Thursday, October 28, 2010

MRC/ 10.17.10

Another timely race report. Let's keep this one brief and only marginally factual.

Charlie and I made the trip to Lancaster for MRC's new race venue at the Bolton Fairgrounds. Mind you that the Bolton fairgrounds are not in Bolton, they are in next door Lancaster. Perhaps the Lancaster Fair is in Bolton.

The best part of the whole day was being able to ride the entire big boy course with my kid. He did great, worked the corners and uphills like a champ. Rolled up to the fly-over and asked me to cary his tank of a bike to the top. Then he rolled that mo fo like it was his JOB. Still looking for pictures of that, so if you got 'em, send him along. We did two or three laps of the course together, with multiple repeats up and over the flyover.

photo credit: Roger Cadman

My kid is the best. I'm constantly underestimating what he can do because of his vision, but he makes me look like a chump. He never lets it bother him or slow him down. I'd trade my good eyesight for his in a second, just so he could see the world as most people do. I constantly wonder how different he would be....

Aww damn... there I go again with the quasi-self pity cr@p. He doesn't think those sorts of thoughts at all about his vision or anything else that may not be perfect in life, and for that, he's my hero.

My race was predictible. Literally. Staging by points had me 4th on the grid behind Mike Rowell, Ryan LaRoque and Peter Sullivan. Guess how we finished?

The details aren't particularly interesting. Rowell and LaRoque were off the front from the gun, Sullivan came past me at 1.5 laps and I knew he was going to make the junction on the very windy S/F striaght with his freakish roadie power. I dumped everything I had to stay on his wheel for that part, knowing he would tow my a$$ up to the front but more importantly away from the guy following me. It worked. I hung with the three of them for a half a lap, blew sky high, then time trialed the remaining 25 minutes of the race, using just enough energy to stay ahead of the 5th place guy and sprinting everyonce in a while just so that he could see I still had some fight left in me.

Loosing 60 seconds over the course of 4 laps to the three leaders was a bit surprising, but no way I was staying with them, so my 4th place down by 60 seconds hurt a hell of a lot less than 4th place down by 5 would have.

Two days after that Zank, Ronnie Steers and I went to VT to meet Jerry to ride Kingdom Trails. If you've never been, you should go. But find a place to stay. 7.5 hrs in the car is a long, long time. The trails are fantastic, super flowy stuff with lots of descending and not as much climbing. That's not possible of course but it felt that way. Plenty of people have written detailed reviews of the trails, no need for me to rehash. The best part of the day was listening to Ronnie behind me say "I can't stop smiling!"

Last weekend team Zanconato (content forthcoming) universally decided to skip the Maine VERGE weekend to ride the trails here in Sutton. It sounds like the guys at Maine improved the race after last year's miserable event, but a weekend off of racing and on for fun was just what we needed. Two days and about 24 miles of sweet singletrack, three fantastic meals, and the company of a dozen good freinds made for lots of smiles and good memories. We'll do that again for sure.

Next up is Canton, where I can choose between getting bloused or giving JONNY BOLD and extra 15 minutes than normal to catch me.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Providence Day 2: 10.10.10

The hardest part of doing 5 races in 9 days is keeping up with the race reports.

Providence Day 2 saw a bit of course redesign from the grand master of course redesign, Tom Stevens. Now Tom may not be the most PR savvy race promoter going, but the old dog can design one hell of a circuit. No one does it better. That man has an extra chromosome or a special gene for laying out a cross course. I wonder what his parents did for a living... undoubetdly something that involved using a French Curve.

ahem... anyway, so we've established that Tom's a course design phenom, but the challenge of placing 3 lanes of course across a 30' wide section of curbing proved to be too much to overcome, and several accidents resulted. The worst of it was a gradual right hand bend that got narrower and narrower and then suddenly turned sharply to the right just where dirt turned to gravel and met an asphalt curbing. Iron crowd control fencing to the left ensured that any mistakes made there wouldn't just result in a crash, but in grade A carnage. Rider after rider over-cooked the turn, lost traction on the gravel, and collected the fencing while more people gathered to provide a human bucket brigade of concern. And in what has to be the irony or ironies, Tom Stevens himself lost it on that corner half way through his race, eating much fencing and pavement in the process. That's a pisser, eh?

Tom was alright and spotted later on running the show.

With newly provided valvue extenders installed, my anticipation was high at the start. Third of fourth row, who cares really, the right side opened up and I moved forward in the field. Off the pavement in about 20th place, the race was pretty strung out already. My dad was there, he works in retail and rarely gets weekends off but had made some arrangements to come to RoJo's to spectate. That was great. I mention him because he was giving me reliable placing and split imformation throughout. Thanks Pop!

