Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Robertson Road Dirt Ride

This ride really did not have a name (Mike has not christened it) but it did have 47 total miles and about 12 miles of dirt roads which were all blown clear!

The ride started out of Bethlehem (it was Christmas Eve day) and traveled north past Statham and toward Arcade. Most of the dirt roads were long (1-3 miles) and had a predicatable downhill to a creek and then back up. One of the roads (below) had a significant climb back up from a stream.

The ride was pretty uneventful and the only flat happened in the last 2-3 miles. The temperature was a nice 50 degrees or so and it was nice and sunny. We only had around 10 folks come out and a few of them were new to the club. We did see a few folks on horseback and even a two horse carriage full of revelers.

Mike was showing off his new Campy gruppo on his old steel custom racing bike. He upgraded to 9 speed and had a revoltingly pink handlebar tape, his testament to Italy I guess. Will I ever be invited over for New Year's Frutti del mar??

I rode my cross bike and the tubular clinchers that got no use during the CX season since they were for smooth surfaces. They did great on the dirt roads and offered little resistance on the road sections.

I think this was Carlos's last dirt ride since he will be going back to Peurto Rico. Of course he did not wear gloves in the 40 degree staring temperature. I will miss him on rides and his cheerful disposition.

All in all a great ride on the disappearing dirt roads of the Gwinnett-Barrow-Walton area.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Some Choice Quotes About Cyclocross Nationals

From Cyclingnews.com...

But during the 35-plus race (started 1pm on Friday), conditions changed for the worse when the barometric pressure plummeted and the wind accelerated to a sustained 40 mph with 60 mph gusts. "The fencing all blew down," began Fries, "the course tape ripped apart, the signage winged around the venue, and 10x10 tents were cartwheeling everywhere. At one point, a pop-up tent lifted out of the pits and dropped squarely over the course! The 35-plus riders simply went through it."

"After buttoning down the venue as best we could Friday night, the core staff met in an RV in what I can only say was a war council. We had a 3,200 meter course under eight inches of snow, glazed with sleet. In some places, the course tape had disappeared. Signage was all over the place, expo tents were loose on their moorings, flooded and nearly uninhabitable."

"There was eight inches of snow covering a 3,200 meter-long by three meter wide course. That's 9,600 square meters of area that needed to be cleared. We had 80 outfits of clothing for volunteers provided by Voler and Adidas but we ran out Saturday morning when the volunteer base ballooned to 140; people who didn't ask for so much as a bowl of soup."

"At one point I literally broke down and started weeping," Fries said. "My 11-year-old son was came and told me, ‘Dad, it isn't so bad,' right as the wind was blowing the course tape off course and the expo tents apart. I had two earpieces in, and in one ear I had people telling me racers needed to see the race doctor, while in the other ear the doctor was telling me she was overwhelmed with people who needed attention. We had three heated RVs to treat racers, and they were overflowing. It was like Gettysburg out there."

Richard Fries, venue anouncer

For those racing on the first day (December 9 th ) it was a true test of the “ boast” that cyclo cross racers can handle any weather and any terrain. Snow, rain and then icy snow, combined with thunder, lightning and hurricane force winds to create white-out conditions that often made it impossible to see the course markers. However all but two of the day's scheduled races took place before the organizers gave way to the blizzard and sent everyone home. Course markers, banners, tents and other temporary equipment was blown down and strewn all over the Roger Williams Park. Some of it even ended up being blasted onto the nearby large and frozen lake.

Cycling Revealed

These things happen, and being ‘cross, you better not complain about it.

Bike Magazine

Sunday, December 11, 2005

2005 Cyclocross US Nationals, Providence, R.I.

New England is often seen as THE place in the US to race CX even though it is not the oldest CX scene. What makes it great is a combination of unpredicatable weather, an expectation that you will race CX as a young cyclist, and some very dedicated folks.

Touching down in PVD I saw immediatel
y that there was some remnant snow left over from earlier in the week. The temperature was in the 20's and the enxt day would call for sunny skies but never get above 32 degrees. I flew in late Wednesday and was picked up by one of the patrons of GA CX, Lamar Mauney. The next day we waited for Shey Linder to arrive (GTC/Bikeman) and then decided to go over to the course and pre-ride. Lamar and i went over and the course was fantastic. Roger Williams park is like the Cental Park of Providence. The course included lots of small elevation changes, grass (hidden by snow), about 1/2 mile of pavement (2 sections), 1 double wooden barrier section, 2 wooden/dirt step run ups, 1 cement run up, and many tight 180 degree turns, especially through the pit/spectator area. There were many vendors, a huge grandstand, and a beer garden.

