Saturday, January 14, 2012

UCI Masters World Championships

In my mind, Nationals was going to be a freezing mess and UCI Masters Worlds was going to be warm with maybe a little mud. Turns out that was basically backwards. An Arctic storm chased us east on Wednesday and Travis and I made our way from KC.

We headed out to pre-ride on Thursday at noon and got in two laps just as snowflakes started to fall. To say that it was muddy would be an understatement. It was like the MO State Championship race, but the mud was even deeper in some parts. A big section of the course is built on a really big berm leading up to the Start/Finish area and this had foot holes that were over 8" deep so even if you could ride it you would have to navigate these. It turned out to be a solid 2-3 minutes of running. The rest of the course had deep, power-sucking mud as well. If the tempuratures had stayed above freezing, I think it would have been really fun.

However, the storm kept pushing in. Little flurries, strong 20-40mph winds and temps in the 20's turned the rutted course into a giant ice bowl. The promoters wisely removed some of the running sections, and moved a little of the course tape to provide lines that weren't completely rutted from tape to tape. Travis had his qualifying heat at 9AM. He rode great and was able to stay on his bike longer than most, allowing him to ride into a 1st row call up for his finals race.

My race was at 1pm. It was about 25 degrees at the start. I was the 10th person called up and on the start was about the 5th person to hit the grass. Then it got a bit chaotic. I got grabbed by a rut and thrown off my line into some really slow ruts. I kept everything upright but lost about 10 spots. I regained composure and started to wind back through people.

I managed to ride the rest of the lap clean, but the mental focus required on this terrain is completely different than i've ever had to do before. The flats were some of the hardest spots because those were the most unchanged from the day before and had ruts covering the entire course in some sections. You had to constantly be focusing on not dropping yout wheel into the ruts and getting sucked the wrong way.

Our race ended up being 5 laps. I rode the next 3 laps very consistantly and managed not to have an serious wrecks. I moved past several people into 8th. However, on the last lap I was taking a line on the left hand side on a descent and got put right into the tape which grabbed my bars and over I went. I lost about 4-5 spots, cut my hand pretty good, and broke my front shifter/brake lever. So I hobbled back to the pits, got my pit bike and finished up in 12th.

Not a great way to end the season, but my body and mind are in good shape and am looking forward to riding some base miles for road season. I'm happy to have learned so much about cross this year and feel like i've been able to race at a very high level all season. As Tilford said, if you aren't good in all conditions, then you aren't a very good cross racer (my paraphrase). I'm still working on being able to handle the winter aspect of CX and these last two races have certainly been good in that respect. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Masters 30-34 Nationals

Nationals ended up being much less wintry by Saturday afternoon than anyone could have expected. The sub-freezing temperatures that are the norm for the area gave way to some very nice 40 and 50 degree days leading up to my race. The result of this was that the hilly course that would be frozen for the early morning races then would thaw and turn into a mudfest in the afternoon (with some patches of ice just underneath the surface of the mud that got exposed later in the day as well.) This made for a constantly changing course. Also, the promoters ended up modifying sections of the course several times over the course of the weekend, which did make sections more ride-able.

Travis and I drove up on Thursday morning and first got on the course on Friday morning. We did 5 laps and it quickly changed from frozen and scary to very muddy and soft. We went back in the afternoon for a couple more laps and it had changed even more to sticky mud that coated our bikes.

We made pit arrangements for our races Saturday knowing that bike changes would be essential. Fortunately, the 360 guys ( David Hejduk, Bill Anderson, and Dean Parker) were available and willing to assist for Travis and JP who raced immediately prior to my race. There race still featured sticky mud but there was much less of it. The course had dried out significantly.

My race was the last one of the day, a 3:45 start. I was happy just to not be racing in the icy conditions of the morning. As it turned out, there were still a couple of sections in the shade by the pits where the conditions were still rutted out and hard to navigate. There were also big ice patches exposed in that area. Most of the rest of the course was getting pretty nice. The descents off of the hill were still a little dicey with ruts and berms burned into the corners.

I started as the 20th person called up, in the middle of the 3rd row. I got an ok start and probably moved up into the top 15 as we hit the dirt. The first section of the course was still very muddy and the ruts threw your bike around a bit making this a little hairy. I got passed by a few people here, but then anticipated crashes to happen over some exposed permafrost and ran by a few downed riders. I was still in the top 20 Just past the pit was the first big climb and I rode past several people here. Over the top was a little bit of a descent prior to a railroad tie run-up section. I held my place here and then on the next little climb I moved up another spot. The race was already starting to break into little groups as the pace was frantically fast. The course then went into a fast fun descent into the barriers, into the pits, wove through some rutted and frozen sections, into a mini sandpit, through more ruts, up another little climb, then down again into some more ruts before hitting the start/finish stretch.
By the end of the first lap I was in about 10th with a little group. I made a bike change and attacked up the climb trying to get up to a group that was contesting 5th place. I had just gotten into that group when I ended up getting bumped into the tape down a descent and crashed pretty hard. It took a while to get back up and going again and I ended up crashing another 2 times after that trying to chase back. The group was gone, so I settled in and just raced a couple people that were still around me. The race was only 5 laps, so we were on the bell lap very quickly. I ended up passing one guy on the last lap but getting passed by one other. I tried to get back to the guy who passed me but didn't quite have enough space in the end.
After the race we quickly cleaned up and hit the road back to KC. It was a very good experience, and I learned a lot. It was a little disappointing to crash out of a group that I could have been competitive with, but that is racing. I'm now very excited to go race the UCI Masters World Championships this weekend.

Watch more video of USA Cyclocross National Championships 2012 on