Friday, August 31, 2007

GMSR Stage 1 Report 8/31

Masters 40+

I spent the day lying low in the condo killing time before my 3:50pm start. When I woke up this morning though, I was less than enthusiastic about my health. Babs has been in the throws of a cold for a week and I thought I was going to get away without catching it. I developed a sore throat and had a runny, sneezy nose a couple of days ago, but I was trying to write it off as allergies. Overnight, my sniffles stopped, but I awoke with a sharp ache in my chest and sore neck glands. I got the sickness. I was bummed as the timing couldn’t be worse heading into 4 days of hard racing. But, I looked at the positives: 1.) I’ve been healthy all season and hadn’t missed any races and 2.) I have 3 other teammates in this race so I could easily fill a support roll if I’m totally out of it.

The venue:

Feeling no pressure, I warmed up, and slid in behind PVC’rs Paul Weiss, Mike Claus, and Stu Abramson. The event is an 8.2 mile mass start hill climb. Although there is potential to work together as a team on the lower section, as we near the top where the road gets steep, it’s pretty much every man for himself. I didn’t feel great during my warmup so I was really resigning myself to try and help whoever was up front.

The Cat. 3 start:

As we rolled off and began our neutral start through town, it was apparent Stu was having a cleat/pedal disagreement. He couldn’t seem to clip in his left foot. Upon closer examination, it looked like he stepped on a PowerBar and it clogged his cleat to the point it wouldn’t catch despite his best one footed pedaling while trying to scrape the crap off. It didn’t work so we talked it over and decided this is the best time to stop and take care of it before the racing began. We pulled to the side of the road and the neutral support guy came up with a screwdriver and scraped the stuff out. I wasn’t sure if it really worked, but we had to catch up to the field as they were nearing the end of neutral zone. Stu pulled in behind me and we picked our way through the traffic and bridged the gap just as the racing began.
I quickly worked my way to the front and settled in. Amazingly, a group of 5 or so took off right away which I thought was strange for a hillclimb. Because I didn’t know how I was going to fare, I stuck with the field and relied on strength in numbers. There was a bit of a headwind, so conserving energy now was hopefully going to pay dividends later. Mike made a bid for King of the Mountain points mid-way up the climb, but the top-3 places were gobbled up by the breakaway. Stu made his way to the front of the pack so I got up there and got in front of him, hoping to lead him up. But as the pitch got steeper, others came around so it was time to just hang on and see where we ended up. I was behind a few of the GC contenders so I figured I was in good shape. As the finish neared, the pack thinned. Some accelerated and I couldn’t match their speed so I focused on a few of the guys around me. Because the GC is based on finish, not time, it was apparent I couldn’t improve or lose my position, so I didn’t have to sprint for the line. Stu came up a little after, followed by Mike then Paul.
I knew a top-10 would be sweet, but really I couldn't have imagined actually getting it. I’m really psyched with my finish, given my health. It’s a good start and I just have to try to maintain position in tomorrow’s circuit race which is my least favorite event. Stu came in 19th with Mike right behind at 21st and Paul gutting it out in 56th.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Road Trip to GMSR

Just an entry for the family to give them a glimpse of my journey over and my race headquarters for the next 4 days. I’ll miss their support and having them around.

Obligatory vehicle shot:

Mt. Washington looks mean:

Santa's getting ready, be good boys!

Construction shot for Fenix:

The bachelor pad:

Lonely bed!

Drake Goes to 1st-2nd Grade 8/29

Off to another year of hitting the books!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Saco Bay Criterium Report 8/25

