Friday, November 5, 2010

Thoughts on staging.

This started as a comment on RMM's latest diatribe, but I figured I should move it over here and blow it out so I could fully cover my views on the subject.

Part One: Staging protocols.
The correct way to stage is based on the speed of the racer. With this in mind, let's list and evaluate various staging protocols.

1) Perfect staging. You run the race on day one. Everyone comes back to the same course on day two and gets staged according to day one's results. Then everyone comes back to the same course on day three and is staged by day two's results. Keep doing this. Day 12 gets staged by day 11's results, etc... After two or three weeks you'll have the perfect staging order. Let's just agree that this isn't practical (or perfect).

2) Time trial. "...the starting position of each race will be determined by the racer's time in an individiual [sic] cyclocross time trial performed the day prior to race day." This is the protocol being used at nationals this year. This is not perfect since a short time trial effort isn't the same as a full race effort, but it is effective since it is based directly on a measure of the racer's speed.

3) Results based. If you don't have the current measure of the racer's speed provided by the first two staging protocols, a racer's results are the most accessible indicator of their speed. Whether it's UCI points, Verge points, or Crossresults points; staging based on an indicator of the racer's speed is effective. (ignoring the effect of points that reward participation)

4) Order of registration. Not based on the (on bike) speed of the racer. Ineffective.

5) Start line stalking.  Not based on the (on bike) speed of the racer. Ineffective.

6) Random. Not based on the speed of the racer. Ineffective.

The first point of this post is to establish that auguring between the three ineffective staging protocols is futile. They are all essentially random, they are all ineffective. Stop arguing about which is "better".

Part Two: Why stage?

To the racer, there are numerous races within the race: The race for UCI points (top 10) the race for series points (top 25) the-race-not-to-get-beat-by-Ryan-Kelly (top 55), and the race to not get lapped. To the racer, winning any of these races is reason to celebrate, just don't expect a CyclingDirt interview because you didn't get lapped.

To everyone not in the race, there is one race: The race to cross the finish line first. The media and the spectators (for the most part) don't care about the races within the race, they care about who crosses the finish line first. This is a nice way of saying that this is the only race that matters, and the only race that staging should be concerned with.

The second point of this post is to establish that staging is done for the benefit of the contenders. Only the best deserve to be staged. The promoter has no obligation to stage the-race-not-to-get-beat-by-Ryan-Kelly. If you are bitching because the race for the last Verge point wasn't staged correctly, you need to stop. The staging of any racers beyond the actual contenders should be appreciated for what it is: a courtesy extended by the promoter.

Staging entire fields by points is fucking beautiful, but giving the pack fodder a taste of the good life seems to have conditioned them to expect nothing short of the good life. It's racing; passing people is part of the game. Appreciate races with deep staging, but don't expect it.

In summary.

Staging is a privileged extended to those that have earned it. The fastest are placed in the front, and the rest fight like dogs for the privileged to be staged next time.

(I don't know it all, I just like to pretend I do when I blog.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hilltowns race report

I've been kind of reluctant to write about my fledgeling road racing career. Having a UCI license that say both "XC:PR" and "RD:05" is a lose-lose situation. If I win I'm a douchey sandbagger. If I don't win then I'm pathetic. Last weekend (edit: well, two weekends ago now) had a little of both, so maybe I can pull this off.

What went right.

In a flat race, dudes can pretty much work together to make sure the fast guy doesn't get away, but when there is a gigantic climb in the middle of the race, the only thing keeping the strong guy from getting away is other strong guys. You can't fake a 20 minute climb. About 15 minutes into that climb, it was Norman Swygert, Doug Kennedy and myself way out in front. I made it a point not to push the pace, I just sat in. The race ends with a climb, and we've proven that we're the best climbers. We can get a huge gap now, then kill ourselves to keep that gap for the next 30 miles, or we can slow down, wait for a few others to work with us then drop them (again) on the final climb. I wanted to conserve.

Norm wasn't having that though. He stayed up front and kept hammering. We dropped Doug, and it was Norm and I riding down the backside. At that point I realized that it was a two man race, and I could do no worse than second. I was cool with that. Problem was, I was at 185bpm just trying to stay on Norm's wheel. My pulls were short and weak. Dude was strong, and I had no interest in red-lining for the next 30 miles, then starting a long climb. Over the next 15 minutes, I managed to gasp out 5 or 6 sentences to the effect of "let's wait for others." I eventually convinced Norm to ease up a bit and soon after, about 7 others joined up with us.

We rocked a textbook pace line for the next hour. Two dudes fell off the back, both while looking down at their drivetrain while their bikes were emitting heinous metal on metal grinding sounds. Every time Norm was up front, I crawled into the pain cave to stay on the wheel in front of me, and became more comfortable with the idea of second place. We were all trying to do a minimal amount of work, pulls were usually less than a minute each. The pace dropped significantly every time the kid in the kit got up front. Either he was the weakest, winning the "do the least amount of work" contest.

What went wrong.

