Current Stay-tus

I am currently writing this post from a little cafe called les trois becs in Beauaprice.  The wee-fee at the condo I’m staying isn’t that good so I have to come drink really, really good coffee to do internet stuff.  I left Stowe Vt., thursday around 9:20 am and made it to Mont Sainte Anne, Canada around 2:30, I had a glorious drive with a Focus Germany employee Phillip.  He speaks pretty good english so that was rad, I taught him why we call a dump truck a dump truck.

I linked up with the Focus world cup team at a great location about 1/15 of a mile from the venue, it couldnt be better.  They even invited me to a fabulous dinner, with rice, veggies, bread and more veggies.  They sat around and talked and laughed in German and I smurked like I knew what was going on.  Which I have never felt like I dont know whats going on, more than the last couple days.  The town is mostly french speaking, Im in a athlete hostel type situation with a bunch of world class athletes running around speaking German getting massages and making me food, and Im also attending my first world cup at the largest, most technical course in North America, on a bike Ive only gotten to ride twice so far.  Usually in strange settings, my bike is what grounds or normalizes me, but this new Raven Max is new, badass and awesome for sure, but new, everything is new and different, and Im just trying to go with it.

So thats it for now, I will try to post this up when I have internet that works again, and pictures, I know everyone likes pictures…

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Grand Junction Off-Road

 

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Would you like to race your bike here?

Mountain bike racing has been kinda lost over the past couple years, and I myself have been tumbling around with racing, unsure.  So unsure that I got my haircut into some kinda of a mullet-mohawk the other day as kinda of a mid-race season ‘fuck-all’.  The bottom line is that there just aren’t enough races, and even fewer quality events.  If you’re trying to make it as a pro, and chase points its super tough, with only 8 races on the calendar.  Thats it 8.  Not to mention three of those this year were stacked like world cups.  You have to put so many things together to break into the points at these races that it can get very frustrating.  Just as a comparison there are, I believe, 45 races on the CX calendar this year where you can earn points.  Im not saying that CX is easy, and the racing is still very competitive, but I think its safe to say theres a bit more opportunity.

This is where Epic Rides comes in… keeping it real…leveling the playing field…offering real mountain bike courses…and real (good) money for pros.

This past weekend was the first time I attended one of their events, Ive been wanting to race the Whiskey for years but it is usually the weekend after Sea Otter which uses up a lot of vacation days, so its been hard for me to justify taking more time off of work.  But not next year.  The Grand Junction Off Road was such a blast, that I will be making as many events of theirs in the future.  Downtown shuts down and its all about bikes, music, art, beer, food, and a good time the entire weekend.

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Getting a draft off of Kris.  Photo: Dave McElwaine

The weekend kicks off with a fat-tire crit downtown on Friday night, where you must race the same bike you plan on racing Sunday, where the only allowable modification is changing of the tires (min width 1.5″).  I brought a CX chain ring and was gonna run the 44t but thought that they might make me run it on the race Sunday and that would have been, well nearly undoable.  I waited until the last lap of the race to start moving up, but it was a little late and ended up in the group in 11th, but had such a blast racing with everyone, and not to mention in front of a decent crowd.

Unfortunately I had a pretty off day as far as racing goes for the 40 mile XC event on Sunday.  You cant blame a poor call-up or anything like that for your lack of performance here because the playing field is completely level.  The race starts in downtown with a gradual climb to the trailhead for the first 10 minutes or so, there is still a good bit of tactics involved to get near the front once you hit the dirt, but you have no excuse not to be in a position you’d like to be.  I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be on the way to the first aid station, probably somewhere around 25th but there was plenty of time to move up.

The first aid station is only about 30 minutes into the race, and being such a ‘technical’ (aka-fun) course there really isn’t time to drink or eat anything, so I skipped getting water here since I was still pretty topped off.  After a short road climb there is a super fun, technical 8 mile single track trail called buterknife, this thing was a blast.  Same thing though not many places to drink or eat.

After popping out of butterknife, about an hour into the race, was the second aid station, I was going to grab a bottle here, but they weren’t handing them out.  I was gonna stop and fill my bottle up some but didn’t see a cooler immediately, and the other 3 riders I was riding with just kept cruising.  Knowing we were coming up to the 7 mile climb, Windmill Rd., I kinda wanted to be in a group, and still had half a bottle so thought I would be alright.

I hit the climb at a pace I know I can usually keep and pulled away from the guys I was riding with and was putting time into the few riders I could see in front of me.  This only lasted for about 30 minutes though, as I was out of water and getting super dehydrated.  Since I didn’t pre-ride I had no idea how far away the next aid station was.  Had I had known how far away it was I would have stopped at aid station 2 and filled up!

I limped into the third aid station beat, ready to drop out, and with a good bit of heat exhaustion going on.  I was pretty intent on dropping out, I wasn’t anywhere near my goal of a top 10 and there was no way I was gonna do half that good now, let alone barely finish.  Brady Kappius came into the aid station and I asked if he wanted to ride together, and he was all about it, I also asked if he thought his dad would give me a ride back into town at the next aid station, haha!

Brady and I somehow talked each other into finishing, and even had a good bit of fun descending Andy’s loop at the end.  This race is such a real MTB race, its what the sport is all about, it caters to everyones strengths at some point, and to do well you have to be a really good all-around rider.

