Thursday, October 30, 2014

Doubling Up

Being on the road for the majority of the last month has taken its toll on my training plan.  I have become quite familiar with how to alter a spin class to fit my workout needs and how to find motivation by staring into at a wall of mirrors at 5 am while pedaling a "bike" in a pool of sweat that goes nowhere.  That brings me to the overload that was last week and the two races that capped it all off.
Cyclo X - Interlocken - Men's Open
The second of my Open races this season and I was hopeful to redeem myself, a top 20 was the goal.  I arrived with plenty of time for two different sets of a 2 lap recon, the first set was done on the race set up to dial in tire pressure.  Plenty of tight slow corners, off camber at different angles all over the course, and nearly all of it on grass.  I settled with 22 psi up front and 20 psi in the rear, still rolling on the ever trusty Clement MXPs with plenty of Stan's sealant for momentum, and goat heads.  The second set of laps was on the newly built B-Bike, just in case I wanted to ride the mud.  Yeah, never did that, kept it clean as I did plenty of asking and watching during other races.  The line choice was obvious - only commitment and speed was necessary.  My typical trainer warm up under the Foxtrot tent followed and the legs were feeling better than  indicated they should - but I could still feel the week's efforts and travel lingering.
TSB 10_25
Another 2nd row call up, which is something I'm not quite comfortable with yet in this group of racers.  Lining up behind 2 men that get paid to do this is a bit unnerving and humbling, as you will see.  I looked down with a minute to go and noticed my heart rate was back where it should be - in the mid 120's and pounding with excitement.  I held back at the start knowing how fast it was about to get with Allen Krughoff and Danny Summerhill lined up, on top of my lack of a top end at the current point in the season.
Most of the race for me was an exercise in maintaining as much momentum in the all the turns as possible, I didn't slip out once, and getting on the gas and back up to speed as quickly out of the corners as my legs and brain could manage.  I was successful in these endeavors for the most part - aside from the ten or so times I wanted to quit.  What kept me going through that was Kirk's constant encouragement and presence in the pit each time I rode by, and probably even more so his two kids heckling me at different spots in the course.  In that part of the pain cave I concentrate on only the lap I'm on, try to pass someone in front of me, and just remember the goal for January.
The only consistently memorable section of the race was the mud pit since it seemed like a different animal each of the eight times I encountered it.  It wasn't so much of a pit as a drainage ditch off to the east of the property, up against Highway 36.  The night before it was barely a half dozen tire tracks through cat tails that hadn't dried out since, well probably ever judging by the smell.  By the time we first rolled through it just before 4:30 in the afternoon it looked like a 33 millimeter wide trench with horse hoof indents surrounding it.  As I said I hadn't ridden it and I quickly was thwarted on my first attempt at riding it by at least one other rider.
10514260_331705933676013_2735090623095150617_oThe second time I powered out too hard and had to tripod out of the other end, still didn't go down.  The third, and each subsequent, time I nailed it by gaining as much speed before it, coasting to the top of the other side, and then making an easy cruise around the right-hander at the top.
The last lap was the most interesting and tactical for me; something I'm also feeling a bit uneasy about.  I started the lap behind a rider and somewhere in the barrier-sand-sand-barrier confusion I ended up in front (something I did on nearly every lap).  I paced myself just in front of him without expending too much energy knowing I needed something for Sunday.  After the tricky leaf riddled off camber I saw the leader coming up on us - this is where the uneasy comes in - and wanted to position myself to beat the rider but also get lapped by the leader.  I had to feather the brakes at the finish chute so I wouldn't have to go around for another.  Was extremely relieved at the time but wondered if I cheated myself.
I ended up 21st, just off the mark of what I wanted but content with knowing I did what I could with what I brought.
Blue Sky Cup - Xilinx - SingleSpeed
Generally the woes of setting up bikes for a course involve taking a little air out, then adding a little, whoops too much; you've decided on the correct PSI and then halfway through the race you are wishing for more in the front and a little less in the back.  The benefits of riding a long on relaxed steel single speed is you have one thing to worry about: gear selection - well that and if you have the legs to push it for 45 minutes.  I made a recon lap and decided on a 39 x 17 combination which would prove itself just right for the whole course.
The legs for the course: they were there, for the most part.  If have ever watched the start of a single speed race it is somewhat comical as everyone sprints for the front and promptly runs out of gear and you now see about 100 legs spinning madly trying to gain every spot before the bottle neck.  I ended up somewhere around 11th as we hopped the first curb and went down the hill towards the south end of the course.
This is actually my preferred course as Xilinx as the entire sandy south field and adds in some interesting turns and the soul crushing ascent on the west side of the complex.  I also happy to be able to hope the 3 railroad steps by the ever present hecklers near the wooded section.  Only had to run them once as there was a bit of traffic as the group caught up to the 45+ men.
My goal was to finish respectably - not sure what that meant for a race I had never participated in - and work on spinning out of every corner.  I quickly found I was under-geared for the flat stuff but perfectly geared for quick accelerations and the 2 soul crushing climbs.  I also don't especially like using the Surly during races as the saddle is just high enough from the higher bottom bracket to make me question fast remounts.  Though I did find that pedaling through all the corners was very valuable with that higher bottom bracket - trade-offs.
The most memorable thing from this race?  Two spots on the course: The first being the pavement left-handed 180 to right-handed 180 where I could hear the sound of rubber making perfect contact with pavement.  The sound and feel when you know your tires are gripping more than they should, being able to lean over way too much, at the same time knowing that same sound means your tires are on the verge of losing all grip sending you sliding into the tape.  The second was not too long after this set of corners: The grassy slalom corners that required a little body-English to stay fast and upright at the same time.  I could feel and hear the grass ripping out from under my tires.
I was passed on the last lap on the way up that soul sucking west side climb and nearly gave in to take my spot and be satisfied where I was.  After the set of 180's I decided that wasn't and option and did all I could over the next 3 minutes to close the gap, the hoping of the steps being what finally allowed me to get close enough for a little energy boost.  I spun out my legs coming up the finishing hill and finished in front of 15th place by a little more than a bike length.  Legs were completely gassed and I felt satisfied with a long week and double header to cap it off.
What did I learn from it all? Dig deep, leave it all on the course, and set realistic expectations of your race.
TrainingPeaks data from Interlocken
TrainingPeaks data from Blue Sky Cup

