Wednesday, October 31, 2007

At least someone has faith in cycling...

Usually when the names of any pro cycling fodder grace the page of the mainstream media I expect to see some doping scandal. That being said, i was pleased when Brian brought it to my attention that the New York Post (I know) is reporting a budding relationship between Lance Amstrong and one of the Olsen Twins... Say what you want about Landis' testosterone, but its very clear that our boy Lance isn't lacking in that department.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Canton Cup Cyclocross Photos

A few photos from the event:

Brisk Commutes and Morning Revelations

First brisk bike commute of the year this morning. As I got ready to leave the house, the thought of freezing hands drove me to my sprawling explosion of a race bag in search of my gloves. I found them, stuffed in a jersey pocket, with just enough vomit residue to keep me bare-handed for the morning. ah, bike racing.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Another week has passed, and along with it has come the stark reminder that the real world, replete with homework, papers to grade, and grant proposals, does not often mesh kindly with the fantasy world of cat 4 cross racing. Some seriously late nights and "PhD stress" (excuses excuses) kept me off the bike most of the week, though I did manage to get a session on the trainer (see also: make-you-hate-your-bike machine) long enough to remember that a) I sweat a lot, and b) things hurt a lot more when you're staring at a hard wood floor.

Needless to say I felt good coming into this weekends event at Canton, Mass. I had signed up for the race on Tuesday, and was excited to see a solid field of 45 racers. By Saturday evening there were 94 pre-registered cat 4's. Race directors take note: 10:00 am start times will double your cat 4 field.

After a luxurious 7:00 AM wake up, and a real breakfast, I was off to the races. I had absolutely no idea of what kind of a goal to set for this race. 95 racers is a lot of riders. At Gloucester, even with my 90th starting position, I was in contact with the top 15 at one point - so assuming a reasonable start I was looking for a top 20 finish. Reasonable enough to inflate my self-esteem if I got it, but enough of a stretch that a mechanical would provide adequate excuse for failure.

On the first warm up lap, a little colin-esque voice in the back of my head was screaming "Grass Crit!" The course had a uphill pavement start into a fire road, back and forth through some grass, uphill UCI barriers, short single track, lots more grass, the sketchiest pavement-covered-with-deadly-but-lovely-autumn-leaves, some off camber, some tiny barriers (less than 8 inches), a mildly technical downhill into a run up onto a running track, more grass, fast barriers, and finally back to the start to lap through. Yeah, it was long. It was flat. I wasn't digging it after the first warm up lap, when, blinded by the sun, I struck a pedal coming out of the technical downhill and shot my right pedal into my quad right above my knee. Great way to start the day. Warm up lap 2, crazy old cat 4 on a cannondale wipes out on the paved section and slides 15 feet across a turn in front of me - Totally worth it. I got over myself, and quickly decided that the course was fun.

Somehow I made it to the start line an got a reasonable position in the front row. They staged up the race with about 5 feet of space between rows, which was pretty nice. At the whistle I immediately fumbled with my pedal, and watched the entire front row engulf me. This did, however, open up a substantial gap on the left side which Tyler took like a madman, and sealed himself the hole shot. On the first barrier I nailed my remount. I mean, I didn't stutter step, I just had the incredibly goofy leap-of-faith, in the air long enough to contemplate how ridiculously high you've jumped, remount. This resulted in the nose of my saddle dropping about 2 inches. It remained that way until another matrix-style remount put it into correct position.

The first lap was the usual jockeying, passing, getting passed, until I settled into about 10th place. Thus began my mind-fuck. Thoughts of last weekend haunted me. Though I didn't blog about it, day two of catamount saw me move from 3rd to 9th at one point. The classic blow-up. I needed to keep this race under control and work on a steady pace that would hold a gap behind me. I got passed and held on to 11th for a lap, with a pesky rider on my wheel the whole time.

After a majority of a lap of me pulling this kid he decides that he's gonna do some "work."

see also: pull in front, tell me to hang on, and slow down like crazy.

