Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dark Knight Cross

One of many entertaining obstacles 

Cyclocross racing at night, what could possibly go wrong?

What went wrong:

  • Barely any warmup, and only a partial pre-ride of the course prior to starting.
  • Near disaster in the first 100m as racers converge onto a narrow paved pathway - my trepidation cost me a major drop in position.
  • Clipping in - lost time on each obstacle by not clipping into my pedals quickly after remounting. Often struggling with the corner/climb immediately proceeding such remounting.
  • More crashes. On the logs, after the jump. More bruising and bleeding, sore bones in the morning.
  • Sand pit - inability to test it out during warmup, I nearly flew over my handlebars the first time entering the sand unexpectedly. Decided to mostly run through them, which is exhausting.
  • Getting my ass handed to me by the juventus kids dressed up as banana, pig, and one in a bathrobe.
  • Almost got lapped!

What went right:

  • Very fun atmosphere, people in costumes, handing out cowbells. Brought Kieran and he had a blast. Definitely one for the spectators.
  • Great course to experience all types of obstacles and technical challenges. By the end of the race I was feeling a lot more comfortable.
  • Weather held up perfectly, despite forecast of rain.
  • Didn't get lapped - barely! First time in any race where it was a real possibility.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Euro Cross

Euro Cross #1

Oh damn, I'd forgotten how painful cyclocross racing can be!
Actually, upon further reflection, I'm not sure I had it this bad last year. As I learned previously, these races are won or lost by the first 100 meters, and last year's settle-in-the-middle-of-the-pack strategy wasn't going to fly this time.
Because this was my first cross race of the year, I did set out with a simple goal of getting myself in a good position at the start, then hang on, do my best on the technical parts.

After about 3.5 warmup laps, I felt comfortable with the parcours, although even at recon pace, I was huffing and puffing!
The long course featured several long straights into the wind, multiple repeats up the steep side of a hill, one crazy steep embankment, and what can be described as a mudpit with 2 barriers! Oh and of course traditional twisty little wooden sticks strewn throughout the field.

Lined up for the start in the 2nd row, about 7 or 8 wide. I was pretty happy with that spot, and the guys in front of me had no clipping issues so we were off!
Immediately the HR maxed out, and it didn't come down until about 10 minutes after I got home and showered... 70 guys dispersed along the 2.5 km circuit immediately, such that you had a difficult time figuring out what position you were in.
I had some specific problems in this race which didn't help. On the steep pitches, my rear wheel would spin out a lot. I tried standing, leaning back, then the front wheel would come off.
I have a 28mm on the back, but a 35 on the front because I discovered 2 winters ago my bike just doesn't have the clearance. Additionally, it looks like my tread is starting to wear on the back. I couldn't ride up the one really steep wall, and on the section of repeats I could feel my power being thrown away with tire slippage, and sure enough that's where guys would catch back to me, or get away from me.
Tomorrow I might try lowering my tire pressure even more on the back. Today I ran with 50 psi for both.

Other than the tread/slipping issues, I was pretty happy with my performance. I caught guys, passed guys, and dropped guys that had caught me. I did have some issues clipping in, and that created gaps for me to overcome. I realized there was a lead group formed, with Michael Persson, Matt Joss, Andrew Paul, Andrew Rockwell, to name a few. I was in a small chase group, not too far back. It's a little demoralizing when you can't see anyone directly in front of you though, so you end up feeling like you're only racing against the guys immediately surrounding you.
The entire race was full of suffering, but on the final lap, I lost a bit of wind. I was riding with 2 other guys (Cody G - Niklas and a guy from Lamprey Systems), and both scampered up that steep wall faster than me. I was chasing with 1/3 lap to go, but never could get quite enough recovery in to launch an attack. Those 2 sprinted, and I dragged myself across the line for 11th.

HUGE congrats to Mike P for an amazing win. He apparently had a few things go wrong for him, but was able to come right back in and get the big W. That lil' dude is a monster!

Some more great pics of the race are here.

Euro Cross #2

Awoke the next day for more torture. The course had changed a little, but more importantly, it was in reverse now.
After 20 mins on the trainer, I did a lap and a half pre-ride with Mike P. The course seemed easier, as well the 10 PSI less in the wheels meant there was no hill for which I needed to dismount.
Lined up right at the very front, behind only the featured riders called up to the front.
The Chase!
Out of the gate fast, but held on. Probably 10th place going into the first set of single track.

Past guys throughout the first two laps, and found myself in a chase group of 5, following the 3 leaders (incl. Persson again).
In my group were Andrew Paul, teammate Matt Joss, and a few others I didn't know.

Another lap later and we were 3 chasing 3.After sitting 3rd wheel for about a lap, I caught my wind and went up and took a big pull along a straight section. We had a sizeable gap behind us and I didn't want it to close. Also, Mike's group wasn't far ahead.

After my pull there is a steep climb(see pic below), and I fell back a bit on the other 2. When we reached the top I made some aggressive moves to latch back on, but on one gnarly turn my back wheel slid out from under me, and down I went. Down the hill... damn.
Picked myself up, put my chain back on, straightened my brake hoods, shifted out of my big ring, and returned to the race. Having been passed by Matt J and other remnants of the former chase group, I caught on with Lamprey guy from yesterday, Mike Macklem. Something was still not right with the bike, nor the knee.
Within minutes, I went down again! Same knee/hip. At this point, I dropped from 5th to about 15th, and even pedalling was difficult. Bleeding from three places, that I could see, and hip was sore.
Women fighting with a steep climb
Passed by a few more guys, then pulled the chute. DNF... heartbreaker.
Limped back just in time to watch the abominable Mike Persson win back to back races!

Some positives I gained from this race is that given the right course, and proper inflation of tyres, my fitness level is right up there with the best of them.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August, 2012

Typically, this is the month with most of the road bike races. For me, it was Tour De Bowness, the mid-week time trial, and Jason Lapierre Memorial weekend. (I opted out of the Provincial Time Trial because I didn't feel like yet another trip up to Edmonton.)

The end of the season proved to be successful for me again. I've gotten the vast majority of my upgrade points in the final races; this year I managed 32 pts in the last 2 days alone, bumping me out of cat 4.

Next up is cyclocross season. I'm starting to put in some solid base building mileage again, as well as taking the knobby-tired cross bike out for some technical rides. Assuming my knee is not seriously wrecked (tweaked something badly in the final kilometers of a 180km ride yesterday,) I should be ready for a good season of cross.

Stats for August
  • Run: 4 runs, 35 kms, 3 hours
  • Bike: 33 rides (3 cyclocross rides), 1,101 kms, 39:14 hours, 6,796m elevation gain