Tuesday, August 28, 2012

FInally - Getting the best of Stony Creek!

My love hate love saga with Stony ended this year with me finally getting the best of that damn place! And it unofficially closes the end to one of my personal best Mountain Bike Racing seasons ever! Training has been going well, and my overall results have been more than I expected all season. I never really considered myself a great XC racer, but I have proved this year that I can not only race near the top of the expert class, but I can do it week in and week out. As a result, I wrapped up 2nd overall in the Tailwind USAC Michigan State Mountain Bike Points series, and 2nd overall for the XC State Championship! This is something I have not done since racing sport in 2009. So needless to say, I am very happy with how the season has turn out and have a lot of confidence moving forward into cyclocross. But before I move on, I want to tell you about the race at Stony itself. It was one of the best and funnest races I ever had.

It all started out with the call ups. Brad and I took the first 2 spots on the line and the rest fall in. As expected, there were some very fast guys showing up for the last race. Jeff Cergat, Adam Naish, Simon Bailey, and Josh McCreedy just to name a few. And then there were the usual suspects that we have been battling all year. Aryn Pongratz, Dub-9, Todd Freidinger and a few others. I knew I had 2nd overall wrapped up so there really wasn't a lot of pressure for me at the start. As always, the whistle blew and we were off. Brad took the lead at the start with a blistering pace. Followed by Jeff and then me. We splintered the group quickly, and a large gap formed. I backed off soon after because I knew I would pop at that pace. Soon Todd joined me, and we were able to pace our selves and trade pulls for 3 laps. We set a really good pace and played off each other's strengths. Right after the 3rd lap started, Josh joined us and was looking strong. I started to worry that we were falling off the pace and soon would be caught by the entire group. Todd and Josh seemed like they were stronger than I was and I soon found myself slipping off the back and into 5th place. Then through the trees, I could see the black kit of Dub-9. "How in the hell is he going so fast?" I thought. Shortly into the Pines, Jon Caught us and passed like we were standing still.... Josh reacted Todd and I stuck together. We made it to the 4th lap and Jon had pulled ahead of the group and was on his own. Josh, Todd and myself were back together and looking to make something happen. Up the long climb at the start of the loop I took the first pull and made a dig. I realized then that Todd had fallen off and it was just Josh and I. Josh said "lets get him John" and we began the chase. I could not match Josh in the single track, and he pulled away. Then on the flats I caught him. He had cramped and we were back together. We could now see Jon and I began to dig deep. Josh crashed out, so it was up to me. Jon finally realized I was clawing my way back as he looked back. I was taking every inch I could to bridge the gap. I knew if I could get on his wheel before the last climb, I had a chance of beating him since the last 1.5-2.0 miles was all flat 2 track. As we approached the climb I was within yards of making the catch. I could tell he was turning himself inside out to stay ahead, but so was I. We crested the climb and bombed down the hill. I was still inching closer. We got caught up with 2 riders of the 40-49 class and rode with them till the end. Right before the last turn into the start finish area, I finally made contact with Jon. We had just a few hundred yards to go. Jon made one last dig to get around the 2 40-49 yr old riders and boxed me in. This was a perfect move, but I still had a chance. By this time I was spent and was looking for any opportunity to make a move. We were sitting 3rd and 4th for the race at this point. Then to our surprise, Brad was in front of us. We swept him up and passed. Now we were into the final chute fighting for 2nd and 3rd. I could not find that last attack in the legs and settled for 3rd place by 4 seconds. But man what an awesome last 30 mins of racing!

Congrats to Brad for another outstanding season with 3rd overall for the series and State Championship! I can't thank you enough for all the training tips and help with motivation you gave me throughout the season!

And congrats to the other series overall winners as well. There were a lot of personal best among this year classes!

 Finally, thanks to Tailwind for continuing to support my habit and provide great USAC racing in the state of Michigan. It is still a great series, and it will only get better. Good luck Wissmans!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Knocked another one off the bucket list. This this it was Ore to Shore or O2S as most refer to it. And again, it was another race I was going into blind so the expectations were mixed. Everyone always says how great of a race this is and now I know why. Between the unusually course, the great towns in which it starts and ends, and just an all around great atmosphere, I was happy to finally be able to take part. But what was it going to be like? Are the hills really going to be that tough? Can I go full gas for 48 miles? Will the course suit me as much as every keeps telling me? All this was going through my head. However, I just kept it all in perspective and went for a really hard training ride, and tried to beat the 3 hr mark. And this is how it went.