Masters 35+

Cat. 3

The whole family wrapped up a final week of vacation on the Cape by stopping in Biddeford on Friday, staying in a hotel, and sweating our butts off all day Saturday. The weather on the Cape stunk, the best day was actually Friday which we spent on the road. We got in an afternoon boat day on Thursday, which was pretty much the highlight of the week.
Saturday saw a blast of heat that convinced sane people to either stay indoors or head to the beach. Although we were just a few miles from the coast, I forced the family to sweat it out with me on the asphalt. What a guy!
I had pre-registered for 2 races, but I had reservations on race day as the weather was certainly rearing it’s ugly head, and I guess I didn’t really notice the Cat. 3 race was 45 minutes plus 5 laps. I decided to see how I felt after the morning Masters race and then decide.
The Saco course can be described as semi-technical. It has your standard 4 corners and a long front stretch, but the backside has us go halfway around a tight rotary and then condense into a narrow side street after turn 3. Going through there elbow to elbow is always tense and it creates quite an accordion effect on the field as the pace slows accordingly.
My only gameplan for the day was as long as I was feeling strong, I would keep myself towards the front and respond to any attacks. I had a couple of PVC teammates in the field in Carl Hitchcock and Paul Weiss, but we didn’t get together to talk strategy prior to the start so we were semi-independent. All was going according to plan. A few riders would sprint and compete for the early primes but come back to the group. I actually don’t remember how things developed, but at one point there were a few riders up ahead and I wanted to close the gap so I went ahead and tracked them down. They apparently were in the midst of some disorganization as I came upon them and were going so slowly I would have had to apply the brakes. So, I motored on instead, dragging a CCB rider with me and it turned into the 2 of us swapping the effort for about 1/3 of the race. We kept ahead of the pack pretty consistently until he noticed a couple of riders were bridging the gap. One was Jonny Bold so we knew it was wise to let them join us so we slowed a bit and then we were 4. I’m not exaggerating when I say I did most of the work as I would pull for at least 2/3 of the course. I would get us through the entire backside technical area and then the 3 others split the front stretch. We hovered around 20 seconds ahead of the pack, but it dropped to 10 with 5 to go and we got a little nervous and dug a little deeper, but the pack seemed to accept we were going to stay away and they gave up the chase with 2 to go and we increased our lead. We continued on and heading into the 4th turn it was every man for himself and the sprint began. The CCB guy went early followed by the Sunapee rider leaving me behind Jonny Bold. I figured I didn’t have a chance so I gave a half-hearted effort in the sprint, but kept up with Jonny easily, but settled for 4th. I assumed my partners were saving themselves up for the sprint while we were out front, which was fine by me; I was focused on not getting caught by the pack, and being the first Maine finisher and winning the State Championship. Turns out, after hearing from them after the race, they were pretty gassed and couldn’t go harder then they were. They said if I had gone on my own with 2 to go they couldn’t have responded. I was disappointed to hear that and regretted missing an opportunity at a better finish. So, instead of packing it in, I filed that into my brain and committed to the afternoon 3 race.
The kids mustered up the energy and competed in their race. They were grouped based on age and started at varying lengths on the front straightaway. Both Drake and Fenix were outclassed. When is their dad going to get them some good bikes?! Their legs spun out their single gearing rapidly and they went as fast as those turbines would allow. They both finished 3rd in their respective classes. Because part of my recovery and preparation for the Green Mountain Stage Race later this week was to ride another 60 minutes after my 3 race, I sent Babs and the boys to the luxury of Chucky Cheese at the Maine Mall as I planned to ride there immediately after my 3 finish. “The best laid plans…”
They took off and I chilled out in the shade awaiting the 1:45 start. Hitchcock did the double as well and we were joined by teammate Randy Ayotte. Once again I had no gameplan, but Carl and I warmed up together and discussed how great it would be if there was more team communication because there is a lot of talent on the squad we just need to use it together. Unfortunately we didn’t get to talk with Randy at the start so we were just going to let things develop. Well, I again wanted to stay near the front, but I had both the earlier race on my mind as well as the Cat. 3 event I did in Auburn earlier in the summer. I was not going to let anything happen without me. We did a couple of laps as a group when they called out a prime for the next lap. As we rounded turn 4, I found myself at the front about 3-wide so I went for the sprint and won it by half a wheel. Now traditionally, everyone lays up after the sprint and settles back in the field. But, I did that in Auburn and wasted an opportunity to get away from the pack and win. So, I just kept going! All conventional wisdom said this was a foolish move so early in the event in the heat and believe me, I told myself that several times over the rest of the race! But, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain so I channeled my energy and mind into settling in for a long, hard ride. Heck, I only had 40 minutes plus 5 laps to go! There’s not much to say about the ride other than I made sure I railed the rotary and the turns as quickly and efficiently as possible knowing I had the advantage over the pack there. I buried my head on the front stretch and just looked down at the yellow line, and got as aerodynamic as possible in the headwind. Paul Weiss was on the sidewalk and would call out the time split between me and the pack every lap which was instrumental in keeping me motivated and focused. It began in the 15 second range, then it would go to 20, then ballon to 30. at 1 point he said a rider was attempting to bridge the gap and was at 25 seconds, but he returned to the field and it was back to 30. The best news was hearing it got as high as 35 and 40 seconds in the closing laps as I was counting down the laps in my state of pleasure/pain. I didn’t know exactly what was going on in the pack, but was hopeful my teammates were keeping the pack at bay. As I came around for the bell lap I was really looking forward to savoring the last trip around with a comfortable lead and was psyched to do a double hand raise as I crossed the finish line for my first criterium win. “The best laid plans…” Just as I crossed the start/finish line for the last lap, I heard a clash of metal and saw some object fly through my rear wheel. That can’t be a flat I said to myself! I continued down the straightaway still looking down and praying and feeling out the wheel when sure enough, it started going soft. Can you believe this drama?! I ride alone for 45 minutes and a tiny nail is going to rob me of total satisfaction. Fortunately, I was riding tubeless tires and I relied on the reports that they deflate slowly and have a tendency to stay on the wheel. I knew the corners were going to be tricky so I had to slow way down, complete the turn, then ride as fast as the wheel would allow on the straight. There was no turning back. I couldn’t worry about where the pack was, just focus on my handling and not panic. Thanks to the size of the lead I had built up, I managed to hold on to the bike and the lead and limp home, but couldn’t raise the arms for fear of wiping out! A small sacrifice for the rewards of the finish (plus all the prime money)!
Post race discussion with Randy and Carl told the story of how the pack riding went. Randy was the consummate teammate and held position at the front of the field making sure the pace was kept steady, but not at chase-pace. He grabbed the wheel of anyone who tried to take off and when they looked behind to see if they had support, they saw him and knew he wasn’t going to help. As a result of these tactics, Carl managed to contest some of the sprints and earn some primes.
It was a fully gratifying day up until I realized I was supposed to ride to Portland! With no spare wheel or tube, I was stranded so I called Babs and the boys and they came back to rescue me! Definitely one for the memories!
Next up is the GMSR. Hopefully I’ll recover by then.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

