Monday, May 28, 2007

ROOT 66 MTB Series #4 Race Report 5/27

Expert 40-49
4th overall

This race, held at Coyote Hill Camp in West Fairlee, VT, was on the schedule as 1 of only 2 opportunities for me to qualify for the USA Cycling MTB National race at Mt. Snow in July. In order to compete at Nats, one must have a high finish at a regional USA Cycling sanctioned event. This race and only 1 other the weekend before Nats fit into my schedule so I was hoping against hope that I would do well enough here to not have to worry about it. Luckily, all went according to plan and I should be all set.
Due to the race location and the weekend’s plans, it didn’t make sense to bring the whole family. Given a 1:00 start time, I just made a day of it. Left the house at 7:30am, cruised due East, arrived in plenty of time, and discovered the race would be delayed a ½ hour. Oh well, I guess I would get a good warmup in. I guessed wrong! Turns out I had too much time on my hands and ended up just doing a few hillclimbs 20mins. before my start. I really wanted to scope out the course because Freye told me it was a lot of singletrack and should be fun. Well, I hear singletrack and I think of no climbing, no passing, and my no technical skills. Needless to say I was a bit apprehensive about the race in general. However, I overheard some people talking about the course and they mentioned a dirt road climb and I was put at ease a bit. We were slated to do 3 laps so I knew I had to push the pace early as we the race would probably take only 90mins.
The venue was held at a mountain bike camp in the Vermont hills and featured a good mix of NE riding. There was a ton of rooty/flowing singletrack, a little open field traversing, and a fair amount of climbing both on the road and in the singletrack.

The start had us ride about 50 yards in the field with a sharp right turn before forcing us into single file through a short wooded section then it opened up to the climb. Having not pre-ridden, my pre-race strategy was similar to that at the Canada Cup: let someone else lead out and get a feel for the course by following their tracks. Well, I let 1 guy go ahead as we began our ascent, but it didn’t take long to realize his pace was slower than the speed I wanted to run so I passed him and never looked back. I entered the singletrack with intense focus to see what was coming up and just tried to stay relaxed and fluid. The first lap went fairly well. I was working pretty hard. It wasn’t long before I caught some of the guys from the earlier starting groups and just waited my time to pass while attempting to learn the course. I had 1 “moment” after a speedy descent when I happened upon a long mud pit complete with random logs in the middle. It happened very quickly and I just rode it out and stayed off the brakes. No doubt the Hei Hei helped save that one. I came through the start/finish right around 30mins. My goal for lap 2 was to try to be smooth and ride everything which I achieved for the most part. I came up on more riders and was held up, but I figured my fellow competitors were in the same boat so I didn’t stress about passing. Despite feeling like I backed off the pace, I came through lap 2 maybe 1 minute slower than the first.
Thanks to for the pic

The last lap I wanted to push the pace again yet stay in control. I think this is the area I need the most work on. I get too squirrely when I’m riding hard and I end up expending too much energy battling the elements rather than flowing over them. From now on, my last lap mantra will be go hard on the straight and open, go easy on the bumpy and narrow. You can’t win a race in the singletrack, but you can sure lose it. I had another “moment” on a descent when my front wheel suddenly came in contact with a baby’s head rock or something nearly vaulting me over the bars. It also kicked my steering so I was weaving for a second before I settled in. It was a major scare. Again, the bike saved my ass! I kept myself in check for the rest of the loop and rolled in nice and easy so as not to get hung up with some guys battling for position in the group ahead. I can’t say I was happy with my technical handling, but I wasn’t unhappy either. There were sections that I couldn’t do 1 lap, but that I could another. It always helped to follow another rider as I could learn from their mistakes or success. There was 1 tree that I had to grab to keep from tipping over every lap, so that wasn’t good! My lap times were consistent and I didn’t crash. All things considered, I was glad to win and doubly glad to see my time would have placed me no worse than 2nd in any of the younger categories.

