Entries in 2009 Cross Racing (49)
What kind of crosser are you? Seriously. Think about it for a moment. Are you the type who thrives on the early season warmth? Tackling fast courses and using some of your road or mountain season form to go and wreak havoc? Or maybe you are the new generation crosser who is coming into the sport, learning your place in the pack, dialing in your race day rituals, equipment and comfort level on various courses. Or maybe, just maybe, you are the fanatic. Watching weather.com hourly…yet days in advance of the event…to observe the weather patterns and praying for the confluence of cloud, temp and precip to allow the heavens open up and drain what it will on the course. Ultimately leveling the playing field in favor of those with technical skills versus those that are genetically gifted yet ill-prepared to handle their bikes in the bad.
Hi. I’m Greg. I’m a fanatic.
I don’t know what it is but if the conditions foul, I relish. I’m not intending to sound all egotistical, but I sincerely feel better on challenging courses when weather adds its secret sauce: My tires feel great. My power seems even and consistent. It all just seems to work for me. I like zee sheet and zee piss-rain and zee mud.
Well we got the sheet and the mud but replace the piss-rain with snow. Epic conditions greeted the crossers…and DROVES of us…to Boulder Racing’s final in its series. We were all back once again at Xilinx, home to the last mud fest! I had a hold on 3rd place in the series and frankly wanted to reap some rewards for being “Mr. Consistent” this season. And that consistency would play its self out yet again Sunday. Ha! Or maybe I should say arrgh!
I’ll give the blow by blow for the Men’s 35 A event…and I’ll use some AWESOME photography from David Kutcipal of 303Cycling.com , the lens of Linard Cimermanis and video from Dale Riley’s Crossin’ Colorado blog. Thanks you guys!!
The 35A’s have the ‘pleasure’ this season of lining up super early. Don't know why this is as for years we raced at 11:30-ish. Now this season we’re leaving at 0-dark:30 to make our 9:45 race time on most weekends. So, with these early start times, the course conditions radically change from AM to PM when the weather is foul. We faced ice, fresh powder and mud…not the pure mud the later races would face. Technical nonetheless.
The crew lined up after call ups and the ACA official sent us on our way. My plan today was to take it easy, save matches and burn slowly into the race. That means not blowing wads on the hole shot like I am just soooooo awesome at.
True to my plan I burn into the start chute up the pavement climb evenly and conservatively. I settle in behind Hogan who I am comfortable with and know how smooth he is to stay out of trouble. Up this 1/4 mile pavement drag, there was tons of melting ice and snow creating a pretty scary situation. Limited visibility due to spray and the fact that a bunch of dudes whom I don’t know and are not familiar with their racing styles were taking chances to get into position before we all converged into this narrow chute into the course proper were sketching me out. So, I had to make a move to stay safe. I jammed it on the outside and railed into the single track first …
Safely in the woods and clear of any disasters I was able to set my own pace. Set my own tempo. Set my own lines. And I felt absolutely great. I carved out the players early on. Ross, Robson and I meandered the course and railed as a three person train and took no chances. Essentially allowing ourselves to learn the course and the lines while pushing a good pace evenly.
By lap 2 and 3 our group got a bit larger. Dennis, Ward, Brian an Mr. Hogan bridged so we had a group driving a great pace. The course was starting to flow and all of us were literally smiling. It was less race, more like a rad group ride with great friends pushing hard but having fun. Honestly, none of us felt like we were racing but our lap times were telling another story!
By the lap 3, Ross had punched to create a gap that no one was bringing back. His skills and his Niner 29’er (Cheater, Ross! HA! Kidding…) helped hgim create a gap that could be maintained by teh type of rider he is: Smooth consistent and technical. By this point I am still grooving until the unthinkable! I throw a chain over the outside ring on the back side of the course. As is customary these days, I lose my obligatory ‘5’ spots. The racing is simply that tight and you can NOT make a single mistake. Unless you have the motor to overcome other huge motors, you simply have to stay smooth and problem free. Bummer but I had to get off and re-assemble the mess.