Todd (race promoter) mentioned the addition of another Epic rides event next year and making a three race series.  I cant wait to see where its gonna be (hopefully no more altitude races), and more so cant wait to race it!  It would be insanely rad if it could grow into some kind of 10 race series.  I will definitely be back for some redemption next year.

Some data… 269 normalized power, 2,727 kj’s, 39.8 miles, 4,931 ft of climbing, 105 max temperature, 211 tss.  The good thing about not riding great is that Im pretty recovered to resume training, haha!

Endurance Nats

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#Endurance Nationals not Endurance Gnats

 

A week ago today, I was on a plane to Atlanta, GA to go race Mountain Bike Marathon Nationals in Columbia County.  After arriving at the airport I rented a car ad drove 2 hours to Augusta.  It was a long day of travel, but the SouthEast is pretty beautiful this time of year so the dive went by fast, and I think the minimum speed limit is 80mph on Rt. 20, so that helped too.

I had a mellow morning on friday and made my way over to the course to give some parts of it a little pre-ride.  Since a lot of the course was on private property most of it wasn’t marked yet, and I spent a good bit of time looking at maps and talking to other racers, trying to get the low down on how to get around.  Pretty much everyone was confused.  I was trying to pre-ride the second half of the course since it was supposed to be a little tougher, and after being out there for about three and a half hours I got it done.  I rode a little more than I wanted to at 30 miles and 2.5hrs ride time, but the trails were pretty fun and the weather was perfect.

I linked up with Dana Weber and we headed over to pickup our numbers and attend the rider meeting at the host hotel.  After about 20minutes of the same questions being asked over and over at the meeting it was time to annihilate the Whole Foods hot bar.

You couldnt have asked for better whether race day either, it could have been raining, or 90 degrees with 135% humidity, but it was just about perfect for a 60 mile MTB race.  I got to the venue an hour or so before my race and stashed my bottles near the feed at the start finish.  One of the trickiest things about this race, and any marathon race, is getting enough water and nutrition.  Except for a couple guys pretty much everyone had no help in any of the feed-zones.  Luckily I could hold two bottles on my bike, which turned out to work great.  I stashed two more halfway through the race and got a neutral bottle at the third feed, which, at 5 bottles, is just barely enough to make it through a 4.5 hr race.

The star of the race was pretty slow, which was actually kinda crappy because it let everyone from the back of the race be up near the front near places where they maybe don’t really belong.  Point in that Payson McElveen was taken out on the first turn into the singletrack about a mile into the race, which ruined his race as his bars got twisted and he was facing the wrong way on the trail.

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Pine Needles

 

Alot of the singletrack trails here have a speed limit, there are pine needles all over the trail, and with all the twists, turns, ruts, ups-n-downs, you literally cant go any faster.  So there were about 20 of us together for the first 5miles of the race just ripping through the singletrack at the same speed.  After that we hit some faster fire roads, then when we were turning back into the singletrack again a couple guys were able to sneak in front of me.  No biggie, except they couldnt ride their bikes that great and the lead group of about 14 riders got away.  After a couple of minutes I eventually got around one, then the other guy and led the charge of the chase group.

30 miles into the race we lap at the start/finish and I could see the group of 14 (it looked like 20) and they had probably about a 3-4 minute gap on me.  I stopped and literally got off of my bike at the feed station to grab my bottles then was off again racing.  I only had one other guy with me and he was content to sit in and let me do all the work, he would take the occasional pull as well if I asked.  He wasnt a threat but it was nice to have somewhere there to chat with while we were racing.

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Got off and walked this one, it was about thigh deep

 

We kept trudging on through the roots, and knee deep water crossing, but he finally fell off pace at about the 3 hour mark.  Right around this time I picked off the first couple of riders from the lead group.  I was fueling well and feeling pretty good and kept a good pace riding solo.

After the third feedzone I picked off a couple more riders from the lead group, one of them ended up staying with me.  I had no idea what place I was in, I thought somewhere around 16-18 as I didn’t really know how many guys made that lead group.  I threw a couple attacks to try to shake the younger rider I had just picked up but he stayed along for the ride, refusing to do any work.

The last 5 miles were some of the slowest trails yet, with roots everywhere, a bunch of really tight turns and 9million logs to bunnyhop.  This was the slowest part of the course for me, I couldnt really get good traction or power out going over all the roots on my hardtail and was starting to feel a little beat up.  I ended up just riding a comfortable (slow) pace and chatting with the younger rider.

Finally back out onto the fireroads with only about 20 more minutes to go I put in a few more digs to try to loose the rider, with no luck.  He still refused to ride a decent pace so we were kinda just putting along when Payson blew by us at double our speed.  Race back on.

The pace was immediately high again the rest of the way to the finish, we were all eyeing each other up waiting for attacks, which were made and all covered.  With less than 1k to go I made my move and immediately had a good gap, only it was too early.  I thought I went when there was nothing but straightaway to the finish (about 200meters) but there were a couple little corkscrew turns thrown in which brought us back together.  Knowing we were still pretty close to the finish I just tried to make my attack stick, but Payson (who was second wheel) easily accepted my lead out and took the sprint (for 11th) and the younger rider took a sketchy pass between myself and the boards off of my draft to come through in 12th, and I took 13th.

