Friday, September 18, 2015

Bad Product Reviews - Shimano XTR 9000 drivetrain

Where do I start....  

when I mean "Bad Product Review" what I really mean is that my review of the product is bad.  How's that.

So, this past January, I was trying to help Andy get ready for Nat's out at the BOD.  I was riding the mtb and after who knows how many miles, the chain finally had enough and a link gave.  I slowly removed the bad link and resumed moving.  It's worth noting here that I (like many) run my chain tight but also allow for cross-chaining.  I know it's bad practice but sometimes say late in a race it might happen and I don't want to drag my derailleur into my wheel.  Well that's precisely what happened after removing a link that not really cold January day.

So I started looking around for replacements and noticed that the xtr 9000 (11speed) derailleurs were only a bit more than the 10sp versions.  The shifters were pretty cheap too (relatively speaking).  Where the pain point was is the cassette but in a second or two, you'll see why.

A bit more searching and I found a relatively local guy who'd removed his brand spanking new XTR 9000 drivetrain in favor of one from SRAM.  So I pounced on that and ended up with a nearly new Rear Derailleur, rear shifter, chain and a cassette.

Now this is where it gets neat, I gain an additional cog (a big cog @40T) and it weighs less than the 10speed...???

10 Speed xtr 980 cassette 11-36
11 Speed xtr 9000 cassette 11-40
why yes that's true.  I borrowed the pictures below but you can see that the spiders are made of the coveted carbonium (or something similar) 

I wanted to have these line up side by side but you probably get the idea.  Neat stuff.  Also note that there are four clusters of two cogs and the last three only are separate.  Check out all the scarring after a season of racing (note that this is an aluminium freehup from a DT 350).  How freaking awesome is that!

Note the distinct lack of cuts/indentations
save for the end near the lockring
where the cogs are NOT paired

Now you'll likely note that most "race" items don't wear well and that is true.  I changed out my "race" hub around 700miles.  It was still usable but the bigger cogs are aluminum and tend to wear pretty fast.  It's now a "spare".  In it's place I procured something else that should wear a lot longer...
the XT 8000 cassettes only recently became available but since the cogs are all steel, they should be good for most of next season's training.  As you can see, there is a small weight penalty (~80g) but at roughly 40% the cost of an xtr cassette...  yeah.  this is the way to go.  The downside is that there are only one or two paired cogs so there will be more scarring on the hub.

For reference,
an 11speed xt 8000 cassette, 11-40

So how did it work?  

well, it worked just fine.  These fit on a standard shimano freewheel and while they lack the "range" of the SRAM product, I didn't really like the big jumps between the cogs or the cost/hassle of buying xd drivers for my mtb wheels ( I have 3 sets I can use but really only use 2).  The shifters have a noticably lighter action than the XT 780.  Early on I wished they had a firmer feel but quickly moved past that.  

I did find that the rear derailleur was occasionally reluctant to upshift out of the big cog when conditions were dirty.  not 100% sure if that was because of the large amount of chain (I'd usually run 112 (or is it 114?) links with 39/26 chainrings) - OR - does the derailleur need a more resilient return spring?

By and large this drivetrain was flawless throughout the season.  When I'd have trouble shifting, I'd usually just tap the front derailleur to get some additional chain tension and things would go back to normal.  Because the XTR cassettes use of aluminum cogs, it is imperative to keep this drivetrain clean else you'll quickly be blowing through ~$250 pretty quickly.  I'm sure you can purchase individual spiders but haven't really looked into it.

Due to the cost, it's not for everyone but if you're looking for a sweet shifting and wide range without klugeing together expensive bits from different manufacturers give this (or the XT 8000) a good look.

that's all I have, let me know if you have any questions.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Breck One Hunnerd

I got ripped out of some vert here! (looking at the file)  Wheeler pass is like 12.5 and Boreas Pass is like 11.5 but when I apply elevation correction it gives like 21k climbing for the day...

anyhow, decent day.  I was more in survival mode than "Race" mode knowing it was a long day. 

