Crossasaurus Awesome 2013

I’ve typically had uncharacteristically good results here, probably due to the less technical nature of the course. This year, they shortened up the course, taking out some of the long “power” sections, and eliminating the entire back part of the course. I think I actually liked last years longer and boring-er course better.

Somehow I still had a front row call-up, and got the last front row spot on the grid. I decided to be a bit more reserved for the start, and settled in somewhere in the middle. I had my eyes on the Bicycle Therapy guys, and could see the leaders ahead of me, bunched up into a group of about 10. I couldn’t quite get there, so I just rode on my own until Greg slid out and I caught up to him. There was one very innocuous looking corner, after the off-camber parts, around a little tree that was the scene of many wrecks and dropped chains. A few laps later it took me out, and I had to get the chain back on. Then Jack was breathing down my neck, and definitely making up ground. On the last lap, he passed me coming up to the barriers, I followed him around to the last few turns where he slid out. I just managed to get around him, and he was back up in no time. We sprinted to the line and I managed to stay ahead of him.

Then the single speed race, there were actually two, the “Legit USAC” version, and the “YOLO SWAG” version. I was prepared to race the legit version, and expecting no end of hijinks and shenanagins for the last SS race. However, lots of confusion. The number list that the officials had did not match the numbers that half of us had been given, so after a few call-ups, the rest of us got scrum. I was at the very back, but no big deal. In a lap or two, I got up near front and could see Dan Rapp. I came through and saw one to go, so put in a hard last lap, and rolled through the finish. Or so I though. Several of us had all stopped, but then realized that there was actually one more lap to go. Darn. So I got back on course, and rolled through another lap. That was very confusing.

Then the YOLO SWAG race, I knew that this was going to be an event, and set in for the experience. I had no costume, so I took some flak for “taking it seriously”, but that was rather impossible! Pretty soon huge sections of the course dissapeared, and the mayhem unfolded. See the video. After a few laps, the swirling vision started, so I bailed and rolled back to the car. The race is a very hazy memory of gorillas, giant blue drums, and Pryor riding through the course tape.

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West Chester cross 2013

These promoters are doing it right, an awesome course, great atmosphere, and some good prizes.

I love this course, it rides like a roller coaster, with some swooping elevation and flowing turns.

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I first lined up for the 1/2/3, had a good start, and then proceeded to blow up and go backwards. I was chasing Jack for a little while, but he was riding really well and I couldn’t catch him.

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Come to think of it, the whole Bicycle Therapy team has been riding really well lately, maybe a little too well…. Then Bernie came up behind me, and I was trying to stay ahead of him, but he went right on by.

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What the heck am I doing in that photo???

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Coming into the last lap I thought I was good where I was until I dropped my chain and got passed by Craig.

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Ah well, not my best race of the season, but I really do like that course.

Next was the single speed, just before the start of the race I asked Joe if he was planning on doing, and he said “nope”. But then shortly after the start by the time I got to the front of the race, I looked up, and Joe was there. We were both pretty tired from the 1/2/3 just before, but were having a good race between the two of us. On the last lap I put in a hard effort, and got a few seconds in front of him. I thought I was good until I hit the slow part right before the pits, my legs cramped up, and he passed me going through the rocks.

Anyway, because Joe hadn’t technically signed up for the race (technicalities…) the officials couldn’t record his result, so I got the “W”. It was good to have someone to race with, though. The prizes for the single speed were really quite nice, normally I don’t expect anything for the “SS” race, but the organizers had a bottle of wine, a gift certificate to Limoncello, Iron Hill Brewery, a nice set of winter leg warmers, Mad Alchemy embro, and probably some other things that I forgot. A really nice bag of stuff.

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Townhall Cross 2013

Occasionally I have a race day effort that leaves me with colorful swirls in my vision, Town Hall was one of those days yesterday. It was touch-n-go for a little while.

Although the planning has been going on for a while, the real work started Wednesday night when registration closed. Some pizzas and beer made prepping the numbers and reg forms go by much easier. Friday was course setup day, starting at 7 am. Once the tape was up, and signs hung, we took the opportunity to ride a few laps. Greg had added a few extra sections, including an extra switch-back, and a chicane behind some big cement tube. Although, arguably the best feature was the awesome TP that got stocked in the cement block bathrooms. Crucial.

I tried riding the course on my single speed with a 44 – 19, and although I could just barely get up the top of the hill, I was way over geared. I decided to swap my front ring for a 42, and count on the course getting faster by the end of the day, as the grass gets worn down.

We had over 400 riders pre-reg, which is awesome, the race keeps getting bigger each year. However, we’re already running short of parking, and there isn’t really room for more.

