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.