Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Missouri State CX Championships

As the season here in Missouri winds down, we once again found ourselves back at the Hermann city park to contest the state cyclocross championships in the hopes of putting an exclamation point on the season and possibly put in the performance that would carry us through the impending darkness of winter and keep the motivation high for the coming season. My season and my feelings about it have been well documented here and although the Bubba series was consistent but not remarkable, I had been targeting Hermann since the day after I won the 4's race last year. I hoped for a good ride and for the efforts I had been putting in over the last few weeks to provide me with some confirmation that I do, in fact, have some decent abilities in my preferred cycling discipline. However, the nature of the past season had led me to resolve to simply have a good time, enjoy the course, and get back to the feelings that have so enamored me with cross in previous years.

It was with this attitude that I lined up against a strong field of twenty some odd category 3's and prepared to leave it all out on the course. The preride had shown a course that was thawing into a greasy skating rink with fantastic flow and a number of truly classic CX features to challenge and intimidate. This would be the real thing. My race strategy was to get towards the front off the line and try to mark wheels as the race wore on and hope that it would pay off with a decent result.

When the whistle sounded, we tore down the long pavement stretch and dumped onto the grass with Scooter taking the hole shot and me taking tenth wheel. A little further back than I wanted but I stayed calm and hoped the technical nature of the course would provide me with opportunities for progress. I moved up a bit through the 180's and the mud bog and successfully rode the hill that others chose to run. This put me into the top five with Alex Edwards pulling up front. Since he had won the 2/3 race at Jingle Cross last week, I was happy to be on the group and was feeling very comfortable up the stairs and through the twisting turns toward the end of the lap.
Going into the second lap, we had a group of six off the front and Dan Miller moved to the head. Since he had been riding so strong all season, I was happy to follow his wheel and try to stay within myself. Onto the second half of the lap, a rider from KC named Travis slotted himself between me and Dan and toward the end of the lap, a bit of a gap had opened to Dan's wheel. Given his remarkable progression and consistency this year, I thought he might ride away from us until Martin passed me on the pavement and told me to grab his wheel. He put in a big pull to get us back up to Dan and shredded the group in the process. I owe Martin some gratitude for the teamwork and it certainly contributed to my result. The SKC was dropped and Alex and Travis were about ten seconds back from our lead trio. I got around Martin on the 180's and got on Dan's wheel. Martin must have crashed somewhere because Dan and I had a gap halfway through the third lap. Surprisingly, I felt very strong and although Dan was clearly the better man, I was holding on and feeling really good.
The course was amazing and as we slid around corners and carved the twisties, I fully remembered the joy and love that cross brings me. The crowd was raging at all sections of the course as we rode wheel to wheel. Going into two laps to go, I assured Dan that I wasn't trying to suck wheel and was happy to be hanging on. He asked me if I had a pull in me on the pavement and I obliged when he said we'd ride this in together. We had a number of great battles last year in the B series and it felt great to be clear together, especially since he has stepped up to a whole new level this year.

Our gap continued to grow into the bell lap and it looked like a sprint finish was possible until I bobbled on the steep hill, giving him the gap that he needed to take home the jersey.
He absolutely deserved it and was by far the strongest in the race. If there's any excuse that I have to offer it's that he was simply stronger. No shame there. For myself, it was wonderful to rediscover both my cross legs and the love of the sport. This year has been tough for me and this was exactly what I needed to bring it all back in line. The support from the fans was amazing and the comments afterwards were truly inspirational. Much gratitude is due my wife who has been a fountain of support in my weekly endeavors and her Matt-centric garb for the day was as comical as it was touching. Mesa had a banner day, standing on 7 podiums and taking three wins, showing that we are by far the most consistent CX squad in town. It was a blast to cheer for the 1/2's after our race was over and bask in some of the festivities that my move to the a class had eliminated this year. A great day all around.
One more race to close out the season next weekend and then I'll take some time off to recharge for next year. I have a few ideas about what to do differently, but time will tell what result those ideas will bring. Thanks to everyone for the support all year and I really look forward to doing it all over again next fall.
Thanks very much to Chris Ludwig and Mike Dawson for these pictures of myself that I spent all day scouring the internet for.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bubba #9 at Bellefontaine