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Product Review: WTB Cross Boss tubeless CX tire

By:  Kirk Groves (@LSVLKirk)

Brad and I each bought a set of the WTB Cross Boss.

They're labeled 35mm but they measuring a phat 37.5mm installed on my Stan's Iron Cross wheels. I'm not aware of another tire out right now that meets my three criteria:  wide, aggressive tread and here's the key -- has a tubeless bead. Speaking of the bead, it's insanely tight, so tight I broke two plastic tire levers. I ran them at incredibly low pressures (~20 psi) just to see how low I could go -- I couldn't get it to burp. The sweet spot for me with these tires is with pressures in the high 20s.

Of course the tire is half the tubeless equation -- I can't vouch for how it'd do on other rims, especially one that's not tubeless ready. The tread hooks up well and is surprisingly quiet and smooth on paved surfaces.

The sidewall is soft for a tubeless tire but you won't confuse it for a tubular. I'll continue to race on tubulars but I'm running these for training and on the pit bike.

If you're looking for a tubeless CX tire give serious consideration to the Cross Boss. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014 Cyclo X - Valmont Race Report

By Kirk Groves (@LSVLKirk)

After tires issues in two races (Boulder Cup & Cross of the North Day 3) and another race where I was caught behind someone else's wreck during the first lap (Xilinx), I'm tired of pondering 'what-if.' I was eager to put together a solid race beginning to end and see what I was capable of sans misfortune.

With a good week of training under my belt, I raced Cyclo-X Valmont this past Sunday. I arrived at 8 to cheer on Adam on in his very first cross race. Adam, you looked highly competent and capable... Good work!  I also had an ulterior motive for showing up at 8 when I wasn't racing until 1:45. Besides wanting to get in an early recon lap, I needed some assistance repairing my bike. Saturday I bent a derailleur hanger, tweaked a chain and exploded the cage of a Di2 rear derailleur - OUCH! I had the parts (hanger, chain and a derailleur borrowed from my girlfriend's bike), but I don't have have a derailleur hanger alignment tool. The dropout in my frame is rather poorly aligned -- just bolting on a new hanger simply wasn't a workable option. Upon installation of a hanger it's way off -- it requires finesse to align it when measuring vertically (12 o'clock vs. 6 with the tool) and even more so horizontally (9 o'clock versus 3). With the shop closed on Sunday, my fallback plan was to ask Shimano neutral support to align the hanger and I'd do the rest. Not only did the Shimano mechanic align the hanger for me, he finished the job and gave me a completely dialed bike. I offered him a tip but he said he couldn't accept it. My profuse thanks felt wholly inadequate. 