Dubba was manning the pits for me (and I would for he and Pete later in the day) and I dumped of that bike, clogged with ice and muck that caused the derailieur drama. Before the start, Dubba and I could not source De-Icer yet while racing, he was able to get it and load my back up bike with the goodness. It proved effective to keep the drive train clear.
So with the train of dudes now clear of me given my mis-hap and my bike change (as quick as it was), I had my work to do. I drilled it to bridge to my teamie Brian who was gapped by the chasing group going after Ross. B and I would try to push to the next group. The unfortunate part was that we were running out of laps!We wren't going to get on.
Bri and I dove in and out of the single track, in and out of the snow and mud. It was super fast and fun! By the closing of the bell lap, he and I popped out on the pavement together towards the finish and he had a 10 meter gap. Even as team mates, we have to sprint for it! You all know what I’m sayin’! I dropped it into the 46 x 12 and bridged, threw, and B had the distance by a tire to take 7th. Me 8th….again! Ha! Seems to be my number this year.
Good news is that I raced consistently enough over the course of the 4 race series to take 3rd overall…de laatste podium plaats. $100 bucks and socks! Giddy up! So all is not lost, sports fans.
So all-in-all what a great day of racing. Fanatical racers out in the sheet and piss-muck with smiles all over the place. And on the horizon, the state championships are looming. Damn! I think I need to start training. Hup?
8th. Can’t seem to break the curse of the 8 ball. By most standards, top 10 is an achievement in itself…and the crew we have here in Colorado is about as fast as it gets. And yet even while I am in the mix, I am the master of self-inflicted misery. It’s awesome. I’ll walk you through all that nonsense in a minute…
This weekend brought some great racing to the Front Range. The Rocky Mounts School Yard Cross went off Saturday and lots of smiles were had…or so I hear as I took a well needed rest day with the family and forgot all about ‘cross for a day. Check out some of the pics of the course and Boups’ man-made mud drama here.
Sunday I was back on it. I took the drive out to what felt like Kansas to the up and coming town of Brighton, CO for Alpha Cross. It’s about an hour’s drive from Boulder but when I got there the scene was pumping. LG on announcing duties, jumpy castle for the kids, food, beer…a good ‘ol cross.
The course was literally carved out of the prairie, the Alpha Cross crew having clearly labored to make a course that was fun and technical, using every part of the open space they had at their disposal to weave the course. A lot of the course was fire road that had been completely swamped out by mud from the precip we’d had over the last few weeks, driven over by trucks, then dried. So it was a bump fest. Thank goodness there was no new precip as the course would not have been rideable. It’s different soil than at Xilinx from our mud fest last weekend with clay earth that would have made the course impassable. It featured a huge Nor Cal style run up…one I haven’t seen since racing at Watsonville ages ago.
I lined up with my hombres. Phenecie, Cariveau, Robson, McFarling, Hludzinski and The WB back from a surf trip (read: rested). Clay was doing single speeds but all the usual suspects were there. The start was a long drag on a dodgy dirt road that apex right over loose gravel. I wanted to be out of the melee and drilled it from the TWEEET. This would be the beginning of my classic 8 Ball disease….
By the first lap I had put in a huge gap and went psychotic. I burned a half pack of matches on a stupid 1-2 lap early assault that I thought could initially push and hold on a technical course that suited my style of riding.
The course meandered through countless 180s…essentially a 25m sprint, flowing into corners sans brakes, then power out in a sprint for another 25 meters back up the other side. Once I had cleared them of any melees and got a split of us rolling into lap 2 via my retarded assault on myself, Cariveau and Phenecie, were free to fly which they did. I was bridged to by my fresher (smarter) companions then discharged repeatedly over the rest of the race following the 3rd through 7th guys at exactly the same distance for the rest of the race. I would fly up the run up and bring the guys back, then gapped again on certain sections. Yo-yo-ing with a great group mere meters ahead but so loaded I was not able to put in the bridging assault to get ‘em back. Classic.
