Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On the Rocks

French Creek
08-May. I love riding French Creek, always have. There are miles and miles of awesome singletrack that just never gets old. Racing there, is aonther story though. Sure, the trails are still fun, but put yourself in debt there, and you could pay dearly. Today I woke up feeling fresh, relaxed and all around good. I loaded up my bikes (which as it turned out was clutch) and drove 30 mins to the park.

A few of us roll out for a warmup. I hadn't had my bike out for a shakedown since installing the new gearing (which necessitated the use of a half link) so I was taking it easy. We pedaled a half mile or so up the road start and dropped into the woods. after a few hundred yards of descent, we make a hard right at the bottom and start climbing. It takes a few hundred yards until the bottom dropped out. I looked down and saw my chain dangling with only half of the half link. Eff. I had to hoof it out. time was of the essence because I had a long-ish run out with an inoperable race bike all with maybe 40 mins from gun time. Dodging sport and endurance racers the whole way back, its no wonder I didnt break an ankle out there, but I made it back. There wasnt time to fix the bike, so that meant that I was racing my rigid steel singlespeed. I had no choice really, so might as well go out and have fun right?

Well fun I had. I sat back at the start, full well knowing that the first couple miles are all climbing. People love to blow themselves up here. I was right. People were dropping like flies and about halfway through, I was in no man's land. I had no idea where I was in the field... I was just riding and having fun.

Toward the end of the first lap, I passed Alesio #2. At the beginning of the second lap, I passed Alesio # 1. Knowing that these guys are headcases, I wasn't convinced that I was doing well. So I just kept plugging away. Toward the top of the Orange climb, I see two guys ahead. One is Cameron Dodge (who DNF'd and was just riding along) and the other was a Team CF guy. I pushed hard to catch Cameron on the flats above Orange, only to have him veer off in front of me to let me race (since he was out). Him being there helped, but it was disappointing that now all of the sudden I had no carrot. I pushed the downhill pretty hard, hoping to catch a glimpse of the CF guy. I came out of the woods at the lake and there he was...

I wanted to catch that guy bad. I pushed with all I had to catch up, but he was staying away. I reach the double track which leads to the finish maybe 3/4 mile out and for some reason, I'm pulling on him pretty hard. Turns out that he was fiddling with his number plate. D'oh! So I announce my presence on his left. He looked up and looked shocked. As he looked at me, he drifted over and I clipped his bars sending him off the trail a bit. Sorry! I yelled as I pushed on. He came back with a vengence though, passing me just before the last hairpin. I pull alongside on the field with one hard corner to go. He drifted out sending me into the bushes and I tried to cut back inside. He got me by a wheel.

After the race, I sat down near the finish area and Harlan came up to me to offer congrats and make sure that I was OK with his antics in the last quarter mile... "totally fine" I said. "that's racing" It was a ton of fun rubbing elbows at the finish, as its not something that happens every day in mountain bike racing. Good stuff and a great race. A crispy new Benjamin in my pocket on the day.

Granogue Weekend

Saturday 01-May. Today I went to the Granogue charity Pre-Ride with Ron, Kat and Campbell. I showed up a minute late for my guided tour of the estate, but not to worry, I caught up quickly. Riding out there was fun. The trails were in the best condition that I ever remember, which is to say that they beat you up slightly less than usual. Even at a leisurely pace, they take a toll.

New this year is the TT. A short Time Trial on the trails? Of course I'm gonna do that... thats what I do best. Short, hard efforts. Marc used the first half of the course as the time trial loop, so its about 3.5 miles or so. This is the fun section for sure, whereas the other half is the hard, definitely more painful side. Good call on the TT course. Anyway, I caught a few people out there and rolled away with some swag and a fancy plaque for taking the win. Good stuff and I hope they keep it going next year.

Sunday 02-May. The main event. I show up to the venue, and man is it hot outside. And humid. And did I mention that it was hot?

After the warmup, and like an idiot, I take my sweet ass time getting to the start line. I'm rewarded for my lackadaisical attitude with a sweet second to last row start position. I think I was behind the dude on the Pugsley. Meanwhile, team Turd Cannon shows up late again and forces their way into a start position that doesnt exist. Assholes.

Marc sounds off the start, and we go. I'm spinning like up the road like an idiot on my singlespeed. Oddly, I find myself passing people on the road. Wierd. There's some confusion up front, which is funny because there are barriers, cones and caution tape funnelling you into the same start that this course has had for the past five years. I totally understand the confusion. I take the first turn wide into the woods... Guess who tries to force his way past me in the first 20 yards of trail? One of the twins. He's trying to force a line that isnt there, so he yelled at me. I graciously declared that I was racing too, and politley called him an asshole.

The first lap went well, I was riding smoothly and in good position hovering around 6-9th place. Once that first lap started wrapping up though, I could tell that I was coming unglued. It was a downward spiral from there, culminating in a 3rd lap that was 5+ minutes slower than my opener and a 13th place finish overall. And that's all I have to say about that.

Mmmm Racing

So I've done a some racing since the first MASS race at Fair Hill. Let's see, There was Danville, There was Granogue, and there was French Creek. I guess I'll go in order...

Tour De Tykes
April 17, 2010 - Danville, PA. Historically, this race is later in the season. This year, they made a good move and bumped it up in the season. Not only did this mitigate the 150° temperature issues of years past, it also helped drive numbers to what I'm certain is the largest showing to date. Good stuff.

This year, it was downright cold on April 17. It was cold and I simply was not prepared - at all. I had zero cold weather riding gear. I warmed up by sitting in my sleeping bag, in the fetal postion. Then finally I emerged to spin on the bike - in jeans and my puffy North Face jacket. Very cosmopolitan.

