Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where did this week go?


It's Thursday night, a mere 16 hours before we head to Astoria and I'm just now getting to my write up of this last weekend.  It's been a busy hectic week at work and when I get home I'm content to stretch and work the soreness out of my legs and lower back.  My cross season will be over in a few days due to work, but this weekend should be a great way to put a wrap on things.  But first, back to this past weekend.

Saturday we get up bright and early to head south down to Salem.  The second event in the Willamette Valley Cross Series was held at the old Battle Creek golf course which was as cool as it sounds.  The day was cool, but bright and sunny at the same time.  The early morning damp fog and sog made for a chilly and messy pre-ride with the thick grass course creating mini moss monsters on people's bikes.

I had an 11am start time so after a few pre-ride laps it was time to get ready for my race.  I got a good warm-up in, but my body was still feeling the effects of the Sherwood race the previous weekend.  Mainly my lower back.  Jeff B arrived right as I was finishing my warm-up and with him came my newly mounted rear tire.  The Fango that flatted at Rainer had another, different flat at Sherwood which Stan's wonder-goo couldn't plug.  Ah well.

I got to the line early enough to scout the first straightaway and corner.  The previous races had carved some lines in the course and things were soggy, but not horrifically slick.  The field is a good size, about 30 riders, so start position wasn't as crucial.  I tucked into the back row on the left side and we were off a few moments later.

My start was good, much like its been all season.  Going into the first turn I was sitting in 6th or 7th place, and maintained that position all the way to the first barriers.  Unfortunately I tried to remount in the sand pit, failed and ended up duck walking my bike through traffic back to the next flat area.  Lost contact with the front group and another few positions.  Noob. :)

A small chase group formed behind, only a second or so off the first group.  We stayed that way for the first lap and a half when my back started to tighten up on me.  My pace dropped and soon I lost contact with the second chasing group. Ah well.

The course itself was deceptively hard.  The wet grass smooth, but thick and soft.  Riding on a wet sponge was the best way I can describe it.  There was no place to recover on course.  No small downhill to coast down, no flat section you could just spin through.  I found myself flipping between front rings for the first time all season on a flat course.  My back hurt too much to power the 46, but I was spinning out the 36.  After two laps of toying with the gears, I mentally flipped off the "this hurts" and just rode the 46.

With a lap to go I really wanted to be done.  I wanted to pull off the course and jump on the HPChiro table and have Seth and Laura beat my back until submission instead of it doing it to me.  I took solace in the fact that I was maintaining distance to the riders behind me and steadily reeling in a trio of riders in front of me.  I made it my goal to catch them before the lap was up and dug deep.

With half a lap to go I came to the first of the two bridge crossings each lap.  These golf cart wide bridges spanned a small creek that ran through the middle of the course, and were slick with mud.  I made sure to cross them cautiously, but in my desire to make the catch I put effort into the drivetrain too soon, spinning my rear tire and washing the bike out from under me.

I hit the deck of the bridge.  Hard.  Body and bike literally bouncing with the impact.  I was fortunate enough to stay compact during the fall, landing on my shoulder, forearm, and hip all at the same time.  (Yay for years of Karate and Hapkido!)  I was more fortunate to land ON the bridge and not fall over the side.  I was dazed by the impact and it took a moment for me to collect myself and get my bike and body out of the way of the riders bearing down on me.  A dropped chain and bent brifter were all I could see as far as damage.  Two riders pass me as I remount my bike and slowly get back to speed.  The first few corners are hesitant as the body and mind replay what went wrong and anticipate the worst.

My chase begins a new, but now to try and regain lost spots.  I make an aggressive pass on the inside of a 270 degree turn to pick one spot back up, but I'm unable to catch the other rider.  I finish 19th.

While the race might not have Hand Down!  Photo by Jose Sandovalgone the best, Seth was able to work on my back shortly after.  The S-I joint is not happy.  I'm thrilled to get the Hand Down (even if it was Budweiser) from Dave as he speeds through the first lap of his race, and Jose Sandoval  is in the right place at the right time to capture it.  Jeff B, Alex, and B-Rat crush the B race with Jeff and Alex taking first and third. 