MMBA #5 Report 8/19

Expert Vet I 1st
1st Overall

This day's race was a real stress-reliever. We Wheeldens all packed up Saturday morning and made the short trek to the 'loaf. After I didn't register in time for the Mt. Washington hillclimb, we decided a suitable replacement for that weekend away would be a stay on the mountain. Babs booked a condo with pool access to entertain everyone and all looked in place for a fun 24 hours. Unfortunately, outside forces would impact the level of enjoyment significantly.
We left the Hill under cloudy skies and encountered showers all the way to the mountain, including a good dosing right in Carrabassett Valley. The plan was to drop me off at the beginning of the recreation trail in the Valley and while I rode up to and around the course, the fam would habg out at an art/music fest. The rain washed away those plans. So, we headed to the Outdoor Center where although chilly, it wasn't raining. Babs & Co. dropped me off and they headed to the pool and condo. I had to don a long sleeve and was pretty cold until I hit the climb and started working.
The course began per usual, wide open through the lower section, into last year's new singletrack, wide open again, then up the climb in the field to the steepy condo climb, then dropped down into the infamous Widowmaker trail to begin the return to the start/finish. This section has really seen better days. It used to be pretty fun, but it has evolved into a drainage ditch revealing massive roots, rocks, and areas of sand. I had a dab on each of my 3 race laps including the pre-ride, despite having a pretty good feel for where to ride. Once flushed out onto the open nordic trails, I was pleasantly suprised to encounter a smooth, wide open trail. All of the baby-head rocks and single-lane tracks were smoothed over flat with a nice layer of dirt. Had it not rained and left it a little muddy, new time records would have been set. Instead of worrying about what was around the next turn or scrubbing speed to save from snakebit tubes, you could let it all hang out in these sections. I knew from my total pre-ride time the race was going to be fast. The remainder of the course was the same and I enjoyed the ride, taking time to go over some sections a couple of times. I rode back up the ascent to the condo, hit the pool with the fam, and prepared to chill for the evening.
My hopes were dashed for a couple of reasons: 1.) The boys were absolute terrors ripping around the condo, arguing, and thrashing each other about. I assume no one was below us or we would have heard from them. At one point I just let them outside like a couple of dogs and said to just let loose! 2.) I got a call from one of my part-time rink workers telling me the ice was melting! My absolute worst nightmare! Apparently the power went out early Saturday morning and tripped out the compresssors so they didn't run all day resulting in a slow thawing of the ice. As we had no rentals until Sunday, had he not come in we would have surely lost the ice entirely. After about 3 hours of phone calls and getting Pat to come in, the compressors were reset and came on to re-freeze everything. Some damage was done, however, as the white paint seperated, leaving some darker shaded areas. After some re-building and peoplae skating on it, no one will even notice hopefully.
So, I awoke Sunday with some agression to a fall-like feel. It was sunny, but sub-60 forcing me to don leg warmers and a long sleeve and jacket for my warm-up ride to the venue. I hooked up with Freye (who was riding his rigid old-school GT Avalanche dressed up as a single-speed) and we did a couple of hill repeats to open up the legs and then lined up on the silly 5-wide start line on a hill. I decided I would do it 'cross style and run then hop on just to keep it upright.