I like to think I'm pretty anonymous in the Cat5 field. I don't check Cat5 road results, and I'm pretty sure no Cat5 roadies check Pro mountain bike results. I can usually line up and not draw any attention to myself, and not get marked as the man to watch. Well, when you're lined up in the front row, right next to the official who is giving his pre-race briefing, and the scorer walks over with a giant sandbag and asks if you want to ride with it; your cover is pretty much blown.

So now we're at base of the final climb. We've all got a pretty good idea of who is capable of what. I was at the back coasting, possibly even braking because was up front. I was antsy, and a little annoyed that he was winning the "go easy" contest. As soon as he pulled off, I attacked, hoping the group would drop him. I was hoping at least Norm would come with me, leaving the paceline without an engine. I looked back, and had about a 50 yard gap, and no one came with me. Shit.

Did I mention that is was like 90 degrees, and we were well past the two hour mark at this point? yeah. that. I settled into what would have to be about a 20 minute threshold effort when I started feeling very specific muscles in my legs starting to tighten up. Yup, I was dancing right on the line between hammer home to victory, and curl up cramping in the ditch. I pedaled as hard as I could without going over the line, keeping a constant eye over my shoulder. The gap held. I was passing handfuls of Masters and Cat4s. Towards the top, I checked over the shoulder again, Norm was bridging. Shit. Cue the Jaws theme.

At the top of the hill, right at the 1K to go sign, I checked over my shoulder again to see Norm sitting on my wheel, smiling. All I could muster was "Uh oh". He came around, I held his wheel. He moved over, I stood up in an attempt to drop him and as soon as I pushed on the pedal, my groin and calve muscles seized. After dancing on the line for the last 20 minutes, I finally went too far. I yelled in pain and told him I was done and wouldn't be sprinting. He took off and I stayed seated and spun. He stood up and hammered to the line, I sat and spun. He wasn't pulling away very fast, and I started to get ideas. I closed the gap, and tried to make the pass at the line. It was close, but it was also wet so I couldn't see the line on the road. I threw my bike and hoped for the best.

yes, he was significantly larger than i was.

What did I learn?

Lets talk about that picture. I felt a little douchey coming from behind to try and steal the win after I told him I wasn't going to sprint. What I was really doing was just trying to make the photo finish a little more action packed. yeah. that. Now he can show that photo to his friends and it looks like he actually had to fight for first place. Disregard his casual demeanor.

Aside from that, I learned not to sprint seated, in the little ring, and on the hoods, if there is a camera around. I also "learned" that I don't know how to sprint. I put that in quotes because I didn't actually learn it, I've known it for quite some time.


Second place. I'm cool with that.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Pinnacle race report

i have no idea what is going on here. this photo proves i have no idea
how to ride a wheel with a tube in it. (photo: Randall Tate)

What went right.

I was feeling good. I got up early and nailed my morning routine. The fuel tanks were topped off. Right before I left home, I came to my senses and aborted my front-tire experiment, and threw on one of my trusty never-fail, but heavy-as-butter tires that I used at the Glocester Grind. Huge field. Perfect temperatures. Got to the venue with plenty of time to spare. Things were looking good.

At the start, I put myself right in the mix and kept it steady. Burned a match or two, but made them count by passing large groups at once. Fell in behind squeaky bike parsons for the single track part of the climb. I wanted to go around, it might have been because my legs were feeling great, it might have been because the sounds coming from his bike were of the type that drive men insane.

I sat in and waited. I may have heckled him a bit. May have. The single tracked dumped out onto a fire road and I punched it. I Made a few passes, and kept the pedal to the metal up over the top. Right before the downhill I glanced over my shoulder and saw no one. These are all things that went right.

What went wrong.

The downhill was so much fun. I quickly caught up to Alec Petro and John Bernhard. I followed Alec, waiting for a place to pass. Right around the time the descent started getting all switchbacky, my rear end started to feel like it was taking wider lines than my front end. I hopped off and gave the back tire a pinch, sure enough she was softer than a Cat5 field. I yelled a certain expletive very loudly. I did that. Loudly.

I did the usual "add air, ride a few minutes, add more air, ride, give up throw in a tube" routine. Made it to the end of the first lap, about 2 minutes into the second lap, my tube was flat and my race was over. I need to learn how to ride tubes, or how to mount tubeless tires (correctly).

What did I learn.

1) Riding next to a squeaky bike is almost as annoying as riding on a squeaky bike.
2) The Pinnacle is a very fun course.
3) If you're really worried about one of your tires failing, and concern yourself with only that tire; the other tire will fail. (see also: Coyote Hill)


DNF. What the fuck are you looking at? This race report is over. GET OUT OF HERE!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coyote Hill race report

Jeff Lukach took this photo as I rolled over his midsection.

What went right.

New kit. I was lookin' good. Ever notice that this section is really short?

What went wrong.

