Archive for November, 2007

Candi Murray, the pillar of Oregon bicycle racing, let me in on the process of scoring the Cross Crusade races. It’s a labor intensive undertaking that requires plenty of work during the races and some more work after everyone has gone home. The culmination of this undertaking is full scoring from first to last of a host of potentially muddy cyclocross racers.

Essential Elements:

  • FinishLynx camera
  • Two laptops — one for scoring (Excel workbook) and one for the FinishLynx
  • Clipboards and scoring sheets
  • Five or six dedicated officials
  • Coffee

The big Portland area series is the Cross Crusade. However, there are a few more races not affiliated with the series and to ease scoring, they have agreed to use the Crusade bib numbers. Starting with the Kruger’s Kermesse in September, OBRA starts building a racer database. This Excel file begins with the number series for each category and the officials populate it with riders names over the course of the season. Within a few races, most of the regular racers are in the file.

On race day, Candi copies the most up to date roster into a new Excel workbook. The workbook has several worksheets, the most notable being the “Lap Positions” and “Results.” During each race, there are three or four people with clipboards with lots of lap position sheets. They record, in order, each rider as they pass the finish. After each lap, they give the lap sheet(s) to an official who then enters the information into the Lap Positions Excel worksheet.

Aside: I actually tried to record lap positions at a non-Crusade race a few years ago. There were perhaps 90 racers on the course at once. It was extremely hard to record everyone, especially when racers came past in clumps. The folks who do this regularly are awesome. They can record everyone and know exactly when the leaders are coming through even when folks started getting lapped.

The Excel workbook has a macro that translates the lap positions into results, sorted by category and total laps. In the best of all possible worlds, these would be the final results. However, officials reviews the results and check for discrepancies in lap counts or overall position from lap to lap to attempt to catch scoring mistakes.

So where does the camera come in?

Each race is also recorded by the FinishLynx camera. The camera takes little slice photos and then strings them together. Thus, each race looks like a continuous ribbon of racers crossing the finish line. An official creates a FinishLynx file for each race of the day. If you want to know exactly how the FinishLynx works, their web site has an excellent PowerPoint presentation for scoring cycling events. Using the FinishLynx software, an official tries to mark the front of each rider’s wheel as it crosses the line on each lap and then enter the rider number. Usually it’s not possible to mark all the riders at the event since there just isn’t enough time during a race.

If an official finds a discrepancy in the results or a racer contests the results, she can review the photo record of the race to confirm overall position throughout the race. If all the riders in a race get marked, the timing data can be exported to the Excel workbook (lif file) which will allow officials to harvest lap times for all the racers

Lets do a little math — 800 racers doing an average of five laps means marking and entering 4,000 riders per Crusade race. That’s a lot of work to harvest lap times!

I know that all of you OBRA people out there greatly appreciate the timely and accurate results produced by the OBRA team. And you will all remember to be courteous and patient when contacting officials regarding a potential scoring error.

Hey, it’s not me hyping this weather … it’s the newspaper. There is an article in today’s Oregonian about the storm system that’s going to be affecting our weather over the next four days. Apparently, there are a couple of leftover typhoons lurking about in the Gulf of Alaska with a whole lot of energy. Then there’s the cold air we’ve got right now. When the two get together, Portland might get a bit of snow for Saturday’s racing. Then the system sets up the Pineapple Express — an atmospheric river — that points right toward the Northwest. The question is, when will the heavy rains start?

Anyone in the Portland metro area know we’ve gotten some pretty good rain this week. That water will have saturated the ground out at PIR so there’s going to be plenty of mud. Temperatures are supposed to dip below freezing tonight but the ground probably won’t freeze deep enough to keep the racing surfaces firm. Then with the additional rain we are likely to get over the weekend, conditions will be hardy.

Notice that I didn’t use terms like “poor,” “bad,” or terrible. No, not even “challenging.” That’s not in the spirit of cyclocross. The dudes that tough it out and don’t get beat down by the conditions are the ones that are going to rise to the top. Don’t get beat by the time you line up.

And make plans to get warm after the race.

Holy cow. USGP game on. The NOAA forecast for Saturday just updated to include a rain/snow mix. Those New Englanders are going to be in their element — if they can remember what it’s like since it’s been so long. Things look cold and wet for Saturday and just a tad warmer on Sunday. I’ll have to remember to fill up the spray can with scalding hot water before I head over. It’s nice that I’m only 10-15 minutes from the venue — including finding a parking spot.