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No roots here. There were def some fun trails

 

Had I had known that I was that far up I would have raced a little differently the last hour of the race, and had I had known that 10th place was only a minute and a half ahead of me I would have definitely ridden the race a little better.  I am pretty bummed because I came here for a result of top 10, and I know that Im capable of it.  The mistakes of missing the lead group, not riding hard enough (when I could have I felt pretty good) the last 1-1.5 hrs, and running too much air in my tires which just made the turning on pine needles trickier, are all pretty huge mistakes to be making at this level of racing.  I believe Endurance Nats are in Georgia again next year, and I will definitely be back.

Heres some quick info from the race…kj – 4077, NP – 296, TSS – 313, miles – 59.5

Sea Otter

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A bad panorama of the venue

This is a little late, but two weekends ago I was fortunate enough to attend my 4th consecutive Sea Otter Classic, up in Monterey.  I love this event, I feel it can overtake inter-bike in the industry as the ‘show’ for the year.  Its outside and there is always about 5 cycling events going on at one time.  A lot of my friends actually come up with the whole family as there are plenty of activities for the kids as well.

This is my third year in a row that I rolled up there with the Focus Bike USA crew.  They set me up with a place to stay and food, in exchange for working the event.  This year I was a little more involved, and was tasked with building all of the demo bikes and organizing most of the expo stuff.  Ive learned a lot over the years from Dan and Tony so it was kinda just ‘same old same old’.  The only thing I forgot was chairs, fortunately Bill Marshall and WD40 had some extras.

As usual, we left Carlsbad at 5:30am on Wednesday morning to avoid LA traffic and, as usual we hit a good bit of traffic in LA.  T. Smith and I were driving the sprinter while Dan and J Rowe had the luxury of the town and country minivan.  They also had to pickup another athlete, A A Ron Schooler, CX racer from Canada now living in Germany.  After the traffic we all reconvened and met at some bagel place somewhere near magic mountain.  We finally made it up to the venue around 2, found our spot, squeezed the sprinter in, setup, and were able to cruise on bikes back to the hotel then go get dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant there.

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“Behind the scenes”

Not much happened thursday except for the standard Expo working, and a fun course pre-ride with Mitch, Brady, Ryan and Tom. I also got the opportunity to go talk to other friends and sponsors there which is really one of the best things about the Otter.

I was anxious to get some racing going, and in my new kit non-the-less.  I teamed up with Book a Bike Mechanic this year as my title sponsor, and was anxious to fly the colors for the first time.  A big thanks to the guys at Eliel for getting them done in time before the event (and all hand made in CA!)

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New kit looking good, and rocking the ever so stylish and comfortable Giro V40 shorts! Photo: PB Creative

Friday was the short track race, and it was run in reverse of previous years and quite a good bit shorter, with less dirt, and mostly pavement.  It’s usually pretty fun to race as it skirts around the venue and there are usually a good bit of spectators, but it could have used more dirt this year.  Not too many people made it on the lead lap, myself included, but at least I got some openers in for Saturday.

I was excited for the XC race on Saturday as its longer than most races at 2+ hours which usually gives you some more time to do some more passing.  I was somewhere near the tail end of the second group once we got off of the Laguna Seca racetrack, not great, but not horrible.  After about 2-3 miles of pretty open roads, literally pavement, the course takes a sharp right to the first climb up some single-track.  Its good to be near the front of your group here, but not too important as it usually gets backed up with all the riders.  Which is exactly what happened near the top of the climb, we had a good bit of stopped time just waiting to go again, I don’t think people were complaining too much as it was a little chance to rest.

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After that there were some gaps but I was still near the front portion of the racers and riding strong (front portion means like top 40 haha).  I missed my bottle handup the first time through the feed zone, we were going through there at 90mph and I didnt really know where Justin was and he didnt really know where I was, haha.

About the last 5 miles of the course is mostly all climbing, and I was in a little group trying to rally the guys to work together on the fire-road because it doesn’t really matter where we are right now.  Out of the group Dana Webber was the only other person that realized this, so we took some turns and were able to reel in a few more solo riders.

I looked for a bottle hand-up at the Start finish, again going like 90mph, but couldn’t find anyone offering up a free one.  Back to the first single-track climb I knew I was one of the stronger ones in the group so I made sure I was there first.  I was stoked I was riding strong and with some of the top guys, and having fun.  I was having so much fun the second hour, I forgot to eat my gels every 20-30 minutes, not horrible at the time but…

I was able to grab a bottle this time around from Justin before the last part of the course.  Last year, on the same course, I was able to move up 10-15 positions on the last bit of the race as everyone exploded, and I was hoping to do the same this year.

BUUUUUT, that didn’t happen.  I realized I was hitting the wall with about 40 minutes to go and quickly shoved as much food as I could in my face.  It was too little too late though.  I hit the wall, hard, and this year I lost about 15-20 spots in the last 5 miles.  I really felt bad and would have quit, but I still would have had to climb out back to the venue, so I just truged along getting extremely light headed and almost passing out near the end, race success!

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Blew up then took a selfie, successful day for most cyclists.

I haven’t blown up that bad in a couple years and am actually pretty stoked that it happened, and it happened to a lot of people that day.  I was on track to go a few minutes faster than last year, but ended up going about 5 minutes slower.