The course was muddy in many places and
even though it was cold, I felt really good during the warm up. We did about 5 laps and it gets dark very early in PVD so we packed it up and went back. We agreed that with the snow storm expected the next day, the pre-ride would not really give anyone an advantage since most of the course would be covered in snow and hidden, and the temperatures would make any muddy patches icy underneath the snow.

All day they were only expecting 3-6 inches, but we were warned that if the low pressure system joined with the storm, a nor'easter would develop and that would bring lots more snow and high winds.

We went over to the Biltmore hotel in PVD to get our numbers that night and were greeted with a star studded array of professionals-Dale Knapp, Mark McCormack, an
d Todd Wells to name a few.

I was very nervous the next day because of the field size (158 signed up). I had never lined up in a race that big before. I was also nervous because of the nice 3 inches of snow that fell overnight and the continued flakes that were falling at about 1" and hour.

We got ourselves up to the venue and met Daryl and Kim Sawyer and Todd Mills at their tent which would be the mother ship for the day. It was very cold and Lamar and I did some practice laps early and I found out how trecherous it would be by falling on a downhill section and hitting a rock with my left s
hin. Even with the cold temperatures I had a lot of swelling and bleeding.

Lamar raced at 10 and I at 11. I did not get to see his race but did see him cautiously come around the course. He related later that he did not want to take any risks and there were 3 crashes in the firsh minute of the race. He ended up riding well but finishing around 80th or so.

I rode over to the start area and was unsure how to line up. They had plackards on the road with a range of numbers (0-14, 15-28, etc.) and we were to line up on the road in lines of 14 riders. I was 8 rows back and
was hoping I could get further up once we started. The first turn was pretty sharp and icy and there had been lots of crashes there earlier.

At the gun I was able to get a very good start and weave
up through the field until the first turn where guys were stacked on top of each other. I took an outside line and passed a number of riders and was now gunning it on the course. My first lap was great. I passed a number of riders and was sure I was in the top 30. We got to the hill where I fell (near the end of the first lap) and I fell again there (one of 3 times) and hit my leg in the same place. The paves section after that was slightly uphill and it was hard to motor up the hill, but the paved sections were the places to pass people.

As I started the second lap it
was like the course had changed in 5 minutes. I fell immediately on an icy downhill section and again near the pits. Overall I think I fell 6 times the whole race. Each time I fell I would lose a few spots. After awhile I was able to settle in and ease my speed to reduce falling.

On one of these falls I got up and started riding and my back wheel was hitting the frame. I was afraid it was my tire coming unglued. I gingerly rode the next few laps on a wheel shaped like an S. It kept hitting the frame and the brake slowing me down.

With 2 laps to go I was behind CX legend Dale Knapp by about 3/4 of a lap. I was hoping to hold him off and not get lapped. On the last lap I heard "Lead rider coming!" and I pulled over to see Knapp blow by me on a flat section. I tried to limit the damage and he won about 30 seconds in front of me. They let me cross the finish line even though I had been lapped.

Knapp had lapped 2/3 of the field on the first 2 laps! So at least I survived that.

All in all, I felt really comfortable in the race and felt like I never really gave all I had because of the weather. I was happy with my ride and a
s it turns out I came in 64th which is probably about where I should have ended up.

The weather turned nasty after my race and the rest of the events had to be cancelled for the day.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

3 amigos: Dub, myself and Perry

State Championships, Monroe CX

The weather had cooled off nicely for the final 2 races of the series. I think it was around 34 when I got to Criswell Park in Monroe. I like to get to the venues early so i can ride for about an hour on the course and then warm up on the trainer.

