Sunday, December 24, 2006

My Favorite Bike

The Aegis Shaman

For whatever reason, I never posted a picture of my 'cross bike as I did with my road and mountain bikes. I snapped these a few days ago after converting it to my post-Nationals winter training ride.
The component group highlights are: Ultegra drivetrain with 12-27 cassette; FSA Energy 40/46 crankset; Salsa Bell Lap bar; Mavic Open Pro wheelset; Panaracer Cinder X tires.
This bike was a joy to ride. On the 'cross courses it accelerated off the line and out of corners quickly and absorbed the rough stuff to conserve valuable energy. I had a ton of confidence on it, railing the corners. My favorite riding position was on the top bar using the shorty brake levers as needed. I also enjoyed riding it on the road thanks to its comfortable cockpit and forgiving ride making it my winter training bike of choice.
Aegis is updating this model in 2007 naming it Pave and giving it a disc brake option.
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Monday, December 18, 2006

2006 Cyclocross National Championship

Elite Masters 40-44
Photo courtesy of Chris Milliman:

Well, I did it. I obviously ended up competing at Nationals and ended up with a respectable finish in my opinion. I got up early and began my 4 hour journey south in fog and dark. I was 10 minutes down the road when I suddenly realized I forgot to pack a pair of gloves. Doh! Babs gets a kick out of me and my gloves because I have almost as many pairs as she does shoes. The weather report was for cloudy skies and temps around 50 so I was probably going to need to wear a pair. Thinking I was on a tight schedule, I didn’t turn around and luckily spied a nice pair of $.99 cotton, orange, work gloves at the gas station where I filled up! I would definitely not look fashionable, but at least I could stop worrying about it! I arrived at the venue in plenty of time and had a chance to watch mountain bike legend Ned Overend demolish the 50-54 field. I walked around the course a bit and noticed it was virtually unchanged from last year. The biggest difference: no rain, sleet, snow, or gale force winds to contend with! The trip was already worth it! I registered and headed back to the car. I found a great parking place and was able to reserve a spot for my dad who showed up a short time later. I showed him the lay of the land, educated him on the race a bit, and tasked him with counting places for me as I rode by. I then proceeded to warm up on the trainer. Funny how easy it is to get the heart rate up in a hurry on race day! After working up a sweat I hopped onto the course for a couple of pre-ride laps and then headed to staging. The course was National caliber: challenging. There were long paved straightaways, short steep climbs, a tall set of barriers, 3 running stairs sections. Conditions were ripe for a fast race as only the turns displayed a little slippery mud. I lined up in the 2nd of 12 rows that consisted of riders 12-across. the gun went off and we sprinted up the road before hitting grass. Happily, the start was uneventful and all I had to do was find my groove and pin it. There was a slight bottleneck on a tight left hander, but I was surprised at how quickly the field stretched out. There was plenty of space to pass or be passed. As the order got jumbled about, I was passed by a few more guys than I had passed. The first time around, my dad estimated I was 37th. I settled into a small pack of 5 and drafted in the open sections and made passes in the turns, but this time more wisely! The next time around I heard I was 27th so that was good. I fell into a good rhythm, although I wasn’t what I would describe as comfortable! I was going as hard as I could, and that’s never “comfortable!” I think we ended up doing 5 laps within the 45minute window. I do know, that I wished we only did 3! As we came around the start/finish with 2 to go, I was beginning to feel the effects of the effort. For the first time all season I felt some twinges of cramping in the legs. The run ups were taking their toll and it hurt getting on and off the bike. The barriers were the most intimidating as you came up on them going pretty fast, they were tall, and I wasn’t sure if I could raise my legs high enough. On the final lap, I felt like I was doing a chicken dance because me legs seized for an instant and I couldn’t remount. It was at this point that I had to ride defensively. My dad said I was 32nd with 2 to go and I was satisfied with that, but didn’t want to lose any more positions. I lost touch with a few guys ahead of me, so I forced myself to hunker down in this no-man’s land and ride smoothly, and as strongly as I could to get me to the end. There was a pair of guys just behind me who could close at any moment. I suffered through the final run ups and my legs felt like lead weights on the climbs. I couldn’t push a very big gear on the straights so I set my sights on the last climb to hit hard and hope to maintain my distance from the chasers. Surprisingly, I actually gained a little ground on the guys ahead of me as they no-doubt were jockeying for position and decide who would face the headwinds. However, I certainly had no sprint in me so I wasn’t about to contest them. Some fortune was bestowed upon me as I saw my closest competitor wash out on a turn and slow another guy down so I was pretty much home free. Although it’s always good to finish strong, I just pedaled easily to the line and was very happy just to finish. My dad had it right and 32nd was my final placing, although unremarkable, totally satisfying. I was very glad I decided to compete as it gave me an opportunity to end the season on a positive note, and I got to spend some time with my dad who was intrumental with a helping hand as I got ready and giving me position updates. The post-race hot dog was like a banquet! I headed north 45 minutes after my race and arrived at the Christmas party just in time to get in line for food. I had the biggest piece of roast beast ever and washed it down with several beverages not specifically designed to increase endurance! Looking back at the time off, I would say it helped me mentally, but hurt me physically. My legs were definitely not as strong as they needed to be, but it didn’t effect my attitude so I have to say it was a trade-off. In the end, I’m happier with a fresh mind and sore legs than the reverse. Now it’s time to kick back, put the legs up, and get reacquainted with the family! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What the ham sandwich went wrong?

Well, a month and almost a half passed without my competing in a race. I took a week off the bike entirely after the disappointing race weekend of October 4 & 5. Then, I got back on half-heartedly the week of Thanksgiving in an effort to prepare for the next NECCS event the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, I had no real motivation to race as a series ranking was totally unattainable at this point and it was going to be a bit of a hassle to get to the event. As the week unfolded, my interest totally deteriorated. We all drove down to the Cape on Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with my mom. I then had to drive back to Maine early Friday morning to run the rink for a high school tournament. The thought was I could hit the race on my way back down to the Cape on Saturday, but a 12-hour workday that didn’t include the 4-hour drive wore me out. I instead started Saturday leisurely and headed back to the Cape skipping the race, a first in a mighty long time for me.
So, what was going on with me? I tried to deny the burn-out excuse because I didn’t want to admit I was doing too much, that I could handle the load. However, as I thought more and more about why I had little interest in riding let alone training, burn out was the only reason. Race preparation actually began January 1st under the tutelage of my coach. In all my past, I usually was on my bike no earlier than April, and finished no later than October. This year I was on my trainer and lifting in January, doing a 3 hour ride on Easter, and racing more than I ever had. So yes, I admit, I was fried, especially given I still had the ‘cross Nationals to prepare for on December 15th. Even that race, the biggest of the year, was questionable.
So, I took time off the bike, skipped a race, and trained when I was motivated enough to give the effort, and didn’t worry if I missed a session. For the 2 weeks leading up to Nats I prepared as if I was going to do it, and decided a week before to compete based on an excellent starting position and decent weather.
There was a big question as to how the race would go. I didn’t want to be pack fodder and get run over and spit out the back. It was a tall order to do the race because I had to coach a game Thursday night which meant I couldn’t drive down until the day of the race, and the staff Christmas party was Friday night so I had to return home that dame day. But, I was undeterred. I had a good attitude going in and I was as ready as I could have been. So, did the time off help or hurt and where did I finish?
Tune in to the next installment!

11/5 NECCS #4 Cycle-Smart International Northampton, MA

Elite Masters 35+

I spent the night in Boston again as it was closer to both venues than the Cape. However, I was planning to go to the Cape after today’s race for the night.
The day brought another fantastic weather scenario: sunny and chilly. Upon arrival I donned my uniform and did a couple of laps with BIKEMAN’s Big Al as he gave me some inside info on the good lines. This course was also in a park and had a wide open field with many turns, a sandpit, a couple of railroad crossings that you could actually get air and jump over, and some wooded riding with run-ups. More fun for sure!
The rest of the race prep went according to plan (I kept the race wheelset on this time!) and I lined up a few rows deep at the start which consisted of about 200 yards of flat pavement before turning onto the grass. I was in the 30’s as the lap got underway, but tried to stay cool and let the race evolve and hope I would be able to accelerate once I went around a couple of times and pick up positions. Although I was being patient, I still felt I needed to pick up positions whenever possible and this was my undoing. Only halfway into the 2nd lap I forced the issue in a totally inappropriate place. I was trailing another rider down a short steep descent that then lead us over the tracks and into a left handed turn. This was a fairly fast section and I allowed my momentum to get me alongside the other guy’s left as we jumped the tracks. From what I can speculate because it all happened so fast, I’m sure he didn’t know I was there and as we approached the left hander, I got pinched and made contact with the course marker which got me loose and turned me into the guy. I lost balance, fell into him and his bike and then hit the ground. I shook it off and tried to remount but my rear brake was sticking and the wheel wouldn’t turn so I was stopped dead in the middle of the course when a group of riders came tearing though and I made more contact with guys. I made it to the edge of the course and tried to free up the brake pad, but discovered they were both in the lock position. Then I noticed the right brake/shift lever was activated and stuck in the open position. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what was keeping it like that. The chain had fallen off so I fiddled with that and then went back to the shifter. Now that my adrenaline was subsiding, I started to piece together what must have happened. In the process of falling, the right side of my handlebar must have come in contact with the other rider’s spokes and sheared the rubber covering on the top of the brake/shifter and broke some plastic inside causing it to hang up. After pulling out a broken piece and realigning the plastic, it closed and the brake released. But, by now it was race over. I was not confident in the shifter’s integrity and I was, for the 2nd day in a row, DFL. I humbly walked the bike back to the start/finish line and announced to the officials I was retiring from the race resulting in my first DNF (did not finish) of the season.
Although I felt pretty good physically, this was a major blow mentally and lead to a week totally off the bike and some serious soul searching. Next
up was supposed to be NECCS #5 in Sterling, MA.