Unfortunately the day ends with a bit more trouble as Traci is forced to pull out of her race.  Seth and Laura along with B squad show their true colors and help me take care of Traci while I get the car packed.  We get home late and get the bikes cleaned off.  8pm and I'm exhausted.  Fortunately the next race is 2 miles for our house.

Sunday is CC4 at Hillsboro Fairgrounds.  We wake up later than normal and take our time getting ready.  No hour drive to this venue!  We load up the car and leave the house at 7:30, and roll into the parking lot at 7:38.  My kind of commute!

Sal and Heidi get us a primo spot and we unload the car.  The pre-ride is fun and I get to see the course for the first time as I was injured for this race last year.  The sun is out, but a front is moving in.  The temp drops by 10 degrees in the first hour we are there and it starts to drizzle on and off.  Spirits are high.

PV turns out in force today, with the tent overflowing with racers and teammates here to watch the final Crusade race of Matt Couzens.  Cuz is moving back to Denver soon and we picked this day to be his going away party.  The wall of sound is deafening every time he rolls by the tent during his race, and he smiles through the pain reflects the joy of the sport and those that bear witness to it.

The men of Portland Velo. L to R: Paul Formiller, Sal Bondi, and Matt D'Elia.  Photo by Jonathon Maus, BikePortland.orgThe time draws near for me to start my warm up and suddenly the PV tent is a flurry of activity.   The 11:40 race has Mstr B's and 50+ racers, and with 7 racers in the Mstr B and 5 racers in the 50+ field we attract some attention.  Jonathon Maus from  BikePortland comes by and shoots a bunch of photo's for a great article about the event.  He really has the pulse of the scene in PDX.  I warm up easy, sore and tired from the previous day.

Eventually its time to race.  We roll to the starting line and this race I was fortunate enough to get the third starting grid.  I hope for a fast start and to hold on.  The rain starts to fall lightly as the whistle blows.  The front of the race accelerates away as the remaining riders file out of the chute.  Such a difference from the previous days race.

Javad catches up to me quickly and tells me to latch on.  The two of us ride together, the familiar comfort of riding on the road for the past 3 years transitioning quickly to the race.  He picks out fast lines as I direct traffic and call out obstacles in the course.  We steadily move up the field together, passing the team tent in tandem.  The team cheers loudly urging us on.  All through out the course members of PV are there, shooting photos and cheering like maniacs.  I hear the booming voice of KRhea behind his massive camera lens, Dean and Barb Lee by the huge mud puddle, Tom with his dual cowbells and crazy grin pops up everywhere, Brad Sigler in the barn.  We ride with wings.

Sasha catches us during the first half of lap 2 and the tandem becomes a trio.  The aches and pains of yesterday are gone, filled with need to stay on Javad and Sasha's wheel.  We fly towards the backside pit entrace for the second time when disaster strikes. 

A racer from the Filth and Fury team moving up through the field suddenly crashes into me from behind on the right side, his front wheel doing its best to intimate the chariot race from Ben Hur on my right leg (see 6:30 in the clip).  The rider managed to pull out of the collision, but in the process hooked my right arm and handlebars with his left arm and yanked the bike out from under me.  I crashed hard on my left side again while he managed to stay upright and rode away. 

The race as it was for me ended at that point.  My teammates made it through the melee and continued on.  My left brifter once again had been bent inward making braking difficult, not to mention the toll the spill had on my mental attitude.  I was mad about being wrecked, and managed to crash once again in that same lap in some very slick mud.  Battered and mentally beaten, I work on staying upright in the rapidly deteriorating course.  I crash once more right in front of team tent at the "killer corner".  At least there was a smile on my face then.

What did you do this weekend?  Photo by Victor DuongFour laps later, the race mercifully ends and I immediately head towards the bike wash.  

