Falls arrived…

To say I was excited to race this past sunday would have been a long shot.  I wasn’t totally into it mentally, actually the whole last week I was a little phased out since Ellen had an accident mountain biking at PQ Canyon.

Last sunday we were out having a glorious day riding bikes, excited to go to a party afterwards when she fell, going fairly slow, and sliced her arm wide open on a small bush.  It was just one of those odd crazy things that happened. the cut was 4 inches long and 2cm deep.  It resulted in her passing out and getting a ride in an ambulance  I am so proud at how brave and tough she was through the entire debacle!

After hiking 1.5 miles out of the canyon and into a neighborhood to get Ellen to the ambulance, I ran back to where we stashed the bikes and rode mine out while pushing hers, which took 40 minutes.  I didn’t leave though until I went back to look for the branch that cut her, I saw many sharp blades of shrubbery but none with blood on it.  Had I had found said branch i probably would have gone crazy on it, or just brought it home and framed it?  This incident really made me think of what is really important in life, and was kind of a slap in the face of how fragile we really are.  Especially after the paramedic told me that if it would have cut a vein or artery that I shouldn’t have hesitated to call the helicopter for a lift out.

So onward to the Turkey Trot up in Glendale.  I found myself going through the motions before the race, but really not wanting to race, I had no drive or fire burning.  I got my warm-up in and pre-rode the course about 5 or 6 times cause it was so darn fun, and toed the line against one of the larger fields this year.

As soon as the whistle blew, and some foreigner in our race who “can’t speak english’ almost put me into the tape on the first turn, the fire was lit!  We had a large group the first couple laps and kept a pretty mellow pace, with myself, prenzlow, gritters and a couple other people taking some turns in the wind.

Little bridge section.  Photo: Phil Beckman

At the start of the 3rd or 4th lap I was in the lead and had planned on trying to open a gap, if not on Gritters and Brent at least the rest of the field so we could have some space.  But Jason Siegle decided he was gonna make his move and bombed passed us on the long straight road section.  I know that in the past he likes to get a gap 1/3 of the way through the race then just time trial the rest of the race, well I wasn’t gonna let that happen. After some ‘encouraging’ words from Brandon to stay on that wheel, Jason fumbled coming out of the sand pit and I saw an opportunity to make his attack short lived, so I sprinted in front of him right before a left hand turn through the mulch.

Only to somehow loose my front wheel in the loose bark!  For as fast as we were going I didn’t slide anywhere and just kind of stuck there, which left Jason no other choice but to run into me.  It took a couple seconds but he finally got off of me, I peeled his bike off of my bike and myself and handed it to him, then grabbed mine.  I got back on with a dropped chain which left me about 15 seconds back from Jason and about 30 seconds from the lead group, and around 9th or so place.

Pretty bummed at what just happened I kind of just dazed my way through the rest of the lap, and contemplated dropping out and drinking some beer.  After more thought, I figured I’d get my money’s worth and at least get a workout in after driving this far.  Its already ridiculous enough to drive all this way and spend all this time warming up, etc for an hour long race, even worse for a 15 minute race.

Pretty much sums up the day…

I started building into it and after a lap or two finally started catching some other riders.  On the last lap I put down my fastest lap (third fastest overall) and managed to catch John Bailey and steal 5th place from him, which is way better than I thought I would do after falling.  Despite laying down the bike, it was a really fun day of racing with a bunch of good people on an awesome course.  Thanks to everyone!

Ohh here is a picture of Ellens arm post stitches, warning possible gore factor…

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Hodges Race Report

A little late on this one, was busy finishing up a little training block after last weekends races.  Anywho, the weathers been great here.  Its starting to get a little harder to get motivated for those morning rides with the chilly mornings, but as soon as the sun comes out everything gets warmed right up.

So the Hodges SpyClocross course was brutally painful.  In my mind a little more how CX races should be, a little more going up and coming down, and utilizing what our local terrain has to offer.  My buddy Kurt G spent a few hours digging a nice trench, which was rad until two dirty drunkards decided to start hauling mud from the lake and throwing it in the trench.  This made it tough for some to clip back in as after the mud ‘pit’ there was a nice long sandy beach section which just clogged up cleats.  It also provoked a good bit of whining from the ‘pretty’ boys/girls who are used to the dry socal cross races.  (Seriously, it was some pretty gross mud though)

Kyle leading the first few laps.  Photo: Phil Beckman

There was a decent little turnout for our race, including Brandon and Kyle Gritters who decided to come down and beat up on Brent and I who had tired legs from racing the previous day.  The race started at a pretty quick pace with Kyle getting about a 15 second gap off of Brent and Brandon.  I was left chasing after getting stuck behind a slower rider after Ted Willard broke his chain on the climb.  It took about two laps of me going all out to bridge the thirty second gap.  Even after I caught up with Brent and Brandon it was tough for me to hang onto their wheel, I was halfway thinking of dropping off and riding with the guy behind me for 4/5th.

