The NorthEast

Getting this one written while its fresh in my mind!  It’s currently raining in East Hampton, Mass. and I’ve gone to just about every coffee/bakery in a 10 mile radius.  It’s the day after the Catamount classic XC race in Vermont and Ive spent a good bit of the day contemplating this past season and trying to plan for next year.

I took a red-eye out of San Diego on Wednesday night, something I told myself I would never do again, and flew into Conneticut.  I was scooped up by J-Pows wife, Emily, and headed to their home in Massachusetts.  I got in, built my bike, ate some pastries, drank coffee, then met Jeremy for a tour of the local trails.  They were a 3 minute pedal away and super fun!  We had a killer dinner that night, then packed up the truck and headed to Vermont the next day.

We got up to Catamount around 3 and ran into Spencer Paxson of Kona, and rode a few laps.  Spencer failed to mention any of the ‘A-line’ options and in mid conversation we found ourselves gapping some jumps and hitting some drops.  It was actually a nice way to be introduced to the obstacles, rather than standing around looking at them, trying to guess how much speed, and what lines to take.  This was the no BS approach; ohh hey by the way in the next .5 seconds you need to clear a 5 foot gap, or launch off a 3 foot drop.  The course had a decent mixture of fun singletrack through the trees, some wide-open turns through grassy fields, good technical sections, and the jumps/gaps/drops.  There was maybe a little too much of the grass, but it actually provided great opportunities for passing.

I had a decent call-up of 25th, but considering the course the start wasn’t as crucial as past races.  I knew warming up that I was a bit off and didn’t quite feel the way you want to on race day.  I didn’t really go forwards or backwards at the start, so that was OK.  I knew I just had to ride the race as best as I could and keep it going for the full 1:40 or so.  Some guys passed me, I passed some guys, yo-yoed with some other racers and ended up right where I started in 25th.  I had a goal of top 15 (dream of 10) in this race and I know it was definitely possible, pretty bummed at how it all played out but there is a lot to learn about traveling and racing.

Considering this is my first season chasing the tour, and the top mountain bikers in the country I think I did OK.  I had maybe set my goals a little too high for the season, but was able to attain at least some of them.  Considering the fact that this was one of the biggest mountain bike seasons in the US in years, with lots of international competition, I thinks its ok that not all my goals were met.  I learned a boat load at every race, all while having a good time, and thats whats important.  The second that bike racing is no longer fun, is the second that I stop, but I don’t see that happening for some time.

Huge thanks to J&E Powers for the home stay, I had a great time.  Obviously a big thanks to Ellen, Focus Bikes, Gordon and Laurel at Velo Hangar, Enve Composites, Giro, Skratch labs, Harmony Bars, Citizen Juice and everyone else.  Excited to get back home dust off the Mares CX bike and learn to ride the Focus trail bike, Sam!

 

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Massachusetts river and clouds

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Lots of crazy Canadians down for this one

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Blah, blah, blah ohh 5 foot gap

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Vermont poop truck, literaly

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MOOOOSSSSE!

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Green single track

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Racing in Wisconsin

This last weekend was the 6th stop on the Pro XCT tour at Cascade Mountain in Portage Wisconsin.  Cascade Mountain is actually in fact a ski resort, yes thats right a ski resort in Wisconsin.  Usually ski resort style courses are a long (steep) climb up then a longish (steep) descent, but this course was one of the more “flowy” ones of the season and it had a couple significant climbs along with a lot of short ups and short downs.

Friday night the promotors put on the short rack race, and by friday night I mean 9 o’clock at night, like its dark outside I need to turn the headlights on in my car if I were to drive right now.  After we got lined up for the start we were sitting there getting eaten alive my mosquitos, everyone was whining and we were even slapping each others backs trying to take the little guys out.  The organizers were trying to light up a completely dark section of the course so they sent us on a little parade lap so we weren’t all welted up from the bugs.

They eventually got the section of the course lit up, with the headlights from two four wheelers, and we were off.  Everyone was pretty antsy the first two laps and most of the group stayed together for some tight racing.  I was pretty fast through some of the longer, fast turns on the grass, and moved up without exerting much energy as often as I could.  Eventually some guys started getting popped off the group and you had to start working to stay with everyone.  With people getting tired and starting to make more mistakes I eventually found myself off the main group dangling around, eventually Ryan Woodall from Pros Closet caught me and we ended up working together for a couple laps.

