Monday, September 26, 2011

USGP of Cyclocross - Planet Bike Cup - Madison, WI

What a great race series. I can't get enough of these. To race against some of the top talent in the country, See some of the best pro racers in the World go at it, and just be apart of a very festive well run event is awesome. This was the first time I did the Madison races. And I was not disappointed. The really cool thing that was even better than the Louisville races which are incredible year after year was the the WISCO fans really know how to party, cheer, make noise, heckle. Call it what you want, but they love their 'cross!

The weekend went very well for me. The goal was to try and take a top 10 in both days in the always tough and unpredictable single speed class. The course were very different each day, and mother nature decide to make it interesting on Day 2. But Day 1 was a very fast, twisty, course with well placed straight aways and punchy climbs. It was a course the suited single speeds very well, and suited power riders very well. So I was feeling good. I was on the front row, and punched it right off the line. I grabbed the hole shot and took a good lead going into the course. I controlled the flow for about 3/4 of a lap, and then the really fast guys began to pass me. But I was still rolling well, and picked off most of the Master 55+ class that started ahead of us. As I continued along. I started to pull back one of the single speeders that passed me earlier. I was struggling to get around some of the slower riders in the Masters class, so I could never pull him back. But lap after lap, I was continuing to distance myself from the rest of the class. In the end, I finished a very respectable 7th out 18 and felt great. This was my best USGP finish to date as I finished 9th last year in the single speed class in Louisville.

Day 2. As we woke up the clouds were gray and looked angry. We got to the course and within a few minutes. the sky opened up and dump ton of rain. It poured. It Thundered! It hailed! as the races continued, the entire course was a mud pit. 4 inches deep in some spots. This would be my first true in the rain, complete mud race, and I was getting really excited. I also, was nervous because I really didn't feel prepared as I was going to do this on a single speed, and I was running fangos. A tire I only raced on 1 time before, and that was yesterday! But I couldn't wait to get on the course and let the mud fly. Same as the day before I tired to grab the hole shot, but was just edged out by a wheel. But Sitting 2nd wheel was a good spot to be in as we all hit the mud at full speed. I powered ahead as I slipped and slid around. The top 5 guys soon came around me and I could not hold on. But there was also no one else behind. I forced the bike in corners. Rode the tape from side to side, and had an awesome race! As I continued to plow through the muddy course Curt my team mate was at the top of the Stanley Run Up informed me that I was closing in on 5th place. As I got to the top of the hill, I could see him. I started to push harder and took more risk in the off camber sections and turns. However, I ran out of laps, and had to settle for 6th place out of 21! Again very happy with the result and improvement. But even more happy know that I will be able to go toe to toe in the mud at any race.

My hats off to Jim Goerlich my team mate for finishing 7th on day 2 in the single speed race as well. He really stepped up to the muddy challenge, and let his mountain bike skills shine through!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Doublecross Weekend Day 2!

Wow, what a weekend. I have to say I am rather pleased and excited for the rest of the season. And the strength of the Masters 35+ field this year is amazing. Should make for some great racing to not only be apart, but to watch as well.

As for day 2, I was still riding high from my win the day before. I had a much better start to the race as well, and went into the grass 2nd wheel behind David Johnson. However, this did not last long as Rob Selle, Andy Fedwa, and Simon Baily pulled around me. As soon as we got to the Orange Crush, Ron Stack passed me. I was still haging on to the group but was slipping back 1 spot at a time. Meanwhile, David was putting in a huge lead over the field, but it was still very early. On the 2nd loop, Rob Selle went ahead to bridge the gap to David, and didn't look back. David slipped back into the pack, and I lost another position on the Orange Crush. By the time the 4th lap rolled around I was in a large group, and sitting 8th! Selle had a sizable lead, and Jarod Makowski was able to bridge back to Selle shortly after. I knew this was the train I needed to catch. I was starting to recover better and not making the simple mistakes as in the first few laps. Toward the end of the 4th lap, I made my move burying myself on a long straight section into a false flat. Only a few of the guys tired to grab my wheel. I knew everyone was starting to feel the effects of the race by now, but I also knew that this one move would not stick alone or bridge me back to the lead group. I continued to dig deep up the hill, and into the headwind on the pavement section. The group behind me was thinning out, and I was slowly getting closer to the lead group. At the start of the last lap, I finally caught Jarod and Selle. Into the grass, Jarod sat up a bit and said go ahead. I was rather surprised, but continued to go after Selle. By this time, I was also starting to ride Andy and Simon off my wheel. I came within a few hundred feet of Selle, and just like the day before, if I could have been into the single track section first, I would give myself a chance to pull away in the flats. Selle hit it first and continued to grow his lead. Finally into the last flatter sections, I was pulling time back again, but I was running out of it just as fast. I tired hard, and tried hard to make sure no one would latch on to my wheel and pull around me for a final sprint. I pulled closer but it was too late. Selle took an awesome win, and I finished 3 seconds behind for a hard earned 2nd place. I am super stoked about this weekend!

My hats off to David, Jarod, Selle, Andy, and Simon, Dan, Ron, and the rest of the Masters 35+ class. What a great group of guys to be racing with, and you all had great races!