At this point Kyle was still off the front by about 10-15 seconds, and Brent was chasing with Brandon behind and myself following.  I was still hurting bad and unable to help Brent put the chase on, the whole while Brandon was comfortably sitting in.  On about the 5th or so lap Kyle dropped his chain after the run and we finally caught him and everyone was riding together, with me still hanging on the back, and finally starting to get a little recovery.

Somewhere near the start of the 6th lap Brandon got in front of kyle, who was in front of Brent, and put in a solid attack.  With his brother sitting up slowing the pace through the grass section, Brandon was able to easily get 20 seconds on the group.  We rode the rest of the lap in the same order, then Brent was able to jump back in front ok Kyle and try to start working on Brandons lead.

Start of the last lap… Photo: Phil Beckman

At the start of the last lap I could tell Brent was exhausted and I moved to the front to try and possibly (i knew very unlikely, but you never know when someones gonna make a mistake or have a mechanical) close the gap on Brandon.  Kyle jumped behind me, which I was hoping would have been Brent, and I went as hard as I could to possibly try to shake Kyle hoping that he was exhausted from riding off the front for the first few laps.  Unfortunately I was also pretty exhausted from racing the previous day and playing catch-up for part of this race.

Kyle stayed behind me until the final straight away to the finish and let me lead out the sprint.  Total rookie mistake!  I knew he is a super strong sprinter and experienced road racer, and I really shouldnt havent been leading out the sprint.  Anyway he managed to pull around me and beat me by .6 seconds. A little bummed to let second place go like that, but still happy with a podium, especially after racing the previous day.

1st-Kyle Gritters, 2nd-Brandon Gritters, 3rd-myself, 4th-Brent Prenzlow, 5th-Scott Lundy, 6th-Johnny Weir

The CX skills are coming along nicely, and the biggest thing I have to start doing now is racing smarter, and more tactfully.  Ive decided to finish out some more races for the cross season as I feel it is building good fitness for racing mountain bikes next year.  Not to mention how much fun I am having racing with these guys, really thinking of doing some traveling next cyclocross season.

Storm the Beach…

Photo: Phil Beckman

After my chain failure during Socalcross’ velodrome race, I was itching to get back onto the podium this weekend.  I had a little rest week after the velodrome races, and wasn’t quite sure how I would feel my first week back of racing.  Turns out cross is painful anytime.

First race of the weekend was Celo Pacifics Storm the Beach, which is held just 10 minutes from my house on Camp Pendleton.  With a chance of some morning rain, and a strong N wind the event was truly living up to its name.  I ran down to Velo Hangar first thing in the morning to get my pre-race good karma and coffee then made it to the venue a couple hours before my race.

I chatted with friends that were done racing about course conditions, tire pressure, different lines/techniques and got a wide array of opinions   Then pretty much decided that none of it mattered, everything was personal preference, and that running in the sand and riding into a 30 knot head wind is what was actually gonna decide the outcome of this race.

Our field was rather small with only 11 entrants, I noticed Brent Prenzlow and Anton Petrov were the two that I probably wanted to keep my eye on.  The start was rather tame and mellow as no one wanted to take the first pull into the headwind on the beach.  As soon as we hit the running section through the sand and up the small but o-so-steep hill the race was really on.  I quickly latched on to Brent’s feet, knowing he has had great success here in the past he would be the one to watch.  After the tough up hills and sandy beach sections we passed the start finish line with Brent in the lead, myself in second and Anton not too far behind.

Seeing the space we got on Anton during the run, we started to work together to try and lengthen the lead.  We ended up taking turns pulling throughout the course and had a solid gap on the rest of the field.  It was actually pretty nice to be able to ride with someone else the whole race as this course was very tough!

Photo: Phil Beckman

I was in the lead going into the last lap, and asked Brent when he was going to attach, he said he wasn’t sure yet, HAHA!  He put a nice little move on the run onto the beach, where I had a little bobble burying my front wheel in the sand which was all he needed.  I chased him up the beach into the wind as hard as I could but didn’t make up much time.  I managed to put a few more seconds on the gap on the last couple small climbs in case he made a mistake through the sand.  But being the veteran he is Brent rode everything perfectly and took 1st 5 seconds in front of me.