Plan was

  • ·         ~3:5-4hrs for Lap 1
  • ·         4-4.5hrs lap 2
  • ·         4.5-5hrs lap 3

So all told, that would have put me anywhere from 12 -13.5 hrs.  Honestly, I did much better than my targets – strava has 11:50 moving time and I wasn’t really “racing” until the last stretch up Boreas Pass where I probably passed ~30 ppl all told (seriously – was awesome).
Woke at 4:30 for a 6am start.  Had a smoothie (~4-500cal), forgot my beet juice which I’m sure was a difference maker ;)  Running late, scramble and forgot to pack my probiotics (!), throw stuff in the car and set up my pit area in a good spot.
Made the decision to wear some mid-weight wool socks and a fall weight base layer as it was in the low 40’s at the start and we’d climb through runoff and snow as we traversed up and over Wheeler Pass at  ~12.5k.  Followed by a 1/2hr-ish downhill on the West side and a fast bike path ride in the shade. 

Lap 1

I lined up at the back of the pack and just tried to keep the effort in z2 – low z3.  Did a pretty good job of that, reeled in quite a few people and found a few going at a sane pace. 

One thing I did have trouble with and wasn’t expecting was traversing the hillside as we cut across to Wheeler pass.  I’d put the pitch of the hill at ~30 degrees and the trail width probably around 8-10 inches.  I could not keep my wheel on the path.  I think the combination of the ground seeming rather close to your left hand made me want to be on the far right part of the trail – where the right hand side fell away.  Odd sensation and I was frequently using my left leg to keep things in perspective.   I saw quite  a few others with similar issues and both sides of the pass were similar in this aspect, just reversed (duh).

The descent off wheeler pass was loose, rutted and seriously not a lot of fun.  I think my rotors/pads were wet as it was tough keeping speeds in check.  My lack of climbing prowess had me behind a few less capable descenders but 20 some minutes of riding the brakes, roots, rocks and waterbars had my forearms pumped and my hands sore.

I forgot to shove something in my mouth atop Wheeler and that limited how much I could get down in the 20 min ride to Frisco.  The Peaks Trail is fun but you can tell it gets a lot of traffic, pretty uneventful here except that the first mile or two required more effort than I’d anticipated but after that, it’s a nice rolling trail back to Breck.

On the way back to the pit, I saw my wife  walking towards the park.  Pretty neat.  At this point I was slightly ahead of schedule so I caught her by surprise.
Looking at Strava segments, I guestimated 3:50 for this lap and was pretty close to plan all the way around

In the pits I changed socks, baselayer and rid myself of anything extra as there are two pain in the ass climbs and temps were going to be in the 70’s.  Plan was to go with water/nuun and solid food

Lap 2

This lap is neat but at the same time it kinda sucks.  Lots of climbing, lots of exposure but one kick ass downhill that takes you straight to some soul sucking fireroad climbing.  It was the ascent of Little French where I started running into the slow end of the b32 field.  Selfishly it sucks getting stuck behind them on the descent but all you can do is give them encouragement as there is no place to pass.

It’s right about here that my nutrition fell apart.  I didn’t feel like eating but if there’s any positive it’s that I kept drinking and was on target for a bottle per hour.

Pulling into the pits I see my wife.  Here I was hoping she’d tell me it was alright if I didn’t go out for the last lap.  Skies were turning dark grey towards the south and it wasn’t so much a question of when it would rain, but how long.  I spent 14 minutes psyching myself into finishing.  Thankfully Laina had some Tums so I stole a few to help with my queasy stomach.

Lap 3

The plan here was to use Carbo Rocket for the initial climb up Boreas Pass and solids afterwards but maybe with some foresight, I filled a second bottle and that came in damn handy.

