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.