Monday, September 24, 2007

Coonamessett Eco-Cross Report 9/22

8th/35 Open

I had a trip planned to the Cape anyway this weekend to help my mom transition the house from summer to winter. Why not throw a little ‘cross action in the mix? I did this race 2 years ago when I was getting back into the racing scene and remembered enjoying parts of it. Back then I was cruising on my Litespeed Appalachian which was incredibly poorly set up for ‘cross. The course winds its way through a members-only farm meaning we raced between rows of fruit-bearing trees; around pumpkin patches; skirted vegetable gardens; and bombed by goats and maybe a llama pen. The topper was the barriers were set up in the beer garden. Classic!
The venue was a 25 minute bike ride from our house, so I loaded up a backpack, attached pit wheels to it and used the commute as a warm up.
Lucky for me I left when I did. I thought the race started at 2pm so I arrived at 1:15 to get settled and check the course out. Upon arrival, I see a bunch of guys semi-lined up, but hoped they were in another category. As I got my number, I learned my race was slated to have started at 1:15! Luckily (for me), there was an injury in the women’s race and they delayed my start for an ambulance. So, I ended up getting in a couple of crucial laps in and was as prepared as I could have been for the start.
I lined up about mid-pack and darted off the dirt road to begin an hour’s worth of bar to bar competition. The start was surprisingly mellow, I guess it’s too early in the season to be cutting guys off for 1 spot. As mentioned, this course is unique. Normally there are no “singletrack” sections in ‘cross races and this venue had a few, including a part that pinned us against an animal pen fencing and this is where the first hang up occurred after the start. This strung things out considerably allowing the leaders to motor on unhindered. But, I didn’t mind as I really didn’t know what to expect and there was a long ways to go.
My maiden voyage on the new Kona Major Jake was on a cooldown road ride after last weekend’s MTB race. It was immediately comfortable position-wise. What jumped out at me right away was its responsiveness. There was no delay in turning, it turned sharper than I expected, so I had to be ready. I rode it most of the week and did some skills practice on Wednesday. The frame is definitely a strong core. This quality is going to take some adjusting to as evidenced on race day when I laid it down 3 times on fast turns. I was also having a disagreement with my tires as I was expecting a little better grip in the turns!

Dirt, sweat, and gears = 'cross
Nonetheless, my MTB skills were a definite asset on this course as there was never a dull moment bike handling-wise.
I maintained position for the first lap and then set my sights on reeling in any rider within my sights. It was difficult to go hard as there were no long open stretches to put the hammer down. I felt consistently strong, not losing any power and passing riders was giving me incentive. I had no idea what place I was in and can only guess there were 30 or so in the event. I just hoped for a top-10, but wasn’t expecting it.
I passed 1 more guy on the final lap and had 2 others in my sights, but ran out of real estate and finished 8th. They gave $ to the top-12 so I was extremely pleased for the first race and am looking forward to becoming 1 with the bike.
It was a great weekend of jobs for mom and prize $ for the kids!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