Maybe 20 minutes out of the pit area, the rain started.  Thankfully Boreas Pass is an old railroad route so for better or worse, most of the approaches and parallel routes share a similar relaxed grade.  Armed with a “water resistant” jacket which didn’t put up much of a fight, I was seriously cold as I approached the aid station atop the pass.  I swear there were intermittent snowflakes as temps were suddently back in the 40’s for the long (loose) descent on Gold Dust.  I’ve ridden this trail before and thought it was awesome but this year (perhaps due to the rains?) the upper part was a loose mess.  Add in the rain and suddenly it became pretty slippery.  Surprisingly I only went down once when I couldn’t ollie over a section of roots.  What seemed like an eternity was really like 8 minutes and just like that the rain had stopped and the sun was out.  There’s a section in the middle that follows what was probably a flume for probably a mile or so and that was an amazing bobsled like trail.  Probably my favorite section of the riding on this day.

From Como it’s roughly 11 miles back to Boreas Pass .  Thankfully they had Coke and after chugging three cups I was off.  Not long after I’d get my second wind and then decide to do my best “racing” impression.  I put the hammer down.  Now at this stage in the game the hammer was something around 160-170w but I’d wager that I passed in excess of 30 people in that hour.  The hammer ran out of juice about 2 miles from the aid station where I chugged some more coke and used my “mass” to pass even more people as we descended towards Baker’s Tank.

I was pretty worked by this point and more or less simply hanging on for dear life.  The last bit of fun is a trail called Aspen Alley.  I’d LOVE to go back and do this with a fresh state of mind and body.  Check this out.

Anyhow, that’s about the end of the line.

Thankfully I “ate” a bit better on this lap and was able to make up a fair amount of time on the climb back.


·         TP
·         STRAVA!!!


  • Drivetrain
    • Chainrings 39/26
    • Cassette 11-40
  • Front: Ardent Race 2.2 24#
  • Rear: Geax AKA  25.5#
  • Fuck Yeah socks

What did I do well

  • Pacing – I never went “hard” until the last hour or so and had I eaten better…???
  • Positive thoughts – Everytime “dark thoughts” entered my head I quickly dismissed them.  The only time I had trouble with this was when I thought I was going to die from hypothermia descending Boreas Pass.
  • Thanking volunteers – made it a point to thank each volunteer, medic and mechanic at the aid stations
  • Encourage other riders – you can tell when people are suffering and sometimes it’s fun to make others suffer when you’re racing but at these kind of events we’re all just looking to survive.  I know I helped at least one guy early on

What would I do differently?

  • Clothing In hindsight I didn’t need to dress for cold weather, I knew I’d heat up on the climb but I expected the weather to be considerably colder atop Wheeler.  I probably wasted 5 minutes changing clothes.  Could have used my armwarmers on lap 3 as well.
  • Change Chainrings to something easier - I’d thought about this but never made it happen.  36/22 would have been great w/ all the climbing
  • Eat better on lap 2 – easier said than done
  • Make sure to pack my probiotics – these things are GREAT at chilling out an upset tummy
  • Better footbeds (?) – not sure if this would have made any difference really.  12hrs is a long time to be on a bike
  • Full-squish – Slap me if I decide to do this race again on a hardtail.  At about 10.5hrs in, my core had had enough.  This course is chunky enough that I could have used another inch of travel upfront,  a bigger rotor and more importanly a coulple of inches of rear travel to help out my legs and back.

All said…

I’m honestly not sure I’d do the 100 mile option again.  Wheeler pass was a shit show of a descent.  Maybe if I could climb faster it would be different (?).  Perhaps we can get a relay team together?  I’ll do lap 3

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wednesday Double Header

I didn't bother tapering coming into Wednesday but Tuesdays workout did allow me to open up the legs.  Only issue is I woke up feeling every bit of effort and my TSB reflected it.  The alarm went off, the dog was let out, coffee was made, chamois cream applied - I was smart and packed all my stuff the night before, ambling to the truck in the pre dawn hours, still whipping the sleep from my eyes.

I was yet again the first one on scene at the Bowl and I swigged the last of my coffee while clicking the shoes on and ensuring my helmet was on the correct way.  Went around in a slowish circle and by start time there were 7 of us - I vaguely know the names and Jon took one look at me and asked if I was even awake yet.

