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.


A weekend of racing

I was starting to get the itch again to do some racing, and this weekend happened upon a good time.  On saturday there was the CA state endurance championships up in big bear put on by the US Cup guys, and a CX race up in LA on sunday.

But first thing was first, had to make a stop into Velo Hangar on friday for my pre-race good vibes

Laurel the Velo Barista’ awesome Latte!

I am by no means an ‘endurance’ athlete, but what better way to get in some good training by ‘racing’ 58 miles at altitude.  I got up to the mountains around 9 on saturday, and with a chill in the air wasn’t feeling all that ready to race.  I rode around for a little bit with my down jacket on, like everyone else was doing, trying to get a little warm up in.  Headed to the start and was stoked to see that I would be racing against two time olympian Tinker Juarez.  Well theres one podium spot taken!

The start was pretty mellow up the road until we hit the dirt which is when everyone stared to go.  I hung-on as long as I could with Tinker, Joel Titus of So-Cal endurance, and another Bear Valley pro, but for some reason my legs were not letting me do anything.  I just about completely stalled out and started spinning the easiest gear I could, this is something I thought would happen around mile 50 for me not 5!  Luckily Ben Jones came motoring by and I sat on his wheel for a while and kinda got everything under control.

Caught a few more guys on the first lap, and decided I did some good work, and was going to just cruise the second lap and try to not cramp up and bonk.  Just near the top of the hardest climb on the course, at mile 50, I looked back and saw someone was gaining on me.  Crap, I dont really feel like trying right now, maybe they will slow down, but I didn’t want to take a chance.  So I lit a fire under my ass and got to motoring up the rest of the hills towards the singletrack downhill finish.  Which I knew if I could make it there I would retain my positioning.  I finally realized that it was my buddy (and kick ass world champ) Leslie Patterson that was gaining on me.  So I started yelling at her to try and catch me, just like race pace laps!  I couldn’t have been any happier to see anyone else.

Photo Credit: Ti Peng

I finished fourth in the Pro/Open category, way behind the top three guys, but had a blast riding the trails and talking shop with Ben, Leslie and Tammy.  Also good to know that I still have some work to do until next year.

Onto sundays CX race!  After seeing a fresh motorcycle accident on my way up to LA (still dont know if the rider was dead or alive) I was just so happy and thankful to be there.  I wanted to hug everyone I knew when I got there, and really lost a lot of motivation to race, but nonetheless gotta get work done.

I had planned on racing both Mens A SS, and Elite A’s.  I pre-road the course on my SS bike a few times and was about 15 minutes to race start when my chainring litterally broke in half, bent, sheered three chainring bolts off and bent the spider on my cranks.  It was the craziest failure I have ever witnessed, I was literally soft pedaling back to my bag to get some water, not even pedaling hard.

Chainring FAIL!

Luckily Gordon and some awesome Celo Pacific guys talked me into taping the shifters on my Bailey CX bike, so I was unable to shift and continue on with the race.  I doubled checked with Dorothy on this and she said it is fine with her races, but definitely not UCI races.  I found myself at the back of the line for the start, and was in just about dead last as we went into the first turn.  Damn Im in for a long race if I want to do anything.

I made a few quick passes at the run-ups and first few straight aways and about halfway through the first lap I had gone from about 20th to 15th.  As the pack started to string-out in single file fashion I just started picking off riders through the twisty sections and run ups, and let whoever was in front of me do most of the work when we got to the straightaways.

By about the end of the second lap I had snuck into the top ten, and was pretty stoked.  At this point I knew I had to make a decision though, either get on the podium on this race, or back off and try to save yourself for the elite A race.  A believer on not waiting and getting my hopes up for false results I decided to go for it.  I started putting in a lot of hard efforts, catching people in the turns then passing them on the straights, all while getting heckled, beer and water thrown in my face at max effort, Ahh YES! Cyclocross baby!

By the end of the third lap I had moved into the top five.  At the end of the fourth lap top three, and we started to put a gap on the rest of the field.  With one lap to go the first two riders exchanged places a few times while I sat in.  I thought that I may have a bigger gear than them and be able to out sprint them out of the last turn to the finish.  Unfortunately we maintained our order and all finished within a second of each other, good times!