Relaxed and at ease with my bike running well again, I returned home to eat my pre-race meal and pack up for the race. I was back at Valmont around 11:30 and setup the Foxtrot team tent in the grass by the podium. Without Limits setup a fast course that I thought would suit me well.  It included both Belgian and 5280' Stairs, both sand/gravels pits, some bumpy corners in the glades section and a big power stretch -- from the glades, around the pond, by the pit, by the house, by the dirt jump, a 180 into the start/finishing straight, up Jailbreak Hill and across the mesa. I wasn't the least bit sad the course excluded the steep climbs up the front of the Mesa we've seen at Nats and the Boulder Cup. 

Also racing on Sunday were Dave and Greg. Jon, Jeremy and Adam were there to provide moral support. After getting in a warm-up, upon arrival at staging I was initially a bit taken back by the size of the group -- 68 in the 35/3s, easily the largest 35/3 field of the season so far. I received a 5th row call-up and was in the center. I knew I needed a good start but I reassured myself there was plenty of time to move up, especially on Jailbreak and on top of the mesa.  I set my highest 60 second average power of the year, and hooked on the back of the lead group by the first chokepoint -- the sandpit on the top of the mesa immediately followed by a 180 and down Espresso. 

It seemed like I was in a group of 5-8 guys the entire race. I was racing my race - making opportune passes and focusing on clean and fast lines. Other than a slight lull in lap 3 after the bottom sandpit through the glades, the pace was steady.

A couple highlights:
* Shaking my head at just how loud Jeremy was cheering
* Making a move up Jailbreak the 5th time (of 6) and passing four guys
* Gaining a position on the 5280 Stairs twice
* A nifty high-speed, off-camber pass down Espresso
* Single finger braking and knowing I had an advantage coming into high-speed corners

On the final lap I was 2nd in a group of 5 guys spread across roughly 5 seconds. I was confident I could hold off the guys behind me and I was trying to gain one more final spot. It was obvious the guy in front of me was strong. I thought I might have a chance to get around him in a technical section. I almost got him in the glades, he gapped me on the power stretch but I'd closed the gap down as crossed the bridge and made a turn. I tried to get around him by taking a line I had scouted out before pre-race by the dirt jumps, he held me off again. I was right on his wheel around the final corner. He opened up his sprint and quickly gapped me. No way I was getting around him, I made him earn it. I gave it one last push to secure my spot and keep the chasers at bay. I ended up in 10th. The winner was just 59 seconds ahead of me which gives me confidence that my form is coming around.

We did six laps and my lap times were consistent and reflect the 3rd lap lull I felt:  7:417:367:477:39 and 7:38; 46:04.39. I'm pleased with my performance and I enjoy not asking, 'what if?'

I'm not going to bore you with the details but this results had lowered my USAC Cycling ranking by 10 points (lower is better). Call-ups are based on rankings, so it's actually quite important.

2014 Cyclo X - Valmont Race Report

By Adam Gordon (@icfantv)

I officially lost my CX virginity today.

I got to the race quite early.  I would have said too early, but I never caught myself saying "man, what am I going to do with all this time?" so it probably wasn't.  I got to registration, got pinned, and proceeded to zip tie the timing chip around my ankle because that's what we triathletes are used to - well, save for the whole zip tie thing.  One of the volunteers kindly pointed out that I could put it on my front fork of my bike so I cut it off and was putting it on the front fork of my bike, down by the axle, when another volunteer told me to put it above my brake caliper stud so it wouldn't move around.  Virgin indeed.

Back to the car to drop off everything I wouldn't need and headed out for some course recon.  It was pretty cold so I opted for knee warmers and left my thermal pullover on as well.  There was a layer of frost over all the grass making it just wet enough to be slick, but it dried out by race time.  I should have practiced my mounts during warmup but didn't.  In all I was able to get 3.5 laps in with some pickups during the 3rd lap to get the legs firing.