All in all a good fun day of racing.  I really enjoyed this course and thought Celo Pacific did a good job putting it on.  It was finally a course where I really didn’t want to do anymore laps at any pace let alone race pace!

Gettin’ learned in cross

I wasn’t even sure if I even wanted to do any CX races this year, but after racing in downtown LA I was all in.  I forgot how fun a cross race can be, once you get over the whole suffering part.  I decided to try to make as many cross races as I could the rest of the year.  Next stop spooky cross!

Spooky cross is the first local UCI race, which attracts top level riders from across the country (and Canada) Just lining up with these guys was intimidating.  I got up to the venue a little late on saturday the 20th, and barely registered in time.  Not to mention I had to buy my UCI license online beforehand, thanks Ellen for navigating US cyclings terrible website and getting that done with minutes to spare before registration closed.

Got my numbers, suited up and warmed up, made it to call-ups only to have bad luck of the draw and be last row, I expected nothing less.  My main goal of these UCI races was to try to sit in as close to the front and learn more about cross.  I was one of the last guys into the first corner after the bell, i did a little work on the stairs and other straightaways and managed to get into around 15-20 place, which would be awesome but considering there were only 30 or so starters, not that great.

On the second or third lap somewhere through the sand pit I managed to unhook my rear Canti brake.  It was decision time, i had decent position to possibly finish top 15.  Stop and hook-up the rear brake, possibly loosing a lot of time, or ride with only a front brake.  You don’t need brakes in cross right?  I decided to be safe and pulled over on possibly the darkest part of the course (did I mention this was a night race) and started to try to re-attach the cable.  I must of pulled the cable to get it into the stop 15 times with no luck, ok what the hell is going on, I couldn’t see anything and could barely breathe, and having gloves on trying to move little metal parts around didn’t help.

FInally got everything re-attached and was in dead last.  I caught a couple guys initially, then pretty much road 4 laps by myself.  I kept thinking about dropping out, but what kind of experience would I gain doing that?  All I wanted to do was catch someone!  With about 3 laps to go I finally reeled someone else in and ended un in 24th, woo hoo $17!

Sundays race went a little better, I rode up with Gordon from Velo Hangar and he brought some challenge tires with him which made a big difference!  I had a bad start and raced mid pack with my buddy Gareth Feildstein with him and I doing most of the work out of a few other guys.  Gareth put a nice move in on the last lap and I got trapped behind a few other guys, he ended up 15th and I was stoked with 18th and $28.

This past weekend we had another set of back-to-back races, this time down at the San Diego Velodrome.  It was nice to get to see so many familiar faces down there racing.  Unfortunately there wasn’t a huge turnout for the Elite race on Saturday, but still plenty of fast competition.  Anton Petrov ended up taking first, in front of myself with Brent Prenzlow finishing behind me after getting a flat on one of the first few laps.  Anton did a nice little write-up of the race for cycling illustrated here

Only a dozen or so riders at the start
Riding the velodrome

After riding the course on saturday and seeing Prenzlow put an amazing performance on his mountain bike to go from last to third, after his flat, B Gritters and I decided to start the race on our mountain bikes.  I had originally brought the mountain bike for a back-up pit bike, but after talking to Brandon and doing some laps on the mountain bikes we agreed it would be fun to start the race on them.

There were a few small differences between the CX bike and the Mtn bike.  The MTB was faster over the bumpy infield of the velodrome, and the rocky singletrack around the outside, but they didnt accelerate as quickly out of turns compared to a cross bike.  The deciding factor came down to the fact that  mountain bike should have less chance of a catastrophic failure.  If only.

Flat Bars…

After 8 laps completed with two to-go Prenzlow, Gritters and myself had a significant gap on the rest of the field.  I was content to sit in at third and watch them two duke it out as I continue to learn more about cross as it is my first year racing competitively.  After the log hop, which was only about 50 yards past pit area, I broke my chain and watched the leaders ride away from me.  I thought for a second about going backwards to get my bike, but was pretty sure thats not allowed so I had to run almost an entire lap to get to the pit.  All in all ended up 6th.  Phil Beckman did a nice little write up about the races.

Heckling at the barriers

Cyclocross is a ton of fun, and great for all skill levels, I encourage everyone to go out to a race and check it out.  Its been a fun little season so far and I am excited to be able to race at this level and learn more about the sport from our local hammers.