Monday, November 25, 2013

Bloomer CX Day 1 and 2

With a turn of events 2 days before what was going to be LOHS CX Day 1 and 2 left the Tailwind Racing crew scrambling to find and venue to hold the races. Luckily the City of Rochester opened their arms and let the crew land at none other than Bloomer Park. Not only was this a good venue and close to the original plan, the Tailwind crew could of just hurried up and laid out the same of typical Bloomer course that had been used year after year. But know, they decided to change it up. Break tradition, and laid out one of the best courses in my opinion that Michigan has seen from Tailwind in a while. I have to say what they pulled off in 2 days was amazing.

Day 1 - It was cold. And windy. And then the mud came... Perfect! But I was a little worried about my fingers going numb and not being able to feel the shifters and brakes. I actually borrowed a pair of Specialized Radiant gloves from KLM owner Frank, and they were perfect!

I was finally ready to go, and shivering waiting for the whistle. It blew and we sprinted for the first sharp right hand turn. Instantly everyone was on the brakes, and the next thing I new I was buzzing all the mud off of Alex's tire. It felt like it was going on forever. All I could think was I was getting ready to wreck everyone! Luckily, this kind of stuff doesn't freak me out, and I kept it up. Close call, and I made sure I instantly apologized to everyone around. from there I settle right in. Ben Christan, Alex, Brain and Andy all had great starts and were a few seconds ahead of me. I bridge back to them by the time we made it to the sled hill climb on the 1st lap. I was feeling great. On the beginning of the 2nd lap, I could feel the guys were already feeling it from the effort. So I decided to roll the dice and test some legs. I sprinted out of the pack hard and down the paved starting straight. I eased up and took a peek. to my surprise no one was with me, and only Pete Thompson reacted and began to chase me. I instantly settled into my a nice hard tempo pace and drove hard lap after lap. I continued to grow the gap between Pete and myself a few seconds each lap, with the main focus of riding smooth. It was enough. I got another win!

Day 2 - All the same players were back for more! It was even colder but not as much wind. I had a much better and cleaner start. Sitting in the top 3 with JMACK and Pete. Pete was riding hard and JMACK was showing signs he could go at any time. Alex was riding better as well, and with the course being frozen solid vs muddy, it appeared that we would be racing closer throughout the day. 2 laps in we are still riding wheel to wheel. But there a some small signs on the climbs that the effort is slowly beginning to wear folks down. As we come down the paved starting straight, I decided to test the legs and drive the front. I put the pressure on and JMACK and Pete hang on. It's the 3rd lap now, and we are breaking the rest of the pack up and mixing in with elites. Alex flats before the sled hill. We get to the bottom, turn to start climbing and my chain is completely off! UGH! I don't panic and try to shift it back on. No luck! I try again. JMACK yells "get it back on!". I had to get off and put it on by hand. I lose between 15-20 seconds. Jarod and Pete are now gone, and the rest of the Masters 35+ have all came but came by me now as well. I run back up the hill and start my charge. I'm in about 7th place now! But I still didn't panic. Lots of time left. I pushed as hard as I could for the rest of the lap catching all but Pete and Jarod before the 4th lap. By now JMACK recognized this was a great chance to secure the lead. He was at least 30 seconds ahead of Pete now. I continued to work hard each lap and finally caught and passed Pete. JMACK was all that was left.

I knew this was going to be tough. When JMACK smells blood, there are few people that are as hard to beat as him. He will not give up that easy! Lap after lap I stayed consistent and took back 10 or so seconds each lap. Finally with 2 laps to go, I caught him. I sat in for about 1/2 lap to recover a bit, and then turned the screws. I could not shake him through any of the technical hair pin turns, or single track sections, so I relied on attacking at the sled hill and paved climb after. It worked I opened a small gap with 1 lap to go. I settled into a nice hard paced groove, but always made sure I knew where he was. Because after all, he is JMACK and the dude never gives up! But it was enough to hold him off... this time. I pulled off my first double win weekend ever!

Thanks to the KLM team for setting up base camp with a heated tent and offering support to everyone! Much appreciated.

Thanks again to Frank for the Gloves
Thanks Bob Bruce for use of the photos

Next stop Michigan CX State Championship!!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Still Rolling Strong - Vet's Park CX

After a great Iceman, I am finally ready to focus back on the type of racing I love, and go all in! It's back to Cyclocross 100%! It's great to be this deep into the year, and still be excited about racing. And to make it even better, I was able to race at one of my favorite venues once again - Veteran's Park in Ann Arbor.

