Jingle Cross Recap

I’ve been back a couple of days and now have time to wrap up Jingle Cross. I think this was my tenth edition of racing CX in Iowa City and the trip marks the end of the cyclocross season for many. As of today, I am still undecided about continuing on to nationals, and possibly worlds, but my back and legs are telling me maybe the season should be over. Regardless, the trip was a mix of good times, frustration, fatigue, and a little stress. I picked up Little Guy for the Friday night race and the adventure started a little early. Two hours later my Volvo died in Mason City. First, I noticed the power steering was down, then the wipers, then the radio died (this is when I got worried). Eventually, we lost power and were limping along the shoulder at 10 mph. I figured the alternator was toast but it turned out the serpentine belt was shot (a better problem to have, I guess). Matt and I pushed the car to a dealer and after some bullshit from Enterprise not taking debit cards we went back to the dealer to plead for help. The guy had a soft spot for cyclists and we were back on the road with a loaner minivan.  At this point, we’d spent nearly two hours in Mason City and I figured I would surely miss my race.  Matt had several hours before the elite race start so I was happy for that.

A few hours later we pulled into the venue 15 minutes before my start. Matt said he’d prep my bike while I ran to registration. Somehow, I was standing in the start grid two minutes before my start. I had no warm up, no idea of the course layout and, in a matter of seconds, we were off. We hit the first muddy section through the pits and there was total melee’. Luckily, I got around the crash but a few pedal strokes later, I hit the fence and forced myself, Hollywood, and a few others off their bikes (sorry, ya’ll). The first time up the big climb was ridiculous. The bike was already caked with mud and I was in an anaerobic panic.  My body was in shock from the instant effort and I tried in vain to settle down and find a rhythm. I don’t know what unfolded in the closing laps and I finished in a whirlwind, almost laughing with pain.  What a day.12310020_1034150813314509_7881108834439559612_o

We drove to Alex’s place in Marion exhausted and disenchanted and rested up for another go Saturday. Arriving with actual time to spare, I was determined to ride better and knew I was capable of a decent result. The temp was mid forties which made everything seem ok yet the mud seemed worse than the night before. I tried not to think about missing my pit bike and had a plan for the race and was ready to roll. After a decent start I eventually worked my way into 7th, even though I didn’t know it at the time. I was climbing well and holding it together on the greasy descents (picture above). Feeling better and better, I was hoping for a fast final lap. However, just after the flyover my rear derailleur ripped off and my race came to a halt. Normally, just the hangar break and it’s an easy repair. In my case, the whole derailleur ripped off the wrapped around the cassette, with the pulleys jammed between the largest cog and the spokes which, of course, broke a spoke. I shouldered my bike and started a long run to the pit.  I ended up 16th.

Day 3. 7th!  It doesn’t sound like much but for me, a top 10 finish at Jingle Cross has been a goal for a long time. Matt helped a ton by helping me with a bike exchange with two to go. When I got the clean bike it felt like a feather. I didn’t care that it was a single speed with cheap clinchers- it rolled and was working! A lap later I got back on my clean A bike and was flying.  I easily passed two more riders and rolled across the line with a redemptive grin. Needless to say, having a pit bike makes a huge difference.

Sunday, Matt rode the elite race for 26th (just one place out of the $). He was 30th on day two, I think. He did this with no pit bike on a bike that likely doubled in weight with mud and grass. Next year we are going to bring a crew to help with mechanics and bike exchanges. Nearly every other rider in the elite race had support. This can get expensive but for races where it’s insanely muddy, you really can’t get by without.

So, if the weather stays warm in MN and skiing isn’t an option, I may decide to keep training for Nationals in NC Jan 5-10 and/or for Worlds in San jose, CA Jan 22-24.  We’ll see.

MN State CX

12279016_10153111137942391_4461481892998909195_nDisappointed. After a year of great racing and claiming the CRY (Cross Rider of the Year) award I was hoping to cap my season with a state championship.  Unfortunately, a few laps into the race that plan completely unravelled. After a solid start and the initial sort out over the first climb Adam Staufenberg (Metal) Jay Henderson (Hollywood Cycles) and myself were in the front and riding well. I found a great line on the run up, got my breathing under control, and I felt really good. Adam crashed on a deceivingly simple chicane and nearly took out Jay and myself. We both got around him safely right before the sand and then had a nice gap. I was riding well through the turns and only losing small bits of time to Jay. Any gaps were easy to close and I felt in complete control of the race.  We traded the lead a few times and we were both racing well. I was biding my time for an attack.