So these tactics are indeed stupid. It’s all intertwined in this awesome level of impatience I have…and the fact that even after so long in this game, I have so much to learn. I study all of us in the top 10 in the 35 A’s and it’s all fairly well balanced…but guys like Jon C have this little extra something…a cocktail of skill, fitness and smarts that kind of boils down to this:
A last lap face like this:
Will always win over faces that look like this on the bell…
Sorry for nailing you guys above! Ha! I'll throw myself under the bus with the prime example being my own…
God, I love this sport. Lessons learned with every every season, let alone every race. Here’s to those who repeat the definition of insanity every weekend and apply Quixotic principals every lap. I’ll be sure to be out there next weekend applying changes from the lessons I’ve learned.
But alas, all was not lost on my early race assault! I won the beer prime and took me homwe a six'er of London Pride. Giddy up!
(Photo by Brian Graves)
(Thanks to Dan Rieber for his great photographic eye and for being out there at the races! Scope out and buy some of his fantastic pics here!)
I hear myself tell my legs on any given weekend "I hope you perform". But as we know, hope is not a strategy. It's a layer somewhere beneath luck, fitness, passion and ultimately skill that can help contribute to a great performance. But on its own, it's useless.
These day's I am finding my place in the crew. Finding my legs...and my head...as I continue 'the balance'. Everyone...and I mean virtually everyone!...is at this new level. Cross is a passion for all those who line up and their strategies are less 'hope', more 'drill it'. It's inspiring.
The place I see myself now and the place I need and want to be are not very far from one another. It's like looking across a small stream....one that you know you can leap across if you nail the jump just right. But you need to trust your legs and your spring to get across. This is precisely the situation I am in. That extra .0001% of effort to take a risk, bridge to where I need to be in the race and settle in.
Everyone is suffering. That needs to be remembered. It's about your ability to block out all doubt for the nanosecond it takes to put in an effort...one that with hanging doubt will never allow you to cross the chasm for fear of too many matches burned.
I can do it.
Training these days is less training and mostly tuning. Each race is its own stepping stone. The big blocks of the summer...early morning pre-work sufferfests to condition the body from long single speed rides to hour-long wattage-fests...was prescribed well. But now, the intensity of work and the need for my family to have a daddy and a husband far outweigh the selfish requirements that many are still putting themselves through to be at the razor sharp edge of the race.
Racing-->rest-->a Wednesday eye-bleed session-->rest-->racing. Eat well. Don't be afraid to have a beer. Sleep even harder. Secret sauces that help me carry on in the fall while my mind still carries me to victories, instigating my passion for the sport and the place I'd like to find myself. Never hoping I am there, always planning to be there.
Brian has outdone himself. What a fantastic keepsake for our tribe of 35 Open racers out here in Colorado. He filmed this and spliced together all the sound to punctuate the action with the racer's commentary. Listen close and you'll see what I mean.
I can't wait for my boys to see this when they're older.
Shawn is a local hard man and has shaken up the 35 Opens after a pretty long hiatus from the scene. The man's got that prototypical Colorado mitochondria that mystifies. Moreover, the man is an inspiration to me on the photography front, having lusted his images in Mountain Flyer Magazine for quite some time now. He wanted me to share some of his imagery from this past weekend and so, I am! Click here to see he essay on the Boulder Cup weekend.
Week in and week out we slay each other....like the gentlemen we are. It's very close and always tight like warfare in trenches in the First World War.
And yet we love it. Purely, sadistically and with as much affinity for our own families, our family of elite masters this 2009 season is tight. Yet we're a familiy who attempt to murder each other on the course, pounding each other into submission looking for any signs of weakness to jump all over. But as soon as that finish line is crossed we share war stories, beers and encourage each other on with true sincerity as we're all in disbelief at the efforts we've just gone through to put a place in the guy who put a place on you last weekend.
I live for this every weekend as a salvation. To try and slay my physical and mental dragons and completely drain myself to purge the toxins alongside a bunch of fast guys who are doing likewise and generally 'get it.' We need not even say much about it either as we're all pretty much going through the same thing in this life, balancing the three part teeter totter. And that is comfortaing to know about this band of brothers...as I contemplate my assault on their trenches once more next weekend! Ha!
And so it was this weekend. Full on trench warfare with muddy battlefields to boot. The Boulder Cyclocross Racing weekend was EPIC! Here's the score from the trenches of the 35 elite races.