I dumped my pullover to the side exposing our design-by-committee kit (where everyone got what they wanted, but no one is quote various team members)

Callups are a bit of a cluster - if you know you're going to be up front, it would behoove you to be close to the front because the guy calls out the names so fast and if you're in the back, you have to weave your way through everyone to get to your spot.  This was just an observation on my part, as I didn't get a call up.  But somehow ended up in the 4th row on the inside.

The start was fine as was the initial ascent up Jailbreak hill.  On the way up the hill, I remember thinking "What the hell did I get myself into?"  This lasted for about three minutes.  There was a  massive clusterf**k at the small sandpit up top with like 20+ guys all bunched up.  It wasn't quite so bad at the larger, lower sandpit but I lost time in both cases due to not being able to ride through.  (Things were spread out enough on the 2nd and 3rd laps where this wasn't an issue.)

The first thing I noticed was that I had power on the flats and when everyone else looked to either be coasting or recovering, I blasted by.  Based on all the people I passed, I must have been DFL through the first half of the first lap.  The rest of the race was uneventful.  I rode hard and didn't smile for Kirk (much to his dismay - but he showed up when he didn't have to and that was appreciated).  No crashes or mechanicals.  I had enough of a gap on the guys behind me so I didn't have to sprint.  Which is good, because I was on my hardtail (no front shock) MTB with 1.9s and doubt I could have out accelerated anyone.

I'd originally finished 38th out of around 50, but the updated results bumped me down to 39th.  I basically negative split my laps, which is good, because I totally forgot that I was supposed to be doing this.


51:  Number of finishers in my category
23.5:  Weight, in pounds, of my mountain bike (!)
2:  Total number of people riding mountain bikes in my category - the other was a full squishy Santa Cruz.  I think he beat me.  Not sure.

I need to work on doing mounts when on tilt.  Mine were non-existent.  I think I will sell my race wheels and hopefully have enough money to buy a CX bike off of eBay with enough time to both practice and race on it for BOD.

Thanks again to Kirk coming out and yelling at me to smile.  I had a lot of fun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Race Report: Cross of the North Day 3

By:  Jon Maule (@jonmaule)

For a bunch of reasons, I really dig the idea of having multiple races at ONE location.  Having said that, I don't think either Saturday or Sunday rank amongst the most interesting courses I've ever done.  They're probably somewhere in the middle of the road though.  Much better than Jeffco Fairgrounds, probably Boulder Res among others but not quite as creative or ruthless as Flatirons or the recent ass-kicking version of Valmont.  Despite my nitpicking, those guys and girls up North really put some effort into this past weekend and it shows.  I'll go back next season if for no other reason than they're really trying to make for a great experience.

Saturday didn't quite go to plan (broken chain and lots of running) but I ended up satisfied with my effort (19th of ~40 and roughly 10sec back of 15th).

For Sunday, I made it up there ~2hrs before my 11am start.  Got in two easy-ish laps to make sure I understood the relatively minor course changes and then tried to keep warm.  Despite my car thermometer reading mid-50's, the 10+ (?) mph wind added a considerable amount of chill.  Glad I decided to wear what Brad calls the "Mariachi" skinsuit. probably not the best pic but...

back to the course, you can see what was left of the muddy section here.  Aside from being able to ride the mud, they changed one of the descents on the west course into about 10 yards of  very off-camber hillside that didn't really transition into the sharp lefthand turn needed to continue.  It was pretty easily the biggest potential bottleneck on the course.  My initial thought was to swap bikes each lap so that I could ride around the mud and with Andy having decided to drive up and it was nice to have that as a possibility.

Thankfully I got a second row callup, 

did my best not to blow up at the whistle and settled in around 5th.  Made it through to the run up without incident, drew even and then passed one guy on the run up (Alison has encouraged me to really attack on the running sections) and another guy on a single speed who just couldn't accelerate fast enough before the off camber part.  I felt like I rode that reasonably well albeit slightly out of control by the bottom.  anyhow, I never had an incident there although the surface was grippy enough that the momentum coupled with the immediate right hand turn caused some separation between my base tape and tire.