For the week leading up to it. Brad Lako and I talked a lot about the race, what to expect and the great towns in the area. We were both taking our families on vacation in addition to the race. So Brad gave me the run down on what to do at the start, where to hang out, where to eat etc. This was a big help. And we meet up at the start as well. We both arrived early, but not early enough to get a warm up in and a good starting spot. Everyone was already lining there bikes up in the grid. So by the time we got there, we were already 30 rows back. Not good, but then again, I didn't know what to expect. Brad and I were lined up side by side. The gun went and the mountain bike peleton was off! We rode through the city streets for a few miles before hitting the dirt. All you could hear was the high cadence buzz of 700 knobby tires. What a great sound! We then took a hard right hander, and bam into the dirt for the first time. A red dust cloud was every where and thick as riders started to jockey for position. I stuck to Brad's wheel. We then rode through an old iron ore mine and soon found ourselves climbing up a steep and long two track climb. This started to separate out the group a bit. At the top it was all flat bumpy 2 track for several miles. Brad and I turned up the gas, and began to play leap frog from group to group making up lots of time. Brad would bomb down the technical sections, and I would TT through the flats and straights. We traded pulls like this for the entire race. After an hour or so, we made it to the steep power line sections. As you approached it, all you could see was a wall of bike racers walking up this monster from about a 1/2 mile away. Brad and I made quick work of the hill, and picked our way around several riders through the technical rocky section. We hauled ass again at the bottom and then dumped out onto the paved road. I did another hard pull, and soon we were climbing the paved road. The section was hard, but looking back, if I knew the course I would have made my attack here. Never the less, we were able to make up some more ground. By the time we got to the last climb on this section. We splintered the group we were with, and put in a huge gap. Brad jumped up front again and smoked the downhills as I followed. As we made it through some very fast sections, we were starting to catch several guys that had fallen off of the lead pack that was ahead of us with about 10 miles to go. This was a huge morale booster to both of us, and we turned the pace up a notch. By this time I thought I would be dead and ready to blow up. But I was feeling awesome. I told Brad I had at least 2 hard efforts left in me. He said if I thought I had it to go for it. But I told him I would hang back since I did not know the course. So We kept on.

With about 5 miles to go, we got to Kirby Hill. It was steep, loose, and narrow! Brad was in front and took an inside line. There were 2 guys in front of us on the outside line. The problem was, both lines merged in the middle. Brad spun up the hill as hard as he could. I stuck right to his wheel. As Brad approached the first rider, he just barely got around him. I was not as lucky as that rider had to dismount his bike and run in front of me. This caused me to spin up the hill in easiest, and slowest gear I had. Brad knew what he just done, and went for it like a bat out of hell. By the time I made it to the top, he was 300-500 yards down the trail and sprinting. I put it in the big ring and began the great chase! I was slowly reeling him in on the flat 2 track. But just as soon as I would gain, the trail would get technical and his gap would grow. As we got down to 3 miles to go, I was slowing inching my way closer to him again. I was full on gas the entire time, and so was he. I began to take huge risk through the tighter fast single track sections, and making moves past other slower riders through the worst parts of the trail. As I got through the last section of sandy single track, it dumped us onto the pavement again. I looked up and saw Brad just ahead. Click, Click I put it into the big ring. Brad looked back and saw me coming! We had less than 2 miles to go, and all that was left was a long section of rail trail and the paved driveway into the finish line. I put myself into the red zone and caught and then passed Brad at the beginning of the rail trail. This was with 1 mile to go. My legs were screaming, but if I let up for just a second, I knew he would be right back up in my ass! I pedaled hard and passed a ton of people! I looked back as I went past the last corner. I could not see him. I crossed the line and gasped for air. Brad rolled in 30 seconds behind and gave me a high five. That was some of the best "wheel to wheel racing" I have ever been apart of!!! We both had an awesome race because we were able to work together and push each other to our limits. I beat my goal of breaking 3 hrs. with a time of 2:53:32. This was good enough for 102nd out of 595. Not too bad for my first time. And it was also good enough for 22nd out of 110 in the 30-39 men age class. Brad finished up 23nd. Great ride Brad. And way to beat your personal best time!