11/4 NECCS #3 Chainbiter 8.0 @ Farmington, CT

Elite Masters 35+

This is a long overdue post, but I’m catching up as the season had drawn to a close.
After spending the night in Boston to help break up the long drive from Maine, I zipped down to CT for this race on a nice, sunny, albeit chilly day. The hope was again to crack the top-15 and register some points for the series. With 2 out of 7 races already complete, I needed to git ‘er done. The course was laid out in a park with sports fields so there were open-grassy sections as well as some rides in the woods. It was a fun and fast.
During my warm-up, I tried a maneuver many riders pull off: I rode the course with my extra wheelset I would be leaving in the pit area so as to keep the race set fresh and clean. All went well and I finished my warmup on the trainer with the race wheelset and was ready to go. As I was reinstalling the race wheelset, I told myself to be sure the skewers are tight as I had an instance once when they weren’t screwed in as they apparently should have been and after a hard pedal push, the rear wheel moved in the droputs and began rubbing the frame. Well, I again thought I cinched them down well enough and proceeded to the start line. I’d also like to mention I had to deal with a small crisis at the rink where my employee thought there was an ammonia leak. This was not helping me focus on the task at hand, however I had no one to blame but myself for not communicating better with the folks at school prior to my leaving for the weekend.
Anyway, the gun goes off and we tear up a paved incline and head towards the first section of woods. Guess what happened? The torque from my mashing the pedals to apply power to the rear wheel was greater than the torque I used to tighten the wheel and it loosened and was rubbing the frame. the friction was so great that I started burning the tire and it was slowing my down considerably. So, I had to pull off to the side not even 200 yards into the race and realign the wheel and tighten the skewer. By the time I finished, the entire field had passed my by and I was starting DFL (dead last)! I got going and immediately the quitter voice was saying to bag it because there was no hope from here, but I didn’t listen. It was a nice day, I drove all the way down, and I had nothing to lose. So I continued on and rode my typical race without concern for placing picking off guys 1 by 1. It was actually a great motivating factor constantly reeling guys in and passing them. I have to say I truly enjoyed the race. Although I missed my mark of top-15, I was satisfied in the fact that I passed 56 guys and felt good doing it.
This finish meant that the next day’s race was do or die for the series.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The DREAM Team

These are the people who make pursuing my pastime fun and rewarding.
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Great Osprey Challenge @ Freeport


All I have to say is “Whew, it’s good to be out front again!” Now I know what you’re saying, according to my last post I needed to get back to my roots and race for fun and purpose, not just to win. Well, that’s just how it went down. I essentially had a rest week and had 2 easy, thoroughly enjoyable road rides through the gorgeous foliage-surrounded backroads. Then, Babs and I went to Boston Friday to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers and I blew off a ride on Saturday. Finally, the whole family could go. So, I had a relaxed attitude to take into a relaxed race, the perfect combination.The whole family awoke to a glorious sunny, fall day and headed south to Freeport. I added this race for the ham sandwich of it seeing as how it was held at Wolf Neck Farm (fun for the kids), it was a nice day, and we were heading to Portland that afternoon anyway to attend the ME Mountain Bike Association Awards banquet.

We are the champs!

This is a unique race for 3 reasons: 1. it’s not sanctioned by any racing association, 2. there is a 3/4mile dirt road section with a sketchy bridge, 3. an individual must choose between either a 4.4 mile or 22 mile race and it is a mass group start regardless of ability/gender/religion/etc. I raced this event way back in and finished 3rd or 4th.Upon arrival however, I saw signs that indicated this may not be a leisurely jaunt by any means. There were a number of PVC club riders as well as maybe half of the Elite team plus a few other legit roadies in attendance. Undaunted, I kept my attitude focused on fun and was prepared to let fate dictate the race results. My coach said to cover the breaks, go for broke at the finish, and have fun. Easy! In keeping with the relaxed attitude, I had no warm up (not by design, but thankfully the first lap was pretty tame!). Meg and Catherine surprised us by showing up which was cool as it was Meg’s first road race. She was nervous, but determined. We rolled off fairly gently on the dirt road and over the bridge and began our first lap as 1 big group. Evidently there was a bit of a pile up on the bridge further back in the pack, but no apparent damage. Over the course of the first 2 laps there were 2, 1-man breaks by PVC guys, but they never got very far. The wind was pretty unforgiving for a solo effort. The thing to watch was how the remainder of the PVC and Elite guys were reacting. They definitely were up front controlling the pace, but there were enough nomads like me that pushed the pace to keep the breakaways in sight. Apparently the dirt road took its toll as at least 3 guys flatted on the first lap. They rejoined the group as we went through the start-finish as we headed out for our 3rd lap. I noticed these guys merging and thought that was the case, but couldn’t be sure while riding hard. It was during this 3rd lap that the race’s finish was dictated. I suddenly found myself with 3 other guys putting in a decent effort and we started to distance ourselves from the rest of the field. It was on!

Our group consisted of me, a PVC Elite rider, a PVC club rider, and another guy I have raced against at various events this year. The PVC Elite kid (turns out he’s only 19 and a Cat. 2) got us organized and we all shared the duties of pulling, then drifting back to recover. We kept the hammer down for the next 2 laps and the field was out of sight. I would love to know what was going on back there. Were we just that fast or did the rest of the PVC guys do their job and control the pace of the pack to let their guy get away? Well, regardless, the finish was up to the 4 of us and I was pretty elated about that! Finish tactics within our group began with about 1 mile to go. I had finished a pull and was 3rd in line when the Elite team rider took off the front. It caught me by surprise and it was too late to react so I settled for battling for 2nd. We were sizing each other up along the last dirt road section when I heard a pop and hiss. Finally, it wasn’t my wheel! Ron got a flat and became a non-factor as it was now between the PVC guy and me. I ended up leading the last section, giving the other guy the advantage and he took off and I couldn’t respond. So, I thought I finished 3rd but it turns out he was 1 of the racers who was down a lap, relegating me to 2nd and I was psyched! Catherine had a strong finish, towing another guy along, placing her first for all women. Meg persevered battling the conditions solo and came across with a smile on her face, priceless.Unfortunately they ran the kids’ race while I was racing so I didn’t get to see it. Drake battled 2 much older kids on bikes with gears, but kept his little legs spinning wildly and finished 3rd out of 4 because 1 kid dumped it in a huge mud puddle! Fenix sat this one out, but they both got new bells so they’ll be heard all over campus like me now!Would I be this satisfied had I not placed well? I would hope so because you can’t take away the great week it was leading up to the race. Life is good.
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NECCS #1 & 2 @ New Gloucester

Masters 35+
Saturday: 29th/58(flatted)
Sunday: 19th/53
Crowned Maine State Cyclocross Bronze Medalist

What a bummer weekend. So much planning and preparation to having good results here went largely for not. These 2 races marked the beginning of the 6-race New England Cyclocross Series. The way the series is set up, the top-15 finishers receive points and get call ups at the start. It’s already been made clear previously, how important it is to have a good start in a ‘cross race so a call-up is a huge advantage. Not only can you continue warming up while everyone else sits and waits to line up, you get a head start on the field. This is a prime example of “the rich get richer.” And so, with only the top-15 receiving points, it’s very difficult to rank at the end of the season. You could finish 16th all season, and not even be recognized as a series competitor because you didn’t earn any points. With 50+ guys in every race, I think that’s a little too elitist. But, of course I’m on the outside looking in right now and am not happy about it.On to the races. Both days saw glorious weather. Last year’s events were labeled as tractor pulls as they were total mudfests. This year, it was sunny, 50 degrees and mostly dry. Saturday I lined up near the front (thanks to the officials sticking to the registration order rule) and got off to a good start. I was top-15 right away. I wished I could have gone harder, but it seemed like I was red-lining it anyway. I was solidly in 14th with 1.5 laps to go when it happened: I went through the last mudhole of the loop and bottomed out on a hidden rock. About 100 yards later, the rear wheel became wobbly and then I knew: pinchflat. I had the fastest section of the course ahead of me which was good and bad: good because I could ride with the flat; bad because I couldn’t ride fast and would lose many positions. I pitted, changed the wheel and carried on. I reclaimed only 1 spot because mentally I was done, I knew I wasn’t top-15 so what was the point in finishing 29th or 28th? 29th was good enough for me and all that was left to do was bitch and moan about my tough luck.Sunday’s race turned into not just a physical, but now a mental battle. I now had to not only place top-15, but probably top-10 in an effort to bump one of the previous top-15 finishers out of the way to earn a call-up for the 3rd round of the series. Whether my body was up to the challenge was out of my control because the training was already in place and couldn’t be changed. But the mind, that’s what I had to keep focused.The race started out well. I was top-20ish going into the woods and I just kept the hammer down and made several unconventional, border-line rude passes in the technical sections to gain every spot I could. That worked well for the first half of the lap. But the 2nd half was wide open and had more climbing than descending. Normally this would cater to my strengths, but not today for some reason. I lost some of the spots I had gained, but was still comfortably in the top-15 and I was planning to settle in and wait for my legs and energy to come to me. Unfortunately, they never did. Things got spread out on the 2nd lap and I found myself dangling off the back of a group that represented the 13th to 18th positions. Here’s when my mental strength went weak on me. Each lap, I would bridge the gap and be right with them in the technical sections, but once the trail went uphill, I would lose contact. My strategy was to race my own race in the open section and keep catching up in the rough stuff. Well, slowly but surely, the group would pull further and further away each lap forcing me to ride in no-man’s land and fight the doubting demons that were yelling in my head: “Call it a day, it’s not worth it.” “Might as well bag the series because you’re going to be too far behind in points.” My mind was killing me! It should have been telling me to change my strategy, go as hard as I can on the uphills, catch back up and recover in the slower technical areas, I have nothing to lose! What an ass I was. So, I slowly faded and ended up getting caught by another rider relegating me to an empty 19th place.