The Hei Hei was a definite asset once again. The ability to lock out the suspension on the climbs is key to me mentally to know my energy isn’t getting robbed by bobbing. Also, the bumps were smoothed out and I save so much energy not getting bounced around. I think I have the shocks set up well, with just enough rebound. As I knew no one at the event, I brought my new feedzone bottle handler which worked like a charm and didn’t yell at me to ride harder!
Next up is a local road race and criterium here in L/A.

Obligatory pic of Mt. Washington. Still snow on the hill.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Legislative Bike Tour & Walk on 5/23

KB&S owner Stephen Naas

Freye got up early and represented!

Gov. Baldacci and BCM spokesman Eric Weinrich

I headed down to this event early Wednesday morning. The objective of the gathering was to make a great impression on Legislators as they are just about to vote on LD1808 – An Act to Improve Road Safety and Update Bicycling Laws. I'm trying to do more in support of the activity I love rather than just pay race entry fees. Kona is very big on bike advocacy and has spurred my effort.
The ride was a loop from the Capital to Hallowell and back along the Kennebec Rail trail with stops along the way discussing and pointing out both positive and negative road conditions and examples of how communities can benefit from supporting bike-related projects. The most interesting bit I got out was regarding the Hallowell Elementary School. The former location was in a neighborhood that was easy to walk or ride a bike to. A new (and certainly needed) structure was built along a major road at the top of a hill with a sidewalk from only 1 direction. Now, 95% of the kids have no choice and have to be bussed or driven to school, no walking or bike riding. So, perhaps more consideration needs to be given to such projects in an effort to retain healthy alternatives for kids.
Meanwhile, it's back to the races for me this weekend!


As noted previously, Babs is "Ms. Style." On faculty superheroe day at KHS, she was "Aestheticus, The Aesthetic Avenger" who rids the world of all that is not beautiful and fabulous. In stark contrast, Fenix was "Captain Destructo." He lives up to his reputation daily!


Now this is how it's done. The always style-savvy Babs shows off her campus cruiser (a Huffy reminiscent of her beloved bike as a kid) made practical with a basket and ribbons. Note how her riding kit compliments the package. I'll never have this much class!


What the hell was I thinking? Was I posing for a Lilly catalog shoot? The pink and green combo is way too over the top. The IF stuff is going on eBay so as to prevent this style nightmare from occuring in the future! What would the "Queer Eye" guys think?!

This is how you wear pink and green:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hei Hei Reigns Supreme

Last Saturday’s race marked the first event for the Kona mtb bike. I can’t say it was the first time competing on a full suspension though. I have a 2001 Rocky Mountain Team Element SC in the stable that I really enjoyed riding while training with the KHS team. I dusted it off 2 summers ago and raced at Sugarloaf. Ironically there are some Kona roots found in the Rocky Mountain (or vice versa) so the jump to racing full time on full suspension isn’t that great a leap. The difference between the bikes, however, is huge!
The HH is a svelte 22.5 pounds! Any apprehension I had previously about racing full suspension has been erased. The weight penalty on the climbs is negligible and the benefits of a smooth descent are a huge advantage.
The HH had no glitches all race despite muddy and rough course conditions. The guys at Kennebec Bike & Ski set it up to perform despite my trying my best to break it! I had no crashes, but some near misses. The ability to compress the rear when planting the front wheel in a low spot prevents a front endo. Also, being able to sit and continue to hammer on the pedals through rough terrain without getting a pain in the ass is a big advantage to stave off fatigue and gain time. My last lap was the most tenuous when I was in that mental gray area of ride safely in order to finish, and keep up the pace to maintain the lead. This contradiction coupled with fatigue is not a healthy mix! My most memorable “moment” was when riding off-camber on a nasty rocky section and I got bumped off line by a rock and forced into a drainage ditch. The front end took a hard hit but came out unscathed. I can say with total confidence a hardtail would have affected my performance for the worse in most sections of the course.
The big debate for me was tire choice. The bike is spec’d with a lightweight version of Maxxis’ fast rolling Crossmark. Although the XTR wheelset is tubeless-ready, the tire/tube combination is lighter. This is a step back for me as I’ve been running tubeless for years. Upon hearing the course was muddy, I was already planning to change out the tires, but I pre-rode the course anyway and was pleasantly surprised. I had adequate traction everywhere save a slippery root mid-climb, and most importantly, the tires shed the mud so I wasn’t carrying it around. I raced the bike as spec’d and I think that was a good call. The tires were an advantage on the open climbs and didn’t hurt my handling or performance on the descents.
I also took full advantage of the lockout features on both front and rear shocks. The bike was in rigid mode on every climb to ensure every pedal stroke was 100% efficient. This took a lot of pre-planning when to switch back to suspension-mode, but I got the handle on it mid-race. A comical moment was when I was beginning the descent to the start/finish, I couldn’t get my left hand to shift to the big ring because my mind had been hung up on the front fork lockout button for so long!
The HH is going to be a huge asset for me and this Bromont course was the perfect debut for it. A smaller version of Mt. Snow, I am going to be super confident heading into Nationals.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Canada/Quebec Cup #2 Race Report 5/19

