Since I haven’t posted since April, I suppose I should offer up some weak-assed excuse as to why. I’ve been busy. Well there you have it. That being said, the last six months of cycling have been a mixed bag. The rest of this post will summarize my last six months.
After the Wente Crit, I went up to Vacaville to race the Rockhopper XC race. This was my second MTB race and I fared much better than the debacle that was my first. The course was tough and the weather was HOT. I’ve certainly never suffered as much in a race as I did that day. I was in the 2nd row @ the start, right behind my teammate. I had a good start, but after the first little downhill, I out thought myself and tried to downshift too early for the upcoming little kicker and dropped my chain. Several people came by me and I spent the rest of the race chasing. I made up a few spots as some of my competitors were taking breaks on the big climb. Fitness baby! Unfortunately two of them dropped their seatposts and flew by me on the descent like I was standing still. Skills, or lack there of. :( I ended up midpack (5th) which I was happy with. Details: http://app.strava.com/activities/8511814
The last two years, I had fared well at the Modesto RR coming out with two top 10s. I expected to perform well again this year as I had more fitness coming into the race. My sprint was strong, so I felt as if I may be able to crack the top 5 or better. I had full intentions of trying to get a breakaway going with ~3 laps to go, only to find myself on the side of the road with a flat during the 1st lap. After changing the flat and going into TT mode (training) for ~1 lap, I got another flat. This time I inspected everything and found that my rim strip had slid over and exposed one of the spoke holes. Just as I finished fixing that flat, my group was coming up the road to put me a lap down. I chased onto the back of the group and told the moto-ref that I was a lap down and would stay at the back and not influence the race. I ended up being the last of the finishers. While I was riding around at the back, watching how the field was not racing, a funny thing happened. I found that riding around at an endurance pace, only to sprint for the last 200m or so to be incredibly…well, boring. I think I came to this realization because after gaining some experience in MTB and CX races, where one is generally full gas for the entire event, I decided I’d rather race hard for the full event. Racing on the track is very similar as the shorter nature of the races causes the intensity to ratchet up into the stratosphere. I love road racing, but I no longer think that I am going to be the wait it out and sprint type of racer.
Pittsburgh to DC
First, the setup. In Spetember of 2011, my dad started cycling. He did this to become more active after a 110lb weight loss. He rode the Rails-to-trails that are near his house and are part of the Greater Allegheny Passage, which stretches from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland Maryland. In Cumberland, there is another trail that used to be the towpath for the C&O Canal (now a National Park) which travels parallel to the Potomac River, all the way to Georgetown. The total trip length was 360 miles and I told my dad that if he trained for it, I would ride it with him. He trained his ass off (literally as it turns out). So in August, I flew back to PA and we did it. We went the bikepacker route and did the trip unsupported. I rode my CX bike and he rode a MTB. It took us 7 days and 2 hours, with a moving average of ~12mph. My dad kicked ass and it was the trip of a lifetime. I WILL write about this trip more, so stay tuned.
Livermore Cyclocross Festival
In the background of my adventures of 2012 was my effort to bring Cyclocross racing back to Livermore, but after I returned from my bike tour w/my dad, things got really crazy. I’m so proud to have been the driving force behind the LCF and I certainly couldn’t have done it without the help and support of many, many people. I will write up all of the sordid details one day in my tell all book, but until then an race report will have to do. Up before the crack of dawn, no breakfast, no warmup, hard manual labor for several days leading into the event, stress overload, etc… Recipe for disaster, right? Not so much. I rolled up to the the start just as we got the 1 min to start warning. I squeezed into a 2nd row position and was contemplating either totally going for it all or to roll around and just enjoy the moment. I chose to gun it. I got the hole shot and just kept going. About 2 minutes in, one of my teammates passed me and I settled into 2nd position. I just kept chugging along with one rider a couple of seconds back, I just wanted to ride a clean race and make him really work to catch and pass me. He eventually faded, but another racer started to move up and close in on me. I was really hoping to have an easier final lap, but he was chasing hard and I had to keep the pressure on. I crossed the line with my best ever CX result, 2nd. And if it wouldn’t have been for my teammate, who by the way is an expert MTBer, and in this instance a total sandbagger (even though he had never even seen a CX race before), I would have gotten the W. Next time, I’m gonna put him in the fence, rubbin’ is racin’, right? ;P Seriously though, it was a great race and really was the icing on the cake for an incredible event. Thanks to everyone who made it happen, and those who came out to race. It was a great day.
Following my success at LCF I was hopeful to have another good result at the first BASP race. The course was bumpy and technical, but I was running in the top 10 when I burped my front tire. I tried to nurse it to the pit, but on a dirt to asphalt transition, I ate it. I ran the rest of the way to the pit, got a neutral support wheel and started to chase. I put together some nice laps and passed a bunch of people, but I only came away 21st, which is actually in the top half of the field.
I tackled my burping problems that trace back to the Sea Otter CX race by using a front wheel with a wider rim. The week leading into the Candlestick Repachage race had me feeling a bit strange. I don’t really know how to explain it, but when I start to feel that way, I know that I’m either going to race really well, or the wheels are going to completely come off and I’ll end up in a corner, crying in the fetal position. Well the race was more like the former, if only it wasn’t for yet another flat tire. It happened at the start of the second lap, where the course transitioned from asphalt to gravel. I must of hit a sharp rock or something as post race inspection revealed a sidewall puncture of my rear tire. Anyway, I was running in the top 5 only ~5s behind the leader when I heard the tell tale pssst…pssst…pssst. I thought tubless setups were supposed to prevent this crap. This time, however, I was able to nurse it to the pits without ending up on the deck. I commented to the neutral support guy that our meeting like this was becoming an annoying habit. He helped me out and I was off, chasing again.
Coming into the season, I was a little concerned that I hadn’t had a lot of practice passing people. Well, I have plenty of practice now. I still need to improve, but I’m light years ahead of where I was just a few weeks ago. By the beginning of the last lap, I caught sight of a group of racers that I was pretty sure was in my field. I took to the task of trying to catch them and was successful with ~1/2 a lap to go. I cruised by them and figured I was set with my position when I had a brain fart. After a dirt to asphalt transition, I just zoned out and completely missed a left hander and rode right into the course tape. Two of my competitors passed me while I was untangling myself, but I was hell bent on catching them and reclaiming my position.
The first guy wasn’t too hard to catch and I passed him on the entrance to the “maze.” To catch the second guy, I made up a little time around the last technical turn on the course (required a late apex to be fast) and the rest was made up by putting a big dig along the asphalt straight and white-knuckling it around the last gravel corner w/o touching the brakes. I was on his wheel when we went over the “curbs,” but wanted to wait to make my move until after the “finishing hump” as I figured one of us would crash us both if we went over that hump side by side. After we cleared the hump, I dropped the hammer w/about 50m to go, came along side of him and beat him to the line with a bike throw. As I was passing him, he was screaming “NO, NO, NO.” Pretty dramatic for 16th place, but it was fun.
To say that this year has been one of ups and downs would be an understatement. I think I’m paying back some of the Hidden Vigorish that I’ve tallied up over the years as before this year, I never had a mechanical issue that jeopardized my standing in a race before. Well that’s bike racing, and hopefully my bad luck will run out sooner rather than later…Now if I could only find some new CX tires…..