Archive for October, 2006

We’ve got family in town for a few weeks and the old ladies (wife’s mom and grandmom) wanted to get out of the house — even though we’d been to Mt. St. Helens and the beach over the previous two days. So I brought them to the races! Got to Horning’s, set them up in some chairs, and then tried to get on the course. It turns out that a B or SS rider had crashed bad and the course was closed. I think they shut down the B/SS race a lap early because of the crash.

I spent some time riding open parts of the course (the crash section was closed) and worked out a tricky right hander through a greasy drop. I practiced it probably 15 times. They injured rider was airlifted out and they decided to reroute the course to cut out the descent where he crashed. The reroute cut out the long run-up and the corner I had spent so much time practicing. Since the emergency had taken a long time to sort out, they cut the women’s race from 45 to 40 minutes and the A/Master A race to 50 minutes.

After the women finished their race, the men lined up in a mob cluster fark which took some time to sort out between the two fields. Then a bit over an hour late, we took off. So, the course … Some might call it a mountain bike course except that it was wide enough to pass just about whenever you wanted to. But the hills, the hills, those terrible hills. It was all up and down with nary a flat spot around. And let’s just say that I’m a tad gravitationally challenged.

I started near the back of the field and got passed by what seemed to be a bunch of guys. Going around the first corner, I looked back to see if I was DFL already. I wasn’t — quite. I spent a couple laps passing some folks then fell in with a loose bunch for the middle laps. I dropped most of them and spent the last couple laps trying without success to pull in two guys a bit in front of me (Joe Fricke and my teammate Bill). The hills just killed me. We’d go up one, then bomb down and scrub a bunch of speed for a corner at the bottom and then head back up another hill. Rinse and repeat. Oh, and throw in some gravel here and there for good measure.

Even though the course didn’t play to my strengths, it’s fun to get out and race something different. The woods were cool and the trails were wide and fast (rain earlier in the week made them perfect). There were plenty of turns to hold your attention. I finished up 23 out of 37 which was about what I expected given the nature of the course.

And the old ladies? They were parked on the loooong hill leading to the drop in near the finish line. They cheered me on each time through so I had to step it up and look good every lap when I passed them. One of the women racers told them that she wished her mom would come out to the races.

Good times!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I got the upgrade notice — going from Master B to Master A — Monday last week so this was my first race in the “big leagues.” I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous all morning and had a hard time adjusting my eating to account for a race three hours later than I was used to. The good news was that it started raining early in the morning so the very flat course would slow down appreciably.

I got to Hillsboro Stadium just as the rain was tapering off and think I saw Terry K. (Master B race winner and Master A racer for next week) pulling out with his two red bikes on the roof. I took care of all the pre-race stuff like getting my new number and pinning it on, preriding the course, hooking up with some teammates and hearing about earlier races, putting the pit bike in the pit, etc.

Staging was much more civilized than in the lower classes. Everyone warmed up until minutes before race time. The fastest guys took the front spots. The start was wide so the 40 Masters racers filled two rows. And the A’s were off. A minute or so later, we were off too. I didn’t go balls to the wall on the start and was middle of the pack and fell back some more places early in the lap. I was nervous about pacing and wanted to have something left for the extra fifteen minutes. The course had improved since my preride. The wind and women’s race had firmed it up some but there were still slippery spots.

The Good:

I saw John Wilson — who upgraded last year and had been consistently faster than I — and bridged up to him. I briefly led him and then followed him for much of the race. On the bumpy stuff, I was fast and bridged the gap to him and gapped a couple other guys I was racing with. My pacing was pretty good and that was probably helped by using John as my pace car.

The Bad:

Tire pressure was too soft. I was able to motor through the bumps but I was a dog on the pavement and hardpack. John gapped me there and the other two guys I was racing with would jump ahead of me too. I needed to add 5-8 pounds to each tire, maybe more. I had toyed with that idea about 10 minutes before the race but figured it was too late to frig with tire pressure. I also think I could have gone a bit harder in the middle laps. I was too conservative and had something left to give at the end.

The Ugly:

The six pack barriers ate me up. On lap 3 I dropped my bike when I set it down. It must have been comical to watch me run past my bike, turn around, fetch it, then remount. On lap four, I almost ate it on the second to last barrier but recovered. At the bell, I did eat it on the fifth barrier and slammed to the ground. but I was up and on my bike in a jiff.

Then there was the bike exchange incident. With two to go, my rear wheel was running funky. Last year at the same race in similar conditions, I had crashed and tweaked a wheel so I was freaking out about screwing up another piece of harware. On the hillock, I yelled to a teammate (Bob C.) that I was going to do a bike exchange. I didn’t know if he understood what I was talking about, if he could figure out which bike was mine, or whether he would even do it. Anyway, I came into the pit (a two-way configuration) and didn’t see anyone waiting with a bike. So I dropped my bike and started hunting for my pit bike. I couldn’t find it. I spent what seemed like an eternity searching for it before I finally saw Bob on the other side of the pit with my bike. I think the whole thing took about 30 seconds.

Going into the pit, I was running 20th — with probably a 15 second gap to 16th. Coming out of the pit, I was still 20th. So on the last lap, I had no one to race with. I got lapped by a couple of A racers but no one from my race came by. If the exchange had gone perfectly, I might have been able to get back up and contest a couple spots. However, I’m pretty satisfied with my first outing in the big race.

Of the top nine finishers the week before in the Masters B race at Alpenrose, I was the only one racing at Barlow. I suppose that made me the favorite, huh? Got to Barlow, prerode the course, warmed up, almost forgot to register, yadda, yadda, yadda. Oh yeah, I hooked up with Steve who was up from SoCal in prep of his relocation up this way. I got him a bike to race so he could check out the scene.

I took a bunch of laps around one of the playing fields overlooking the start line for a warm up. The start was up a gravel service road that transitioned to grass. There was a well worn bead on the left side that was the obvious cherry starting position. As soon as folks looked to be itching to stage, I plunked my bike down in the groove.

Now I’m not going to name names but some dude that’s been finishing like in the 30’s snags a front row spot. He finished that far back in this race too. If you aren’t going to be contesting the win, take a spot a row or so back.

The start was just peachy. I didn’t get clipped in right away and I didn’t feel the same snap on the start as I did last week but somehow I’m the hole shot. Must have been the position. I cruise the first lap strong in front but I’m pretty keen to let the hotshots move the pace for a while. Problem is that the couple of guys who go by slow down once they get in front. So I have to pass them back.

A couple laps in I’m feeling weary and a guy takes the front and I’m content to let him have a spin even though he’s not pushing the pace as hard as I’d like. In hindsight, this was probably a good thing for me. Over the middle laps, I’m second place a lot and leading only when the pace slows too much. Then my legs really feel beat and Cannondale guy goes to the front and he looks strong. I’m hoping I can hang but not too optimistic. The run-up was beating me down each lap. It was a set of barriers on a steep gnarly downhill into a ravine to get folks off the bike so hotshots didn’t stack it up and tie up all the ambulances in the county. Then it crossed a foot bridge and went up the multiple choice run-up — left for less steep and longer, right for steep and shorter (see picture attached to jeremyb’s report). For the record, I went short and steep each time. So Cannondale guy drops his chain right after the run and he can’t pedal it on since it’s uphill. He’s screwed and I’m around him and suddenly trying to push the pace to make a move. After the run there’s lots of uphill to come and I really give it.

I get a gap but it doesn’t last a lap and Veloce dude comes around me. I’m really not feeling so hot at this point. Then Veloce dude bounds up the big steps on the run-up like he’s got springs on his shoes. Gack. I’m cooked. My attack has gassed me and Cannondale guy comes around me pretty soon after and I’m running third. As I try to hang on to the leaders, I’m left to wonder how an expectation of winning has turned into a fight for survival.

The penultimate lap was uneventful except that I managed to hang just off the back of Cannondale guy and Veloce dude wasn’t able to get any gap. Coming around for the bell, I’m contemplating whether I’ve got enough to hang onto third. Cripes, how did it come to this? As we take the bell, a teammate yells “You’re only ten seconds behind him,” and I think “And I’m supposed to do what?” In the next 30 seconds, my thinking changes 180 degrees. I’m not racing for third. I’m racing to win. I hadn’t yet crossed that boundary of pure pain that signifies total effort. I’m giving ‘til I got nothing left and if I drop places because I blow up, so be it.

On the run-up I get onto Cannondale guy’s wheel. I can’t make the pass and he gets a little gap through some lapped riders. As soon as I get back up to him, I fall back again through some lapped riders. Finally it is the wide-open long straight climb to the top of the course and I’m about 20 feet back of Cannondale guy. It starts with a fast hardpack culminating with barriers. After the barriers, I’m on C’dale and soon around him. Veloce is coming back to me and I box him in with a lapped rider, crest the hill and motor the side hill for all I’m worth. I put the hammer down and don’t look back. I hit the up-and-down chicane on a great line, maintaining momentum, and powering over the top. I’m in the 48 and cranking hard and then hit the pavement still turning the cranks down the hill. I scrub some speed before the 90 degree right, motor hard up the short rise, and take it back a notch so as to not wash out on the blacktop chicane just before the finish.

Then it’s the line, baby and I’m first rider across.

My first race of the cross season. My first race of the year. It was a bit hectic in the morning getting all my stuff ready plus getting the fam ready as well. Note to self: Get the entry fee from the ATM and gas for the car the evening BEFORE the race. We still got to Alpenrose in plenty of time. I managed to pre-ride the course (missing the stairs run-up and buttress loop in the process) but then spent a lot of time getting the fam settled in the stands and registering and pinning on my number and putting my pit bike in the pits, etc. Conditions were antithetical to cross — balmy and dry. The long pasture sections were a washboard. My back was going to be sore on Monday.

Whew. Okay, only 20 minutes to warm up … what to do? I meandered up and down the aisles of the grass field turned into parking lot. I caught up with Terry in the lot and he filled me in on his mishap up in Seattle the evening before in the Starcrossed race. I checked out the start and selected an appropriate gear. Then I started chatting near the line. We got staging started about ten minutes before race time so I was in the first row.

Brad Ross did his spiel and Terry Camp schooled us on the rules and we were off. Within 20 feet of the line, I started pinching right and knocked pedals (I think) with Bob (can’t remember his last name) without incident. I got a reasonable start. I was about tenth or twelfth after the first 90 degree right. After another right and then a left we were on the dirt. Everyone was really aggressive trying to pick up position on the long downhill and I might have lost some places. I nabbed a spot or two on the off-camber right hand uphill sweeper since I didn’t grab brake like everyone else. A couple guys bobbled the loose left hander exiting the trees and I got another couple spots there. Then on the rough out and back by the parking lot, I picked up a few more spots to sit fifth. And that was the selection.

Over the course of lap, the lead group was a strung out four riders and we and staked a 30 yard lead over the chase. Terry lead for a good bit of the race (and recovered from a little problem during the second lap). An S&M rider rode second, Joe Frike, a team Casa Bruno rider, brought up third and I sat fourth. Over the middle laps, the S&M rider faded and dropped off the front and moved on back. When he got back to me, I passed him pronto but he stayed aggressive and passed me back pretty quick. I let him go by thinking, “You’ll see my backside in a couple, pal.” I took him for good through the bumpy stuff — which I rode faster than anyone.

As I was suffering up the stairs, I heard the announcer say that there were three laps to go. I swear that I had been out there in the dust for at least an hour but my watch said just 25(!!!) minutes. I had changed my chain and cassette days before the race and I guess my adjustment wasn’t quite right since my shifting went to shite pretty quick into the race. Shifting was approximate and I was often under or over geared. My teammates were yelling encouragement from all points of the course (If you can call “My grandmother could catch you” encouragement). As I went though the velodrome each lap, I could hear my wife and daughter cheering for me. My daughter kept telling me “Slow and steady wins the race.”

With two laps to go, I managed to move up to Joe and got around him on the barriers in the velodrome infield. He hung on my wheel for a bit and passed me back on the pavement. I let him go so he would have to burn some matches to stay ahead of me. I was glued to his wheel and then took him on the off-camber right hand uphill sweeper. After exiting the velodrome for the bell lap, I put on the jets. I put the big drop on Joe and hoped that I could make a move on Terry. I made up quite a bit through the bumpy stuff and I was only two bike lengths behind him going over the barriers behind the softball field. I stayed pretty close until the run-up. Terry smoked me there and I couldn’t make any time through the velodrome. He got the win, I got the place, Joe got the show.

I had an excellent race. I stayed upright the whole time, I rode within myself, and had good strategy. I would have liked to put more pressure on Terry at the end but he was clearly the more fit racer yesterday.