Saturday, October 31, 2009

Curt Potocki's Big Day! Vets Park CX Day #1 and 2

After several years of almosts, mechanicals, injury and health type issues, Curt finally nailed a podium today and in commanding fashion by doing it at one of the toughest courses you could ever race CX on -- Veteran's Park in Ann Arbor. There were slippery hills you could not ride, mud, wind, rain, mud, temps in the 40s, mud, barrier, and a filed of 25 plus. Curt went with the lead group and they soon started stretching out the field until they broke off the front. Then Curt and Shawn (Cannondale Midwest) stuck together sitting in 3rd and 4th and continued to grow the gap between them and rest of the field. With a lap to go, Curt made his move and attacked to force a gap. It worked! And he was able to hold on to it all the way to the finish for 3rd place! Way to go Curt. You deserved it.

As for me, I was able to keep my podium streak alive also. But it did not look very good at the start. Right from the whistle, I got into a touch of wheels and elbows do to a lead rider not holding his line and there was no where to go. So I held my line and pushed back a little. This caused my front wheel to latch onto his rear derailleur so I went for a free ride until I started hear my spokes pinging. OH S&#T! That can't be good. I was able to finally free my wheel. By this time I had drifted back to somewhere around 10th or 12th place. My heart rate was going crazy and I was not making up any ground. I finally settled down and started picking guys off one at a time. I made the most ground on the 2 run ups and technical sections of the course. I made it back up to the 4th and 5th place guys. One of which was Andy Brown. He looked to be in difficulty and fighting with mechanical issues. So I did not waste any time and passed him. His team mate stuck with me for the rest of the race. We rolled around the course for 2 more laps together increasing our time on everyone behind us, but we could not catch the 3rd place guy. On the last run up, I tried to use it to force a final gap and sprinted up as hard as I could. It worked but he was able to latch back on. In the final flat section, he attacked and pulled around me. It was too much for me to respond. But I did make a little bit of it back up. Going into the final straight right before the line I was about 15-20 feet off of his wheel. He stood up and sprinted. I responded. But could not reel him in. He beat me for 4th by 2 seconds. But Still a great day with another 5th place!

In additon to Curt's big day. I want to make sure I recognize Kevin Skipworth for his 5th place in the C-40 plus race today. This is Kevin's first Podium for Cyclocross in the Tailwind Series. And it is a good indication that Kevin will be ready to light up the ICEMAN next weekend! I hate to say it Kevin, but I think your hooked. You will forever be a cross junkie. I see a new bike in your future....

Day 2 - Curt double dipped and pulled out another 3rd place by making a charge in the last lap to get away from Brad Lako, which allowed him to coast across the line without any pressure. Way to go again Curt!

As for me, I had my best result to date in the B-class with a strong 3rd place! It was a little dryer and faster today at Vets park, and the course was also a tad shorter. I got a much better start and sat in 3rd place for a good majority of the race. A few attacks came early from a few Rhinos, Wolverines, and Clint Verran who just crushed us today to get his first CX win! Way to go Clint. I did not panic and let them all slip back into the field on the long climbs and run up. Then I set my sights on Andy Brown, the current series leader. Lap after lap, I slowly reeled Andy in but was never able to control 2nd place. Andy's biggest move of the day was to go over the barriers on the long run up and then hop back on his bike and ride to the top. A risky move I felt that would waste a lot of energy if he did not nail it just right every time. One time he fell over trying to clip into his pedals. The last 2 times, he was able to put a small gap into me. We both pushed through the race the entire time as hard as possible and kept a good lead over the main field. In the final few meters Andy was the strongest of the day and slowly slipped away for 2nd place. But This was the strongest CX race I have had this year and probably one of the strongest ever! So there it is 3rd place.

I felt so good after my 3rd place that I jumped into the Single speed race for more punishment. Nothing to report here other than, I finished. I did'nt get lapped, and I took a much needed cookie hand up from the fans! Thanks. I was rewarded for my efforts to carry my carcass around the course for another 45 more mins and got 5th place.