I'm back there somewhere!

The dim light on the day was that I was the 3rd finisher from Maine so I am the Masters 35+ Maine State Cyclocross Bronze medalist. Big deal, last year I won the gold.I’m obviously still bitter about the results, but I have no one to blame but myself. Regardless of whether I could have gone harder or not is irrelevant, I didn’t even try. I never dug deep to see if I had it in me to accelerate. Mind over muscle was my big mistake. Now the questions raised are: will I learn from my mistakes? Will I take the lessons learned and use them to succeed in the next event? Impossible to say right now, only time will tell. Luckily, the next race is 3 weeks away so I have ample opportunity to dwell/reflect upon and analyze the experience and hopefully put it to good use.One thing is for certain, I’ve lost touch with why I’m out there riding and racing. At the core, it’s supposed to be for fun and in the memory of Al; doing something he would admire and appreciate. Ironically, I haven’t acknowledged him at my starts as I traditionally do and the last 4 races have been some of my poorest and unluckiest performances. It’s also supposed to be a family outing when possible, and it’s just become too easy for them to stay home instead.I hope this period between races proves productive, mentally.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

NECS/MMBA Series Finals @ Reid State Park

2nd/7 Expert Vet I
9th Overall
Yesterday’s race marked the end of the mountain bike race season for me. The GrillZ Memorial Race held at gorgeous Reid State Park played host to both the Maine and New England series final. Heading into the race, I was looking to solidify my points lead in the ME series, and my 3rd place standing in the NE series Expert Vet I. I came out with both goals accomplished thanks to my 2nd place finish. Pro Michael Patrick from CT won my division on the day, and he clinched the NE series overall as well. As a result of an unofficial conversation between Alan Starret and me, he did not compete as his focus has already shifted to cyclocross. Big Al was my closest competitor in the ME series. This marks the first time I’ve finished first in any division in the ME series so I’m very pleased. It means another goal accomplished for the season. Race day weather was sketchy, but luckily the showers held off all day. The forecast helped decide to keep Babs, my mom and the kids at home. We were having Fenix’s 3rd birthday party at the Alfond later that day anyway, so the time at home was well spent by Babs preparing for the Star Wars themed event. The chilly wind was a different matter at the park. Post-race cleanup was done hastily in an effort to just get warm and out of the mud-soaked clothing. I was supposed to do a 60 minute easy ride, but that wasn’t happening today! I had planned to wear either leg warmers or tights for the race as the temperature was in the 50’s, but opted not to because no one else was wearing any. That’s peer pressure for you! The wind was not a factor in the woods, and the legs were caked with mud pretty quickly so it didn’t matter! Friday’s downpour left its mark on the course. The technical climbs were a challenge to find traction and the pipeline section was unridable for long stretches, complete with shin-deep mudholes (some were even chest deep when you go over the handlebars and land in one! More on that later.). All pros/experts lined up and we did our best example of rodeo barrel racing as we did a quick loop in the parking lot to thin the field before going into the singletrack. I was top-12 or so once we were single file. A couple of guys went by and I went by a couple so it evened out. Teammate Adam LaRochelle and I ended up together and we rode the first half of the race in line. He would slip and I’d pass him. Then I would slip and he’d pass. I guess that’s working together as we would show each other the line NOT to take so the other guy could pass! I pulled away from him on the 3rd lap and didn’t see him until the end. On that lap I spied Kirk Turner up ahead and it motivated me to bridge the gap. I ended up on his back tire mid-way through the final lap and pulled ahead of him on the flat, open, fast section. He was not to be dropped however, so I ended up pulling him until the final single track section. He was tactful, and passed me before the entrance. I let him know I didn’t want to get held up in there as it seemed like he was slow earlier in the lap. Well, I ate my words, or should I say mud! I proceeded to endo not once, twice, but 3 times in the final mile and Kirk was a distant memory. One crash was one of the hardest hits I’ve taken. Somehow I landed my chest square on a huge root making it painful to take deep breaths, even today. On that crash, my bike did a perfect flip and was resting on the seat and handlebars like I was a little kid working on the chain or something! I think I had the ability to chuckle. The final fall was insult to injury as I fell square into the mud, covering my body. Classic close to the season which had to have been the muddiest in recent memory.
Trying to make the most of a muddy situation.
Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable day and I enjoyed talking with Andrew Freye and Matty O’Keefe and Aaron Millett. I am simply in awe of the Aegis Proaxe. This bike took a significant beating this season as I never really had my “A” game in terms of technical skills. I crashed often, but mere scrapes are the only signs. The components performed flawlessly. Credit goes to a great frame and stellar building by Kennebec Bike and Ski. Next up is the biggest ‘cross weekend besides Nationals as I head to Gloucester, MA for the US Gran Prix.

The student schools the teacher!
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross #1 & 2

Saturday: 47th/105 (flatted)
Sunday: 40th/112

What a great weekend! The weather was spectacular, the racing fun and intense, and the whole family made the trip down. We all arrived in Boston Friday night and tried to get settled down for bed, but the kids were pretty excited. Saturday Babs and the kids did the city thing and went to the Aquarium then met Gigi in Harvard Square. New Lego, stuffed Manta Ray, and shark monster truck toys were the highlight of the day! We all did a rendezvous back at the apartment then went to the Border CafĂ© for dinner, a tradition whenever we’re in town. Babs and I carried the kids home, bedded down and then split for race #2 Sunday morning where we met up with Papa and Auntie Kat. The racing was sort of a side attraction, which was OK because the races really didn’t mean too much for my season. These were the first 2 of 6 races that make up the national cyclocross series. I’m obviously not competing in the series as the remaining races are held in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. However, they were a great opportunity to determine how I stack up against a national-caliber field and to gain some UCI points which might help with a call up at the Nationals in December. I hadn’t done a ‘cross race yet, so I was basically getting thrown into the fire! The only slight bummer about the weekend was how the races started. In this sport, the start means everything, so everybody wants to be at the front when the gun goes off. There was information supplied by the promoter that racers were going to be lined up based on when they registered for the event. I thought I was in good shape as I was #18 on the list. Unfortunately, this procedure was not followed up on race day and it turned into first come-first served basis. I showed up to the start about 15 minutes before the event and was about 5 rows/10 wide deep behind. While waiting for the start, I heard an announcement that Sunday’s lineup would be based on Saturday’s finish. Well I guess that was just for the top-20. Even though I played it cautiously and went to the start ½ hour early, there were already 70 guys standing there. Double crap! However, this was merely a bump in the road that has already had much forum discussion as the fun overshadowed the misinformation. Saturday: I was about 70th across the start line and quickly advanced many positions as there was a pile up early as the herd tried to get through the first narrow section. I was quite comfortable on the bike and was able to rail the twists and turns, continuing to pass less-skilled riders. I got through the first lap after banging several hips and elbows and was settling halfway into my second lap when I heard a clank, clank, clank, and then a pop and then a hissssssssssss. For the second year in a row, same race, same day, I flatted! I thought I ran over something and it was confirmed later by a single puncture in the tube, quite possibly a nail which caused the initial noise. Luckily, I was on the lower half of the course which is where the pit area was and I was able to limp in, change the wheel, and carry on. Of course I lost a ton of positions, but I was determined to battle back, remember, I was thinking about the next day’s lineup. I worked hard, got acclimated better with the bike, and just kept passing people and enjoyed the dull pain that is ‘cross. There’s no telling where I would have ended up without the flat, but for perspective, I finished 80-something last year. Sunday: an even better day weather-wise greeted the Wheeldens. I hyped up the playground and as soon as we parked Babs and the kids were off. I pre-rode the course and it was virtually identical to the day before’s. So instead of wasting time there, I got on the trainer and warmed up and went to the start and we know what happened there. Unfortunately this start was smooth and I didn’t gain too many spots right away from my 80-something position. I did pass some folks, but I also got passed as I couldn’t go hard from the get-go, no doubt attributed to the 30-minutes of standing around. I had 2 near-death experiences: 1. When a rider ahead went through the course tape and somehow I got it wrapped around my pedal forcing me to counterbalance and power though it. It finally broke off, but I had a streamer thing going for a bit! 2. When I made it 3-wide in a turn and locked the right side of my handlebars with a guy while my left side contacted a course marker which I think evened out the imbalance and we all carried on! Otherwise, I just rode hard, and accepted my position wherever I ended up. Although the results sheet showed I only improved 7 spots over Saturday’s flat race, I know I had a much poorer start and was just as fast as the day before. With the races over, it was time to get Drake, Fenix, and even Katherine to the kids’ race, and this is where the fun really began! There were a ton of kids. Drake lined up on the inside and had a good start getting through the first turn unscathed avoiding a pileup. Fenix was slow off the line, but it worked to his advantage as he too avoided the melee that was in front of him. They did 2 laps and on the final turn, there was another mixup, but Drake weaseled through and crossed the line in first! A big win at a national event!

