Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New England Cyclocross Championships - Fitchburg, MA


Remounting and riding away after the barriers for now.
The latest and last race of my 2011 season was this past Sunday.  While many teammates traveled home for winter break, two UVMers made their way to compete at the New England Cyclocross Championships in Fitchburg, MA on a rather cold Sunday afternoon.
With temperatures not rising above 28 degrees, the course remained frozen for all but 2 or 3 laps of the Elite Men's race.  The track was long and flat, twisting and turning over athletic fields and around trees.  Two sets of barriers, a sandpit, and a flyover were laid into the track to test the best of the best.  Being so far into the season, I only made it through 2 1/2 laps before full system shut down and resulting in the first DNF of the Cyclocross season.
Aaaand BONK.
That said, leading up to the full system shut down, I cannot say things felt great.  In warm up, I was able to rip through on my bike, everything was comfortable and I felt powerful from the weeks preparation of both running and riding.  By the time the race came about later in the afternoon, I had lost the sensation of speed and comfort lingered back to the warmth of the van which I would estimate remained at about 50 degrees throughout the day.  A warm refuge after a massive debacle of a race.

Arc hard...
Closing out the season with a DNF is not my idea of finishing on a high note.  However, I think it is myself telling me (confused? good.) that it is time to take a break and let things recover before building for speed in the 2012 spring, summer and fall seasons.  I will be taking the next few weeks (until January 1, 2012) to rest and just futz about with whatever Tubular Adventures come my way.  Rest assured, skiing will most definitely be a good portion of said Tubular Adventures.
Until 2012,  Arc hard, ride fast and go plaid! 

Friday, December 9, 2011

NBX GP of Cyclocross

Working the field from the back... it'll go better next time.
After taking a weekend off, UVM cycling ventured with four competitors to Warwick, RI to compete at the NBX GP race weekend.  Not wanting to get up early, and also having come off of two previous top 10 results, I decided to upgrade with the hops that sleeping in would counteract the unfortunate starting position of DFL.
Both days had fast courses, with only slight modifications from day to day.  Day 1 had a sand run ending on a hill, as well as a ride-up and a set of quick barriers near the Shimano PRO Pit and core center of the course.  Day 2 was only slightly modified, leaving in the first sand run, adding in a second sand run into a dune hill run-up as well as having moved the barriers onto an uphill run just before the core of the race.
Flying through some fast trails towards the beach runs.
Having just upgraded, I was started at the back since I have no points.  Unfortunately, I was only able to move upa few places from there.  I found the 3s to be so evenly matched that starts were everything within that field.  Since I have a terrible start, it was difficult to move up and make up time on the leaders. The only time I felt like I was able to ove up was on the dune run-up on Day 2, which allowed me to scurry up the hill and pass multiple people before remounting and descending back into the starting area.

Making this additionally difficult was the use of improper gearing.  I have since swapped my crankset for a cyclocross specific gearing by attaching a 46/39 to Dura Ace 7800 172.5mm crankarms.  From riding this past week, the gearing feels much better and is moe manageable to for riding trails and varied terrain as opposed to the compact 50/34 of previous rides and races.

I'll be taking this next weekend off from racing to ride and finish up classes for the semester.  Stay tuned for some training adventures and racing updates.  Up next on the calendar is New England Championships in Fitchburg, MA.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Northeast Velo Cross

With Thanksgiving break on approach, UVM cycling took the weekend off from traveling, leaving race plans up to individual riders.  I traveled down with Bobby, from IK2GO Sports, to Londonderry, NH to compete at the Northeast Velo Cross.

Keeping an eye of the riders ahead, the velodrome was
a great place to mount an attack and make up ground.
The race was early.  Almost too early to wake up on time.  With the help of coffee, bacon, and eggs, I yanked myself from bed and venture down I89 to the race.  Upon arriving, little of the course was visible from parking.  Our first impression was that the race would take you around the Northeast Velodrome, and drop you in the center.  Once we kitted up, we were able to view the rest of the course.  From the Velodrome, the race went into the center field, where two sets of barriers and a water hazard were placed in the way of the riders.

Deep breath, now run.
After clearing the second set of barriers, riders ventured over the wall of the velodrome and into the woods where the course began a striking resemblance to mountain biking.  Roots and mud made up a good section of the course.  Taking riders of bridges and into a quick run-up coming from an off camber right handed turn.  Here, riders were able to power past each other.  With a quick remount, the run-up followed by a gradual descent turned into a strategic place to mount an attack and eat through riders like the fat kid in all of us does in the vicinity of cheesecake.
Whoop.  Whoop.  WHOOP!
Immediately after the woods, riders were tossed into the whoopdy-doos of the Northeast BMX park.  At race speed, it was harder to keep the bike grounded.  It was very important to keep contact with the ground, or establish a rhythm to keep balance before heading back into the velodrome for the end of the lap.

