Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creve Couer Double Header

So I finally won a race. It's been over two years and the relief is indescribable. Always close, but never close enough, everything came together for me on Saturday night.

I spent the day at the shop, low on motivation and sort of feigning excitement with my coworkers, but secretly dreading what I knew would be a brutal evening. My mood lightened up a bit upon reaching the venue, it was motivating to see multiple Santas racing the C race and some weirdo in a Luchador mask. Really, there were costumes aplenty and the atmosphere was raging, the kind of party that only happens at a cross race. So I dressed, embrocated and spun on the trainer watching the race. When the course cleared, I did a couple warmup laps to get a feel for the course and lined up on the front with a couple teammates. I didn't hear the whistle, but managed to slot into decent position as Big Ring Murphy went flying off for the hole shot. I sat about fifth wheel and tried to keep it cool and bide my time while attempting to stay warm in the twenty degree weather. Our group detached from the front pretty quickly and we weaved our way through a remarkably twisty and entertaining course. When we hit the sand pit, the rider in front of me ate it hard and I moved around him into fourth place. Going into lap two, Grrman tried to sneak by Murphy in a 180 and took himself down, leaving three of us. Armstead, the rider pulling the train, started to get a bit of a gap and as he had been riding strong the last few weeks, I came around Murphy to try and make sure he didn't get too far off. From there, things got better and better. I sat on for half a lap and Grrman caught us. Armstead eventually pulled off forcing me to the front and I somehow got a fifteen second gap almost immediately. I led for a while and then crashed in the sand, allowing him back on. Slowly, we dropped Grrman and slowly, I started pulling away. He yo-yoed with me for a bit, but with two to go, I went full gas and came home about fifteen seconds clear. It felt amazing and I felt like I was in some sort of trance the whole time. I had no idea who was cheering (except for Lizz), but the tunnel of noise was deafening and made the experience much more special. I can't describe how good it felt to finally win one of these things and the fact that it had the most spectators of any race so far made it even better. Big thanks to all who supported me after the accident and huge thanks to Lizz, Margaret and everyone else who cheered me on through the night.

Sunday was a mystery to me as I had never done back to back cross before, but I had a bit of a confidence boost and no pressure so I was ready for whatever the day had. the race started well with me in fourth wheel and moving up to second by the end of the first lap. I was riding with Armstead and we had a gap on the field. I felt good and the legs were there and I even dared to think I might be able to do it again. Unfortunately, the preceding evening's jarring of my handlebars allowed my stem faceplate to loosen just enough to cause problems. My bars slipped a bit and it got worse and worse through the next lap, making it nearly impossible to corner and forcing me to let a gap go. I had to stop and pit and lost about seven places and about a minute in the process. The rest of the race was a furious chase and I eventually got back up to third. I feel like I was closing on second, but I ran out of laps and had to concede at the end. Still, I can only be satisfied with another podium and the way the legs responded after the previous night's effort.
I feel like I'm back to where I was before the accident and I hope I can keep these legs around for the next two weeks. We'll soon find out, but cross is coming to a close and it's been a wild and beautiful ride so far, let's see where the next two weeks take us...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gavere 2008

Suson Park Bubba #5

This last weekend's race at Suson Park was held at a venue I'd never seen, but as it was located near the Meremac River in South County, there was a high likelihood of elevation gain and the course certainly delivered in that regard. The race began through a gradual up and down section that twisted its way through the barriers before a high speed gravel descent. Off the line, I found myself behind some slower traffic and I fought my way to the front group by the descent. Sitting in the top five, I watched Grrman take an early flyer while four of us chased at about ten seconds. We had it almost closed down through the bottom section of the course that had a bit of of mud. He still dangled a few second up when we all hit the uphill barrier/run up. On the run up, my weakness showed its face as I was passed by the rest of the chase and Grrman extended his lead. Definitely need to work on the running skills before Hermann. Immediately after the heart rate maximizing run up, we were dumped onto a grinding pavement climb that brought us back to the start/finish. I got back on the chase on the climb and settled in. Once we hit the bottom section of the course, a Big Shark rider came flying past me attempting to bridge and I stuck to his wheel looking for a free ride to the front. Unfortunately, he wiped out when we were within a few seconds of catching Grrman and I was left in between for the rest of the lap. Once again, my running failed me on the run up and I was passed by a group of two who rode right up to Grrman and began to slowly pull away from him. I continued to chase, but was making up little ground for most of the race and began running out of steam with two to go. The repeated run ups were murdering my legs and for some reason it never occurred to me to shift out of my 46. It's probably a good thing that thought never entered my head because on my final ascent of the finishing climb, the Big Shark rider rocketed out of the group behind me and nearly overtook me. I had had at least fifteen seconds on the bottom of the course so I never thought they'd catch me in half a lap, but this was a motivated individual. Thankfully I held him off by half a wheel for fourth place. I'm satisfied to have moved up a place from last week although I'm still way off first place. At least the improvement is there and will hopefully continue for the next four weeks that close out the season. We've got a big double header this weekend complete with a night race and standard Sunday race at Creve Couer. Word is Dave Towle is coming to announce the night race and the cash purse should bring some talent. Also, word on the street is that a new and improved flyover will make another appearance. I can't wait. As a wise teammate commented recently, CX is life...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Creve Couer Bubba #4

This weekend's CX race was by far the best course we have had to race on so far. It really had everything a good cross course could have from the double sandpit to the 180 barrier section to newly minted flyover to a slalom course through trees, this course lacked nothing in its perfection.

