Archive for September, 2007

Tireless Velo came out with pretty good numbers given the challenging conditions. I’d like to highlight a couple performances:

Chris Tauscher: Chris won last week at Hood River in the 35+C category. He stepped up this week and started the 35+B race. He then took it to those guys and snagged second place. Whoot!

Holly: She was racing her first race as a new mom. Go Holly. Her husband also raced and they handed off the bambino when the other was on the course.

Bill Goritski: Bill scored his second straight top ten in the 35+A race. Bill is riding well and looking to score some points once the Crusade series rolls around.

Sunday, September 30. Sam Barlow High School, Gresham, OR. 35+A race.

Well, as a friend of mine once said, you can’t have a good race every time out (that was Terry Keele, by the way). There were definitely some good points along with the very bad. The most disappointing thing was that I gave up on the race with more than a lap to go. I was out of it. There was one point I looked at my HRM and I’m running 20 bpm lower than I usually average for a race. I just wasn’t pedaling hard.

Let me say that conditions were epic and that it was sometimes difficult to put power to the pedals. Portland got an inch or so of rain on Friday. Then it started raining again late on Saturday evening and continued at a steady pace through all the races. By the 2:00 race, things were boggy, sloppy, and rutted.

I got a pretty good start and managed to hang off the back end of the top ten for the early laps. By the third lap, I was getting ready to ride into a loose bunch of five or six when a bobble through some ruts put me 10 meters back. Then another bobble put me even further off the pace. Then I took a really poor line and lost some more ground.

Early in the fourth lap, my rear mech quit working on the A bike. Unfortunately, it was stuck in the 25. I think if it were the 21, I would have continued with the A bike, being content with the 38-21 and 44-21 my front rings afforded me. Anyway, I lost more ground since I spun out on everything not uphill. There was a whole lotta course to navigate to get to the pits.

I took a bike change which meant I gave up the Grifo Challenge for the Tufo Flexus. This was a real disadvantage. I was off the bike even more than I had been previously. And when I was off the bike, I was slooooooow. Oh, I don’t recommend taking a spill and go sliding down a trail of flowing mud with blackberry brambles lining the side. Ouch. I’ve got quite pattern of cuts on my right thigh.

I didn’t have the edge today I needed. When the going got tough, I wimped out. However, I did learn quite a few lessons today.

  1. I need to get a new set of the Sidi toe spikes. I have a set but for many races, they are just too long. So I took the Dremmel and cut them in half. I’ve been using them for years and this was the first course where I really felt they were woefully inadequate. I need the fangs.
  2. I need to get a second pair of Challenges. They are quite a bit better in the mud than the Tufo Flexus. Since muddy races are where I’m most likely to need a bike change, I don’t want to have to feel timid taking the exchange.
  3. I need to relax more through the rutted stuff. More than a couple times I found myself sideways which meant I was putting a foot down or otherwise losing my momentum.

Okay, so what sunny spin can I put on this race?

  1. I’ve got the legs to crack the top ten. This wasn’t a Crusade race so the field was a little thinner. However, I’m convinced that I’ve got the legs.
  2. The Challenges rock in the mud. I feel really confident on those tires.
  3. I still finished 16 out of 31 finishers (35 starters). Middle of the pack and I have a crappy race. Not too bad.

Regardless of how well or poorly I placed, it was great to get out and see a bunch of folks I haven’t run into in quite a while. And the best way to understand what weaknesses need fixing is by racing.

One last note … I’ve never been dirtier after a race. I had mud all up and down inside my clothes. I had mutherf*&%$ing rocks in my shoes. I think I had a couple of sand bars building up under my arches.

Not satisfied with my lunch time workout, I headed over to P-town for a skills clinic Friday evening. I split my time between helping out and practicing barriers. The great thing about getting together with other folks (especially some way more experienced than me) is that you might just learn something.

What I picked up was a better definition of an idea that I’d been working out this year. Last season, I had an atrocious time with the barriers. I’d worked on them quite a bit as was looking to hone my technique to such an extent that I was super fast and smooth. During a session I’d feel great about my technique but come race day, I’d start having difficulty.

So this season I figured that I would be better served looking for smooth and consistent at the expense of fast. I wanted to feel relaxed and comfortable through the barriers. Well, I was still having trouble

Last night I got the key. Slow in, fast out. Throw that leg over the bike early and coast into the barriers. Take a moment of recovery. Hop off smooth and get through the barriers building speed for the other side. Sprint hard and remount. Then go, go, go.

It works like a charm.

I had been worrying too much about pedaling right up to the barriers and hurrying the dismount. That was just messing me up big time. Tomorrow is the day to put into action.

On Fridays at lunch, I head out to a park right next to work and mess around on cross skills. I keep a set of PVC barriers in my cube so that I don’t have to lug them around on the commute. Anyway, it rained last night, early this morning, and then a series of hard showers rolled through mid-morning. It looked like it was clearing up for noon time so I headed out.

Well, it rained. Sometimes pretty hard. I hunkered under some big Doug firs for the worst of it but since it was cross practice, I figured I had better get my butt out in it.

My training clinchers are getting darned bald and the grass was rather slick but I only ate it two or three times. I debated whether training on baldies was good or bad. It might make me overly cautious in the corners on race day. However, it might make me focus on good technique that could help keep me upright when I’m trying to make corners when my reason and strength are fast deserting me. Dunno.

Of course I did a bunch of barriers — sucked on the early ones and did better on the later ones. This year my philosophy is do them smooth and don’t worry about speed as much. I also set up an off-camber turn that I practiced both directions. The slippery grass made those drills pretty cool. I slid out a few times and stuck the inside foot down to correct — sure do lose a lot of momentum when that happens though. I also set up some cones on the flats did figure-eights between them to practice for the chicanes.

I bailed when the thunder started rolling overhead. The lunch time runners told me I had missed the worst of the weather since I didn’t get pelted by hail like they did.

I’m going to race on Sunday. It’ll be my first race of the season. I’ve been fantasizing about the race for more than a week. I’ve worked pretty hard this year and dropped a couple pounds. I’m faster than previous years so the fantasy is that I’m able to stay with the leaders and finish on the podium. Reality might be somewhat different.

I am faster — I have some interval times to prove it. I am lighter — I’ve got scale numbers to prove it. But how those two pieces fit together in the equation of fast is anyone’s guess. Maybe I pick up a couple of spots or maybe I pick up ten. I ain’t gonna know till I pin on that number and give all I’ve got for 60 minutes.

Barlow usually doesn’t get quite the turnout that the Crusade races do so I’ll have a somewhat thinner field to negotiate. I’m sure some fast guys will show and they’ll rip my legs off but I still have that fantasy …

What’s Barlow got? Ooh, that run up. I wonder if the lap times will be longer this year? I raced as a 35+B last year so I only did six or seven laps. The A guys did ten. Ten times up those steps seems pretty brutal. I should be faster up the couple “climbs” on the course and I want to be more aggressive than I was in my first race last season. The weather says rain. That side hill at the top of the course is going to be slick, as will any of the chicanes they throw in to lengthen the laps. Better bust out the Challenges.

Oh, by the way, 60 minutes is a long time. I don’t think I ever got used to it last season. About 30 minutes into the race, I was ready to start thinking about the bell. Uh-uh. Sorry, pal. Halfway there, maybe.

At least they are calling for rain. The more epic conditions are, the less I suck, compared to everyone else.

Barlow weather

Erik TonkinThursday evening I had the opportunity to preview this season’s Kona Factory Team bike. This brand spanking new orange Kona belongs to Portland’s own Erik Tonkin, local legend and proprietor of Sellwood Cycle Repair.

The bike is orange. Very orange. It’s got a nice white panel on the down tube for the classy script Kona logo. You aren’t going to miss this bike when it whizzes past you in a race. Like Kona’s other cross offerings, the dérailleur cable routing is along the down tube. Erik prefers this routing because less housing means better shifting. Also, routing the rear mech cable along the chain stay eliminates the drip effect casued by water/mud running down the cabel when it’s routed along the seat stay. There’s also a lot of carbon on this rig which is kind of ironic given Erik’s druthers for outfitting a cross bike. The frame is fabricated from Kona’s propriatary scandium tubing. With all the carbon and scandium, the bike is predictably light.

There are two big updates this season. The first is the sheer number of FSA components on the bike this year. And since this is a factory team bike, Erik gets all the new ceramic bits in FSA’s lineup. The other change is the absence of Easton as a sponsor. That means Kona went to their own tubing and speced a True Temper Alpha Q CX20 fork.

Wheel and cantiThe FSA K-Light wheels are what they say — darned light. I hefted the front and the rear and these things must be like riding on air. The rear with a Dura Ace cassette felt about as heavy as my front wheel. Of course they roll on ceramic bearings. The quick releases are well designed and engage the hubs as well as Shimano and Campy (the gold standards). Erik tells me these K-Lights might be the first ones in North America. Apparently he’s trying them out for the team. The wheels are adorned with a Griffo Challenge in the front and a Dugast in the rear. Both have been repaired with new tubes and base tape.

While Erik is a member of the Kona Factory Team, he isn’t under contract. That means he has more latitude with his equipment than do some of his teammates. His first modification was to replace the saddle with an SLR, though he did report that the WTB saddle felt pretty good. Initially he suggested he would most likely replace the Kore cantis with Pauls. He said the Kores set up well and worked fine but didn’t have the same quality as Pauls. However, in restrospect, he has decided to keep the Kores on the bike and believes they might be the best new brake out there.

Shimano sponsors most of the drive train and also provides the shoes. Erik doesn’t like to use carbon soled shoes for cross so he sticks with molded sole mountain bike shoes (Gaerne Samos). He uses the carbon soled Shimano mountain bike shoes when racing mountain and road. These shoes tend to be a little slick and he hasn’t had much luck gluing rubber in the right spots. The biggest problem is the slick area near the cleat that tends to make the pedal skate when trying to clip in. Erik also prefers the Shimano 959 pedals because of their superior bearings and durability.

Erik has been racing on the FSA carbon seat post through the mountain bike season and it has treated him well. He expects the same performance on the cross bike. The Easton carbon seat posts regularly failed the team in the past and he’s happy to have made the switch. He’s very glad not to be using carbon bars (Easton last season) since they have also suffered failures in the past.

Since I didn’t meet Erik until 7:00, the evening light was fading fast as I raced to snap some photos. I apologize for the substandard photos (kind of shaky and not so well focused).

  • Front derailleur: FSA
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura Ace
  • Chain: Shimano Dura Ace
  • Brifters: Shimano Dura Ace
  • Cassette: Shimano Dura Ace (12-27)
  • Crank: FSA SL-K Light 130bcd 39/46t (he’ll switch to a 42 single when he gets the rings from FSA)
  • Bars: FSA Energy (traditional bend, shallow drop, alloy, 31.8mm/44cm c-c)
  • Brakes: Kore canti
  • Seat post: FSA K-Force
  • Stem: FSA OS-115 (100mm/31.8mm)
  • Wheels: FSA K-Force
  • Seat: WTB Silverado Ti rails w/ kevlar patches (Now changed to Selle Italia SLR w/ tubular Ti rails)
  • Frame: Kona scandium proprietary tubes
  • Fork: True Temper Alpha Q CX20
  • Pedals: Shimano 959
  • Headset: FSA Orbit Xtreme Pro (alloy, non-integrated)
  • Bottom bracket: FSA MegaExo Ceramic


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

I stopped by Sellwood Cycle Repair last evening and chatted with Erik Tonkin for a while. One of the reasons I relate to Erik so well is that we both have similar goals for racing cyclocross. Erik wants to race against the best competition and his aspirations are to do as well as he can. And when he races over in Europe, that usually means finishing somewhere in the middle of the lead lap.

Erik’s a lot faster than I am but I can really relate to that mentality. Jump in with the fast guys and see how well you can hang. It’s the only way to test your limits. It’s the best way to push yourself harder than you though you might.

So what was I up to last night? Here’s a teaser:

Teaser

Chris Tauscher is a masters level racer in SW Washington. He races in the Cross Crusade series as well as other local cross offerings. He’s also been know to contest road races during the preseason. Chris has been racing in the 35+C cat but his strong placing will earn him an upgrade in no time. Chris is always ready to lend a hand and has been helping out with the Sellwood Cycle Repair cross clinics at Alpenrose by coaching the kids. He rides for Tireless Velo.

Though Chris usually races with gears, he has a sweet Mountain Cyles (now deceased) Stumptown single speed. I admit that I’d love to have it as my own — to a large extent because I’d like to own a little piece of local history.

  • Frame: MC Stumptown (Al)
  • Fork: Easton carbon EX90C
  • Headset: FSA
  • Stem: Thompson Elite EX
  • Bars: FSA
  • Brake levers: Cane Creek
  • Seat post: Thompson Elite
  • Seat: Sella Itallia
  • BB: FSA
  • Crank: FSA Gossamer with a 40 ring
  • Pedals: Crank Bros. Candy yellow
  • Brakes: Tektro Oryx
  • Chain: SRAM
  • Hubs: Shimano LX 135mm rear spacing with a 18 cog
  • Rims: WTB Dual Duty 32 hole laced 3x
  • Tires: Vittoria Cross XG Pro 34C
  • Chain tensioner: Surly Singulator


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

I’m out cruising along on a smooth road with light to no traffic. This is a recovery ride for me so I’m keeping it chill. But my mind gets to wandering and pretty soon I’m thinking about the upcoming race at Barlow. I replay the course in my mind and consider how to ride certain sections and fix on the parts I can ride strong. I’m thinking about the slight rising straight through the barriers and start line where I passed first and second last year to take the win. I’m thinking about how I can attack through that section.

And before I know it, I’m flying down the road with my HR way too high for a recovery ride. Oops. Let’s back off on the gas and think about something else, shall we?

I just need to get out and race so I know what kind of form I’ll be bringing this season.

I’m not getting paid for this — racing or writing this blog. So why am I spending time doing it? Well, there are a lot of reasons, really, and I’m not going to go into all of them right this second. I will, however, talk about one of them and it is glory.

Glory, you ask? Whats he smoking? What glory is there to be had finishing mid pack in some race where the winner gets maybe a ribbon and a hale “well done?” Where’s the glory to be found in a sport where, when quizzed about your weekend by your office mates, you get glassy looks and quite whisperings behind your back?

I’m talking about the glory in finally beating that guy in the Casa Bruno jersey riding that Kona who totally owns you on the bell lap every freaking race. I’m talking about taking the barriers clean every single lap even when every step is a monumental undertaking. I’m talking about the glory in pushing yourself to the limit, somehow finding the other side, and ascending to the highest step of determination and grit.

So I joined a team.

Teams are, after all, glory factories. If you aren’t getting paid to ride your bike, cyclocross teams are like teats on a bull. If you are fortunate enough to have teammates in your race, the reality is that all of you are gunning for the highest position possible for yourself. It’s all about looking out for number one. If a teammate claims he was blocking for you, it really means he was about to bleed out of his ears trying to hold your wheel. If he says he was working with you it means he didn’t have the legs to mount an attack.

Sure, teams are great for drinking beer and hanging out. Someone on the team will have an easy up so that you can warm up on your trainer and not get wet. Another guy will have the toolbox for last minute adjustments. And they totally rock for car pooling. But the real utility is for glory.

It is an international law that teammates find the most glorious aspects of your race and extol your every virtue. That is a requirement, really the least they can do, after putting yourself through the meat grinder for 45 or 60 minutes. Sure, they might harangue you with obscenities in the guise of encouragement. At every conceivable opportunity they might bring up that time your brakes didn’t work and you rode about a mile off course after going through the tape at the bottom of a sphincter clenching descent. But, dammit, they make you feel good whenever possible. They pick you up when you’re down and get you back on course for GLORY. So if you aren’t already on a team, go out and find one.

Oh yeah, and the blog thing? I like to write and someone is reading this.