I managed to secure 10th in the race.  After not being able to shift into the big ring, I lost contact with places 9, 8, 7 and 6 ahead of me and was forced to sprint in the little ring to hold on to the 10th place spot.  This coming weekend, I am planning to take off and enjoy a few training rides.  Next on the calendar is Ice Weasels Cometh with UVM Cycling.  There are only a few weeks left in the CX season, and just a few more months until the beginning of Collegiate Road.  With only a little time in between the two season, there will be a brief rest period, and then onto building base onto what is already being built during cross.
Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid! and a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Paridise Cyclocross Frenzy


UVM's Wrecking Crew taking 5 out of the top 10 places.
UVM Cycling took a handful of riders down to Windsor to compete at the Paradise Cyclocross Frenzy, a fitting name for the dizzying course.  Riders started the race just outside the doors of the Harpoon Brewery.  In the Men's Category 4 race, 6 riders took to the field, managing to claim 5 out of the top 10 and further glory hogging of the 1st, 2nd, and 4th places respectively by Jake in 1st, Myself in 2nd, and Greg in 4th by no more than a wheels length.  1-2-3 Will have to wait....

Exiting the corkscrew heading back
towards the road and to the run-up.
The race was fast, starting off in a large group and entering some quick traversing through a shallow and dry gully where riders could let there wheels rip through every turn.  If you were using your breaks, you were doing it wrong.  Coming out of the gully, riders entered the corkscrew which can easily be described by the first lap  Paradise Frenzy quotes of the day:  
"I feel drunk...."
"When does it end?"
"I think we just stop in the middle...."
"Why am I going to other way?"
"Is this what drugs are like?"
All followed by the musical stylings of UVM: Circus music in E minor.
Out of the cork screw, riders went through more power riding, where the turns led to long straight aways and your ability to pick the right line through the corner could determine how far ahead of your drafting mate you were able to pull ahead.
The vicious run-up which ejected
riders back towards the brewery.
From here, riders approached the run-up which later in the day could be ridden, but because of loose dirt, had to be run during the earlier races such as the Category 4.  At this point it was important to remount as quickly as possible on the offer camber peak, and clip in to your pedals as to not be bucked off during the quick descent back towards the brewery and the finishing turns.

Just a little wide on the 180 degree turns.
Once back at the brewery, the course made a series of 180 degree turns into long straight aways.  Eventually, the race went through what we liked to call, the moon-landing.  In actuality, the moon-landing, was a corner of the construction site which was grey with ground up rocks.  At this point, there was no quick way to go through moon-landing because of the loose rock surface.  It is entirely possible that it would have been quicker to dismount and run through since right after the moon-landing were the barriers before a short hill and thus completing a full lap.

Around 2 or 3 laps into the race, with Jake from UVM in the lead, I leapt from the pack, forming a break of about 6 riders.  Slowly, the break thinned out and became a string of individual riders.  Sitting in 6th, I managed to jump into 4th after the run-up.  With Jake in my sights, I made a leap to try to bridge from the 4th place position.  Only managing to over take the two riders between me and Jake on the run-up, I got myself to within 10 seconds of Jake before my chain dropped off after the barriers.
2nd place, tongue and all.
I was able to get my chain back on just in time to drop into 4th and tag on to the same two riders I had over taken a few laps earlier.  With 1st out of contention, the race was for 2nd.  From there I was able to again, leap past the two riders on the run-up and hold my lead in 2nd place for the remainder of the race.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cyclesmart International Cyclocross Festival

A cold and early start makes more time for free beer....
This past weekend, UVM cycling ventured to Northampton, MA to compete at what is considered to be one of the best cyclocross races on the Eastern Seaboard.  My morning started off waking up early, downing some delicious homemade pancakes and dashing down I89 and I91 to get to Look Memorial Park in time to get to the start of the Category 4 race.  With frost still on the ground, mud and water frozen into patches, I inspected the technical and diverse course.  The race started with a sort grass section of a baseball diamond and lead racers on to a short paved section and then into the outer field towards a ridiculous run-up into the upper section of the course, which in itself, could be considered a whole separate course from what ran through the baseball fields.

The loose run-up strung out
the pack from the start.
The run-up could practically be considered a loose dirt cliff.  With the start of the race, over 130 riders were left waiting in line to sprint up the loose dirt run-up.  Starting about 8 rows back, put me about a minute back from the leaders  and further back because of the first run-up.  After the run up, racers dove through the woods, over roots and back down the hill into the field where racers dove across a sandpit, circled the trees and rode back up into the woods where there were brief moments spent on the bike path.  From the path, riders dove back into the woods where hairpins and roots could make or break a riders race.  After descending back down into the field, were launched over train tracks, into a few more turns before having to dismount and leap with a single bound over a single set of double barriers.

With temperatures rising, racers had to stay on their toes, as no lap would be the same as the last.  Burms were forming and thawing out, water created slick spots in the upper undrained forest and the baseball diamonds turned from frozen dirt, to loose mud.  Keeping the rubber side down, I managed a 47th place finish after Day 1.


Above is the speedy entrance to the pit.  Below is the tricky
180 degree turn around back through.  Like sliding on a 
wooden floor in socks.
Day 2 gave riders similar challenges, but in different orders.  This time, the race started out circling the baseball diamond, and launching riders out onto the pavement for a brief moment before arching into the hairpins before the double sandpit.
At this point, you may be wondering, what is a double sandpit?  I would describe it as an area of sand which you enter straight and come out onto a short patch of grass, which you then are forced to make a 180 and enter back into the sand.  Thus, becoming a double sandpit.
From the sandpit, racers circled giant pine trees, launched over the train tracks and were thrown into a quick 180 turn before the run-up, which the day before had been a descent onto the field.  After climbing the run-up, riders arched through the woods, in and out of the trees and then quickly dropped back down into the field where the train tracks could be used as a berm to make the turn as quick as possible before launching over the train tracks yet again.  From there, the race remained on the baseball fields.  Curving around bases 3, 2 and 1 but never touching home.