The course was very different than last year. Gone was the top grass field that had 2 barrier sections. UCI rules eliminated multiple artificial barriers this year but that did not stop Jay from coming up with a very technical course. The start was on a narrow, long slightly downhill paved section that merged to the left on a grassy/sandy section that led to a steep grass downhill, a 180 around a tree, and then back up the other side. The hill was rideable in the big ring but I had to be in the 27 each time. After this we traversed a short grass section, more pavement between ball fields, a nice sharp 180 and back on pavement. We then had to go across a wood chip section that was part of a playground (dismount) and then over into the challenging adn controversial woods section that was really not up to UCI regs but fun anyway. Andy Johnson would have a huge advantage here on his mountain bike.

After the woods we had to dismount 2-3 times over the same ditch. I could ride each ditch but it was too risky in a crown. Again, Andy would have an advantage on his MTB. After this we meandered on grass to the final uphill paved section that would be the finish. Each lap was very long and it really gave my back a pounding.

On the line were myself, Perry, Dub and Dave. In additionto us (among others) were Brady Rogers (past state champ), Tony Scott (multiple masters state champ), and Andy Johnson (former National and state champ). Each of these guys could have been comfortable in the A category, but they were of age and could ride in masters also.

I went out hard and tried to be off the front a little through the first 180 turn where Perry and Dub crashed. I led about 40 yards for the whole first lap, jumpting the ditches. I was soon caught by Brady, Andy, Perry and Tony. We stayed together until lap 3 where in the woods, Andy accelerated and dropped us all. Tony soon jumped on the paved hill and tried to bridge. Pery, Brady and I were not able to follow. Soon we dropped Brady and were trying hard for Tony. Tony soon sat up and Andy was gone. Tony did not hang on to Perry and myself for very long and then it was just us chasing Andy.

We soon realized that Andy was not coming back and Perry tried to murder me a few times and I had my eyes popping trying to hang on to him. Towards the end of the race he and I were in rhythm and knew on the last lap that the uphill finish would decide 2nd and 3rd. After the wooden barrier section, I pulled along side of him and accelerated. We were side by side up the hill and then I was able to pull away for second.

Now, some said that it was bad form for Andy to ride this race and win the jersey. Some said he was a sandbagger. I used to get mad at the top caliber riders for doing this and many simply would never think of it. But, they are of age and are within their rights to be there. I also think that they were undertrained and at just as much risk of losing as Perry and myself. I will let the A riders criticize these guys for being there. I do not feel slighted and was happy with the race I rode and the result.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Covington CX Race--Second Best
Shey and Adam added a number of features to the course this year that made it more difficult.

  • First there was a set of 3 steps added to where a barrier section was last year. This "natural" barrier was in place before the race and did not negate the UCI rule of 1 artificial barrier section per race. It was at the end of an uphill grassy track so you got very little momentum riding into it.
  • Second, since the lake was down, they added a short (10ft) sand section that was rideable, but it was the loss of momentum through the sand and the immediate hill after that was hard.
  • Third, they added a number of new twist and turns on the grass.
This was a "power" course, meaning lots of grass and no place to recover.

I was wondering who would be primed after Hendersonville and who would be tired, and how my break week would affect me.

At the start there were 5 of us together until the stair section and then it was Perry, Dave W., Dub and myself. Theron had a bit of trouble with his cleat after the stair or else he would have been there too. As we got to the sand some decided to run and other to ride the sand. I rode and soon it was Perry and I with about 10 seconds gap. This turned into 30 seconds by lap 2, meanwhile my eyees were popping trying to stay on Perry's wheel. I was able to do Ok until we got to the hill section which has always given me fits. Last year this was where Tony Scott attacked and won the race. This year Perry accelerated each lap here and by lap 3 he dropped me. He was simply too strong for me to hold on to. I guess he figured that it made no sense for me to hang around since I have beaten him in sprints before, so his accelerations were to get rid of me.

He was coming back to me and only had about 8 seconds lead when I slipped on a root and had to put my foot down. This cost me time and I never recovered. I was able to hold on to the gap and take second.

Each time through the field leading up to the stairs I hit the same damn hole. By the third time I had grass poking out of my rim where the tires *should* be glued. My options were to pit and lose time or throw caution to the wind and keep riding. I never pitted but each time I hit that hole the tire would slide and I would wait to go down. I will have to reglue the tire this week.

Out of the usual suspects that have been battling all season, I give Perry the edge next week for the State jersey. I feel like I could contest this if I have a repeat of my success there last year. That being said, if the unusual suspects make an appearance, it should be a slugfest for awhile at least.