Expert Masters 40-49

The whole Wheelden fam bolted for north of the border Friday morning for a mini-getaway in conjunction with the season’s first mountain bike race. Bromont, in the province of Quebec was our destination. This is a ski resort town located +/- 45 mins. East of Montreal. It is a French-speaking province, but luckily everyone is bi-lingual. This is cool because you really have a sense you’re in another country, yet not out of your comfort level.
Babs picked out sweet lodging right at the base of the mountain and spitting distance of all race-related activities. The most important criteria being it had an indoor pool which is crucial for kid happiness. We pulled in Friday mid-day allowing for a 2-lap pre-ride of the course for me and a 100-lap swim for Drake! I met up with the Elite group and trailed them on their 2nd lap. The course was your standard ski-resort design: open fire road climbing/technical singletrack descending. The area had seen rain recently and there was a threat all weekend so the singletrack was muddy adding to the technicality of the terrain. I was slightly apprehensive after the first lap as I was unfamiliar with the course, but my 2nd was a hot lap and I rode all the sections, providing me with the confidence I needed heading into race-day.
I had a 2:30 afternoon start which was a change from the normal early morning events. This was good in that I had ample time to hydrate and relax, but bad because it gave me a lot of time to think about the race and what could go right or wrong. Being with the fam helped because they helped me keep my from dwelling on the event. We had breakfast, hit the pool, I helped
Andrew & Co. with their start, had lunch, then prepped for the race.
This race is part of the Canadian National Series, equivalent to the US’ Series. This was a nearby opportunity not to be missed to race against decent competition with no pressure to do well. It meant passing up the first Maine MTB series event, but I’m not a fan of the course so I was content with focusing on the 1 event and having fun with the family. As it turns out, I couldn’t have scripted a better weekend.
I donned the famous blue/orange Kona kit and felt an immediate surge in adrenaline! After a minimal warm-up, I lined up with my group as we awaited the younger classes to start ahead of us. I was the only American in the field. As many of the competitors are competing in the series, almost all received call-ups to the line so I was relegated to the very back, but that was OK as there were only 18 of us. The start area was pretty spread out so there was room to advance positions. I guess I had cyclocross starts on my brain and felt it necessary to get to the front right away. Once we hit the first climb I settled in right on the leader’s rear wheel thinking strategically I would let someone else lead the first lap in hopes they were faster than I in the singletrack and I could follow their tracks. Well, the pace was simply too slow and I figured my strength was going to be climbing so I needed to take advantage of the opportunity to push the pace. So, on the next climb I pushed the pace and created a gap heading into the more technical singletrack. I was already catching guys on the tail end of the younger group and was actually slowed up by them. This allowed one of the guys in my group to catch up and we rode out the first lap together. As we ascended on our 2nd lap, I again created a gap as I was climbing as well as I’d hoped. However, he erased the deficit again in the singletrack and passed me as I dabbed once. His lead was doomed unfortunately; he soon flatted, effectively taking him out of the running which was too bad as I was never challenged again. I stayed on the gas, taking lessons from the Elite: never let up on the easy stuff and cruised to victory with over 2mins to spare over 2nd place. My time would have placed me no worse than 3rd in the younger classes so I was doubly pleased with the effort and the reward.
Babs and the boys were an amazing support crew and rowdy fans. I was spurred on each lap knowing they were there. At the finish Drake couldn’t stop saying “I can’t believe you won!” Unfortunately there was no kids’ race, but they were content with climbing boulders and frog-hunting with French-speaking friends.