EFTA/MMBA Finals Report 9/16

1st Overall Experts on the day
1st Series Vet I Expert
Master of Mud

The mountain bike season came to a close in proper fashion this gorgeous fall day at Reid State Park. I selfishly forced the whole family out of the house at 7:30am on a chilly Sunday morning to spend the day watching me do some laps and hand me bottles. Fortunately, this is no ordinary venue as the course resides in a gorgeous park right on the ocean. This would easily occupy Drake and his fish fetish and allow Fenix some open air run-around and play trucks time while Babs could hang out at the beach. Now that's not to say folks were hanging out in swimsuits, it was 50 degrees! But the sun was shining and it was just a great all-around day.
Freye and I snuck over on Thursday prior to the event for some recon laps. The course was unchanged from over the years. Conditions were good and it was helpful to reacquaint ourselves with the good lines. This is definitely not my favorite course, as the climbing is negligible, and the roots and rocks are a real drain on one’s energy level. The first 3rd has a couple of ups and downs and is mostly soft dirt/root riding, the 2nd 3rd is gravel pathway, and the final 3rd is the toughest of all including the infamous “pipeline” section which is chock full of pointy Maine granite just trying to cause a flat or endo. Freye and I did 3 laps worth and I felt good going into the race. Unfortunately, Saturday saw significant rainfall in the area and I had to change my focus equipment-wise. I had planned to run beefy 2.25 Cinder X tires to aid in traction and avoid flatting. After the rain, I decided to be safe and go to the mud tubeless tires which would be the best bet for any conditions.
Going into the race, I had the Vet I category wrapped up for the series. The Master of Mud Award given to the top overall rider regardless of age or category was still up for grabs. Rick Nelson and Adam LaRochelle and I were all in contention. If either of those guys won, I would have to finish no worse than 6th place which meant I couldn’t afford to DNF. Hence my concern to choose the right tire application.
To the racing. Rick and I lined up side by side and all of us Experts took off at the gun. Because this was also the EFTA Series finale, there were a handful of New England guys looking to improve their position in the overall standings. I only did a few EFTA races so I wasn’t in contention there. The irony is I beat the series winner every race we were both entered in, but it’s often he who races the most races who wins a series. We did a small loop around the parking lot before hitting the singletrack which as expected proved to be a log jam as riders struggled to maintain a straight line while going anaerobic. I was in pretty good position, about 4th with Rick behind me and Adam in sight ahead. There were a couple of other guys ahead as well, but my approach was to race for the series, not the day’s event (more on that later). One NE guy dabbed and I snuck by leaving Adam just ahead and 1st place further up. I sat in behind Adam as he struggled to get into a rhythm and ride smoothly. 1st place was pulling away so I snatched an opportunity to pass Adam and ride my own pace. I edited my approach to the race to include get out in front as far as possible in the event I suffered a mechanical and would need time to work on it and lose minimal positions. So I settled into a groove and soon ended up reeling in one of the Elites who had started 1 minute ahead. I passed him on the open road section as my strategy (contrary to most guys I think) was to actually hammer the easy areas rather than recover as I expected I’d be riding slowly through the technical stuff just to stay safe and upright. My sights were set on the leader in my category now. The Bikebarn guy stayed on my tail through the pipeline and across the start/finish and we were now a group of 3 as the Expert leader was reeled in by us. He stumbled on 1 of the quick ups and got passed by us. I then stumbled on the next up and the Bikebarn guy passed me. But, my temporary mission was accomplished as I now was in the Expert lead.
I never looked behind me so I had no idea where Rick or Adam were. I knew if they weren’t in front, I had nothing to worry about. The Elite guy and I ended up dropping the other Expert and I just rode his wheel for lap 2 and the first half of 3. He was a superior bike handler as he rode virtually every section whereas I was a whimp and actually ran the pipeline section every lap (‘cross training I justified!). I would lead the open sections and it was clear he was going to run out of gas. On our 4th lap I passed him at the start/finish and I set out to finish safely and bring home the prize. Then, I spotted Elite rider Matt O’Keefe and all logic went away. Remember I was just going to race safely? Well, put a rabbit out in front of me and I’m going to chase! I wasn’t sure if he had a mechanical or was just having a bad day, but I wanted him behind me! It was at this point that I apparently lost all control of the bike! I proceeded to go on a crash fest riding way too fast. All those laps riding behind someone I felt like they were going too slowly. Now that I had the open trail, I was in control of my speed. The thing is, I was riding too fast. I should have been riding slowly like the other guys, you know, go slow to go fast. But I wanted O’Keefe. Well, he pulled away, confirming he must have had a mechanical, and I dabbed several times and had one hellacious endo into a log pile that could have been way worse than it was. Somehow, I managed to keep it all together and rode across the line Superman-style as the first Expert and Master of Mud recipient. Adam had an off day and turns out Rick DNF’d due to a loss of air pressure and loss of CO2 to boot. Tough luck as it was semi-fun battling it out for the title
There was more drama apparently as I was off for a cool down ride on the Major Jake. Seems as though the 2nd place Expert (who ended up not far behind me) protested my finish. Apparently he never saw me so he thought I either started with the Elites or cut the course. Luckily, my lap times were enough evidence to combat his theory and the results stuck.
This was a rewarding and enjoyable finish to the mountain bike season. As it turns out, I won my category in every race I entered save for my 2nd place at Nats. Those 7 seconds are going to fuel me all winter. There was great camaraderie amongst my fellow competitors; Babs and the boys were the best support crew I could ask for; and the Hei Hei performed flawlessly thanks to Kona’s craftsmanship and the guys at Kennebec Bike & Ski setting it up right.
Cyclocross season is now upon us, so the crazy train rolls on!