Back to the race, I was now in 3rd.  WTF.  Dude in 1st was gone but at that point, 2nd was in sight.  Right about when Kirk drove up I eased back knowing I generally don't have much left at the end as it is.  4th to start the second of 5 laps, 5th, after the run-up eventually settling in at what what would be 9th.  Right behind two BCS dorks (actually really good guys but I still have to make fun of them).  I'd hoped to be able to pin it (as much as possible) on the 2nd to last lap after the pit but I kept having trouble in two spots.  

One was that slalom like descent to second pit entrance where I just couldn't seem to get the right line or didn't really trust my front tire at that speed with my "mass" behind it.  Probably a little of both.  The second place was two sharp right hand turns in that blue fencing.  I had my front fold twice on separate occasions both of which caused me to go down momentarily - one dropped chain from being in the small ring that was easily remedied.

Back to the chase, I'd close in on BCS dork#1 on the running sections but he was able to gap me slightly on the climbing sections.  I never was able to make that gap up coming in 9th on the day (out of ~30 people) about 20 sec behind both BCS dorks and ~two and a half minutes off the leader who was much faster than anyone else all weekend.

Misc Data:

Front tire - FMB Grippo @ 26#  probably could have used another pound or two
Rear tire - PDX @ 28#  Right now I don't have any other faster rear tire.  Probably could have gotten away with the Fango but I'm really digging the velcro of the pdx

The good
  • Callups - sure as hell makes it easier to get in a good spot to start the race
  • Tires - both of these are awesome.  I'll be getting another grippo for next year as I'm losing some of the knobs but that rubber is SUPER grippy (my understanding is it's basically a racing ralph tread but with softer rubber).  Anyhow, i like.
  • Teamies - Freaking awesome having people scream at you and be able to help should you need it (Kirk and Andy) or leaving me hanging for a mid-race high five (Andy).  I'm not so focused (for better or worse) that I don't hear you and I really appreciate it.
The Bad
  • Tires - I have a roughly 6 inch section on my FMB where the base tape separated from the casing.  It's full of dirt so I'm not sure I could glue it together enough to trust it.  I'm pretty sure this is the section I felt multiple times throughout the day.
  • Running - I need to ride more barriers.  My right achilles is separating from my heel again - I can't remember what she called it but basically that means I'm done for the year.  Half a season over 3yrs isn't too bad :(
  • Rushing off without really needing to - We were supposed to have a late-lunch with another couple on Sunday but  on my way home, they cancelled.  Would have been neat to stick around for Kirk and Brad.  maybe I could have helped keep the tent from blowing away.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Race Report: Cross of the North

By Kirk Groves (@LSVLKirk)

The guys that put on the Cross of the North do it right. As I was setting up the Foxtrot tent they came over to thank us for coming. At least 2 other times they came by just to check in and make sure a good time was being had by all. Seriously, these guys put a lot of effort into their races and it's awesome.

Compared to States a couple years back, they've really dialed their course in Loveland. The major change was to incorporate a large drainage area on the east of the property. Imagine the Bowl of Death (Louisville Rec Center) but about half as deep and with more gradually sloping sides. This weekend there was a big nasty mud bog down by the bike pit courtesy of the Thursday rain. The soil is greasy/slick when wet and super sticky -- it cakes on your frame. Other course features include railroad ties - singles, doubles and a triple. I didn't see anyone ride the triples, the spacing was too close. I considered yelling "JPow would ride it!" to the open men, but didn't. I got over the doubles during warm-up but weighing risk/reward it was an easy decision for me to run them. I imagined cartwheeling over them at race speed in an oxygen deprived state. I rode the singles no problem. There was also plenty of off-camber, a steep descent and some bumps/ramps you'd expect to find on a pump track. They rented Bobcats to smooth out bumpy sections - sweet.

I raced both Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. Speaking of Friday evening, my favorite aspect of the weekend was racing under the lights. My group went off at 6:30, just about sunset. As the race progressed the lighting changed from dusk to dark. They lit the course with 8-10 large industrial light towers like these...

It was well-lit and safe but as the race progressed you couldn't make out near as much detail on the course - remembering where the line I wanted was located was key.