Special thanks to Babs for being team mom/photographer/feed zone handler/referee, I couldn’t have done it without her.
Next up is a ROOT 66 Series MTB race in VT in hopes of qualifying for Nationals.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sterling Classic Road Race Report 5/12

Masters 35+
48 miles

Thanks to Babs’ flexibility and the weekend free from lax games, I snuck down to Boston Friday night and left the apt. early Saturday morning for an 8:30am start in Sterling, MA. The day’s weather was decent for racing: sunny with temps hovering right around 60. I once again stressed over what to wear. I was going with shorts regardless, but what to wear up top was a dilemma. I originally pinned my number on a short sleeve and was going to wear long-fingered gloves. But, I changed last minute and went with the long sleeve and short fingered gloves and I’m happy with my decision. It was the right mix early on, maybe a little warm at the end, but not uncomfortable.
This race marked the first repeat event from last year. Up until now, all the races this season were new events for me. A year ago at this time I was just a Cat. 5 as I didn’t have much of a road resume tojustify an upgrade. Last spring saw a couple of training races and 1 other road race up to this point. Thus far this year, I already have 4 major road events under my lycra. Thanks to my Cat. 3 upgrade, they’ve been in the ultra-competitive Masters or Cat. 3 level.
At this race last year, I competed in the Cat. 5 35+ class and placed 5th. It was a rain event and I think we did at most 3 laps. There was a bit of climbing in the form of a hill finish and we went around 6 times. The most notable member of the field was Mark McCormack, a renowned pro. My strategy today was to stay towards the front, get a good workout in, and push it on the hills. The first lap solidified this decision as there were some fast descents on narrow roads and I did not want to be in the pack. As we completed the first lap, my position towards the front gave me an excellent view of McCormack and Yabroudy (top New England racer) go off the front leave the pack for good. There was an instant when I thought I would go with them, but that was just the steroids talking! Rather, I stuck with the game plan and was content with riding around with everyone. I stayed in the top-30 the entire time, cycling a little back and forth and was always top-20 on the climbs which was a good sign my legs were feeling jiggy. I joined a mock break of 4-5 guys with 2 laps to go, but it didn’t stick. It was a hard effort for a few minutes, but I didn’t think it took too much out of me.
So, it was all about a sprint finish again. I had found a nice wide line at the final turn which allowed me to carry momentum up the climb. I usually shifted in advance, but as this was the last lap, I had to stay on the gas longer and didn’t want to drop down to the small ring too early. I think I was a little late in shifting, but as I glanced around me at the line, I don’t think it cost me any positions. My hope was for a top-20 finish, but I am completely satisfied with my result. I like the way the season is progressing and my confidence and strength is building. I had been in the top-30% of the field the first 4 races and today I broke the top 25%. This marks a good point to take a break from the road and get the fat tires dirty. The family and I are off to a Canada Cup race this weekend.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

King Zing weighs 15.5 pounds!

I took the bathroom scale and weighed myself then picked up the bike and determined the difference. This bike is silly light! This is real world weight with pedals and 2 water bottle holders. I feel pressured to be faster!

Here's my attempt to not let the light weight make me lazy and appreciate it in the races. I strapped a 2.5 pound ankle weight to the water bottle holder and packed the saddle bag with tools. How good is this bike? Too good.

I did a hard sprint workout today. This bike sets the bar at the highest level with regards to stiffness. I feel I now have enough experience to make a comparison and there simply isn't one!