I was thinking I needed to help Fenix get around, but he did a great job and didn’t need my assistance at all. The crowd and the announcer were all pulling for him as the youngest in the race.

So at least someone in the family earned a spot on the podium!

"What's next in your biking career?"
Katherine did a great job in her first race ever. She got tangled up with another rider and went down, but got right back up and motored on. It was rewarding to wrap up the weekend with watching the kids have so much fun. Next up is the most important race weekend of the cyclocross season as it sets the tone for the New England Series: NECCS #1 & 2 @ New Gloucester which includes the ME state championship as well.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What is Cyclocross?

Here's some info for those of you who are curious what kind of racing I'll be doing until mid-December. The WHY? question has no answer!

"Some of the phrases that are commonly bandied about to describe the sport of Cyclocross are: "the toughest hour in cycling""the NASCAR of bike racing""the steeplechase of biking competition""mud, sweat, gears and blood""[requires] the finesse of a ballet dancer, the speed of a motorcycler, and the grit of a hockey player" Cyclocross is a fall/winter, on-road/off-road cycling discipline held on a looped circuit of approximately 1-2 miles. Cyclocross racers navigate mud, sand, pavement, grass, gravel, pasture, and mulch. When the terrain is too steep to ride or they are confronted by a standard set of wooden barriers, riders dismount, shoulder their bikes and run. Regulations suggest a lap be comprised of 90% riding and 10% running. Each race is a timed event lasting anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour depending on the racer's category. The race leader at the completion of the last lap is declared the winner. The sport originated in Europe after the second World War where road cyclists began riding in pastures and muddy fields to maintain their fitness. The first World Championship was held in Paris in 1950. A cyclocross bike splits the difference between a road bike and a mountain bike, equipped with knobby skinny tires, drop handlebars and a lightweight frame. Fast, short, and technical--cyclocross enjoys a colossal following in continental Europe and is currently the fastest growing cycling discipline in the United States. Cyclocross is a great sport for viewing by spectators as the racers complete laps every 6-7 minutes, so there is always plenty of action happening right before your eyes. Clanging cow bells are a staple accessory used in cheering on the competitors at most every cyclocross."

Borrowed from

"Pain. This is obvious to anyone who's ever lasted longer than 5 minutes in a 'cross race. It has all the anaerobic agony of a breakaway effort, but instead of being just a few short laps at the tail end of a criterium, it lasts a whole wicked hour. And unlike the mystic-like calm you can derive from the steady, repetitive nature of a high-speed paceline, the complete lack of rhythm to a cross race (pedal, dismount, run, jump, coast, curse, repeat) makes it impossible to regulate the depth of your suffering."

Borrowed from

Thursday, September 21, 2006

NASCAR Race @ Loudon, NH

If cyclocross is the NASCAR of racing, then I’ve kicked off the season in fine form! While many of my future competitors were lining up at the first ‘cross race in the region, I was in line at the Dupont tent getting a beer!
My co-worker P-Diddy and I headed south on 95 at 5am, destination: Loudon,NH. A former hockey player of mine runs a tire/car repair business on the Cape and his dad always has 2 tickets and tent passes for me at the 2 Loudon races. I skipped the summer race due to an mtb race conflict, but I couldn’t miss 2 in a year! Besides, this is the first race of the Chase and the competition is intense.
Pat and I arrived at 7:30am, strolled through the merchandise trailers, bought gifts for Babs and the kids, and headed for the tent. Breakfast was being served so we found a spot and hung out with the Klucevseks and waited for Jeff Gordon to show up. Because of the size of the crowd, there aren’t any autograph signings or 1 on 1’s with Jeff. They do allow you to write down a question though and select 5 people to come up, shake hands with Jeff, and ask him your question in front of the entire crowd. As luck would have it, I got picked for the 2nd year in a row. It’s all about coming up with an entertaining question. I said “Everyone knows you can drive a stock car fast on a race track, but can you resurface the ice in less than 10 minutes driving a Zamboni 9mph?” He and the crowd got a kick out of it and we had a couple of back and forths when he said he was concerned the ice would be slippery and I said you have to stay off the boards! I told him he had a job when he was done racing and he said that pays what, $8,000,000?
Then the turkey dinner was served and Pat had his 6th beer while I eased into my 3rd. It’s unique starting drinking at 10am!
The race was entertaining for sure. It was hot as Hades as you would sweat just sitting there. There were a few crashes and some good side by side racing. But there were also some long green flag runs and that’s when the turkey and heat and no more beers took effect. The finish was exciting with a crash near the end, resulting in a 5-lap sprint finish which my boy Kevin Harvick ran away with.
So, while some guys were actually on their bikes racing, I was sweating my ass off, sucking down beers and inhaling fumes. That is excellent ‘cross preparation as far as I’m concerned! Bring on the green flag!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dog Chase Hillclimb

Me - 1st
Dog - Last

Was out for a tempo/interval ride yesterday. I was in the final 3 minutes of a 15 minute hard effort going uphill when man's best friend decides I'm dinner and wants to hunt me down.
I hear the barking up ahead and then see what appears to be a black lab bombing down the driveway to meet me head on. Normally I wouldn't expect this from a lab, so it must have had part wolf in him because it had more anger and teeth than any household pet I know of!
I'm working hard, but seeing Cujo coming at me forced me to dig into that satchel of stength you only break out at sprint finishes. The dog underestimated my acceleratio, and leaves toe nail skid marks on the road, then peels out after me for the chase.
The rulebook says I have options:
1. Yell at the dog sternly to go home.
2. Praise the dog in a soft, calm voice and tell it to sit.
3. Spray it with a water bottle.
4. Stop, put my bike between me and the dog and keep it at bay until the owner shows up.
5. Work on your sprinting.
I chose #5. Those other choices may work in other situations I'm sure. I just saw my leg as a juicy steak, and a hungry dog. I got the ham sandwich out of there!
The dog kept up for about 25 yards, but never closed to more than 10' away.
I reached the top of the climb, completed my effort, and gave a 1 finger victory salute!
It's been a slow month obviously!
Next up is the MMBA/NECS mtb final at Reid State Park (unless Fido wants to go again!).

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

GMSR – Wrapup

It’s back to reality here in Maine now. I had a bit of difficulty sleeping no doubt due to fatigue, although my legs aren’t sore. I would classify my entire body as “worn.” It was surprising to realize how much upper body I used all weekend when sprinting and muscling up climbs.
My general opinion of the stage race is I’m content with my finish within my class. I can’t imagine I could have improved on my Prologue time as I was redlining it from the start. The Circuit Race came down to the sprint which isn’t my specialty, so I’m content with that finish. The Road Race will be remembered as an opportunity lost. All I had to do was match the surge up the last 30 yards of the Middlebury Gap and I would have been in the front field and could have certainly earned a better finish. However, the group of 6 of us made the most of the situation and to finish only 6 minutes behind the winner was a real accomplishment. The Criterium was a blur, literally. I gave it all I had and am pleased with the result.
Overall, I think my top-20 GC is accurate. Could I have cracked the top-15? Absolutely. But the lessons learned and the experience gained puts me in a good position to shoot for a top-10 in the Masters 40+. Crap, I’ll be 40 next year! I definitely underestimated the category I was in. The field I am actually licensed for was the Cat. 4 35+. I can pretty much bet everyone ahead of me was both younger and/or a Cat. 1-3. All of my finishing times would have won the events in the other category. At least I can’t be accused of sandbagging! Instead of bringing home prize money, I brought home experience and the satisfaction of knowing I was competitive in an elite field. It was by far the hardest, cleanest, funnest road racing I’ve ever experienced!
I’m taking some deserved time off and beginning the transition to cyclocross, the final bike season!

GMSR – Criterium

30 laps, 18.6 miles

Masters 30+
19th Final GC

The final event was the criterium held on downtown Burlington. There was a threat of showers, but thankfully it just stayed overcast. The course was dangerous enough with out adding the element of losing grip in the turns. It was a 6-turn circuit with a decent climb to the finish, a brick s-turn section, and a mad descent into the final turn.
The race started out with a bang. We went all out right from the whistle. I hoped perhaps the pace would be a little mellow coming off of the previous day’s road race. But no, not this group! I hung on for dear life!
After missing the boat yesterday, I was committed to staying in the pack today at whatever cost, but it about cost me my soul! I was VERY close to sitting up and coasting home about mid-race. Thankfully, the pace slowed just at the right time and enough for me to recover and keep up. On the day, we averaged 26mph and my heart rate averaged 179bpm, with a high of 195! That’s giving it all I’ve got!
I set myself up in good, but most important; safe, position heading down the descent into the final turn. Then it was a mad dash to the finish where I lost 1 spot. I was happy with the finish and the news I re-entered the top-20 in GC.
Whew, now for some rest!