Hmm, what to think about this season and this race in particular? I was somewhat disappointed with my ride on Sunday despite having reasonably good legs and a truly enjoyable course. Did I go to far in the preceding week? Have the external forces and lack of rest in my life over recent months taken as much of a toll as I think? Did my back going out Friday keep me down? Am I making excuses? Have I improved at all this year? Has everyone else's massive leaps made it hard for me to assess? I don't really know the answer to these questions. I am relatively satisfied that I have remained consistent start to finish. My legs have felt better and better through the season but one variable or another have prevented me from truly realizing my potential, or at least the potential that I like to think I have. I don't really know. I would have liked to have done better Sunday, the legs were there, the back wasn't and I crashed three too many times. Regardless, I finished in a familiar spot (13th), so some consistency was maintained. I really wanted to crack the top ten this year, but that will have to wait ten months. At least I picked up three dollars in primes, so I got that going for me. We'll see if a bit of a taper week will bring out the benefits of the last couple weeks of training. State championships this weekend and then the season closer in Washington. They're both 3's races so I'm hoping for a couple good rides but I'm looking at the rest of this season as a transition to a hopefully new level next year and moving forward. If that level never comes, it's ok, but hopefully I can find the joyous enthusiasm of CX season's past. On to 2010... Congrats to Martin, Dave, Drew and CC on a series of strong rides all season. It's great being teammates with you guys and hopefully we can get that '08 comraderie back for '10.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hamme Zogge Superprestige 2009

Bubba Cross at Mt. Pleasant Winery

It was with much anticipation that I looked to this past weekend's race at the Mt. Pleasant winery in beautiful Augusta Missouri. Images of Nationals at Napa floated around my head for the past several weeks and when tales of the course working through the bar emerged, my excitement peaked. At last, we would have a world class event where drunken revelers could shower us with Norton as we wove though tangled vineyards battling it out for the prestige of a win in a historic Germanic community.

Well, the race had most of that but it also had the most punishingly brutal course ever tread upon with knobby 32's. The sadistic bastards who laid out the torture fest made full use of the steep country hillside between the winery and the Missouri River and all of the life sucking mushy ground that it contained. Up and down and up and up and a little down and a BIG up before we wove around on the top to take us through the bar and onto a pavement stretch that offered the only semblance of "recovery" on the whole God forsaken track. I started well, better than usual, and slotted into tenth-ish. The ground was sucking the life out of me and I knew that I needed to stay steady to avoid the potential for physical explosion. I yo yo'ed with the usual suspects that I yo yo with weekly and ended up 15th. This was my lowest placing so far, but I was satisfied to have finished the hardest CX race I've ever done and to have maintained some consistency throughout. I also had a personal victory from riding the run up all but two laps and having the raging crowd that lined it inform me that "not even Breslin did that". That was enjoyable, but one thing he did do was ride away from me so it doesn't really matter. Still, I'll take what I can get. This season has been consistent if unspectacular for me but I still have three weeks left and I hope to inch a little bit higher this coming weekend and hopefully put in a good ride at state in two weeks. It's winding down, but I'm finally hungry.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bubba #7 St. Vincent/ Are you there 2008? It's me Matt.

