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!