GMSR - Road Race

64.7 miles

Master 30+
22nd GC

Just back from the toughest road racing event I’ve ever competed in! This one had everything: rain, hills, wind, sun, hills, descents, did I mention hills?!
The race start time was 8:50am so it was an early rise to get breakfast in. I knew it was going to be a long day in the saddle, so I figured eggs, waffles and coffee were a good base. It’s difficult to force food down that early in the morning despite the fact you know you’re going to need the fuel later. I could only predict what I would need later and hoped 3 bottles and 3 gels would keep the fire burning. Once I was getting dressed I debated heavily whether to take the 3rd bottle as it was chilly and rainy and I figured I wouldn’t be too thirsty. I stuck it in the jersey pocket anyway, but never ended up using it. I decided no warm up was better than getting soaked before the race even started and hoped the neutral start and the LONG race would be ample, it was a good call as I felt fine off the line.
The course was 64.7 miles long with 2 major climbs: Middlebury Gap about halfway through with an 18% grade section, then the backside of the Appalachian Gap with a couple of 20% grades to the finish. My pre-race thoughts flip-flopped between just surviving and finishing top-10. turns out the former won out. We departed Mt. Ellen in the rain and had a neutral descent to Rt. 100. Once on 100, it was a rolling route that had us accelerating off and on. Some guys apparently tried to go off the front, but to no avail. Strength in numbers was the theme for today. I was feeling quite good. The legs were tired yesterday, but they gave no early indication they would fail me today.
We hit the base of Middlebury as a pack and began the climb. Everything was going fine. I was in a group and felt OK. Then as we approached the summit, there was an acceleration that I didn’t respond to. I thought guys were going for King of the Mountain and then would let up on the descent. I thought wrong and the race for me went from one of possibilities, to one of survival. I was effectively dropped and could not catch up. As I had never seen the course, I had to be cautious on the descent as it was fast, wet, and had many turns. The group ahead had the advantage to work together and motored away on the flats. All I could do was go solo and hope to either latch on to other stragglers ahead or form a group with others behind me. The latter won here. 6 of us set to the task of hoping to catch back on, or at least maintain position and not get caught from behind. This was the most cooperative racing experience I’ve ever been a part of. We were basic a team time-trial train. One would pull for about 10 seconds, the pull off to the left and let the next one through. We were an efficient machine and everyone worked. Unfortunately the gap was too great to catch the leaders. 6 guys chasing 20 or so is no-contest. There was a time in there where I felt like I couldn’t keep the pace we were setting. I had to skip a couple of pulls, had a little to eat, took a leak for the 2nd time (at this point, I can’t feel bashful about pissing while riding. I’ll be doing the laundry anyway!). We stuck together all the way to the base of the App. Gap where it was every man for himself. I luckily had enough left in the tank to pull ahead of 3 of the other guys. The wind and weather was at its worst on the final 4K. It was Mt. Washington all over again! But the crowd on the side of the road was supportive and helped get us over the top even when all I wanted to do was get off and walk! Fred Thomas was in the field ahead and finished top-5. Guess I should have been on his tail today!
Next up is the Criterium in downtown Burlington, if I have anything left!

GMSR - Circuit Race

53 miles (2 ¾ laps on a 19.5mile loop)

Master 30+
19th GC

I don’t know what to make of these circuit races. They’re generally long loops with little change in terrain to split up the group. We all end up riding around for a long time and then have a sprint finish. There was one good climb, but the descent and flat generally discouraged anyone from getting away. Having said that, apparently 1 guy did so kudos to him. I wonder if he’ll have anything left for tomorrow’s RR. To make matters worse, there were crashes on the descent on our 1st and 2nd laps (we only went by 3 times) so we had to go through neutral leaving zero incentive to make a break on the climb.
Today I wanted to use this race as a learning experience and I told myself to stay with Fred Thomas and mirror his tactics. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to analyze as we pretty much stayed together. There were no legit breaks so there wasn’t much chasing, just accelerations.
As I said, it all came down to the finish. We were at the 1K to go when I pulled up along Fred and asked what he thought. He said it was a long way to go so we stayed towards the front of the pack. Shortly thereafter, guys around me started going and I latched on to a wheel and went, TOO EARLY! For some reason, my leadout let up halfway to the finish for whatever reason so I was on my own. I thought I could keep going, but the distance was greater than I thought and my sprint was turning into a long interval. Then woosh, a ton of guys went by and I was screwed! No I really don’t like these races!
I thought I was buried in the 30’s, but was pleasantly surprised I maintained my top-20 standing.
Next up is the grueling Road Race. I hope I can climb well.

Green Mt. Stage Race - Prologue

8.2 mile Hillclimb

Master 30+
20th GC

I arrived in Warren, VT yesterday after a 4.5 hour drive due east. Man, is it ever difficult to go east-west in northern NE! I’m glad I got the drive over with and was able to set up camp. I’m staying at the Powderhound which I picked because it has suites. Hopefully I’m saving money by being able to prepare all my meals rather than eat out. The place has everything I need to cook, except for a stove. I don’t know what I was thinking but I brought a frozen pizza and had no way to cook it. I ended up heating it up on a frying pan, it tasted just as good! I was a little concerned there wasn’t a bathtub as I was planning to take ice baths after each stage. A dip in the pool put to bed those worries, it’s super chilly!
I’m flying solo this weekend as it was too much of a trip to drag the whole family to. I expect to host former KHS ski coach Jack Bailey Saturday night as he’s competing in the Citzen’s race on Sunday. I also met PVC president “Fast” Fred Thomas. He won the 4/5 35+ race last year so I’ll be watching him. He screamed up the hillclimb today so he’s off to a good start.
I was learning new things about the stage race right up until yesterday! The big news was the fact that the prologue today was not a traditional timetrial. It was a hillclimb, thus negating the need for a true TT bike. Also, it was a mass start so all you had to do was take notice of where you are at in the field to determine your position. I thought this was a good thing as you can compete against others rather than the clock. What I learned just yesterday was the entire stage is based on points, not time, so it made sense the prologue was a mass start rather than timed. This means, your daily finish position has a set amount of points awarded to it. Your final GC position is based upon # of points accumulated, finish times mean nothing. Heading into the prologue I thought these revelations were good, we’ll see how it plays out in the end.
Today was perfect riding weather, 70’s and sunny, negligible wind. I had a good warmup and was ready to go. We lined up and rode through Waitsfield in a controlled start. This is supposed to mean the pace car keeps us at a moderate pace so no one can go off out front. The TargetTraining team must have pressured the driver to speed up because we were definitely at race pace from the get-go! Once we turned onto Rt.17 it was on. I hung around the front, even taking a couple of turns pacing at the outset because the steep stuff was yet to come. Once the road went vertical, the true racers emerged.
The route was a total of 8.2 miles, 7.3 after the neutral start, with the last 2.7 of it gaining 1276ft. of elevation at an average of 10% grade. There’s not much to say other than everyone is pretty much going as hard as they can. Drafting no longer is an aid. People are basically redlining it and just accepting their position as the best they can achieve. At least, that was my approach! This climb seemed a lot harder to me than Mt. Washington. It was really only about 2 miles of steeps compared to Mt. Washington’s 7. But I guess you don’t pace yourself to make the distance, you just go harder than you would really prefer to pick up positions to the finish.
My finish was unfortunately not as high as I expected it would be. I came into the weekend with a lot of confidence in my climbing. I was definitely going at my max, 190HR for a portion, and 185avg. My legs felt OK, I just don’t think I could go any harder. Perhaps if I used a harder gear I could have made up some time, but as the finish line loomed, I wasn’t close enough to improve my standing so I just rode it out. My hope is I will pick up positions as the weekend goes on like at Fitchburg. However, as I said, this is a points race and Fitchburg was a time race. So, it may be more difficult to score top stage finishes. My approach from here is to earn top-10 finishes and see how I end up.
Next up is the 53 mile circuit race.

NECS #8 Pinnacle, Newport, NH

1st/5 Expert Vet I

I added this race to hopefully improve upon my current standing in the New England Mountain Bike Championship Series. I lost some ground after the Bradbury and Exeter, NH races. This was a tall order as Newport, NH is 3+ hours away from home. Race time was 10am so it was another early rise and departure (5am) to make it. Babs and the boys stayed back to enjoy being in their own beds!
The course description sounded favorable: some climbing, sweet singletrack, etc. I was hoping to avoid words like “technical!” Upon arrival it was overcast and a little chilly, but I didn’t think rain was in the forecast until later that day. I was wrong! The event had an additional category for Elites and Experts who wanted to ride longer called an Enduro. Since I was there for points in my class, I passed. A couple of guys in my class ended up doing it so the prospect for gaining valuable points was even greater.
The Vet II’s and my group headed out for the first of 2 9-mile loops. I sat in behind Anders Larson and another guy to get a feel for how I was going perform. Lately, it’s been a nice change knowing I can have a great start and feel good, not at LT from the gun. The guy in my group was ahead of Anders and was pulling away slightly so I passed Anders and sat in behind him. He was a good bike handler so I quickly set my goals as try to maintain contact with him in the woods, and try to drop him on the climbs. The first singletrack was fun and rolling, which made me start enjoying mountain biking again. At the first hill I knew I had more to give and pulled away from him. Then we hit the woods again which was more technical and he bridged the gap. I fumbled on a section where it seemed like we were riding on the top of a stone wall and he passed me. I hung with him for a while, but a couple more dabs by me and he was out of sight. As we came through the start/finish area, rain had become falling steadily meaning the next lap wasn’t going to be as fun as the first.
I should mention after failing to sell my Hutchinson Python tires on ebay because I think they’re in the northeast, I ran them at Sugarloaf because of their low-rolling resistance and dry conditions. I kept them on for today because the weather forecast was favorable. That’ll teach me to base my tire selection on weather! No surprise, they were very slippery on the 2nd lap. It’s so degrading to have your tires spinning out on climbs. It’s hard enough to ride up them, having zero traction is insult to injury.
At the beginning of the 2nd lap we hit the section called the wall and I saw the leader at the top and he had ridden up it so I went for it as well and made it. The nose of my saddle should be arrested for ASSault!
I bridged the gap to the leader as we went up the climb and passed him again. I worked hard knowing it was my best chance to put as much time as possible on him so I could ride the singletrack at my own pace dealing with the course conditions. I was cautious because it felt like I was riding on the ice rink. Amazingly, I went down once, but that was it and I stayed away coming home first.
This was a rewarding trip for many reasons: 1. I had fun off-road riding again. 2. I gained needed points putting me solidly in 3rd currently. 3. The prize money paid for gas and lunch.
Next up is the Green Mt. Stage Race in VT.