Thawing conditions kept riders on their toes.
With two laps to go, and the course thawing, I couldn't tell if I was loosing air, or the ground was just getting softer.  Eventually figuring out that it was a mixture of both, I dropped the hammer to get to the finish before it was too late.  Without pitting, I was able to finish the race on about 15 psi.  The worst part of it was probably the final three corners which took riders through the baseball diamond and on to the pavement where I was caught and force to sprint on the flat, which was no fun task.

Loosening conditions and a slow leak
made the last three corners
the most difficult.
All in all, the result was  a good one.  Out of 137 riders, I managed to post a 39th place finish, which translated to a 4th place finish among the Men's Collegiate C.

On top of some excellent racing, there was lots of fun to be found from watching the pros race.  Particularly watching Katarina Nash, the Czech national champion solo off the front of the women's field with what seemed like almost zero effort.  Within a single lap we watched Nash put a good 30 to 40 seconds into the rest of the field.  A demonstration of utter domination and raw power.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Training Week...

  While I wasn't able to race, I was still able to ride a ton.  These are just the highlights.
Dusk training at the Whale's Tails.  Class is overrated anyways... right?
The past week was full of training of the suffering variety with UVM and 1K2GO.  The middle of the week took us to the Whales Tails in Shelburne, an iconic image of Vermont.  There, we built our own barriers out of PVC pipe and managed our own course to work on CX skills like sprinting from a still start, cornering, dismounts, remounts and eating mud.


Runups at dusk.
Not late for class yet...
As a reward for our suffering, we got extra muddy practicing our runups at the Whale's Tails themselves.  Click on the map to zoom in and see the "course."  It's the bottom right corner of the GPS map.  Before moving along to the remainder of the week, I'd like to thank Bobby Bailey for trying to make me late to class, and Jake Warshaw for helping me TT back to campus from the Whale's Tails in 10 minutes.
With snow looming over the weekend, race directors made the choice to cancel the Wicked Spooky Cyclocross Race to be held in Bennington, VT.  Of course, in Burlington, we got no snow and had sunny skys throughout the day.  The boys of UVM cycling ventured out to Catamount Family Center where we attempted to suffer and ride through the pain cave, straight on to the glory hole.

A fine looking crew of UVM CX'ers.  What's Ben looking at?
This was not an easy task, especially since three of the six riders are elite cyclocrossers, and the rest of us are well... out for a Sunday ride.  Nonetheless, we managed to verbally abuse each other just enough to motivate one another to spend a good portion of Sunday afternoon suffering.

Ghost ride the bike. "Alex, catch!  It's carbon"
More specific to the suffering, we spent a good amount of time working on barriers and riding a steep runup in the middle of the woods.  This involved riding over two logs on a decent incline.  In addition to the runnup riding, we practiced bunny hopping barriers.  Let's leave it at, I have no ups, just flips.

Overall, a great week of riding.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SPA:CX

UVM Cycling CX Squad storms Saratoga Springs with 1st, 3rd and 5th
in the Men's B/Category 3/4 Race
UVM Cycling ventured to Saratoga Springs for the SPA:CX race weekend, the first official ECCC Collegiate Cyclocross race of the season.  All of us entered into the Men's B Race, which was mixed in with the Men's Category 3/4.  To put this into perspective, I am a Category 4 Cyclocross racer having only started this season and completed 5 CX races.  A Category 3 racer has successfully scored points in multiple category 4 races and is considered to be an Amateur Elite.  The mixture of Category 3 and 4 in a single field makes for, and during the race, made for a difficult time.
There are no breaks in CX.  Always
moving, never resting.
  The pace started off hot.  With about 70 racers sprinting towards turn one, we began the gentle grass cut grind until the first set of stairs before a long hill, which had to be run UNLESS you were skilled enough to ride up the stairs which would have then set you up for the hill.  However, I noticed that the riders who were hopping the stairs were not getting much of, if any sort of an advantage from doing so.  Other than of course a moment of fame and glory from on watchers.  My personal choice was to dismount and run the hill.
  For the rest of the race I felt like I was grinding uphill.  With switchbacks and hairpins to control the pace, the pack strung out from the first lap.  Any effort to chase towards the front was futile and wasted.  From the small stairs and the run up, we descended and eventually took a long sweeping turn before the gentle ride before the long sandpit.  Luckily, the sandpit packed down throughout the race, making it very manageable.  Just like ski racing, looking ahead, ignoring the ruts and keeping the pressure forward allowed me to tank through the sand at a high speed.
Mud, mud, mud, mud, mud.
After passing through the sand, we reached a brief section of mud before some barriers near the end of the lap.  The barriers came after a quick 180 degree turn following the mud.  Explosive power was quickly smothered by the dismount for the barriers.  Once through the barriers, you were almost home clear to the finish.  All that lay between the barriers and the end of the lap were some hairpins and 180s through the trees and up some small steep banks.
  Finishing 42nd, I know I have a ways to progress.  Finding the time to ride this time of year has been tricky for me.  With school and work I am pressed to ride at night with the brightest headlamps I can dig up.  It's a huge motivation to see teammates do well.  This weekend, in the same race, we placed 3 riders in the top 5, taking 1st, 3rd and 5th.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Super Stealthy Ninja Training

Under the glow of Burlington's street lamps, in the dead of night...



