Monday, November 30, 2009

My cyclocross season is over

Stick a fork in it. It is done.

This Saturday was to be my final cx race and I was ready to head to Ogden, UT to race in a bigger field and finish off the season in grand style...but my cross racin' mo' has fizzled and my brain wants to ride longer...much longer. The trip to Ogden would mean 7 hours in the car on Sat for a one hour warmup plus 50 minutes of racing.

Instead, the FatBack is getting dialed in after a long summer hibernation and will see its first action this weekend! Big Ride Sat followed by Big Ride Sun. I like the sound of that.

Upper Mesa Falls is on the radar for one ride this weekend

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The winter riding season has officially begun

At 8am Sunday morning the temp on our back deck was 11F and the previous day’s snow showed no sign of melting off anytime soon…in fact, the NWS was calling for more snow to begin falling before noon.

The Niner has been winterized

Sunday’s 4.5+ hour ride in cold temps and blowing snow was a good refresher course in winter riding and I was reminded how important it is to keep your core warm in order to keep your extremities warm. I even had to practice the “warmup walk” a couple of times…when your feet get so cold that you have to get off the bike and walk a bit to get the blood flowing back to the feet.

And so the season of pogies, vapor barrier socks, chemical hand warmers, and ride food that is edible when frozen has officially begun. There will be a mix of riding snow packed back roads with studded tires as well as a healthy dose of riding groomed snowmobile trails on the FatBack. Oh, and a little backcountry skiing too. :) The Niner Air9 has been converted to “winter mode” and will probably stay this way until Camp Lynda 3.0.

Its very wintry at the end of Darby Canyon

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Helena, MT double-cross weekend - Day 2

Sunday’s Montana Velo CX course was designed by Helena’s Geoff Proctor who is also the Director of Euro Cross Camp and U-23 and Junior National Cyclocross Coach. We were guaranteed a taste of authentic Euro cross.

We arrived early and walked our hounds around one lap of the course before riding it and the general theme was “steep & off-camber”. Every corner, descent, and rideable climb was off-camber and there were two sets of concrete stairs to run up as well as one set of double barriers.

A modest field lined up for the combined Masters B, Cat 4, and Women’s race including my teammate Mike who was fueled by his first-place-robbing mechanical yesterday. Also in the race was Mike’s good friend and stage race partner, Tim from O-Canada, who also suffered a mechanical Saturday which took him out of contention for the win.

A key part of racing cross is the hole shot and I didn’t have it on Sunday. Going into the first technical section I got stuck behind a group who piled it up in the tight left-hander while the leaders sped off and put 20 seconds on us within half a lap. Doh! But the day’s battle was unfolding just in front of me.

A rider from the Gallatin Alpine Sports Team, who will from this point forward be known as Mr. GAS, was a few wheel lengths in front of me and appeared to be a very worthy opponent. We were only a half lap into the race but it was clear that he would be the main protagonist in my personal “race within the race”. Once out of the first bottleneck, Mr. GAS displayed some serious power on the pavement section leading into the barriers. He quickly opened a 10+ yard gap on me but a strategic error cost Mr. GAS his lead in an instant. The devilish course featured a concrete curb immediately after the double barriers which caused many riders trouble: Do you remount and try to bunny hop the curb or simply keep running? I chose to run past the curb every time and passed Mr. GAS while he was indecisive. Mr. GAS responded with a furious acceleration on the next piece of pavement and passed me again leading into the twisty grass section. An excellent battle this was. Only seconds later, I was able pass Mr. GAS by diving inside on an off-camber 180 degree turn and I could feel Mr. GAS settle in for a ride on my wheel.

Did I mention that Mr. GAS was much taller than me? Yeah, well, when we hit the first set of stairs Mr. GAS was clearing every other stair like Bo Jackson in his prime while I had to touch every stair and just like that he had another 10+ yard gap on me. Note to self: Practice the dismount-to-shoulder technique…lots.

Again, Mr. GAS was powerful on the pavement but I ran the barriers well and closed the gap down to 5 yards heading into the twisty grass. I continued to chase the orange jersey around the course for what seemed like an eternity until the defining moment: Mr. GAS came into a downhill right-hander too hot, went into the barrier tape, and I scooted by on the inside to pass him for the final time. He never quit chasing but would not recover and I would finish the race riding in “no man’s land” and take 5th.

I have a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Helena, MT double-cross weekend - Day 1

The cyclocross scene in Montana is very cool and what it lacks in numbers it more than makes up for with its cross-stoke level and talent. Montana has a passionate group of cross-addicts who travel around the state to support each race and battle each other every weekend throughout the season. The fastest of their elite can compete with most anyone as we saw first-hand at Moose Cross this year where the MT crew won the Men’s 1-2-3, Women’s, and Master’s races handily. After receiving the support of the MT cross crew at Moose Cross I really wanted to show my appreciation by traveling to at least one race in MT this season and the Helena, MT double-cross weekend fit into the schedule.