I took my start position in the second row, with Ron somehow lined up well be hind me. The starter calls out "One Minute!" And here comes one of the Alesio twins. He forces his way onto the start line directly in front of me. Grr. I'm a reasonable guy, but if you're gonna show up to the start of your race within a minute of the gun, don't force your way into the front row. Tenout ten seconds later, the other Alesio twin forces his way into the same position... I think these clowns are stuck together at the hip. I hear guys yelling at them from behind me and I'm annoyed because I can see exactly how this will unfold.

Countdown begins... and its on. Just as I suspected Alesio #2 trys to cut me off. Luckily, I got a good hard crank off the line and closed his non-existent gap and pushed him off as he leaned into me. He called me an asshole, I assume because I didnt let him cut me off. Ill take that as a compliment to my start. Thanks!

The first half, I just chilled. Theres a ton of climbing here, and even with my chill pace, I felt like the 32:19 was the wrong gear. I wanted a 20t cog. Or a granny gear. Quads burning, I pushed through. Coming across the bridge into the second half, I was feeling pretty good. Immediately I came up on Alesio #2 like he was standing still. As I pass, I think: "that sucks, you can't get a good start And you're blowing up." I start picking off others as the race progresses. At the bottom of a long downhill, I look up the longest climb of the day and see Ron and Yozell battling. Ron looked and saw me... I knew he'd dig deep on the climb. He dropped Yozell and was gone. I caught Mike up top in the flats and we rolled down the hill together. He graciously let me pass as the trail turned skyward. I would catch glimpses of Ron every once in a while on these twisty trails, but I just couldnt bring him back. Hiking up the power lines, I just didnt have it in me to run. I ripp the final descent to finish sixth place, ten seconds back from Ron in fifth. I was definitely happy to feel good out there and stoked about taking home some cash. After the race I heard that Alesio #2 dropped out of the race just after I passed him citing something stupid about the weather not being hot enough. yeah. that's valid.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let's try this again...

Wow. Has it really been 200 days since my last blog post? I swear that I had good intentions... I meant to post about cross (which obviously was so much fun that I didnt have time to blog - Or I'm lazy). I wanted to post the trials and tribulations of the winter riding season. I even had an epic trip out to Fruita, Moab and Boulder to talk about - failed there too. So let's give this bloggin' thing another try, shall we?

Fair Hill

On Sunday, Bike Line put on the first official XC race of the MASS at Fair Hill. This is a first class event for sure; Huge attendence, Smokin' fast course and Awesome competition. Its a great way to put yourself in a world of hurt and officially kick off the racing season.

Sunday morning, I roll up to the venue with all three of my 29ers in tow. Usually, I know which bike I'll race on any given day, but today... not so much. Long story short, I wanted to ride the singlespeed that I built up this year but it's having some issues - okay, it's only having one issue: chain tension. Its kindof a big deal. For some reason I found confidence in the loctite that I slathered all over the EBB the night before and raced it anyway. More on this later.

So it begins.

We stage at the starting line and Ron saved me a sweet spot in the middle of the scrum, row two. Then they unexpectedly move us up about 20 yards to the actual starting line. Fail. Now we're in row four - I'm not sure exactly how that happened.

The horn sounds and we're off. Much to my surprise, I'm in the mix for the entire mile long downhill start. Sure, I'm spinning like an idiot, but I'm in there. I figure I was top 20 into the woods - which I was stoked about. I knew I'd be riding up people's backs in the singletrack, so i wanted to get out as hard as I could. The turns were so fast that you had to line up the passes perfectly. I got a couple of them, but the first short steep climb was it... I think I passed four or five people there. About half way through the first lap, I found myself riding Wes Schempf's wheel. At that very same time, I found myself thinking: "what the hell am I doing here?" But I felt great! So I rolled with it. I passed Wes coming through the feed zone at the start of lap 2 and pushed hard for the first half of the lap. I held him off until the field. Those fields get me every freakin' time - I think I'm gonna go do repeats in the fields of Fair Hill. Wes rolled past me and slapped me on the ass? Mmmmkay. I rolled with him for another mile or two until he opened a small gap he then made a pass that I couldn't close. I got stuck behind whoever he passed and I never saw Wes again.

Somewhere in the mix of the first to laps was Mike Montalbano whom I chatted with after the race. Super nice guy - animal - that was pushing a ridiculous 35-16. He destroyed me. He said he rode my wheel for a while until my drivtrain started making all kinds of racket and I started cursing at it... That's wierd. He said, "that's when I knew it was time to pass" Great. Fortunately, he did give me some outside of the box ideas on how to fix my EBB woes.

Anyway, The third lap was a bit of a blur. I was "battling" with Adam Driscoll from Adventures for the Cure for most of it, and there was nobody else in sight. Man did his Superfly creak - a lot. It was bad enough that I considered unleashing a barrage of Carbon Fiber jokes upon him, but I decided to save my breath instead. I knew It'd be me and him at the line. Unfortunately, he's pretty strong and It was tough to drop him. Annoying. We chatted it up for a couple minutes and as it turns out, he seems like a pretty nice guy. Wait... Did I just think that on a race course? WTF? ... I meant to say to myself, "that guys a total asshole and you're in the last couple miles of a race. F him, it's time to go! Get moving Showers, you big pussy!" So I cordially sneak by the inside line of a corner, say my goodbye and push hard for the line.

Ending up 10th overall left me feeling really good about the race. Good start, good passes, and I was bangin' with a lot of good guys that coming into the race I thought I had no business riding with. The team was out in force, and a lot of people had great races. I'm pretty excited about the upcoming season.

Post race with the team was cool. Getting burnt by the sun, throwin' back some "coffee", Grillin' some burgers and dogs, relaxin'. Good stuff.