I proceeded to punch the winner in the stomach in the next picture

  I did one lap of the elite A race then pulled the plug, my weekend of training races was done, quit while you are still healthy and not injured.  A huge thanks to Ellen for letting me race my bike all weekend, the Velo Hangar for awesome support, and of course my coach and riding buddy(and boss) Trevor!

Looking back and going forward

It was 366 days ago that I entered my 2nd race since my 12 year hiatus off the bike.  I was somehow talked into the Vision Quest race by my good friend Chas, and managed to transfer a spot at the last minute.  I had only been mountain biking again for about 4 months, most of the time on a single speed too, and I had never ridden over 40 miles, and there I was about to race 56 miles with over 11,000 feet of climbing.

For some reason when I started riding again I wanted to do these longer ‘epic’ races, looking back I feel a lot of people getting into racing are interested in this type of racing for the accomplishment of completing something great.  I got lucky and managed to finish the 2011 VQ top 20, and 1st in the single speed category, it was a great experience and I learned a lot.  I will never forget seeing Tinker and the lead group a switchback ahead of me on the first climb in the dark, it looked like they were doing 25mph uphill!  At that point I really kind of realized how slow I really was, and started to think what I could do to start riding faster.  Just ride more right, HA!

I did a few more races last year, with some decent results but just couldn’t figure out what it takes to start getting to that next level.  I recalled the first time Len told me he had a coach, Im pretty sure I laughed out loud at him.  A coach for mountain biking?  Seriously? 

It didn’t take me too much longer to realize that I wanted to step up my game so there I was asking Len if I could get the number for his coach.  I have only been working with Trevor Glavin about 4 months and in about two weeks I’m about to race one of the biggest races of the year in Cat1 and am feeling pretty good about it.  I have been wanting to race sea otter since I worked in a bike shop 12 years ago, and now that I live in CA its a pretty feasible task.

Its pretty awesome to look back and see how far you have come in a year, what has changed and where you plan on trying to go.  I am super excited to keep working with everyone and see how far I can go, big thanks to everyone at this point!

From this(haha)…

To this(haha again)…

US Cup Fontanta, aka Fontucky

I dont know whether it was the multiple trailer parks we passed, the fact that there was a nascar race going on right down the street or the threat of rain I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was going to a mountain bike race in Fontanta, aka fontucky. The biggest thing on everyones mind on the way to the race was the rain, no one really likes to race in the rain, and no one could tell what was going to happen.

Len, Dave and I got up there with plenty of time to register, gear up, and check the weather report 10 more times. 40 minutes before the race we started our warmup and checked out some of the course, and we’re bummed to see the fact that ‘the elevator’ climb wasn’t included in the course this year, as that is all Len has been talking about for the past two weeks.

I toed the line with the 30-34 and 35-39 age groups, and while waiting around to start I realized how unmotivated I was for this race. Not really sure why, maybe it was the overcast skies, or being tired from last week but I really wasn’t feeling it, which was quite apparent in my start. The super fast 35-39 guys took off fast and I was sitting probably around 18th out of 25 or so in the group going into the singletrack, which is no bueno. The first climb is pretty narrow with basically no room for passing. It eventually opened up to a road where I noticed I was in about the third or fourth pack back. I put in a little harder effort and bridged the gap to the second pack but was still prob only around 10th overall between the two age groups.

The road eventually turned back into a single track climb and I finally started to settle in. Unlike normal races where if someone goes by me I stay on their wheel and eventually try to pass once they tire, I was more keen on letting people go by, as I knew it was only the first lap and we still had three to go.

The rest of the laps were pretty standard and I rode pretty much the same pace, managed to pick off a couple more riders and have fun on the technical course. I tried mixing some cola in my second bottle this time around and started pounding it on the last lap. I was feeling pretty good at this point, with some slight tingling in my quads as a warning sign of some possible cramping. About halfway through the last lap I ran into another guy in my category (he finished 3rd) and he thought we were right around podium potential, this kinda perked me up a little. As you have no idea who is in your category the whole time since no one got their legs marked. After I heard this I got a little fire lit under me, dropped him on the single track and caught another guy in front of me who also said he was in my age group, I asked him what about the guy in front of us? He said he was a pro and we werent racing against him. Perfect! At this point we were only about 2-3 miles from finish. I put in a good hard effort on the climb and got in front of the pro, which was good to keep the guy in my category a place behind.