I got the call to meet in a secret cyclocross training location in the middle of Burlington.  Asking no questions I threw on my trusty mix-matched kit and sped at high cadence to the scene.  Bobby Bailey, coach and founder of 1K2GO was waiting to lead me through some choice CX drills to improve both strength and skill.

As to not reveal any trade secret of the man himself (Bobby... not me), the night ended with some simple mounting and dismounting drills to help with the fluidity and comfort of getting on and off the bike and high speeds.  It is important to remember when dismounting to have a stabilizing hand on the top tube before your final foot touches the ground.  That way if the bike hits something after the dismount, you then have the ability to keep control of the bike.  It also decreases the chances of the chain bouncing off the rings and dropping.

Visit 1K2GO for more information on Bobby Bailey and his methods.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Monday Night Cyclocross Clinic & Wednesday Night Catamount 'Cross

Right to left: Bobby Bailey(1K2GO), Amy Miner(1K2GO), Josh Saxe(ORR)

Start together, suffer together
celebrate together.
Monday:  Bobby Bailey of 1K2GO lead riders in a brutal cyclocross clinic at Catamount Family Center with special help from Issac Howe (who even brought a hammer with the sole purpose of dropping it).  The specifics of said clinic are blurred together by dirt, mud and the potential of vomit.
The night began with a small minute sprint loop from a mass start.  With the sun setting, we rushed into the next set of intervals; a 5 minute interval which included barriers and stairs separated by technical switchbacks and fast descents.

Eying Ben before the sneaky sprint for the line.
The final interval was greatly an exercise in running, when we came to the "Stairway to Heaven", which was a long run up after a gradual hill and set of stairs, it was completely necessary to sprint up to the stairs and to the top...  here's the breakdown.  The interval hillclimb started riders 15 seconds apart and lead them from the grassy straight followed by a sharp right hand cranker back through the finish and into the climb.  Once into the climb, there were some brief straightaways into some simple switchbacks.  Once arriving at the stairs.  My account after the long ass stairs is as follows: with two riders in sight, I hucked my bike onto my shoulder and began the long haul to the horizon.  I pumped my legs to sprint in an attempt to catch the two riders ahead of me.  Gaining precious ground, I arrived at the top to be greeted by the other riders from the clinic.

Tailing a healing Amy Miner.  She's still wicked fast!
Wednesday Night: Cyclocross at the Catamount Family Center was an experience to be remembered.  About 30 riders approached the line.  Mountain bike and cyclocross bikes, pros and amateurs, juniors and seniors all riding within the same pack, sprinted off the line at 5:40 and began the 45 minute suffer fest on the newly extended course.  I managed to move up quickly and pass some UVM teammates along the way.  Leading the charge up many stairs and over barriers, my legs burned with the burning of 1,000 suns.  Heart pumping and lungs burning, I made my way through the course with the simple goal of survival.  As the race went on, my survival instincts began to drop and my speed increased.  Sadly, my back began to seize up and my speed significantly dropped.  I am not sure what was different from the weekend, but my best guess would be the slow uphill grinds and perpetual pumping on the spine did a number on my core.  Not wanting to give up, I managed to finish the race and even sprint strong for the line.
We're done... can I puke now?
After the race finished, a bon fire was made in the parking lot where beers were enjoyed, along with delicious sausage shaped foods.  I am not sure many other places have a community of riders who would come out on a Monday evening after work and classes to suffer like we did.  In this case, suffer is a relative and in general to be expected by cyclocross.  I am proud to have such a strong community of riders to suffer and enjoy these experiences with.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Providence Cyclocross Festival 2011

Cyclocross. A crazy, mad, dirty, painful, gut wrenching, sufferfest. Also, possibly the best thing to happen to cycling since you decided to race deadmans curb when you were 3 years old.

Having never done cyclocross, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Other than watching Behind the Barriers, and chatting with friends about the madness that is Cyclocross, I had yet to experience the mashup of road and mountain that becomes cyclocross. We arrived at a reasonable hour Friday night, Ben and I drove ourselves down late after work to meet up with team at the hotel. Naturally, having an early start, we were up until 1am chatting and causing mayhem in the hotel.