We all stood around looking at each other, someone says go and we reluctantly agree.  Around some greasy chicanes and up THE hill, ouch.  I was somewhere in the pack, not last and not first and we start the first equalizer.  I get dizzy and eventually get out and back up the hill is goes.  After the marbly off camber horridness Jon is off the front and then off the bike taking some of his human growth hormones.

The next 2 laps continue and I am out front, on the back, always changing it up when the equalizers present themselves.  I don't take glory but I do get first loser and enough stinky Louis-tucky BoD mud on myself and bike to necessitate all the windows to get rolled down on the way to work.

Fast forward 9 hours and 17 minutes.......

Short track time, yeah I don't get there as early as hoped but who the heck cares, it is Wednesday night after all.  I have one gear this time and it isn't quite stout enough to measure up to the dudes that got 1st and 2nd last week.  I take a few laps to see what the CU folk have in store for us, backwards it seems and enough flat stuff to make my legs work like a jack rabbit in heat.

The single geared folk line up just in front of the fast ladies - everyone checks that there bells work and we are off.  The under geared folk (myself included) get out from quick while the more cross geared folk wind up like the Millennium Falcon going into warp drive.  And there goes Han and Chewy, I'm left in 4th closely bookend by 3rd and 5th.  We trade leads as each of us figures who as the gear to allow best climbing but sprinting out of the glades.

I can taste the kidney beans and hot sauce from a bit earlier and my eyes feel like they are going to pop out of my head a la Roger Rabbit.  My number falls off and I think to stuff it down by jersey, great wind block for when it is cold, not so much when it is 86.  I get rad on the rollers and chase baby bunnies and then I finish.

Recovery meal and drinks provided by Jon and whatever her name was behind the bar at Lucky Pie.

You want data from this madness?  I rode a 1x9 hardtail in the morning and kept it dialed back so I could crush it at Valmont.  I rode my singlespeed at night with rpms somewhere in the 300 range at heart rate not too far behind.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Gunnison Half-Growler

Race #2 in my effort to try new things

Despite meeting my goals, this was probably one of the worst races for me in a tactical sense.  Cold, apathetic, lack of outdoor saddle time… …etc.   Most everyone else was in the same situation so it’s really an indictment of my mindset.

About The Race

The growler course alternates directions each year with the 2015 edition heading clockwise.  After pre-riding the couse this past weekend, it starts out a pretty fast ride with the last 8 miles or so having a bunch of punchy climbs, semi-technical power moves and rock features.  I figured under normal conditions that 4hrs was attainable with a stretch goal of 3:30.

Well, lately conditions here have been anything but normal.  My wife told me that this May has been the coldest on record since 1917.  The preciptation has been pretty significant as well.  I’m not going to research it but you’re pretty well aware that it’s been fairly Seattle-esque around most of the state.  So Saturday morning began with a little of both aspects.  I looked out my hotel window and saw a nice sheet of ice on my windsheild.  Local weather reported a crisp 36 degrees and a slight wind at 6am.  The forecast indicated low 40s at the start with a high in the low 50s and a significant chance of rain throughout the day.

Anticipating these conditions, I’d decided beforehand to race with my second favorite base layer (craft coolmesh sleeveless ), shortsleeve jersey, the versatile champion wind vest (rocking Echelon logos – I love this vest, dual zips, mesh back, heavy duty zipper with a long pull…) and PI Softshell arm warmers.  I decided to forego knee warmers as I despise “wet” clothing and didn’t want to rip up my softshell ones, opting instead to use some “medium” embro – if you’ve used this, it’s a warm medium imo.

I ran into local legend Dave Wiens a few times last weekend as he was refreshing some course marking and giving pointers to people like me out reconnoitering the course.  Super good guy and I was a little star-struck but he’s about as humble as they come.  This race is organized by Dave and the local advocacy group Gunnison Trails which benefits… ….Gunnison area trais (surprise) .

In pre-race emails and at the start line, Dave repeatedly voiced that the Hartman Rocks trails ride well when wet.  I guess that’s somewhat accurate but I’ll get to that in a second.   

