Monday, November 30, 2009

The noose is hanging, at least you won't die wondering

For the last three races in a row I have felt like Tom Brady with a deficit, late in the fourth quarter, looking deep for Randy Moss. I don't like racing like a would be hero and definitely am not strong enough to be one in our blossoming CX scene. Mistakes equal failure. Aside from the three big guns at the front, there has been a fairly constant shuffle in the top five that makes for some fast and furious racing.

I was feeling pretty good on Saturday after leaving out one workout last week to get some rest in leading up to the little big show. I, like everyone else there, had probably enjoyed a little too much holiday cheer over the course of the week, but nevertheless, I was feeling confident and liked the course. The Grranimal and I joked at his drunken cycling escapades earlier in the week, but not so funny was his concerns for his noggin and sore shoulder. Pre-race he took a little dive over the bars and clearly was a little shaken up.

The race got underway and knew I had the good feeling. I was sitting in the wings of the lead group with relative ease and being patient to let things pan out. Since it was a straightforward track, the group was about 8 deep and the gaps didn't open up too fast on the chasers, but with some boggy slow sections, greasy corners and ride ups, hanging on meant riding smooth. I slid out around a corner and slipped to the back of the pack but stayed on and kept my focus.

There were three sections of the course that were fast enough and had enough wind to make being in the group crucial, for me anyways. Going into the second lap people started to get a little bit froggy and the attacks started up. I found myself covering some early attacks and then on the front as we were racing for corners. I slipped back in the group and was happy to let Dr. Mark resume the pace making as I was really marking Nate and Shot. Unfortunately, on the technical backside of the course I slipped on the root and went from front to back of the group and latched back onto Grranimals, wheel coming down the pavement at the 180 by the lake. I saw his foot come un-clipped and then his bike went sideways as I plowed over him and thought I heard the crack of carbon. I was upright but he was clearly dazed and not getting up so I grabbed his bike and offered some kind words of encouragement. Precious seconds, which felt like an eternity, ticked by before he came to and told me not to wait.

Riding in defensive mode again I chased the lead group and watched the gap grow when my wheel would hit the wind. The openess of the course allowed me to keep pretty good track of the gaps which stayed fairly consistent to the chase group, but Shot and Nate were Audi 5000, G. Following a couple laps of rage inspired riding I started to fade and Nagy was creeping up from behind. I caught up to Dan Miller and had him and Nageltronic keeping me in check for the next few laps until I saw the 5 to go card and kicked in the turbo. Wish I could ride like that all race, but somehow my head won't let me.

With two to go I came up on Martin who was going backwards after a really strong start and started to close on Yielding who also had a great start but just got passed by Jay. Jay had been maintaining his gap on me most of the race but it was starting to shrink and I was thinking about points and placing.

With one to go I was closing in on Jeff and maybe 15 seconds back from Jay. I caught Jeff at the barriers and Jay was just ahead, but he had some fight left in him and wasn't about to let me close that down. I rolled across the line in 5th again.

So after a flat at St Vincent, a mechanical at Mt Pleasant and a common courtesy at Bellefontaine I feel like I haven't had a clean race in awhile. In all three races I was clearly stronger than my placings. One of my biggest problems is pushing myself the same way I would if I were clinging to someones wheel at the front of the race. Watching Nate and Josh race their bikes leaves much to be desired on a personal level. I need to be more patient, smoother and save the juice for when you need it. How often do you see those guys attacking before the selection is made? I said it last year, but with each year of racing CX I am driven by the challenge of not succeeding the way I have off road. I have learned quite a bit in my last three seasons of racing CX and know what I need to do it 2010.

Next weekend is going to be some hard racing!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Backwards down the number line.

The ten days leading up to yesterday was a big block of racing, training in the rain and holding my breath. When I arrived at the Mount un-Pleasant yesterday I knew it wasn't going to be a good day and was less than excited about the course as there was nowhere to hide.

Twenty-eight of us lined up in the A race and Martin took off like a yellow shoed rocket with me on his wheel. I was getting Kentucky waterfalled in the face the whole time but at least he uses Herbal Essences Lavender, my personal favorite. I find it amusing that every up and coming CX racer in St Louis is rocking a mullet of some sort as they are so 2007. I guess it's a right of passage of some sort, but I thought it died with Lars Boom's soul. My plan was to get a good start, fall back in the top five, ride as conservatively as possible, mark some wheels and not try any funny stuff off the front. My plan B went into effect immediately as I dropped my chain on the first 180 and watched every rider in the field pass as I struggled to get it unjammed and back on. By the time I got situated Dan and Money Shot were halfway across the straight before the crazy ass ride/run up. I was looking at maybe a minute or more on the leaders and plan B had just turned into the Josh Johnson Special Ops plan.