Looks like I will be in good form heading into the Iceman and Icecross next weekend. Now just to try and keep all those sick people out there away from me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

US Gran Prix of Cyclocross - Derby City Cup!

I finally made it to the USGP of CX! And what a great experience it was. Not only was the racing top notch and super competitive, I had a great time hanging out with the MI faithful, JB, Curt, Mark, Wiz, Jeff, Matt, Pete, Ann, Marne, Mark, Jay, and Mike. The promoters do a great job putting this race on. The venue was awesome for being on a golf course, and everything from food and lodging was right at our finger tips. We drove all morning through the rain and finally got to KY around 2:00 PM. Curt and I could not wait to get out car and preride the course. With in 5 mins, we saw Tim Johnson riding through the hotel parking lot, then Ryan Trebon, then Wicks, then.... It was like this the entire weekend. Pros everywhere, and they were all really cool to talk to.

The course did not look that difficult. But was very thought out and technical. Just not a lot of hills. But what it lacked in elevation, it made up for in MUD! All the rain kept the course very slow, slick, sticky, and down right muddy all weekend. In fact this was the muddiest conditions I have ever raced in. So it was a huge learning experience for me.

Day 1 -- I was nervous as hell! I was front row with 109 racers breathing down my neck! Thank God that JB Hancock was right next to me on the line. talking to him and the Wiz right before the start really helped me calm down and focus on having fun. The whistle blew, and instantly I could not clip into my pedals. I went from 1st row to about 6 row in a few pedal strokes. Into the course the pace was fast and elbow to elbow. the skinny guys passed me like I was standing still. I was able to grab onto the back of Mark Caffyn's wheel and hang on. Trying to pedal through the mud, made my quads burn the whole time and my heart rate never came down until the 3rd lap. Mark pulled away a few times, but I was able to reel him back in and finally make a move to go around him and stay away. I finished 47th. I was very happy with this result, considering the size of the field and the level of competition!

Day 2 -- Feeling better and ready to do battle. JB and I got the same start position on the line. The whistle blew and this time I got my pedals right. About 4 strokes in I was at the front of the feild and accelerating! JB was the only one that was able to come around me in the field of 100 and he was off the front already putting in a gap. I was still in 2nd going into the barriers, but I could fell the pressure coming from behind. I held a top 7-10th position for about a 1/2 lap, until the skinny guys started passing me again. I tried to power through the mud the entire race to kepp as many folks from passing me as possible. I felt better than the day before and thought I had a better race. I improved to 45th. Not exactly where I thought I would end up. But still happy with the result and the overall experience of the weekend.

Vets Park is this weekend. And I am in another peak. I am hoping that my USGP experience makes me stronger and better for the rest of the season. Then it will be off to the ICEMAN the following weekend!

Tough luck for JB. He had a person step into his rear wheel on day 1 and "my" tire came off of his rim on Day 2. Other wise, he looked rock solid.
Jeff and the Wiz looked great! Wiz scoring a W on day 2 and Jeff rocked 3rd both days
Curt rocked a 37th out of 110+ riders on day 1! Look for curt to sniff out the podium before the end of the year!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lower Huron Cyclocross!

Fall is in the air!!! The air was crisp, the grass had frost, and trees were all in peak color. Maybe this is why I love racing CX at Lower Huron Metro Park. This place is beautiful, and just reminds me of all that cyclocross is about. Fast flats, Deep sand, and that crazy steep run up. This is the place where I got my fisrt podium a few years ago, so maybe this is why it is a special place for me to race. What ever it is, I have a few more reason now to call Lower Huron one of my favorite places to race cyclocross!

