Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Root 66 Mt. Snow XC Race Report


After a restful 9 hour sleep (a record for me!) at the plush Lodge at Mt. Snow, JB and I woke to dark skies and some additional moisture that fell overnight. Sweet, more fuel to the fire that is mud at Mt. Snow. We had a country breakfast and set out to join the other suckers intent on flattening the epic climbs and finding traction in the woods.
The course was redesigned since last year's Nats. But, most everyone was flying blind today given the conditions did not allow for a pre-ride. I got in a good warm-up and a light spin with Matty-O as we swopped stories about how old we're getting and how hard damn hard this racing thing is on family life. We got to the line late and I lined up on the last row alongside Colin who was aiming for the reverse hole shot today.
The start was clean and we were a large pack heading up the fire road climb. I made some passes and was probably top-20 prior to the first singletrack section. It was here that I realized I was only going to pose as a mountain biker today. I was totally unprepared mentally and skillfully for the slippery conditions and had to dab a couple of times looking like a real ass-clown. I was quickly relegated towards the back of the pack. But in true Mt. Snow fashion, the singletrack descending was short-lived and it was back to ascending action and I regained some of the spots I lost.
The actual course map can be found here. I am having a hard time recalling the flow of the course, perhaps because it was so unmemorable except for a ton of climbing necessitating a humbling amount of granny gear use, some uphill singletrack that was unrideable (for me), some wet grassy traverses, and a white knuckle front wheel mud surfing descent.
What was memorable was the rubber-banding I was doing. I would begin the laps pulling away from the likes of Colin and TP on the climbs, only to have them rocket past me on the descents. These guys were actually biking while I was posing. It was cat and mouse for a few laps, and it eventually included Jon Rowe. But on the final lap, I put in enough distance on them and used the motivation of passing JB to get me up the climb quickly enough to not get passed back again. It was a sad sight to see Joos fixing a flat in the final 1/4 of the course on the last lap, but that was another position up for me.
In the end, I rolled in as pack fodder, but fully punched as the legs began to cramp on the final climb to the finish. The field was cut in 1/3 due to the conditions as only 21 of the 30 finished. So, a top 1/2 of the field finish for me is satisfying.
Notable finish was Kevin Hines bringing it home in 2nd. Kevin is to XC racing what Mark Martin is to NASCAR racing. You think you can beat him because he's old, but he defies that logic. I'm more like Bill Elliott. I am old, and you can beat me!

I hope for Mt. Snow's sake the trails dry out for the Pro XCT event in 2 weeks. Otherwise there will be some pretty unhappy racers around.
Next up is pulling double duty with OA/CycleMania team at the Concord Crit then some XC fun at the Root 66 Hodges Village Dam.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Root 66 Mt. Snow Cyclocross Race Report


A bonus biking weekend arose after I dropped Babs and the boys off at Logan Friday afternoon for their trip to see her side of the fam. I noticed there was some added Saturday activity here at Mt. Snow so I catered my plans to attend. I spent the night in Boston Friday and leisurely drove over this morning to meet Burnsy to race and lodge for the night.
Apparently there was some additional heavy rain here last night, but today was a beauty. Our plan was to get a lap on the XC course in as a warmup to the CX race. Fortunately JB heard over the loudspeaker they were combining classes and bumping our start time up a 1/2 hour so we bagged the pre-ride and warmed up on the road. Of course, the field was tiny, but all you need is Kevin Hines in the pack and you know its going to be a race no matter what to try to keep up with him. Colin Rueter was fresh off a 2-lap warmup and got the hole shot, leading for a couple of laps. I was content to sit behind Kevin and let him dictate the pace. The course was not your standard Mt. Snow short track. Yes it had the same start/finish and it climbed up the access road and dropped you down by the pump house and a 200 degree turn to the finish straight. But added was a loop around a building onto the sidewalk and up a short steep step-up they thought would be a run-up. But we of nasty biking skills negated the need to dismount. It also climbed higher than the ST, a bit of a slap in the face and then used a giant S-turn on a ski slope to descend. So, the question was, what would win: MTB or CX bike? A 'cross bike had the advantage on the flats and the climb, but the mtb could descend better, especially since there was a bit of mud and wet grass to contend with. Colin, Kevin, a Noreast guy, and I rode CX. Burns, and a Cannondale guy rode mtb's. We were to ride 20 minutes plus 3 laps. After Colin was reeled in, the Noreast guy came around me and we continued to trail Hines. Hines' strength was on the climb. He would routinely get a 5 second gap at the very top, but then we would come together by the time we reached the base of the climb again after he fully recovered and was ready to unleash another acceleration. On consecutive laps Kevin bobbled on the step-up causing a momentum stopper, the nthe Noreast guy caught a pedal the next lap and he was gone. Kevin was now inching away as I could not match his climb pace. My slowing brought Burns and the Cannondaler into the mix and I was content to ride behind Burns. The Cannondaler attacked about 2/3 of the way in and neither John nor I responded. I rode his wheel around the base and stayed in contact on the climb, lost some on the descent, repeat, all the way to the finish coming home 4th. I was pretty sure JB had an extra gear to kick in if I came around him, so I didn't bother. I chalked it up to a solid day to prep for tomorrow's XC.
JB and I bagged the pre-ride altogether after hearing there was significant mud out there to save the bikes and the bodies.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yarmouth Clam Fest Race Report

