Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's Love This Time!

Stony Creek.... Yep, revisiting this one again. Love, Hate, Love. Well, it was love this time - and perfect timing. This was the close of the Tailwind USAC Mountain Bike XC series, and the realization that cyclocross is just around the corner. I have not done well at this race for the 2-3 years, and the last time I got a podium was in sport class. But my training has been ramping up and I have been starting to feel really strong. So could this year be different?

As this is the last race of the series, and being at Stony Creek, I knew that most if not all the fast guys would be out. And they were. There were at least 14 on the line for Expert Men 30-39. This was good and bad for me. If I could nail a podium in this class today that would be awesome! And I had a good shot at securing 4th place overall in the series. But there were about 3 other guys that could also take 4th overall if they had good races. So here we go...

On the whistle, I could not get my right foot to clip in. So this pushed me back to around 9th place. As we approached the single track, I could see the lead group slip away. The main reason was that Simon Bailey was holding up about 6 of us, and we could not get by. (I don't normally call people out, but come on. When people call out to let them by, let them by! If you know your bike handling skills are not as good as others in the class, get the hell out of the way!) OK, sorry about that. So once I got past that issue, I opened it up a bit and started to catch the tail end of the lead group. I was able to do this by powering through the flats. I was able to close down all the gaps, and then all of a sudden found myself sitting in 4th-5th place, and making ground. The only person I could not shake was Todd Freidinger who had an awesome race! I would blow out Todd on the flats, and he would pick his way back up to me in the single track. It stayed this way for the entire race, which made the racing aspect more enjoyable. At the end of 2nd lap, Jeff Poirier caught me. I was a little concerned and thought "Here goes my race again". But by the start of the 3rd lap, I was climbing myself away from him again, and could no longer see him. I kept putting out the same effort and sticking to the same plan. Steady in the single track, and turning myself inside out on the flats!!! Next, I caught Brian Harris at the end of the 3rd lap, and he rode with me through about half of the lap, and I was able to drop him on a climb. Then it was Todd and myself for the final lap. Starting to feel some cramps forming in my quads, I just rode smart. In the middle of the roller coaster I had a little brain fart and washed out my front tire and went down hard. Todd just missed riding over me and pulled away. I tried to get on my bike as fast as I could to limit the loss, but I have a horrible cramp shoot up my left hamstring. It very painful, but I was able to ride it out. Todd, pulled farther and farther ahead. I made it to the last double track climb and spun up it as gingerly as possible to avoid any cramps. At the top I took a look back to see if I was starting to lose time and let Jeff claw his way back. SHIT! There he was at the bottom of the climb. I popped it up into my big ring one last time and TT'ed as hard as I could to the end. I sprinted to the top of the last sled hill with no full blown cramps and made one last push to the finish. Jeff came in 9 seconds later. I never made contact again with Todd, but I did get a hard earned 4th place, but I did not keep 4th overall in the series.

It has been a strange and slow season for me up until the last 3-4 races. But my fitness is starting to click, and my confidence is starting to soar. It really couldn't happen at a better time. I think I love Stony again....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rain for Ruby...Really?

For what ever reason, this race never even gets a break when it comes to rain. Maybe the course is on top of an ancient Indian burial ground. Who really knows, but the sky let loose once again the day before to make this an iffy race to do for most. Luckily, Todd Powers and many other members of our great team (Team Sandbag) put in many hours of trail work to once again beat mother nature to the punch and make sure the trail was immaculate for any conditions! She was slick in spots, but totally race ready!

I have not been feeling the Ruby vibe this year. And really was not looking forward to the race at all, other than hanging out with the team. And when it rained it made it even worse. There really isn't much to talk about other than just about everyone on the team taking full advantage of the home course advantage by nailing most of the podium spots on the day. Most notable was Todd taking 4th on a flawless race, and letting folks in the state know that when it comes to technical old school single track, there ain't too many better than Todd. Mark Z nailed another W, and well on his way to being a competitive sport rider. Drew L, finished 4th but not before an untimely flat took his 1st place away. Hats off to Randy Lange for getting up on his own power after a severe crash on the "wash out". He ended up taking a trip by ambulance, but was thumbs up and smiles all the way. And to the rest of the team. It was great to come together, and let the mountain bike world know what we and the sport are all about having fun!!

As for my race. I got the 4th place finishers medal since there were only 4 in the class. But on a positive note. This gives me a legitimate chance for top 3 overall if I have a good race at Stony. I was cranking out 26 min laps even in slick conditions. All 4 of my laps were within less than 1 min of each other. And for the first time in like 3 years, I did not cramp at this race!!!!!