My body and bike are filthy and my leg is bleeding freely.  I'm angry.  I'm also angry I wasn't able to ride angry.  Traci offers to take my rig so I can get to the medical tent to have them look me over.  Under the caked mud and congealed blood hides a 6" by 15" pattern of curved gouges and tireburn.  My leg becomes photography fodder for a number of folks standing nearby.  The scene is almost comical and quickly lifts my spirits.  Beer awaits at the tents.

The day caps off beer, burgers, beer, a great race by Traci, and more beer.  We scream our voices hoarse for Molly and Tina, and cheer wildly for all those putting it out there for the beauty of it all.  A slice of heaven right in our back yard.

Bring on Astoria.

Monday, October 19, 2009



So I’ll state right up front that I was not a big fan of the Sherwood venue.  The first part of this post is going to be a bit of a rant, so skip down if you don’t want to read it. 

Just about everyone I’ve talked to today is battered and bruised, including those who didn’t go down.  You are going to hurt after a cross race but today my hands feel like I repeated punched someone, and Dave Aldersabaes thinks it was him.

We arrived early, like normal, to help get our team’s tent setup.  Upon arriving at the venue we were told the North parking lot will not be opened due to the conditions of the field, so we went down to the south lot where we were probably the 5th or 6th car there.

The course was no where near the south lot.  In fact the course only popped near the north lot, which was opened after the south turned into a total fluster cluck of cars.  (Hint, get people to organize parking if you don’t want that to happen.  Don’t come through after the fact complaining at the people who are trying to get ready for your race.) Viewing was pretty limited to the starting area, and small on-course section after the starting area.  By the end of the day our team’s tent stood near the Hammer Velo fortress and a fairly empty and quiet lot.  Boo.

The course itself was.. meh.  The elevation wasn’t really a problem, there was plenty of time to recover from the climbs.  The problem was the course was about 90% single track.   Yes, the course was 8 to 10 feet wide in most places, but it was really only ride worthy on the single track paths.  Attempts to ride the non-track were met with bone jarring, bike breaking impacts.  The gravel downhill section was filled with small fist size loose rocks.  There was blackberry bramble hanging into the course in a number of locations.  I saw a few people who looked like they had been slashed with razor blades, and Jeff B was picking thorns out of his arm when he finished.

Wheels were destroyed, chains busted, handlebars snapped, derailleurs ripped from bikes.  The Shimano neutral support guy said he ran out of wheels almost every race and saw more busted bikes come in on this race then the others combined.  Not a winner in my book.

Ok – I’m done ranting about the venue for this year.

I self upgraded to the Mstr B’s after enough goading from my friends and teammates.  I’ve been a top 10 finisher of my of my races this season in the C’s and the ones I finished outside of the top 10 in I either started in the back (Blind date #2 / #4) or had a mechanical.

PV has a ton of guys in the Mstr B’s and Mstr 50+ so seeing all the other kits on course is a great deal of fun.  I didn’t have big expectations for this race since A) it has climbing in it. B) I’m racing in a new, faster category and C) its not my style of course.

The pre-ride was muddy, and I seriously considered riding my Bulldog clinchers on the course rather than my Fango tubs.  After some insistence from Jeff and Ben, I tossed the tubs on and went to the starting line.  My new number (which can be worn right side up or up side down!) had me with a mid to back starting group.  I had a pretty descent start, but 4 corners in the first 200m’s of the course makes it really hard for anyone to pass. 

We had a new section of course to ride which was opened up starting at our race. It was an out and back winding route that went through the orchard.  By the time I hit the 2 way section, the leaders were already on their way back.  They were already 1m30s ahead of me after half a lap!  I felt sorry for anyone who expected to contend today and had a bad call up number.

I rode my race the best I could.  I used the power sections to pass people, the single track sections to recover since it was very risky to try and ride outside of them.  I suffered up the climb, happy that I had my 36x28 to climb on.  I wasn’t happy seeing the big black “3” on the lap counter after my second trip up that hill though. 