Mexico vs. Brasil 9/12

I got a call from my soccer coach from Lawrence Academy the other weekend asking if I wanted to attend this match between soccer powerhouses at Gillette Stadium. This is not an invitation you refuse. My teammate and classmate, Guillermo "Memo" Cantu, is the Mexico National Team Director and he had some tickets to share with his fellow Lawrencians. The night was epic by all accounts. It was a spirited match between the teams, but luckily Brasil came out on top as the crowd was easily 90% Brasilian. Memo took the time to come down and watch the entire 2nd half with us and we caught up with our lives since '86. I swapped stories with the rest of the fellow Lawrencians allowing for good reminiscing.

The big story though was the traffic! I left Augusta at 3:30 and arrived just in time for kickoff at 8:30! Then, after the game, I was pinned in the parking lot and didn't hit the main road until 12:45am! I got home at 4am! Worth every minute in the car!

KHS Team Ride 9/7

Kents Hill School mountain bike team members descended upon Bradbury Mountain on this day. All sports teams were engaged in double sessions, so the team took the opportunity to travel and ride some of the best trails in the US.
20 minutes later, we had a broken derailleur and a tacoed front wheel! But no injuries which was a great thing! The day and trail conditions were primo.
The next day we hit up Sugarloaf and had an equally enjoyable day. Hopefully these kids can find some pleasure beyond the pain of racing this fall!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

GMSR Stage 4 Report 9/3

23rd GC

Enough procrastinating. The race ended a week ago yesterday and I haven’t had the time, energy, or interest in wrapping up the stage race with a report on the criterium. I was still perplexed by my ill-fated road race the previous day. Why did that happen to me? I tried my best to channel my energy into the crit and had visions of grandeur; stealing away from the pack and crossing the line solo for the victory. Unfortunately, it’s not like I didn’t race hard in the road race, I still had weary legs from the climb and the solo effort. Plus, no one told the rest of the guys in my group they were supposed to soft pedal and let me win! It was another gorgeous day, this time in downtown Burlington. The course winds it way through the city streets and is potentially deadly at best. There is a cobblestone section, a screaming descent into a turn, and some serious potholes. Put 60 guys on a line and say go and you’ve got a potential disaster on your hands. Luckily, my group had some of the most talented and intelligent racers in the circuit so it was good, clean, fun and FAST racing.

These are shots of the women's race.
As I had feared, the pace was torrid right from the gun. I was maxed out by the first lap. I suppose a lot of that had to do with the fact that I didn’t get clipped in at the start and was about dead-last! I wasted no time and worked my way to the front, intent to possibly go for some of the sprints for points to move up in the GC, and to go with any break. I was never in a position to contest the sprints, so that was a bust. And somehow, 1 rider got away and solo’d for the win. That was supposed to be me I thought! I would have done anything to work with anyone to get away, but it was really a survival-fest given the speed of the pack. Fortunately, my hard work to stay towards the front paid off and I was in good position on the last lap heading to the finish. I had been using a fast line on the outside on the descent and often passed many people. I again had the opportunity to do so on the last lap, but I opted to stay in line instead and see where my sprint would take me. I was 10th at the base of the descent and was nipped at the line by the eventual GC winner, a rider from Canada who was really sucky at crits. He rode as if he were in a road race, changing lanes and lines at will, not thinking about what or who was behind him. We touched wheels pretty heavily once.

These guys were on hand in the event of a fiery crash!

“What could have been” is the theme for the weekend. I had solid finishes in 3 of 4 stages and would have been well inside the top-10 had I not flatted. I have nothing to show for the weekend other than knowing “what could have been!” Oh well. Another GMSR, another learning experience. Next year will be great! Or not!