Stoked to have the racing out of the way, I enjoyed the rest of the event, and fun dinners with friends new and old.  We packed the Van up in record time Sunday and made the long trip back to San Diego that night, getting in around 1:30.  It took a solid three days to recover from the work, racing, and poor sleep but I cant wait to do it again next year!

Dont do thaaat

I was more than bummed to not be able to race this past weekend at the US Cup Fontana race.  On the other hand its very exciting to be able to eat again.  Last Tuesday I came down with what I originally thought was food poisoning, after a horrible 24hours the symptoms didn’t fully disappear and I was still feeling pretty crappy.

By the time Friday rolled around, the day before the race, I had only eaten about a days worth of food in 4 days time.  I didn’t have much energy and eating anything other than applesauce, bread or white rice scared me.  Except sushi, I had sushi twice, and it was awesome.  My glycogen stores had to have been completely annihilated, and after a crappy 1hr bike practice on Thursday, that I barely got through, I decided not to race.

It was pretty crappy to make the call, but I think it was the right decision, I was still a little dehydrated and had no energy, I for sure would have been in the ambulance getting an IV halfway through the race.  I thought about toeing the line just so I could get an IV going, but later decided against that.

I still went up on Saturday to watch some of the worlds best do what they do, and worked the pits for a friend in town racing from Colorado.  It was good to see and talk to some of my friends (sponsors) some too, without al the pre-race jitters.

I was able to get a halfway decent ride/workout in on Monday and think Ill be sharp enough for the next bit of racing coming up in a couple weeks.  Heres to eating!

Do you even race mountain bikes, bro?

#MTBishere, like full gas here. This last weekend was the official kick-off for the mountain bike season with a UCI C1 race at Frank G Bonelli park in San Dimas, CA. San Dimas incorporated as a city in 1960, and is known for its small town and equestrian qualities. I think that in the future it will also be known for hosting world class mountain bike races.

The course at Bonelli isn’t fun, its just plain hard. If you were to go riding with your friends you probably wouldn’t ride the majority of the course if you were looking for enjoyment. This years course was slightly modified and slightly shorter with the lap times going down to 12 minutes for the top pros (I think 11:51 was actually the fastest time).

I swear this is steeper than it looks! Photo: Focus Bikes

I swear this is steeper than it looks! Photo: Focus Bikes

Fine, silty, dusty dirt Photo F

Fine, silty, dusty dirt Photo: Focus Bikes

The course goes like this…

Drink water on the flat concrete part going through the start/finish, climb a 20% hill, go down some rocky technical descent for about 5 seconds climb another super steep hill, go down a concrete like rock garden with baby heads for about 5 seconds, ride some flat-ish awkward bumpy singletrack, punch up a short steep hill, go down a blown out left hand turn, climb then climb more up some absurdly steep 20%+ hill, go down some blownout descent for 5 seconds, climb (the most enjoyable climb on the course), probably still climbing, think about going downhill, but you actually just start going up hill again, go through a couple turns down a hill for about 5 seconds, climb the longest steepest (newest) hill, curse yourself for running a 36t front ring, go down a super steep blownout descent trying to act like you are in control for about 5 seconds, hit the A-line, bunny hop three times, climb another steep thing, think about going downill but start climbing again, do some turns in the grass and you’re back at the start finish.

Just a little dusty Photo: Focus Bikes

Just a little dusty Photo: Focus Bikes

That’s it, that’s all there is to it. Given the large field of 119 riders, the short lap times and starting near the back it was really just a race to see how many laps you could get in. There was a bit of a hold up initially at the start that pushed me back a little further, but I was probably somewhere in the top 80 or so after the short parade lap.

It takes an army...

It takes an army…

I suffered as much as I could and kept moving up whenever possible. It seems stupid to say Im just using this for a training race, usually only the top guys use races this big to train through, but I know I’m not gonna pass 80 pros to get a top 15. Not really sure where I finished, or even what lap I was pulled on, but it was so hot and miserable I was glad for it to be over. Huge shout out to everyone who raced Saturday it was freakin hard and miserable. I’m glad to get the first big race out of the way!

Drive 3+ more hours for 15mins of racing on Sunday or just do this?  I did this with the family

Drive 3+ more hours for 15mins of racing on Sunday or just do this? I did this with the family

This next weekend is going to be even harder as literally the best mountain bikers in the world are coming over, Im talking Nino Schurter and possibly Juilen Absalon, holy cow!

Muddy Season Opener

While it wasn’t technically the season opener since the Quick N’ Dirty kicked off the weekend before, this last weekend at Vail Lake was one of the first ‘larger’ races.  It brought in a bunch of big time talent from a few different states (and Canada) and was sure to be tough and fast.

When it was raining in Cardiff at 8am (it was actually raining, not like our usual ‘rain’ days) the morning of the race I had kinda made up in my mind that there would be no race.  After texting a few friends and my traveling buddy Ben Jones it looked like everyone was still going out to the venue cause it was maybe gonna clear up later.

So off Ben and I went driving rainy roads in the 1996 Chevy G1500 completely equipped with mood lighting, an excellent choice for muddy bike races.  When we got to the venue it was still raining and we decided to go check out how wrecked the other racers bikes were getting from the mud.