I took a break from the dirt (mud) and hit up the bike race associated with the Yarmouth Clam Festival put on by my road club Portland Velo. The decision was a bit impromptu as I originally planned to attend the EFTA Horror at Harding XC event. However, about ½ my road team was signed up and it was basically local, so I made the quick ride down.
Since I wasn’t putting a lot of emphasis on the event, I didn’t conserve energy and worked, rode, and played pretty hard all week. Thursday I hit up a small, but steady group ride put on by the CMCC out of Mathieu's Bike Shop. It was nice knowing there’s another option to ride with others closer to home. I also expelled some serious energy working at the lake house.
Nonetheless, I was good to go and so was the weather for once! The course was a 3+ mile circuit that was fairly flat save for one punchy climb after a 90 degree turn that lead to a LONG finishing straight. It reminded me a lot of the circuit race used in the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic. We had a neutral first lap lead by the PVC women racers to celebrate the life of a former club member who was struck and killed while riding out west recently.
Start photo courtesy of Don McEwan

From there, it was on for 9 laps! Although there was no team communication prior to the race, I figured the strategy was simple and we would dominate the race given our numbers. I assumed we would have a strong presence out front, have at least 1 rider in every break, and/or launch attacks, and block. I was wrong. The rest of the 100+ field was pretty stout and included some well known pros. Our guys were spread out everywhere, myself included and there was no organization. We did have a guy or 2 get in a couple of breaks that didn’t stick. But there was an elite group that got away late in the race which didn’t include any of us and there was no organization to bring it back.

I’d like to think I did my share of effort joining a couple of break attempts and riding at the front while a teammate was up the road. But the climb was starting to take its toll and I wasn’t maintaining my position as we crested on the latter laps.
Annoying climb photo thanks to Don

To make matters worse, I mis-read the lap cards and I emptied the tank on the actual next-to-last lap! I was wondering why it was so easy to get to the front! What an ass! Ultimately, it came down to the last lap. The pace was fast and the entire field sped into the turn at the base of the climb. After an early incident where a Keltic rider went down and 1 lap where I tried the outside line, I suspected there may be a pileup as the field swept left off the turn. Sure enough, I heard the heinous sound of metal, carbon, and road colliding. The issue was the sidewalk curb was extremely difficult to pick out of the shade and it comes up on you quickly. It killed my momentum as well as half the field so I ended up semi-coasting home to an unceremonious 62nd. I have come to the realization I really don’t like circuit races. They are mini-versions of a road course run at criterium speed. They’re dangerous and HARD!
I had a chance to chat with French Freye and Hattie after the race who volunteered for the event which was nice. I then cruised to the lake house to meet the fam and indulge in the fruits of my labor on the dock I floated this week!

Next it’s back to the dirt for some fun cyclocross and a cross country event at Mt. Snow.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Root 66 Pats Peak Race Report


