Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Manions CX

"I thought you were in Madison?"

About a dozen people asked me this when I got to Manions Cross this weekend. The original plan had been to head to Madison directly from St. Louis. However, work happened and there was no way I could get away for Thursday and Friday. Thus, Manions.

I didn't expect there would be very many people in the open race this weekend, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the field were a good size both days. The weather was great, (unlike Madison where it was quite rainy I hear) and the course was again tough.

Saturday's course was an exercise in fighting gravity. It seemed like every corner was downhill / off camber, and it was very easy to overcook things. The start was in a opposite direction spur on the course, and Travis took the holeshot and led the whole first lap. I had told the guys to be ahead of me since I thought I'd probably crash somewhere and didn't want to take anyone out. By the end of the first lap it was Travis in the lead, then Jon Schottler, Me, JP, then the rest of the field. Unfortunately, Travis took a wrong turn into the start spur and Schottler took off. I moved into 2nd to chase, but gained no ground in pursuit. At some point I did crash, but not hard and was able to continue just fine. Not much changed after this point from my viewpoint except Schottler kept gaining on us.
The Course - CCW Sat, CW Sun

Sunday's course was much better for me. Many of the tricky corners were now uphill power corners. Schottler was not racing, so the field seemed like it was a bit thinner, but at the last minute, Brian Jenson and Bill Stolte showed up, so it looked like another good race. Jenson led the first lap, but rolled a tire near the end of the lap. I'm not sure how he got that back together, but he did. I moved into the lead at that point and immediately had a pretty decent gap to the chase. After 3 laps I had a solid 20 second cushion, so I tried to stay very consistent and upright. Behind I saw that Travis and Jenson were in a battle for second place with Stolte right behind them. Travis had a big crash in the one major off-camber corner with a fast approach, and ended up third.
Thanks Mark Breeding for this cool shot

The Colavita/Parisi guys did a great job again at putting on a very fun and unique course that forced you work on your turning skills! That will certainly pay off in future races. My Ethos team had another solid weekend.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gateway Cross Cup

Originally the plan was to hit the Gateway Cross Cup en route to Madison for the USGP races. Hence, with Hermann in the days leading into this race, then UCI races to follow, I registered for the Men's Open for some competition, but hopefully not as tough as the UCI field. Alas, due to some untimely work deadlines, I ended up having to scratch Madison this year, and make St. Louis a day trip.

After seeing the course, I was really excited to race this course. It had some definite similarities to Madison, being generally wide open and on grass. This course also had almost no elevation change. There were two sets of mini stairs, a flyover run-up, and sort of tricky barriers off a right hand corner. I camped my stuff with the 360 tent and did my warmup thing.

My starting position was in the 4rd row, near the center. Definitely not optimal, but not terrible either.Upon starting, I got a little boxed in but moved up a few positions, then coming off the pavement, someone locked up the brakes and went all sideways. Fortunately no one crashed as a result, but I lost several more places here and was now in the back half of the field.

I was a little concerned about this, but didn't panic. At the first 180 corner, I could see there was already some separation of the front of the field from the rest, so I knew I had to move up fast. I got a few spots on the first stair section by dismounting early and running by some breaking riders, then a few more over the barriers. After that there were some long open sections where I made up some more ground. Coming over the flyover, I had put myself in the top 15, but could see the gap at the front widening. About this point I picked up Mark Savery, Midwest Trek CX Team. We hit the second set of stairs and went through the S/F line moving into the top 10 and gaining ground on the front.

By the end of the second lap it was just Mark and I, and there was one rider (Taylor Carrington, Carmichael Training) off the front by about 15 seconds. We worked together for the next two laps and by the end of lap 4 we were a group of 3 with a couple of chasers about 30 seconds back to us.
Making the catch
It started to get pretty dark at this point, and the three of us seemed pretty evenly matched. We traded attacks and pulls at the front for the next two laps, but for every attack there was a counter, and nothing was sticking. Every time I was at the front I was in full attack mode, trying to gain any ground. Every time I thought I had a little gap, it was gone the next moment. With long shadows from the lights it was pretty easy to see when you regained your tail.

Leading into the barriers.
Finally, with 2 to go, I was seeing some signs of fatigue. After one attack it took some time for Taylor and Mark to catch back on. They caught up, but I continued to lead. Attack, surge, sprint. Every corner I tried to get some advantage. Nothing stuck. Finally, over the last set of stairs that lead to the final few turns of the lap, I sprinted into it, ran the stairs well, had an excellent remount and they were gapped.

I held a couple second advantage around through the SF line and saw that my advantage had grown to a couple of seconds. Full gas. I was feeling super strong, and went through the first quarter of the lap very smoothly. Suddenly on a corner, there was a medic waving me to stop. Someone was laid out flat in the corner and needed medical help. I slammed on the brakes, but they let me through. Unfortunately, this let Taylor back on. Mark was a little off the pace.

