Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Manion's CX 2013


We were greeted with true cyclocross weather on Saturday -- 60-65 degrees, clouds, and RAIN. When the master's started at 10:00, the first few laps were pretty fast. However, by the end of their race the course was already turning to mud and sections were becoming unrideable.

By the time 2:00 came around, the course was a huge mud fest. 21 riders lined up for the 1/2 race. I got a decent start, but didn't get unclipped while making a 180 half way through the first lap and went down. I got back on the bike quickly, but lost a few positions. After reeling a few riders back, I found myself riding with Micah Gordon. Over the next couple of laps, we slowly began to lose shifting until both of us were essentially on singlespeeds (neither of us had pit bikes). Luckily, the one functioning gear I had was the 39-25, so I was able to ride most of the uphill sections of the course although I was completely spun out on any flat sections. With one to go, I noticed I was gaining on 6th place, and I made a move just after the barriers into the finish. Taking a risk, I shifted up a few gears and managed to get around him just before the finish line for a 6th place finish.

Immediately after my race on Saturday, the weather cleared up and the sun came out. By 2:00 on Sunday, 95% of the course was hero dirt. Unlimited traction just about everywhere. Unfortunately, the entire course felt like it was uphill today, since the only major downhill section was a series of 180 degree corners.

24 guys lined up today. I got a first row start and was in the top 5 out of the finishing straight. I got passed by a few guys in the initial tight corners, and eventually settled into 9th place. Wesley Boyce (Cycle City), Britton Kusiak (Colavita/Parisi), and I rode much of the race within 5 seconds of each other. With 3 or 4 to go, I noticed we were gaining on Shadd Smith (KCCX/Fuji), but I was too gassed to bridge the gap. For 2 laps, the gap stayed around 5-10 seconds, but eventually Shadd, Wesley, and Britton all pulled away.

I still managed a top 10 finish (barely, at 10th place), but I can tell I haven't put in any intense training yet. There's still plenty of time for that if I'm wanting to get out to Nationals in January this year. Major props to Garet Steinmetz for taking the win on a full suspension mountain bike. Dude has a huge motor and some awesome bike handling skills -- check out the video of him riding Mr. Stitches here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stCdBayLV68

Pretty awesome shot of the course on Saturday. Photo credit goes to Chris Thomas.
Over Mr Stitches.

Over Mr. Stitches again, at the point in the race where I was running out of gas.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

CX Season

Manions and the start of cross season is less than 4 weeks away! The new bike is almost finished - I just need to glue up the new tires and put on the handlebar tape. I need to make a few fit changes (who knew, yoga and stretching regularly actually makes you more flexible), but I'm a huge fan of the new bike.

The end of September can't come soon enough.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tulsa Tough

It's hard to put into words how awesome Tulsa Tough was, but I'll give it a shot.

I only raced Sunday, but got an incredible experience with Cry Baby hill and the insane fans on the hill. Even after getting advice from Aubree Keck about lining up early, I still managed to find myself towards the back of our 100 person field when we lined up. Having never ridden the course before, the first 5 laps were simply trying to figure out where I wanted to be in which corners. I would lose some positions in one corner, gain them and some extra back in another, only to get pinched in another corner and lose them again.

Finally after 5 laps, I made a concerted effort to move up in the pack. Half-way through our 55 minute race I found myself around 20-30th place. I managed to stay there for the rest of the race. I should've moved up more going into the last lap, because I got caught behind 3 separate crashes in the last lap. Thankfully, none of them took me out, but all of them made me lose time on the guys in front of me who weren't involved in the wrecks. I finished the race in 30th place, which met my goal of finishing in the top half of the field (I actually got top third)!

If you've never been down to Tulsa Tough, you need to go next year. The crowds were insane, the Pro/1 guys were ridiculously fast, the atmosphere is incredible, and the course is a ton of fun. From the smell of beer and bbq going up cry baby hill to the smell of hot brake pads going down the hill, even the smells are interesting. I'll definitely be back next year, but for all three days this time!

Men's 1/2 race on the start/finish straight.

Half-way up the hill at the turn into the party.

Cry Baby Hill in full swing.

Start of the Men's Pro race.