Other great rides. JTP, Jim Bonnel, Jay Click, Joran Wakely. You guys all crushed it and should be very proud.

Tough luck to Mark Parmelee and Jeff Poirier for flatting. I'm sure you both would have had great rides.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

It's a WIN! - Ruby Challenge XC

What a busy weekend of racing. I didn't know if I was going to make it through in one piece, especially with Ruby today. But it all worked out, and worked out well. The weeks leading up to the race, I thought a lot  about my strategy for racing in the Elite/Expert Single Speed class at Ruby. All the MMBA CPS races that I have on done have been on the single speed, but Ruby is my least favorite place to ride my single speed, let alone race it there. But with all the trail work the team has done this year to make it flow well, and the few practice rides I got in on my single speed out there, I knew that I would be able to have a good race if I had anything left in the legs after Brighton.

The plan was to run a big gear and then run up all the longer step hills (Lance and Outhouse Hill) and run across the river crossings. My fear was all the additional running would have my calves cramping like crazy. But if I could manage the running, I would kill the flats and twisty single track sections, as I have been able to hang with most geared riders stroke for stroke at Ruby this year.

This was going to be a 3 lap race and I was loving it. I knew that 90 mins was going to be right in my wheel house for my endurance level. And It was. I tried to grab the hole shot to be the first into the single track, but just got nipped at the entrance of the single track. I rode the wheel of the rider in front of  me, and up the first sandy climb, he stalled and started to fall over. I punched it and went around. This caused a little jam up behind me. From here on out I never looked back. It felt like a 90 min CX race! I was driving as hard as I could all the time. My heart rate stayed high, and I felt butter smooth through the single track the entire time. Running the hills was working perfect, and the legs held up well! As the race was winding down, I was feeling really good and continued to grow my gap until the end. At one point, Aryn Pongratz gave me a time check of 4 mins! I could hardly believe I was going that good. I finished the 3 laps in a time of 1:15. I was expecting a time of 1:20-1:22. And as a result, after 4 years of racing Expert in mountain biking, I finally got a win!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Celebrating Other's Success - Brighton XC

One thing about cycling I have found interesting is, even though it is sometimes a very selfish sport as you use most of your free time for training, spend tons of cash on things you don't really need, but have to have, It is also very rewarding when someone else find success. Maybe it's just respect for one another. Maybe its that you know how hard someone works based on how hard you work. Maybe it's just celebrating the human spirit. When you can see an average Joe do something challenging and finally reach successat the top, it is rewarding to me. Success means different things for all of us. But when you can finish first at something that is always success in my book. Congrats to Jeff Poirier for his first Expert MTB Win today. You took off and never looked back! Well deserved!

The mountain bike season is almost over. Bitter sweet that it has to end, but that just means that cyclocross is ready to begin! Brighton was another step closer, and for the race, I wanted to make sure I did better than 6th place today to help get a step closer to sealing up my 2nd overall in the series. Other than that, it was a really hard training day in my prep for CX.

 I was feeling good at the start but tired from the weeks worth of work on the bike. From the line I tried to get on Jeff's wheel but he was way to strong. So I settled into 2nd and began to pull away from the field. I was never feeling like I was going to hard, but was able to apply the watts to the pedals. It continued like this until the end of lap 3. By this time I hopped on the Rob Selle train and had him pull me around. But Rob was starting to fatigue as was I. Then Brad Lako, JTP, and Todd Freidinger caught me. Not a big deal. And I figured it would be good to ride as a group. Then my chain fell off on a climb. Not good. It would not catch back on. I had to get off the bike and let everyone go by. Damn it! I then had to run the hill. Fix the chain and get back on. As I began to pedal, I could see my train leave the depot. I lit a few matches right away to catch back on, but would just dangle off the back. At the beginning of the 4th lap, I was almost spent and decided to make sure I just salvaged my race with a 4th place to get as many points as possible. I still had a good lap, and felt good coming home. I am one step closer to 2nd overall. And another podium!

Great job to Brad and Todd, you guys had one hell of a race together. And Brad way to get back in the game! There is still opportunities out there!

JTP - Nice job. Way to cross back over to the dirt world again and stand on the box in the toughest class outside of the Elites.

Shawn Schaffert - What can I say. Your riding awesome. You almost broke yourself in half in a road bike crash last week, and you came by me like I was standing still. Keep it up!

Ruby tomorrow.... What am I getting myself into. To be continued....