There’s been some smack talk over in the Cross Crusade forums I’ve been following. First, Evan Plews stirred the pot by suggesting that some of the 35+A dudes might ought to be racing with the open As. Here’s my thoughts. If you are 35 or older, then you’ve got the right to race masters. Most of the masters riders have some priorities that dominate their attention other than racing. Plus, 35 is that time when it starts getting harder to recover after hard days and the aura of invincibility starts to fade.

Sure, some of those guys are wicked fast and might slot into the A race around tenth on occasion. However, there is a fairly large group of masters riders who can compete for the top spot on any given Sunday. There isn’t a single dominant dude. There aren’t even two or three dominant dudes. There are about ten. And the mix changes around from season to season too.

Whether those fast masters race in the A or A+ race is up to them. I’d be sorry to see the masters ranks thinned even though I might get a better result. That result would be diluted by racing against a weaker field. So far I’ve found all those guys to have plenty of integrity and they bring the hurt every single week.

The other thing that’s been going on in Smack Talk is a certain slow old guy (self admitted) has been stirring up trouble with the east coast set. I think his bone of contention is the whole “New Belgium” thing. I’m a little weary of that moniker myself. Here I am in the Portland, OR metro area with a population of 2.3 million and we can turn out huge fields without UCI designation along with pretty sizable and vocal crowds. Atmo, PDX is the center of the proletarian cross universe. I dare you to show me a place with more cross racers per capita.

I’ve got two more races left in my season and I’m already looking forward to next year. I’m formulating goals and plans and looking forward to no real training for a while. But the next two races are going to kick some ass!

The two royal couples of Northwest cyclocross have welcomed new members to their families. Dale and Ann Knapp’s new bundle o’ joy is Callen Isabella Knapp, born on November 20. Rhonda Mazza and Erik Tonkin are the proud parents of Magnus Mason Tonkin, born early yesterday morning.

As cross fans, we can dream of the wonderful cycling exploits these two tots have in their futures. However, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that kids will choose their own way in the world. They may turn out to be great cyclists. Or not. But their mommas and paps are going to love them no matter what.

Congratulations you guys. May your futures be filled with joy.

The Portland stop on the USGP of Cyclocross is this weekend and I’ll be racing the 35+ race each day. I’ve been checking the weather reports obsessively. Over the past couple days the reports for the weekend have gone from partly sunny to chance of rain. I know one thing, we’ve had some rain and we’ll get some more before the race. And it might actually shower a bit on the race days.

What’s all this mean? Mud. PIR is part of the old Columbia flood plain and that dirt out there holds the H2O pretty good. How much mud depends on a bunch of factors including course design, total rainfall prior to the event, and wind conditions (yes, a brisk gorge wind can dry things up in a hurry). I hear that there will be two courses for the weekend with overlapping sectors. One will be more open and fast and the other will be a grinder. The Crusaders have gone on record as saying they might add in a little more pavement and hard pack if it gets too snotty out there.

Cleaning up after a messy race is a pain in the booty but I hope we get some hardy conditions. I think I’ll be ready for them and it’ll keep things interesting for the out-of-towners.

Check some forecasts:

Weather Underground
NOAA 

That’s Quirk and Baker behind me. I was still digging deep here. Once Quirk got around me again, I wasn’t so sharp.

Thanks to Bob Libby for the photo. See more of his great work.

In a race where you have to push your body as hard as you can for 45 to 60 minutes, it takes some mental fortitude to keep your head in the race. Your legs and lungs are screaming at you to take it easy for a while — maybe just skip the rest of this race and start over next time. Sometimes it takes all the mental power you have just to keep on going, let alone holding that wheel or bridging to the next guy up the road. But summoning the will to do just that is essential if you want to improve.

I’ve had mixed results keeping my head in the race thus far this season. I’ve had some real successes like at Horning’s and Astoria. In those two races, I chased wheels and worked hard out of every corner. I kept up the intensity (for the most part) from the whistle to the finish. I’ve had some pretty miserable efforts too such as Barlow, Alpenrose, and Hillsboro. In those races, I didn’t maintain my focus and didn’t execute a plan. Since two of those races were the initial dates on my calender, I’ll excuse myself. However, Hillsboro was a real disappointment. My latest outing at Kruger’s Farm was a mixed bag.