The race 

begins in downtown Gunnison with a police leadout to Hartman Rocks around 4 miles away.   We averaged almost 24mph and I felt terrible for the SS crowd as there was no way they could keep pace.

The course would inevitably bottleneck at the first singletrack (doesn’t every race?) about 30min into the race. So I did my best to be well positioned heading into Hartman Rocks.

Kill Hill (somewhat obvious but highlighted above just in case) is at the entry to Hartman Rocks and where the shit hits the fan.  Short (roughly ½ mile) but somewhere around 20%, it’s a pain in the ass when dry but after the overnight rain….  Well it sucked.  

I probably overextened myself here (~320w avg)  navigating bad line after bad line with everyone else through the mud.  

Just after Kill Hill is another grinder around  1.5 miles on a jeep road.  Less muddy but rutted, it was amusing watching people try to avoid puddles and in doing so have their front wheel wash out.  Dumbass moves every 30 seconds all so they didn’t get wet.

In the first hour and a half, I can’t count how many times I was forced off my bike either through my own fault or more often being behind others.  Check out the number of times watts = zero on the climbs/flats.  I was pretty close to dropping out at this point as I recently procured a new drivetrain (xtr 11spd $$$) and wasn’t really excited about replacing anything this early in the season.
The point where the Blue line bottoms out would represent the Hail/Snow/Hurricane portion of the event.  Hoping some pictures exist as it was pretty crazy.  Only thing missing was lightning and I’m okay with that as we were in the midst of one of the massive Sea of Sage sections of the course and there wasn’t much cover offered.

Thankfully, the trail composition changes from clay to decomposed granite right around this point.  If you’ve spent time at Buffalo Creek, the conditions are fairly similar and THESE trails do handle moisture well.  When saturated, they’re still slow but they’re grippy

 At about 2hrs in, I stopped at the Skull Pass aid station to fill up the bottles and generously apply some chain lube.  Lots of squeakin and grindin going on around me but my rig was ninjalike despite the mud caked everywhere.

It was right about here that I stopped eating for some reason having only a gel and one bottle of ~2/3 strength skratch.  I don’t think this was a huge deal but it probably did cost me some time near the end Look at the power and RPM tail off the last 20 min or so - 194w NP @ 60rpm avg vs. 222w @ 78rpm for the entire race.  Oooops.  Maybe I shouldn’t have chased the bacon with whiskey?  Or maybe I needed a second serving.

I did really fumble around the last couple of miles on the “ridge” section of the course walking many of the moves rather than  risk it.  I just wanted to get home without any additional damage to body or bike.  Full gas on the last climb and then down likely appropriately named Collarbone Alley to the finish.

Data Things

Time - 3:58:22 -1:10:02 back
Placing  - 79th overall  11th in age group 46 minutes (exactly) back
Training Peaks  -

Some Pictures:

What did I do well…

  • ·         I rode within my limits for the most part
  • ·         ate and fueled well early
  • ·         proper choice of clothing
  • ·         Finishing the damn race in mostly sucky conditions

What could I have done better

  • ·         Ridden with some urgency/aggression
  • ·          nutrition was poor over the second half of the course

 What am I not sure about

  • ·         Did I go out too hard
  • ·         perhaps a more aggressive tread for the rear (Saguaro?) might have helped with the mud at the expense of rolling resistance
  • ·         If I care that I didn’t do well
On to the next one...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Summer Open Triathlon Race Report

For the first time I can remember, maybe ever, I was both confident and relaxed going into a race.  They say the second night before a race is the most important night and to get a full night's rest and while I might argue that it should start about a week out, more, quality, sleep is better than none.  Thursday night resulted in a quite crappy sleep with me waking up every few hours.  But Friday night, I went to bed a little early and slept soundly with none of the pre-race jitters that usually keep you awake starting at 2am.