Sunday 5/7 Bradbury 1st Hei Hei Ride

This was a “duty weekend” for me up on the Hill. But, I found a window of opportunity to sneak the first off-road ride of the season in Sunday morning. The weather all week was mostly sunny and windy so trails have dried up nicely. I called Bradbury Mountain on Thursday and turns out they officially declared the trails open that day. Andrew Freye and I coordinated schedules and we met at the park at 9am. Babs and the boys made the trek down, dropped me off, and proceeded to Freeport for a bit of shopping.
Kona vs Salsa Showdown
John Burns also made the journey up from MA so it was an all-ADG ride. Turns out, the day was also dedicated as a trails day so people came out in droves to help rake away the winter debris and improve drainage where needed. The weather was still below 60 degrees, but sunny and pleasant. The ride was pure joy. This was the Hei Hei’s maiden voyage, save a road loop a few days prior. It was difficult to determine which was making me happier: the riding or the bike. It was clearly both. I felt instantly comfortable on the bike. I had to remind myself often that it was OK to just ride over obstacles as opposed to avoiding them as the hardtail mentality is still entrenched in my mind. My biggest adjustment will be getting used to riding a flat bar again. The bike ascended and descended predictably so my confidence was high riding with pro and semi-pro racers in Freye and Burns. The one thing I noticed immediately in riding with them was they did not let up on easy sections. These guys put the hammer down wherever they’re able, no doubt due to the pressure to always try to make time in races. It was a great experience to ride with them.
We rode for just over 2 hours. Babs and the boys returned to pick me up while Freye and Burns refueled and then planned to join the trail crew. I wished I could have, but had to get back for Alfond supervision.

Hei Hei: Rode hard, put to bed dirty

A classic scene unfolded when as we were driving out of the park, I was attempting to de-bag my Subway sandwich when the bottom fell out and a half of the sub fell on my lap then to the floor. I would have been mad any other day, but today, having ridden for 2+ hours and was starvin’ marvin’, I lost it! There were some expletives, some desires to throw the remnants everywhere, etc! I’m sure passerby’s were appalled, but I was redlining it. I regained composure, wolfed down the other half, apologized to Babs, and paid the boys $20 to forget the whole incident! Ahh, life’s tough, then you get some food in your stomach and everything’s OK.

Saturday 4/7

The weather has finally turned for the good here, at least for now. I took the opportunity to take the training wheels off Fenix’s bike and have a brief 2-wheel lesson. He rode on his own about 10 feet a couple of times. But, in typical form of kids his age, he stopped when he realized I wasn’t running with him! He’s eager to do it, but is a little gun-shy when actually trying it. We’ll keep chipping away.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Palmer Library Road Race Report 4/29

Masters 35+
60 miles

Today’s event appeared to be a more ramped up version of the previous day’s event with many of the same cast of riders plus another dozen or so. Apparently this race is a New England classic. As it was the first time for me, I just didn’t know what I was getting into!
The weather was overcast, chance of showers, and there was a slight chill in the air once you were pedaling along in the open air. My biggest dilemma thus far this season has been what to wear. I blew it at Turtle Pond and have been cautious to not over-dress ever since. Yesterday was a no-brainer given the sun and temp, but today was iffy. Shorts were definitely in order, but I was torn what to wear on the upper body. I decided on a short sleeve with the possibility of arm warmers but they’re just too warm so I went with bare arms and full-finger gloves. In hindsight, the right call would have been the team long-sleeve. Oh, well. Riding in the pack provided protection from the coldest air, so that’s where is stayed for the most part.
The course was a 20-miler with fairly negligible climbing and some seriously long and fast descending. In a nutshell, this was a far easier race than yesterday’s. The layout also made it difficult for anyone to get off the front and stay there as the pack was powerful when knifing through the wind on the long open stretches. As was the case yesterday, we had the full use of the road which was necessary due to the large size of the field. There was room to move up if you wanted to, but it wasn’t wise to stay there too long because it made for harder work. I felt much more comfortable on the bike in a group, but not enough to want to be in the middle of the pack 6 wide for very long. It was fitting that the day’s NASCAR race was being run at Talladega because it closely resembles the dynamics of a bike road race: the majority of riders are in a pack; you can go from 3rd place to 20th in a matter of seconds as certain lines move faster than others; there’s always a chance for “the big one;” there’s strength in numbers. Whenever I felt unsteady, I let myself drift back and then find a lane on the outside of the pack and worked my way back up front.
PVC teammate Fred Thomas was in attendance, but we were seriously outnumbered by several other teams. There would be no working together. He had a nice run going with a breakaway on lap 2, but as I said, no one stayed off the front. He put in a hard effort while up there so he was fairly depleted on the last lap and settled in for s decent finish. At the finish, the entire field made a right hander and you needed to be towards the front in order to have any advantage over the rest of the field. There was a fairly long straight before the road turned uphill so it was wise to sit in behind teams organizing for the sprint finish so as not to go out too early. I’ve learned a fair amount during my brief road career, enough to recognize I wasn’t going to contest for the win so play it safe, but go hard. I looked for openings and tried to advance as many positions as possible in the last 100 yards. I ended up passing some and getting passed so I guess it evened out.
Overall, I was hoping to have better results on the weekend. But as I perused the results closely, I noticed some familiar names. For example I finished within a few places of Pro mountain bike racer Michael Patrick both days and ahead of Bill Yabroudy who was 1st in New England road racing last year. Clearly, these races ended up being events that catered to sprinters which is not my specialty. I hope to attend the Sterling classic in 2 weeks and capitalize on some climbing.