And congrats to Andrea Tucker. She put down the camera this year to try some cyclocross racing! And rocked it out for 1st place both days. Awesome!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tailwind Doublecross CX Day 1!

Cyclocross is finally here!!!!! I felt like a kid at Christmas all week for this day to come. I was hoping that racing Kisscross Plaster Creek CX, would chill me out a bit. But it just aint the same. If you want to race some real cyclocross in Michigan, with real cyclocross talent in every class, it has to be a USAC race, and no one has been doing it longer or better than Tailwind. And this year's kick off was no different. The season/series kicked off with the traditional Doublecross weekend. Held at Waterford Hill Race track, the course has always got a surprise or 2. And of all the times I have raced here, this is the best course design I have seen here. My hats off to Joe Brown on a great job setting it up! The course itself consist of a nice black top start/finish area, some bumpy grass. A deep hole in the ground that acts as short single track sections in the middle, a set of barrier, and few twist and turns all over the place, and oh that favorite of every one's - the Orange Crush Flyover!

I got to the course early to try and sneak in a few quick recon loops to check out what I was up against in between the C and B races. I then got a good warm up in. Said hi to all the folks I have not seen in a year. And finally got ready to race. Lined up on the front row, and looked around to see who was present. The usual suspects, a few missing, and a few new ones. We got Ready, and the whistle blew! Everyone went out like they were shot out of a cannon. I could not clip into my pedal!!! I was falling back quick. In about 50 yrds, I was somewhere near dead last. I finally got in and clawed my way to 6th place before hitting the grass. A large group of 6-7 guys stayed together as Rob Selle rode off the front. It was hard to get around anyone in the course, mainly because it was so fast. The group kept a good pace, but I was still sitting at the tail end of it. We hit the pavement again, but no one wanted to react. Rob had since fell back into the pack. Then David Johnson shot off the front and did not look back, and again no one reacted. This time I was able to pull up a few spots and went around for another loop. On the 3rd lap, it was my turn. As soon as I hit the pavement, I launched an attack to try and bridge the gap to David Johnson. The only one that reacted was Jarod Makowski as he got on my wheel and we reeled in David. All 3 of us stayed lock together for the rest of the race, growing the gap behind us bigger and bigger! We would all take a few turns pulling on the front. Then with about 3 laps to go, Jarod made his move. It was hard counter for me. David stayed close, as I slipped back through the more technical single track sections in which Jarod excelled at. At the end of the 6 lap, David and I pulled Jarrod back into us as we were going into our final lap. I knew that if I let those guys get through the single track section before me, it would be hard to stay on there wheels. However, if I could control the pace through the single track, I would be the first one onto the longer flat grass sections and final pavement, thus being able to lay the power down and hopefully ride them off my wheel.

So that was the plan, now the last lap. I attacked early on the false flat start. I got around Jarod, and David followed. I hit the pavement and those guys stuck to me like white on rice! I buried myself and felt like puking the entire time. I was the first one up the Orange Crush and David hopped on his bike at the same time I did. We rolled down together. This was the deciding moment. He struggled to clip in. I punched it just ahead of him into the right hand turn into the first single track section! Goal 1 accomplished. I controlled the tempo though the rest of this section so they could not get around. Next was the barriers. We all went in together, but I was able to muscle back to the front around the next corner. From here to the end was free sailing unless the other guys had more in the tank than I. I popped it up a few more gears and did not look back. I was the first onto the pavement and gunned it. I was not sure how close the other guys were, but never looked back. As I got a few feet from the line I finally was able to throw both my hands into the air and celebrate for the first time since 2008! I just won my first cyclocross Master 35+ race!

It was great to see everyone, and it was even better to hear all the yelling a screaming at us as the race was happening. Tomorrow is another day, another race. So I hope I can sneak in another podium...

Thanks to JB Hancock for the pics!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kisscross CX Season Kick Off Ends with "W"!

I finally did my first Kisscross Cyclocross race today at Plaster Creek, in Grand Rapids. Not really knowing what to expect, other than being grassroots, laid back, and with a heavy focus on beer, I decided to sign up for the B race and then jump in the A race. I have to say, it was a good time, and for how simple the event was put together, it went very well. And on top of that, I had a good day on the bike as well.

The course was suited for my strengths. Long flat sections with sweeping turns. A few climbs, a long cement stair run-up and a set of triple barriers. I lined up with 44 other B racers and soon found myself off the front of the group in the first lap. I continued to build on my lead throughout the 8 laps. I was very happy with how my legs felt lap after lap, and that my heart rate remained in control. So for the first time since 2008, I finally got a "W" in a CX race. Now its not a USAC CX win, that I am so hungry to get, but it is a legitimate win none the less and I will take it!

After the B race, I lined up again in the hot sun for the A race. Right from the jump, I was feeling the fatigue in my legs. However, I still put out a respectable 11 more laps of pain! I got passed by several, but pulled back several others. In the end, I was starting to cramp every time I would go over the barriers. So I ended up 22 out of 36. With a fresh set of leg, I'm sure I could have pulled back a few more spots.

Next weekend is my official CX season kick off with the Tailwind Doublecross CX Day 1 & 2.

I can't wait!