Sunday, October 31, 2010

Veterans Park CX Day 1 and 2!

So it all comes down to this. At least for the weekend. This is what I was calling my A race weekend for Cyclocross. My fitness was ready. I was excited to race the double weekend at my favorite CX venue which is Veterans Park in Ann Arbor. It was time to get it on! It was podium quest time!

The usual podium sniffers were all there on day one, so I knew it was going to be a tough day and I had my work cut out for me. I had a really good warm up. The course was dry and fast, with the usual mountain bike style punchy climbs twisting around the trees, and the signature long winding run up. Oh yeah! Here we are at the Vet! I got a good start and settled into 3rd through the first section of course. I was feeling great. Almost like we were just rolling around the park on the first lap. Then the accelerations started. First with Rodger Bowser Went off the front like a rocket and took an easy win. But then it was Dan Bannink, Ron Stack, Scott Fabijanski and myself left to sort out the rest of the podium. We all stayed tight for most of the race. The Ron sat on the the front but started to fade. The rest of us put in a huge acceleration and dropped Ron. I felt like I was in the zone. In the last 2 laps, Scott made the next move and tried to break away to take 2nd place. It was enough to shake me off his wheel but Dan was able to follow. I continued to put out the best effort I could and finished with a solid 4th place. My highest Masters 35+ finish to date!

Day 2 -- I was feeling really good again and was hungry for another podium spot. Again I had a good jump off the line and sat in 3rd. Then Ron came around me, so we were in a train of 4 representing 1st through 4th place through 2 laps. I was feeling even better than I was the day before, and was starting to plan a possible attack when and if the time was right. And then it happened... On the bumpy down hill on lap 2 my chain decided to fall off. I quickly jumped off the the to fix it. Looked up and realized I maybe lost 10 seconds. Got on the bike and the chain fell off again. The panic started to set in as riders kept zinging by me! I was now somewhere around 10th place with a whole lot of racing left. I dug in and thought to myself, "if I got the fitness I have to roll the dice and put in the hardest effort I possibly could to claw my way back and hope for the best." I got mad and dug in! Soon I caught Scott Fab who was struggling. Then it was some guy I never seen before. Then I made my way onto Todd Frerichs Wheel and passed him. Next I caught Scott Goocher and then realized I was within striking distance of 5th place maybe more! When I was on Scott's wheel, he bobbled in a tricky down hill corner and slid down the hill through the tape. I quickly got around him and made a hard push to get away. Then I could see David Johnson sitting just ahead in 4th place. I was on fire. I was slowly gaining on David turn after turn, lap after lap. I finally got onto Davids wheel in the same corner that Scott went down. David did the same thing in front of me, but I could not get around him. I hung onto his wheel until the beginning of the final lap. Then he cashed in everything he had to try to force a gap. I was just about spent and could not hold his wheel. I would start to inch my way closer through the twisty stuff, but he would pull away through the flats. In the final few turns and the last set of barriers, I was still fighting to catch him. Any mistake and I would have a chance for a back to back 4th place. It never happened. He took forth by 9 seconds. But I had a very well deserved 5th place for my effort, and for not giving up.

Overall I had a great weekend. I was very strong and my training plan worked out perfectly thus far. Now if I can maintain the fitness I currently have for Iceman through the State Championship. This will be the next test. But as for right now, I am feeling 100% better than I did at this time last year. So I am liking my chances. Thanks to everyone who was cheering me on both days. The support is awesome! It is unbelievable how much motivation I get from it. Thanks again, and keep it up! I can use it!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

US Gran Prix of Cyclocross -- Derby City Cup Day 1 and 2!

I got a taste of the 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships last weekend! As I raced in the USGP Derby City Cup day 1 and 2. Since Louisville has taken a gamble, and dedicated a park for the sole purpose of cyclocross racing, the world has taken notice and thus the World Championships will be held for the first time in the US at the new Cyclocross park named Eva Bandman Cyclocross park near downtown Lousiville Kentucky! I participated in history, as I was one of the many to race for the very first time at this park. And what better way of kicking the grand opening off with the USGP Derby City Cup! The park is awesome. There is a large flat grass infield section. A very step hill that is semi wooded with lots up bumps and twist and turns for many course options. a new nice paved starting stretch, and a nice wooded area that takes you along the banks of the Ohio River. Oh and lots of sand to play in!

