Sunday, August 25, 2013


As another USAC XC Mountain Bike Race Series season comes to a close, I have been eager to start looking forward to some cyclocross and Iceman. But there was one more XC mountain bike race to go, and its one I always liked. And after a less than stellar 1st half, I was looking forward to yet again gage my progress after a host of changes I have made to get back on track. I never thought (at least not this year) that it would finish the way it did.

Stony Creek XC End of the Summer Classic. This race has traditionally been the end of the Tailwind USAC XC series in Michigan. I have had a love hate relationship with Stony, but this race has always been a good one for me to race. With a good mix of single track and 2 track, its not only fun, but very fast. In addition, things have finally been rolling well and I been feeling more like myself ever time I get on the bike. So with one more MTB race before I jump into CX, I was ready to lay it all out one last time.

I took my place in line and looked around. Several old faces, and a few new. Brad decided to move up to Elite after clinching the State Championship at Brighton, so I think we all felt there was one more win up for grabs, and anyone could take it home! The whistle blew and it was game on. Andy Fedewa took the hole shot and jumped right into action setting a very fast but manageable pace followed by Jon Dub-9, Stephan Ziermann, Todd Freidinger, and myself. We stuck with each other like glue on the first lap and came through for lap #2. Sensing the pace was slowing a bit as everyone else let Andy pull, I decided to get around up to Andy. Andy peeled off and let me take my turn. I turned up the screws a bit and pushed on. Near the end of the 2nd lap, the top 3 of 40-49 group caught us and were setting a high pace. We latched on. We made it to the end of the lap where the long loose gravel climb is with about 1 mile to go to the end of the lap. We were bunched up which slowed the climb down. Andy rocketed past up the far left side. I got pushed to the rutted wash out in the middle, and then Stephan pulled past me on my right as well. I was almost stopped in the rut! The other guys were free to fly. I stayed calm and charged up the hill. Shortly after on the 2 track that followed I made it back to the pack but was gasping. The paced slowed a bit, and I was able to recover. Thank God I thought to myself! By the time the 3rd lap was ready to start, the group was down to Andy, Stephan and myself. Andy was now on the front and destined to stay on the 40-49 group wheels. I was still a bit in the red, and Andy started to lay it down. He pulled a small gap, and Stephan  was not closing it down as he was in front me. I figured I would have to pin him back and get around Stephan on the next 2 track section. We sat like this till about 1/2 way through the roller coaster until Andy flipped over his bars and crashed to the ground. He went down hard! I called to him to make sure he was OK. He did not answer back. I then slammed on my brakes and yelled "Andy are you OK!?" He finally said "yeah I'm good go on..." I now had another gap to chase down, but now there was only one man left.

Soon after, I made it back to Stephan's wheel, but I was content to sit here and wait as long as I need and try not to and make any foolish moves. I took the time to ride smart and think about where and when I should attack. I stuck with him the entire way. He was not showing any signs of fatigue either. As the miles ticked off, this had me concerned about coming into the last loose gravel climb as it might be a point where he may be able to get a gap on me once and for all. As we approached this final climb, I rode as close to his wheel as possible. Knowing that I needed momentum as my friend, I jumped off his wheel and went to the same left side of the climb as Andy did 2 laps before. I kept it in a big gear and climbed as hard as I could. I was pulling ahead of Stephan and quickly. Knowing once I was at the top of the climb, it would be hard for him to stay with me. Not taking any chances, I shifted into the biggest gear I could handle, and TT'ed all the way to the finish. As I neared the finish, Stephan was know where around. I could not believe it. I threw my arms in the air and crossed the line in first place! For the first time in 5 years I finally got a Win in a Cat 1/Expert level USAC XC Mountain Bike Race! And it felt great!

Congrats to but not limited to;

Brad Lako again for taking the State Championship and also cracking the top 10 in his first Elite race!
Joe Seidl for taking the State Championship in the Elite/Expert Single Speed class!
Jeff Payn and Patrick Russell for battling for the State SS title all the way down to the last race!
Aryn Pongratz for getting back on the wood and taking 3rd on the last day!
Jon Dub-9 for putting together an awesome season, taking home 3rd overall in the series!
Rob Selle for finishing 3rd overall in what is probably the toughest class besides the Elites (Expert 40-49)!
Jordan Smith for taking 2nd overall in beginner 19-29. Look forward to seeing you get stronger and faster.