Blue Sky Halloween Cross
Passion. This band of blue and maroon from Blue Sky Velo eat sleep and live cross. They built an absolutey special course and got out there in the snow and filth to lay tape and dial every meter in of the long Belgian-style parcours. The Front Range got dumped on earlier in the week to the tune of 14 inches. And in classic Colorado fashion, we went from 20 degrees to 70 in the span of 4 days. Mud was the forecast as would be pain.
I had a feeling on Wednesday that this was going to shape up as it did so I rallied the team to think power washer. Team mate Mr. Sharkey went out and rented a beast of one and as you'll see made all the difference. I brought my Ridley's and my RoShamBo singlespeed to warm up on and immediately I knew we were in for some fun. By a 1/2 lap my singlespeed has ammassed so much mud it was crazy.
The course featured pretty much everything from pavement climbs to mud fields, to packed firm grass (that had dried as it baked in the sun) to off camber muddy whoops to sand. It was a crossers course in my opinion due to the weather. Else, it could have suited lesser technically focused riders. The fields were decent size with a gaggle of folks who came in from Utah, California and elsewhere to get a taste of racing in Colorado. I got a front row call up and was stoked to get 'er done. I had pretty good feelings going on as my warm ups told me that nothing was really aching or making it difficult to come around, I felt rather good.
The UCI official took charge of the callups and whistle blowing, pacing in front of the line even as close as 15 seconds. Kinda threw everybody off but I watched his mouth for the telegraph of a tweeeet!
TWEEEET! We're off and I step on it but only so much to stay out of trouble and to let some other dudes go out front for a change. Robson (blue) and Cospolich (orange Kona) led me out and into the first muddy section...
(Video courtesy of The WK)
On to the course, it took a few laps for the group to get its legs and bearings straight. We haven't had this level of mud yet this year and so it took a lap or two for folks to determine what the match burning would be like. I felt super comfortable running a Typhoons at 34psi r and 32psi f. Rhynos would have been perfect but I am Rhyno-less at the moment yet I barely missed a line with typhoons at that pressure.
The BCS crew was in FORCE in the pits. As mentioned, the secret weapon was that power washer and the skills of the crew, Mike D, Philip B, Sharkey, Bobby Diesel, Rob and Dubba covering the BCS crew in the race. Each lap...no each HALF lap!....we had fresh bikes. Not only that Dubba had these guys dialed into pit procedure with a guy to catch my dirty bike and the thrower had the clean bike up in the air for me to simply throw my arm through and run out of the pit. Incredible.
JJ was on fire off the front with Mark Legg-Compton who are both stratospherically fast. I crawled up on Mark after a long effort and was able to sit in. Mark then blew a Dugast and had to DNF (and I'd experience some of that too...).
By the closing laps it's clear that the bike changes are making a huge difference. I was riding comfortably in 6th-7th with a gap to chasers Robson and Shawn. I am with Mike Hogan who had shredded a derailleur earlier and he still managed to bridge back and work with me. By the bell lap we are hauling and making time. He and I come off the pavement and into the muddy pit area. And then it happened! Like a truck fishtailing on black ice, Mike's rear end washes and I t-bone him and go ass over tea kettle. Mike goes down too and we quickly get up grab bikes and start running simultaneously into the pits to change bikes. Robson and Shawn benefit and the nab us sacrificing bike changes and they punch it...and it worked for them!
I grab my bike and run past Mike and remount. I am determined to go and catch Robson and Shawn who are dangling in front. I go through the off camber 'pit of death' just outside the pits and I feel my front tire case something. It bottomed out the Dugast but not unlike normal bottoming sensations. By the pavement section I can feel things start to wash and then I realize I'm going flat. Arrgh! I keep up a tempo and try to keep it level. I need to ride another 1/2 lap until I can get a bike.
I can feel Mike gaining and I just drill it not caring about the tire or the carbon rim I am now riding on. (Awesome.) Coming into the pit area I put a hand up and the boys are ready. I fly in drop off the flatted bike and grab the other, remount and take a look over my shoulder. I see Hogan railing and I punch it harder. I was able to keep the gap over the finish line for 9th. All that effort... A true knife fight. Teamies Brian H (3rd) and Timmy the Truth (6th). Three guys in the top 10 and a large majority of it due to the team support in the pits.