At Kruger’s, I was very aggressive from the gun and worked hard to shut down gaps and stayed in the front of the race for a couple of laps. But once guys started coming around, I didn’t make the full effort to keep with them. If I’d have hung on to Benno for a while, I’d have gotten to the front of the race again. And over the last couple of laps, Butler and Quirk dangled 20 seconds up the road. A couple of hard efforts on my part could have bridged that gap over the course of a lap and a half. The thing is, those kinds of efforts are really hard. Focusing the mind to work through the pain is the challenge.

Sure, sometimes you just aren’t going to have the goods to deliver the deal. However, I’m not sure that I’ve ever left 100% on the course. I’ve had some great efforts and done well over stretches of a bunch of races. But I haven’t been nearly as consistent during races as I’d like to be.

My best results of the year were; Horning’s 11th, Barton 12th, Hillsboro 12th, Astoria 14th, and Kruger’s 6th. I’ve been pretty consistent over a range of courses. However, my best result was at the course least suited to my strengths. Horning’s had a lot of elevation and though I dropped a lot of weight coming into the season, I’m no climber. The difference was that I was mentally on top of my game.

I might have done myself a disservice by stating that one of my season goals was a top ten finish in a Crusade race. I got too wrapped up in my placings — even during races, and I didn’t execute the plan. I’ve got to go out and race my race. If I train hard and keep the focus sharp during races, then the results will come.

I’ve got two more races and my season is over. This coming weekend is the Portland, OR stop on the USGP series and I’ll be racing the 35+ race on both Saturday and Sunday. There are over 80 guys registered so far and I won’t be getting a call up. That means I’ll be staging by lottery so I could be anywhere from third row to last row. I can’t control that but I can control how I race my race. No matter where I stage, I have to get out there and race hard. Pass the guys I should pass, chase the guys who are faster, and work out of the corners. Never sit in. Get going at every opportunity and remember it’s a 45 minute race, not a 60 minute race like I’ve been used to.

I’m really looking forward to the weekend and I hope I can keep it frosty upstairs.

Krueger’s Crossing
Sauvie Island, OR
November 25, 2007
Masters 35+ A race

Once Krueger’s farm out on Sauvie Island gets wet, there’s mud till summer. While the A race didn’t have it nearly as bad as the earlier races, there was still some mud left around even though it hadn’t rained in five days. Sections that were treacherous with slimy mud early in the day dried out quite a bit by our 2:20 pm start time.

The course had lots of flat and a healthy variety of farm roads. Surfaces ranged from light gravel hard pack, dirt hard pack, soft double track, soft field sidings, and slimy field sidings. There was a single dismount per lap through a set of double planks. The course would have been perfect with the addition of a run up. The laps were long in distance but not about right in time. I think I was turning in lap times of about eight minutes or so.

Even though this was on a holiday weekend and it was a non-Crusade race, the turnout was pretty good with a number of the usual suspects racing in the 35+ As. However, Johns Brevard and McCaffrey mercifully decided to race with the open As this day. There were no callups and I snagged a front row spot — my first since I’ve raced the 35+ A race. Some of the earlier races went long so we ended up standing in the starting grid for a while before they gave us the whistle.

I got the hole shot. I wasn’t surprised by that since I do have pretty good starts even if I haven’t been able to execute them from the second or third row. The starting straight was long and gently uphill. Coming into the first turn I was looking to give up the lead and Scott Bradway obliged. Martin Baker came around too and I latched onto his wheel. Martin and I weren’t to be separated by more than ten seconds for the remainder of the race.

The first lap was a shorty and early into the second, Martin took the lead and I came around to get into second. However, it was short lived as Bradway got back on the front and stayed there much of the race. Scott Brown came around too and he turned in a great ride to land third.

A lap or so later, Mike Benno passed me and I tried to stay on his wheel for a bit but he was motoring. He eventually out dueled Bradway for the win. Martin and I traded places a few times but neither of us could hold and advantage. Dan Quirk passed not long after Mike did. However, he went down in the slippery mud after the corn maze section and I passed him back. It took him a while to get me back and Tim Butler came around shortly after. Again, I couldn’t hold their wheels. However, their advantage stayed at about 20 seconds for a very long time.