This season has not been like last season. First of all, I have had no forced period of inactivity at the beginning of the Bubba series, I am now racing the A's and up until yesterday, was faking any motivation for racing. A variety of external stresses and circumstances have left me unrested, unmotivated and somewhat at wit's end with a great deal of things, including racing. Those factors aside, I had underestimated the positive effect that the post race cheering and camaraderie had on my overall CX experience and with the upgrade, the festivities associated with the Sunday ritual have all but vanished. By the time I'm done racing and cooling down, everyone is on their way home. Last year, I had my teammates to cheer for and this year I am struggling to get some Tofurkey on the grill before it's shutdown time. And then there's the suffering, which has been thorough throughout, so much so that I had even considered turning CX season into beer season. But this was all before St. Vincent and what was the most satisfyingly enjoyable course of the season. With the bonus of raucous woodland cheering section audible from the whole course and some legs that almost felt decent, I think I may have finally turned a corner in time for the waning races of our humble local series.

I started poorly, missing a pedal, but the aforementioned malaise led me to decide to sit in for a bit and feel things out. Things were turning over relatively well and though I had poor positioning, the nature of the course allowed me to move up a fair amount about a third of the way through the race. The course had everything from snaking, carving descents to a double sandpit (why didn't I try to ride that?) to a couple of grinding climbs, to a legitimate mud bog through the woods, to a screaming fast pavement descent that transferred onto the course. Perfection. It doesn't really matter how the race unfolded as I'm sure many others have provided in depth analysis, but for me, I had a blast for the first time all year. Not just going through the motions, I felt the fire again and although I finished in my now familiar 12th, I felt some hope for the last few races. I stayed consistent, had some decent battles with various competitors and at no point thought about how nice it would be to quit. Personal victories one and all. I'm hoping this wasn't a one off for me, but I think a real turning point has been reached and just in time. The external factors are still very much in play, but I can now look forward to some release for at least four more weeks and there will be a smile behind the pained grimace for each of them. Here on out, that's the goal. Pix are from Dennis Fickinger, Mike Dawson and Chris Creed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bubba # 5 and 6 at Creve Couer

This past weekend we returned to the bottoms at Creve Couer park, the sight of some good times for me last year. With at least a foot of rain in the last week, mud was an inevitability and I was licking my lips in anticipation. Unfortunately, the start time wasn't until 10:30pm, which is generally my bedtime. No matter, it gave me plenty of time to spend some QT with my niece as she strutted her stuff in full ladybug regalia. I myself went with an ET theme, but the mud prevented me from racing in the garb.

The racing was somewhat blase. Having registered late, I got a back row call up which would have been good to know since we have yet to use that practice this year, but at a minimum, it meant I would be redlined immediately. The race started and I tried to work my way up to the middle. Slipping and sliding through corners, the usual suspects were off the front with Josh back to his traditional dominance, a resurgent DB killing it in second and Grrman proving he's no flash in the pan in third. I don't really know what was going on with me but I gapped some people, lapped some people and got caught by some people. Toward the end, I was riding with Drew and Ron until the collection of mud removed Drew's derailer from his bike and Ron set off on his own. I finished 11th. Some might give little credit to attrition, but to me it's as much a part of racing as fitness. A position of convenience for me, to be sure.

Day 2 was similar but the conditions were back to the soul sucking softness that 2009 has been known for. A larger field and again I found myself on the back of the line. I worked up to about 20th on the pavement and tried to use the S turns to move up a bit.I yo yo'ed with a chase of four before gapping them and slowly dragging myself up to TK. Once there, I foolishly decided to contribute to our chase of Ron. I feel like I cut the gap down a good deal but suffered for it in the process. Halfway through the third last lap, my hypoxic state led me to botch riding the barriers I had conquered on the previous lap and with that mistake, TK's wheel was gone. I began to fade through this lap and once onto the second last lap, I completely hit the wall. I actually thought I might throw in the towel with two to go. Having promised myself I wouldn't succumb to weakness, I pressed on in a pitifully small gear. I watched as four people I had a substantial gap on mid race passed me. Conceding that many spots in the dying moments of the race was hard to take, but I can be satisfied with how I rode until that point and I feel like things are starting to come around. It's not really an objective analysis, given that I raced 14 hours prior and had little sleep, but others were not so affected. Regardless, I have acquired the focus necessary to take me through the end of the season and hopefully I can maintain for those last two laps at the next race. Next week is some mountain biking in Asheville and then the home stretch to State begins. Thanks Creed for the pics.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

2009 Mesa Team Salsa Chili con Crosso

This is my bike. One of three custom Mesa paint jobs found at St. Louis area A races.
53 cm Chili con Crosso. Mavic Ksyrium SL tubular wheelset. Ultegra SL shifters with Dura Ace 7800 derailers.