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Ben got me with the free candy

This is just the beginning of the season, the possibility of how wrecked your bike would be after the mud was really a big turn-off for me to race.  The mud here is like cement after it dries, and is capable of ruining anything in its path.

But we decided at the last minute to go for it, saying something like ‘this is what makes memories.’  I got in a horrible warmup of about 10 minutes on the pavement, got to the start line late and was in the last row of a crowded field, and had no idea how the course was, proper professional preparation(PPP for future reference).

After the start we hit a single-track climb and I was taken back at the skill level of some of these ‘pro’ mountain bikers, or lack thereof.  After getting around some other riders I was still pretty far back and the lead group was gone.  My main goal for this race was to get into the front group, which I was guessing was going to be about 5-7 guys, but that didnt happen.

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First lap mud situation. Photo PB Creative

After the first lap I was seriously thinking about dropping out because of the conditions, but I figured my bike was already kinda f*cked, and I wanted to make sure to get a workout in so I kept chugging along.  I was getting into a better groove, with the mud and all, on the second lap.  I was used to having mud in my eyes, and not being able to see, and now knew the course.

It also stopped raining on the second lap, which is when mechanicals started happening.  The mud started to dry out some and became more of a peanut butter consistency.  It was so goopy that it was jammed in between the links of my chain and would just push itself right off of the chainring.  I would seriously stop, put the chain back on the chainring turn the pedals and it would just hop right off.  After some cleaning with the water bottle I was finally able to get going again, probably loosing about 4 minutes in all on lap two.

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I wore a cap in the hopes of keeping the mud of my face and out of my eyes, it didn’t work. Photo PB Creative

By the third lap I was grooving, I learned the mud and the course, the trick was not to touch your brakes, ever.  The mud was so slow there was no need to! I managed to catch one rider on the last lap and finished 10th.  Not at all where I wanted to be but its mostly my own fault for the crappy warmup, late start line position and lack of initial motivation in the rain(PPP).  On the plus side I had one of the top 4 or 5 fastest last laps, I never felt tired during the race and know that the race fitness is coming in a month or so, so thats good, just have to be patient.

I raced my hardtail (Focus Raven 29) at this course because of the lack of technical sections, but considering the mud I don’t think a full susp would have been a disadvantage at all.  I ran my regular dry fast course tires, Kenda Small block 8’s, down at around 21/23 psi and they worked surprisingly well.  The main thing they lacked in the mud was rear wheel traction up steep climbs, which something like the Karmas, or Honey Badgers would have been better at.  At the last minute I also cleaned the crap out of my chain and applied WD40’s wet lube, and it worked great in the muck, there was nothing any lube could have done to keep the chain from poping off the ring.

Since the race I replaced my BB bearings as the drive side was completely frozen, top headset bearing, and brake pads since they were literally true metallic pads.  I have completely disassembled the bike cleaned it and put it back together, its the only way to try to make it feel like it wasn’t just destroyed.

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Nope, not gonna budge

 

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There was a braking surface here…

Other racers reading this, what tires/pressure or other modifications did you make for this mud race?

24:05

© Brian Nelson

24 minutes and 5 seconds, thats how long I just rode my bike for.  Nationals didnt signal the end of CX season like it did for most of my other friends, I called it a wrap back in December and have since been building base for the MTB season.  Thanks to the good ol Flu though I just had an unscheduled two weeks off of the bike, and today (1/18/15) I rode my bike for the first time since racing down in Austin.  It felt weird too, being that I’m not fully recovered my balance was off and I kinda felt like a Fred out there, good thing I kept it short.

Since I am going to take cyclocross a little more seriously next year, I figured it would great experience to go get the feel for a national championship race.  So Tony Smith from BookABikeMechanic.com offered a service for local riders wanting to race in TX.  He rented a trailer and we hauled 12 bikes out to Austin and provided a base camp for a handful of other SoCal cross racers.  It was a blast hanging out with everyone the whole week, and I really do think everyone had a good time.

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Fun in the pit on Friday. Rule: Dont lock your bike up in the pit

 

We blasted through the drive in two days as there really isn’t anything fun to do, or anything to eat/drink, other than some truck stops in west Texas.  We were fortunate enough to have a homestay with a (now) good friend, Brian Leib, in Austin.  We were pretty busy everyday, whether we had guys racing, or we were getting organized for the next day.  Constantly building/tuning bikes, gluing tires, helping out passerbys, swapping wheels, checking tire pressure, cleaning, looking for food/coffee etc…  There weren’t really too many dull moments, which made the time fly by.

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Home base, before the weather turned and the walls had to go up

 

I entered the SS race on Wednesday with a “great” callup of about the 6th or so row out of 158ish total riders.  After the whistle my buddy Brandon had come from about two rows behind me and ended up in front of me about 2 minutes into the race.  He was maybe a little over excited and took out a bamboo stake and tasted the dirt shortly after passing me, leaving me to race by myself.  I just constantly worked my way from one group to the next until the short 40min race was over and ended up somewhere in the top 15.

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Constantly working on bikes

 

I got a solid 3 hour ride in the below thirty degree weather on Thursday, and we had a busy day on Friday of pitting for about 7 riders.  It was a long day with a lot of walking and bike tuning.  I know Tony and I were secretly hoping it would be muddy and messy to make the pits busy.  But everything went off without a hitch and with no mechanicals or bike changes necessary.

