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!