Rear tire wouldn't hold air. Kenda sidewalls are notoriously porous, and take more than the 24 hours I gave them to set up correctly tubeless. I pumped that bastard up 75 times, all day long on Saturday. Sunday morning I was still pumping it up. We stopped for food on the way to the race, and I had to add air again. 20 minutes later we got to the venue and it was flat. At that point I submitted to my stupidity and threw a tube in.

Cut to about 2/3rds the way through the first lap. I'm headed down a short, steep slope into a smooth and sharp left hander (you know the one). Next thing I know I'm sliding on my back and using my legs to try and keep my bike off my face. I get back up and start running. Something wasn't right, I immediately check that bastard of a rear tire. Seems fine. Front end seems firm. Wait. The front end feels firm because the rim is sitting on the ground. Shit. CO2 number one couldn't get it to seal since the bead of the rim was packed with dirt. CO2 number two was used after I got a tube stuffed in there. Back in business.

After playing catch-up for two laps, I'm booking down a nondescript straight-away when I notice the front tire is getting all wishy-washy. I get off, give it a pinch, find it soft, and empty the rest of CO2 number two into there. For some reason I hopped back on and started to race, even though I knew that adding air to a slowly softening tube was only prolonging the inevitable. A few minutes later I was walking. (autopsy later revealed a tiny thorn sticking out of my tire.)

taken during the brief period between flats.

What did I learn.

1) The Bontrager ACX blows ass. Well, that's not fair. The Bontrager ACX blows ass at staying on your rim during high speed turns. As a racer who puts out puny watts, high speed turns are where I earn my paychecks. Two of the three races I have done with this tire have had me on the side of the trail trying to get it back onto the rim. Technically, it's not a "tubeless" tire, but none of the tires I run tubeless are. Technically, I was running 32 psi and the sidewall says the minimum recommended pressure is 40 psi. Technically, some ebay user is about to pick up a whole pile of Bontrager tires for really cheap.

2) I used to say that the only thing lightweight tubes were good for was carrying around in your jersey pocket. Then I realized that at some point that lightweight tube is going to have to be stuffed into one of your tires. It's at that point that you realize lightweight tubes should only used in the tires of very expensive race bikes, while they are still on the showroom floor. They are like a novelty item, there should be a warning on the box "do not actually use".


DNF. ytrf (that was my forehead violently striking the keyboard.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Massasoit Lung Opener race report

(edit: I wrote this a while ago, and it sat waiting for an image of my ride home for about a month. downloaded about two months worth of crap off the garmin last night, so this post finally gets published. pretend it's April 21st...)

What went right.

I got a good start. At the last two races, I had too much left in the tank at the finish, and felt great during the last lap. I figured the best way to maximize last-lap-pain was to start super fast. So I did, I was 5th or 6th wheel going into the woods. A few miles later I was still going strong, following Timmy D and Foley, playing the part of caboose of the 29er Crew train.

My man Rob f'n Stine decided not to race since he was doing Singlespeed-A-Palooza the next day. He offered to hand me bottles. Since the feed zone was flat and paved, high speed hand ups gave me a definite advantage. Rob Stine is the man.

What went wrong.

I need a new bike. While I was playing the part of the caboose early on in the race, at one point I dropped my chain on an uphill. I came to a swearing stop, managed to get the chain back on, then managed to remount, and get pedaling again. I tried to put the hammer down and catch back on, but was suffering from the lack of coordination that comes with panicked, anaerobic efforts. 10 seconds later I was taking a trip over the bars. A few minutes later, with the train way up the trail, I settled into a more reasonable pace. I went to take a drink and found I had no bottle. 9 mile lap, temps in the 80s, I hadn't taken a drink yet, and I'm at least 5 miles from the feed zone. Danger.

The next 1.5b laps were spent trying to get Ezra Mullen off my wheel. On the second lap I managed to find, and finish, the bottle I lost on the first lap. With my hydration strategy back on track, and a pro feeder handing me bottles, I was able to attack through the feedzone going into the last lap. I got a little gap on Ezra, and kept my foot on the gas to cross the finish line 1:55 ahead of him.

What was learned.

I'm really fast at the end of races, I should try harder in the first 66%.

...and my drivetrain is defunct.


7 of 14. Best result of the year, second best ever. I'm not getting too worked up though, Singlespeed-A-Palooza was the next day, take the top 4 from there, put them in front of me where they have been all year, and I'm back to my usual 10-14 range. (faster than last year).


At Hopbrook, I put 1:56 on Chris Hamlin in the last 25% of the race.
At Winding Trails I put 1:57 on Matt Green in the last 40% of the race.
At Massasoit I put 1:55 on Ezra Mullen in the last 33% of the race.

I've been finishing too strong. Leaving too much in the tank. How much? Well, as a little test, I decided to bike home from Massasoit as a way of running the tank dry, just to see how much I had left in it.

Not sure if it was the increased traffic, stop signs, and red lights that began around Braintree, or if it was an impending bonk; but I seemed to have about an hour and a half of hard riding left in the tank.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Weeping Willow race report

Neutral gang colors. Yes, my jersey matches my wheels, thanks for noticing. (photo: Uri)

What went right.

ummm. The weather? Beautiful day.