I could see the another guy (1st place) not too far ahead down on the flats, and thought I had a good shot, and had about 30 seconds on the guys I just passed. I lost a little bit of concentration on a little rock drop and my front tire slid out, I was up and ready to go before the guys behind me caught back up, then I looked down and noticed my chain was off, NOOOOO! With the MRP guide I was running on my 1×9 its a bitch to squezze the cahin back through the guide and get the chain on the ring. I lost about a minute here and the three guys I just passed were now a good distance in front of me. I finally got going and managed to make up some time and hang onto forth and lost out on the podium by only about 8 seconds.

All in all it was a great day of racing and the heavier rain held off until the end. Dave S ended up with an awesome finish at 2nd place and Len G with a solid 4th which is pretty awesome considering he just had a broken tibia about a month ago. Lesson learned here, run a real geared crank and front derailleaur up front from now on!

Monkey pedals bike up hill, drifts down, hydrate, repeat!

One of those super nice days after work today. Headed over to the La Costa area and got a nice little 2 hr. mtn ride in. While cruising around I ran into good ole’ Dee Folse, and then my co-worker Mark! Didnt have much time to chat with either of them as we were both heading different ways.

Finally picked out a hill to do my workout on, ‘bomber’ which is on the backside of the dump climb. Went up and down the hill a couple times, had a hard time pushing it too hard as legs were kinda shot. Climbed up shotgun, throwing in one more hard effort then descended down switchbacks as the sun was setting. What a great workout and perfect way to end the day!

The ADD! (All Day Debacle)

There couldn’t have been a better day for the Second Annual All Day Debacle. Headed up by Kurt Gensheimer with the help of the DeKolds this ride is all about a long fun day on the mountain bike.

We rolled from the DeKolds a little after 8:30, and among the usual characters were Erik Dekold, Dave Hekel, Martin Kozicki, Dee Folse, Tony Barghini, Kurt Gensheimer, young Chris and Crazy Gary. Right as we started to roll someone had a quick ’emergency’ that needed attending to, so we waited around at the top of dump climb for him. After Dump we hit the normal trails down and out into the bridges neighborhood. As we were cruising along the D.G. through the neighborhood is was awesome seeing all the poor roadies out on their sat morning ride, looking at us crusty dusty mtn bikers with envy.

After the neighborhood we dropped down to the Jungle trail and then over to the Lusardi loop, via some crazy, half grown in, hidden Kurt trail. From there we headed over through some construction area and into ‘tunnels’ trail system and into the ball fields, where we ran into the ice cream man! Luckily some of us had cash to spot the rest so everyone could grab a nice treat on a perfect SD day.

After the ball fields I pretty much didnt know where I was for almost the rest of the ride. We crossed Black Mountain Rd and into to Ramona, on some nice shaded, pretty flat trails. We were moving along at a pretty decent pace and everything seemed good, when all of a sudden Marty said he needed to stop at the 7-11 coming up in about 5 minutes. It had only been bout 15 minutes since our ice cream stop and Marty was babbling something about needing electrolytes. Being that Marty is newer to single speeding, and we had only climbed about 1,500ft out of 7500ft so far I knew Marty was going to be in trouble!

After our 7-11 stop we came upon our first climb up Ted Williams peak. Knowing there was a few hike-a-bike sections and I had a geared bike Kurt let me lead up the climb. Dee, Kurt and myself took our time on the climb trying not to push it and have a good time. Once Marty got up to the top the first words that came out of his mouth was ‘thats it I’m done, my legs are done.’ We somehow talked him into continuing on some more, and to try and tough it out, but he only lasted a little bit longer and had to stop at the Sprouts somewhere in Ramona and make that embarrassing call to Kathy to come pick him up. Crazy Gary brought along a pacifier to give to the first person that complained or couldnt continue, here is marty sucking away at the sprouts…
We continued on pretty much unknown-to-me trails through Ramona to the ranger station at highland valley, where we refuled with some water and a couple beers Hekel had stashed away. At this point due to the time lost sending Marty on his way we decided to cut out the stop at Kurts house and just head straight home. Knowing that the next thing on our agenda was ascending ‘once is enough’ coupled with some fatigue setting in, the ride moved along at a more quite, deliberate pace.
Once is enough is always a bitch and at mile 60 it really sucks! I was suprised at how far Kurt made it on the SS, one day someone from our group is going to clean the whole thing on a single speed! We regrouped at the top, and you can tell that everyone is just about done, and we decided to take the most direct route home. At this point almost everyone is trying to shake cramps and is just thinking about the reward at the end of the ride.
We managed to make it back to Eriks house by 5:00 with a total rolling time of 6:33 minutes, 65 miles and about 7,500 feet of vertical. We fired up the grill, drank some IPA and talked shop into the night, what a great way to cap off an awesome day!
Ted Williams peak 30 miles in

