Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Boxing Day CX

Since the state races a few weeks ago, I've taken a nice 10 day break off the bike, and since then have ridden some easy miles to just get back into the swing of things. I decided to do the post-Christmas races this year because we will be in town, mostly just for fun and some good tempo. Plus next season will go into January, so I will have to be riding at this time next year.

It was nice to have the race pretty close to home. I got in a nice 1 hour spin to get to the course. Not too many people came out for the race. There were two of us, just Chris Hershey and I in the open, plus 5 more doing the cat 3 race. It was pretty cold, but the sun was warm and the wind was not too bad. The course was pretty short. I turned 4.5 minute laps for the first two, so we ended up doing 10 laps in under 50 minutes. The course was also pretty bumpy. Nothing too technical. I think it would have been a pretty challenging course if there were snow as there were several 180's and a handful of off-camber turns, but in the grass it hooked up well.

A couple more local races to ride to and race coming up this weekend. Sounds like a good run up on Friday!

Cold enough for shoe covers?

Catching some air off of the berm at the finish line.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

KS State Championships

Much like the MO State Championships the day prior, the weather was cold and windy in Topeka. Driving over, the temperatures never even got up to 30 degrees. Upon arrival at Hummer Sports Park, I noticed immediately that the course was going to have some major differences from the year before. The course now used and went around a long section of parking lot, the Start/Finish line area was a long paved stretch, and there were lots of long power sections, with a few off camber sections and run ups thrown in.

I found out before the race that my two main competitors for the day were not going to be at 100%. Shadd Smith was there but had been fighting the flu (I thought he was in Portland for the USGP). Also Brian Jenson was there, but he raced the masters 30+ race an hour before. I figured I would sit in for a lap and then try the same tactics as Sat.

Started fairly well. I sat in behind Shadd who took the holeshot.

Getting through some of the off-camber sections.
I sat in with Shadd and Brian for about a lap and a half. Brian attacked on the first lap, but we came back together almost instantly. Brian lead onto the backside of the Mound-of-Mercy, the hill in the middle of the course that featured a long off camber section that wrapped around into an tricky 180 corner. I realized that Brian was taking this section a little tentatively. On lap two, I attacked just before this section, and Brian continued to lead Shadd. I really powered through the mound area and opened a quick 5 second gap. There was another long power section right off the mound. I kept the gas on for about 2 minutes and had about 8 seconds when I got around to the S/F area.

Turning into the "Mound-of-mercy" area

Navigating the off-camber 180 onto the mound.

Short barrier before the long run-up on the mound.

Heading north, into the trees.
At this point, I just tried to maintain the gap and monitor how Brian and Shadd responded. It looked like they were working together a little, but the gap stayed steady. I was really working hard to keep them from closing the gap, but I felt pretty comfortable with all of the features around the course. Nothing terribly technical to screw up on.

Back onto the pavement

Down the mound. Tristan (sp?) bunny-hopped the barrier into the run up on the other side just after this.
I ended up extending the lead out to about 20 seconds, and Brian faded a little having already raced that day. So I got win #2 of the weekend. It was very cool to finish up the season on a high note and getting the State title. I was also given the "Most Aggressive Rider" prize by the promoter.

A few season ending thoughts: Lots of thank you's to people that have supported me this year. Thanks to my awesome wife who supports (puts up with) all the daily training, busy race weekends, travel, and sometimes nasty weather. Thanks to all the folks who stick around till the end of the day to cheer on the "Open" race. All the cheers and encouragement are awesome. Thanks to everyone that takes time to photograph the races and post them. It's been a great year, looking forward to an even better 2011 CX season.
Kansas State Podium

Monday, December 6, 2010

Boss Cross 4 / MO State Championships

When I first started cycling, someone told me the best way to get faster is to ride with fast people. In some cases, this may not be true, but I think it is generally correct. This is especially true in cyclocross.

Coming back from my first UCI races, I felt like I raced well, but I didn't race great. I did learn a lot about racing though. Watching the pros corner and accelerate, ride the tough sections that some chose to run, be very aggressive, start like maniacs, all of this was something that I haven't really experianced on a local level or even a regional Cat 2 level. The other thing is just making smart racing decisions. Don't try and ride sections that you can't. I think the key is figuring these things out before the race, then sticking to the plan once the race begins.

Anyway, on to the race. Many of the local heavy hitters are out west, but I assumed that the series leaders would be coming out. Unfortunately, it sounds like both Jeff Winkler and Jon Schottler were out with injuries. Meaning that I would win the series title as long as I finished in the top 5 or so. Josh Johnson and Dan Miller were going to be my main competition on the day. It was cold and very windy. About mid 30's, but it felt much colder.

On the start line. Dan Miller and Josh Johnson to my left. The start grid was tiny - maybe 42cm wide per box.

I missed my pedal for the first time all year, exacerbating my already poor starting ability. This meant I'd play catch up for the first two laps.

Moving up through the pack. Mark had a great start.

Movin' on up
 After a worse than usual start, and that is saying something, I fought my way up to the front of the race. I attacked just before the beach section (below) to take the lead. Dan went with me, but we had a gap back to Josh.
Taking the lead into the beach section.
 I decided I'd just push the pace, really punching things out of the corners into the headwind sections to hopefully not let Dan get too much draft advantage. It took a couple of laps, but I finally shook Dan off of my wheel and slowly widened the gap. I knew that Josh Johnson is a tremendous finisher, so I knew I would have to stretch out this advantage as much as I could to keep him away.
Once I got a lead, I quickly remounted and rode the run up after the barriers. I'm not sure this was much faster than running up it, but it saved energy and it made the descent much faster, since you didn't have to clip in over the bumpy descent. Thanks for the cheers guys! This was my favorite section to ride through. (Though I heard that there was some soccer-style heckling going on for our east-side racers. Remember to keep it classy everyone)

These two StL guys kept telling me I was going way too fast. Which was awesome.

On the bricks.

Getting a time check. I think I had about 25 seconds with 3 to go. It was great to have support all over the course.
 At four to go, my time gap to Josh and Dan was only 15 seconds and they were working together to bring me back. It had been about 20 on the previous lap, so I was not sure I had made the right move. So I really gassed it on the third lap and got another 10 seconds to put the gap at about 25. When I finally came through with one to go, I still had a 20 second gap to Josh, while Dan was a little ways back. I got my second local win of the year, also taking the Boss Cross series leader jersey.

Thanks to all who stuck around to cheer in the freezing conditions. A big thanks to JP Brocket for taking some awesome photos as well.