Looking down towards the start/finish straight.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Salina RR & Crit

Saturday was the RR. There were 22 cat 4 guys who lined up for the 65 mile race. A few guys tried to go off the front at the beginning, but nothing stuck for the first 20 miles. 20 miles in, a Cycle City rider took off and got a good gap. A few miles later, a Big D rider took off as well. Realizing they had a large lead on the pack, we upped the tempo and brought the guys back within 20-30 seconds before we turned back into the headwind. However, nobody else in the pack wanted to do any work at the front in the headwind, so our speed plummeted and the gap started growing quickly. After a frustrating 10 miles of trying to get a rotation going, I decided to attack on a hill with 5 miles to go and try my luck at reeling the break in by myself. I got a big gap and was gaining on the 2 leaders pretty quickly, but didn't have enough time to bring it back. I'm guessing I needed 2-3 more miles to catch them. I crossed the line in 3rd place.

There were major storms threatening most of Kansas late afternoon on Sunday, but the crit stayed completely dry during my race. Once again, 22 guys lined up for the crit. The first 5-6 laps were filled with small one-man breaks, but nothing that would stay away. About 6 laps in, someone attacked (I don't remember who) and 6 of us got a gap on the field. After a couple of laps with no organization and a 4-5 second gap on the field, we finally got a rotation going and began growing our lead. 

With 3 laps to go, it was obvious we would stay away and the tempo started slowing down slightly, especially into the headwind sections of the course. At the start/finish with one to go, I made a hard move to see who else had decent legs. I wasn't trying to open a gap, but I realized I had a bit of a gap. Instead of continuing the attack, I decided to ease up and take my chances with the final sprint (in retrospect, this was the wrong decision). The last half of the course was into a headwind. I was sitting second wheel behind a Velotek guy, and our whole group was moving at about 15mph since nobody wanted to pull hard right before the sprint. Kendall Wiebe (who was somewhere 2-3 places behind me at the time) made a great move and attacked before the second-to-last corner with a Cycle City guy and a MMCT guy on his wheel. The distance from the last two corners to the finish line was pretty short, so the finish was determined almost entirely by that move before the corners. Kendall took 1st, Aaron (Cycle City) was 2nd, Travis (MMCT) was 3rd, and I was 4th.

I never want to complain about a top 5 finish, but I wish I would have taken my chances with the attack on the last lap. There's a decent chance I would have blown up completely somewhere in the headwind stretch before the finish, but my legs felt good and I think I could have made it work. I also would have finished knowing I rode as hard as possible the last lap rather than playing cat and mouse for most of a lap. Oh well, it was a good learning experience!

I put in my upgrade request after the race and it was approved the following day, so it's Cat 3 from now on!
RR early in the race. Photo credit - Roger Harrison

Crit finish. Photo credit - Kendall Wiebe

Monday, May 6, 2013

Grattan & Goshen

I haven't raced as much this spring as I would like due to a variety of issues (one of which includes driving to races on the wrong day), but I finally got my road season started last week. I was in Indiana and Michigan visiting family the last week and managed to get in one weekday training race and a crit.

Last Wednesday was the first Grattan race of the season. As the name would suggest, the Grattan race series is a weekly race that is held at Grattan raceway in Michigan. It's an AWESOME course. Fast, flowy, and a few small hills. I was on the fence about lining up for the A or B race (you're supposed to automatically race the B race if you've never raced Grattan before, but I thought I could get around that if I wanted to). After seeing some really fast pros registering for the A race, I chickened out and did the B race.

The race started out at a moderate tempo and I got in a breakaway about 5 laps in. There were 7 of us who got away, but three riders eventually fell off our pace. With about 5 laps to go it was obvious the break was going to stick, but as I was pulling off the front of the group one guy attacked and opened up a gap. I didn't notice it soon enough and he quickly got a few seconds on us. He managed to time trial the rest of the race for the win. By the last lap, we knew we would be fighting for 3rd. The Bissell club guy attacked half-way through the lap in a corner, but the other guy I was with closed down the gap. I rode his wheel into the finish straight and came around him with about 25 meters to go for a 2nd place finish.

The "I Love Goshen Crit" was part of Goshen's monthly Friday Friday events and was held Friday and Saturday. This was the first 3/4 race I had ever done, and the first crit I had ever done with a 180 degree turn in it. There were 34 guys in our field, including two Bissell-ABG-Giant guys. The race started out fast and I got stuck behind a guy who didn't clip in very fast. This led to me hitting the 180 degree corner in 20-25th place. From there, I was playing catch-up for the next 5 laps. About 6 or 7 laps in, there was a crash in the 180 degree corner that took out three or four guys in front of me. I didn't go down, but had to slow down enough that 12 guys in front of the crash got a big gap.

Within half a lap, one guy caught up to me and we started working together. For the remaining 20 laps of the race, we worked together trading pulls. Another guy fell off the pace of the front group and joined us with about 10 laps to go. Out of our chase group of three I took 2nd place in the sprint, putting me in 13th overall.

