The time has come. The bikes and racing-mind have been put up on the shelf. Another season in the books, 12 straight weeks of racing completed. I have no complaints with my results and new I gave it everything I had with what I was able to do this seaosn in tyerms of training, focus and stress reduction. I wasn't able to put my hands up in victory as I'd tried to focus on, but I can not describe the bliss we had as a racing crew beating the snot out of each other all season.
When the first race of the year completed in September, my first words to my compatriots were: "Holy shit, it's faster this year." And everyone was in agreement. It was subtle, yet still noticeable...5, maybe 10% faster. Everyone just drilling it and riding hard. Dudes had come back fitter, smoother and with much better experience in racing and equipment. The late comers to the sport have 'caught up' and it is clear that it is LIFE for so many now. It is the focused-upon season longed for from the moment the bikes are hung up on their respective hooks in garages all around the country...to the moment they get to be pulled down, dusted off, tires inflated in the summer (and that is as early as JUNE for some people it seems now!). And if you're reading this site...you're already aware of your obsessions.
Each year I use cyclo-cross and my love for it as an anchor that I know will pull my soul through the year. When I would do the insane amounts of travel I did (and will do again) for work, my lap top case was filled with 'cross DVD's that I would study and keep me stoked. It's hard to keep discipline throughout the year but each year for more than a decade I've stayed 'on course'...with my wife humoring me all these years with my passions.
I am going to do a full on year in review before year's end, but in this post, I wanted to jot down some things that worked for me this season...and some that didn't. No real order here, just thoughts and recollections...
- "It's the Indian not the Arrow" Timmy would tell me and that is true, but switching to carbon fiber this year through my switch to Ridley frames was UNBELIEVABLE. Way more compliant on my body and I could feel the terrain less in the form of bone jarring...and more how the bike ebbed and flowed. Carbon just...feels better in my opinion.
- Lower pressure: Each year I get more and more brave with my tubulars and it feels like I found a sweet spot in terms of tire pressures for various conditions. The real secret is not riding like a ton of bricks. Run them low and finesse the bike through corners with less brake and more English and you can feel the rubber 'stick'. Slower is truly faster when it comes down to it. What pressures did I run? Secret. Ha! Typically 32f and 34r but lower on truly shitty days. States as an example was 29f and 32r.
- Top 20+ call ups. I think our regional racing governing body got it right this year with call up procedures and literally would call the top 20 or more into the start grid. This seemed to lessen the amount of nervousness and start line 'heroics' that cause crashes. People generally got off super safe when they knew their position and would work from within the race to gain positions (and points) then stupidity off the line.
- More time between breakfast and the starting gun: Dubba taught me this last year but eating earlier and starting the race a little bit 'hungry' was perfect. You will never bonk in a cross race yet if you have too much food in your gullet, you're doing yourself a disservice.
- Dual front rings. This entire season I can count on ONE HAND when I threw a chain...and it was to the outside after a crash. Also only once did mud give me issues on shifting from the 39 to the 46...and there were PLENTY of opportunities mother nature threw at us this season to prove I'd made a bad choice in moving to dual rings! The benefits of having a 39 to 'spin fast' and a 46 to 'go hard' was absolutely what the doctor ordered. Married to 12x25's (Dura Ace) or 11x26 (SRAM) I always had a gear that I was comfortable in. It was a great call.
- Crappy warm ups: Honestly, when the weather changes and gets colder, I need a better warp up ritual. I have way too much muscle mass and it takes my carcass a LONG time to turn over. If I can get to the course early enough, I need more trainer time to open up. The course recco is important but once or 2x around and I am good. The rest is learned in the race...and when the legs are opened, all the easier to stay competitive.
- Shoe/cleat/pedal issues: I'll admit that I had quite a bit of woes with respect to contact between my Time ATAC's and my 2010 Sidi Dragon soles. I will have to dial this in this spring as I lost precious time and focus trying to re-engage at critical moments.
- MORE REST: The smart guys have this dialed. Guys like me...well I'll race anything and train cause I love it! Now, I need to trust the years of racing I have in my legs and train smarter and rest harder. The volume is still too much at the wrong time for me and I am working on adjusting that year over year.
- Energy drinks with Taurine: Honestly, I gave it a college try this season but it wreaks havoc on my body that I need nothing but a good nights sleep and to line up to a race stress free to get my game on. 'Bumping up' makes me twitchy and unfortunately causes precarious attacks of 'Chamois Rorschach' in my shorts. Way too much risk to DNF due to crapping myself.
- Not having Rhinos: Honestly, I longed for these on so many occasions this season. The Dugast Typhoons are phenomenal;, but in the absolute mess, with anything off camber in the mud, you need them as they are absolutely decisive. Lighter riders can get away with Typohoons on those kinds of conditions but riders with any weight need that level of bite into the terra firma.
Unbelievable. The season is done...and I just ordered a new set of Rhinos and carbon hoops to glue 'em too. All my rubber is downstairs in the basement in a constant temperature and all the bikes are washed and hanging. Time for rest.
8 Months until the 2010 season. HUP HUP!