US Cup Vail Lake Race

Kind of officially kicking off the Mountain bike race season here in California is the first US Cup race, Vail Lake out in Temecula. Race day provided absolutely perfect weather, if you were going to be lounging on the beach all day, but for racing it was hotter, and drier than hell. I overheard several reports that it was over 100 degrees at the top of one of the climbs.

I was super anxious for this race as it was the first one since ive been training with Trevor Glavin as my coach, I basically had no idea where I was on my fitness. To top things off I had to race against my good buddy Kurt Gensheimer, who is an absolute hammer!

I hitched a ride up there with my buddy Dave Staiton and we met up with Len Geiger, who was up there earlier pre-riding the course with some friends. Got in a good 20 minute warm-up with everyone and discussed the bottle handoff/hydrating situation. Lucky for me Len wasn’t racing and being as my bike only has 1 bottle cage he was going to hand me a bottle every lap packed with infinit nutrition”If I needed it”

Cat 1 SS started the same time as the 20year old age group, which helps on the SS if you can grab a wheel of a faster geared rider. Right out of the gate Kurt jumped into the lead and I hung on his wheel as best I could while we steadily jumped from one group of riders to the next. I sat on Kurts wheel for the first 2 or so miles, and right before the first real climb I let him know it was coming, and to try to get a good recovery in. Kurt recommended that I lead since I know the course a little better, and I just figured we would take turns pulling each other until the last lap or so. Turns out that he never caught back up to me at the top of the climb, and seeing the chance for a win I just started going for it.

The course at Vail lake, like always, is a super fast fun course that isn’t very technical and has shorter punchier climbs, all in all a great race course. I was able to hold onto some geared wheels through the rest of the first lap and coming into the water bottle exchange i noticed a weird noise coming out of my rear wheel. I stopped to check it out with Len and turns out I had a busted spoke. To Lens quick inspection he said the butt end of the spoke had fallen out and it appeared as though I only had about 3 inches sticking out of the nipple. So I thought I was set. After starting to ride again I thought it might be a better idea to try to break the rest of the spoke off, so I hopped of and started bending it back and forth to try to snap it a little close to the nipple. This didn’t work. It only created a sharp ‘J’ that looked like it would be perfect for puncturing my tire on a turn. So I straightened it back out and took off again. Then about a mile later I heard the same noise, and starting to get on my nerves so I hoped off again to solve the problem. Turns out the butt end of the spoke was still in there rattling around, and hadn’t fallen out. I somehow managed to fish out the broken spoke without wasting too many more minutes and was once again on my way.

Got a few fast wheels on the flats that really helped my time out on the second lap, and everything was going fine since the spoke incident, until I started to feel a little twinge in my right calf and quad. Then at the beginning of the third lap, and out of infinit and just on gatorade I started to feel small cramps coming on everywhere in both legs. Knew I had to try to use my body weight the rest of the race and really couldn’t push it, I thought my lead would be gone. Cramps got worse as the lap went on, including a couple full leg lock-ups where I wasn’t even able to clip into my pedals. Any second now, I thought Kurt was going to be passing me like I was standing still!

I somehow managed to get through all the climbs and cramps and finish the third lap. And was able to hang on for a win at the season opener. Including the spoke debacle my overall time was 2:01:25, finishing over second place by all most 5 minutes. Considering this was more just a training race and to see how everything has been going I am pretty stoked. Its great to see how all the hardwork and proper training can translate into results.

Next race Sea Otter!