Both my kids came to the Friday evening race. I threw a jacket I'd worn during warm-up over to them after I'd been called up. The temperature was in the high-50's at race start and I raced in shorts and a short-sleeve jersey, perfect for me, although plenty of people were wearing arm and leg warmers. A group of 19 Senior 3s started approximately a minute before my group, 26 racers in the 35/3s. I was last to slot into the second row - nice. After the whistle I easily moved into 4th before the first bottleneck - great start! I was in 5th after two laps. I was a hurting unit but I couldn't help but laugh every time I rode by my kids. Their favorite heckle is, "Come on Dad, Grandma is faster than you!" but they have plenty of others. The course on Friday had us going through the mud bog at speed -- good stuff! The bog got progressively worse as the race went on. There was also a second mud section with a 90 degree corner, also near the pit, that was gnarly. I was able to consistently make it through the mud except when someone in front of me would bobble, which happened once in each section. I'd borrowed JD's brand new Raleigh cross bike to have in the pit - jealous! While my bike was heavy and caked with mud, it continued to brake and shift well all race, so I didn't make a bike change. Look for a equipment review soon of Shimano Di2 shifters & hydraulic disc brakes. Here's the short version - amazeballs! If I had someone in the pit to hand me a bike I probably would switched bikes. Besides getting a clean bike without 5 lbs of mud, I would have avoided the worst of the bog once, making the bike change time neutral. As it was, I would have had to find and get JD's B bike from the rack. I decided it wasn't worth it.

I lost a position here and there but I was okay with it - I knew I was going as hard as I possibly could and I had absolutely nothing more to give. I tried to hold the wheels of the guys passing me for as long as possible. As I saw two-to-go I was in the middle of a group of maybe 5 guys all within 10 seconds of each other, still some places up for grabs. I knew it was going to be a strong result for me, it was time to find out how good. I gained a place and lost a place and was fighting to hold off some guys late in the lap. Two turns from the finishing straight I was passed by the leader of the SM 3s. Dude was FLYING -- he passed me like I was standing still, seriously he was a blur. He's an insanely fast junior who has raced Open in previous years but decided to race 3s this weekend to kick off his 2014 season. He won the 3s race all three days. A cynic would say he's a sandbagger and should go back to racing open and pick on people his own speed. Since I'd been lapped, even though it wasn't by someone in my 35/3 group, my race was over as I crossed the line. I ended up 9th or 10th, my best result in the 35/3s (preliminary results had me at 10th, I got an email saying 9th but online it's showing 10th again). I know it cost Cross of the North a ton to rent the lights (I heard $2500) but it was very cool!

The downside of racing in the mud is cleaning up afterwards - I spent 2+ hours Saturday cleaning bike, shoes, etc. Here's a shot of the bikes, mine in front - JD's in back is much cleaner as I'd only ridden it in warm-ups and to/from the pit:

I'd worn my backup shoes to warm-up and switched to clean shoes right before the start. These are the shoes I raced in - you can see a hint of the cleats if you squint:

Sunday, I headed back up to Loveland with my daughter Ellie. I arrived in time to catch all but Jon's first lap... Fear the beard!

I setup the Foxtrot tent right along the course, next to Rapid Racing. If you don't know Carl and Kristal Boni, introduce yourself -- they're great people. Rapid Racing is also affiliated with Foxtrot Wheels and have the logo on their shoulder of their kit, so they're obviously awesome. I think it'd be great to merge Foxtrot Racing with Rapid Racing to gain some numbers. It was very windy on Sunday and we had to take the tent down after a while to keep it from blowing down, but we were able to fly the Foxtrot emblem for a couple hours.

Despite not racing this weekend, Andy arrived in time to work the pit for Jon. He was then a huge help to me as I was getting ready. Andy graciously helped me dial tire pressure, test mount my backup wheels (new calipers), clean my bike after warm-up, etc. All small but important tasks. With Andy pitching in, I was able to focus on my warm-up -- muchas gracias Andy!

Brad (a.k.a. Ox) was racing as well and he brought along his better half, Claire. Brad rebuilt his bike with gears instead of trying to race a singlespeed in the 3s -- watch out! The fields on Sunday were about the same size as Friday evening, 19 SM 3s and 28 MM35/3s, both smaller than usual fields -- too bad, it was worth the drive up from Denver/Boulder to Loveland IMHO. I dropped a jacket and leg warmers once I was in the starting grid and raced in the new skinsuit - perfect for 50ish and windy.