What went wrong.

My course recon. I was under the impression that Willowdale was flat and this was going to be a high speed big ring race. I came to win. I had my fastest tires on (xr1/rear, knobless wonder/front) (no link for the knobless wonder, apparently it is no longer in production) and some stiff suspension settings. I mentioned before the race that my setup was the shit, and only had one weakness: pine needles. Any sort of loose ground would render my bike completely useless.

There was this one mile section of fast doubletrack that I CRUSHED. The other 95% of the race was tight corners on loose ground, and I flopped around like a, a, (Thom, quick! i need a metaphor!). I was constantly over-cooking corners and dabbing on flat ground because my bike only went in straight lines. I had to shave speed for even the gentle corners, and when I tried to punch it on the way out, the back tire would spin out.

While there were no long climbs, the course certainly wasn't flat. There was a lot of "rolling" terrain, and tons of punchy little uphills. This race had more turns per lap than any other race in the history of the world. It was not a high speed big ring race.

What did I learn.

1) Lapped traffic is much easier to deal with when you are racing to minimize losses, as opposed to actually racing.

2) Traction makes biking easy and fun!


8 of 26. All things considered; a decent result in a huge field. I can't wait to race this again next year. It would have been serious fun if I had even a little bit of traction.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Glocester Grind race report

Click on it. Inspect it. Contact me. (photo: Craig Mello)

What went right.

The only thing I knew about this course was that everyone said it was incredibly technical and that it would destroy you. Drama queens. It really isn't that bad. There are a few tough rock gardens, but you can keep the speed up, and the flow steady for most of the race. Regardless, I showed up with my bike in full-on rock crawler mode. I dug out my only pair of actual UST tubeless tires, at about 750 grams each, they are about as burly as a xc tire gets. Aired down the fork, opened up the shock, and was running super low tire pressure. This set up was slow and heavy, but it was perfect for the course, and made the race super fun.

What went wrong.

1) Online registration said three laps for the elite race. Dude yelling at the start line said four laps. Trying to split three bottles into four with only a tire lever, CO2, tube, and about 90 seconds is... um..... difficult.

2) I was lost the entire time. There were two grassy switch-backy parts, two long un-rideable rock gardens, and you went through the start/finish area twice. After I grabbed my last bottle with two laps to go, I had a hard time figuring out where in the lap I was, what lap I was on, which rock garden I was rolling up to, and how much longer I had to go. Everything looked the same.

3) I couldn't shake Thom. Fucker just sat behind me and talked shit for the longest time. It's hard to race when you're laughing. His pedal eventually exploded, and I got away. Two minutes later...

4) I couldn't shake Colin. Fucker just sat behind me closing every 10 second gap I opened. Most of those gaps were opened while off the bike, sprinting around stalled out lapped riders. I could write an entire post about how insane lapped traffic was making me. After about a solid hour of running into the rear tires, brushing elbows, and creating my own cheater lines, I broke. Completely out of the race mentally. Right about that time Colin closes another micro-gap and I think I muttered something about punching lapped riders in the face. Sensing my fragile psyche, Colin opens up a gap of his own. I thought nothing of it, he just closed about 30 of my 10 second gaps, I'll just ride this out then pass him. A few minutes, I heard finish line cheering off in the distance (see: item 2, above). That crafty bastard.

5) I really can't overstate how much of an effect lapped traffic had on this race. It's like if you released 500 sheep onto a nascar track. At that point you're trying not to kill others more than anything else. I can't race cautiously.

What did I learn.

1) Colin has internal GPS.

2) Heavy bikes are hard to run through rock gardens with.

3) EFTA needs a common sense consultant.


9 of 17. Solid, considering this course did not exactly play to my strengths. Video is here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Winding Trails race report

The entire course was bone-dry, except for the 50 foot section with the photographer. seriously.

What went right.

I was finally ready to go at the previously agreed upon time. Too bad my driver (can you do that? is it against blog etiquette to link to a twitter feed?) was a half hour late.

What went wrong.

Third lap. One of the sections where the course doubles back on itself. I check to see who is how far behind me and catch a glimpse of an IBC Elite team member up out of the saddle laying down some power. What? Cary? Seriously? It's his first Pro/Open race, and I've got maybe 10 seconds on him. Who does he think he is? You can't beat big brother. Ever. It's against the rules.

Well. I gotta go. The pace was lifted, caution was out flapping in the breeze. Cary was working with Matt Green. They had me in their sights, but I was successfully holding them off. Until I over-cooked the wrong line around a rooty corner and blew my front tire off the rim. Expletive.

I picked myself up (you can't blow your tire off the rim in a high speed corner and expect not to crash) pulled my bike off the trail and grabbed my inflator. The I struck the most casual pose I could. As Matt and Cary flew past I casually commented in my coolest voice, as I slowly screwed my inflator onto a fresh CO2 canister, "Don't think I'm not going to catch you two". Then they disappeared. Quickly. And I went back to panicking.