Day 1: That morning, we arrived in Providence, RI ready to roll. I threw on my kit an my numbers and ventured over to the Shimano Neutral Support to have my front derailleur adjust before the start of the race. Having lost track of time, I missed my start by at least 2 minutes. Thanks to the kindness of the USAC officials, I was able to start late. I chased hard and began to pick riders off one at a time through the technical sections of the course. On every straight away and run up, I was also able to move my way through the field. Having never practiced mounts and dismounts, I found myself quick, but sloppy at the stairs and barriers. Around lap 3, I was getting the hang of things.
With two sets of stairs and a set of 2 foot barriers at the top of a hill in the middle of a hairpin of section next to the beer garden. I managed to chase back and ended up finishing in the 50s. Not good, but considering that I missed the start... not bad either.

video
Day 2: The course for day 2 was much more suiting to my riding style. I started on time and the back of the pack. With a long paved section, I knew I would be able to overtake many. Each lap and straight away I was able to over take more and more riders. Going into the final lap I was sitting in the top 20 when I dropped a curb and felt my rear tire start to sag. When I reached the barriers following a long fast straightaway, I was able to check my tire while leaping the barriers to find it going flat. Because of my flat I was forced to go slow up the paved section and carefully descend the dirt switchbacks before the pit. Going into the final switchback, I dismounted and sprinted into the pit where Shimano provided me with a spare wheel. Remounting and sprinting to catch the field, I was able to get back into field and catch some of the riders that overtook me while I was in the pit. Finishing in 36th, I know I have the strength to catch the pack and lead the field.

On top of the fun of racing, the festival itself was a blast.  With the Veloswap, vendors and wonderful food, there was always something to do in case you got bored watching the international pros racing on the same course.  I spent much of my day browsing the Veloswap and getting to know the vendors and dealers who had made an appearance at the Festival.  Custom frame builders also made appearances, however their highlight was Friday evening at the builders ball.  Having missed the ball, the least I could was check out all the custom steel and carbon frames scattered throughout the venue.

Having survived my first 'Cross race weekend, I am excited to continue competing in 'Cross.  It is quite possible that it is more fun than Road, but that is to be determined by future races.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Northeastern University Wild Western Mass MTB Weekend

  The weekend was marked with dirt and water, which as we all know can make a buttton (yes, a buttton) of mud. For those who are unfamiliar with the unit if measurement, a buttton is equal to a ton of butts, which as you all know is quite a large amount. We arrived at Jiminy Peak the evening before our races to find a condo large enough to house the whole team. The tall fluffy carpets provided additional sleeping comfort as many of us slept on, under and next to tables throughout the unit. The dense night air did not particularly help with pre race rest. Even with the rain, humidity levels remained consistently moist throughout the evening and into the next morning.
   Being my first mountain bike race, I wasn't sure what I was in for (other than a god-awful early start). I warmed up as I normally would, doing a few intervals to open up my dormant legs in time for the Men's C Cross Country Race.  My first mistake of the day was underestimating the race before the race. I.E. getting to the starting line and being one of the first to cross it. I arrived with enough time to get in at about row eight or nine. Pretty far back from the start of the pack, which in road biking is not as big a deal depending on the type of race. Being a mountain bike race, starting on a fire road and diving into the woods, I found that a bottle neck situation was highly likely. As we were started by the mighty Sully, my thoughts were right. The pack bunched up and bottle necked into the first turn onto the fire road, and then again into the single track which lead past the Dual Slalom course. Because of the consistent moisture from the night before, and light rain during the race, the track was muddy and slippery, which split the pack up very quickly. The first hill we reached dismounted many and shuffled the order of racers by those willing to ride the muddy slope, run the muddy slope and finally slowly wheel their bike up the muddy slope. Because of my starting position, I was caught behind a mix of walking, running and slowly wheeling and was forced to dismount and haul ass up the hill.
  The 3.3 mile cross country race loop was a demanding one at the least. Mud covered the bridges and rocks making them like slip and slides for bikers to test their balance and finesse. Slowly, I was able to pick off riders and move up on the leaders. While I never saw them during the three laps, I know I was able to make up ground. On the final lap, my legs had finally awoken and I was remembering how to rip up the hills and across the flats. Riders nearby fell behind me as I took them victim on the hills. Going through the finish I was glad for it to be over. The technical sections and descents had left my hands cramped and glued to my handlebars. Peeling them off was a chore and a half.
  All in all, mountain bike racing is a lot of fun, but very different from road. While in road the pack sticks together and attacks are warranted by ballsiness, mountain bike racing requires ballsiness the whole way through. While I will admit, racing with a pack of 90 other twitchy riders takes balls, I believe it takes those same balls, if not a whole new set to be able to launch or huck yourself if you will, down a mountain face or through a rock garden, over a bridge, through rivers and puddles hub deep. I have a new found respect for what it is to be a mountain biker. As I am still fairly new to the art of mountain biking, much less mountain bike racing, I applaude those who are able to succeed, or even attempt to be competitive in both.  Here's to a new found game.  Mountain bike racing.
  You may be wondering about the bike which I rode.  I will soon be posting a review of it once all components are up to spec and I am able to rip on the first Flahute Carbon Mountain Bike a few more times.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rain, Stage 4, and more Rain

Upon hearing the weather forecast of Monday, September 5, I was skeptical. The previous 3 days had all been given a similar forecast, only to be changed at the last minute to something the complete opposite. I could only hope for the same thing today, but was not so lucky. While the early races went off "without a hitch," afternoon races were canceled when the clouds opened up and the end of the world began. The rain brought enough water to turn main street into a river. With water rising over the curbs of the brief descent of the course, officials made the call to cancel all afternoon races, including my own. Maybe the world didn't end, but the cancelation of afternoon races certainly left an anticlimactic end to the finale of the Green Mountain Stage Race. For a lack of things to say, on top of sheer exhaustion, I am going to keep my stage 4 entry short. After hearing the call for cancelation, Onion River Racing and Burris Logistics (along with a few other teams), took an ceremonial/celebratory lap on the course before it was opened to traffic. Alberto, the General Classification winner, threw on the yellow jersey and took to the road for one lap of glory. We all followed our ceremonial lap with food and beer and the Farmhouse Diner. A well deserved reward after 3 days of hard racing. With wounds healing, I am looking forward to two more races to the road season and the potential start to Mountain Bike Racing, and the eventual start to Cyclocross Racing. Next year will be different, faster and even more fun that this year.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wind, Solo and poor planning