My own little race formed with Jeff Harwood of Ironclad, a top notch sprinter that I rode with and against for most of the year.  We traded positions for most of the second lap and the start of the third.

Murray caught me heading up the hill on the end of the second lap and I latched on to his wheel.  Shortly there after my rear tire started to flat.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Long time readers of this blog may remember that Murray ruthlessly ran me over at Rainer last year.  I hefted my bike on to my shoulder at the start of the orchard, and ran / walked the next mile to the neutral pit.  I got to see most of the field go by during that mile, and heard some very interesting remarks from some of the racers going by.

My favorite was “get out of the course” by a guy who tried passing me in the narrowest, most twisty part of the entire route.  Uh, hi, I’m actually part of this race, and I can’t jump off the course when its taped up.  You sir, are an idiot, and I can understand why people don’t think very highly of your team.

I eventually made it to the neutral pit after some very hairy sections of fast single track where I was fortunate enough to have some spectators letting me know when it was safe to run through.  A quick wheel change and I was back riding with relatively fresh legs.  I surged up the hill and was able to catch up with a couple of teammates whom I rode in with on that last lap.

The highlight of the day was probably watching the start of the women’s race, heckling our friends to make up for our lackluster performances.  Heidi, Kristin, Beth, and Lindsay all felt the wrath of being friends with PV while the PV ladies, Ellen, Ally, Cindy, and Traci all put huge efforts out on course and were cheered wildly for.  Afterwards the team rolled back to our fortress and fired up the grill.  Slabs of meat and sodium rockets sizzled and beer was shared.  The sun came out and we reminisced on the days events.  I don’t think any of us watched the elites race.  Kind of a shame.

All in all, I didn’t get much out of a race I wasn’t expecting much of.  The Fango that flatted appeared to get a small staple in it, or possibly a two pronged thorn.  The Stan’s that was in it didn’t seal it during the race or after as we were inspecting the damage, so it looks like a new tire is in the cards for me.  I also feel I need to run my tubs with a bit more air pressure as every race I’ve run sub 35 PSI on I’ve had problems.

With four more Cross races this season on the horizon for me (boo work schedule).  I’ll be doubling up the next two weekends.  This coming weekend looks to be a bit more suited to my racing style, and Astoria… well that’s just a craziness of its own.

Friday, October 16, 2009

“Blind Dates are more fun when they end up having slick spots.”


Credit goes to Joel “Burger! Burger! Burger!” Morrissette for that awesome quote.

Trio of race reports here.  Cross season has kicked into full gear with the Blind Date series having its 3rd and 4th run at the Dairy the previous two Wednesday’s in addition to Cross Crusade #2 at Rainer High in Rainer Oregon this last Sunday.

The Blind Date events I’m treating as a super hard training exercise, and this week wasn’t an excuse.  Blind Date #3 I started closer to the front than last weeks event, wanting to work on the hole shot and then run one lap on, one lap off intervals.  Cow, Strader, and Jordan were again in the field with me and we all sorta half-joked to do the same sort of exercise.

The whistle blew and the race started, while I didn’t get around the 2 guys directly in front of me for the hole shot, I was up near the front and had a good few lines into those first few crucial corners.  I’ve been doing a lot of my over/under intervals on loose gravel roads and this opening section of Blind Date felt like practice.  As the lap progressed I picked off the few riders who got out of the gate in front of me, and finished the first lap in the top spot.