Most of the race day was a blur as I was trying to help out in registration. The weather was absolutely perfect, the course was dry and getting faster, and people were having a good time. As the start of the A race got near, I grabbed my numbers, got changed, and started the tire pressure rituals. I decided to go a bit lower then I had for Charm City, and ended up with 25 in the front, and 29 in the rear. Then just enough time to get in a short warm up, and off to staging.

Race predictor had me at 8th, but I knew that there were at least a couple of Day-of registrants. It’s good to have so many races with the same group of guys, because I know who I’m going to be chasing. On a really good day, I can stay near guys like Joe and Mike, but not actually beat them.

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There wasn’t much point in going for the hole shot, so just tried to make sure I was in the top 6-7 going up the hill. We actually took it pretty easy the first lap and the group stayed together tightly. But after a few laps, I lost contact and the group started to split up. I spent the rest of the race trying to catch the rider a few seconds in front of me, but couldn’t manage to get any closer. Finally rolled through in 6th, I’m happy with that. I could see Willem chasing me a few seconds behind, so it was motivation to not let up.

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After rolling across the finish, I immediately parked the geared bike, and grabbed my single speed. The course was much faster by now, and the gearing was just about perfect. For some reason, I always feel much more confident on the SS bike, and think I can carry more speed through the turns. Maybe it is just in my head.

It was actually a really good single speed course, surprising perhaps, but I was really starting to feel a good flow, and just rode steady and managed to stay pretty smooth for our little 3 lap race. Coming into the finish I heard Jon yell something about walking across the finish line. I thought, what cool trick can I do on a bike? Somehow I decided on a wheelie despite the fact that I can’t, and never have been able to ride a wheelie. So up I go, and right on past the top to sprawl out a few feet from the finish line. Totally worth it.

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That moment when you realize you’ve gone a bit too far…

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However, shortly after finishing the SS race, I started to get those swirling colors, that are sometimes the precursor to a migrane. I got really nervous and we dashed off to get some fluids and coffee, which often helps. I start getting really nauseus as well, although that is usually just anticipation of the migrane that might be coming. The colorful swirls start in my peripheral vision, but slowly fills up my entire field of view until I’m reduced to tunnel vision. At this point, it either fizzles out and I feel generally crappy, or develops into a full fledged migrane and the wretched suffering is awful. Fortunately, I was lucky and after another hour, I only felt like crap. Thankfully, I haven’t had a migrane in several years now, but the possibility of one coming back makes my stomach churn.

They used to happen in high school after really hard 5k races, but have become quite rare now. I have no idea what triggers them.

I had a great time, the course was fun, what a great way to spend the day with a bunch of friends.

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Charm City Cyclocross 2013

I was still a little shell-shocked from Nittany, but looking forward to the weekend of Charm City racing. My main goal was just to ride a clean race, and try to not get pulled. The course on Saturday was looking really dry, with dust clouds following the racers, but there was a very high probability of rain during the Elite race.

The field was stacked, Jonathan Page was the biggest name, in his stars and stripes jersey, but the talent ran deep throughout the field. I was on the last row of the starting grid, but even there I was next to Cameron Dodge fresh from his 21st place finish at Cross Vegas. Yup, the Cross Vegas with Svyn Nys, J Pow, Ryan Trebon, Ben Berden, etc… Heck, he beat Todd Wells, Sven Vanthourenhout, and a lot of other fast guys. There just are no slow guys in the UCI Elite field, even at the back of the field.

I held back in the start, wanting to error on the conservative side. Sixty minutes is a lot of racing, and it is too easy to get sloppy after going too deep in the red. After the first lap, the initial frenzy of the start settled down, and I could focus on trying to pass and move up. I was looking for the Bicycle Therapy duo of Brendan and Willem, it’s good to have a target to chase. I actually managed to catch up with Joe, and was behind him going into the sand pits, but totally botched it and lost a few seconds. I then slid out my rear tire on the uphill right turn before the team tents, and lost a position. I managed to get that one back, but couldn’t quite catch back up to Joe again. The skies opened up and the deluge of rain actually improved the course, it went from dry and slippery to tacky. I didn’t get pulled, beat my cross predictor spot by 8 spots, and rode a relatively clean race. So I was happy. It was a really fun course, very fast and very flowy.