It was a fun but frustrating race. My legs felt tired most of the race and the crash pretty much eliminated any hopes I had of a good finish. Still, I felt positive about the results for my first cat 3 race. It was also a ton of fun watching my cousins, Peter and Marten, racing in the 1/2/3 race even though neither of their races went as well as they would have hoped. Less than two weeks from now is the Salina crit and RR, so it will be fun to get some more racing in soon!

Stuck between the break and the chasing field nearly the entire race.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lost Trail CX

Last weekend was the first ever Lost Trail CX race. The race was held at the Louisberg Cider Mill - a place that makes cider, has a corn maze / pumpkin patch, and some great terrain for a CX race.

It rained the day before the race, so the ground was somewhat slick and sticky early in the day but by the open race the mud was packed down enough that there really weren't any slick sections. However, while the mud was packed down, there were quite a few rocks that showed up in the course that had earlier been hidden under layers of dirt or mud. These rocks made for quite a few flats over the course of the day. It was supposed to get up in the mid 40s and sunny, but it hovered around 35 degrees and foggy the entire day. The turnout for the open race was pretty small (7 guys), but the guys who showed up were definitely fast (Tilford and Shadd Smith to name just a couple).

I got a pretty bad start (last place into the first corner), but moved up a spot half-way through the first lap. After the first lap I found myself just a second or two behind JP Brocket and Steve Songer. Over the next 4 laps, JP Brocket had a mechanical, Steve Songer crashed, I flatted, and JP flatted again. After all of those issues and the continual passing and being passed, I found myself in 5th place with Songer about 10 seconds ahead of me. He started growing the gap and my back tire kept on bottoming out, so I eased up for last couple of laps and was content with 5th place. I was sure I had close to 30 psi in my back tire when I aired it up before my pre-ride, but I got back to my car and realized I somehow only had around 20 psi in my back tire... definitely not enough for this course.

I thought this was one of the most fun courses so far this year. Since I flatted my front tubular, I also got to try using my one of new clinchers (Clement Crusade PDX). I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy those in tubular form for next year; they had an unbelievable amount of traction in the corners yet still seemed to roll decently fast for a set of really knobby tires. Cross off the old year is in 2 weeks from now and should be my last CX race of the season.

Trying to stay with JP after my flat and his first flat. Photo credit goes to David Tsai.

Monday, December 10, 2012

KS State Championships

KS State Championships were Saturday in Topeka. Last year I raced the day before the state championships (Capital Cup) but not the following day, so I was at least somewhat familiar with the park the race was being held at. However, the course was much different than what was used for Capital Cup last year; while Capital Cup was an all-out power couse, this one was more technical yet still flowed REALLY well.

This was really the first cool cross race of the year (high 40s and cloudy), so it took me a while to get warmed up. Even once I finished my normal warm-up, my legs still didn't feel like they were awake yet. While warming up, I also noticed that more and more fast guys were showing up. David Neidinger jokingly made a comment that we might be fighting for last place today. Even though we both knew that was a bit of an exaggeration, we knew the field was stacked.

I got a first row start because of KBAR points (even if I wouldn't have had the points, getting on the first row isn't hard when the field isn't huge) and got a mediocre start. Through the long straight paved section, I came into the first corner around 9th place. I lost a few positions once we hit the grass and the subsequent technical sections. I could immediately tell that I didn't warm up as well as I should have - my legs just didn't seem to have any energy. For the first two laps, I simply watched 7th - 11th place ride away from me.

Finally, about three laps in my legs woke up and I started to feel better. I made up ground and passed 11th place one lap later. For the first few laps, there were four guys riding together fighting for 7th place, but by this time Adam Mills and and Bill Marshall had put a gap into Michael Smith and Bill Stolte. I was slowly gaining on Michael and Bill S. and eventually caught them with 2 laps to go. I put in a hard dig right at the start/finish and had a 2-3 second gap going into the technical section. Bill was riding this section MUCH faster than me and caught back up to me (note to self - ride more mountain bike this year!). When we hit the pavement with 1 to go,I hit the gas again and got a good 5-10 second gap this time. Bill was gaining on me again, but I was confident that I could hold him off since the finishing stretch was paved and straight. However, I heard him get tangled up riding the small barriers at the end, which allowed me to soft pedal in for 9th place on the day.

A fun day on the bike. Next weekend is Lost Trail CX (check it out... supposedly the course is like a Euro world cup course on the Kansas prairie), then hopefully at least one of the Christmas week races (probably Cross off the old year). I'm pretty much done doing anymore real training for cx this year though - from here on out it's going to be base miles and commuting.