The race after that was supposed to be a set of intervals, but that competitive spirit took over for all of us.  I battled hard with a few guys, trading 5th through 10th places as the race progressed.  My main goal at this point was to keep Cow behind me, (specifically because he kept telling me to go faster.  Ass!)  He got in front of me at a couple places but had some bad luck with people crashing next to him or directly in front of him which allowed me to sneak by.  The last lap I attacked hard out of a group of 4, making them chase me through the slower lapped traffic.  Cow and I were neck and neck coming through the last set of barriers, but I got a better entrance line into the last corner allowing me to not-so-subtlety cut  off his line.  We finished right behind each other for 7th and 8th in the field and had a good laugh when it was all over.  Jordan somehow managed to teleport in front of me in the last quarter meter to take 6th place, then turn invisible until I rolled passed him.  Have to watch out for that guy! ;)

Cross Crusade #2 was the following Sunday (10/11).  I was a bit worried about this event due to my sucktackular performance on this course last year.  I consider this course a climbers course, and I sir, am not a climber!  I was fortunate to get a call up due to my placement at Alpenrose and was in the front row for the very first time in my CX career.  The power / speed work I did this year paid off and I was able to take the hole shot when the race started.  I wanted to be the first person into the woods and down through the super nasty gravel corner where we had seen a ton of people go down in the earlier races.

My race progressed pretty much as expected.  I flew past people in the flat, downhill, and technical sections, but lost ground on the pavement section of the climb.  The course took a toll on a lot of bikes and I saw at least 3 of the guys who were ahead of me end up with a mechanical of some sort.  I was managing to hold on to a top 10 finish until the last half of the last lap when my rear tub flatted just before the run up.  Doh.

I managed to nurse the bike in the downhill section, then tossed it on the shoulder and ran the remainder of the course, including right passed the pit.  “It’s the last lap, I’ll just run it in.” I said when I ran by.  It’s only 400m I told myself. 

Oh yeah, its all up hill.  About half way up the hill I realized the folly of my decision.  A 20 second wheel change would have saved me probably 3-4 minutes of race time and most likely preserve a top 20 finish.  Rookie move.  Lesson learned.

All in all, I was happy with how the race went.  Rainer last year owned me, and this year I felt competitive.  I plan on rolling with the Master B’s next week at Sherwood.

The last Blind Date was probably the most fun of all.  Some hard bursts of rain through out the day had the potential to change the course conditions from the previous runs, and the cloud layer plus it being later in the year made the lighting conditions deteriorate fairly early.

Since I’m on a rest week, I started in the last row of racers and passed on the call up I was given.  The whistle blew and I, along with the other hundred plus racers that didn’t have a clear line slowly moved into the first set of turns.  As always I moo’d as we progressed along.  By the time I got down to the parking lot switch backs, the leaders of the race were already heading the other way with open course in front of them.  I spent the remainder of the opening lap riding through traffic at about 80% speed, and running over more than my fair share of cones in the process.  I kid you not, I think I hit a cone in every corner that first lap. 

By the time the first lap ended I was probably in the top half of the field.  I worked on my handling in traffic and in the slick spots on course.  Ran short intervals to pass people and used the course and people in it to slowly make my way through the field.  I eventually got to the head of the huge midfield pack and had some open road ahead of me on the last few laps.  The light faded quickly the last two laps and it was a struggle to avoid the ruts at high speed.  I used the “aim and pray” strategy fairly effectively and made it through to the finish in one piece in a respectable  27th place.  I was muddy, the bike was muddy, and my legs were on fire because I tossed embrocation on them thinking it was going to be colder, but it was smiles all around.

If you didn’t get a chance to race the Blind Date series this year, you missed out on a seriously fun time.  The mid-week event fits in perfectly with recovery from your weekend races, and gives you the opportunity to work on skills or try new gear out in a “low stress” environment.  With all the race focus on Crusades, I really hope people don’t overlook the fact that some great racing is happening elsewhere.

That wraps it up for this week.  This Sunday is Sherwood, followed by two week ends of Saturday / Sunday racing!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two scoops of Alpenrose goodness, and a side of fail


We’ve got a trio of race reports here and we’ll start things off with the side of fail.  Barlow.  I’ve heard awesome things about this course, and it really looked tremendous.  The legendary rail road tie steps, the bridge, the crazy descent leading down to it all.  It’s a fast course, with some sections a powerful rider can open up a can of hurt on the field.

If you get to them.