FInally, thanks Mike's MIx for contiuning to fuel my training and Races. Macomb Bikes for team support, and my Mom and Dad for supporting me at all the races!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ruby 50 Miler...

Things are finally feeling right again. After a good O2S, a week of vacation in the U.P. on some of the best single track trails in the world, it was time to focus on building up the endurance miles again before CX. And it just so happened that the Ruby 50 would be taking place in my own back yard and back roads! So instead of riding for hours on back roads by myself on a Sunday afternoon, why not do it with friends? After repeatedly saying "I would never do this race, because I don't like endurance mountain bike races, and 50 miles at Rudy is a suicide mission", I found myself at the start line.

After doing the race I stand corrected! First of all, this race is still very low key, but has a great grassroots vibe, and a really cool format when you look at it. 50 miles of flat hard pack fast as hell dirt roads for 4.8 miles, and then 5.2 miles of some of the hardest most technical single track trails in the state! This is truly a race that has something for everyone, but refuses to cater to no one! The mix of great old school trails, with the fast group racing of a gravel grinder all wrapped up in a 5 lap, 10 mile loop race format truly makes this a great race to compete, to watch or just challenge yourself at completing. Think of  races like "Cone-Azalia" and "Grampian Challege" all rolled up into one! I'm glad I did it, and hope it sticks around and continues to grow.

The goals for the day were simple. Complete 50 miles. Give it a go at the front if I was feeling good. So all the racers in every class assembled for the start on the dirt road at the front of the campground. Brent Walk yelled go! and you were off and running. The pace went off like a rocket ship! And soon a sharp point formed at the front. Several of my TSB team mates were right in the mix. Instinctively anyone that could hang, began to pace line like a metronome. The pace stayed really high for the entire 1st lap. We hit the single track and it began to spread out. I found myself in a group of 4 with a small gap forming behind us. Chris Hansen, Tony Bastuk, and Scott Vermullin were all in this group. We railed through every corner and stuck together like glue. On the 2nd lap we were all together, and began the pace line again. This helped grow our gap to almost a minute to the rest of the race. Into the single track again and more of the same. At the top of  the big climb called "Lance", Scott dropped his chain. He was able to claw back on, but we soon found our group down to 3. Chris, Tony and myself pushed on. We continued to put out the same effort lap after lap. This was the fastest I ever raced for this distance, but I was surprised how well I was feeling overall. By the time the 4th lap rolled around, the beginning of fatigue was setting in as the trees seemed a lot closer, and a few bobs and dabs of the feet were becoming routine from all of us. My legs were just starting to get that special feeling of the first signs of cramps, but I still felt strong. Half way through the single track and Tony took a header in front of me. I had to brake, and Chris continued. Tony went down hard. So I stopped all together to make sure he was Ok. Chris now had a gap, and it was difficult for me to put out more power to close down. He remained within my sites and when we started to climb again, he yelled for me to catch up to help pull on the road. During this time, Tony was chasing as well. I tried to make one more push to Chris, but the legs had nothing left. About 2 miles into the last lap, Tony was able to make his way back. But we could not pull Chris back together. We worked for each other for as long as possible, and were both happy to be battling for 2nd and 3rd overall. When we made it to the first river crossing, I decided to try and ride it again thinking I could open up some room on Tony before the end of the race. I made it all the way. Tony decided to run. It was enough for me to get a gap and hold it to the end. I finished up 2nd overall and only 2 minutes behind Chris. This was good enough for 1st in my age group as well. Not a bad day in the woods just looking for some good training!

Congrats to Chris and Tony. It sure was a lot of fun, and you both worked your asses off!

Also, congrats to TSB! We had some great results, and a lot of personal Goals were met, making for a perfect tough day.

Thanks to Todd and Kevin, for pushing to get this event in our back yard again, and wiping the trail into great shape year after year!