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No shortage of clear water in Austin

 

I kept it pretty easy on Saturday, and woke up ready to race on Sunday.  Shortly after eating my pre-race breakfast we learned that the races for the day had been cancelled.  Later we learned, that after rerouting the course to appease some local tree huggers, the race was rescheduled for Monday.  This was brutal, I had already been away for eight days and was pretty ready to be back in Socal’s perfect weather (and get back to work).  I was able to move my flight from Monday to Tuesday so I could toe the line on Monday with the countries best.

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Cleaning after a muddy pre-ride

 

I woke up slightly under the weather with a cold moving in on Monday morning, but the course conditions, i.e. MUD, were too epic and I have been through too much to not race now.  Somehow my callup had been change from around 40th on Sunday to 58th Monday, I have no idea why this would have even been different.  On Monday morning I tried asking many USACyling officials why this could have happened and if it can be fixed, but couldn’t get a straight answer.  I wasn’t gonna let this bum me out so it was back to the last row I go!

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BRAAAP

 

There had been a couple pileups at the start of races over the week, something you need to know that is possible in the back half of the pack.  Sure enough one minute into our race when we were still on the pavement I noticed something amuck ahead of me on the right side.  At first I thought to myself no, this doesn’t happen in the elite race it will sort itself out.  But it didnt, I slowed and was looking for a way out on the left side hoping to maybe even get a few spots if there was a wreck.  Just as I was doing so some dude slid into the left of me causing me to pretty much stop.  I kinda hoped off sideways head butting Brady Kappius in the back, but safe and on my feet.  The dudes front wheel that took me out decided it was hungry and ate my rear shifter.  Luckily we were both calm about the situation and took 10 or so seconds to calmly untangle our bikes.  Besides Brady who had a tacoed rear wheel, I was dead last getting onto the grass.

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Im not sure why I was unable to clip in all the time

 

The course was supertechincal with all the off camber turns and slick mud.  I rode super sloppy the next two laps, with my wits not really about me cause I felt like I needed to get back spots.  And it wasn’t until the last lap I started to find a groove.  Anyway finished 38th which isnt where I wanted to be at all, but this was all about the experience anyhow.

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Race winnings

 

I was finally able to enjoy some drinks and live local music that night, before my flight out with Fluffy and JRowe the next day.  All in all Austin kept me on my toes, provided me with no shortage of good eats, and got me sick for two weeks afterwards, it just keeps on giving!

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Zoom in, little pigeon whisper

 

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Thats definitely ice, it really was cold

 

Thats a wrap

This previous weekend was the last Cyclocross race I had planned for this season, until I decided to race nationals in Austin, TX.  I started the CX season only planning to do a handful of races, but fell back in love with the sport for a second time.

The races this weekend were up in gorgeous Bakersfield, (ha) at Hart Memorial Park (actually pretty nice).  This is a course that I have been wanting to do for a long time, and thanks to the hard work of Sam and crew (Sam Barn Promotions) it didn’t disappoint.  The laps were actually longer, like over 7 minutes, and the course was brutally tough, showcasing the infamous run-up, Hart Attack Hill.  The course also featured a couple very steep rideable (most of the time) hills, with some fast technical descents, a flowy section in the grass, a long paved straight, some stairs and some barriers.  The only thing its missing is some sand, hopefully Sam won’t read this and make it even harder 😉

My good friend and teammate Gareth is from the area and we were able to sleep in his parents fifth wheel in the driveway, I felt like a Bakersfield local.  The best thing about staying there, besides free hot showers, was that his parents made fresh bread like everyday.  Were talking cranberry bread, banana bread, pumpkin muffins the works, and it was all super tasty.  Im glad its the ‘off-season’ because I couldn’t help myself.

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A dog

I went into the weekend leading the SPYclocross series with Brandon Gritters not to far off, so my main goal was to have solid races and finish in front of him.  Gareth and I hashed out a plan and went over possible ways the race could play out, and we were ready to roll.  It’s pretty rad having a teammate to race with, but we were both missing Alan Danger who was feeling a little under the weather.

We got to the race Saturday early enough to see Gareths GF Dara race and all of our other friends, I rarely get to see everyone else race so it was nice to lounge around and get in some cheering.

The start of the race had a nice long straightaway and I was able to get the holeshot, which I relinquished before the course turned into the grass.  Kyle Gritters was trying the brothers famous tactics and had a small gap in the first couple minutes of the race, but it didnt stick.

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The future

A big group of us kind loligagged around the first couple of laps, letting the course dictate our pace since it was super brutal.  I tried to get on the front and keep the pace a little lower hoping G$ would be able to make the group after a crappy callup but it didnt look like it was going to happen.  After a couple of laps there were 4 or 5 of us around, and I heard some noise on one of the faster descents and it appeared Brandon had made a small mistake, and got slightly gapped off of the group.

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‘Hart Attack Hill’

I stayed at the front for the next couple laps trying to keep Brandon away, and battled with Bouldervaire trying not to let him crash me out with his idiodic passes.  With a few laps to go it was myself, Victor ‘Slasher’ Sheldon, Jason Siegle, and the french guy.  Jason put in a good dig with a couple of laps left but we were all able to respond and the group stayed together.