This back and forth went on, and the top-ten slipped away. Last lap, coming around the track, I see a flash of red out of the corner of my eye. Instantly I knew... Eric Edlund, MIT, fast as hell sprinter. If I came into the finish stretch with him, I was losing my 11th. The little wheelsuck pulled ahead a bit, so I had no more tiny draft - this was gonna be all me. Get over the last set of barriers, and put it in the big ring. Tiny is spinning ahead on the hill. I put my head down and jump on it - coming along his left side out of no where, frantically looking back to see Edlund charging up the hill. I crossed the line, a triumphant 11th, and after emptying the tank on the course, emptied my stomach on the grass.

Next weekend should be interesting, two big verge races, and the reasonable possibility of a top 10 finish, and maybe some elusive upgrade points. Cross is addicting.

Cross gets me to normal.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Catamount Cross Weekend - Day 1

I made sure to secure my outer spot at the line, even in the front row this time, but a guy squeezed in next to me - no big deal. Whistle blows and I got a good start along the gradual grass uphill. No real hole shot on this course, just a sweeping left hand 180 turn. I cut into a line of guys on the turn and settled into 4th place. Nice! We were cruising along.

At the first set of barriers, a 180 down and up routine similar to Gloucester-except followed by a short run up. I quickly realized that if these guys were going to hold this pace, I was going to blow up. I figured - first lap, its gonna hurt, it's supposed to hurt, let's ride it out.

The course carved around some good sweeping grass turns, nothing too terribly off camber, and most of it had a dirt track down the middle about 4 inches wide. The second run-up posed a bit more of a problem for me. It was a 90 degree right hand turn into a barrier, then about an 80-100 ft run up, with three large birch trees across the trail. The course wound down through similar turns as the majority of the rest of the course into a quick downhill on a fire road. After a very tight set of S turns, the course hit the muddy section (I'll be getting some clear eye protection for tomorrow) the course wound into the set of triple barriers, made a few more turns and come through the lap.

Somewhere at the beginning of the 2nd lap I was passed by a GMBC guy and was sitting in fifth. The lead 4 started to pull away (Damn roadies who race beginner races) and I began my two laps in the pain cave in no-mans land. I was having a hard time getting my breathing under control, but I was still able to push on the false flats and try to keep my distance from the group behind me. With 2 to go I got passed on the run up by another GMBC guy (these guys are everywhere). After the technical S turns another GMBC guy got around me but I grabbed his wheel and held him through the mud. In a moment of true cross glory I passed him on the triple barriers, hit a perfect remount, found the pedals, clipped, and blasted away.

Ok. Sixth place isn't bad, I can't get greedy, need to hold my own and not blow up. As I come through for 1 to go the uphill is noticeably slower, and my legs are burning. I'm wobbling all over the bike, looking like a mess. I'm not sure when he got around me, but he did, so I was back in 7th. 7th is ok... I mean, there was merch for top 5 and I was just in 6th so I wasn't getting that anyway. So I decided to hold in and not risk blowing it and losing places to the two guys about 15 seconds back.

At least that was my plan. As I came down the fire road for the last time I noticed a woman's racer who I was about to lap. Somehow in my paranoia about hitting her or passing or something, I missed my line through this small rocky section, and got all messed up going through the S turn. As I set my bike down to remount, I noticed it felt a little weird. Pinch Flat. Dammit.

Since there really wasn't a pit, and I was quite far away from the place that it wasn't at, I just decided to roll on it. I was pretty impressed actually - I kept my speed up, with the exception of the corners. The two guys behind me got around me, and I was tempted to run the last 50 feet to look badass, but decided to save it for tomorrow. So i rolled through the line in 9th place.

Some Photo's Below:

Living in No Man's Land

S Turns

Getting Chased Down

Flat Tire Fun

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gloucester - Part 2

When I woke up on Sunday morning I realized how long it had been since I'd competed in two races in one weekend. Needless to say we had a slightly more relaxed morning, knowing that we had plenty of time to get to the races.

The atmosphere at the course felt a lot more relaxed on Sunday, and we quickly got settled in with registration and got out on the course. Though the route was unchanged, the surface had changed substantially - the course was much drier and smoother after 1100 riders hit it the day before. I decided to up the tire pressure about 5 psi in hopes of gaining a little speed on the pavement section and the long flat sections. Once around the course felt like a sufficient warm up.