The first day the course was wide open with long straight away sections. but it was very difficult. After the fast start, you were faced with a 6 ft hill straight into the barriers. made for some interesting starts for the races. then it was a steep climb up "Selle Italia" Run-up. Then a quick turn through the sand out the flats, through the wooded section by the river and onto the long deep sand pit. Once out of the sand it was few pedal strokes to the flyover. If that wasn't enough, you then climbed the steep hill in the semi wooded section down the steep other side. Quickly off the bike and running back up to the top! Down the hill, a few more twist for good measure and up the hill one more time! Then you were ready to start the next lap.

I felt great all weekend. There were 20 plus guys all ready to Rock in the Single Speed class both days! We were behind the 150 plus riders in the Cat 2/3 class, and the officials gave us a 20 second gap before the start of our race. The whistle blew and we were off! I had a good start sitting in around 5th for the hole shot. We caught the tail end of the Cat 2/3 group at the barriers and that is when I started to lose ground. Their were some very, very, very fast guys in the single speeders. As I picked my way through the back of the Cat 2/3's. I was riding very well. Very clean through all the on and off transitions, and I was able to power through the sand and acclerate out of the corners. I started pinning back single speeders one by one! It felt as the race went on, I got stronger. Each time I attacked I moved up! The crowd was loud and nuts by the crazy down hill and run up! The yelling and cow bells really made me want to go faster. As painful as this section was, I looked forward to going through it every lap! When the race was over, I figured I was some where near the top 10. When the results were finally posted, they were jacked up! I had to protest. And was finally given 13th. Not sure if I really agree, but We will never really know at this point.

So now on to day 2. Knowing I had one more shot to hit my goal for the weekend of nailing a top 10 in the single speed class. I knew I had a good chance and legs were feeling good! In addition, they made the course longer and added a whole bunch more twist and turns. I felt the changes would be in my favor and they were. I was in 2 place off the the line all the way into the barriers and again, started slipping back once we got into the Cat 2/3 traffic. I could not get around hardly anyone at first, and must have slipped back to around 16-18th place. Once the course opened up a bit, I went to work! I turned it on full tilt and picked guys off one by one. I felt I had an even better race than the day before. And the reaults proved it. I took 9th. And am very happy with that.

In additon to the great racing, I got to see some friends from Rouge Racing Project. What a great group guys. Brain and Doug, thanks for making us feel at home the entire weekend! And great job to the MI crew! We all rock!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tailwind CX Stop #4! Linden Co. Park

The season is still young but in full swing. And today was the 4th race of the Tailwind Cyclocross series. Normally we would have raced at my beloved Lower Huron Metro Park today, but the course was switched to a new venue. And you know what, it pleased me very well. The new course was located in Linden, Mi. At Linden Co. Park just a few minutes from Fenton. The course had everything for a perfect cyclocross race! The beginning started on a long semi paved road that dumped you into a an old growth oak tree area. There was a nice long loose run up with barriers at the bottom in the beginning. Then you got into a very tight and twisty, with lots of roots technical section. A few moderate climbs that kept you honest, and it then went into a paved fast flat bike trail. This transitioned into a 2 track grass area with long sweeping turns and into the final barriers and finally the finish.

Going into the race, I was eager to try and steal another podium if I had the shot. Training has been going very well, and this was my last big block before going into the USGP, Vets Park, and the Iceman. So today was a crap shoot, but I was betting on a good result none the less, and based on the past 3 race results.