The Elite Men’s lead group tackles Hammertime Hill on Saturday. © Philip Beckman/PB Creative

Leading the group up the hill. Photo: PB Creative

 

Right before the last lap my cleat got really clogged in the soft dirt on the run-up and i was unable to clip in for the techy descent resulting in about a 10 second gap from the group of three.  I kept my cool and was able to latch back on halfway through, and even pass Siegle on a short uphill right near the finish.  There weren’t very many places to pass on the last half of the course so the order remained the same, Frenchy, Slasher, myself then Siegle.  Longtime cross pro B. Prenzlow rode a solid ride to finish 5th, right in front of Brandon who ended up 6th.  First day was a success.

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Stinky cat alley

Day two, on the other hand, was…interesting.  I pretty much had the series locked up, all I had to do was put in a good ride which I knew I was capable off, I loved the course and it suites my style of racing.  But the cross gods had other plans for me on Sunday.  Gareth rocketed out of the start and put in one of the fastest laps of the day, and I was super comfortable riding in the front group letting him do his thing.  But about halfway through the first lap, not too far after the pit, I heard a loud ‘pop’ on a very non technical turn in the grass section of the course.  I was like what the heck was that, Slasher was behind me and I asked him if it was my tire, and he saw immediately and sad yeah rear tires flat.  Tintsman offered me his bike, but I knew we didn’t have the same pedals so I had to ride a good way back to the course on the flat.

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Thanks to PB Creative for the pictures

Dave Lawson had my other bike ready and Dara was there to catch the other bike, sweet!  Perfect bike exchange and I was back racing about 50 seconds off of the leaders.  I started riding as hard and smooth as I could to try to bridge backup, there was still a lot of racing to do.  Gareth had fallen back to help me out and we connected at the end of the third lap, he pulled like a madman for me on the pavement, and I had to remind him we still have 6 laps to go so don’t kill yourself!

We were set man, G$ was riding strong and we were gonna take turns until we bridged back, we had the gap down to about 25 seconds which is totally doable with 6 laps remaining.  I noticed that my ‘A’ bike was ready to go again with a fresh wheel and I planned on getting it the next time by the pit, I had passed Gareth and was leading up the climbs.  Then on the steepest descent of the day my front tire rolled while riding all out, and I hit the deck pretty good.  (Full disclosure – I was using a wheel that came on a demo bike where the tire was glued over a year ago by someone I don’t know, completely my fault for not having a better setup for my backup bike)

Flatted, rolled, crashed, but still maintained proper technique.  Thanks to PB Creative for the pics

Flatted, rolled, crashed, but still maintained proper technique. Thanks to PB Creative for the pics

I had to run, who knows how far, back to the pit, where thankfully Jay had my other bike ready to roll, Dara caught my bike and we had another perfect exchange and I was back at it, probably DFL at this point.  I was pretty f*cked the next couple of laps from the effort of chasing, crashing hard, then running, and really just tried to focus on not dropping out and just riding smooth.  I was finally getting back into the groove and just as I passed D. Sheek (who was having gnarly back issues) my chain dropped.  I had kept my cool through everything, but I let some words fly this time.  Got the chain back on and continued riding along.

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Good battles this season.  Thanks to PB Creative for the pics

I managed to finish, so that was cool, but Brandon had a good race and got first, I think I ended up 8th, which put him in the lead for the overall.  It was an awesome season of racing between us and I think we both had fun, Ol’ red beard even bought me some ice cream on Saturday night.  We have some good talent around here and it keeps you honest, not to mention everyone (except 1 person) is a great sport and understands that its just Socal Cross and we all have family and jobs to go to on Monday.

For its first year the SPYclocross series rocked it, I am excited to see, and help, them grow cross in Southern California.  I hope that it doubles in size next year, I know its possible.  See everyone at Nationals

Udo Cross

This past weekend was a local CX race at lake hodges known as ‘Udo Cross.’  It is dedicated to Udo Heinz, who was killed by a bus while riding his bike on Camp Pendleton a little over a year ago.  He was a member of the ranchos cycling club, who organize and put on the race, and passionate about cyclocross, and his race at lake hodges.

This is a race I have wanted to win for a while, and being that this was the state championships I was a little extra motivated.  I will never forget my first race at Hodges, three years ago.  I was in the hurt box and in a possible podium position, and really felt like quitting, but Udo cheered and urged me on.  I felt like he wanted me to win more than I did and I thought I can’t let him down, and ended up pushing through and ending up third by about a half a second, one of my best races to date.

The course didn’t change much this year from years past, they made it a little easier by taking a couple smaller punchy hills out, and a little less riding around on the beach.  At least the mud ditches were gone those were kinda annoying.  It would definitely have been rad if we would have had to run the entire sand section, but it got pretty packed down as the day progressed, and more riders were able to ride it.

It was really awesome to not have to drive through LA traffic, as Hodges is about 30 mins of back roads from my house.  I got to the venue about two hours before my race and was stoked to hear  that my teammate Danger had won the SS race and claimed the teams first Bear jersey of the year.  No pressure.

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Going over some last second changes with Tony from Book a Bike Mechanic

Tony Smith of bookabikemechanic.com was hired on to be my race mechanic/pit guy for the day.  For those not in the know he has several years experience as a race mechanic for Rapha/Focus at the highest level of racing, including experience in Europe.  He has pitted for me in the past at MTB races and its amazing the stress that is taken away.  I am very meticulous about my bikes and I able to just sit back and relax and think more about racing cause I know they are in good hands.  It was also nice to be able to get out of the sun in the WD-40 tent and hangout with Liza and hand out some free samples.