Sturbridge Road Race Report 4/28

Masters 35+
49 miles

I am resting in my mom’s apartment in Cambridge as I write this. I did my best to refuel and repair the body after the day’s race. I had an ice bath and protein pasta in hopes of recovering for tomorrow’s 60 miler.
I went into today’s event with decent expectations, but I finished it happy to have stayed upright and fairly fatigued! I drove down from Maine right to the race site this morning. The further south I went, the brighter the skies. It was sunny and maybe 70 by the time I was warming up. I played it smart and had the legs shaved, so it was shorts and a shoert sleeve for me!
The course consisted of a 7 mile loop with a couple of nominal hills that we would circuit 7 times. The first couple of laps were uneventful, but I noticed right away the King Zing was going to take more getting used to. It’s possible I was nervous riding in the tight and BIG pack and was worried about a crash that would potentially hurt my pretty bike. But, technically, I think I have to adjust to the lightweight and the unbelievable responsiveness of the bike. On descents I could really feel the bike wanted to be steadied. In contrast, the lightweight and stiffness was very welcome on the climbs.
The bike also performed very well off-road! As I said, the first couple of laps were uneventful. I watched the wheel of Jonny Bold and was part of a brief 10-man break. But the field was pretty packed and it was too early to make big moves. There was a hairy 45 degree turn shortly after the start-finish which is where I first felt grateful I ride a Kona with its dirt racing roots! I went wide in the turn and as I exited the apex, the field came over and pinched me. I couldn’t get on the brakes in time and had to abandon the road and ride through the sand and pine needles. It took some time to get back over the lip onto the road and by then the entire pack passed by. I was about 20 bike lengths back and just ahead of the tail motorcycle so I had to charge hard to catch back on. Then I took a breather and rode in the draft before making my way back into mid-pack.
From there, I vowed to stay on the inside line heading into that turn. We cruised through the remaining laps without incident until the finish. Unfortunately, I felt my quads seize when I would stand on the steepest hill with 2 laps to go, so I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to compete in the sprint, but I gave it a shot. At some point a break of 10 or so got away unbeknownst to me, so turns out we were settling for positions out of the money
The entire pack ramped up for the sprint on a long, slightly downhill straight to the finish. I found some room on the right-hand side of the road and was giving it my all when I heard a pop in the pack to my left. I honestly don’t know what happened, just that suddenly I was once again off road and battling to keep the bike upright at 25mph in the sand and around sticks! Luckily I came out of it OK, but the sprint was a bust and I rolled in where I did.
Plenty of road to the left, but I was stuck wading thru this sand
Here are my wheel tracks finally finding the road just ahead of the curb and stick!
My reaction post race!
So, it was an eventful debut for the King Zing, no thanks to the rider! Suprisingly, no one commented on the color!