I'd set my alarm early enough to ensure I got to the race right as transition opened, only was a tad late and as a result didn't get the money transition spot.  I did, however, still get a really decent one and set up my stuff.  We were told four-to-a-rack, but that left lots of space and I knew from experience that late arrivals would move other, non-present athlete's stuff over to make room for theirs.  Even knowing this, I took my bike out for a warmup ride since I'd never ridden the course before and couldn't drive it beforehand.  It was only a 12.5-mile loop and I had plenty of time.

We had our own lane coming out of Union Reservoir and for the next several miles marked with cones.  But when the road turned right, the cones stopped and I realized I didn't have directions or know the streets so I just winged it.  Turns out, I guessed right and did manage to ride the entire loop.  As I'd suspected earlier, coming back to my rack, someone else had racked there bike where mine would have gone.  Thankfully, he was still there and I had him move his stuff over.

I finished setting up and started putting on my wetsuit.  We still had ample time before starting, but I wanted to make sure I was acclimated to the water.  Or, at least as much as possible given the 54ยบ temperature.  The water was cold and I got in as much of a warmup as I could manage - I didn’t want to start cramping.

We line up to start and I take a left of center position up front.  The horn sounds and we’re off.  I go out hard and strong and eventually someone catches me and passes but he’s going too fast for me to be able to hang on.  I did most of the swim on my own, without drafting, which stinks, but sometimes is the nature of the beast.  About 300-400m in my chest tightened up and I forced myself to relax and backed off.  One of my points of emphasis this year is swimming less in training, and not working so hard on the swim in racing.  Was it a good strategy, I don’t know, but I was 3rd in my AG on the swim.

T1 was a smooth transition with no issues.  Due to the run over the muddy and grassy berm from the parking lot to the dirt road I chose not leave my cycling shoes clipped in to my pedals but I did when dismounting after the bike so in retrospect, I should have just left them clipped.

The bike was uneventful.  Only two riders passed me during the entire loop and neither were in my age group.  I passed a ton of riders, but I stopped looking at age groups on people’s calves and just rode my race.

T2 was even smoother leaving my shoes clipped in to my pedals, but the problem was that due to the cold water and probably the airflow on the ride, my feet were completely numb - exactly like last year.  I ran on stumps to my rack, dumped my helmet, pulled on my shoes, grabbed my race number and was off.

I tried to keep a high turn over on the run and was initially successful, but eventually slowed down.  I don’t recall when I started feeling my feet again, but it was well after mile two.  The out-and-back course was flat, having just been grated, but sported some rough spots with decently sized rocks churned up by the blade.  There was also a massive puddle that had to be navigated.  Only two guys passed me on the run, but neither were in my age group and I believe had started in a wave ahead of me so I already had at least three minutes on them.  The second guy passed right before the finish and I should have held him off, but didn’t.

All in all, it felt like a really solid race for me at the time and was confirmed when I looked at the results later and saw that I’d made the podium, getting third.

Swim:     10:59 (3rd in AG, 31st overall)
T1:        1:14
Bike:     34:29 (3rd in AG, 31st overall)
T2:        0:40
Run:      23:22 (6th in AG, 56th overall)

Total:  1:10:46 (3rd/13 in AG, 29th overall)

Thanks to my wife, my coach Billy Edwards, my shop Foxtrot Wheel & Edge, my team Foxtrot Racing, sponsors GU Energy and Rudy Project, multisport shop Colorado Multisport, for all the support.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Koppenburg “race”

I kinda figured I’d get blown up at some point but most of my problems were my own doing.  Race day was AWESOME.  Great weather (early) with slight overcast, temps in the 60’s and virtually no wind.  We had five people racing in the SM4’s with one obvious favorite (Greg) and two potential good showings (Kirk and Andy).  Adam and I would probably mostly be taking up space. 

I haven’t been training this sort of power (1-2min) so I figured I might be useful in one or two aspects.  One of which was to “help” keep someone at/near the front for a lap or two.  The other was to get the team to the first lap climb in front (a 5 minute job) and then see where the chips fell.  I sold the latter and came close but in reality didn’t do a damn thing.