Challenge Fango 34c front tubular. TRP Alloy Euro-X brakes with pad adjust upgrade and Gore sealed cables.

Shimano R700 110BCD cranks with FSA 46/38 gearing
Challenge Grifo 32c Rear tubular. Dura Ace 12-27 cassette

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Koppenbergcross 2009

Bubba Cross at Jefferson Barracks

The race began with a near track stand start as I struggled off the line and up into the middle of the group. Immediately, I am redlined and riding well below the technical expectations I normally place on myself. By lap two, the suffering is immense as gaps begin to form in our line and I watch as people I rode with last week and last year take of for the lead. I dangle on a chase group for the remainder of the lap as DB pulls the chase along before moving back into the line for some recovery and fresh legs at the front. Into the third lap, he is kind enough to offer some encouragement to "get up here" and I almost do before he finds something extra and leaves us all for dead as he sets off in lone pursuit of the next chase group. I am now on the back of a group of three and we trade pulls and I yo yo on the back before the young Dan seems to crack in front of me letting a gap go to Dennis. I come around for the descent about five seconds off Dennis for the next lap or two. I feel him beginning to fade and I slowly begin to crawl up to the wheel when I catch my rear wheel on one of the stakes I had spent the majority of the race bouncing off of and go down. Bars now at a 45 degree angle to my bike, I decide to quit... then decide to fix it and comically ride with my bars akimbo. I get passed in the pit by several people before remounting and ... deciding to quit... then deciding to keep going.... then deciding to quit... then realizing that I would be quitting in front of my wife which is unacceptable. I bridge up to Drew and Thrasher and ride with them to the run/ride up where I come around Drew and catch Thrasher on the climb just before the descent. I manage a few second gap through the MTB esque downhill coming into two to go. I am truly dying inside at this point and Thrasher keeps getting closer. I rely on the descent to keep the gap in place, nice because I could also recover a bit here and almost resign myself to his catch on the bell lap. He gets to within a few seconds half a lap through and I tell myself at the base of the climb that I can hold him off if only I get to the descent in front. I do. I hold him off for 11th. A thinned out field makes it a less than stellar result but the suffering, both mental and physical, should pay off in the coming weeks. I think. Now is the time to step it up and hopefully move closer to those I rode comfortably with last season. Glad DB's back. Not so sure about the 10:30pm night race next week, but the more racing the better. I think.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bubba Cross at Faust

I raced and felt pretty ok and finished about where I expected. 12th and 13th on Saturday night and Sunday respectively. Maybe next week I'll be motivated to write more. Hope everyone has fun in Louisville and this rain continues through Saturday. A little slop would be nice. Here are some photos.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ruddervoorde 2009

Burning IV

This year's Burning was a strange one. I set up the course on Friday in the rain and trudged through epic amounts of standing water, but surprisingly little mud, to complete my annual duties. Needless to say, the ride left me less than enthused for the following day's activities. Running back to St. Louis and attending a wedding that put me to bed around 1am also left me with little rest and even less hope of respectable lap times. I woke three and a half hours later to get picked up by Breslin and have never in my life been so tired.