I was behind at the outset, but settled in quickly as Adam LaRochelle got off to his typical quick start, then LaFlamme, then me, then Freye, then some Legal Sea Food guy. I acclerated past LaFlamme after the first single-track as he slowed to recover. I had gears and was determined to use them in pursuit of Adam and to get away from Freye. I knew he'd be spinning pretty furiously on the open sections and my legs were feeling very fresh. I grabbed Adam's wheel and he sped up for a spell as a form of defense, but then eased into a steady pace. I was feeling like I could do more, so I passed and set my sights on climbing at my own pace with the others behind serving as motivation. My goal was to finish first overall in hopes of aligning myself up for the end of season Master of Mud award so I sought out every opportunity to distance myself from the field, especially if I flatted and needed time to change it. I climbed with the heart at about 180bpm and glanced back to see a small group about 20 seconds back. No sign of Freye as I later found out he flatted right after the first single-track, despite having 40psi in his tires! As I entered the Widowmaker, the LSF guy had made up some ground and was about 10 seconds back, but I descended semi-smoothly and didn't hear from him again. I completed the lap smoothly and crossed the start-finish 2nd. Wait, what? Apparently a junior expert had missed a section of trail and was like 3 minutes ahead of me! Luckily others caught the error and he was relegated back.
The 2nd lap was largely uneventful. I dabbed a couple of times, reminding me not to ride cockily, but sensibly. The 3rd lap I decided to try the climb in the big ring to see if I could do it and use it as prep for the upcoming Green Mountain Stage Race. I did it no problem, but returned to the middle ring on the condo climb. I had a great last lap, enjoying the fruits of one of my all-time favorite courses and crossed the line first overall, mission accomplished.
Unfortunately the fam was no where to be found, so I sped over to where they were running the kids races and caight Fenix's start. I was elected lead-moto and led the tykes around the field. Fenix paused to wait for 1 boy who was off his bike crying, but after I came around again everyone finished. Suprised to see a Wheelden be such a good sport! Drake was a little out-classed and under-biked in his race even losing to a girl, but he finished without a complaint. Here he has his race face on with pal Jamie Seymour.Looks like a new Kona is in his future!
Freye wisely picked an inflation device for his prize. I'm hoping all the brain rattling on the rigid will get him off my back telling me to go semi-pro!
Babs was again the consummate team manager, preparing a great meal and putting up with us hot-headed racer boys!
Next up is a couple of crits in Saco on Saturday as we reutn home from a final week's vacation on Cape Cod.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Carbon H2O Cage

Preliminarily, I wasn't about to get hooked on the movement to replace all my cages for carbon. Some things are just too trendy for me. However, Steve at KB&S hooked me up with this cage this spring to try out so I wasn't about to say no. It's a no-name brand so it may not be as high zoot as others, but it's functional. After many miles and bumps, I have nothing to complain about. Various sizes and types of bottles have all stayed put, bottles show little signs of wear, the cage is lighter and looks cooler. So what's not to like? I have since addded another to make a uniform pair. Hopefully they'll prove their worth at the Green Mt. Stage.

