrina, to help out the club as needed. We arrived just before 8, and my single speed race wasn't scheduled until 2:30. I knew this was a bad formula for success in the race, but I was still pretty excited about the Le Mans start for the SS race. 

I only wish that it was a longer run. I was able to get onto my bike in about 4th place, but then bobbled the uphill chicane, and lost a lot of places in the scrum. I got bogged down a little going through the wood chips in the barn, as we hit the back of the women's field. I also slipped twice, falling pretty hard going up the flyover in the second lap, letting Mike Zanc get by. I seemed to bleed 2 places each lap. With 2 to go, I was able to pull back 3 places with a well timed attack in the finish straight and up the hill. My attack held, and I was also able to keep ahead of Hopengarten in the last lap, who had been picking off the guys behind me. I finished 16th, which wasn't too bad considering the field, but well below my hoped for top ten. Results aside, I've really been enjoying these open SS races, they are a blast. 
Post race observations:
The Good
-Le Mans start craziness
-Twizzler handups

The Bad
-Slipping on the flyover runup
-Sardine handups

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Providence Cyclocross Festival Day 2

I chose to skip day 1, not wanting to squander all my goodwill with work, as well as to take a little time to recover from all the racing in the previous week. It was very hot out, reaching a record temperature of 87 degrees F in Oct. Seriously!?! It was hot enough out that I put a bottle cage on the bike, after seeing that I wouldn't have to shoulder it, with no major run ups on the roadie friendly power course.

 I was smart enough to wait in the shade before my race, while they were staging, knowing that I was going to be near the back anyway. I lined up a little ahead of Mike Cook, and David Patnaude, it was good seeing some other MRC guys with me in the 3's. The start quickly became a total nightmare, I had gotten a good jump and was steadily moving up through the pack as we moved up the pavement, when I got pinched by some riders stopping for seemingly no reason. I jumped the curb, and fought to make up some of the spots I lost, but then another rider went down ahead of me, taking out several riders with him. I had to hit the brakes hard and swerve quickly to keep from being tangled up myself. This was all before I even got onto the dirt. At this point I was probably close to 110 out of 138 riders. I just put my head down, and worked on picking guys off one at a time. The course wasn't my favorite, requiring big watts, but I was actually making up places through the barriers, and on the finishing straight each lap. I was having fun at the beer garden area, jumping off the lip of the uphill section, and getting "rad". I made contact with Uri,  who had shaved his beard, leaving him with a mustache, and looking like a young Tom Ritchey. We proceeded to vie for fastest mustache.

I was feeling pretty good about how I was moving up, but then at the end of the second to last lap, I got put into the snow fencing on the off camber section before the barriers. This was after calling, "left side" twice to the rider I was passing. I jammed my index, and middle finger into a wood post, and couldn't bend them for the last lap. It turns out that the guy who did it used to work with me at REI, and I don't think he did it maliciously, but I was pretty ticked at the time. I Managed to pass Todd P., and the young Keough on the pavement, but then completely blew a turn because I couldn't use my left hand to brake, and they got away from me. I managed a 90th place finish, but I can't help but wonder how it would have gone if I had a clean start. Thankfully nothing was broken with my hand and fingers, a big thanks to Dr. Jay for checking out my hand after the race.

Post race observations:
-Fastest mustache

-Hotter than hell
-Getting crashed out

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Night Weasels Cometh 2.0

I had been looking forward to this race since Ice Weasels in December. Colin (a.k.a Resultsboy), puts on some of the craziest races of the season. He and Chip Baker, even hosted a number pickup party the night before at the Ride Studio Cafe. Complete with free beer and pizza, that's what I call value for your entry fee! Of course starting positions were based upon points, and upon receiving my number from him he looked at it and said, "Ooooh, that's not a very good starting position." I would be starting 66th out of 80 racers.

 Night Weasels is held at Ski Ward, which means LOTS of climbing. This also means lots of really fun descending. I would have to categorize the course as a cyclocross friendly mountain biking course. This edition of the race also came after several days of rain, leaving the course a swampy mess. At Nacht Van Weasel, the water apparently runs uphill.