We arrived around 7 am and my plan was to log back to back laps and then take two off before completing my final lap to get it over with early in the day. The first two laps went well and even though I didn't set the world on fire, I felt reasonalbe good and was having fin as the fog burned off to reveal a crisp, clear fall day. I relaxed while Chritopher and Schweiker burned up the trail and finally headed out for a third lap hoping to improve my time. I felt as if I was riding faster, cleaner and pushing bigger gears so I was excited to see what time I had done. Luckily, my sleep deprived state led me to forget my timing chip and thus lose any possibility of finding out my time. Oh well, they added a lap to our score to compensate for my absent mindedness, but both Christopher and I were denied timing due to my oversight.

In the end, we finished sixth in the wicked fast category. Not a bad result and about what I expected. As always, the burning is one of the most fun races and parties of the year and I tried to make the most of it despite my lack of sleep. I finally went to bed around two and due to chronic insomnia, had plenty of time to think about next year and the upcoming cross season. Not sure I'll race here next year, but I'll always come back for the riding and the good times.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Treviso 2009

There will be no stopping Niels in 09/10

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ronde Van Evergreen

I returned to Carbondale over the weekend for the fifth edition of the Ronde Van Evergreen, a wonderful cyclocross race held at an old BMX park and the site of my introduction to cyclocross two years ago. After my less than stellar performance at Hermann, I decided that this would be a training race and went in with little to no expectations other than the hope to avoid the dreaded DFL. These expectations were further tempered when my ride arrived twenty minutes late and a deceptive detour sign enroute both conspired to leave me with little to no warmup.

Somehow, we still had a full thirty minutes to prepare upon our arrival and an initial inspection of the course showed it to be soft with a few mud holes, but certainly not the bog that I had hoped for. Additionally, the real estate had been cut inhalf from previous years and the organizers made up for it by mowing some new lines into the old overgrown BMX course. Slow and grinding and painful. Good times were sure to follow.

I lined up on the front row and had a mediocre start, something I need to work on, to slot myself in the top ten. I had decided beforehand that I would be happy with that and hoped to stay steady throughout the race. After the first U turn through the gravel, I heard a loud pop which turned out to be one of Stroots spokes, making for immediately reduced competition, or so I thought. As the lap wound through some unending twisters, I watched the top guys pull away and silently hoped to salvage some dignity from last week.

Coming into lap two, I got onto Martin's wheel and he pulled us around Dennis from Dogfish to get us into 7th and 8th respectively. On the straightaway on the next lap, I came around him with the intention of doing my share of the work and continued to grind away through the soft, but quickly hardening ruts. Throughout the third lap, as the course slowly became more abusive, I worked my way up to the young Williams wheel and sat on him for the rest of the lap. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere in the next lap, I managed to get a gap on him and put some space between me and Williams and Marty. I was now riding in sixth and hoping to hold onto it, but was a bit demoralized to discover that I was only 25 minutes in when I passed the finish line.

Given my race the preceding week, I wanted to stay steady and get a hard ride in so I kept it ticking over through subsequent laps. At one point I was a handful of seconds off Jay's wheel but either he was able to up the tempo just a bit or I faded enough that he was gone three quarters of the way through the race. At one stage after the steep climb, I saw Yielding in the pits with a rolled tire meaning I was now in the top five and very close to getting my race paid for. I thought I was safe as long as I could maintain and kept grinding away until I saw Stroot coming for me about fifteen to twenty seconds back with four laps to go. Thankfully, my handling made up for his superior strength and I kept the gap steady until I was told one lap to go.
The official seemed confused when he told me one to go, but I was thankful to end the suffering and didn't question. I told myself at every difficult moment that it was the last time I had to do it so I was chagrinned to say the least when I heard that I had to keep going after my "last lap". Pure rage pushed me through the legitimate final lap and I managed to hold Stroot off by a handful of seconds at the end.