Specialized BG S-Works MTB Shoes

With some downtime between races, I thought I would share my thoughts on some equipment that is new to me this season. I realized mid-summer the importance/value/benefits of good shoes. I've been sporting a pair of Louis Garneau's since last year. I grew extremely disenchanted by the ratchet latch system as it was a constant battle to release them. Otherwise the shoe felt good, but when I started doing research for a new pair weight became a factor. The LG's were fat pigs that I was lugging around and around! So, my focus turned to finding a lightweight shoe that had didn't have a ratchet system or velcor straps alone and was light. I was drawn to the Lakes but the company had no production timeline. So, Specialized emerged as the winner and I got a pair for father's day. They felt a little big at the outset, but not too long, just roomy. The strap towards the toe couldn't cinch the material tight enough, but once riding and dialing in the Boa closure, they felt fine. I was immediately pleased with the Boa as it did a good job of snugging the shoe evenly around my foot. The release took some learning, but worked OK. I think I read somewhere on the web that there was the potential for them to release, but I couldn't imagen how as the push button was so small and apparently protected. After a few training rides, they were race-tested at Biddeford; a technical course with some off-bike runs. I found I would have to dial them up a couple more times once riding to get the proper tightness, but this was relatively easy on the bike thanks to the dial. Amazingly, 1 shoe did release and I have no idea how other than I may have hooked it just right on a stick/log as I passed. Fortunately I was able to rotate the dial and missed only a few pedal strokes. They have released 1 other time during a fall, so I would say it's definitely an issue. Overall, my feet feel light, I can get in and out of them easily, the traction on the bottom is very grippy so I'm happy with them. Hopefully the random releases will be few and far between. I liked the way they feel so much, I'm getting their road version in orange just to be obnoxious!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Down Time

A couple of weeks off from racing means quality time with the family and fun non-biking activities, especially on water!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