Staging was the same, though I took McCormack's advice and chose the right hand side of the line in hopes of coming around the first turn in a better position. At the whistle the start felt slower than the day before, but soon I was making my way up the right hand side of the field. I hit the hole shot in about 40th or so, and began to chip away at groups. By the second lap both colin and thayne told me I was sitting in about 25th place. As I came around the the 180 by the pits I could count out at least 10 guys in a group, no more than 10 seconds up on me. There it was, my top 10 finish, right there.

Easier said than done. Turns out that while having an aggressive start can put you in a great position for the first two laps, it also has the potential to totally zap your energy for the rest of the race. I knew I needed to be smart about this, and try to carve down the gap slowly in order to not blow up. However, this doesn't really work. I lost sight of the group in the next 2 laps. With 2 to go I faltered on the barriers and a group got past me. I manage to nip 1 of them, but he got back in front with 1 to go and was gone.

As I came through the SRAM hairpin for the last time I saw a Minuteman rider in my peripheral vision, about 2 seconds behind me, and knew I was in for a fight. as we hit the grass I put it into the big ring and took a deep breath. We took the right hand onto the pavement and he cut it inside, pulling even with me. Here it goes.

Downshift, head down, lets go. I pulled hard, desperately trying to keep my back wheel on the ground while he came around to my left hand side. About halfway up the hill to the finish our acceleration dropped and we were dead even. I thought I had lost it until he drifted back about 5 inches. That was all I needed. I dropped a gear and gave it one last push to get him by a wheel at the line.

I stuck it out for a 31st place finish, one spot out of my reach goal of the top 30. I came away from the weekend completely satisfied with my results and efforts, but ready to put some effort into the next few weeks to get into that elusive top 20 at a Verge race, and top 10 in a local.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gloucester - Part 1

The big weekend has come and gone - and after all the hype I'm quite satisfied with my first experience at New England World Championships. Brian came up for the races, and proved that its not possible for him to take any sort of cycling lightly.

We were both registered for the men's 4 race, which went off at 9 am both days. Friday night I begrudgingly set the alarm for 5:30 and reminded myself why I should train and move up to B's and get some freakin' sleep.

I awoke on Saturday morning out of frustration for the MBTA Bus barrier in the cross race during my REM. When I rolled over to check the time I saw it was 6:30 - the classic set-the-alarm-for-PM-instead-of-AM mistake had gotten me again! Despite our panicked departure we arrived with plenty of time to get our numbers and preview the course.

As I got to staging I was a little uneasy about the start - an uphill pavement stretch with a slight left hand turn, oh, and 124 other cat 4's. We were staged by registration order, and I was about 90th. The whistle blew and there was a good 5 seconds before I was in the saddle. I knew the only hope was to burn it for this first lap or the front of the pack would be gone. I made my way through the pack, picking off riders in groups of 5 or 10, sometimes taking my track experience and squeezing through some fairly tight spots, much to the dismay of the other riders.

When we hit the hole shot I had probably moved up about 35-40 places, puting me around 50th. Through the first lap I picked off enough riders to get up to about 35th place. Things were feeling really good - I wasn't going under, still had some gas in the tank. Turns out taking 2 weeks off with a head cold left me well rested and ready to go.

On lap three coming into the run up I discovered that my new pedals and shoes weren't exactly dialed in, and the resulting 35 degree release angle on my left foot sent me nearly through the tape at the bottom of the barrier run up. Frazzled as I was, I made my way over the barriers, which felt like they were about 4 feet tall, and into the SRAM switchback section. Made it through the 180, but the off camber wet grass got the better of me, and I went down hard on my left side, sliding across the grass.

Shit. I dropped my chain, my brain wasn't working, I had no idea what I was doing. Maybe it was the lactic acid getting between the neurons. I fumbled for a minute with the chain, until I was yelled at for standing on the turn. I snapped to, and ran the rest of the turn as about 10 guys, including Brian, got past me. Up until then I held on to a shred of hope that maybe, just maybe, I'd beat Brian in a cycling race. Not going to happen. Finally I got the chain on and headed back up the pavement.