I began a quick build last week to top off the fitness going into the USGP, Iceman, and then the State CX championship. So going into the race, I was not sure how I would feel or perform with the extra training load throughout the week. According to my training schedule, this was just another training day, a throw away race. But as I mentioned before, I love racing here, so In my mind I wanted to do well. On the way down, I felt rested and the legs were snappy. I lined up in the first row, figuring I could take advantage of my power on the paved straight away, and grab a spot in the first few positions going into the grass. It worked great! The pace was quick, and then the top 4 guys just in front began to shadow box and no one wanted the lead. This kept the group very large with 8-10 racers for about 3 laps. And it helped me recover well from the fast start. Then a few guys dropped back, and a few others joined ahead. I kept my position for the entire race. The top 3 guys were always at my finger tips. I kept the power coming and put in some huge efforts to grow the gap behind me, but I could never catch the top 3 guys. Clint Verran joined me again and passed me, like the previous races before. But in the last lap, I popped it up into my big ring and chased him down by closing a 200 yrd gap. This was my last ditch effort try and gain one more spot. It may have been too much, I rode with Clint for as long as I could. But he just slightly slipped away. He took 4th by about 50 yrds. And I nailed a solid fifth with a huge gap over 6th place. I could not believe it, another podium!

I spent a lot of energy trying to catch the lead guys in the 1st race, so lining up in the single speed class was tough. I just rode my race, and tried to keep the power going for as long as I could and not get caught by any single speeders behind me. With 3 laps to go, I dismounted before the sand and some how caught the buckle on my right shoe. It snapped off! I finished the race with a shoe that felt like a loose slipper. But I was able to hang onto 4th in a field of 6 racers.

Next stop USGP of Cyclocross -- Derby City Cup. Kentucky Here I come!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Stars and Moon Align for Muson CX - Night Time CX Racing!

This was the first time the Tailwind Series has put on a night time CX race, so there was a lot of buzz in the air. In fact everyone was really excited, to the point that it was one of the more festive CX races I have been apart of in a while. The fans were all screaming, drinking, playing on the hill and ringing cow bells all night long. Munson is not the best race course for CX, but with the lights it gave it a special element that you can't get anywhere else. All I can say is, it was fun and I hope that Robert is able to do it next year.

As for the race, This was the last week of my top fitness so I was hoping for something special. The B-race was big again with 28 racers, and a few top guns and sleepers came out to join the party. Mentally I was ready and thought I had a good game plan. I wanted to take the hole shot, power up the 1st climb in the first 100 yrds of the race to blow the race apart early and then force a huge gap. Well, I did just that but there is 45 mins of racing. From the whistle I managed to sprint from the start line to the first climb from the 2nd row. I was sitting in 5th at the top. The first round through the barriers, one of the guys in front of me slipped and did not recover, so now I was in 4th. A little bit farther, through a 90 degree turn another guy misjudged the turn and jack-knifed his front wheel and I managed to skate by him clean. Now sitting in 3rd, I turned on the power! The 1st and 2nd place guys dangled in front of me like a carrot, but I could never catch on their wheel. However, I had a huge gap on the rest of the field. This was going good and I was able to continue putting out the power. Then I noticed that there was a group of 3 riders behind me trying to close the gap. The problem was I was all by myself in no man's land. After the 3rd lap, the gap got smaller and smaller and I was out of touch of trying to catch the 2 in front of me. I was still maintaining, but slipping a little each lap with my power out put. When I finally got caught by the small group, the 3rd guy had already dropped off and was slipping back into the main field. After the catch, Andy Brown attacked and put a huge gap into me and the other Rider Clint Verran. Clint tried to catch his wheel and I followed. Neither of us were able to catch Andy, and I ended up losing Verran's wheel. I was able to hang on to a very "happy" and "earned" 5th place! I am totally surprised at my performance for CX so far this season and hope I can continue to keep the streak alive.

Race 2 -- I don't know why I keep doing this but I doubled up again for the single speed race. I had about 10 mins to get ready from the end of the B-race since the Elites were going to be the last race of the night. At the start I already had no gas left in the tank. But I was able to push my bike around the course at a decent pace. I felt fine until the last 2 laps when a nasty cramp started in my left hammy. I could barly walk over the barriers but I managed to finish the race. It was enough to hang onto 5th place again.

With my next race being in 2 weeks, it is time for some quick extended rest, followed by another quick build before Iceman! This should be enough to stay strong, and carry my fitness into the finally few weeks of the cyclocross season leading up to the state championships! At least it sounds good in writing....
Thanks again Steve Balogh for the great pictures!