After attending this race last season with Andrew Freye, we agreed it was a worthy event and worth clearing a spot on the calendar again. Unfortunately it conflicted with a pretty fun MMBA race. But I opted to go where the competition and the climbing was instead. This year, Freye opted for the double and competed in (and won!) the 6 hour solo event on Saturday, then the XC on Sunday. So I leisurely loaded up in the morning and made the trek to Henniker, NH solo.
Weather dawned perfectly for the drive. The big question was, what were the course conditions like as a big batch of rain swept through the region overnight. Having learned my poor tire choice lesson earlier in the year, I brought all options with me.
I arrived in plenty of time to register and get a lap in prior to our 2pm start. This was crucial for me to make the tire decision. Since the sports were racing, I didn't do a full lap, just the important climb to the top of the mountain for the long, winding descent where time was either going to be made or lost. There was no mud to speak of thanks to the 24 hour racers going all night plus the sports pushing things aside. Nonetheless, the roots were a bit slippery and you had to be on your toes. I talked things over with Freye and collegiate stud Brad Perley and confirmed a taller knobbie up front would help and not necessarily go with a mud tire.
I toed the line in the 2nd row where the officials took a quick poll to see whether we wanted to drop a lap and race only 4-5 mile loops with 800+ feet of climbing instead of the published 5. I was pretty opinionated and made my vote known for keeping the 5 laps. This is the pro rank, deal! We set off up the bunny hill where I had scouted out a pro line rather than get bottlenecked and set off in the top-10. I held the spot for a bit until the legit riders got their act together and set off for the front. I was riding well and felt pretty good until we got to the sections I hadn't pre-ridden. There were 2 unrideable hike-a-bike mud sections, plus a few energy and motivation-sapping mid-slope grassy/mud sections that sucked the life out of riding. I guess that was part of the reason to cut a lap as the times were going to hover around 30 minutes/lap rather than 20-25. Oh well. I was going to persevere through it no matter what.
I made it through the first lap probably top-17 or so and rode though with strongman Mike Rowell. We were together at the base of the descent on the 2nd lap when he flatted big time and I was left to my own devices which was too bad because I wanted to try to keep pace with him.
Fortunately there were some carrots that dangled ahead in the form of IF, Wheelworks, and 29er Crew riders whom I slowly reeled in over the next 3 laps. I started finding some stealth lines that I'm sure Mike Joos was roosting on his way to a solid finish! My only regret was getting passed by Kevin Hines who was racing expert that day. Granted, he's a national champ in my age group and also beat the pro field at Putney this year. But his ability is admirable and one I try to emulate. He was just killing it. Thankfully, I kept Jonny Bold at bay though!
It was a tough outing overall. But I was pleased with my effort and the body never showed specific signs of weakness. There was just a general total-body sense of fatigue. I was pretty fairly "punched" (new favorite word thanks to my buddy Sam!).
Next up is taking a break from the mtb and hitting up the Yarmouth Clam Festival circuit race that currently lists 13 of my OA/CycleMania teammates as signed up, should be a lay-up!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

These Things Just Don't Go Together

The date and what I'm wearing. Nice summer, not!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Root 66 Domnarski Farm Race Report


Creative planning allowed me to hit up this XC race on my way home from the Cape.
After a high volume and active week, I wasn't quite sure where my fitness would stack up. But I hadn't raced on my MTB since May 24th so I HAD to get one in.
The race was held on a farm in Ware, MA and we did 2-10 mile loops. Clearly there was no opportunity to pre-ride so I relied on my spider-sense and rode within my line of vision, never knowing what lay ahead.
The field was smallish, but had your typical strong young-guns. The start finish was on a unique elevated 100 yard section that quickly whittled into singletrack. I assumed my standard role of back-of-the-pack and just wanted to stay out of the major players' way. Of course, I wanted to quit after the first 15 minutes because I was redlining it and still lost the front group. But I managed to pass 2 guys plus Foley who flatted so I figured DFL was out of the question.
My real goal was to not get passed by Experts from behind. So, despite the fact that I was in no-man's land 1/3 of the way into the race, I had motivation.
The course was best described as a route I would see myself riding randomly on a weekday ride. A mix of fun singetrack, some doubletrack, some logging roads, and a powerline section. There was some solid climbing interspersed as well. I could have certainly done without the powerline section since it was in the wide open, was a climb, and finished with a run up. The logging roads were annoying as well with huge puddles that forced you to scrub speed and pick a line. There were also some serious mud pits that you had to test the depths of on the 1st lap. I confirmed that one was a wheel deep as I gracefully endoed and muddied myself for the rest of the race. 2nd lap I worked on CX moves and quickly dis-mounted and ran through them.
After riding solo for 2/3 of the way, I came across a slow and unmotivated Greg Carpenter. Although it was nice to ride with someone, I also wanted to beat him so I put in a solid effort to the finish.
It was nice to know I could still race, despite some fairly unfavorable circumstances. The day served as a confidence booster and I'm looking forward to building some momentum this month with an ambitious 4 XC races in a row.

Vacation Week

Just back from a week on Cape Cod hanging at my mom's with the fam.
We caravaned down in 2 vehicles so I could bring back some stuff my mom is getting rid of.
Here are the before/after van pics. There's even a mower and weedwacker in there!

The weather really cooperated for the most part and we got in some boat/beach days.
I skipped a rainy road ride at home before we left and was treated to sun and warmth on the Cape so I made the 25 minute road ride to my favorite trail network at Otis for a couple hours of singletrack.

Of course, I did have my run-ins with the rain and got hit with hail on my return from a MTB ride:

And got wiped out by an epic thunderstorm on a road ride that wiped me out as the expression on my face relays. You know you're riding in a majot event when your feet get submerged in puddles on the downstroke!
The week was capped off by a fantastic fireworks display viewd from the boat. Now it's back to work and a busy month of racing!