Despite the embarrassing chain debacle, I held on for a 43rd place finish, which was good enough for me given the crash and my terrible barrier traverse.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Goals: Part 1

Low key weekend. Last weeks efforts left me with a nagging head cold that I've been unable to shake. I got out on the bike once and managed to shake my fears that I would forget how to remount. The true test will be when I'm shoulder to shoulder with 124 other Cat 4's. This weekend will be ridiculous.

And since nothing brings on motivation like being sick (and thus having an excuse to not act upon that motivation) I've been pondering some goal setting. It is, after all, all the rage.

While it is true that thanks to Mark McCormack I finally can remount the bike, it has yet to be race proven. I'd like to remounting without a stutter-step 100% of the time by the end of the season. Similarly I would like to be able to be 100% comfortable with the 2 step, 4 step, 4 step routine for the double barriers, such that I'm always jumping off of, and landing on, the same foot.

I would like to gather the points to upgrade to a 3 from a 4. This should be attainable, considering I actually get my ass out of bed early enough to race in the 4's, and am also succesful at the next goal, which is:

Strong Starts
Yeah, I've only raced two races, and yeah, the second race was a 3/4 that I had no business being in so I sheepishly lined up at the back of the group for a 50 foot coast to a stop, but the only way to get top 10 finishes is to seal the deal in the first two laps, which means a solid start. At Bedford I was caught in the pile up in the first turn, and left the carnage in last place, at which point i made up about half the field to get into 19th. Looking at the results I was 30 seconds out of the top 10, something I totally could've closed. This also means being at the line 25 minutes before the gun, and being (be - be) agressive.

Tokyo Drift:
Cause how do you corner, anyway?

And the requisite "reach" goal:
would probably be a top 50% finish in the 3/4. I figure that since the long trail killed all my bike fitness, and I'm likely not going to gain much in the next two months given my work/school schedule, this is a bit of a reach.

Thats it for now..

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I can remount!!

most of the time... Basically in 2 1/2 hours I went from never properly remounting a cross race, to remounting in the drops after double barriers. Whats the trick? Mark McCormack. The former national champion held a private clinic for the Cambridge Bicycle Cyclocross Team tonight, and everything came together. My goal is to be 100 percent with it by Gloucester, so at least I can look like I'm going fast.

In other non-cyclocross news, I got a phone call today from my attorney. He informed me that he had a case similar enough to mine that he dug up my file, and was encouraging me to piggy back on it. So here we go, back in the legal game.

Now that I've got cross on the brain I've got to set some goals, including mastering the McCormack 2-4-4 barrier dance.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Amesbury Cross

What a ridiculous course. Amesbury combined roots and sand into a dusty clusterfuck in the Men's B.

First off, I have no business riding in the B's - this was my second cross race, and I spent the month of August completely off my bike. But somehow the idea of not waking up at 530 am to make it for the C's appealed to me, and I justified it as "more training time."

I lined up 20 minutes prior to the start in the back 20% of the group. Hard to say what row I was in, as people were pretty much just jammed in almost perpendicular to each other. The whistle goes and take what space I can for about 100 feet until the course bottlenecks 50+ guys into a 6 foot wide trail. Dead stop. I scooter around some kids and enter root city. I was running my tires at about 45 psi and still bouncing around substantially, but didn't want to risk a pinch flat.

After the barriers the course went back into the woods. At each corner I was stuck behind riders taking terrible lines. I finally got a chance to make a move when a guy in front of me goes down hard and my front tire hits his torso dead on. For the first time in years I was up and over the bars. It was good, I needed that. At least 10 guys got by at that point, but I was up and moving.

The rest of the race was gritty and rough. I ran the steep descent each lap, and maintained the same pace as those who rode it - sometimes even passed them. I took one hard crash on the off camber and sent my knee into my drops. Doesn't feel so hot today.

Despite finishing in the last 5% of the pack, I met my goal, which was to not get lapped, and I wasn't DFL. Given the racquetball sized contusion on my left leg, I feel pretty good about it.

Gotta love those shoes...

Next weekend off I suspect, Gloucester after that.