So fifth place in my first A race of 2009. I'm definitely satisfied with the result and although I realize that things will change when there's a full roster and fewer mechanicals, I'm satisfied that a week of intensity has brought such a turnaround in results. Hopefully, I'll keep moving up from here and be competitive when the season gets into full swing. Unfortunately, my 08 nemesis Grrman won the race by quite a bit which means I have a lot of work to do. No worries, it's giving me the requesie motivation to make my goals happen. Up next is my first shot at a six hour mountain bike race (with no plans of being competitive) and then a sweet birthday present in the form of a season opening night race. Here we go!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hermann Night Cross

And so it begins... Decent but entirely unspectacular start to the 2009 cross season this past weekend in Hermann. I felt pretty redlined from the start with an immediate run up the steep staircase and was riding very sloppy through the first part of the race. I was riding in the top ten and suffering and a few key crashes set me back several positions that I was never able to make up. Luckily, I had ace teammate Zach Brace there to help pace me through a rough patch in the middle third of the race. I started feeling better and more comfortable toward the end and ended up finishing 13th. Not exactly what I was hoping for but serious motivation to get the ball rolling. Hopefully with a renewed committment to intensity after a month of endurance, things will come around. We'll see. For now, my face says it all...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting it Done

Huge congrats are in order for friend and teammate Zach Brace as he rode to the win in the 12 hour solo men's category at this past weekend's Rapture in Misery. Zach's dedication to acheiving his goals has been mighty impressive the last couple years and I for one would not bet against him repeating at this year's Burning at the Bluff.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spanish Lake

This past weekend's race returned to Spanish Lake, home of many a local mountain and cross races over the years. While not neccessarily a trail that anyone would chose to ride for recreation, we seem to have at least one race there every year and with this year calling for temps in the high nineties and heat indicies of over one hundred, it promised to be a long grind inside of an angry blast furnace. Having experienced serious heat induced setbacks this season, I spent all of Saturday and Sunday morning hydrating in the hopes that my St. Joe implosion would not repeat itself.

A preride of the course showed some improvement over years past with new singletrack sections at enough regular intervals to keep it interesting and provide the feel of a legitimate mountain bike race. The gravel jeep tracks remained, but they didn't feel quite so dominant this year.

The race began with a decent start, putting me in fifth through the snaking tightness before the first section of gravel. Once onto the double track, I moved around Jay and Brice while Wes and Hafner came around me. A bit of a reshuffling, but still in fifth for the long grind. Scott used his road skills to set off in pursuit of the lead and we would not see him until the finish. With Ploch already well clear, it was now a four way battle for third. Hafner took off after Scott as Wes, Drew Black and I stuck together for the remainder of the first lap.

Going into the second lap, Drew punched it on the first gravel section and gapped Wes and me in the process. I think we both figured it was a bit early in the race to chase and we figured the brutal heat would eventually take its toll. Wes and I caught Hafner right before the second section of singletrack and passed him when we got onto the next section of gravel. Drew had gained a pretty good gap at this point and I was happy for a teamate to be fighting for the podium.

Going into the third lap, I took over from Wes and pulled for the lap. I tried to up the tempo a bit to see if a gap would open, which was likely my undoing. If ever I got a couple seconds, Wes would close it handily and I completed the lap feeling the effects of my effort. Right at that point, one of the 35+ experts passed us and Wes jumped on his wheel. Having pushed a little too hard in the preceding lap, I was unable to follow and had to let the wheel go.

The fourth lap was pure suffering. I just tried to keep it as close to the edge physically as I could, hoping to come around for the last lap. Coming through the start finish to start the final lap, I had Drew in my sights and was hoping to make it up to him before the finish. Throughout the lap I yo yo'ed and dangled at about five seconds, incapable of making the final push to make contact. I was sure I was close to blowing and I was wary of digging any deeper. The heat was weighing on me and I eventually finished fifth, roughly ten seconds off Drew and a minute behind Wes. I'm happy with the result as I kept it together in the heat and did reasonalby well on a course that doesn't suit me. I have a lot of things that I'm personally satisfied with that happened in the race, all of which point to a decent amount of improvement over this season. I have every intention of upping my game next year and hopefully see even more improvement in 2010. For now, it's time for a little rest and then the build up to cross. There may be another MTB race or two before the year's out, but my mind is now focused on cyclocross. It's been a decent ride this MTB season and I hope I can roll the momentum into the fall and into next year. Wish me luck...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rockbridge and Castlewood

It's been a good couple weeks for dirt racing in Missouri and all the thoughts of early season washout and frustration seem to have dissapated. With two fantastic races at unbelievable courses and another coming this weekend, the ball seems to finally be rolling... even if it is just in time for cross preparations to begin.