The rest of the race pretty much sucked as I had no motivation, no legs and I thought Buddy had said we were going to be doing about 8 laps, but 3 laps in I saw the 8 lap card and really wanted to quit. Slowly I started to pick people off until I heard someone yell that I had worked my way into the top ten. The noise and people at this race were insane. Instead of just having a couple small groups of spectators on key points of the course there were people handing out the duckets, blowing horns and screaming everywhere I needed them. Truly an awesome feeling that no doubt was aided by the crack high of Mad Dog 20/20 style wine. B racers should upgrade to experience that alone; the spectators not the Mad Dog. Pro as fuck. I picked up three dollars along the way and dropped all three of them. I'll stick to pedaling.

With about 4 to go I had passed Martin and Fletcher and set my sights on Jay. I think I caught him with 3 to go and we yo yo-ed a little bit for the that lap. Someone told me I was in 4th, but I was shutting down mentally. With 2 to go I hit a big spike coming off one of the downhills and Jay put a couple seconds on me. That was the nail in the coffin for me. I didn't have any fight left and rode the bell lap out for 5th place.

After the race I was talking to some Jim (TrailMonster) and he asked me what I thought about the race. I didn't have to think about it before I responded that it was the worst race I have ever done. He said thanks with a evil smile. I hope he and everyone else responsible for that race understands that we are no longer friends. Sorry, but I hate you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some sweet Segal love!


Turning screws early- the feeling was good.


Scottler with a 30 second gap, maybe 1/2 way into race? Josh over a minute back. Insane effort on his part.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wish I could Run Like an Antelope.

Well, that went well for a short while and then really bad for a short while and then kinda enjoyable for a short while. Racing for me is always fun/enjoyable but since I was out of contention I just kinda rode around, got a nice beer hand up, missed another beer hand up and got a good workout.

I had a better than expected start and the legs were cooperating a little more than I thought they would after week of rest, long car rides and beer drinking. I tried to wake up my stiff legs by riding hard for 3 hrs on Friday and then doing a hard interval workout on Saturday. At work on Sat they felt like cement blocks and really tight so I rode some more after work to loosen them up which kinda helped but I was worried I over did it.

I had a good start and was mixing it up at the front for the first half of the race. Schottler had a good lead and I caught and passed Grranimal who was having a malfunction, but seemed to be riding really well/smooth otherwise. I didn't have much snap but things were getting better as I raced more. I watched Josh working his way up at a rapid rate which was pretty incredible.

I was sitting in second when I hit the first mud section and heard my wheel bottom out when I realized it was flat. I ran. It hurt. I went from 2cd to 20th pretty quick and wasn't real happy about it but kept pushing on.

I worked my way back up a bit and caught some people. I think I was riding around just outside of the top ten with about 4 to go when I decided that chasing my teammates down wasn't that much fun but 16 oz PBR's were, so I sat up and went into damage control. I definitely didn't have the legs to work my way back into a money/points spot given the week I had and how much the running wrecked my legs.

Miraculously Josh managed to crush Schottlers dreams with an amazing effort that ended his 45 minute lead at the most dream crushing time; on the last lap, and went on for another W.

I'm not so partial to the super fancy tires I have and think I'll switch back to some Griffos or Fangos for the remainder of the season. It's not about the flat I had but the way they handle. They don't seem to have much bite and really float, ironic given the fact that I love that in a MTB tire but you don't have to carve 180's all day on a MTB. Other than that I'm really pleased at how competitive I have been with relatively little work. I'm really optimistic that after this week of balls kitty training and then another decent week after that I should be as good as I' going to get for the little big show. Time will tell.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Machine: 2010 S-Works Tricross

16 lbs. Those are Zipp 303 CX wheels and Dugast Typhoon CDM's (Coupe Du Mondes).

Thanks JQ!!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Whiteboy wants to dance!

I haven't slept in two days but am pretty fired up! First off, I want to thank anyone reading this that is out there ringing a bell and calling my name, throwing beer at me or telling me to "go faster you fucking pussy!" To steal a little something from Chariots of Fire, "it puts wind on my heels!"

So Sat night recovery didn't go so hot as road rash and being all jacked up kept me up most of the night. By Sunday morning I was tired but the legs felt good. I overhauled my bike and hoped the course would still be a chocolate mousse mixed with peanut butter and grass mess. Instead I showed up to find a dry pretty fast track with some demanding, very bumpy straights, as well as a bunch of really rutted 180's and a little mud.