I eventually caught 'em. But there were more than a few moments when second guessed my taunting, since the gap wasn't getting any smaller. I was still yelling smack from behind the whole time "KEEP MY SPOT WARM FOR ME CARY!" I was feeling kinda' randy. I passed 'em both through the mud pit, then slayed the climb. Never saw them again. Cary dropped out and I put 1:57 into Matt on the last two laps.

What was learned.

I'm really fast at the end of races, I should try harder in the first 60%.


14 of 25. Faster than last year. I love Winding Trails. Just putting that out there.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hopbrook race report

As I said before, races will be acknowledged with quick and dry (well, as dry as a smart-ass can get) race reports. I'm working on a template to make procrastination a touch more difficult. Let's give it a test drive...

What went right.

I had no idea where my fitness was, but I knew I had no top end. The plan for the day was to push along steady and aerobically, without red-lining for the first three laps, then open it up for the forth. Well, that a little too well. I pretty much rode the first three laps with Chris Hamlin of UVM, coming through the start/finish seconds ahead of him to start the forth lap. I finished 1:56 ahead of him. If I took two minutes off my first three laps, I would have been on the podium. The math works out perfectly, please send me my prize money.

What went wrong.

1) I was in the area of a half hour late to my gracious driver's house. But that wasn't technically part of the race itself, so it doesn't count. Still fine tuning the race-day-morning routine. At least I wasn't awoke by the door bell this time.

2) Last lap, I've got the hammer down, opening up a sizable gap on my pursuers. I get to a little uphill technical section that I've got wired. I know the exact line I want. Hammer, turn a little to the right, punch it, head back across to the left. That was my plan. It worked perfectly the first three times. Number four, here we go. I hammer, turn a little to the right, and when I go to punch it, my foot kicks right out of the pedal and into my slightly turned wheel. The wheel's still spinning, my foot gets wedged in there, and I take an awkward trip over the bars. I scramble to my feet, paranoid that I'm giving up too much ground to my pursuers. I try execute a cyclocross mount, but forget I've got "last lap legs". Jumped up fully stretched out, superman style. I came down straight down on the seat, fully stretched out, superman style. Felt like I got punched in the kidney.

3) I was too ugly to get photographed. These are the most beautiful race photos I have ever seen. I don't blame the photographer for not wanting me in the shot. (more here)

...and what was learned.

My fitness ain't bad, I should try harder in the first 75% of the race.


12 of 20. Nothing wrong with that. I'm faster than I was a year ago, that's all that matters.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Question and Answer.

I was asked a few questions when my Pro upgrade was approved. I figured I should bite my tongue and not answer them immediately. I had nothing nice to say, and still don't; but I was appreciative of finally getting the upgrade. However, now that I actually have the physical license in my wallet, go grab your gas, let's burn these bridges.

Most of my opinions have already been voiced in the comments (here, and here) sections of other posts. This is bad because I like to think all my thoughts are original. This is good because it shows that just about everyone that pays attention to USAC's policies, rules, and regulations recognizes that they seem to have been assembled without much thought. I rewrote that last sentence twice to tone it down. Let's get to it.

Q) If you want to go pro...

A) It's not that I really want to go Pro, it's that I feel I've earned it. If I am only racing in the Pro race, and I am competitive against other Pros, then why shouldn't I have a Pro license? It's more of a matter of wanting to move past Cat1.

Q) ...why wouldn't you want to race in the big races like the Mt. Snow National and Windham last year????

A) Let's break it down:

1. Ski areas suck. Like everyone else in New England, I am sick of racing at ski areas. The fact that every national level race in New England is at a ski area, and I always suck at ski area races, only adds to my hatred of ski area races.

2. It's at 8 o-f'n-clock in the morning. I think Lewis Black said it best when he said (paraphrasing) "8AM IN THE MORNING!?! ARE YOU TRYING TO KEEP THIS SHIT A SECRET!?!"

3. Price. These so called "big races" cost twice as much as any other race on the calendar. That only makes sense if you're paying for the amount of suck.

4. If anything else is going on that weekend, it's guaranteed to be better. Last year the 24 Hours of Great Glen was the second most fun I had on a bike, right behind the first three laps of the Darkhorse 40. (that last lap hurt so much). Windham was the same weekend as the 40, Mt. Snow was the same weekend as Great Glen. Ski area races don't stand a chance against any other event, even if the upgrade requirements force people to go to them. USAC can't even give a single reason why someone would want to race one of their own events (3:50 of this video). "The promoters want them [amateurs] there" is another way of saying "we need your money". I could bitch about that video for 3 or 4 more days.

USAC needs to avoid ski areas, and give the keys to the National Calendar events to the Darkhorse Cycles guys; attendance will triple.

Q) Especially since those are the pro QUALIFICATION races???

A) That's not a question, it's a sentence fragment. Regardless, haven't we already gone over this? You have to be faster than 75% of the Pros to earn the smallest fraction of the upgrade requirement and the only ones earning that small fraction are the sandbaggers that have already earned their upgrade, but have no interest in racing against people as fast as them. That's a game I don't want to play.