The next time through the snake pit my front tire suddenly rolled off the rim. The bike came out from under me and my race was all but over. I kicked the tire back on but it only came off again. I shouldered the bike and started to run and most of the field passed me. I had tried to get my pit bike fixed over the last few weeks but was never able to get it rolling. It was too late. I lost my lead and then another two minutes with a painfully slow wheel change.  I jumped back in the race but only managed to climb back up to 6th. Many things can happen in CX and you just keep going. TO not have a chance to go for the win and really disappointing. It’s one thing to crash when you’re over your limit, another to get just plain beat. It’s harder to swallow when it’s a mechanical.

Congrats to Hollywood for the win. Adam for second and Chris Smith (The Fix) for coming out to race and getting third.  Looking back over my racing career I don’t think I have ever won a title (at least since they’ve offered the jersey).  Next year.

After a few beers to try to forget about my race I went to the run up to watch the 35+race.  Teammate Matt Allen (Little Guy Racing/ Tonka) and CJ Faulkner (County Cycles/Trek) both had an awesome race. Matt crashed with one to go (on another deceptively simply chicane) and CJ attacked to seal the gap. Two talented CX racers so evenly matched made for a great race. Awesome photo by Rhiannon Williams. First photo credit from Bill O’Reilly

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Back to CX

I’ve felt like I’ve been in a cloud for the past week or so and with the weather turning colder and the days shorter, I’m less motivated to train. The attacks in Paris have hung over my head and it’s hard to justify what’s important and I feel a little ridiculous. I’ve been going to bed closer to 9:00 and then waking up in the middle of the night only to finally fall asleep again just about the time I need to get up. Inevitably, I sleep too late and end up rushing to work.  Daylight saving blues..

Before I forget what happened, I need to recount a few more CX races.  As I’ve said before, this season has surpassed my expectations in many ways. For me, just being able to race is a gift. How lucky are we to just line up most weekends?  As I look around at my friends, many much younger, I have to smile that I’m out there at all. CX is tough and it beats you down. I keep thinking that something’s going to happen and it’ll all be taken away from me. The actual racing has been exciting. Close finishes, different riders having good days and bad days, frequent lead changes, and tape to tape racing. I’ll start with Velo CX which was an absolute blast. As part of LGR/Tonka Cycle team, we are responsible for all aspects of putting on the race. This includes securing the venue; prepping the course: obtaining permits; handling registration and payout for riders and officials.  Day One started slow (again) but I managed to not get too far back on the opening lap. Adam was away almost instantly and I rode with Mikey P and let him lead me through the turns until I started to feel more stable. I used the power sections on the course to bridge up to Adam and the two of started working together.  Adam lead through most of the technical sections and I’d pull through on the rest. We had a solid lead and I eventually built a gap and was away. I managed to win solo which is always a great feeling. Adam was about 20 seconds behind followed by MIke who rode well to hold off the chasers.

Velo CX Day 2. It seemed like everyone got a great start and a select group formed right away. At one point early in the race I looked across at Scotty Rob, Adam, Mikey P, and P-Max and thought “How cool to know these guys for so long and we’re hitting it as best we can!” It felt a little like a training ride:  No discussion, everyone focused on riding and the group just flowed. It was awesome.

And then it got better. Adam and I managed to separate from the group and with one two go he attacked and got a gap. I had trouble in a muddy section and hit a tree branch which nearly took my helmet off and had to dismount and run a bit. Adam rode clean but I brought him back and immediately attacked. With a few turns left he attacked me again but I went right with him. We were full tilt into a left hand sweeping turn around the trees with about 20 seconds left to race. We were bumping bars into into the final off camber turn, both fighting for the same line. This was essentially the last place to pass on the course and one of those defining moments of CX. We were on top of each other but I had a tiny advantage to the best line. Adam had to let up and we both stayed upright. With no places to pass through the final technical sections, I was able to ride to the line.

After the race the crew tore down the miles of course take a stakes that marked the course. A few times I had to lay down in the grass and rest. I think working to tear down the course was as hard as the race. I took the first picture after everyone left and the venue was quiet.  The last image of Adam and I near the end of the race. Ren from Birchwood took the last one and I love the sky.

If you’re young and lost..

A while back I read a NY Times piece about ISIS and the author described its typical members as young misfit kids who were angry, picked on, and just plain lost in the world. The article was a bit dismissive of the actual threat of groups like ISIS because they’re mostly “just kids”.  As we all know now, that certainly isn’t the right approach. I also think that it’s not the right approach to blame anyone for what happened in Paris. To blame Germany for allowing immigrants (or more accurately, refugees) to enter its borders or the Obama administration for doing the same is short-sighted and not really helpful. It’s horribly sad and things like this will continue to happen, I’m afraid.  When people are treated badly they, in turn, can do unspeakable things.  Everyone knows a kids who’s lost and most of us at some time have felt lost ourselves. Where we find our place of belonging, a sense of community, solace, or meaning in our lives varies from individual to individual.  The sad part is when this goes wrong and somewhere the line gets crossed. We become hateful,  indoctrinated, brainwashed, zealous, etc.. Perhaps it all starts with fear. I don’t know.