Saco Criterium, ME State Championship

Crowned Maine State Criterium Silver Medalist

I did this race last year for fun, representing my only road event of the year. I finished 11th in the Cat. 5 field and got lapped in the Masters 35+. This year, I’ve been taking road racing seriously and I wanted to focus on the higher profile Masters event as it carried USA Cycling’s State Crit Championship status. I also added an NECS mountain bike race for the next day so I just wanted to do 1 race today.
The family and I rose early (how great are they to allow their schedules to be totally dictated by my “hobby?”) as we were on Cape Cod all week and drove the distance to Saco. The weather was perfect and the race was held near a park and like 3 playgrounds so hopefully the kids were entertained. I’m sure Babs had visions of shopping!
The race started fast and stayed fast until the end. I spent the majority of the race about mid-pack, keeping in the draft. Even without wind-resistance, my heart rate showed I was going hard. There were a couple of crashes which generally shouldn’t happen in a field filled with experience and talent such as this. However, this course is pretty technical so the possibility exists for anything to happen to anyone.
Per usual, it came down to a sprint to the line. I’ve become decent at setting myself up in good position to have a good finish. I would never call myself a sprinter, so I know I can’t compete with the guys once the sprint starts. However, I want to make sure I’m as close to them as possible so I don’t get dropped too easily. My strategy is to set myself up into position on the final lap and be sure I’m at least in the top-10 going into the second to last corner, as opposed to the last corner. This worked well again today, as I maintained my position on the straightaway to the finish which was a LONG way down!
Then, the wait was on to see how many ME racers finished ahead of me as the state championship applies to residents. Turns out a Mainer finished 4th overall and won the gold, earning me the silver. I’ll take it, especially after last year’s result!
It was a good day, and it was great to come home later that day.
Next up is the NECS #7 in Newport, NH.

MMBA #5 Sugarloaf

1st/3 Expert Vet I

I headed to this race solo with my mind full of trepidation. The hillclimb the day before carried no official significance in the world of USA Cycling, it was just one of those “Climb it, because it’s there” situations. Today, it was back to defending my first place position in the Maine Mountain Bike Series. As luck would have it, Sugarloaf is the course with the most climbing of the summer. So, either I was going to be fatigued from the day before, or I was going to be OK as it was a good prep for Sunday. My coach Beau assured me doing the hillclimb was only going to help, so I believed him. Turns out he was right.
Babs and the boys put in a stellar effort at Mt. Washington. Today’s weather was poor, not very warm and scattered showers so there was no real incentive for them to go. That meant it was Camelback time again as I wanted to be sure I was properly hydrated for the 3 laps of climbing and I don’t like carrying 2 water bottles on the bike.
The start line was a ridiculous 4 wide section directly in front of a climb. I think a couple of guys actually opted to run up it! I got through unscathed in the top-5 and headed out on the open trail leading to the climb. My objective today was to race strategically. I wanted to be smart points-wise and keep Alan Starret (2nd in points) in sight. As I said, I had no idea what my legs would do today, so I decided to work them only as hard as I needed to avoid blowing up. Several riders passed me quickly. When I saw Big Al go by, I grabbed his wheel and let him set the pace up the hill. I felt good and as we neared the top, I decided to go around as we were heading to the singletrack sections where I didn’t want to risk losing contact with him. The way my trail riding was going, I was very worried about losing time in the woods. A singlespeeder joined us and we rode together back to the finish. I couldn’t believe it came around so quickly! I was glad to see they took out the steepest climb of the course by the condos. Instead, we rode some new singletrack and open trails. I hate it when new sections of trail are cut just prior to a race. We turn into guinea pigs and have to beat in the soft dirt and establish proper lines. Hopefully, the next time we race there it will be sweet thanks to our efforts.
I maintained the same pace on the next 2 laps and pulled away from Big Al, but could never lose the singlespeeder. I created a gap at the top of the last climb, but he would always catch up to me in the singletrack. He had a 29’r which I believe helps roll through a lot of the terrain. In the final section, I went hard and smooth and made a couple of timely passes of lapped riders and coasted into the finish. I have always liked Sugarloaf, and I liked it even more today. It actually felt easy. I guess Beau knows!
Next up is the Saco Crit.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb

5th/83 35-39
34th Overall

The hype surrounding this event was plentiful; from the race’s storied history and website forum, to an article in Bicycling Magazine, to just talking to people. All the buildup made me question why I ever signed up for it in the first place. But in the end, I had enough confidence in my ability and fitness that I knew I would conquer “The Rock,” not the other way around. My biggest concern was having a bike with the proper gearing to make it to the top. I was to race in a MMBA Series race at Sugarloaf (the toughest climbing race on the circuit!) the next day and I didn’t want to be toast! The goal was to have the Aegis Shaman (‘cross bike) built up with special gearing, but it proved too problematic to get the right ratio with the stock components and I didn’t want to invest any money into it. So, despite KB&S and Steve’s good efforts, I decided to just ride my Aegis ProAxe mountain bike instead. It had the proper gearing, plus the granny gear as a bailout, I am comfortable on it, and it’s fairly light. Besides, I really had no idea what to expect anyway, so at least I’d be OK for the mtb race. Andrew Freye hooked me up with super skinny tires, I pumped up and locked out the front shock and I was good to go.
The fam and I headed out mid-day Friday to spend the night in Gorham, NH. Babs secured perfect lodging after realizing we were too far away from North Conway shopping! She and the kids hit the pool right away while I went to register. We then had a great meal in town, played at a playground and checked out some trains, then it was night, night. There’s nothing like having the kids around to distract you from the next day’s looming pain!
We rose and departed early (6am) for the base. Because bikers aren’t allowed to ride down the road, rides back down have to be arranged and these vehicles must leave and be parked at the summit before the race begins. So Babs and the kids dropped me off and I warmed up while they drove up to wait for me at the top. Neither Babs nor I had ever been to the top of Mt. Washington before. Unfortunately, the weather was not favorable so there were no good views. To make matters worse, it made for difficult driving conditions and seeing Babs’ pictures of the ride up and the kids huddled in the back of the truck at the top really made me appreciate their efforts that day.

Going into the climb, I was considering it a training event. I had no real sense of what previous racers’ times meant and where I might stack up. The race is not a USA Cycling sanctioned event (hence Tyler Hamilton’s presence) so there’s no breakdown of ability categories (except for the Top Notch group which was any licensed Pro or a rider who previously finished the climb in under 1hour 20 minutes), just age groups. At one point Jack Bailey offhandedly said I could probably do it in 1 hour 15. So that was my mark!
My group was the 2nd wave after the Top Notch group. As we sat in the staging area they announced the big names up front like Hamilton (former US Postal rider with Lance at the Tour de France, current doper) and Ned Overend (class-act former mountain bike pro and still going strong at 50+). It rained for a few minutes but then stopped before we began. The cannon went off and we headed up and up and up!
I was in the top-10 at the beginning, then top-5 mid-way, then I latched onto a guy in my group who was maintaining a steady pace similar to mine so I decided to sit in behind him, not knowing whether there would be windy conditions ahead where drafting would help. I knew 1 guy from our group was way out front and then we were 2nd and 3rd. To be honest, I really didn’t think it was too difficult, until the end. I stayed in the middle ring until the last mile when I had to drop it into the granny, but then mid-cog in the rear. My heart rate was in the mid 170’s, which was good because I didn’t have to redline it and I was near the front. It did get a little breezy above the treeline so I was glad I was shielded by it thanks to the guy ahead of me. The last mile was the most difficult. I was in the granny and I don’t remember looking at my HR, so I was probably going harder. The guy I was trailing was strong and he was pushing the pace on every rise, I ended up not being able to match him on one of his bursts, so I concentrated on maintaining my own pace and negotiating the terrain. At one point I went by a Top Notcher and he remarked on the fact that I was not only riding a mountain bike, but shock too! Hey, “Run what you brung” I said.
The finish was epic, and probably what everybody remembers most either because they’re so happy they’ve made it or because it’s so steep. All I’ll remember is the fog because I couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of me! I had no idea what lay ahead and this was the steepest set of switchbacks I’d ever encountered! People were cheering all over the place, but I just couldn’t see them. I must have looked ghostly too, riding in the white KB&S jersey. I took a former hillclimber’s advice and at a particularly ridiculous switchback, I took the longer high line so as to maintain momentum. They way people were cheering, I kept thinking the finish was right there, but I just kept pedaling into oblivion! I didn’t know whether I should be sprinting or what. Then finally, a clock emerges and a line and the next thing I know I see Babs and the boys and someone is putting a sweet blanket on me. A sub-1hour 10minute time was my reward, and I finished 3rd in my wave.
I was a little delirious and couldn’t think of anything but somewhere to ride to spin out my legs and get the kids more clothes. Babs had to park pretty far down the road so after I regained my senses, I thought to capture the moment and get a picture at the tippity top with the boys. We then made our way down to the truck and hung out while waiting from others to finish and I did my spin. The ride down was sweet, especially since there were breaks in the clouds/fog and we had some pretty cool views. Turns out the weather really improved and while we were at the base, the summit was totally clear, figures!