So this is good news with the real season approaching fast!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Something in the Air...

So far for August, it has been surprising wet, a few of the mornings have been crisp, clean smelling, and with dew all over everything. I can't help but think about cyclocross! And with many of the local and national series registrations going live, and race calendars being finalized, you would be a fool not to recognize that the 2011 CX season is upon us!!!! With less than a month away before the first race of the season here in Michigan, its time to plan, time to train, and time to get excited for cyclocross.

There will be lots of opportunity to race CX this year in Michigan, as over 5 separate series have popped up. So that means there is at least one race every weekend from Sept 11th - Dec 18th! And with the National level races moving their traditional calenders to go deeper into the year to align with Nationals taking place in January now, it will be easier for me to race and experience some of the other local races and series to see what they are all about. For the first time, I will be jumping into a Kisscross race or 2. Finally get to take part in the most unique CX race in the country with Mad Anthony CX. And I will dabble in some sure to be fun Mid Michigan cyclocross action! So without much more chatter, here is my proposed CX schedule for 2011. See you at the races!

9/11 Kisscross Plaster Creek Park, Grand Rapids

9/17 Tailwind Double Cross #1, Waterford
9/18 Tailwind Double Cross #2, Waterford

9/24 USGP Madison, WI
9/25 USGP Madison, WI

10/1 Tailwind (Night race), Munson

*** 10/9 SVSU Red Zone CX, Saginaw (***tentative family/time/money)

10/16 tailwind Linden park, Linden

10/22 mad Anthony CX, Detroit

10/29 Tailwind Vet's Park #1, Ann Arbor
10/30 Tailwind Vet's Park #2, Ann Arbor


11/12 USGP Louisville, KY
11/13 USGP Louisville, KY

*** 11/19 Stomach of Anger, Lansing (*** tentative family/time/money)

11/20 Tailwind Bloomer Park, Rochester

*** 11/27 Kiss Cross Holland Municipal Stadium, Holland (***tentative family/time/money)

12/5 Tailwind Springfield Oaks, Davisburg

12/11 Big Bad Wolf CX, Midland

12/18 Tailwind Stony Creek, Shelby twp. (Waiting for confirmation on date)

I'm still on the fence for the new UCI races in Chicago New Years Eve and New Years Day. And As more info comes available, I will decide on what to do for CX Nationals in Madison, WI in January and throwing my name in the hat for CX Masters World in Louisville! More to come later in the season...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

...A New Hope!

Sorry for opening with a Star Wars phrase, but I am a bit of Star Wars nerd. However, I finally had some things come together for me in a mountain bike race this year. With CX in the horizon, I have taken my training up a notch. And now I got a little something to build on.

Today was the Big M race USAC XC mountain bike race near Manistee, Mi. It was not originally on my calendar, but a few folks on the team were going to make the trip, and since I have not been on the podium this year I figured I would try to give myself one more chance. The course was in awesome shape and the fast as hell! I was surprised at all the guys that actually made the long trip up to race. All the big names in my class were there minus my good friend Lako.

The whistle blew, and I got a good position. I was able to maintain the pace of the top 5 guys with no issues . Then we started getting to the climbs, and I was hanging on, but slowly started to drift back. I was still in a good position, and then saw Jim Bonnel falling back and fast. I passed him on a climb, and looked up and saw Brain Harris appear to be struggling on the climbs also. I put in an attack and pulled away from Brain. Soon after he was on my wheel again and passed me at the bottom of the long sandy downhill. I figured I would ride his wheel again for as long as I could. By the time we got to the long false flat, I was putting in huge time between us. I looked back and could not see him any longer. I knew I was in at least 5th place at this time and was feeling good. When the last lap started, I knew I had enough gas to make it to the end, but did not want to go too hard and risking cramping. With about 2 miles to go, I saw Brain again. This time he pulled back onto my wheel, and passed me! Knowing there were some bigger climbs just ahead, Brian being a better descender than I, and a chance to get my first podium of the year within grasp, I wasn't going to give it up that easy! I made a huge attack up the next climb in the biggest gear I could manage, and time trailed as hard as I could to the line. The entire time, I was maxed out, and not 100% sure if I dropped Brian or if he was with me. Climb after climb I hammered it. On the last long sandy downhill, I peaked back and saw the team colors of Brian's team. Not knowing if it was him I took every risk I could on the decent. He never passed me. Then into the final sprint, I took the last corner too fast and went down. I was able to remount my bike very fast and sprinted for the line. The Cross Country Cycle rider was not Brian. He came in a minute or so later. I finally nailed my first podium of the year for mountain bike racing. 4th place.