Right as we were about to make contact with the leaders again, which at this point was down to about 10 guys from the 30 or so field, someone put local Joe Maloney into the fence and caused us to hit our brakes on an uphill section.  With only 3 laps to go it was gonna be darn near impossible to bridge back up.  Joe, Ryan and I ended up riding in a group until the last lap when I got to the front on the last little climb, before a decent, and straightaway to the finish.  At the time I wasn’t sure exactly how many guys were in the top group but thought I may have had a shot at a top 10 so I dug in and sprinted to stay in the lead of our group.  The money goes to the top 10 and I ended up 11th.  All good though as its more for fun anyway and the xc race was the main focus as always.

I was so jazzed up from racing at nine at night that I couldn’t for the life of me fall asleep friday night, and didn’t get to bed until around 2:30, which the night before a race is no bueno.  I slept in and laid around as much as I could but had to check out of the hotel at 11, then went and tried to sleep in the car some before the start of the race at 4.

There were only about 50 riders at this event and I was stoked to have a top 20 call up, and was raring to go as I know I had a good shot at a top 15 (which is what UCI points and money go to).  After swerving around the moto that stalled out at the start, which was supposed to lead us up the first climb, (which is pretty funny cause at the start I said what if this dude stalls out in front of us, and then he did) I found myself  in a not horrible position! My legs were definitely a little dead and not feeling as stellar thanks to lack of good sleep, but I felt good enough to get through the race in a good position.  After the first couple laps (out of 6) I had made a few more passes and was in a solid position for a top 15 and riding strong.

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Quick down and up which got sketchy in the rain

Then at the beginning of the third lap is started raining.  At first the trails were holding it pretty well, then it started to get slick.  I found this out the hard way at a fast left handed turn in the grass, right near the pits, where just as I was about to straighten out my tires lost traction.  Being as fully committed to the turn as I was (I didn’t think it was gonna get slick yet) I hit the deck moving along pretty good.  I just slid a little bit, still clipped in, and only lost a couple of spots.  I made sure to let everyone around me know that the grass was, in fact, actually getting slippery and they should be careful 😉 Shortly after that about halfway through the lap I somehow managed to burp my front tire pretty good on a slippery little gulch.  Still not sure how it happened as I took the same line every time I road the course and didn’t see any significant rocks.  But it had lost a good bit of air and I had to ride super conservative on the descents as I felt it could roll at any moment.

Fun little bridge through the trees

Fun little bridge through the trees

Thanks to Enve’s awesome bead lock design my tire stayed on for the two or so miles to the pits where I managed to try to put some air in my tire.  I had some Co2 stashed in a bag and the guy that was helping me in the pits had it ready for me.  I was trying to twist the Co2 onto the adaptor and it wasn’t making the ‘cracking’ sound and definitely wasn’t working.  Turned out this one was already used at one point, F#uck!  I had another one and eventually got some air in there, then had to stop again 10 feet later cause I forgot to close the valve stem 😉 Ohh man was it one of those races the last three laps!

I lost a bunch of spots going slow and fiddling with the flat and the course at this point was oil slick.  I did a full on 180 on one turn and started to ride halfway off the trail to find any bit of traction I could.  If you didn’t have momentum going up short hills it was hard to get traction to even pedal up.  Spots became barely rideable and a lot of guys started walking.  It was just downright sloppy, but pretty awesome at the same time.

As bummed, angry, upset that I was knowing I wasn’t going to reach my goal of a top 15 I still had a lot of fun.  I don’t really get to ride in the rain on trails, well ever really, so I tried to enjoy sliding around as much as I could and just learn as much as possible.  I was the last guy to finish on the lead lap and ended up around 26th, but was truthfully just stoked to finish cause it was pretty brutal.

After that I washed my bike off as best I could, and luckily there was a break in the rain, and I packed my bike in the parking lot and drove to Milwaukee so I could fly out the next morning at 6am.  On the way to the hotel I encountered the hardest downpour ever, it was so bad we were going 35mph on the highway cause you couldn’t see anything.

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Im skipping Nationals in PA this weekend cause it really is pretty pointless without any points, although it would have been good experience.  I’ll be at Vermont though the following weekend for the Catamont classic to finish out the tour.  Its been fun so far!