I didn’t get a chance to pre-ride the course due to the distance from the house and the fact that they change the schedule up a bit to accommodate all the riders.  No big deal.  I got a lot of course recon time in the morning and felt pretty good about learning the lines quickly.  My warm-up wasn’t the greatest, I had been fighting of some sinus crud the previous 24hrs and I just couldn’t get my HR up to where it needed to be.  Ah well.  Time to line up! 

I didn’t get the greatest of starting spots, but I did line up on the edge, which was important.  The lead ref was pretty adamant that you had to stay inside the cones once you crossed the Start Line but since the starting chute was so short and narrow, make due with what you had available.  The whistle blew, I went outside the cones, around the slower riders and and ducked in before the line, putting myself in the top 10 before the first turn.  Half the battle over.

This was the first opportunity to ride the new tubs and I was impressed with how quickly they spun up.  I was not impressed however with how quickly the tire came off the front wheel.  About 4 minutes after the start, I dove inside a rider making a wide corner and the front wheel rolled off the rim.  Game over, thanks for paying $6.25 a minute to race.

Needless to say, after inspecting the rim and seeing that entirely not enough glue was used, the wheels went back to the shop were a very embarrassed and apologetic service manager re-did both wheels using a ton more glue free of charge.

On to Alpenrose!

This year an additional weekday series popped up last minute on the OBRA calendar.  I was out of town for the first one, but after hearing the rave reviews I decided to take part in the mid-week race to get some more time on the CX bike.  My training plan said “CX Practice” so I treated the race as a handing exercise by lining up in pretty much the back of the pack to see how far I could make it through before the end. 

I’m going to guess I started about 100 riders deep in a field of 140 and ended up finishing 15th after 8 brutally fast and bumpy laps.  I felt great and was really moving through the field effectively.  Was only passed by one guy who flew past me on the run-up but paid the price for his effort about half a lap later and blew up.  It was a total blast to race in the evening and gave me a lot of confidence going into the Cross Crusades series opener on Sunday.

After a few pre-ride laps on Saturday with the newly re-glued tubs, I got the tire pressure dialed in and felt confident I wasn’t going to roll a tire off this time.  Sunday rolled around and we got to Alpenrose early to get a parking spot near our tent.  Holy crap did that place get busy fast.

My race went really well.  I was in the third column to be called up, which put me about 6 or 7 rows deep.  I parked on the far right next to the curb so I could get water from Traci and chat with my family who came to watch the race.  The whistle blew and other than slipping on the curb a bit, my start was pretty clean. 

By the end of the first lap I was in the top 10, second lap I was sitting in the top 5 but at one point was in the top 3.  A few of the fast riders I’ve been competing with this season caught me and steadily pulled away over lap 3 when I starting to get a bit of fatigue.  I felt pretty slow in the technical sections but fast in the open areas, and from the gaps I opened or closed during those sections I know where to look to improve my future races.

The bell lap came a lot sooner than I expected and I was few seconds behind the 6th place guy and few seconds in front of the 8th place guy.  No mans land isn’t a bad place to be in at times.  I had a carrot in front of me and a bit of pressure behind me to keep me honest and working hard.  I was slowly pulling the guy in front of me back but alas I ran out of race.  7th place out of 190 riders, good enough to score some points and get a call up for the remainder of the season.

I’m pretty happy with how things are going this season.  PV has had some awesome showings this year so far and we are currently sitting in the top slot in the “Feudal War” team competition.  We are getting some attrition in our women’s team, but the gals who have stuck around and the new ones who have joined are bunch of troopers and the guys bend over backwards to make sure they are ready to roll. 

Personally, I’ve had some great results in my field with out being overwhelmingly dominant or getting shelled.  I know there is a huge difference between the C’s and B’s, but I also know your starting slot will give you a big advantage over your competitors.  Cross is a mix of fitness, skill, and sheer luck, with a lot of beer and cowbells tossed in.

It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.  Just ask the 1493 people who raced on Sunday!