On race day, I was ready to turn myself inside out to chase at least one CX win before the end of the season. Most the normal guys were all lined up and the whistle blew! We were off. The start was very congested and chaotic. Leaning on everyone just to try and avoid crashes and get into position before the paved climb and into an early technical section. I got jammed up early and was sitting behind the mid pack point. But I knew where everyone was and just waited. As we moved through the course, I made several 5 second all out burst to get around folks one by one. Near the end of the first lap, I was within the top 5 group containing Simon Bailey, Ben Christian, Andy Fedewa, and Todd Greene. Brain Wachlarz had a great start and was actually leading the Elite group at this point! By this time, DC, Steve Broglio, Shawn Davison and Jim Hilditch was in the group as well. I felt it was time to make a move, so I rolled the dice and attacked to test the legs but to also, get myself out of any trouble. Only Don, Shawn and Steve were able to respond. Brain, was now out of the top 3 Elite Group and all alone and within striking distance. I continued to push myself on the edge of the red zone. Within 2 more laps, I pulled away for DC, Shawn and Steve and was pulling back Brain 1 second at a time. We continued like this lap after lap. He was just the carrot I needed to stay focused and push myself to the limit. With 3 laps to go, I finally caught him near the end of the lap up the long switch back climb. I was gassed from the effort, but knew what I needed to do if I wanted to give myself a chance for the win. I spent the rest of the lap just trying to recover and get ready to make my next move.

Through the beginning of the 2nd lap, I was content just staying on his wheel. We went through the technical off camber section clean and down the hill one last time. Now was my chance to attack and see where he was at. Through the long flat, bumpy straight away behind the baseball diamonds, I laid it down. Out of the saddle I sprinted around Brain all out. The gap formed instantly. I turned the screws harder through every corner and every hill. I had a nice lead going into the last lap. I was still feeling strong and focused on maintaining the lead, and not making any mistakes. It worked! I was able to cross the line by myself for my first CX win of the year!

Thanks Brain for the great battle! This is one I will remember.

Congrats to Todd Greene on an outstanding 3rd. And Congrats to Tom Barret for a dominating win in the Cat 3s!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

ICEMAN Cometh 2013!

If you have had a conversation with me in the past few months about Iceman, at some point I'm sure I mentioned that I wanted to win it this year. For most races that I enter, I don't normally call a race out as "I want to win" or "I am going for the win". Sure I want to win every race I enter, and always try to give it my best shot, but in the end, I realize that my competition wants it too, and the races and categories I race in are full of guys that that are as good and in most cases, better, faster, and stronger. But this time I had the focus, I had the plan, the confidence, the experience, and the hunger for trying to cash it all in for 30 miles to win my age category at ICEMAN Cometh.

In the weeks prior, I had been really trying to focus on training for the event. Actually to the point, that I probably side tracked some of cross races. But this is one of the biggest cycling events in the state, the country, North America! And I have been the brides maid 2 years, and wanted to finally get a big one under my belt. at this point I knew I could win this damn thing, but everything needed to click!

Things were going well and I was feeling good the week of the race. I was feeling relaxed but excited to get up to TC, and go through the yearly festive rituals. DC and I headed up early Friday morning and it rained the entire time! This could be a really good sign, as the course is usually really loose and sandy. So some rain would make it fast! We met up with Mike Wissink and got a mid day pre-ride in at the end of the course. Yup, it was fast and dialed, and the forecast was beginning to look better for the start of the race.  Also, my legs were feeling strong and snappy! I could not wait to race! We settled in at the expo for a few hours, and then prepped the bikes and gear for an early morning departure.

Race day - It was still sprinkling when we got up. Temps in the low 40s and it was perfect for my 8th shot at an ICEMAN win. This year I had a detailed plan. Be on the front row. Make it through the middle school fence in the top 15 group. Hit the first section on 2 track up the sandy climb in the top 10 group. and hang on to DC's wheel to the end! In addition, Brad and I were going to try and work with each other for the entire race is we were both on form.