CX mid season report: I’m exhausted

If you care to read beyond the title then you should know that this is merely an archive. I have no profound insights or shocking news. No secret training methods, no new technology tips, no new tires to recommend.  So yes, I’m tired but my CX season has surpassed expectations on many levels. If you told me when the season started in September that I’d win four races and land a handful of podium finishes I’d have laughed. While my road racing background is fairly extensive, I’ve never been a very good CX racer. I’m too big to be a climber and too cautious to corner fast. With a high center of gravity I take longer to get around turns and reaccelerate and technical aspects continue to slow me down. However, I have worked hard to learn to corner faster and I think I’m a little better and finding the flow over a 45 minute effort.

Things were good at Baker Orchard/Donkey Cross (see previous entry) but Green Acres was tough. Day one featured the climb right from the gun and I knew by the top on the first lap that my legs weren’t there. I rolled a tire pre-riding the course  and the anxiety switching a wheel and dialing in psi right before the start may have contributed to a poor performance but in reality, the other guys were just plain better. Adam Staufenberg (Metal) rode perfectly, especially in the technical sections and he schooled the field in the turns. He took the win from Peter Maxwell (Donkey Label) who settled for yet another second place. Halfway through the race here was a single track technical section where I got tangled up with Chelsie Straight (Fulton) and went down. Chelsie went over the bars and my hand stuck through the spokes in her rear wheel. It was a confusing moment because I was just being passed by the single speed race leader.  As we both tried to get up and get going my hand wouldn’t release and I thought I’d broken my finger.  I was sorry to come up on Chelsie at this point in the race and felt bad that we both went down. Racing with multiple fields can be a challenge, especially when riders are attacking through narrow sections or it’s close the finale. If I’m ever with a small group I always make sure everyone makes the pass before racing full on again. Anyway, Tim Brandvold (Hollywood Cycles) rode strong and passed me in the final lap to get the last podium spot. I crossed the line a bit bloody and way back in fourth.

Day two Green Acres. I liked the alternate climb up the grass better and I was able to keep it together for most of the race. The course featured a rutted fast downhill and the same run-up (though a few could ride it) as day one. I had trouble seeing in the shade on the descent and almost went down early. I started slow (again) but there seemed to be more opportunities to make up time on power sections and straightaways. At one point I was leading with both Adam and Tim close behind. I felt like they were getting too much rest in my draft so I let up and settled in behind. Looking back I should have attacked. I think if I had gotten a gap I could have stayed away. Instead, for the rest of the race, I rode their race and ended up second. I also think if there was another lap to race I would have caught and maybe passed Adam. Peter raced well as always and finished third. Adam completed the double, winning Green Acres both days.

Baker Orchard CX

All I can say is that the Baker Orchard CX p/b Grand Performance, Donkey CX, and Coldwell Banker last weekend was about as perfect a day as it gets. The course layout, the surroundings and weather were beautiful. It was one of those days you want to put in a jar.

Thanks, as always, to Matt Pastick for being there and taking great photographs. 66_NateRyan_0699  11223886_1214110965270941_6614025822742623240_o12132531_1214089368606434_6730375144241490182_o 12140901_1214085798606791_2749810564779714861_o

Photo credit Nate Ryan

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Week 5 Wednesday Night CX

I think this is week 5. The earlier start time, rushing from work, tired legs from the the weekend, waning daylight, life, etc.. I forgot my jersey and has to borrow FPA’s GSCA long sleeve beauty. The course was short, fast, and by the end of the night we’d climbed well over 1000 feet. I did the hour race and had a fair start. For a while I held inside the top ten before I started to get sloppy and tired. I liked the barrier placement and bunny hopping the short half barrier in the dippydoo S turns was a blast. I thought I was cornering well but realized I was scrubbing waaaaaay too much speed on the fast downhill sweepers when I was lapped by a few of the leaders. I think it was Charlie Simacek and Sam Berkland (The Hub) that passed me around the big tree at the top of the hill that made me realize just how much faster I should be riding. I tried to stay with them but lost about three seconds through the right hand downhill, a few more up the hard climb, and by the time we got to the off camber straight across the top of the course they were gone. Think of it: say we did 17 laps and each lap I’m losing five seconds in the section and god knows where else. I can make up one or two on a straightaway but the math tells the story: You are over a minute behind pretty quickly if you don’t know how to turn. I really wanted to try to ride with these guys but doubts crept  “I’m not good enough…I’m a lap down” and the ever present fear of crashing… Josh was the first to lap me and then Dom, both rolling past me making it look effortless. All told I was lapped by the top 4 riders and finished 11th overall. Some of the faster riders were absent so I know the result isn’t stellar. I did see that my laps times were consistent so that’s good:

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