Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Landahl


Saturday June 21st saw a group of four Mesa riders driving across the great state of Missouri to contest the final round of the Heartland Sports series held at the pristine trail system at Landahl Reserve in Blue Springs the following day. After a brief stop in Columbia for Dave to eat a pizza and the rest of us to get heckled by some crusties, we arrived at the Pear Tree Inn for a sound nights sleep and a free breakfast the following day. Waking saw the usual intake of yogurt, oatmeal, bananas and much coffee and we set the Impreza's sights on the battleground.

Upon arriving, we had enough time for a pre-ride warmup lap. The course was in amazing shape and was just moist enough to be tacky and few, if any mud spots. This was an amazing deviation from the non stop rain and subsequent mud bogs that have plagued our season and led this particular series to cancel two of its races. It was fast with little climbing and incredibly twisty, the sort of course that brings a smile to my face.

Our expert race was run with a mass start and scored by age groups. So, while I wasn't racing all of the 35 people I lined up with, I treated the race as if I was and it was the largest field I've started in during my humble racing career. The siren went off at 12:05 and the group strung out through the field up to the single track. A poor position on the line and poor starting skills had me in an undesirable spot, but I was able to cut off about six people through the switchback going into the singletrack. Instantly, the Breslin freight train of eight semi-pros and top experts was off and I was at the back of a six man chase group behind. I tried to move up before the climb, but everyone else in the line shut down my efforts. I opted to not go to far in the red before the main challenge of the course, a steep and short loose rock climb. There was chaos on the climb which split the chase group. Being on the wrong end of the group, I now found myself in a second chase group. Through the tight single track and into the field, I could see the rest of the race ahead and began to try and close the gap. Following the second field and into the final bit of singletrack, I had passed a few people when I lost my front wheel and wrapped myself around a tree. This was highly counterproductive and led to me being passed by everyone I had just gone by.

Going into the second lap, I was alone, but I began to see a group of riders ahead. I passed a rider from the Wheel and caught Tom Albert in the second field. I made sure to get in front of him going into the final single track and continued to ride clean. I kept bouncing off trees as I weaved through them, but luckily, I no longer felt the need to hug one. Keevan caught us toward the end of that lap, but an untimely flat put and end to his bid for a perfect season. As Tom and I went into the third lap, he told of a group of three 360 riders ahead who were pacelining all the open sections, but were riding poorly in the technical parts. In the first field, they were in sight, but 45-50 seconds up. By the end of the next singletrack section heading into the field, they were at about fifteen seconds. I went as hard as I could through the field, putting them about ten seconds up. In the final run through Tasty Goodness, Tom and I caught some sport riders who crashed into him , knocking him off and I never saw him again. Towards the end of this section, I managed to catch all the 360 riders and pick my way through them. Very satisfying.

The fourth lap saw two 360 riders catch me before the climb, but after the climb and ensuing singletrack, I never saw them again. The rest of the lap saw me pick off two more riders and go on to finish 6th in my age group and 14th overall. The results don't say much, but I felt very strong and the last half of my race went very well. I also pulled myself closer to several racers who are traditionally much faster. Additionally, time gaps were reduced to a manageable amount and I can actually think of someday riding at the top. I can see myself improving and it feels good to actually race competitively in such a big field. If my progress continues, the upcoming months and years might see a new level of focus from me. The short tracks are just around the corner and will provide me with an opportunity to improve speed and handling. I hope this trajectory continues...