Since I’ve been lapped by the open A leaders on the two to go lap and not gotten a bell, I’ve decided to treat that lap as my bell. I managed to pass Martin about midway through the lap and held on for much of the remainder. He might have been sitting on to set up a sprint toward the end though. Just after the slippery off camber left hander, I went hard up the little rise and tried to attack along the double track. Martin marked me and forced me outside on the pivotal right hander before turning back into the barn. He made the move for the win. Too bad we got the one to go sign and the bell. We were just fast enough to earn another lap.

Martin’s move turned out to be all he needed to fend me off for the remainder of the race. Getting one to go after a big effort was tough to take. I let a gap form and couldn’t shut it down. On one of the turns coming off the sole hill, Dan Quirk went down and was shaken enough — or his bike was not operating properly enough — so that Martin and I passed him prior to the finish. I think Martin was fifth and I was sixth.

Though it wasn’t a Crusade race, it still felt darned good to score a nice result. I also enjoyed racing at the front for a couple laps and the hole shot was pretty cool too. When we scooted up to the starting line after the open As started, Martin got squeezed out of the front row and was sitting half a bike behind me. He jokingly asked how he went from the first row to the first and a half row. Turns out he had one of the best spots for the start. I lead him out for a great position.

I now run a continuous piece of housing from the top tube cable stop near the seat post all the way to the rear dérailleur. The great benefit is that mud and gritty water is much less likely to get into the cable housing and gum up the shifting. Most cross bikes route the rear mech cable along the top tube and down the seat stay. This means that gravity greatly assists water (and grit and mud) to travel down the cable and into the housing. Running a continuous piece of housing down the seat stay protects the cable and housing from much contamination.

I’ve used zip ties to attach the housing to the seat stays but some folks will drill the stops and run the housing through them. The long piece of housing wants to deflect under load and that can result in mushy shifting. Therefore, I recommend at least five very snug zip ties to attach the housing and if you drill the stops, I suggest that you supplement them with a couple more zip ties.

Here’s a picture of Andy Askren’s Speedvagen that was built for continuous housing. In the two following photos, you’ll notice that there are four routing points plus the top tube cable stop. I’m guessing that Sasha did this to keep housing play to a minimum.

The shifting on my A bike is still acceptable after an incredibly muddy race this past weekend. I’d bet that there are a bunch of other guys changing out there cables this week. Not me.

We had a little bit of mud here this past Sunday. By the end of the Men’s A/ Masters’ A race, all of the competitors looked to be riding for team Brown and sporting bib #Brown (to borrow from Chris Brandt). Candi Murray, our scoring ninja blackbelt, opined that she may never be able to score those fields because of unreadable numbers. So masters rider Tre Hendricks called on the other masters riders to score our own race. It worked out pretty well and we’ve managed to piece together the top 16. So here are the unofficial results for the Masters A race:

1.  Bannink
2.  Butler
3.  Hendicks
4.  Bravard
5.  Benno
6.  Myers
7.  Anderson
8.  Wilson, M
9.  McCaffrey
10. Quirk
11. Hoyer
12. French
13. Diviney
14. Porter
15. Baker
16. Goritski

Edit: New results are up. Dan P. really finished behind Martin B. Thom Kneeland was the mystery rider in blue (DeSalvo). I’ve updated the results below to reflect the new reality.

The top eighteen riders score series points so we’re still missing two riders who finished in the points. However, I’ve gone ahead and tabulated the series overall based on these results. Here are the top fifteen twenty.

Name        Alpenrose Hornings  Rainer    Astoria   Barton    Estacada  Hillsboro Total
1  Hendricks   26        26                            20        20        36        128
2  Bannink     16                  16        20                  16        52        120
3  Bravard     15                  14                  16        26        30        101
4  Butler                12        17        15        15                  40         99
5  McCaffery   11                  26        16        14                  20         87
6  Cramer      14        16                  26        26                             82
7  Wilson, M             13                  14        13        14        22         76
8  Benno        6                  20        13                            28         67
9  Bradway      8        20         5                  10        14                   57
10 Schindler              9        10        12        12        13                   56
11 Baker                 11         8        11                  10        10         48
12 French                 5         9         7                  12        14         47
13 Leitheiser  13        15        14                                       2         44
14 Mitchem      7        10                   8         9         4                   38
15 Hoyer                  8                   5         7                  16         36
16 Anderson                                                                24         24
17 Enderle                6         4                  11                             21
18tQuirk                                                                   18         18
18tDiviney                                    6                            12         18
20 Wilson, J                        6         4                   5                   15