I would love to have the GA State jersey but everything has to go right for me on Saturday in order to get it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Marietta CX Race--A Nice Comeback Win

The Marietta course is a very familiar one to those that practice there every Wednesday. It has a lot of grass, one big rideable climb, and a nice steep dirt run up. I thought that the run up would decide the race, and it did end up being a huge factor.

A new wrinkle was a very difficult ditch that at first I thhought was not rideable until I saw others doing and it. I had to scoot over there 10 minutes before the race and try it at least once so I did not face plant. It was hard to do at speed but I learned quickly.

This was a great race because finally we had 5 guys going at it mister. Instead of Perry riding away, we now had to use some tactics and that is when racing is fun. Perry, Dub, Dave W., Brad, and myself made the break and soon were alone for the rest of the race. Dub lost some ground toward the middle and never made contact again. But, he led out the race really fast and put us all in difficulty. There was a hammering on the paved section to be at the ditch first and it was there that Perry and others had to run it. Ahh, that could be handy later.

The second acceleration was to be first to the run up. We were all together for the first 3-4 laps but there was still a jockeying each lap to be first. Dave W. had the great idea of getting up there first, hopping the log that came right after the run up and then powering away from the group. We were able to catch up with him each lap but on the last lap I knew i had to be right with him there.

The race began on pavement and it was fast. Dub started out very fast and I was just hanging on for the forst 3 laps and Perry on the front was accelerating through each grassy section. We were conservative on the hill early on. On the 3rd lap I lost my chain on the run up. I lost 20 seconds and had to get back to the group if I had any chance. I gave it everything for about 5 minutes and was surprised to see my heart rate close to 95% for the interval. I was able to catch the group of 3 and with a few laps left we started some tactics.

My chances were good in a sprint if I could hang on. The first few laps back in the group were hard and I was gapped slightly a few times. on the last lap I was gaining confidence because I thought I might be the best sprinter. As we got to the uphill pave section there was an acceleration by Dave W. to be first to the run up. Perry followed and I was able to squeak by Brad to ne next. On the run up I passed Perry and was second to Dave and we both accelerated after the log and rode away. We had about 15 seconds down the pathe to the large grassy field and the finish. Dave really gunned it and I followd him onto the field. perry was slowly making his way back and I went with about 15 seconds to go and took the sprint easily.
Sprinting past Dave for the win!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Augusta CX Race--Exerting Less Than Atmospheric Pressure

I was not going to go to Augusta because of the distance and it is still debatable whether Jill said "Go if you want to.", or whether that is what I heard. I hate travelling and staying in hotels by myself ever since I was a consultant. I never know what to do with myself and I feel very uncomfortable. Secondly, I am not the biggest fan of Augusta. I have had some pretty bad working days there and this clouds my impression fo what is probably a very nice place.

Ross created a very nice course at Augusta State College and it should have been one I would do well on-pretty flat, lots of short groomed grass and one nice steep climb. I hate excuses so I basically had nothing at all in my legs and it could have been just as much mental as physical.

Reasons (not excuses):

1. I locked my damn keys in the car. I was excited to start my warm up laps and I took two, came back and my hatch was down and the keys inside. Idiot!
2. I had the wrong wheels on my bike for the course. there was no way up that hill on my slick tires.
3. I had a long sleeved jersey and it had warmed up tremendously.
4. I started out way too fast for some reason trying to be first after the start. Dumb.

Midway through the race after losing the leader's wheel and being passed by the 2nd and 3rd placed riders, I basically gave up mentally. I did not want to be there and now the trip was suddenly not as meaningful. This was really stupid thinking but someimtes you know that it is stupid but you keep doing it anyway. One by one riders passed me by and I just noodled along. Eventually I salvaged 10th place but I left the evnue pretty quickly.

Theresa Thom was intrumental in getting my car open after calling AAA for me. Campus security was not able to open it, but they did try. I did set a land speed record getting home though. I think the Falcons even lost that day (I'm a fan).

No offense Ross, but I severely dislike Augusta and do not wish to go back anytime soon.