There were 14 guys at the line today. The usual suspects, but everyone looked hungry! We all shot out like we were fired out a cannon. I got a good jump on the hill for the starting straight sitting in 3rd position. But the time I got to the top I slipped back to around 6th. Going into the tight twisty stuff, I ended up sitting in about 9th or 10th. Almost the entire group of 14 stuck together for the first 2 laps so I did not feel the need to panic. But I was not feeling 100%. I was sloppy in the twistys and felt like I was gasping for air. The lead group was always just in front of me, but I was a bobble away at every turn of losing them. My race continued like this until the last 3 laps. I finally made contact with the group just ahead of me that contained Rob Selle, Matt Baroli, and Scott Goocher. I could tell that there were signs these guys were fading, but they all were riding strong enough that it was too tough to make an attack to get around them almost anywhere on the course. By the time the last lap rolled around, I decided If I wanted to attack, I would have to do it on the starting climb and try to hold on from there through the twistys and the flats. As soon as we crossed the start line for the last time, I popped up to a few harder gears and attacked from behind! No one reacted, at least not right away. I took as many risks through the technical sections as I could gaining a larger gap. I hit the pavement on the flats and rode as hard as I could until it felt like I was going to puke! Up and over the last turn through the 2 track, I noticed that Rob caught back onto my wheel. The only thing remaining was the barriers and 3 turns with a small hill. We ran through the barriers at full speed side by side. I was the first back on my bike, clipped in, and standing on the pedals. Rob never got around me. Going into the final turn before we hit the pavement to the finish line, we were both going full speed railing the banked turn. I hit the pavement first, popped it up 2 gears and began to mash for the sprint. I took it. But later learned that Rob rolled his rear tubular in the final turn. The sprint was good enough for 6th place. Not a podium, but I was very happy with the result knowing that I was able to pick my opportunity to attack late in a race and have it work out to my advantage.

So as I mentioned above, my fitness is coming around, and my peak weeks are still in front of me. Curt and I are going on another road trip this coming weekend. We will be doing the USGP Derby City Cup for the 2nd year in a row. We both recently decided to excuse ourselves from the million man B race, and jump into the single speed race instead! So I blew the dust off of "Le Bastard", and we will be ready to rock -- worry free!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

UCI3 Cincinnati Cyclocross Festival!

One good thing about the growth of cyclocross is the growth of big time UCI events right here in our own back yard! With in a 6-8 hour drive, we have the USGP in Louisville, Madison, and of course the UCI3 festival in Cincinnati! I have been really wanting to do this event for the past few years, but have been pushing it off. So this year I decided it was time to see what all the hype has been about. Curt and I made the 6 hour drive down on Friday just in time to catch the pro race at Devou Park in Kentucky. It was brutal. More like a mountain bike course without trees than a CX course. So in the back of my mind, I was kind of happy not to race day 1. So after a good night sleep, we were back on the road to Middletown, OH for day 2 at Somerset Park for the Java Johnny CX race. The park was awesome. It had everything, rolling hills, Long flats and paved sections, sand, and tight twisty technical and I mean technical sections! I was called up and was able to grab a good spot in the 2nd row. So knowing I had 80 other racers breathing down my back I had to nail a good start. I did. Down the drag strip and just missing an early crash, I hit the grass around 10th. I held this spot for about 1/2 a lap as smaller faster riders passed me. I kept the gas on the entire time. I handle the bike very well, through all the transitions, and technical sections, but felt like I could never get into that extra gear to attack back. By the time the race was over, I sucked in tons of dust, and even managed to sprint out a position at the line. I ended up 35th out of 80. Actually better than I thought I got, and happy with the result overall. So now it was on to day 2.

Harbin Park was the site for the final day of racing. The course was more of a drag strip. Not as bumpy, and long straight aways with nice smooth fast rounding corners. The typical power or roadie course. I usually race better on the 2nd day of double day events, and really felt that the course suited my style of racing well. So I was looking for a better result. Again, I was on the 2nd row and in front of 90-100 racers. I got a great start again, but this time the field was more aggressive, and people were doing some very dumb shit to try and get in front! after almost being taken out more than once in the start, I decided that this really wasn't that important and I needed to make sure I went the work the next day. So I backed off slightly and figured that I would be able to pull back most of the jokers as they popped! This was working, the Scott Fabinjanski passed me. This was who I needed to be racing with, so I jumped on his wheel and held on. This worked well as Scott was picking off racers one by one. I was feeling real comfortable with the pace, and was able to match every move. We were getting faster and faster in the 2nd lap, and as I rounded a paved corner 1/2 way through the course and into the grass, my front tire caught the grass and rolled my tubular off the rim causing me to me thrown over my handle bars onto my head and right shoulder. I shook the cob webs out, and thought what the hell happened and where is my bike!?! I quickly found it picked it up and tried to mount it. It would not move! This is when I noticed my tire wedged between my fork and brake arm. My race was done... I walked over to the Wolverine tent thinking it was time to grab a beer, and was offered a new front wheel to finish my race instead. Thanks guys! I was able to get 2 more laps in before finally being pulled. But it was still fun.