Saturday was the Great Divide CX held at Centennial Park near downtown Helena, MT. Thursday’s storm coated the course with 1-3” of snow and the cold temps kept it crisp and white for Saturday’s race. Temps were 22F when we rolled into the parking lot to register and after one warm-up lap my hands and feet were frozen. Note to self: Pin your number on before your hands go numb. I thought about embrocating my hands and feet but ultimately decided against it.

With a short warm-up, I decided ease into this one and not explode myself in one lap so I was riding well back in the pack as we headed up the first hill and into the off-camber chicanes. Some first-lap carnage allowed me to move up a couple of spots and the “race within the race” began. While my teammate Mike was off the front leading the race, I was riding mid-pack and setting my sights on the next guy. Mr. Yellow Jersey was just in front of me and I was calculating how to pass him. Being similarly matched, I chased him for half a lap and had closed the gap down to a couple of feet when he made his crucial mistake. With me hot on his wheel, Mr. Yellow Jersey overcooked a corner, rode into the barrier tape, and I passed him on the inside and stepped on it while he untangled himself and got back on course. To his credit, he never quit chasing me for the remainder of the race but I held him off and finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately, once I gapped Mr. Yellow Jersey I was riding alone in the all-too-familiar no-man’s land until the end.

At one point during the race I could not feel my hands or feet at all and shifting, braking, and re-clipping in were like taking a multiple choice when you haven’t studied…just take a wild-ass guess. The course was one of the better ones I have raced and the cold temps and snow made it epic...well, as epic as a 45 minute race can be. Ha!

Day 2 report and pics to follow...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Local cross & cruising backroads

I have to admit that it was nice to show up to a cross race and not be in "organizer" mode for a change. The city of Rexburg, ID puts on a three-race series called the The Cube Cyclocross and the first race was Saturday. Several members of the Fitzgerald's Bicycles Team made the one hour drive to race on a sweet course that included tight corners in the trees, a steep run-up, and some off-camber singletrack. Being a small race, we all raced together in the "Advanced Men's" race and it was a blast to chase each other around the course and then relive the action afterwards over a beer. The team has a couple of cross converts this year and it is great to see. Piker, who is always fast on the mtn bike, has now decided to go fast on the cross bike and has won his last two starts. Gabe "Fiddee Cent" Klamer is crushing it on his Kona 29er hardtail with a rigid fork and cross tires as well.

I pinned it until my eyes were crossed and I thought I was seeing Elvis in the bushes...but it turns out it was T-Race gaining on me near the end.

Carbon and cross...Hmmmm

Somewhere in the middle of my race I remounted after a barrier and heard a "snap" followed by my saddle position changing dramatically. Crap! I though my seatpost had slipped but since I run a Thompson I knew this was not likely. Once finished I saw the real damage. Bummer.

We definitely maximized the daylight hours on Sunday. Michelle and I hooked up with JayP and T-Race for a hike with the Dudes (our hounds) and the Lil Dudes (their new puppies) and we explored a bit of secret soon-to-be singletrack.

After the 90 minute hike we grabbed a snack, geared up, and headed out on the bikes for a tour of some backroads including the Darby Canyon FS road.

Most of our singletrack is wet but the backroads are still good to ride

In a total rookie move, I failed to eat enough and was bonking badly by the time I rolled in. Doh!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dreaming of being single

and I can't get it out of my head.

I am not talking about a wholesale change here but I do like the idea of a little variety once in a while. But like anything worth doing, it is worth over-doing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I take Cyclocross very seriously...

...well, not that seriously.

We wrapped up our 2009 Victor Cross Series yesterday with Spooky Cross and based on the number of smiles I think everyone who attended had a great time. The FREE costume race with $50 prizes for the best male & female costumes was a hit.

Michelle and I working the team tactics in the costume race

After the kid’s and the costume races concluded we got down to the business of serious racing. The cross course was turning into a slippery mess as the day warmed into the mid 40s after being frozen solid and snow-covered all week. We would finally get our chance to race in challenging conditions.

I quickly dropped a few lbs for the Masters race

Ready, set, go. I got a whopping 10 minutes to warm-up but I felt surprisingly good while doing a few short bursts so when Peet-o yelled GO I jumped out to second wheel behind Piker who was long overdue to unleash his fury in a cross race this year. It was obvious early on that Piker was not interested in tactics and just planned on riding off the front but when Buchko came by me on the pavement I jumped on his wheel and stayed there for the entire first lap. But then the big guy decided to shake me off and got about 10 yards on the bike path section heading into the twisty chicanes and in my effort to close the gap I lost my front wheel in the greasy grass-mud combo and went down in a splat. After a quick remount the gap was to Buchko was bigger but I managed to stay ahead of the chasers. The beauty of cross is that you can often see your opponents throughout the lap as the course winds back on itself. As I kept my foot on the gas I could see the gap to Buchko increase, and then decrease several times over the remainder of the race. Meanwhile, 4th and 5th place were working together to chase me down and were close enough that I could feel them all of the time. Smooth through the barriers, watch the corners and go hard on the straights…repeat several times. I crossed the line in third place, a drooling, muddy mess and I can’t wait to do it all over again next weekend.

The "Narrows" section was a little trecherous in the mud

Huge thanks to Brandon and Sarah for the great pics!