Indian Shoals CX Race--First Win of the Year

This was a new venue for 2005 and it was great. I never would have thought that would be distracted by 2 other bike race/events in Butts County of all places on my way to the race. The race venue was another lakeside experience (4 venues this year are), and the big news was the dreaded uphill dam levee climb. I looked at this climb in Google earth and on my Topo mapping program, but I could not get a very good idea of the steepness until I got there.

However, in the end it was the dam that was the decisive launch pad for the win.

We started on grass instead of pavement and this is pretty rare. The start seemed slower than normal except for Todd Mills who decided to launch himself into oblivion at the start. Perry likes to ride in front and this was evident as he took the lead immediately. I decided that the only way to insure a good placing was to hang on to him for as long as possible. I do not like to wheel suck but as i'll explain, he gave me no choice.

The course had a single ridge that we would climb 3 times in different places. All of the climbs were steep, small ring climbs, but the entrance to each climb came after a quick turn and most had loose soil or gravel so you had to be careful not to make a mistake. Most of the race i kept telling my self that I would surely get dropped on the next climb. Perry weighs like 20 pounds and Ii am overweight and stocky! However, the short steep climbs are usually nice to me (except for the Muur de Grammont!) and I was able to hang with him. Funny, but each time we came off of the dam and went past the finish I had a hard time keeping Perry's wheel and it was flat there. Go figure.

I tried to exchange laps with him since we were all alone, but he insisted on being in front. Fine. It was to my advantage to have him there if I could hang on until the last lap. I assumed I was the better sprinter. Each time up the dam we would go slow and at the top we would be side by side and I would try to accelerate on the levee top and get a gap. Perry closed these with no problem. Since the finish came after a technical grassy downhill section, I wanted to be off the levee first.

On the last lap he tried a few times to ride me off of his wheel and my eyes were popping trying to stay with him. I was trying not to make any mistakes (since they have cost me 2 wins in the past) and Perry was not helping by forcing me to make oxygen deprived decisions.

Going up the dam the last time we were side by side just plodding, tired and slow. Near the top I figured now was the time to run if I could and I was first to the top by a step or two. I had already prepared by putting my bike in the big ring (46T) and went for the end of the levee hard. I was clear of him by a few seconds and I was able to navigate the technical downhill without incident. Making the 180 back to the finish, it was full sprint and the win.

I would have never picked this course for a win and in fact my warm up sucked and I thought I would be well down in the standings by the end.

It was nice calling home and letting Jill know that I had won and it made the trip somewhat worth being away from Charlotte for a few hours.

Macon CX Race

The Macon course is one of my favorites and in my opinion would be the best candidate for a UCI race. When I think of Macon I think of flat, but the course has a nice steep hill, a result of when they built the lake.

The course starts out on pavement long and straight until you reach the end and veer off into the grass right into a slightly downhill barrier dismount. I was not a fan of this dismount because I thought it invited injury, but the elite guys loved it because they could catch major air over the boards. This section melded into a long(!) gravel pave section which was mainly downhill and had a nice 180 turn that caused many crashes. The GTC pave rides made this child's play. once around this corner you went uphill on the gravel to a field with short grass. This part of the course was serpentine and really slowed you down. Emerging from this was another 180 on grass downhill to the trickiest part of the course: the sandy beach.

I knew that to win the race you would have to be clear of the sand in the first 2-3 people. The sand was not rideable for me and to dismount before risked certain death since it was downhill and abrupt. I made it through each lap and the remount out of the sand had to be planned for by having your bike set up in the small ring so you could ride out. This was the key.

After this section was another twisty grass section and then the very cool steep grassy run/ride up. This was about 10-12% grade but I was able to ride it each lap. Since everyone would have a tough time here, I did not think it would be too decisive. The finish was after this hill on pavement.

The Race

We started out fast to get to the barriers. I was about 5th position until we hit the gravel road. I knew by now that Perry liked to ride alone and would try to make a gap stick. He and I were able to get a gap on the others and I was able to ride with him for 3 laps until he rode me off of his wheel. I was never able to bridge the gap but he did flat and lost time in front of me. In the end he only beat me by about 15 seconds. I was surprised that no one else made the break with us. I was able to put time into the chase and again finished second. I felt stronger as the race progressed which I saw as a good sign. I felt pretty worked over at the end and the course (and Perry) made it a lot harder than in years past.

The way to put time into people in CX is to figure out where they will be recovering and ride hard through those sections. In road racing, you can sit in the group and rest. In CX this is normally impossible, especially if you are chasing. So you have to make it a race of inches and unlost time. Never rest-always push!

Fort Yargo CX Race

Our club (GTC) hosted the first cyclocross race of the Georgia Cyclocross Series. It was the first time the venue was going to be used, and the first race hosted by the club. The course was very well planned and included all of the requirements for a good course: pavement, dirt, sand and barriers.

The course started on pavement that started off with a slight uphill grade and then a sharp left led you downhill. The paved section gace way to a wide dirt path that was very bumpy and rattled you after being on the smooth pavement. This part of the course was made through a park campground and was not smooth but did include some grass. At the end of this section you turned 90 degrees left onto pavement and then made a 180 degree right after about 200 yards. This was tricky because the turn was off camber and loose. This section twisted in an "s" fashion and eventually led to another paved section (up the previous downhill) and then a right into a wooded area, another right around a mini golf course, apst the pits and the dismount through the sand playground, then a gravel road to another 90 degree loose turn, the double barrier dismount and then back to the starting area.

It was a long course and the hill was climbed 6 or 8 times in my race. Being the first race, you never know who will show up and how well they are prepared. Perry who was not a front runner last year, had trained through mountain biking to get ready for CX. He showed that it payed off by gaining 20 seconds and holding off everyone to the finish.

I was surprised on how well I felt since my training was minimal all summer and I had just finished a 3 week intense period of intervals and speed work. I was able to go after Perry after the gap was made, but could never catch him, instead riding in no man's land between him and the chase group. I ended up second, but I lost time every lap to a charging chase group and the long uphill section.

I was happy with second place and I was awarded a superb blown glass trophy! More so, I was surprised to have ridden so well and had a benchmark to work with. My club also did well by winning the masters 45+.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Training Methods for CX 2005

This year I had very little time to train for CX. Here are the adjustments I made:

1. Having a good base of fitness for the past few years, I would do as much easy base work as I could over the summer. Normally this would be long riding, but this year I could not take the time to drive out to good roads so I had to swim instead. I swam 2-3 days a week at a low HR and this helped with base and also burned a lot of fat (which I did not expect).

2. I would not run at all. I made this decision because I have had calf injuries the past 3 years and they have always occurred from running during the summer. This was a risk, but I just could not work running in with such low training time.

3. I could not do any intense group rides (normally Thursday) so I substituted a spinning class instead. I usually did my own thing in this class when the others were doing long climbs and such, but I was able to get some intensity. Thus was only 1 day for 4 weeks and on other days I did other intense intervals listed below.

4. Basically, I went into CX this year with no expectations-different from years past. I had no idea how I would do, but I wanted to be injury free and have fun.

As the summer progressed, every workout was dedicated to some concrete skill or purpose. Mondays and Friday's I usually swam, and I chose 2-3 days to ride under various circumstances.

My main concerns were building up my sprint efforts (because CX has many changes of pace) and building up my time trial efforts (since I had not been up there since May). I had to do this slowly so I started out with 2x15sec sprints and 5 minutes of Middle (TT pace) worked into my ride twice a week. The goal was to build up to 12 sprints and 45 minutes twice a week. The rest of the rides were focused on aerobic efforts and recovery.

Later in the summer (August) I began to do 1 CX practice a week. This was nauseating at first and the hard efforts left me feeling pretty weak.

In September I started my intense phase. This meant VO2 max efforts on Tuesdays where I did a countdown interval from 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, and 30 seconds of all out misery-fast as I could. Puking was optional. I also did 5-10 sprint efforts for 15 seconds. Wednesday continued the Middle efforts either CX or on the road, and Friday I did the spinning class. Sunday mimicked Wednesday. I did this for 4 weeks.

One of the main problems I had in years past was peaking too early during the season. I did not think this would happen because I was not in as good aerobic shape as I was then. I also would have at least 1 week off because I was not going to the UCI race in NC.

Once racing started, I would limit my riding to Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday (easy), Saturday (opening up for Sunday) and the race on Sunday. Opening up consisted of 30 minutes tempo, 5 minutes at TT pace and 2 VO2 max efforts.

Only time would tell...