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.