My favorite part of the weekend: a cooldown spin on the Bikeway

Monday, September 03, 2007

GMSR Stage 3 Report 9/2

24th GC

My luck ran out today. I’d gone all season both on and off-road without a flat. Last weekend my streak ended in the Saco crit, but I was fortunate to have it happen on the final lap and was able to finish unscathed. Today, it cost me big time.
The day began great! The weather was fantastic, I am feeling better and better health-wise, and my legs felt ready to go. Today’s stage was a 64 mile road race with 2 significant climbs, with the finish at the top of App Gap where the pitch is 20 degrees. The day’s finish would surely shake up the overall GC standings, revealing who was in really good shape. I fully expected to return to the top-10.
The race began on a neutral descent from Sugarbush’s Mt. Ellen ski area. The pace was quick from the get-go for whatever reason. It seemed foolish to me someone would try to go solo or have a small break. My approach was to conserve as much energy as possible for the climbs and stay in the pack. It was nice riding with teammate Paul Weiss as he gave me some advice and what to expect ahead. A small group did get away for a while, but most were brought back before the first major climb called Middlebury Gap. Last year I lost touch with the lead group and had to combine forces with 5 other guys just to finish respectably. This year, I was intent to do whatever it took to be up front over the top, anticipating a break in the group would occur and I’d be with the leaders. Sure enough, we went up hard, split the pack and I was cruising down the descent in the lead group. Unfortunately, there was no cooperation in the group and we actually let up, allowing virtually the entire field to join us. So much for that plan!
We hit the rolling section of the course and had surges and slow ups as more futile attacks came and went. Hard to remember, but I think a few guys did get ahead, but it was the end of my group riding as I flatted on the second of 2 short dirt road sections. I got the wheel changed by the support vehicle, but the pack flew by and I knew I had no chance of regaining contact without any help. So, I accepted my fate and set off to finish alone. Just ahead another rider flatted so we joined forces and rode together until the base of the final climb. I figured I pinch flatted on a sharp rock or something which I would accept as tough luck, but acceptable given the conditions. However, when I retrieved my wheel back at the start, I discovered a small nail in it. Now that’s fate! Something didn’t want me to have a good finish for some reason.
So, I’m pretty disappointed, but not bummed. There are a lot of other things to be upset about rather than a bike race. It was a beautiful day for a bike race and I enjoyed the opportunity to ride through Vermont. I finished only 5 minutes behind the pack which I think was pretty good considering I pretty much worked alone and the fix took a couple of minutes. My focus now shifts to tomorrow’s criterium. I’d like to make some noise and go for the win, but much will depend on what everyone else’s agenda is. I’m hoping most guys will be focused on GC points and I could get away as I’m no longer a threat, but we’ll see.
Teammates Stu and Mike were strong and had a great day earning the following finishes:

Stu: 7th
Mike: 12th
Paul: 56th

Saturday, September 01, 2007

GMSR Stage 2 Report 9/1

13th GC

The first day of September greeted us racers with primo weather conditions: sunny and 60’s. I awoke feeling OK. My neck glands weren’t sore and my chest was just a little phlemy. Perhaps yesterday’s effort sped the cure up.
Today’s event was the circuit race. We raced 2.75 times around a 19.4 mile loop that had 1 mediocre climb and a long flat finish. I was most apprehensive about this event as it is a bit more unpredictable in terms of how aggressive guys wanted to be or whether there would be a break. I really didn’t want to lose any ground on my top-10 standing. Both fears were realized today.
I had the luxury of a call up at the start line and the rest of us top-10 guys lead the field out for a neutral start. We enjoyed a nice fast descent on a newly paved road, but once we hit the flats thpack remained intact through the first lap. Teammate Stu Abramson’s legs came back around somewhat and was instrumental in keeping me intact with the group. I rode his wheel each lap from the bottom of the climb back to the top. I feel like I didn’t have to work any harder than anyone else in the group, hoping to save some strength for tomorrow’s big road race.
As we began our 2nd lap, a group of about 6 got away. But, I looked around and saw that the big GC contenders were still in the pack so I wasn’t too concerned. We gulped up a few of them after a while, but 3 were still away and one of them was the 11th place guy, so I was at risk of getting bumped out of the top-10. We stayed within 1 minute of them, but no one was concerned enough to reel them in. We had a chance with 5 or so miles to go, but the pack was unbelievably disorganized and no one wanted to work out front. So, they earned the sprint and KOM points, plus top-3 finish points while we had a massive field sprint. I came across happy to be top-20 in 18th place. The points should be spread out evenly amongst all of us, but I am relegated to 13th to make room for the 3 winners.
Teammate finishes:
Stu: 33rd
Mike: 44th
Paul: 53rd
Tomorrow’s road race will separate the men from the boys as there are 2 significant climbs. I’m hoping I’m a man!

Its tough getting pictures of racing when I’m solo, so here are a few for fun.
e attacks came. Some riders pushed the pace hard very early, forcing the pack into a single file line just to keep the wheel if front. Despite the unsettledness, the
Standard construction site for the boys:

A creative statement by a Vermonter about the Iraq war, 1 white flag per US serviceman’s death:

This poster is in the condo. I have attended a bull fight at this bullring in Madrid: