Archive for November, 2005

I’ve got one, maybe two more races to go this year. The next one is this Saturday in Salem, OR and I’m doing it for sure. Since the Estacada race, I’ve been thinking more about next season than finishing this one. After I’m done for the season, I plan on taking some time off from any structured training and start running.

Anyway, I managed to motivate myself to get out today at lunch and do some intervals. There was a break in the rain and I made good use of it. It spit on me a few times, the wind was fairly strong from the south and it was about 42 degrees. Why am I doing this again? After choking down some good efforts, I took an easy spin around Lacamas Lake. With the wind and being damp with sweat, I got a little chilled a few times but nothing too uncomfortable. Just gotta keep things primed for Saturday.

I’ll be racing Masters 40+ (45 minutes) in Salem and I’m not sure what to expect. I imagine that some of the A guys will be there as well as some of the guys I’ve been racing this year in the B’s. My priority is to stay upright and have some fun. John Wilson was upgraded from the Masters B’s to the Masters A’s this season and if he is there, I’m going to try to hang with him to give me some sort of idea what it’s going to be like next year.

On Sunday, November 20, the Cross Crusade cyclocross series held it’s championship race at Estacada Timber Park on the outskirts of Estacada, OR. As usual, the course was outstanding and was even faster than it has been in previous years. The defining feature of the course is a bowl with a boat ramp and parking lot at the bottom. The course dipped to the bottom and then immediately climbed back out of the bowl three times per lap. The first was rideable but the other two were run-ups. I was gunning for a great finish because I had finally convinced myself I could race with the leaders in my category because of my 3rd place finish (and near win) the previous week at barton Park.

They called up eight riders based on series points and I had enough points to put me in the front row. At the gun, I had a great start for the second straight week. I took the hole shot and lead up the paved road (see pic below) and onto the winding packed gravel section. As planned, I gave up the lead pretty quickly by letting two riders shoot by. I sat on their wheels for a good part of the first lap.

I stayed on people’s wheels through the first two laps and stayed in the lead bunch. My teammate Bill tried to work together as much as we could. On the third lap, I had a little bobble on the first hill (rideable) and dropped to the back of the lead bunch. Right after that, the bunch split with four riders in front and four (including me) behind. Bill made the split with the leaders. I used the rest of the third lap and start of the fourth to make my way through the chase group.

Just as I was putting a gap on the chase group and making a move to close on the leaders, I took a corner too hot and went down. The other three chasers went by me in a flash but I was up and on the bike in a flash — my chain even pedaled right back on. I was only five or ten seconds back from the chase group and I knew I could catch back on. When I hit the first dip into the bowl, I found out that my left shifter had been critically damaged (see pic below) and I wasn’t able to use the rear brake. Consequently, I wasn’t able to slow enough to make the turn at the bottom and went pretty far off course before coming to a stop.

The good news was that the pit was right at the top of the hill so I hustled back on the course and ran up the hill for a bike exchange. We had such a big gap on the field that I was still in the top ten at that point. My pit bike also serves as my wet weather bike and commuter. It also doesn’t get as much TLC as my #1 race bike so the brakes were kind of mushy/touchy because the cables really need replacing. Anyway, when I hit the off camber decent for the second dip into the bowl, I wasn’t able to properly modulate the brakes and I lost control and went down. (pic of Bill and I at the bottom on the first lap)

Again, I was up in a hurry and ran up the hill. I even blocked a guy who was trying to get around me before the foot bridge. My chain was off but I figured I could pedal it back on on the downhill section after the bridge. When I remounted, I found that my brifters were pretty severely rotated. At this point I was ready to pack it in. Instead, I got off my bike, took a couple of breaths to calm down, and straightened out my brifters and slippde on my chain.

While I was off my bike, perhaps 10 riders went by. I got back on and kept on going. At that point, I was in survival mode — I just wanted to finish. I rode to protect my position but wasn’t aggressive. I managed to pick up a position coming into the finish.

My lap times from the chip timing data:

  1. 8:01.6
  2. 8:01.8
  3. 8:01.5
  4. 9:30.4
  5. 8:26.1

I lost a full minute and a half with my two crashes and going off course. And even when I was riding in survival mode, I had better final lap times than a couple of the top six finishers. Bill came in second and I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Bill and I could have been battling for second — or even the win. It took me a couple days to really let go of the race. I really don’t have that much racing experience — 24 cyclocross races total over the last three years — and knowing how far to push in the corners is something you only learn through experience.

Result = 17/47

We had some rain on Friday and a lot of rain on Saturday night so the course was wet. The venue is a county gravel pit right next to a park on the banks of the scenic Clakamus River. It being a gravel pit and all, there was a lot of, well, gravel. There were plenty of hardpack flats to keep things fast. There were plenty muddy sections to keep things sketchy. And there was one slog-a-bog which happened to be on the first transition from the starting (fast) straight. The trasition had lots of churned up rocks mixed in thick mud (think babyheads) to keep things interesting. And there was a singletrack chute that was steep and loose and had a number of riders off the bike running down the hill. The Barton V-slot ditch had standing water in the bottom and looked gnarly this year so my cost benefit analysis came out on the side of run over ride.

I raced Masters 35+ B. Two of the fast guys had just been upgraded (one took 4th in Masters A) and lots of riders don’t like the Barton Park course so I figured this was my chance to win a race. Unlike every race I have entered in the last three years, I lined up intending to win. I got a front row spot on the left side so as to be lined up for the one smooth bead through the gravel road starting straight.

I got off great — hole shot. I was cranking hard and held the bead but had a spot of bother at a slight right bend in the road that was a tad gravelly. I held it under control and started thinking that maybe leading everyone out could perhaps have been left to someone else. I eased off and hit the transition and bog. Zoom, three guys went past including my teammate Bill. I hang on to Bill’s wheel but the other two get a pretty good gap. It turns out Terry (RBR member kajukembo) is right behind me. He’s on my tail down the chute and I come across his front wheel. I had no idea but heard the ohhs and ahhs from the crowd gathered at the bottom as Terry held on and made it down without incident.

The guys out front aren’t getting any farther away and right past the finish line, Bill bobbled through some gravel and I fly by him on a sidehill descent replete with small rocks. I keep reeling in the leaders on the front half of the second lap and catch Mike Masessa on the rise before the chute. Then I catch Bob Jacobs through the woods and I’m in front. Bill is still close behind me.

I have no idea how to ride with the lead. Bill never managed to hang on to me. Sometimes he would be right there but then I’d open a gap. It would have been better if we could have found some way to race together but it didn’t happen. As I crested the dike leading to the finish line for the bell, I looked back and saw David Grant looked be be making a very strong late charge and figured he would be trouble. Bill did what he could to block but David was not to be denied. I think David passed Bill on the run-up leading to the finish and as I came around the 180 at the finish, I looked at Bill and he nodded as if saying “Take care of busniess.” I had perhaps a five second lead.

I railed down the sidehill and burned through the rock barrier. I wasn’t looking back. There was an almost rideable uphill to the top of the dike that I had riden the pervious lap. I wanted to hit it this lap to keep my advantage. Instead, I stalled at the top and fell over. David caught me there. He paced me down the doubletrack and up the pavement to the start straight. I slowed to make him come around and drafted him down the gravel road. I think he was really pushing to try to drop me but I was right on his wheel.

He got a gap through the bog but I was reeling him in on the hardpack. At the 180 above the chute, he overcooked the corner and went down. Score! That’s what I was looking for and I went right around him and hit the chute. I got a gap through the trees but then felt my rear tire get really soft (Tufo tubular clincher with sealant). I just hoped it would last me to the line.

Going into the V-slot ditch, there were two juniors running side by side. The previous laps I had remounted for the brief section before the dike run-up but I didn’t want to risk it this time with the soft rear tire. I used the juniors to block David and I hit the top of the dike just ahead of him. I remounted and bang, bang, bang went my rim as it bottomed out on each pedal stroke, bouncing me all around. David came around me and got a gap. Coming down a sidehill off camber to a short boggy section right before the final run-up, I thought I might have a chance but he was just much faster than I was running the hill. I pushed my bike across the line in second but the announcer credited me with the win.

Since victory was tantalizingly close, I of course am second guessing myself. Should I have backed off and let Bill bridge to me so we could work together? That might have worked early on in the race. It would have been nice to have had some help on the long start straight during the middle laps. Perhaps my biggest mistake was not taking a bike exchange on the final lap. My pit bike was ten feet away from me as I crested the dike when David passed me for the final time. Maybe a good rear tire lets me power along the dike. Maybe that attack proves decisive. Dunno. That’s what racing is about — getting experience.

Result = 3/53

Last Sunday I raced cyclocross at the Flying M Ranch in Yamhill, OR. It was the Halloween edition of the Cross Crusade series so I dressed up as jailbird Karl Rove. First up is a shot at the starting line. I can’t recall what we’re looking at. On the far left, you can see Bill Goritski, my teammate, dressed as a beer keg. Only moments after this picture whas taken, they moved the start line up 15 feet and I wasn’t fast enough to keep my front row spot.

I’ve seen a few photos of myself from the race and in all of them, I have this pained expression. Well, cyclocross IS painful.

I had a really good race and scored my best finish of the year — 8th place. I biffed over the barriers at the finish line and lost a place so I was tanalizingly close to 7th. The rider behind me in this last photo is a junior who started one minute behind our field. He is one of a trio of really strong juniors in Oregon.

I stole these photos from the Photofaction web site so credit where credit is due.

Result = 8/43