I got a quick pre-ride in and rode to the start line about 20 mins before. Perfect on the front row right next to DC, and Brad at my side. Also, being in Wave #1, I was surrounded by fast as hell guys like Jarod Makowski, Mike Wissink, Cory Stange, Rob Selle, etc. So finding fast wheels early in case I had to pull out a plan B would be easy. The clock counted down and we were off! The buzz of knobby tires was deafening! There was instant chaos as guys were leaning on each other, Rubbing elbows, buzzing wheels and flat out cutting each other off all at 25 mph! I stayed near the front, and pedaled hard. As we turned to the middle school, I made my way up to the Sharp end of the peloton to avoid any bottle necks through the hole in the fence. I went through with Brad and DC clean! 1st goal accomplished. we then hit the 2 track sitting somewhere in the top 10-15. Things were going well, and DC and Brad were near by. There were some big mud puddles to work around that made things interesting at times, but I was still able to push the pace hard and stay with the lead group. A few more miles in, guys were starting to pop on some of the early climbs. We would pick them off one by one. And then at times, a few other guys would crash and go down in the slick corners. I had to avoid several crashes in front of me. A few miles before Williamsburg Rd., a group of 5 riders containing DC, Mike and a few others were off the front with a huge acceleration. Brad and I settled into our own group with Cory Stange and Jamie Parker along a few others. Brad and I controlled the pace, and worked to take pulls for the rest of the race. We were ticking like a Swiss watch! It was perfect. It also gave us a chance to talk and encourage each other along the way. When we got to Williamsburg Rd., Brad was on the front and signaled that he was going to make a dig, He accelerated up the next few climbs and I followed. Then when we hit the flat section, I came around and took a really hard pull. This shattered everyone that was with us expect for Jamie, and a small group of riders was just ahead of us. Jamie made a move to get around us and try to bridge the gap to the next group. Shortly after a rider in a casual green t-shirt came from behind and around us. Not realizing it was Ty Schmidt, we let him go. This is probably the only mistake we made all day.

We continued to lay down the hardest pace we could and finally caught the group that was dangling in front of us. It made the pace even faster. This group contained 2 Hagerty racers, and not knowing if one of them was Ty, Brad had to be aggressive and begin throwing in attacks. I stayed near the back and was ready to help cover any moves if needed. I was on my limit as the biggest climbs of the race were upon us. With about 2 K to go. One of the Hagerty guys made a move. I jumped to chase him down, and yelled at Brad "You gotta go!" He jumped and came up behind me and onto the Hagerty riders wheel. We were all back together again. Through the tunnel near the finish line, and back out to the final slick section on single track, I was completely spent! Knowing we had a huge gap, no one for me to chase down in my age group, I was content to roll across the line knowing I did everything I could to try to get my 1st ICEMAN win...

We rode well. In fact it may have been the best performance both of us has ever had. I gave Brad a hug and thanked him for his help! We both thought we had done enough. Hell we were right behind DC, and Wissink at the end. How could that not be enough? And we realized we just finished in the top 10 of wave one! It had to be enough. Then we found out the the guy in the green t-shirt was Ty. So it was a bitter sweet celebration for Brad and I knowing we let him slip away. But that is racing.

Once the results were posted and sorted out, it was confirmed! I did it! I was an ICEMAN Champ! And I beat my nemesis Ross Clark by almost the same 3 min margin he be me last year. I was stoked. I finally was able to lay out a very, very hard personal goal and achieve it down to every last detail!

Thanks for everyone that has cheered me on along the way and helped offer their encouragement, advice, and support. It means a lot to me.

Special thanks to Jeff and Brad for helping me along the way to actually get to this point and pull it off! You both helped keep my head screwed on straight and stay focused since I pulled the plug in July and got back on track. So thanks again.

Finally, thanks to Macomb Bike and Mike's Mix, and Apto Cycling for all the support you have given me throughout the year. Knowing I got support like you behind me makes all this easier!

Congrats to;

DC - another ICEMAN win!
Mike Wissink - another SS ICEMAN win!
Joe Sidel - 1st ICEMAN win!
Alex Gonzales - 1st ICEMAN win or 2nd place! (still pending offical word)
Pat Russel - Best even ICEMAN Finish with 2nd!
Brad Lako - first ever ICEMAN podium with 2nd! But it was much more than just a 2nd. It was the icing on a great season. And the spark to go after Ty for the win next year!

Congrats to everyone else for other podiums, personal, best or just finishing. there are so many I want to call out, but you will get a personal congrats the next time I see you!