In summary:

USA Cycling's qualification races suck (in New England at least), and USA Cycling upgrade requirements suck. The only thing USAC has done right is ignore their own process and upgrade individuals that deserve the upgrade, but have not meet the ridiculous requirements. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to the bank to put my new license in a safe deposit box. I have a feeling it's not safe anymore.

Burn bridge, burn.

Friday, April 30, 2010

USA Cycling Support Ticket #215305 Closed: License Category Change Request

Dear Kevin Sweeney,

The following request to change your INTL/NORBA category has been approved and processed by USA Cycling:
huge_pop - 2010-03-11 9:37
Member: Kevin Sweeney
License: INTL XC
Request to change category from Cat 1 to Pro

Member Explanation/Resume:

Mark, Sorry to keep bothering you, but below are the results you requested when you rejected my last upgrade request:

I raced Cat1 at the Darkhorse40 and Finished 3rd out of 64 total cat1s. Pro and Cat1 distance was the same and my time would have put me in 3rd place in the pro race. Results are here:

I raced Cat1 at The Horror at Harding Hill. I finished 2nd out of 43 cat1s. Pro and Cat1 distances were not the same. Results are here:

My best race of the year was 6th place in the Pro race at State Championships, Pro and Cat1 distances were the same and my time would have put me in 2nd place out of 48 Cat1s. Results are here:

Request was approved on 2010-03-11 14:45 by Marc Gullickson

USA Cycling Response from Marc Gullickson:

I'll upgrade you but really your results are not in the right events for consideration. If you want to go pro why wouldn't you want to race in the big races like the Mt. Snow National and Windham last year???? Especially since those are the pro QUALIFICATION races???

Thursday, April 29, 2010


There is basic algebra scribbled all over my walls. There has to be a solution to this problem. 24 seems like such a large number. An hour is such a long time. How come I can't get anything done? Everything I do is planned days or weeks ahead of time. Relaxation comes in 5 minutes spurts, constantly being interrupted by the guilt of not being productive.


Last year I worked a job I hated. I made it bearable by "working" from home Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I swindled/scammed myself into about a 14 hour work week, which finally paid off when I got laid off, on June 1st. Perfect. I had all the time in the world, the whole summer to myself.

This year I have a job I really enjoy, but a 9 hour day is the best case scenario. Weekends are no longer a given. I rush to start rushed workouts. I am late to everything. All the gaps in my calendar are filled.


I'm a new home owner. The ownership is new, not the house. The house is over 100 years old. Everything breaks always. I have a lawn, it does not have a pause button. My maid/chef/secretary quit right as the days started getting shorter and work hours started getting longer. I am building a death star in my basement. My MTB components are going on their 4th year and now require an hour of maintenance for every hour of use. Dogs can be trained to do just about anything, a dog's "evacuation system" cannot be trained to "fire" any less than three times a day. Trust me on that one.


Haven't figured it out yet. But I'm close. I've started trimming. A corrupt commissioner allowed me to give up my fantasy basketball obsession, which I'm proud to say was good for about an hour a day. I've made tons of cuts to my google reader roster. Blogs with too much content, too many updates, and no direct tie to my daily life are gone. Bikesnob, Dicky, Stevil, BKW, I love you, but I ain't got the time. I cut out every email newsletter and mailing list, now work time is spent working, which only gets me out earlier.

I have time to do almost everything that needs to be done. Since I haven't started training yet, my neglect of the squirt gun show is the most troubling aspect of my crowded schedule. Trying to maintain chronology is one of my biggest problems/excuses. If I race, I can't write about anything until I write up the race report. Which brings us to our next subject...

The race reports are the real problem.

Problem is I don't like to write boring shit. Let's face it, when you race 30 or 40 times a year, it gets hard to come up with a new "angle" for your race reports. I can't stand the same old boring race reports. "i had a bad start, i passed so and so, i crashed, i finished 11th" don't care.

However, as Router points out, race reports are one of the few things that really matter for a bike blog. It's like the ante; like it or not, you need to do it or you're not in the game. Writing a witty report, with a fresh angle, that is bigger than the race it describes isn't possible when you race damn near every week. The amount of mental effort required clear a bar that high is enough prevent updates all together.... and THAT seems to be the issue here.

Lowering the bar.

Yeah. That's what going to happen. Deal with it. Races will be acknowledged. The ante will be paid, and I will remain in the game, but they're going to be quick and dirty. I'm thinking of going with a form-letter approach. That should free me up to write about topics other than races (aka topics that actually require thought and creativity.) If you want lap by lap reports, there is no shortage of them, and they aren't hard to find.

I got a counter.

I know which posts you're looking at, I know how long you're reading them for, and I know how often you read them. Google searches that lead to my many USAC rants are still my largest traffic generator. My most popular entries? anything that starts with "Dear Cat x Men..." Race reports? Not so popular. To be honest, the number of hits is directly proportional to the enjoyment I got out of writing the entries. (Fun fact, 2nd most popular search term? "brian wilichoski" no joke.)