Last weekend was the Show Me State games at Rockbridge park in Columbia. I had never ridden this particular venue, but all reports said that it was superior to Rhett's Run, which had thus far been my favorite course. The trail proved to been a ridiculous good time with mile after mile of screaming twisting descents and tight river bottom good times. Save for an extended drag through a field, this was by far the best course yet. My race went well, hanging onto a three man chase behind the leaders for the first lap. I felt good and was reasonably confident of my ability to hang on, but when Scott took a long pull through the field, a gap opened to me and I spent the rest of the lap chasing. After nearly avoiding disaster on a high speed bench cut descent, I opted to settle into my rhythm and try to stay consistent. I have often had the problem of burning myself out on the first lap and I was conscious to try and manage that issue. It worked and i finished with consistent lap times and in fifth for the expert open field. My goal of a top five had been accomplished and I had closed the gap to my competion further.

The following week at Castlewood marked the first time I had raced XC at the park since '05. Despite countless early morning rides at the venue, all the races over the last few years have been on Saturdays while I was wrenching away at the shop. Regardless, I was happy to get a chance to race at Castlewood and anxious to see if the fitness was still on the upswing. The race went well although the seemingly endless climbing was quite brutal in the waning laps. I stuck with my competion for half the race and a moment of weakness on the third climb of Grotpeter saw me lose the wheel. I tried to stay consistent and go as deep as I could without exploding so I would have a bit left for the last lap. After downing the rocket fuel through the start finish, I felt renewed and finished the race strong in sixth place, fourteen seconds back from fifth. I have to feel that improvement has been acheived this year even if my place in the pecking order remained consistent throught the season. I started the year with such a deficit to the top guys that I can only focus on myself and hopefully trimming down the gap to the leaders. I know that I accomplished that and despite some early season hiccups, I can look forward to further improvement next year if I step up my dedication and remain focused. I feel like I belong in the expert class and I am anxious to see how far I can take it.

Next week is Spanish Lake, which is as close to a road race as we get on mountain bike, so I plan on gearing up the El Mariachi and seeing what happens. It's the exact opposite of my type of course, but the racing's been fun lately, so I might as well keep on it. After that, it will probably be a bit of down time and then the long build to my one goal of the season. It's going to be a good last half of '09, I think...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Most Impressive Road Descent I've Ever Seen

If ever there was doubt that Fabian Cancellara was one of the all time greats...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bromont 2008

Maybe I've already posted this, but who cares, it's ridiculous. Definitely a Breslin kind of day.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Webster Crit 2009

Next time I have a choice between a road race and a mountain bike "race", I'll pick the mountain bike "race"...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

St. Joe

This past weekend saw us back at the sight of last year's season opening bog fest, St. Joe state park. Having sucked my will to live the previous year, I was hoping for a bit of redemption on a course that had a lot of potential in the absence of the sponge like conditions from last year. For 2009, we were treated to soaring temperatures and humidity for more of a blast furnace experience than the energy sucking moisture that last year's edition brought. However, I felt I had some decent legs and had been riding well lately, so expectations were higher than normal.