There was a huge turkey lunch set up with all the stuffings, literally! The boys were champs and had good times with a turkey leg. While I was eating and digesting the event, I started thinking, there was no group or ability designation, just time to determine the top-3. So, even though I was 3rd in my group, which was comprised of my and a couple of other age groups, that didn’t account for any 35-39 year-olds in the Top Notch group. Sure enough, when the results came out, I was listed 4th. 35 year old Tyler Hamilton bumped me off the podium! I guess I need to hit the juice, he broke the age group’s time record! A week later, I checked the standings again and now I was listed 5th! Apparently they must have found some other doper in the Top Notch group!
Anyway, I am very pleased with my time and placing. It was a fine weekend and I may make another stab at it next year, as a 40-44 year old in the Top Notch group. I’ll lay out a spike strip for Tyler while I’m there! Babs was the ultimate team manager/driver/photographer/supporter/and mom. The boys made the most of their environment and were great. The bike was a good call, hey it’s a mountain right? Ride a mountain bike! Actually I’ll probably set something different up for next year. It’s all about the time now!
Next up is MMBA #5 at Sugarloaf.

Turkey Leg prizes for ALL!

Readfield Heritage Days

This was the most fun I've had on a bike in a long time. The whole family went down to spend a sparkling morning celebrating Readfield Heritage Days! All of us boys rolled singlespeeds over a fun little course right down the road from us. Drake took off and did great all by himself while I guided Fenix over the terrain. He had 1 spill, but this kid's tough!
Andrew Freye and I had a fun frolic through the woods, sitting in behind some of the locals. Pat Pritchard showed up on a BMX bike, classic! The race came down to the final lap and Andrew and I separated ourselves from the others. At the base of the final descent after a turn there was a huge log that I always went around for fear of breaking the Surly into pieces. Andrew, of course, leapfrogged it. Heading to the finish line I decided to take a little shortcut so Andrew wouldn't have as much of an advantage! He laughed when he saw me cut the corner and I came up just behind him as we began the sprint to the finish line. He was ahead, but appeared to let up before the line and I roared in to earn a tie. No photo finishes here, no gimmies either!
Steve at Kennebec Bike and Ski put on a nice bike-check demo and the shop provided shop dollars. I ended up giving mine to the 4th place finisher.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

EFTA/NECS #6 Fort Rock Revenge

6th/9 Vet I

This was another after-thought race that I originally didn’t have on my schedule. However, after my poor showing at Bradbury last weekend, I looked around for a race in the area in hopes of regaining some bike confidence. I had 2 races to choose from, but the stars had to align for either of them to work. I contemplated competing in the New England Criterium Championship in Concord, NH. However, Babs made a subtle, but effective push to have a “family day” due to the fact that I would be pretty involved with an upcoming hockey camp for the next few weeks. It was a great call as we had a fantastic day at Popham Beach jumping waves, hunting for crabs, playing catch and having a picnic. That was way better than any race, any day.
This left the mountain bike race in Exeter, NH as a possibility. I noticed I was 3rd in the series ranking, so I figured it would be worthwhile to earn some points and try to maintain or move up. For that to work, I arranged to do a Portland airport pick up of hockey campers at 1pm. I figured a 9:30am start would certainly have me finishing before noon and an hour drive to the airport would make it perfect. The course was described as an 8-mile loop consisting of technical singletrack, rock gardens, bridges, etc. 3 laps sounded like a 2 hour race to me. Doh!
I picked up U-23 US National Team Member and KHS graduate Andrew Freye in York and we drove in a KHS mini-bus together from there. Just like old times!
We arrived in terrific weather conditions, got registered, got warmed up, got lined up, and hit the trail. Thankfully, the younger Experts/Pros went out 1min ahead of my Expert/Pro Vet group. I lined up on the front row and had a great start. I could have had the hole shot, but chose to settle into second heading into the singletrack to ride behind someone whom I hoped knew the trail as I had no clue having not pre-ridden it. Most of the time, the objective to getting a good start is to get ahead of riders who may hold you up in technical sections where there’s no place to pass. Well I now realize, I’m one of those guys whom people are going to want to get by!
In a nutshell, here’s my analysis of me as a cyclist after this race:
Biker: Good
Mountain Biker: Not so good
Trail Finder: Lost
As soon as the trail turned technical, I turned into a buffoon. I was so intent, I think, on riding fast, I chose bad lines, never focusing on where I wanted to go. I quickly got passed by Pro Mike Patrick, then another guy who seemed to know the course. I tried to stay with him, but I was too sketchy and I would lose time at every technical spot. Then another and another passed Obstacles seemed to jump out at me. Any place where you may have needed to put a foot down, I did. The ¾ of a lap section was the worst for me as I constantly had people come up behind me because I was so slow. I played cat and mouse with a guy for the middle part of the race as I would drop him on the few climbing or open sections, but he would reel me in and pass me in the rough stuff. I lost too much time at the end of the 2nd lap however, and I could never catch back up to him. The 3rd lap was my demise. Any place where it was questionable which way the trail would go, I took the wrong path. A critical trail miscue halfway through the final lap allowed 3 riders to pass and I lost my cool. Although I was glad to see former teammate Anders Larson go by as he was having a good ride, I couldn’t contain my emotions. I expressed my frustration and discontent for the course markings vocally (potty mouth!) then tried to regroup and soldier on. Unfortunately, my mind had checked out. I was pissed about everything like my broken pedal stabbing me in the calf, my poor handling skills, the poor course layout, everything. I knew my mind had checked out when I started to think about what I was going to write about in this Blog and recanting ala Carl's line in 'Caddyshack' "I don't think the 'technical stuff' is going to come for quite a while now." And the hits kept on coming; I took another wrong turn later, and I endoed twice: once getting my leg caught between the handlebars and the top tube(?!) and once on my head. You know you’re on a technical course when your forearm cramps and your legs feel fresh as a summer’s breeze. This was neither my type of course, nor my day. My lap times reflected my sentiment as my final lap was 4 minutes longer than the previous 2. The icing on the cake was the race took me 2hrs 48 minutes (longer than Bradbury's "enduro!") so now I was going to be late for the airport pickup! Who’s brilliant idea was it to do this race?!
Freye did well, finishing second, but he admitted the course took its toll on him as well. My 6th place finish was not good enough to maintain my 3rd place standing in the series as I finished behind the 4th place guy, so now I'm 4th. We loaded up right away and cruised north, reflecting on the misery and fielding phone calls from the airport, “Where are you?!”
I’ll probably do the local Readfield Heritage Days MTB Race on Sunday for fun with the family, and then it’s the Mt. Washington Hillclimb and Sugarloaf MTB race weekend.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