I haven’t raced this in a few years but the start hasn’t been too chaotic until you near the Koppenburg hill.  We begin on pavement, take a right turn after about a couple hundred yards and then begin a sneaky little climb on dirt for about half a mile where you then head slightly downhill after a left turn.  At this point, the “infamous” Koppenburg hill where the race is basically decided lies about a mile away.

We were lined up about 4 rows back at the whistle.  Someone seemed to “take off” and naturally panic ensued.  It was kinda funny but thankfully the short dirt climb on the full width of the road allowed for relatively free movement – it was tight but doable without much fuss and about 2 min in I’m in a good spot.

Moving to the front, sadly, I couldn’t find anyone from our team.  Here’s where I made my dumbest move.  I sat up (around 4min mark you can see the power drop) hoping to find them.  In hindsight, I should have kept at the front and “waited” at the top.  I don’t know why I did what I did but it sure didn’t make things any easier.  I tried to get back on but between having trouble getting into the big ring and picking stupid lines (too far to the right) I wasn’t able to make it back to the lead group.  I question my wife’s timing but she said I went through 10-15 sec back on the first lap.  Strava(!!!) shows lap#1 at 13:33 which isn’t bad for me riding 75% solo.

After that, I saw the lead group just pull away up the dirt road and I knew it was over.  Luckily I saw Andy.  The bad thing is he was headed the wrong way.  And walking.  He’d flatted the rear wheel I’d given him, something I saw quite a bit of unfortunately.

Near the end of the second lap I saw Kirk pulled off eating donuts and smoking cigars with some dude from Rally Sport.  Kirk kinda joined me for the remaining laps but was teasing me by being about 30 sec up the road.  Pretty cool to be able to take a break, eat, smoke and still finish 30sec up on me.

Every time I look at the standings I drop back another place.   Monday morning shows me at 45th out of 63 people.  YAY!

Coming through the line though I found out that Greg survived my attempts to cut off his fingers and finished 2nd - missing 1st by four tenths of a second and had a whopping eight hundredths of a second over 3rd !!!!

Data Things

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hell of the North - Colorado Style

I had gotten in half a lap on Friday afternoon just after work.  The course seemed smoother as if it had just been graded, though there were still some nasty washboard sections.  Most of these could be skirted by hugging the outside as much as you dare, the only risk being that the road quickly went from fast hard-packed dirt to the dangerously loose and swallowing sand washed to the side by the road graders.

I got there with plenty of time for registration and a visit to the Kybos (ask Kirk what these are if you aren’t from Iowa).  It turns out pinning on your own number while waiting in line doesn’t yield the best results – thanks Kirk for the quick fix.  I got enough of a warm up to wake up my legs and mind, knowing full well that a close to 40 mile race would mean anyone that went off like a shot, a la cyclocross, would be caught by the slow ramp up of speed the group would have in the first lap.
As it turned out that about 2 miles in, that exact thing happened and off went one of the juniors on a solo flyer.  A couple of racers got excited and got to the front to try and catch him right away and by habit I found myself in the first 10 racers at this point.  Things started rotating and I got out front and stayed there for a bit, trying to calm things down to a reasonable pace with 35 miles left, and the junior was still out front by a few hundred yards trying hard to stay away.  Meanwhile friendly chatter resumed in the group and I tried to get my nose out of the wind but stay out of harm’s way near the front – I realized here what I missed about road racing.

Corners went by and we would go from dirt to road, back to dirt.  Saw Kirk and Greg a few different times, Kirk got relegated to the back for disobeying the “imaginary yellow line rule” on the dirt and Greg just looked like he was out for an afternoon ride.  I had a feeling that he was going to be just fine in this race as long as he didn’t get himself all tangled up in the riff-raff. 