I didn't think it was a great course for me but I remained optimistic and took off. I stayed in the top 10 for the first lap and then charged up the left of the muddy section and jumped out in front. I still want to race CX races like I do on the MTB but when people don't get out of sight they chase that much harder. I established a decent gap for a few laps and then started to bog down ad cut my losses and jumped back into a strong lead group with Nate, Josh, Shot, Stothman, and Grman. I was sitting on 4th wheel when Josh and Shot made a little move and couldn't respond until the gap was too big.

Nate, Grman and I rode around for awhile with Josh and shot dangling but Nate was obviously not working with Josh off the front and I had hit a mid race funk. I was repeatedly getting gaped off and struggling to maintain contact. We passed Shot who was walking his bike after the backside barriers which raised the pace just a bit. I think it was on the next lap that Grman had a mishap on the barriers so I sat up and let him tag back on but as soon as he did Nate attacked and I had to respond as Nate and Josh together is game over. Nate was making really good pace and when I would pull the chase of Grman and Jay would close so I tried to bargain with Nate to do the work and promised I wouldn't pull any funny business. Jay ended up working himself back up to us, through us and then out in front of us only to snap his derailleur off. After a really rough season with three good starts that were crushed by race ending mechanicals, I knew that feeling and would have rather gone head to head but Nate and I pushed on.

With about 4 to go I guess I managed to crawl out of the funk and offered to take a pull coming through the start finish and was powering down the back straight when I realized Nate was gone. People started giving me splits of 30 second to Josh who was getting closer and closer. With 2 to go I had him inside 20 seconds and coming through on the last lap people were yelling 12 seconds. I opened it up and go really close on the 180 off the pavement onto the grass after the backside barriers which is apparently when he decided to demoralize me.

Crossing th line in 2cd for the second day in a row with what I consider to be about 85% of what I got as far as fitness goes, makes me pretty damn happy. I have some serious desire to train now and think that I might be able to hit a fitness peak that I left sitting in the tank at the end of last CX season. I'm going to miss racing next weekend as we are heading to Asheville to ride dirt bikes for a week, which should be some more good stimulus and then we'll be coming down the home stretch as people ramp up for States and Nationals.

"Ohhh, what a beautiful buzz, what a beautiful buzz!"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Glimpse of hope.

Lined up against all the heavy hitters of the St Louis CX scene last night with some new found confidence that I was afraid exceded my current level of fitness. Not sure how the call-ups were ordered but I found myself near the back and fighting working through traffic. Although I haven't done any big CX races I understand that some elbowing, door closing and aggressive riding is required to move up in a big field. I have never felt like that was needed when your lining up with your local crew on any given Sunday but last night I was elbowed, pushed, ridden into stakes and even had the door closed on me when I told someone I was coming on their side. I guess we can do it like that from now on and am pretty sure that the guys that were doing it to me are going to end up off course. I miss playing contact sports anyway.

Ok, enough of my rant that's really directed at a select few. So I end up working myself up to the front with Grrmanimal, Josh, Nate, Mar Mar, Jay, Yielding and a couple others. I was pretty surprised to find myself up there staying in contact and slowly started fading off Mar Mars wheel and then catching back on.

Maybe 3 laps in I caught up to Martin and Yielding who weren't far behind the lead three and gapped them. At that point Grrman dropped his chain or something and left the lead two with me chasing. I buried it and caught them going in through the finishing stretch and knew it was going to be tough to hang when Nate told Josh they had company and Josh attacked. I knew there was no way I was going to handle much of that action but remember telling myself pre-race to go down swinging so I came around Nate and chased Josh down with Nate in tow. Not too long after that I lost my front wheel in the mud, ran it, and jumped back on only to find I had dropped my chain. I was riding for third from then on.

With something like 12 laps to go out in no mans land between the lead two and a strong chase group I started to worry but was able to hammer through the straights and ride the technical muddy sections pretty clean. Maybe 3/4 through the race I spotted Nate running his bike not even half way through the lap which opened up a window of opportunity and created some goals for me; hold off Nate as well as the chase group.

At one point my gap on the chase group grew quite a bit but then it shrunk when I slid across the pavement and almost into the lake at full speed. I recovered and it normalized once again with Nate tearing his way back through the field which would have presented a real threat had the race been any longer. In the end I was able to hold them off with help from the top notch Specialized support crew and Cris Ludwig who had a nice new bike ready to go when I really needed it. Can't feel more pro than that. I rolled across the line in second with a big smile.

I have to send out a big thanks to Jeff Winkler for some advice last week when I really needed a kick in the ass. I don't know Jeff personally, but he was quickly able to assess the weaknesses in my training and get me back on track. Thanks Jeff!