Half way through lap 1 I was at the back of that front group that always opens up that first little gap on the rest of the field, and it was coming easy. Someone (not my dad) said "top 20" and I knew right then I wouldn't finish worse than that on this day.

The Sunday course featured a lot of "driving" and less "pedalling," or at least there was sufficient curvy sections where one could catch a bit of rest. Aside from the sketchy right hander of death, the course flowed for me really nicely, and the power sections were short and punchy, perfect for this ex-hockey player who prefers a 60/40 power to coasting ratio. 50/50 is good to.

While picking up a spot here and there I happened to ride up to John Foley, super smooth mtbiker guy yadda yadda you know the drill. Shamelessly, I latched onto John's wheel and followed it for three solid laps, only going to the front once before realizing that I was slowing us both down. He needed me far less than I did him. John took us up and past Peter Sullivan (who was clearly not feeling it) and pulled us away from Harry Stover and Brian Rutter.

The Foley express made contact with 45+ stud John Mosher at just under two to go. Foley apparently thought that "racing" meant "going hard" "all the time" while I felt "content" to "continue to suck wheel," even if that wheel was now Mosher's and not Foley's. So I watched Foley ride away from a comfy spot behind my new fiend Mosher for a lap or so, then decided that I should start taking $hit seriously and figure out how to beat the new John to the line.

Throughout the race Dad's saying "you're 15th... 14 is 5 seconds ahead" and at this point he yells "hey Myette, get your a$$ in gear and ride!!!" It was great to hear him moving all around the course to cheer me on.

Irony alert! The last time my dad watched me race was at the 2006 Cross Nationals... in Providence... where I came to the line with... John Mosher! ISYN.

On that day (which was only worth 291 points, it is still one of my all time best perfromances IMHO) Mosher got the better of me for 4th place, in a sprint that was over before it started. This was going through my mind as we began the final lap. Foley was out of touch for 13th and 16th was far back as well so I thought about a plan...

Problem is that I was pretty gassed, and thinking wasn't coming clearly. I passed Mosher on the long power section before realizing that I was now going to have to be in the wind through the final 3 longer draft friendly sections. aww crap. Ok... now the plan would be to keep him behind me until the final climb, but try and rest between now and there so I could drill it afterwards and see what happened.

So I rode defensively (read "like a complete course hoggin a-hole") through the final time past the pit and soft pedaled up to the base of the climb. I'll be dipped in dog $hit but it worked: Mosher stayed behind my squirrelly-ness and I was just a bit rested when we got to the climb. I didn't go nuts up the hill either, it would have been hard and risky for a rider to come past on that part, so there would be no harm in going slow still. At the top I got on the gas as fast as possible and railed the turns, flew up the steps and drilled it back to the start/finish straight. Mosher was 4 lenghts back, but looked pretty beat and I stayed on the power to finish 14th.

Yay! a good race with great competion and no tyre problems. Life is a chair of bowlies.

Fina-effin-ly got through a race with no mechanicals and feeling good.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Providence Day 1: 10.9.10

Playing catch up here...

After the embarrasment that was my mechanical situation at Night Weasels, I put in the sort of effort to get my gear ready that I should have 4 weeks ago. I taped and glued some previously loved file treads (I effin love file treads), shipped the tyres that I rolled at Sucker Brook to Tire Alert to get new base tape, and glued up a brand new pair of Fangos using copious amounts of glue.

I've got this tendancy to try and use things up before I replace them, not wanting to start in on the replacement item until I was sure that the old stuff was spent. This kept me on the fence for a two weeks about what to do with with those rolled tyres... I knew they needed base tape and didn't want to tap into the new ones just yet, but it was going to take time to get those back from Florida... Finally I just decided to move on to the new tubbies and hold the old ones as back up.

One problem with the file treads: the stumpy little valve barely stuck through the rim, too short to get a pump on. I needed valve extenders and actually stopped at the LBS on the way home from the Weasel to pick some up.

All pumped up (pun!) about rolling tubbies again I staged in the 3rd row based on my non-existant VERGE points in this non-VERGE race. Huh? (Side note - PVD is a great course but the poor PR job that they do will be it's downfall) At the gun, I notice that the rear wheel is soft with the first pedal stroke. Ya gotta be kiddin' me...

After two turns it was almost completely flat. I called for friend John Menard (over the course tape thing by now) to grab my wheel in the pit, and I continued past. In hindsight, I should have ducked in a half lap into the race, but that's how Night Weasels went down, and just wanted to race a bit. Brant actually said he was sorry that this kept happening to me. What a pal.

After 3/4 of a lap I pitted and got a quick change to get back into the action but this time I was DFL. Working back up through the field I caught G-Ride at the start of lap 3, pulled him along for 3 turns, then realized that he had stacked it up before we reached the beer garden. I caught Brant who had flatted as well, and saw Bill Shattuck and Keith Gauvin walking their bikes too. The course was unusually unkind this day.