After downing some "power french fries", I lined up with the Cat 3 men, right next to Mike Zanc' and my cross clash nemesis Mark. We were all joking about our chances of getting the lap 1 prime. Just after the sun had set, we got the starting whistle in the gloomy dusk. All the jokes aside, I decided I was going to crush the race predictor. I knew from warming up on the course earlier, that running was going to become a huge factor as the course deteriorated in the sloppy conditions, and that this was going to be a battle of attrition. The mud was so sticky, that it clung to your bike with the tenacity of a rabid bulldog, although it probably weighed more than one. Every time I dismounted, I was pulling mud and grass away from my brakes, so that my wheels could actually turn. I was constantly overtaking people, who looked like their balloons had been popped. Apparently people had forgotten what racing in mud was like after the dry 2010 NECX season. Dah Weasel was hungry that night, eating rear derailleurs, shifters, and taking chunks out of riders. Meanwhile I was having a blast navigating my through the mud. You couldn't wipe the smile off my mug, any more than you could have wiped the mud out of my 'stache.
Photo by Ernest Gagnon
I caught up with Chip on the dark side of the course, and we may have seen the demonic little beast the race was named for laying in wait for lone riders. Or this may have just been the hypoxia affecting my brain, due to all the climbing. In the end, I met my goal, and crushed the race predictor. I was seeded 66th, and finished 29th. My best Cat. 3 effort to date.

My friend Dave made a great video of the race, and more coverage of the race can be seen at Cyclingdirt

Post race observations:

-Cleaning off the mud

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gran Prix of Gloucester

Day 1: The weather was pretty wet the night before, and it was still raining when I arrived at the venue. I was pumped up when I saw the course layout  I prefer the twisty, technical courses. For me, the more dismounts the better, since I like to run aggressively. The traditional large run up from the water was there, the normal barriers were replaced by stairs at the beer garden, the barriers were moved into the ball field, and they had added a flyover this year. 

 I started 102 out 150 in the huge Cat 3 field. I was able to get a decent start, moving past a lot of folks up the pavement. I got stuck at the run up, which was a real mess by the time our field got to it, but was able to shoulder my way through the crowd at the top. I was very comfortable with the flyover, taking the stairs two at time, passing people who were 10 yards ahead of me each time through. I eventually made contact with my cross-clash foe Mark Bernard of HUP, and we fought back and forth for the rest of the race, along with young Ian Keough. With 2 to go, I took a beer feed without really thinking. I wasn't able to get much of it in my mouth, so I dumped the rest on my head, to the delight of the crowd. Of course that was a bad move for many reasons, two of which being that I couldn't see, and my helmet smelled like beer. In the final lap I was about 15 yards behind Mark and Ian when we hit the pavement, due to swinging a little too wide through the sand. I caught them both napping, with a good sprint, and by the time they saw me it was too late. I suspect that this is the only time I will ever be able to say I out sprinted a Keough, so what if he is 14. I finished 86th, which beat the cross predictor. 

Day 2: The course was drier, but the conditions were much colder. I wasn't feeling very well, and spent most of my morning volunteering on the course. I missed out on my chance to preride the course by a few minutes, but could tell by looking around that I wasn't going to enjoy it much. The only section I was really excited about was the ramp down to a soft sand beach, followed by about 30 stairs back up to the course. I got in an okay warm up, but it was wasted due to the 30 min delay of our race. It turned out that the septic system had overflowed, leaking raw sewage onto the course, and they were routing the course around it.The whole time we were waiting, the cramping in my gut just kept getting worse, as I got colder.

 I kind of wrote this one off, after being shut out at the start, unable to move up on the pavement. I still managed to latch onto PJ before we hit the ramp down to the beach, but then I quickly remembered the cardinal rule of last season. "Don't follow PJ's wheel!". He hit a really soft patch, pulling to one side, sending me under the tape, still clipped into both pedals. The stairway was kind of hilarious, making the traditional run up look roomy. Someone at the top had a megaphone, and was throwing out some great heckles, I even had to laugh at him catcalling my mustache.
Photo by Rich Foley

Based on my handling performance, I am pretty sure I used up all my steering skill points on Saturday. So not only did I lack power on the straightaways, I couldn't seem to make up any time in the few technical sections. Between the wind, and my stomach I was miserable. The highlight of the day was getting a dollar at the beer garden. I was laughing with the crowd because I didn't know where to put it in my skinsuit, it's just not one of those things I had ever really thought about. I lost several spots while I was laughing with the crowd, but I didn't really care at that point. I held off one guy in the finish straight, with a substandard sprint, finishing 102/147.