Bad luck seemed to follow me from yesterday to the start of todays stage when I put my bottles on my bike and the cages both snapped.  I can only assume that yesterdays crash is what did them in.  In any case, with no time to find replacement cages I threw my bottles on my back and took to the road.  Feeling only slightly sore from yesterdays introduction to the road, my legs generally felt good.  I was able to keep a decent cadence up the first climb through Duxbury and figured I would be able to keep on the peleton through the bolton flats and on to App gap.  Unfortunately, after riding a short dirt section, the pack crossed over a gravel pit where the first attack was launched.  While attackers rode away, riders closest to me seemed to come to a crawl trying to cross the "gravel pit."  The pause to cross the pit in front of me was so long, that the pack put a good amount of distance in to us, that I was unable to make up.

With one other rider, I began the chase through the Bolton flats.  It did not help that the sprint was coming up, meaning another hard acceleration that we would not be there for.  We did our best to bridge back up, but even with an additional rider, could not.  After the feed zone, I decided it would be best to just ride in at a steady pace.  Afterall, I was not in contention for the General Classification, so time lost was not a big deal, especially since giving up was not an option.

As a I approached RT116, I found myself pushing through a headwind that would not let up.  By the time I met up with the roads I had crashed on just a day before, the sky opened up just enough to cool things down.  I eventually met up with the base of RT17, which leads up to App Gap, but first crosses what is known as Baby Gap.

Approaching the 100m to go mark with a good pace, just at the wrong
time and with the wrong group leader.  Whoops.
I kept my tempo light and quick for the entirety of Baby Gap and eventually flew across the brief flat section before the beginning to the App Gap climb where I pick up my tempo and flew to the top.  Finishing just over 30 minutes back from the leaders, I am disappointed in todays result.  While I happy that I finished, and my result was not a matter of fitness, but more bad luck and poor strategizing, I'm not too torn up.  Tomorrow is a new day and the start of the Crit in downtown Burlington.  I will get to sleep in enough to get a good nights rest, but still see some good racing.  Hopefully the rain holds out and I'll be able to redeem myself at the finish.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The day I met the road... 33.2mph to 0.0mph in 1.3 seconds



Today I met the road.  While I have not been previously close with the road in the past, today we got better acquainted so to speak.  During Stage 2 of the Green Mountain Stage Race, I crashed within the final 3 miles of the race, but before divulging into juicy details too soon, here's a review of the race.

We started early. After rising to a bagel, a cliff bar, and a cup of coffee, I was out the door and ready to race.  With legs feeling strong, I lept on my saddle and took to the road amongst the Cat 3, Stage 2 Road Race.  We took to Hinesburg Hollow at a very relaxed pace.  There were no accelerations, no attacks and nothing all that exciting throughout the race.  During the first lap, I decided I would try to gain some points for the King of the Mountain title, or KOM.  However, not wanting to waste myself too soon, I held off and crossed the KOM line of the first lap somewhere within the top 10.  Continuing up the climb and the back side of "Baby Gap,"  The pack stuck together like glue through the pothole and washed out descent towards RT116.  Hearing flats left and right, I watched my line and was careful to avoid debris and potholes while descending at 50mph.

After reaching 116, a tailwind kept the peleton generally together.  With some accordion action within the pack, we made it through the first lap fully intact, at which point things eventually got interesting, but not in the least bit exciting.

Lap 2 was more of the same negative racing.  While there was shuffling and movement within the pack, the leaders found themselves without help from drafting riders.  Those tucked in the slipstream didn't dare to take a gander at the head of the pack.  I eventually followed a teammate up to the front where I found myself pulling through the next two towns.  Even when I went down to a spin, there was no follow through from drafting riders within the slipstream.  On occasion I would find myself with some assistance in the pull from other riders, but for no more than 30 seconds when they would look for another rider to take over the pull.  Once again with no one taking the initiative, I found myself playing tug man with field and towing them through yet more towns, until the 10k to go mark of the KOM for lap 2 when the pace picked up just until the crest of the KOM, and then slowed back down.

While descending, some riders were dropped, but given an opportunity to catch back on when the field was neutralized within 5 miles of the finish due to a crash in the Women's field finishing sprint.  Once the neutral was lifted, two riders almost immediately crossed wheels on the far right of the peleton.  Almost identical to dominoes set on a diagonal falling pattern, the crash shook through the pack and out to the cows in the field.  While I did not see the cows fall, I can only imagine the impact of us falling sent shock waves which toppled them on their sides in a fit of terror....