I've got so much I want to write about. Let's get too it. Right after I fix that part of the kitchen floor that keeps putting holes in my socks, mount a new rear tire on the mtb, replace the dysfunctional front door knob, hang the new curtain rods in the dining room, replace the crawlspace door, do laundry, unclog the front gutters, and wake up at 6:05am so I can not train before going to work.

(2:39 to write this. no coincidence that it is 40 degrees and raining right now.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ketchup 2010 - King of Burlingame race report.

Race report? Weird.

What the hell is a time trial?

Roadies will tell you that mountain bike races are like 2 hour time trials.

Mountain bikers will tell you that road races are retarded and mountain bike races are actually races. Therefore a time trial is a race, don't listen to roadies.

Just a race?

Well, no. It's a race against yourself. Or at least it starts out that way. I thought I was going to be the last one out in the Expert 20-40 race since starting position was determined by registration order, and I was #148 of 150. But as I was waiting to start I thought, why is Josh Wilcox still here? Shit. He's fast, and he's starting right behind me.

it was really cold. and wet. and early. (photos: dl)

Kind of racing.

So off I went. I was moving down the trail at what I would call race-pace. Two hour race-pace, not half hour race-pace. My weakness was apparent immediately. I've mountain biked outside on trails once per month in 2010. Let's just say that my technical handling skills were pretty horrible. At one point I was on the saddle, both feet unclipped, legs out in the air, rolling backwards. At another point I was bouncing through a rock garden at high speed, both feet unclipped, sitting on my top tube. Sure enough, after 5 or 10 minutes of folly, I hear someone behind me. Josh Wilcox.

Actually racing.

Well, now it's not a time trial anymore. There is a guy right next to me, and I have to ride faster than him. That's straight up racing. The kind of racing roadies don't understand. Hammers were spread out on the trail behind me, the pain cave was located, and entered. Vision was blurred, and snot was distributed.

the high-res version of this face is the ugliest thing you have ever seen.

...and the ending.

All I knew about the course was that when I got to the second road, I had to hammer to the finish. Colin told me this, I initially mocked him for telling me so little, but in actuality, it was the perfect amount of information. I got to the second stretch of pavement and opened 'er up. I put a 15 second gap on Josh in that last stretch. After seeing the results, I realized if I had ridden half as fast as Josh in the first 10 minutes, I would have won. MATH!

almost forgot.

By far the best part of the day was ripping through Acadia that afternoon with my man Rob Stine as a guide. Unfortunately there were no trail side photographers there, and I know you, internet, you need pictures or you're just going to skim and move on.

(somewhere out there, there is a photo of me with roadie leg fully extended around a sharp, downhill, sandy corner. everyday when i check my mail, i expect to find that photo with a ransom note)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ketchup 2010 - New Bike

Word? This is a bike blog, so I feel I need to mention when I get a new bike.

i am a horrible photographer.
The more astute squirt gun show reader would note that this is the third BMC I have had in less than a year. What can I say, and BMC has a great warranty program. These little sissy roadie bikes with their tiny tires and rigid everything just can't take the beating I dole out. Well, that or the roads in New England are really shitty and I ride like a gorilla.

goal for 2010: lapping the cat5 (womens) field.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ketchup 2010 - Rosey's Rhonde

The 2010 race is just about upon us. I gotta bang out a bunch of posts so I have a clean slate when the season starts for real this coming weekend. First up: The best of the best, Rosey's Rhonde.

Sevens stacked on Sevens. (photo: chip/hup)

Why it ruined my 2010 season. You see that scene above? Well, I don't want to go on any rides that aren't a competition against other teams, I don't want to go to any races that don't start and end at the bar, and I don't want to go to any bars that don't have countless high end cross bikes spread out around the front door.

What it was: 65 mile on-road/off-road hammer fest. Course consisted of a single sheet of directions, which were lost almost immediately. Teams headed out one at a time, slowest first, as a way of handicapping the field. First one back to the bar wins.

that's us in the yellow, yes, we took a wrong turn at every possible opportunity.

Why it was awesome: The motivation of a race, the camaraderie of teammates, beautiful weather, and the relaxed vibe of an early spring training ride with your homies. Oh, and Dave's moustache was there. I also set a personal record for shammy time, 12.5 hours.

Who won? Every one sitting still at the bar at 8pm, with dead legs, and a belly full of cupcakes and free beer ...and Bikes Not Bombs.

In summary: It was around 8:30pm. After a delicious veggie burger, 65 miles, a pile of fries, 5 cupcakes, and about a dozen beers, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. We decided to call it a day. We all shuffled outside, found our respective rides and said our goodbyes. I gave Rosey one last hand shake and thanked him for one of the best day's I've spent on a bike. I threw my leg over my custom Ridley, and watched as Rosey threw his leg over his ride, then headed off into the clouds.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rejection Reaction.