I lined up poorly toward the back of the nearly fifty strong field and stood on the line hoping to move up quickly. As the whistle went off, there was quickly pandemonium as we entered the first sweeping turns towards the barrier section. There were a few verbal barbs traded by those who felt like they were being wronged by the riders around them, a glimpse of criterium mentality. Luckily for them, the finish line was not at the barriers so they had plenty of time to work out their differences. I managed to move through quite a bit of traffic through the barriers. I tagged on the back of the lead group as we railed through the dusty trees onto the road for a screaming road descent into a climb that put us back onto the dirt. A series of long, climbing switchbacks saw a split form in our group of ten and being at the back, I was on the wrong end of the split and was having trouble moving around riders. Our little chase group shed a couple riders and it was down to four in the chase with B race dominator and teammate Matt Pence pulling about five seconds off the lead group of five. We made our way through the top section and completed the screaming fast descent into the right hander that took us to our inaugural run of the infamous flyover. No one had yet to ride it at speed and few expected to the g out at the bottom which led to the rider in front of me shattering his carbon post. Not yet clipped in and barely in control of my bike, I rear ended him and had to untangle myself before continuing. A bit of a set back, but it was still the first lap. Immediately after the flyover, there was a double sandpit section which worked out well for me, allowing the reclamation of a few positions as I rode while others ran. Coming back under the flyover and through some sweeping turns, I completed the lap sitting in around seventh or eighth.

As the laps wore on, I was never able to attack but I just tried to stay steadily on the gas in the hopes of burning people off. I tried to stay close to Pence as he has been steamrolling the B field all season and I thought he'd be able to get us back, or at least bridge himself and give me someone to block for should I not be able to follow. Unfortunately, there was a sand pit bobble and I ran into him before letting out some profanities. Sorry Matt, not directed toward you, just heat of the moment stuff! Afterward, I was leading our small group about fifteen to twenty seconds back from the Murphy/Grrman chase that was a bit behind the two leaders. I chose not to ask for help and just maintained my pace. Slowly but surely, I looked back and found myself in lone pursuit. I'm not really sure how it happened, but I think a mountain bike background was beneficial on this course and I kept pushing myself. There were a few bobbles throughout the rest of the race, but I stayed steady and got to within five seconds of Russ and Alex before Alex gapped Russ a bit. Try as I might, I could never close the remaining seconds and I'm pretty sure Russ gassed it on the last lap to make the gap stick. For myself, I was happy to be riding well again and while the legs and lungs weren't fully there, I felt close to my early season condition again. No small feat considering the amount of IPA's I filtered through myself at Lizz's Team in Training benefit the preceding evening. Next week is going to be all business and hopefully, I can continue to improve. The next two weeks have some serious training on tap which I hope will bring some rewards come state championship time. We'll find out, but it's a wonderful feeling to be back at it.

The Bubba series continues to grow and the addition of the flyover is massive for our series. There may have been a few equipment hiccups the week, but everyone will be more experienced next week. Attendance was still up even in thirty degree weather and the courses are getting better and better. It feels like the real thing and it really is shaping up to be so. Next week is Suson Park and then another night race.
I can't wait and I sincerely wish this would go on into January. Who knows, maybe with the momentum, next year will see a truly Belgian season...

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Lars Boom outclasses the competition in Pijnacker today. It looks like this cyclocross season is shaping to be a three man show in the major races...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Faust Park Bubba #3

This past Sunday marked my return to CX after an automotive imposed hiatus. Having ridden a total of six-ish hours in the last three weeks and with a questionable calf, I lined up at Faust Park expecting little of myself and simply hoping to be moderately competitive. Thankfully, it was the Halloween race, so there was little personal expectation save for having some good times and my attire gave me one more reason to treat the race as a hard ride with little hope of results. The race began on a slight uphill drag before taking us to the backside of the park for some twisty wooded goodness before working us back around toward the start finish area. After ripping down the opening hill, I was sitting somewhere in the top ten as we hit the double run up creatively centered in the bottom of a sewage drain. I decided to run the first run up, requisite given the initial barrier and ride the second. I cleaned the second run up, but the few slips of the wheel took some energy and I decided I would run it from then on. From here the course entered a set of multiple 180's before dumping us onto a bit of pavement before a highly enjoyable transfer back to the dirt through the start finish. I was suffering pretty hard and not feeling the good legs that were there before my accident. I suppose they'll come back around by the end of the season, but they were nowhere to be found on Sunday. Little worry, I was in and out of the top ten and having a good, pain filled time. Lizz, Margaret, Justin and many others were providing me with beer showers and handups through the race and screaming themselves horse in my ear. The delicious beer feeds would be my undoing as the USA Cycling official decided that the lack of safety and rule breaking that I brought to the event was unacceptable and I was disqualified with three to go. I think I was in tenth or eleventh or something at the time. It really didn't matter, I'd got what I needed out of the day and I was able to commence grilling a bit sooner. St. Louis CX is coming around little by little and it's days like this one that illustrate this fact. Great turnout, lots of spectators and most people set on having a good time. I hope this continues and our series will eventually become one of the storied hotbeds of cross in the States. A bit grandiose, but the sis or seven people in costume really got me fired up.... Here are some photos that I did not take.

Monday, November 3, 2008