Okay, so maybe cows didn't fall over, but I did go down in the crash.  Ignoring the blood and cuts, I was able to then rally with one other rider to begin out chase back to the field.  We were then joined by another rider up the road who soon dropped off our pace, as I imagine out adrenaline was pushing everything to the limits, as I noticed a heartrate of 186bpm and a speed of 42mph without any burning and lactic build up.  As we neared the tail end of the peleton we flew through yet another crash by the same hand of two crossed wheels.  Zooming through, we sprinted out to the finish only about 10-15 seconds back from the main field.  To my pleasure, I was then informed that because the crash happened at a distance so close to the finish, the crashed riders would be given the same time as the main pack (which was the whole pack).

While I did not contend for the sprint, I am still happy with the way I rode.  I felt strong the whole way through and feel like I have plenty of leg left for tomorrows Stage 3.  Although I suppose that will be tested during tomorrows finish.

Now, you may be wondering what happened to me and the bike the crash.  I only got a little road rash on my elbow and hip, as well as a tire burn on my leg.  Luckily, I got away without a head injury even with my stealthy ninja roll to avoid Supermanning across the pavement.  

The bike got away with some scrapes and similar injuries as myself.  My derailleur hanger was twisted, so when I got home I found a similar one and filed it to match the profile of my bike.  Shifting smoother than before, I am ready for tomorrow.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Godzilla, Irene and the Green Mountain Stage Race

Update: With a 52nd place finish in 16:12.36, only 00:01:49 off pace and a good bit faster than last years time, there's lots of room to improve and still plenty of other opportunities that don't include 5.6 miles of suffering alone, to go for a little home turf glory.


Today marks the prologue time trial of the Green Mountain Stage Race.  Somehow, even in the wake of hurricane Irene with hurricane Katie just on the horizon, race organizers scrambled to reassemble stages 2 and 3.  Why you ask?  Because in Vermont, where we never get Hurricanes, we got a hurricane.  Said massive amounts of rain and wind from the given storm called Irene, demolished large sections of road when what were trickling brooks and streams, became MASSIVE RIVERS which dug trenches in hill sides and made cars, bridges and towns such as Waterbury, Granville and Rochester look like a model train sets that had recently met the wrath of 4 year of Irene and her Godzilla action figure with new and improved wind and rain!

I am amazed that in the wake of this destructive event, the race went on.  Even with a large portion of our main racing roads now gone or cut off, new courses we created to substitute the missing portions.  However, today's stage, was one of the two courses that remained intact.  With no noticeable scars from the storm on the course, the 5.6 mile time trial starting from Warren Village was able to start as scheduled.

Leaving the start at 10:11:00 a.m., I found myself at a slower pace than I wanted to be on the initial climb of the ITT.  I had to rally my legs to pull through over the top crest where I was able to slowly work up to speed through the final pitch and across the gradual descent towards the finish.  Now, when I say gradual, I mean that over the final 6K, there was about a 1-2% negative grade that allowed riders to really rip through East Warren and back towards Waitsfield.  With 1K to go, I reached a quick dip before the final climb, one which can potentially make, or brake you're entire ITT.  I entered the climb from the dip with as much momentum as I could carry, and without pushing myself to the point of popping, was able to keep strong power through the climb and increase my output through to the finish.

I wouldn't particularly call today a complete success, but I also would not write it off as a failure.  There were a lot of good things that happened during the course of the ITT, along with bad.  Now that it's done, the only thing that I can do is prep for Stage 2, the Hinesburg Circuit Race.  My plan for the evening, eat lots of carbs, lots of protein and ice my legs in frozen towels.

To all competitors, good luck and keep the rubber side, down.  We're all glad to have made it.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tokeneke Classic Road Race

Climbing with the pack at the Tokeneke Classic
Road Race before bad tactics got the better of me.
This past weekend I ventured to New Hartland, CT to compete at the Tokeneke Classic Road Race.  The course was rolling with two climbs, each about 2 miles a piece.  With rain pouring down from the sky and the pack going hard, I found myself with no brakes on the descents.  Now, this was not because I did not actually have brakes, but rather because I forgot cork brake pads and carbon rims do not have good stopping ability in wet conditions.  In the past I hadn't had problems with slowing in the rain, however this time it was particularly wet and slick.  
With descents hitting speeds over 50 mph and the pack moving like an accordion I figured as not to cause an accident I would hang back a little towards the top of a climb and just accelerate through the descent and catch back on.  Due to poor timing I wasn't able to tack back on to the pack and only completed 2 full laps with legs left to complete another 2.
After poor tactics pulled me out of the race, I used
the course to train hard to make the next result
a good result.
Had I thought about it more and considered my options, I should have attacked over the crest of the climb and led through the descents.  The uncomfortable part of not having brakes was not the accelerations, but the accelerations towards people who were slowing.  Without the ability to brake I psyched myself out, especially after already have seen a friend who crashed in an earlier race, resulting in snapped handlebars and some minor flesh wounds.  Even though he was okay and quite chipper after crashing, the image of sliding out, or crashing into someone at 50mph was not appealing.
The positive part of the race, my legs felt spectacular on the climbs.  I didn't particularly feel like I was struggling at any point other than settling into the rhythm of climbing accelerations.  After being dropped because of my poor racing tactics, I used the remainder of my time on the course to train to hopefully make my next result a good result.
Over the next week I will be traveling to Vancouver for my Cousins wedding.  While I'm there my plan is to spend the early mornings training in the mountains of British Columbia and aiming to peak for the Green Mountain Stage Race which will be happening on Labor Day weekend.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back in Business and goin' strong!