Disclaimer: My rants may seem like they are directed at the author of the rejection emails I have received. They are not, they are directed at USA Cycling as a whole. I do not know who is responsible for their individual policies, but for now I am directing my anger at the entire organization, not any one single employee.

This is the explanation that was passed along with my rejected upgrade request:

I look at Cat.1 results for ALL categories and with that I am looking for top 5 results. For the Pro Open races I do not see the results nessesary to go pro as it's tough to tell which riders are pro and which are cat.1. Please resubmint for a pro upgrade when you have some top 5 results out of all cat.1 times or top 5 results in the Pro Open category.

Few thoughts:

1) To earn an upgrade I have to place in the top 5 against all pros, or in the top 5 against all the cat1s. This equates the pro field with the cat1 field. This is stupid.

2) "it's tough to tell which riders are pro and which are cat.1" Yes, I agree. There is a very fuzzy line between cat1 and pro riders. Your own upgrade policy equates the two. (see: item 1, above) This is the problem, not an excuse to not solve the problem. Road and cross have a very defined system of promotion points which is used to determine who gets an upgrade. The solution is easy, you have a system that works (road/cross), just replace the system that doesn't work (mountain) with the one that does.

3) As Greg pointed out, comparing the times of racers who are not racing directly against each other is stupid. If I'm off the front of the 30-39 field, and I soft pedal across the line and win my race by 5 minutes, I could potentially not earn any upgrade credits because a couple 40-49 cat1 dudes who started 2 minutes behind me, finish 1:50 behind me. At least give me a chance to lose the sprint to the line.

4) Taking the top X number of racers is stupid. It needs to be a percentage of the overall field size. I can't remember the last time I saw more than 5 cat1 women in a single race, does that mean that they should just get upgraded based on (essentially) attendance alone? What if your race happens to be in the middle of a hurricane and no one shows up? What if your race sucks and no one shows up? (yes, I wrote that last sentence just to give me some text to use as a link.) Are you still taking the top 5?

5) Last year the upgrade requirements only counted if they were earned at National Calendar events. It seems like this year, there is a more sensible policy of counting non-National Calendar events. As much as I appreciate the lowering of the bar to a more reasonable level, there is something to be said for consistency. This is (at least) the third year in a row that the upgrade requirements have changed. Hitting the pro upgrade was tough enough in the first place, it doesn't need to be a moving target.

6) "Please resubmint for a pro upgrade when you have some top 5 results out of all cat.1 times" Wait a second, I've got those...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

USA Cycling Support Ticket #212862 Closed: License Category Change Request

Dear Kevin Sweeney,

The following request to change your INTL/NORBA category has been denied by USA Cycling:
huge_pop - 2010-03-04 11:34
Member: Kevin Sweeney
License: INTL XC
Request to change category from Cat 1 to Pro

Member Explanation/Resume:
At the beginning of the 2009 season, I started out racing Cat1 and in my first 5 races, I never finished worse than 4th, with 3 podiums, and one win. After that I started racing in the Open/Pro category, and usually finished around mid-pack. Highlight of my season was finishing in 6th place (out of 20) at the Massachusetts State Championships Open/Pro race. Also impressive was my 13th place (out of 28) in the Mt. Snow Open/Pro race.

I feel my results from 2009 (below) prove that I can compete in the Pro class, and would like to compete in this class exclusively in 2010.

Thank you for your time,


04/11/2009 Root 66 #1 Hop Brook Dam Cat1 3 of 21
04/26/2009 Root 66 #2 Fat Tire Classic Cat1 4 of 25
05/09/2009 UMASS Orchard Assault Cat1 4 of 19
05/17/2009 Root 66 #3 Winsted Woods Cat1 1 of 11 (flat)
05/24/2009 Root 66 #4 Coyote Hill Classic Cat1 2 of 14
05/31/2009 EFTA NECS #2 Bear Brook Blast Off Cat1 DNF
06/28/2009 Root 66 #5 Putney/West Hill Open/Pro 23 of 35
07/12/2009 Root 66 #7 PATS PEAK Open/Pro 18 of 23
07/19/2009 EFTA NECS #4 Harding Hill Cat1 1 of 8
07/26/2009 Root 66 #8 Mount Snow Open/Pro 13 of 28
08/02/2009 Root 66 #9 Hodges Dam Open/Pro 6 of 20
08/09/2009 24 Hours of Great Glen Expert 4man team 1 of 8
08/12/2009 Darkhorse 40 Cat1 2 of 27
08/29/2009 Root 66 #11 Norcross Scurry Open/Pro 9 of 9
09/13/2009 Root 66 #12 Landmine Classic Cat1 8 of 19

Request was denied on 2010-03-10 15:14 by Marc Gullickson

USA Cycling Response from Marc Gullickson:

I look at Cat.1 results for ALL categories and with that I am looking for top 5 results. For the Pro Open races I do not see the results nessesary to go pro as it's tough to tell which riders are pro and which are cat.1. Please resubmint for a pro upgrade when you have some top 5 results out of all cat.1 times or top 5 results in the Pro Open category.