Pirtle showed up for his annual reminder to everyone in town of his impenetrable superiority and as such, the start was ballistic. I missed my pedal for a couple strokes and slotted in around seventh place in line. Once again, the heads of state moved off the front immediately and a chase of four established with Wes pulling Scooter, myself and Drew. A couple miles in, I came around Scooter and sat on Wes. I was feeling really good and comfortable as we slowly broke off on our own as elder statesman John Matthews moved through on his way to a win in the 35+ expert class. After he passed, I moved back behind Wes until a brief split in the trail where I decided to move ahead. I tried to tap a high, but somewhat conservative rhythm up the long exposed pressure cooker climb before taking the descent as fast as possible. At the end of the lap, I had around twenty seconds on Wes and was sitting in fourth place feeling stronger than I ever have in a mountain bike race.

Unfortunately, a mile into my second lap, the oppressive heat brought forth a throbbing, disorientating headache and I began to fall apart. Eventually, after being passed by Wes, I pulled over and stood next to my bike trying to get it togther. I felt horrible and began slowly walking toward the bike path that would take me back to the car and out of the race. Somehow, the thought of actually quitting and having to tell people I quit because the race was too hard got to me and I decided to get back on my bike and try to finish out the lap so I would avoid the dreaded DNF. I still felt like shit but soft pedalled along until about halfway through the lap when I started to come around. I was picking up speed and feeling a bit more human when, as I cornered through some loose rock, I burped a tire. It was about three miles from the finish, so I thought I could ride the 7 psi in and call it a day. I babied the corners and the dips until Christopher caught me and I went down through the next corner. This removed the rest of the air from my tire so I got up, fixed it, got passed by Hafner, remounted and immediately caught a large stick in my rear triangle which catapulted me down a very steep hill. Not my day.

Eventually, I finished seventh. Not exactly what I'd hoped for, but I learned some things and will certainly be better prepared for the heat next time. Hopefully, I can avoid the meltdown and hopefully take advantage of what I think is some pretty decent fitness hanging around somewhere in my body. We'll see what Indiana brings in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rhett's Run 2009

It's been a long time since the last time I raced a mountain bike and despite some crits and ill fated attempts at road racing, 2009 has been marked by far less activity than last season. Rhett's Run had been a goal of mine at the start of the year but with a lack of XC races in my legs, I had to reevaluate my expectations. I had been training well the last few weeks, but with no races as a gauge, it was difficult to guess what was to come.

The day started with a few downpours, making the course slippery and shitty for the first wave of racers, some of whom opted to bow out due to the seemingly endless string of mud races this year. By the time we were set to go at 12:30, the course had dried substantially and now offered far more tack than slide. I lined up on the front next to people I knew would be leaving me behind almost immediately. I figured I might as well try to get a good starting position and hope for the best as the race wore on. When the whistle sounded, I made it into the woods in around sixth and was feeling good even though the express train was already slipping off the front.
The first descent was a blast as always but as we made a hard right to begin climbing, I lost my front wheel on a slick water bar and went down, losing two places in the process. I quickly worked around one of the riders who passed to jump on Bierman's wheel. For two laps, I sat on or five feet behind his wheel and was feeling good as he has shredded me in years past. Improvement, I was thinking.

As the race wore one, the older wave of experts started passing us and each one would slot between me and Wes for a while, disrupting my rhythm and establishing a gap between our wheels. Eventually, I rider between us bobbled and chose to run the steep loose climb, forcing me to do the same and allowing Wes some breathing room. The run up redlined me far deeeper than riding it had done the previous lap and I took a couple minutes to recover as Wes slipped away.

I rode the rest of the race by myself, picking off lapped riders from other classes and getting passed by people way faster than myself. All in all I felt good and rode consistently to the finish where I believe I took 8th. Not the podium of the last two years, but with a far deeper field, I have to be satisfied. This year is about closing the gap between myself and the top guys in my class and despite this being only race #2 of the year, I think I might be on the way to doing that. I'm a long way off from the best in the state, but it certainly gives me motivation to see how far I can take this for the forseeable future. Hopefully it will stop raining someday and we can get the season going in full swing. On to St. Joe in a couple weeks and then my first crack at a DINO race on July 5th. Here we go...