The event was great. I have a few bitches but will keep them to myself. Overall the racing was tough, fun, and great experience for racing back at home. I am sure to be back next year. And i would highly recommend doing these races to anyone!

So back home. Back on the trainer. 1/2 way through my training plan. And healing up nicely. next race is a new one in the Tailwind Series. In Linden Michigan. Should be a fun time, and my fitness should be getting close to peak form! just in time for the USGP in Louisville, Vets Park in Ann Arbor, and the ICEMAN!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Freaks Come Out at Night! - Munson CX

It is finally starting to happen. My fitness showed signs at Munson that my training plan is working and on track. But more of that in a minute. Lets look into what turned out to be a great night of racing!

For the 2nd year in a row, Robert and his Tailwind gang have used Munson Park as the venue for a night time CX race. And I have to say it is a hit! The attendance both years have increased and folks are truly having a great time. This year was no different. It truly felt like a cyclocross race. It rained almost the entire time. The wind never stopped. And the temps hovered in the mid 40s. The course was about the same as last year. Shorter because of the amount of lighting but still tough none the less. Especially how Robert loves to make full use of the sled hill! There were lots of flat back to back straight aways. Off camber up and down sections on the hill. One set of barriers on the flats and one set of barriers used to create a steep run up on the hill.

Nolan Raced his 3rd race for the series in the Juniors 14 and under and scored another podium with a 3rd place. The best part of his race was watching the 30 plus spectators go nuts screaming and ringing their cow bells as they watched Nolan shoulder his bike like a Pro going over the barriers at the bottom of the hill, and run up the entire length of the hill with his bike on his shoulder! I could not believe what he was doing. And the crowd sounded like we were at a World Cup event. Made me feel very proud and made him feel like a Champ! So thanks to any one who is reading this and was there to see this too.

As for my race. I have been feeling really good, and training has been going well. So going into the race, mentally I knew I would be ready and was banking on a good result and try to nail a top 5 if the chance was given. I lined up at the front to try and get a good position knowing there was a left hand climb 100 yrd into the course. I got a good jump and sat in 3rd position through the first climb and 1/2 way through the course. On the straights, I started to lose contact with the 2 leaders who were riding at a blistering pace. But I was still in a good position with some good sized gaps forming behind me. I told myself to race my race. Dose my efforts and attack with my strengths. Soon in the next few laps. Scott and Dan would catch me. Ride with me for a bit and pass me. I was now sitting in 4th but riding as strong as I was from the start. My biggest issue I had with my race was not being clean through the transitions. The barriers and the hill run up. Granted my technique was smooth and text book overall, but this is where the gaps in front of me were forming. So I know what I need to work on to get better. Going into the last 2 laps. David Johnson (who had an incredible race, and rode out his skin) caught me and passed me on the run up. I could not catch back on to his wheel. Now sitting in 5th I still pushed as hard as I could and realized I had a huge gap over 6th place! I finished my last lap and rolled across the finish line with my first Masters 35+ podium! 5th Place!

Finally getting a podium in Masters is a huge step for me with my confidence for racing at this level. So I hope it is one of many more to come. From here I should only get stronger and faster as my peak fitness should come around Vets Park / Iceman time frame. We will see. There is still a lot of racing in the next few weeks. Curt and I will be driving down to Cincinnati next weekend to race in the UCI3 festival. This will be our first time at the event and we are really looking forward to it. But until then. It is back down in the basement on the trainer!