Congratulations to Dave for a HUGE win against a stacked field of semi-pros and former national champions. Congratulations to Drew for his sport class win, we'll see him in the expert field next year. Sympathy for Christopher and Keevan for their ill luck, next race will be better. The White Wave keeps rollin...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sauser



After years of trying and a string of near misses, Christoph Sauser has realized his dream of the rainbow stripes. Sauser destroyed the entire field to win by nearly three minutes over his Swiss teammate Florian Vogel. Julien Absalon forced himself into heat exhaustion in the chase and there was no one else who could stop the Swiss freight train that went on to sweep the podium. Sauser's win comes after multiple podium placings at the worlds and an unfortunate mechanical last year when he clearly had the form to win. After his win at Vallnord this year and multiple World Cup podiums, it was clear he had serious fitness, but his level at Val Di Sole on Sunday was miles beyond his competitors. I had the great fortune to meet him at Sea Otter last year and expressed my support for him in his epic head to head with Absalon at the worlds in 2006. He said simply "Maybe someday it will be my turn". Fortune and superior form have combined to give him the greatest win of his career and a second rainbow jersey to match his marathon title from last year. It will be interesting to see if he can put together another peak for the Olympics. Even if he falters there, 2008 could be his best season, for he has finally realized his dream

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Berryman



This trail is gold to most Missourians. For years it has provided us with a break from our local trail system for a ride that is truly epic. The absurdly fast among us can clock it in under two hours, which is mind boggling. Current erosion would likely curtail such speed, but it remains a destination no less. This video does not showcase its true highlights, but offers a bit of the best Missouri has to offer.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Houffalize 2008

Rhett's Run

Circumstances have finally aligned to give me my first solid MTB race of 2008. Having not raced XC since Tsali, I have spent my time doing some criteriums in the hope it would increase my speed and provide a little of the competition I've been missing off road. I've felt good in these races for the most part, but I have yet to be able to put together a decent finish. This factor, coupled with a string of mediocre to poor results off road had shaken my confidence somewhat and I went to Columbia over the weekend looking to get some of the fire back.

The race actually started well as I slotted into sixth wheel after aggressively fighting for position off the line. The first section of tight and fast singletrack had me in a group of four with two CBC riders and my teammate Corey. Dave and Mike Best had a gap that continued to grow through the race. Our paceline was working well until I slid out on a sweeping left hander and had to run for a moment. Somehow, I didn't lose momentum and didn't panic and rode back up to Corey's wheel. We crested a couple rocky climbs and entered a section of singletrack that doubles back on itself. I tried repeatedly to pass one of the CBC guys on the inside but he was having none of it. We finally dipped down into a downhill gravel road section that eventually leveled off. I was here that I realized that I lost my bottle during my tumble. This being the first race to crack the 90 degree barrier, I was a little concerned about proper hydration. Nonetheless, I attacked the CBC guy and hoped Corey would hold my wheel into the singletrack climb. Toward the top of the switchback climb, I caught the second CBC rider who was sitting in third place and managed to pass him when he dabbed on one of the slick steep climbs. I settled into third with a decent gap heading into my second lap...

When I reached the switchback climb on the second lap, I saw Jeremy Bradshaw about thirty seconds back and realized I needed to hold him off. Toward the end of the lap, he got close enough to offer some words of encouragement. I told him to slow down, but I don't think he was listening. I managed to hold him off for most of the third lap, but he passed me on a gravel section and I dangled at about ten to fifteen seconds back for the rest of the lap and most of the fourth lap. I caught up to him on the switchback climb on the final lap and as I caught him, I saw the CBC rider who had started the race in third coming up from behind. I passed Jeremy through a switchback corner and hoped it would stall the CBC rider's momentum. It didn't. He caught my wheel with five minutes remaining in the race. I gassed it and gapped him a little through the next sections of singletrack, but he was right on me on the last stretch of gravel road before the final half mile of singletrack. When he attacked, I couldn't respond quick enough and I decided to remain steady so as not to blow and get caught by Jeremy. I ended up fourth about twenty seconds down on third, but I had held about a forty second gap to Jeremy. It was a real race, which was exciting because lately, they have been a personal sufferfest. It was the first time I have felt strong and in control all year and even though I would have liked to have been another step up on the podium, I am ecstatic over the seeming turnaround in my fitness and look forward to the next XC event to hopefully keep the momentum going. Mesa and St. Louis put in a stellar performance with Dave winning the Expert race, Johnny F getting a pre-birthday podium fourth in the sport race and everyone else in the top ten. The strength of our team gives me motivation and I am now confident and filled with anticipation for the rest of the season.