There wasn’t much of a need to learn the course since it hadn’t changed much, just some of the turns on the lower half of the course.  I did some warm-up laps and dialed in the bikes with Tony, playing around with air pressure and making some slight adjustments.  It was awesome seeing all my friends that came out to watch and cheer, they even went and made some ‘Elliot heads’…from a Halloween picture that was taken about 3 or so years ago.  I was a dressed as a geisha, they were scary, and funny, but mostly scary.

I finally got a front row call up since I had won the first SPYclocross race in Chino.  I wasn’t too concerned with the hole shot I just didnt want Brandon and Kyle Gritters to be together.  Brent Prenzlow proved that he wanted to lead out the first lap and had a great start, followed by Brandon then myself.  Brandon fudged a remount after the barriers in the sand on the first lap and decided to try to make a sandcastle, giving Brent a good 10 second lead.  I had a small idea that if I could close in on Brent, pass him, then put an attack in on the single track area he would maybe hold up Gritters and some other racers and I would have a gap.

So I passed B. Gritters before the fly over, closed the gap on Brent on the uphill section, then passed him on the descent a little before the single track.  I rode the single track section hard but had barely put anytime on the field, better ease up looks like Im in for a long race.

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Never easy to shake this guy from your wheel. Photo: Phil Beckman

I stayed at the front and we rode the second lap pretty fast too, by the end it was just myself and B. Gritters with Brian Gordon and K. Gritters chasing.  There was no way Brandon was gonna pull us around as he wanted his brother there for their tactics, and Brian Gordon also races with Brandon during the MTB season.  I was really wishing my teammate Gareth was around cause it was pretty much a team of three against myself.

I stayed on the front and B. Gordon was able to bridge up in the next lap or so.  Kyle, at one point, was only about 5 seconds behind,  I really didn’t want him to catch on and made the next lap a little harder, putting some time on Kyle.  By this point I think Brandon knew he was on his own so he started putting in a good acceleration down the beach.  I think he got confused by the geisha heads, and all my friends cheering in the sandy corner, and he rode straight into a stake on the apex of the corner holding the course tape.

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Brandon’s shortcut. Photo: The Tommy Mitchell Show

This is not unusual for Brandon as he usually plows through the course tape at least once a race taking out some stakes and tape along the way.  I made my way cleanly around and immediately put the gas on as much as I could hoping he would get tangled up and I could get a gap.

Taking out the stake also took some air out of one of Brandons tires, and he had to pit.  He was lucky he flatted at the spot that he did because he didnt loose too much time on the bike exchange.  Brian came along with me and stayed on my wheel while we slowly chipped away a small lead.  I knew Brandon was going to be chasing hard, so I really had to establish a gap now or it may be game over.  After a couple laps I finally talked Brian into doing some work and he put in a great effort on the hills and we finally had a pretty solid gap.  Still couldn’t make any mistakes as Gritters would be right there.

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Brian Gordon putting up a good fight on his birthday. Photo: Phil Beckman

After pulling for a lap, Brian didnt want to ride at the front anymore.  We still had four to go and we had to keep the pace fairly high, so I just rode as smooth as I could.  I could tell that Brian was maybe getting a little tired as his turns were a little sloppy and he had made a few other small mistakes.  I saved as much energy as I could for the last lap then hit it as hard as I could at the start/finish to start my last lap attack.  I got a very small gap as we were going down to the beach, then on the turn around through the sand I noticed Brian was not close at all.  I thought that was weird as I couldn’t have gotten such a huge gap in such a short amount of time.

Turns out he got snagged by some course tap and wrecked hard, cracking his helmet and getting a ride to the ER to be released with a concussion, thank goodness for helmets.  I didnt know until I went by the pits that he had crashed and then was able to ride out the last lap, making sure to make no mistakes.

So stoked to take the bear jersey on my home turf with all my friends there.  My better half, Ellen even made it out with our good friend Tom who had never seen a cyclocross race before.  I really think all my friends cheering made a huge difference in the race outcome, so thanks Gordon, LDub, Fluffy, BMFJ, Two T’s, J. Rowe, Brandon, Eric J, Cliff, and James Glibert (the Geisha head maker) Also, I think Udo would have been happy to see all the people out racing this past weekend, having a good time riding and racing bikes, he was a huge encourager to get people to ride and have fun.

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Ive always wanted to do Will Ferrells bit from Taladega Nights where he doesn’t know what to do with his hands when he’s getting interviewed, but not sure if PB would catch that. “If only I could grow a beard…”

A big part of cyclocross is making as few mistakes as possible, and capitalizing, when other racers do.  I made a small mistake at Spooky cross two weeks ago, it probably only cost me 5 seconds at the most, but it gave Brandon the win.  Im super bummed that Brian wrecked as hard as he did, as he was having one of his best races ever, and on his birthday of all days!  Wishing him a quick two weeks off the bike, and some good recovery for MTB season next year.  Im sure the usual suspects will be battling it out up in SLO this weekend for the next round of SPYclocross.  Huge thanks to SPY and Victor for having a legit cyclocross series in Socal.

 

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Good company on the podium