We wound around together and I was a little deflated from this. I put in some more small surges, but Taylor was not giving an inch. He attacked. I followed, we went into the last set of stairs together and I surged to the outside to try and come around. He moved outside and clipped my front wheel right as I was remounting. That put my bars in the tape and I hooked my lever on a stake. Ugh.

Dismount, regain momentum, but he had a huge gap. I risked everything and chased with reckless abandon but couldn't bring it back. So he got the W and I followed in only a second back.

Taylor apologised afterwards for the mishap but that is racing. I should have never let him lead. Somehow my mentality in all the other laps was total aggression, but in that last half I let him have the front. Stupid, but I will learn. Mark took 3rd.

In the end it was one of the funnest, most hard fought races I've done. Loved the course, loved the fans (Esp. the 360 team by those stairs - thanks for the cheers guys). It would have been especially fun to do the UCI race, but that would have made an even later drive to KC. I hope this race becomes a fixture on the UCI calender.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hermann CX

The crowd was loud and awesome. Photo courtesy of Dan Singer Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/52149095@N00
Somehow it is already last September, I've only got one wheelset glued up, and I've already been to 3 CX races. Crazy! I'd better get caught up.

As race fans may recall, last year at this time I was still drying out from the Hermann race & camping experience I won't forget any time soon. This year, I decided not to learn from the past and planned another camping trip, this time accompanied by Janelle and new teammate Travis Donn. (I'm wearing some new colors this fall)

We got into town early Saturday afternoon and set up camp right by the creek. The forecast called for 20-40% chance of rain for the weekend, but nothing crazy. The course was actually a little muddy, but hooked up really well. Many of the masters racers ran file treads and said they were a good choice.

The Ethos crew for the Elite race included Travis, JP, Cam and I and besides battling for our own places, there was also a team competition over the two days that we were hoping to compete for. It was going to be a battle, taking the top 2 riders from each day and adding their omnium points from both days. There were several teams in the mix, but we knew the Big Shark duo of Josh Johnson and Jon Schottler were the guys to beat.

By being the current Kansas CX Champion, I got a first row call up with Travis, Cam and JP in the 2nd and 3rd rows. My plan was to try and get a good start and get into the front group, but not push the pace, hoping that the others could move into good positions on the opening laps.

I took the holeshot, then a Rokkit guy took over. After the first lap I was sitting pretty good in the group and was feeling fairly good. I was having a little trouble on the second half of the course that was very twisty, but felt like things were going pretty well. On lap two, things went a little sideways as I somehow took a poor line through the sand and ended up rolling around in it for a little while, losing probably 4-6 spots in the process. I then had to play the chasing game to get back to terms with the race. After finally getting close to the lead group of 5, Schottler launched a huge attack out of the group and was gone. A few guys tried to go with him, and the back two guys got popped off the back. I had to wait to get around them and the damage was done. Josh came up to me right about then and just kept going, I'm not sure what happened there. He ended up riding into 2nd only to have a flat a long way out from the pits and having to ride it back in. The course was very fun but was also challenging with a long stair section, two sand pits, mini stairs, then barriers that were spaced really far apart, so lots of running. Then after those sections lots of turns before the S/F line.

Hermann CX Course

In the end I was 4th, Travis was 9th, and JP finished up 16th. Not quite what we were hoping for as far as results, but the rumor was that Schottler was not coming back for the sunday race, so we were still in the hunt for the team title.

Sleep didn't come easily as our camping neighbors were having serious family drama discussion late into the night, then our other neighbors came back loud and a bit tipsy sounding. It also rained lightly throughout the night, but didn't storm in the midwest way.

Sunday morning the course was a little more sloppy then the night before. No changes to the course, but the sand had firmed up a bit from the rain, and some of the corners were just a touch slick. We hung out, had breakfast, rolled around and finally got geared up to race.

Surprise, Schottler came back to race again. Too much money on the line to skip the race. I got another good start, and so did Travis. After the first lap, there was again a lead group of 5. I went to the front and put in some little digs to try and dislodge people. I was definitely trying to be aggressive and go for the win, but I also saw that Travis was hanging just behind our group, so I tried to manage our pace a bit to let him back in.

About half way through, I noticed my legs were not right. I was started to feel twinges - Usually this means cramps, but I don't usually have issues with cramps in cross. So I just kept things rolling, then Devin Clark attacked. I tried to follow, but I soon realized that was not happening. Shortly after that Schottler came around as well as an Illinois guy who had raced really well Sat too. I tried to go with them too and started to cramp fully. So I had to shut down and go into management mode for the last 3 laps. Travis caught up to me and was going to roll along with me, but I was going so badly that I told him to go ahead. We ended up 5th and 6th, with Cam also having a good race and getting 9th.

The weekend was a great way to start the season. Really looking forward to racing with the Ethos crew the rest of the season, should be a blast. I definitely have some things to work out for the rest of the year, but I think my fitness and handling are better than where I was last year at this time.