A harbinger of things to come, I had my worst start since, well, ever... and it was from the third row so I had no margin for error. I must have missed clicking into my pedal at least four times, maybe 5. Once clicked in, it was time to put the awful start behind me mentally and move up to where I wanted to be. During an early lap I saw JD and his son Bauer on the course and tried to say hi, but I'm sure what came out was closer to an unintelligible grunt. By Andy's count, I'd made it up to 11th as I rode by the the pit the second time on the 2nd lap. I'd dug deep to make my way up after the poor start but I was back within striking distance of my goal for the day, another top-10.

Approaching the run-up the third time the guy immediately in front of me was fading fast and a gap was growing in front of him. I needed to get ahead of him before the technical section after the run-up. I made a pass attempt in a tight 180 degree corner, he took a whacky line and I had to dab a foot and check my speed. No biggie, I'd still get him on the run-up. I started back up again to learn I'd rolled my front tubular - NOOOOO!!!!! It wasn't completely off the rim like at the Boulder Cup, just a 10" section. Rider after rider passed me - losing hard fought spots has to be one of the worst feelings in a cross race. I fought off the strong urge to call it a day, step outside the tape and walk back to the car with my head hung low. I got the tire back on the rim and rode to the pit. The most technically challenging sections of the course were between me and the pit (steep descent, fast corners, off-camber sections) and I didn't take any chances with a loose tire. I hollered to Andy as I was approaching the pit and he quickly changed the wheel for me. If wasn't in DFL after stopping to get the tire back on the rim, I definitely was now. At this point I was in No Man's Land. Going into the race I'd wanted to draft in the most exposed sections to conserve energy. I was solo, so needless to say there wasn't any drafting. More importantly, there weren't racers behind to push me or in front of me to act as a carrot. A dirt TT isn't near as much fun as 'racing' cross. To stay motivated and focused I went into positive "self-talk" mode. I kept repeating my favorite phrases over and over in my head, "ride hard now so you'll be faster next race", "ride smooth, ride fast", "chase one guy, pass him and do it again", "good lines, clean corners", etc.

Just as I was about to get on the back of a group of 3 racers I dropped my chain. I didn't set my bike down softly at the top of the run-up and it bounced off. A self-inflicted wound, the worst kind, dang it. The chain was jammed between the crank and the chain stay. I got it cleared and was back in chase mode in about 10-15 seconds, time to regroup again.

As I passed the pit the final time Andy made a comment about leaving it all out on the course. While obvious, it resonated with me. It was just what I needed to hear and I found it incredibly motivating. I caught and passed two guys before the finishing straight and I'd moved on to the wheel of a 3rd guy. I beat the 3rd guy in a sprint for the line. Even after my furious finish I ended up 19th - ugh, not what I'd planned for the day. Ellie and I stuck around and watched the women's race. It was won by Georgia Gould (5 time National Champ and Bronze medal winner in the Olympics - all on the MTB) but she was challenged the entire race by a junior from Utah (racing age 13), Katie Clouse, seriously impressive!!! We watched the first couple laps of the men's open race and then hit the road. My Sunday result wasn't what I'd hoped for but it was still a heck of a lot of fun. Next up for me, Valmont on Sunday!

Thanks for reading, Kirk

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Race Report: Cross of the North Day 2

By:  Jon Maule (@jonmaule)

Running late like usual lately.  Got in 1 slow lap and a decent spin on the trainer.  Pretty spongy soil on most of the course and pretty slow rolling but tacky until you push it too far.  Dropped pressure to 26 up front and 28 out back for both bikes.

Got a 3rd row callup - yay! sort of - sat in around 10-15 and wanted to let the other people dictate the pace.  Lots of running here so I had no idea how much I'd have.  I actually made quite a few passes on the first lap running the mud (maybe 200 yards?) without feeling too crazy.  got back on and passed a few more then popped my chain accelerating out of a corner.  F-ing awesome!  run a little more and more.  Some guy was trying to help me but I couldn't speak.  "where's your bike dude?" I said something like "amasdlfasfuusfdatftf".  He graciously took my bike, laughed and said he'd put it where I took my pit bike.  Lost god knows how many spots.

Get back on calm down and start picking people off.  Probably worked my way back up to around 20-25 by last lap but man I didn't have much left.  Still passing people on the runs and stairs - seriously?  Last 1/2 lap there are 4 people I've been slowly gaining on but unfortunately couldn't close the deal.

Dana just fixed my ridley so I'm gonna get that, clean up and get ready for tomorrow :)