On day 2 I was fearing a super muddy course, after the downpour, but amazingly it drained off, and almost completely dried off with the sun and wind. Now the course was ridiculously, blazingly fast. Somehow I ended up on the second to last row, and wanted to shoot for a better start. However, the start was super aggressive, and after putting in a bunch of really hard efforts to try and gain a few spots, I would just as quickly lose them again. I came around onto the back part of the course absolutely dead last. My efforts to move up were completely futile, and costing me a lot of energy, so I went back to waiting until things strung out. Once some gaps opened up after the first lap, I could keep passing and was slowly moving up. But the pace was brutal, and I was getting close to danger territory of getting pulled, so with 3 to go I put in as hard of a lap as I could, but saw the official coming onto the S/F straight, and I was done. That was just as well, because then I was free to watch the final 2 laps of the leaders. There was a good lead group, but something happened in the sand pits and only Jonathan Page and Stephen Hyde were together coming out of the back of the course. With one to go, Stephen got on front, and stayed there the entire last lap. The last chance to pass was a small hill on a straight section of course shortly after the sand pits, but Stephen was ready for Page’s move, and held him off, legitimately over powering him. Through the final turns and onto the S/F, the entire crowd was electric and errupted when they opened up their sprints, and Stephen came through for the win. That was a good battle.

CX Magazine article.

I’m looking forward to some of the PA races now.

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Nittany Cross, 2013

Finishing my dissertation this summer left little time and motivation for the road season. I did get in a few races, but nothing remarkable. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only made it to two Thursday night crits this year, that just doesn’t feel right! Especially after I found that Chip had reserved number 25 for me. Those nights feel like such a central part of cycling in the Lehigh Valley.

After a really long (and fun) road season last year, hitting the 2012 cross season a little weary of racing, and missing most of the 2013 road season, I’m hoping that the 2013 cross season goes differently. I’m starting off with more motivation this year, but a lot less training miles.

I pulled my cross bikes out of storage Friday night, and realized that each one needed a lot more work then I had anticipated, so it was off to Cutter’s Saturday morning. Fortunately Shawn helped me out, and we got both bikes race ready in an hour.

In a fit of optimism, I had decided to sign up for two days of the UCI Elite race. Four years ago, the 2009 Nittany was my first ever cross race as a Cat 4, and I wanted to take a shot at the UCI Elite race in what might be my last fall in the Lehigh Valley. I jumped on the course to do some pre-riding, and found that my seat and handlebars needed some tweaking. The course was fast, but the bike felt strange, and everything about cross seemed so foreign. I could tell pretty quickly that this was going to be a rough start to the season.

Ashley, Ella, Autumn, Maya, and Sophia were making bracelets out of rubber bands, and gave me an orange and blue one for “good luck”.

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Todd Wells was the star in the Elite race, and it was a privilege to line up in the starting block with the best. It was a good thing I was on the back row, because I had apparently forgotten how to ride a bike, I had two crashes in quick succession in the first lap, fortunately not taking anyone else out, and avoided some of the other crashes in the aggressive start. I spent the rest of the race on my own, just trying not to get cut by the 80% rule. I was the last rider not to get pulled, and finished some 6 minutes behind Todd Wells. But I finished, only barely.

I left feeling somewhat demolished, and seriously considered trying to switch my registration to the B race for Sunday, but ultimately decided to stick it out, and shoot for an improvement.

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On Sunday, the girls brought me several new bracelets, because they apparently saw me crashing on Saturday, and decided that the first bracelet had brought me bad luck. Guess my excessive crashing was that obvious! The race did go better, I was feeling a bit smoother, and only went down twice when I dug a pedal in a turn, and washed out on another. But still the same story, just trying to beat the cut. The Philly Ciclismo guys seemed to have some bad luck, I think both Mike and Steve O. had some sort of mechanical problem. I was able to follow them for a little while, but not for long.

It’s good to get back into cross mode, even if the transition into this racing season was a bit rough. Hopefully I’ll improve from here on. Next up, Charm City, and then Town Hall!

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ECCC Rutgers Frozen Toed Opener, 2013

….or how to blow your road-results points in one weekend.

Well, first real race weekend of 2013, and I started off with a big bag of DFL. I knew that I was out of shape, and the top-10 race predictor predictions were very unrealistic after a long break from cyclocross season, but this was was an eye opener. Nothing like the motivation of being at (or off of) the back to get back to some real training.

Yikes.

I decided to skip the Grant’s Tomb / Steven’s weekend to get in some good miles, and a bit of racing at the March series. The great weather is starting to spring, lets hope my legs follow quickly.

I think that the break was necessary, last year was hard racing from March all the way through the cyclocross season. But it is good to be back again. Now we’ll see how the Philly weekend goes.

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Cyclocross Worlds, 2013

A late post, but I’m gathering up the pieces from 2012, and re-assembling myself to prepare for 2013.  Just a video, in summary, it was fantastic.  The Elite race was incredible, a truly awesome experience.  So much better and intense in person, as opposed to a steephill.tv low-res video stream, or some youtube highlight reel.

 

Masters Cyclocross Worlds 2013, highlights from the Lamprey team from Marten Beels on Vimeo.

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