MMBA #4 Bradbury State Park

5th/12 Expert Vet I
15th overall

I’ve been procrastinating a little in re-capping this race. Partly due to the fact I went to the Cape right after the race and just returned last night. And partly because I haven’t wanted to. This was my poorest outing of the year and I think it was due to a variety of reasons. But I’m not going to go there because they all sound like excuses for a lack-luster finish. So, I’ll do my best to just summarize the day.
The weather was terrific, sunny and warm. I knew we’d be in the woods most of the day anyway, so heat wasn’t going to be an issue. However, the race was billed as a 1 lap 30-miler and without the rest of Team Wheels to support me, I was on my own in terms of fluids. Hydration was going to be integral, so as much as I hate to use it, I wore the Camelback again. I also had a full water bottle in the cage and had PowerGels in the pocket. I figured I was set.
I foolishly missed the riders meeting prior to the start as I was still warming up. My previous post addresses the stupidity in that and how I recommend anyone attend these if they’re called for. The race format was unique already in that it was an “enduro,” meaning “longish.” To augment the uniqueness, it included a “LeMans” start where we rested our bikes 100 yards away and at the word “Go!” we ran and mounted them and were off. The first section was a FAST open trail with some drops and roots and stuff to chatter your teeth and knock water bottles out of the cages. Yea, I lost my bottle in the first 1000 yards. How close is the first feed zone? I was comfortable in the top-15 bat worst. Then we hit the new singletrack. The organizers had to create new trails in order to get the 30 miles. Now this stuff was fun to ride, the problem was there were a bunch of guys with huge adrenalin rushes not getting enough oxygen to their bodies going as fast as they could though this stuff and it made for some uncomfortable times. I just could not get any kind of a rhythm going and several riders passed me over the course of the first few miles. The terrain was rolling, so I was not maxing out my heart rate, just maxing out my riding ability. I finally settled into no-man’s-land and just rode my pace. I guess I zoned out too, as I took a wrong turn exiting singletrack and headed up the wrong trail. I went by a sign with a “W” on it (riders’ meeting?), but just kept going thinking it was a code for “Water” or “You’re Wicked fast!” I noticed the ground didn’t have many tracks on it, and it dawned on me I was going the “Wrong Way!” so I turned around, losing at least 45 seconds.
I came up on Jamie Tyler and Adam LaRochelle and after spouting an expletive-laced explanation of why I was now behind them instead of ahead of them, I settled in and rode with them. Adam let me get in the middle and we just cruised. Eventually I moved on hoping to recapture the place I was in before I took my detour. It was a long, lonely quest. I kept seeing white signs with numbers on them (riders’ meeting?), but they did not correspond with my Garmin. To make matters worse, if they were mileage markers, they were WAY less than what I was reading. More bad news to fill my mind.
I crossed the road to the section that had the climbing and felt fine, hoping to make some time. My only issue at that point was I was over-hydrated and had to take a leak, so… I did. But enough about that. I climbed strong and plotted out how to conserve energy and make it to the finish fast. At mile 19.5 my Garmin lost satellite communication, so I no longer knew just how much further I had to go. I finally reeled in the last guy I passed before I went off course which made me happy and I just kept plugging away. The trail descended back towards the start-finish area and then headed back up some very unrideable terrain. At one point I thought I heard someone say only a couple miles to go, but that didn’t go with my approximation of where I was and how long I had been riding. Now I was distracted and confused, and tired. I endoed twice and was passed by some guy who gave a “Whoop!” as he went by on a descent, what a jackass! Now I was pissed and I wasn’t about to let him get away so I stayed with him when we cruised through the campground. He then proceeded to take a shortcut instead of going through the ribbons. Nice, must be how he caught up to me in the first place. Then, incredulously, we’re crossing the finish line! I couldn’t believe it! I was expecting more. Soon after, I learned the race was shortened due to land-agreements. It was only like 26 miles (rider meeting once again!). I was really bummed because I had stuff left in the tank to go the distance.
To add to my disappointment, my finish was the worst of the season. Granted, there were pros in the field, but I expected to place higher in my age group. However, things happened, and it wasn’t meant to be. I hope to use the experience as a learning one and will be ready to race hard next time out. You can bet I’ll be at any riders’ meeting, front row!
Next up is the Mt. Washington Hillclimb.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Live, Learn and Ride Another Day

As I reflect upon today’s race, I realize I learned a very important lesson: Go to the rider’s meeting if they have one!
There you may learn important information like:
If you see a sign with a "W" on it, you’re going the wrong way. Stop and turn around.
What the white signs with numbers on them indicated.
The published distance of 30 miles has been shortened to 26.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

MMBA #3 Maine Sport Runoff

1st/4 Expert Vet I
2nd Overall

Race day was greeted with the threat of high heat and humidity and all indicators pointed to a grueling race. The course at the Snow Bowl was modified this year, resulting in a climb that wound its way to the top of the mountain. I missed this race last year, thus I haven’t ridden the course in at least 5 years so the change was not drastic for me. As with any re-routes, the trail brought the added challenge of soft terrain, and few established good lines. This particular re-route added much more climbing as one would expect, so it made it double difficult to ride all of the new sections. I thought the course was National caliber. It had a tough climb, fast wooded sections, technical singletrack, and some get-on-the-brakes-and-hold-on-for-dear-life spots! I much prefer to ascend on a course like this that challenges your handling skills as well as your fitness. Going straight up a dirt road or ski slope is just plain obnoxious. At this point in the season, this course ranks as my favorite.
Back to the weather, it was a hot one for sure. The event organizers decided to cut each category’s race 1 lap short, so we Experts did 3 instead of 4 laps. I can’t say that the heat really affected me and at the line I was kind of hoping we would do the 4 laps. However, with a finish time of just under 2 hours, and the toll that the climbing took, I was certainly happy to head into the finish chute rather than head out for another lap!

Finishing is good!

Briefly, I had a fair start, and began the climb in about 6th spot. The 3 laps changed my strategy somewhat. I was going to have to push each lap hard rather than conserve energy for the long haul and I didn’t want to have to play catch-up from the beginning. We quickly got in single-file and I settled in 1 rider behind local James Tyler who helped set up the course. My hope was to ride behind him on the descent as he knows the terrain and as a young ‘un, has way less fear than I so I know he’d be fast. Unfortunately, the climb took its toll on him and others early. Rather than wait it out, I took advantage of their miscues and moved on. I knew there were at least 3 others including teammate Adam LaRochelle out in front so I hoped to bridge up to them instead. I got to the top in 4th, but the front 2 were gone. I began my fluid-less descent and I could hear the guys behind me drawing near so I focused my attention on trying to stay on the bike as much as possible, nice strategy, huh?! I passed a Junior X kid mid-way through the first lap and headed through the start/finish in 3rd.
I attacked the climbs again the next 2 laps, determined not to lose time and hopefully increase the distance between me and those like Ryan Rumsey, Big Al, and Rick Nelson (who had an unlucky day with a taco for a wheel) behind me. The difference was I had no one ahead of me to judge the better lines so I had to read and react on my own. For me, I have no problem getting off my bike and running. Often times this is the fastest method to get through a tough spot and last I checked, there are no judges out there awarding style points. Any hang up I have, I’m off and running. So the name of the race suited me as well, I ran quite a bit of the final 2 climbs, especially the top section. I don’t know whether others did, so I can’t say whether this approach was quicker or not, but at least I wasn’t battling frustration to compound the difficulty. I caught Adam on the descent, and headed up the final climb in search of the overall leader but he had checked out.

Like father like son. Can't ride it, run it!

The final descent was a relief, but I did have to dig deep to push up the intermediate climb towards the end. My lack of off-road riding skills was again displayed on each descent. I would come to a complete stop at least once every lap and look at my race number plate because I launched off the bike at some point! This is the price I pay for riding outside of my comfort level because I worry about being caught from behind. I know the smart thing to do is ride in control, but my adrenalin has other ideas in a race.

"You go this way, I'll go that way!"

It ended up being a great day overall. Babs and the boys are back in town and they came over to cheer me on and have some fun.

Drake and Jamie with their race faces on.

The Seymours were there so Drake and Jamie rode around. Fenix was a madman on the bike riding everywhere! They all raced together and got their standard prizes which they love! Aegis owner Pete Orne and his son Will were there. Will raced and did well; he seems to have caught the bike-bug. The boys and I took an afternoon dip in the lake before heading home which was nice. I don’t think we could have asked for a better time.
Next up is MMBA #4, an Enduro event at Bradbury State Park.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Tale of 2 Bikes

Pre-Mt. Snow

Post-MMBA #2

A clean bike is a happy bike, but a muddy bike is a ridden bike.

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Fitchburg Longsjo Classic Stage 4

12th/72 Masters 35+
Final GC Standing: 13th/83 starters

I spoke too soon! The rain finally reared its ugly head. I left Boston for Fitchburg under sunny skies. It was overcast when I arrived, then it rained while I was warming up, then it stopped when we were staging, then it rained at the start, then it stopped. What a pain! Today was not the day for rain since the criterium is a fast-paced race around a couple of city blocks which is dangerous enough in dry conditions. But when you add wet pavement to manhole covers and painted crosswalks as we make the turns in a pack around 20mph, you’re asking for trouble and there was plenty of it. There were at least 3 incidents involving 7 riders in the early stages of the race. 2 of the crashes were far enough ahead of me where I could get slowed up and avoid them. I basically concentrated on keeping my bike upright, watching what was going on ahead of me, and staying within the draft. The course was unique in that it had your typical 2 square turns like you find in a city, but then it had a sweeping, rotary type turn to bring us back around and an s-turn in the middle. This would have been a lot more fun had it been dry. We completed 19 laps on this .9 mile circuit. I rode the race in the front 1/3 to mid-pack plotting out how to approach the final turn to set up for the sprint. The key I felt was to be able to carry momentum into the last 2 turns and be towards the front. I am finally finding myself strategizing and playing it smart to be successful in road racing, rather than just riding it out. I knew I had to get towards the front and on the outside of turn 2 on the final lap. I tried the inside line during the race and found you practically came to a stop because it was so crowded and such a tight turn. I used my NASCAR knowledge and decided momentum was more important than the shortest line through the turn. So I was semi-aggressive and rode hard on the final lap, positioned myself on the outside, and exited turn 3 in good position to sprint. The guys out front were fast so I didn’t gain many positions and missed 11th by a tire.

Getting into position on the final lap, I'm in white #725 behind the green guy.

I was very pleased with the result given the conditions and the competition and it was a satisfactory finish to an awesome 4 days of racing. It really makes me wonder what I could have done differently in the TT which forced me to play catch-up all week. Nonetheless, I think a top-15 is where I belong. Given the field consisted of predominantly Cat. 1-3's and even a former Russian Olympian, this mountain biker will take it! I have to thank Babs and the boys for letting me live the dream of a cyclist: sleep, eat, race, recover, and repeat. Thanks to my mom for letting me stay in comfort in the Boston apartment. of course my coach Beau who got me to this point. Big thanks to Pete Orne at Aegis for hooking me up with the Trident. Apparently my legs weren’t good enough for it! And thanks to the crew at Kennebec Bike and Ski because all I’ve had to do is add lube to the chain and air to the tires of the Victory. It just keeps on ticking. Next up is payback to Babs as the whole family heads to MN for the rest of the week. Then it’s MMBA #3 in Camden.

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