NECS #6/MMBA #4 Bradbury Mountain Enduro 7/29

Expert Vet I: 1st
2nd Overall

My feelings at this point after the race are relief and disbelief. The “enduro” aspect of this race always intimidates me. Although I feel pretty good about having the endurance to finish a long race such as this, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the possibility of spending 3+ hours in the saddle off-road. I also haven’t had the best performance on this course in the past as I would either be hurting to finish or struggling to ride the singletrack efficiently. Fortunately, this race was different.
Race organizers made some dramatic changes to the event this year. In the past, the course began down a rough, fast double-track leading directly to singletrack. Last year, the first section of singletrack was fairly technical and new. Compound that with adrenaline crazed men all wanting to get ahead of each other with no room to pass and it creates a fairly unpleasant ride to say the least. The last 3rd of the race had the climbing section, making it more of a suffer-fest as you’ve already expended much of your effort over the course of the first 20 miles or so. Thankfully, the organizers had a revelation and this year we started with the climbing section and finished with the singletrack. Thanks to tons of volunteers and hours of effort, new trails were added and the entire course was very close to its 30-mile billing. However, I still went into the start with some trepidation. Another unique trait of this event is the start is Le Mans style where racers line up on foot about 100yards from their bikes and run at the sound of the gun to them, mount and take off. Definitely not my style! To further challenge my confidence prior to the race, I pre-rode the singletrack section on Thursday. I wasn’t ¼ into the loop when I was rudely thrown over the handlebars. It was a slow technical section and I knew there was a chance I was going over, but I proceeded to ride anyway. This one hurt though. My right shin hit the fork, my left thigh impacted the handlebar, and although I didn’t fall to the ground, the effort I made to stop myself from faceplanting gave me a painful stinger in my neck which lingers to this day. If that weren’t enough, I got tossed again shortly thereafter. Suffice it to say, my confidence was diminished and the entire remaining 15 miles was not the most enjoyable ride I’ve had. The day before the race, I pre-rode the new half of the race with Andrew Freye. Of course it was going to be impossible to remember much about the trail, but I absorbed the fact that the start was going to be a cluster as some of the climb was borderline rideable without pressure from behind. Come Sunday, I was prepared as I could be, albeit a little bruised and just had to work on my mental game.
Babs and the boys stayed home for this one as it was not a spectator friendly event without a kids race. Thankfully, the weather really cooperated on Sunday. There was some rain Saturday, but it could have only helped knock down some dust, the course was very soluble. I did a minimum warm-up, saving it for the long race and lined up for the run. About 100 pros, semi-pros, experts, and singlespeeders all charged for their bikes in a fairly frantic, yet comical manner. I mounted and started my computer without problem and set out across the field to the first singletrack bottleneck. We then cruised through the picnic area of the park and began our ascent. It had some switchbacks giving me an opportunity to see who was ahead of me. Unfortunately, it looked like a lot! At best, I may have been in the 20’s. so, it was nose to the grindstone time knowing I had to make passes now. Singlspeeders in front of me were a little frustrating as they had difficulty spinning up the climb forcing them and me as I was behind them to dismount. I passed 1 guy who griped it was a little early to make such an aggressive move. I told him not to worry as he wouldn’t be seeing me again. I had no time to be cordial! I forced myself to not think about conserving. There was ample time and opportunity later to recover. I picked my way through guys 1 by 1, swapping spots back and forth with R-Rick, moving past Big Al, fellow PVCer Ron Colavolpe before eventually settling into a groove with the climb behind us and the trail opened up for a stretch before hitting fresh singletrack. Not surprisingly, pro Michael Patrick passed me, but I later found him on the trail side making a repair to his bike. I bridged a gap to Adam Larochelle and Kirk Turner and sat in for a spell until I saw Aaron Millett who was in my group ahead of us. He became a carrot and I soon got to and by him. Adam was still ahead, but was having drivetrain issues so I moved on. There was also a singlespeeder tailing me. I knew he was quick on the trail so I let him go and rode with him for a bit, riding his line. Eventually, we hit a few more ups and he was a little downtrodden as they were just out of his gear range. I passed him and began a stretch of at least 15 minutes of riding without seeing anyone just riding my pace. As the trail wound back towards the campground, I made contact with a couple of guys and passed them. I have to give huge credit to my Kona Hei Hei. The trail was intertwined with huge roots and the bike’s rear travel was just enough to smooth out the rough spots while remaining efficient when pedaling. At the top of the terrain before returning to the start area to begin the 17 mile singletrack maze, I found pros Jon Bernhard and Matt Boobar just pacing. Knowing the fast descent was ahead, I made my move to get ahead of them and roared down the hill, a highlight of the race for sure. As I went through the feed station I missed my bottle and had to double back, thankfully Robin Seymour was there and she gave me a hand. Once across the street, I prepared myself mentally to stay smooth and ride intelligently through the sections that challenged me on the pre-ride. I was pleasantly surprised to see Freye ahead and we teamed up and rode together. I should say, I was making it a point to stay with him as he rode his race. We were quicker than Boobar and Bernhard through this stuff, so I was happy to push the pace here and hopefully force them to think they were mentally out of it. About 1/3 through the section, Freye paused to pick up a water bottle and I went ahead, assuming he was going to be on my tail. However, he never closed the gap as I went ahead at my pace. Thankfully, I was smooth and I think the key was getting my crash out of the way pre-riding. Nothing disrupted my rhythm and I was actually enjoying the ride for the most part. Early on in this 17-mile section, Andrew and I heard the leader was 2-3 minutes ahead. As I now found myself in 2nd, there was some incentive to try to reel him in. although he was competing in the Open class for money and I in Expert for points, I still wanted to have a good showing. I worked hard, yet the effort was masked by the terrain as it was just flowing singletrack. Thanks to a few fans spread out through the course, I was informed I was making time on the leader, pro Matt O’Keefe. I bombed through the last feed station as it was positioned on a descent and had to make a sketchy pass on a mom and her daughter which I fell bad about but they were riding 2-wide and I was just going too fast to even say anything! I kept my head down and eventually got as close to Matt as 30 seconds, but ran out of trail to catch him.
Of course, I’m totally satisfied with my result. I am clearly still feeling the effects of the peak for Mt. Snow. I put a little added pressure on myself to do well locally to support my finish at nationals, and I’m glad the way it ended up.
Its 2 weeks off from racing so I’m looking forward to doing some family stuff for once. Next up is MMBA #5 @ Sugarloaf.