Coming into the finishing stretch on this first lap I noticed my vertical water bottle had some unnecessary movement.  I took a quick swig and ditched it at the feed zone to mitigate any issues this might present.  The first set of S curves of the second lap, the right hander was pretty loose on the inside, and I notice the guy in front of me start to wash to the inside.  I had just enough time for a quick brake check before he washed completely out and the pile up ensued; some way this same guy’s leg ends up in my front triangle while I am still straddling my bike upright.  I yank my bike out of the mix and I’m off to mitigate losses knowing that this little split will whittle down the front group substantially.  I hear Kirk ask if I’m ok and I just give a thumb up as I think talking at this point would put my breakfast on my top tube.  I come back into contact and start to make my way up the right side into safer territory and look down to discover the bottom bolt from the offending cage is gone, this’ll be interesting and I wonder if a well placed down stroke on the pedals could just snap the little guy off.  A mile or so later and the problem has solved itself: it is no longer dangling and my bike is now 38 grams lighter; my legs didn’t get the message and feel as if I have added that and more to the bike.

We make the right onto Nelson and four slip off the front.  There is yelling and the pace quickens, the line strings out, and I find protection again on the right side – easing my way up using my out-of-season downhill momentum and clear path to gain spots.  I see Greg moving up the opposite side, doubting he knows what I am planning but let’s see how this plays out.  I make it to the front of the four riders as the group latches on to them, yelling “On the right” as I continue with momentum, and click down the cassette.  The front guy decides this means go right and I end up in the gravel to avoid catastrophe and commit myself to the move, I get back to pavement and kick again and notice Greg is coming with – okay not the plan but this could be fun too.  I round the corner onto 51st out front with a clear road ahead and proceed to bury myself on the gravel – stealing one glance down to see 40 something on the Garmin.  The road levels and I keep the pace high – not daring to steal a glance anywhere but ahead while my legs scream to stop.  And there it is: my limit.  I give a shake of the head and fall back into the quickly approaching group.  Well we didn’t get away that time but the group got strung out and the pace is a bit lifted, I could say the secondary mission was accomplished here.

Things continue to happen here and there but mostly just a spirited Saturday ride although my heart rate seems a bit high for over an hour of riding at this point.  I wonder how long I can sustain this pace and how many more matches remain.  I tempt fate and move to the front while headed south on 65th Street.  I notice one guy up the road a hundred yards and another coming up at a good clip on my right; I decide to latch onto his wheel to see what ensues.  Well we are rolling off the front all non-shalant and no one is following, I’m still just hanging on trying to recover from the last effort thinking this effort isn’t going to last long on that hill coming on Nelson Road.  An ill timed attacked has us going through the corner at the same time we overtake that lone rider, seconds are lost.  I pull through and hold for a bit and give the guy behind a chicken wing, he comes through for just long enough for me to recover, he chicken wings, me and the rotation timing is established.  We rotate a few cycles thinking we might have just made the move, then that hill rears its ugly slope in front of us and I feel myself slipping backwards while attempting to pull through.  He sags back and I just give him a look of I don’t have it today but that was fun while it lasted.  I let myself get swallowed by the group and the hill grows longer.  And now I’m being swallowed by the empty space behind the group.  I stand up to close the gap, nearing the top, and my legs scream.  I sit back down, shift the weight back in an attempt to find some muscle that still has enough left to propel me up this hill.  No luck there, I try standing, and quickly remember after a couple rotations why that didn’t work just a moment before.  By this time I’m at the top and watching the group string out on their southerly procession down the dirt.  I can’t regain contact and resolve to just commence damaged control and get myself to the line without getting caught by the 40+ crowd.  Well that almost happens until the finishing chute when I see the leaders coming up and move to the right allowing them a clear line, the 40+ podium passes me as I ease across the line and stop the timer.
I make a right and stay on course to try and find that 38 grams I shed earlier – no such luck but I did manage to get my half full water bottle back from the feed zone.  I lick my wounds on the way back to the truck as I hack up all manner of earthen material I just ate for an hour and thirty-six minutes.

A great race and I accomplished my main goal of mixing it up in the pack, having fun making and covering moves, all while getting a good workout.  Team tactics could have been more organized but I suppose that is what you get with a quick email exchange the week of the race.  I am Looking forward to pinning on another number at Koppenberg and hopefully delivering Greg to the line in May.