Finally, thanks to Mike's Mix for fueling me through such grueling events like Ore to Shore and Ruby 50!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic

This season has been a struggle for me. I don't know what started it. Like many things, it probably stems from different reasons, and each compounds the other. Motivation has been lacking, and just trying to have fun with training and racing was a chore. So finally a few weeks ago, I decided to pull the plug. I regrouped and enjoyed the time off my bike. During this time, I also tried to solve a nagging injury in my hip with the help of Dan Bannink's PT experience and Ryan at Apto Cycling Studio for a proper bike fit. I can't think these guys enough for pointing me in the right direction to figure it out and get the issue corrected. Finally, I also buckled down and focused on correcting my diet.

2 weeks after, it was time for Ore to Shore (O2S). My hip was feeling better, I was back in the saddle enjoying training again, and I was already over 10 lbs lighter with a lot more energy when I needed it.

I headed up the day before with Brad Lako for what was going to be another classic road trip! We got to Marquette early to do a quick preride. During the ride I realized I was feeling the best I have felt all year. And I was feeling something else I haven't felt in a long time.... I was excited to race! Finally I was feeling like myself.

We woke up early the day of the race to make sure I got a good starting position and so we did not feel rushed before the start. I killed time chatting with several friends and  just trying to stay loose. I was able to get in the 2nd row just behind the preferred starters but in front of 750+ other 48 mile Hard Rock Racers. What a great way to start such a cool race right in the middle of downtown Ishpeming! The gun went and we were off!

Just like last year the start was fast and crazy! 2 riders went down before we even left the pavement. Nothing like 750 mountain bikers elbow to elbow exceeding speeds of 30 MPH! We finally hit the dirt roads and rode past the iron ore mine. This is the cue that you need to start making sure your getting through traffic as the first big 2 track climb is just around the corner. I was in a good spot and lit a match to push through the traffic up the climb. I was picking off riders one by one. By the time I made it to the top, I was already free to fly. I bombed down the hill and began to go into TT mode to play leap frog from group to group. I could not believe how strong I was feeling and was making up a lot of spots. As the course leveled out a bit, I was ready to open up and take advantage of my strength try chase down a few more big groups ahead. I knew if I could reach them, I could increase my chances to make a top 75 or even possibly a top 50. As I was increasing my speed and reeling back more and more riders, I began catching and passing several riders that were in the preferred starting group. This stoked my motivation even more! And just as I was getting into my groove, I looked up around the next corner, and a train was crossing the tracks about 50 yards in front of me! I could not believe it. At first I panicked not knowing what to do. Then I was angry that it happened. Then realized it was actually funny. But then the trained stopped. We thought it was backing up to let us by. But it backed up and stopped again. People were going through the cars and all kinds of cray stupid shit! By now, about 5 mins had gone by and about 500 racers had joined us. The only ones that made it through before the train were about the top 75 or so. I was so close to bridging that gap I thought! Damn it! We all decided to ride down in front of the engine and safely cross to get back into the race. This took us about .25 miles out of our way to get back on course. As soon as I was clear, I had to light a few more matches to try and make up any of the ground or positions I had lost.

I continued at a good pace and felt strong the rest of the way. I was now near the front of the 2nd group and knew I was within striking distance of hanging onto a top 100. I settled into a fast group of about 10 riders that were all willing to share the work. This really helped keep the pace and motivation high. As we rolled into the last bits of single track and last 2 miles of 2 track, I was able to lay down one more hard effort and pick off a few more riders in the process. I crossed the line at 2:53 and some change! A
bout 2 mins faster than last year's time with a 5 min train delay. This was good enough for 97th overall and 21st in my age group. So I was really happy with this. My Garmin time was 2:48. I know this time doesn't mean much, but it sure gives me some motivation to shoot for that top 50 mark in the future...

Congrats to;
Joe Seidl for 3rd in the single speed class!
Brad Lako for breaking top 50
Brian Matter for 2nd overall! and thanks for letting me hang out the day after to ride the South Trails.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

From this to this...

Lets see if the second half is any better than than the first. Time for change, focus, and commitment.