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!