I saw JT Ferraro and Wade Summers in the group ahead, but they were racing eachother and I was just time trialing. Translation: the gap was coming down until one to go, when the extra motivation to win the group kicks in and they began to pull away. I rolled in for 25th and another bad day - results wise.

There was a bouncy tent thing... the kids loved that.

Apres race I saw that the POS valve extender I got at Trek Stop had been knocked cock-eyed and let all the air out. Not sure if it happened as the pump was coming off it or it just got bumped, but the thing wasn't going to cut it. Fortunately Ge Willi had some proper extenders and he hooked me up for day 2.

Night Weasels: 10.6.10

I recognized that getting throug Gloucester weekend on clincher tyres (cool way of writing tires.... look for colour coming up) was just dumb luck.

My luck would run out at Night Weasels.

This mid-week event is a sister race to the Ice Weasels, two races organized by internet inventor and defacto USAC rankings coordinator Colin. Being on a weeknight (and perhaps more importantly being a Weasels event) guaranteed a "younger" crowd and pulling into the parking lot confirmed those suspicions. Lots of small cars and body art, not to many grey hairs.

The challenge of evening races in October of course is the availablity of light, but Colin along with fellow race promoters Chip and Linnea (no linky... she's got to live with Reuter, that's enough second hand technology exposure) semi-correctly identified Ski Ward in Shrewsbury MA as an appropriate illuminated venue. True, Ski Ward does have lights for night skiing, but without the reflective qualities of a nice base of white snow, the modest lighting at Ski Ward struggled to reach all corners of the course. It wasn't picth black, but there were definately parts of the course that required more reliance on faith and feel than vision. This isn't a knock on the venue feeling your way around the course introduced an element of suprise and excitement that would have otherwise been absent.

Being a working dude I couldn't stay for the last race of the night and had to sandbag the 3 race. Start/number order was determined by points, so despite poor performances in two of the first three races of the year, the points I got from racing some of the best Master's in the country towards the end of last year earned me the top spot in the field. No pressure or anything.

At the whistle the photags along the starting straight are snapping photos, blinding us in the process. Through three turns I was 3rd or 4th, then the climbing started. Ski Ward is no great mountain, but riding up anything that has been deemed appropriate for anyone to ski down is a challenge for this flatlander. I slogged up the slope, losing a spot or two but watching many others struggle with me. My superior bike handling skills would allow me to make up these spots on the descent, right?

Yup... the slick corners and messy parcours were just the trick to get me back up to third wheel, and approaching the pit I was railing the corners, really leaning into the turns as my sweet tubulars were providing just enough give to keep me hooked up.

That's when I realized that I wasn't running tubulars... and that "give" was my rear wheel going flat a half lap into the race.

Into the pits and the disgust was high... palpable even. With no urgency I asked for a wheel and was told there was none. Sounded good to me. Then a happy Pedro's dude (I hate to say it... not sure why that is... but Pedro's has really stepped it up this year, if not in actual support activity but certainly in visibility) declared that he had a wheel for me. Great, semi-quick change and I'm back (literally) into the field.

I spent time behind teammate John Menard, then dispatched him into the tape. He wasn't thrilled with that move and apparently he wanted a kiss on the cheek first, maybe next time.... or just htfu. One of those two.

Just kidding John!

The rest of the race was spent clawing back through the field, I passed a ton of guys because there was a lot of lapped traffic. There was abrand new set of FMBs awaiting the 13th place finisher, and I figured I was close. The course got easier as it got darker, the sometime confusing dusk light let the venue's lanterns do their thing. The climbing got easier as well, the rain had stopped and the course firmed up a good bit. Most everyone was wearing the same kit by the end of the race: a red, yellow or blue on one side and a nice brown colour down the other (from crashing you see) however I managed to keep it upright the entire race.

I came in 14th and missed the tires by 6 seconds. Arghh!!!

Great scene there at Ski Ward. I wonder if the owner knew what it would be like to have 250 pbr drinking bike racers descend on his place.

Up next: Providence. Sneak peak: tire problems continue and finally a good day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gloucester Weekend: 10.2 & 10.3.10

Two fer one here, as I am pathetically behind in race reports. Let's get right to it....

I'm so busy/indeisive these days that after rolling a tubular at SBC I arrived at Gloucester with 4 sets of tubular wheels and 8 tubular tires.... all sitting in my basement. Fortunately, tires issues did not factor into the racing Glouceseter weekend, but it would have been nice to just ride and not worry constantly about flatting the one set of clinchers that I brought with me.

Note to self: move "skake down the cross rig" up the calendar about 4 weeks for 2011.