Boulder Cup-Boulder Reservoir
Back again for another round at the Rez! 2 times in as many weeks. The Boulder Cup was supposed to be on the grass at Harlow Platts, but if we ever want to use the course again, we had to take one for the team and avoid using it for fear of chewing the place to bits. It was the right call.
Pre-riding I could feel the effort from the day before. It was taking a loooong time for the engine to turn over but by the time I lined up, I felt like a B-. And so it would be that kind of day. Sort of a 'meh' feeling. My poorly feeling legs aside, the weather was spectacular and you could not tell that it had snowed days earlier. The course was dry and we were in shorts and t's!
On the mic today doing race commentary was Rob Coppolillo...old friend and one of the good guys. As we're getting called up, Rob over the race course's PA system calls me out by name, telling everyone he's unabashedly going to be rooting for me. I'm indebted Rob!! That made my day.
Our UCI guy is back pacing once again in frot of us right down to 10 seconds. Tweeeet! On to the course and again I do not want to lead and allow a train of 3-4 guys go and I sit in. I am surprisingly turning my legs over and just playing conservative as I'd need to save it up for the later minutes of the race.
The Boulder Cup Rez course was different than the Boulder Racing course used last week. We had tons of sand as normal for a Rez course but they used a lot of other parts of the surrounding area that included sweeping grass and off camber turns. It was quite flowy and fun!
Video by The El-Gee.
By lap 2 my teamie Brian H is taking a flyer. I am not going to chase so I have Jon C come and pull if he wants to make the bridge. I sit in with Timmy close behind as I know Jon is going to throw it down as soon as he bridges.
We snake our way through the sand section which has us weave around a boat house. Very technical but offers a 'cheater' line to run up on the cement of the boat house and wheelie drop in. Brian is still motoring and takes this line yet cases it on the drop in. Arrgh! Timmy and I jet past and Jon as expected is off. I yell at Tim to go as this is truly it and he's off in chase...
By 3rd or 4th lap I am in that same section by the boat house. I get bumped off my line and wrapped into tape and throw a chain. I am trying to run and sort my chain issues out at the same time as a block of dudes pass me. I go from 5th to 10th in an instant. You can not make mistakes. This one wasn't all mine but you simply can not make mistakes as everyone is as fit as the next guy.
By the closing laps I am making attempts to bridge to Hogan who is in a group that would be the tail end of the top 10. I put in a massive effort and can't grab on. I can see Clay, Pat and another guy making time to me so I save matches and let them bridge. Clay and I proceed to drill it trading work lap after lap. If we can get to Hogan, we can definitely close to the top 10 and we can sprint it out.
By bell lap it's not going to happen. We can't cross that chasm to thenext group. The group in front stayed the same distance. Out of the sand, our group of 5 is still tight. I can see that Clay and I are the strongest so I am thinking we need to sprint this out. We blast on to the pavement in the finishing straight and I let Clay come to the front. I want to have a second of rest before we drag race it. Clay buries it and we start the sprint earlier than expected and he holds me off for 14th...14th! Ha! Yup...knife fighting in the trenches.
It was great to see all the out-o-towners once again, Timmy J, JPows, JesseD and others. It was an exceptional weekend of racing and the BCS crew should be proud.
After my race I was able to mess around before going to work for Dubba and Webber in the pits. I snapped the faces of my friends and some of the ladies in the Elite Women's race....where Katie proceeded to thrash the field. Enjoy. My weekend race report comin' up.
I am trying to fabricate something eloquent to say here about the photos Rob ttook yesterday of teh elite men's and womens race...but I all can say is: holy crap. Mr. Rob O'Dea has done it again. He's allowed me to share these spectacular pics with you so we can all enjoy them and remember the most excelelnt day yesterday...
Full up report coming after tomorrow's race but ho-lee-poop it was....AWESOME! My team ROCKS!! The pit crew was so PRO it as nuts...clean bikes every 1/2 lap! Here's a pic from The WK as a teaser. Lots of drama in the last lap for a top 10 position...riding on a flat Dugast! Ha! Double hup...