After playing with new stretches and exercises off the bike, and finally getting a bike fit, I am back in business and going strong!

TRAINING AND GENERAL HEALTH

These past few weeks have been spent consulting with Steve and Hannah at Elevation Physical Therapy in Warren, VT.  They both helped my to begin the process of loosening my hip flexors which, as observed by Steve and Hannah as well as Sean at Ski Rack, are far too tight for my own good.

video


Before getting the bike fit, Specialized Body Geometry fit at Ski Rack, to be precise, I spent a lot of time doing stretches to loosen my hip flexor, strengthen my gluts, and separate my IT bands.  All in the effort to reduce stress on my right knee, which until this past week could not last more than 10 miles of easy efforts. The addition of simple stretches, as well as minute adjustments of the cleat, lead to my knee being 200% better than it was before.

video

While I am still working on loosening my legs in general, the additional help of the BG Fit from Sean at Ski Rack sealed the deal.  While I do not know how to fit, I had done my best by searching google and reading through almost every thing I could find on how to solve any problems I could find.  Alas, nothing beats having someone who is an expert had has the papers to prove it dial your bike fit in.  As demonstrated in the video, there was an amazing improvement of knee alignment.  Can you tell which is before and after?


Photo by Kenneth Saxe
The pack accelerates through the straights and corners
at the GMBC Practice Criterium in Essex, VT.
RACING
I finished 3rd in a local criterium in Essex, VT while racing in the A field.  After warming up with the B field and successfully testing my knee, I took to the road with the simple game plan of playing it safe and just keeping a good tempo through the entirety of the race as not to aggravate my knee.
The A race proceeded as expected, Bobby Bailey made a break in the pack, which held until the end, resulting with Bobby and Jake taking 1-2 and leaving the rest of us room to sprint for 3rd.  Feeling good, I wound up with 2 corners to go, taking the smooth line through the final corner I unleashed my sprint, finishing in what I thought was 10th, but turned out to be 3rd after a few checks with spectators and officials

Photo by Kenneth Saxe
Sprinting for the line out of what was apparently the
main field at the GMBC practice criterium.
Looking ahead...
I am planning to head down to Tokeneke Classic in East Hartland, CT next weekend.  After which I'll be heading to Vancouver, BC for my cousin Sarah's wedding... of course I'll be shredding some trails and riding some gaps while I'm there... I mean, wouldn't you?  When I return it's final preparations for the Green Mountain Stage Race....

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Knees

While this weekend I was supposed to be traveling to MA to race in Tour of Hilltowns, I am instead taking the weekend to let my knee recover.  After switching pedals, my right knee developed an odd pop after riding hard for a few miles.  Based on the timing and recent changes in gear, I would attribute this to cleat positioning that I didn't catch earlier.  I think I have figured it out to a ridable place, but I will be getting a fit to streamline my positioning and make my power transfer more efficient and effective.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Just pictures

Some pictures from todays ride... tired... so that's all you get.  Pictures.  They're worth 1,000 words anyways, and with the number of miles added on, it's worth a billion rotations more.

Ritesville Dam from Horn of the Moon Rd

Jackson Hill as seen by my pedal
Elm Street as seen by my shoe.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

5,958 vertical feet, 108 miles, 86 degrees, and 3 times up...

The Smugglers Triple, totaling 5,958 vertical feet over
105 miles of Vermont roads.
The plan for this weekend was to do as many miles as possible.  So far, that is exactly what I have done.  I took to the road today with the plan to at the very least ride the notch road (rt 108) twice, but the goal of riding multiple mountain roads.  With the sun beating down, I took route 15 all the way to Jeffersonville where I began the steady grind up the Smugglers Notch side of the mountain with plans to meet Andrew at the top.  I passed and met many other riders on the road who had ventured down to lovely Vermont from Canada, mostly Quebec where I was informed the riding was significantly flatter than the roads of Vermont.
The peak of the climb.
For those of you that have never been on the Notch Road, it is a beautiful trip.  The Smugglers Notch side is a steady grind up into the trees of Mt. Mainsfield.  Once in the trees, the road begins to switchback around the giant rock formations encasing both sides of the road.  The Stowe side of the Notch road is very similar, but a more gradual climb, with two walls of pavement towards the end.  The road also switchbacks around giant rock formations where hiking trails have been forged.  
The Smugglers side of the climb is small
compared to the mountains which
surround it.
I was strong enough to climb the notch three times, the last of which ended at a much slower pace than the previous two.  After the final climb up the Smugglers Notch side, we descended towards Stowe, but bypassed the village by going through Moscow and coming through Waterbury Center.  Once in Waterbury, we went separate ways.  I ventured back towards Burlington by way of Route 2 through Bolton and Richmond where I decided to take a quick spin up the first part of the Bolton access road.  After remembering I had already ridden the Notch road three times, I turned around and continued to Burlington where energy stayed high, and I stayed awake.

Overall, a good day for the legs, tan and fun.  I'm looking forward to tomorrows ride.  Hopefully the weather will hold out for all 70+ miles.

Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!