Day 1: Got in a decent warmup and began to circle the course as they called us to staging. Starting position is so important that Gloucester adopted points to stage all non-UCI (read amateur) racers. It is clearly the most accurate ranking system on the planet, right guys? As I'm approaching the staging area, what I hear and what I see are not computing. My ears hear "second call to staging" but right in front of me I can see that there is already 6 rows full of racers. Wait for me! Wait for me!!!

Shit! points had me about 24th... 3rd row... and by the time I got there I was in the 7th row! While the rankings are super fair, they used to be just for fun. Now that big races are staging by them, it's effin stressful. I suck bad enough and don't need any help cementing my mediocrity.

So after suffering with cold sweats for 5 minutes the whistle goes and I make a JAILBREAK move up the left hand side and into the first right hander. A bit of bumping and some extra confidence and two turns later I'm right about up to where I was supposed to be. Sweet! It always works itself out you see.

Then the real racing starts, and I start getting passed left and right. I see Peter Sullivan, Sheldon Miller and Jon Bernard coming. Awesome! These are the guys I raced with or in front of last year! I'll just stick with them! Right! right? They rode through me like shit through a goose. I finally settled in with Aaron Millette and Don Snoop, both of whom are super smooth and really showed me some great lines around the technical Day 1 course. I didn't feel great until the last two laps, but still didn't have enough to shut down any gaps and rolled in 25th.

Day 2: Uphill start on day 2 and I was blocked from the gun. I couldn't move my legs for the life of me. Every pedal stroke hurt... not was hard, but actually hurt... for the first three laps. I lost 4 spots everytime through the start finish hill on those first three laps, there was no where to hide as the wind was right in our face. Finally with 2 to go the pain went away, but the damage was done. I got away from Brant Hornberger but couldn't bring back Kevin Buckley and finished 37th. The results are packed with guys I've never heard of before, all of whom seem to be riding up in the top 20. The effect of this influx of talent is that I'm getting pushed down in the placing.

It sucks getting old.

The tailgating was some of the best to date and Charlie did great in the kids race, racing up in the 9-10 field despite being 8 yrs old. I'm not one of those psycho loser parents who brags that his kid can wipe his fanny 2 days before the average kid can - well, sure I am - but my point with putting him in the older age group is that I kind of wanted him to feel that he could still have fun when there was no chance he could win... just like I do every race. Anyway, afterwards he told me that the best part of the race was the beginning, where all the kids were racing towards that first turn and they were bumping into eachother. Gotta love that.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sucker Brook: 9.26.10

Gloucester has already happened, and I will take a break from composing that masterpeice of a race report to post about my first race of the season at SBC.

I'm beginning to wonder if it ever rains in Auburn NH. SBC is always the dryest course on the schedule, and this year was no exception. Riding across that field and the formerly wooded jeep trail was like being in the front seat of a Conastoga Wagon hurtling across the plains and praries of the ol' West. Save the buffalo and the siloutte of two socks on the horizon, it was like being on the set of Dances with Wolves.

I had just finished glueing up some tubular tires the week before the race, and was nervously searching for Jerry before the start to see if he had some pedals I could buy. Mine were not doing such a good job of holding my feet in you see. With 5 minutes to spare I bought and installed some used Time ATACs and headed to the start, where 50+ master's racers were already staged. Yay!

There was a split between the 35s and 45s, so I was only 3rd row, but would have rather been further up. The first lap was uneventful, I tried not to race too hard, but damn if my heart rate wasn't pegged about 20 seconds into it. Backing off just 5% will shoot your a$$ straight out the back. You can throttle down maybe 2% and still maintain contact, but you have to be smooth and perfect in everyspot on the course if you're going to pull that off. At least that's how it is for me.

Beginning with lap two I joined my old pal Brant H and we once again tried to hook up the two man time trial. Matt Theodore caught us half way through that lap, and in actuality I thought that we hadn't been going hard enough.

I'm pretty sure that I have forgotten how to suffer. Not so much in the race: that is inevitable if you're going to be at all competetive.. but more in training. If you're not willing to really get into the hurt during training, the maximun race effort isn't going to be that great.

So after playing grab-a$$ for a lap Theodore joins us and promptly rides straight through. Brant and I know enough about racing to jump on that wheel and ride it as far as possible, and Matt dragged us up to Paul Curly, which was nice. We spent a half lap trading pulls with Paul when I rolled my rear tubular remounting on the off-camber section after the sand pit. Balls.

After flailing with that for a bit I got it back on and rode to the pit for the spare. I rejoined the circus about 13 spots behind where I had been (Curly ended up 9th) and fought out the rest of the race with Wayne Cunningham and some other guy that I ended up gapping in the sand on the last lap.

It was a good start to the season though I should have taken the DNF as my points are not totally effed.

Gloucester next. Preview: I definately have forgotten how to train for cyclocross.