Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bedford Springs Cyclocross

Back-to-back races this weekend! Fun, fun, fun, but a little on the warm side for 'cross racing...

This race was literally in our backyard, so the commute was pretty easy. So nice not to have to get up at the crack of dawn to get to a race. Quad Cycles hosted this new event, and did a great job. Lots of parking, great access to registration and a very spectator-friendly venue. The course was good as well - less technical than Saturday's race, but still a challenge with lots of bumpy grass, tight 180 degree turns, a set of barriers and a BRUTAL run-up with a technical descent.

Again, we arrived early so that we could see some of our teammates and friends in the Beginner races. The NEBC women's team ended up taking 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 8th, with two more teammates in the field as well! It was so much fun cheering them all on, and seeing the smiles when they were finished.

NEBC, ready to race; Carrie finishing up

Karin and Janet - this was Karin's first race; Our winner - Libby!

After the beginners, Mike got ready for his race, and I headed out with our friends Jaime, Mary and Allison to watch and cheer. This was their first experience at a 'cross race, and I think they may come back (Allison particularly liked ringing the cowbell). I also found out that as a result of watching the race, Allison has a new found appreciation for her bike, and might be willing to give a 'cross race a go!

Mike was racing A Masters 35+ again, and while Mark wasn't in the field today, Pascal was. Pascal is from Quebec, and has been coming down to New England each weekend, and ripping the legs off of the Masters fields; he dominated again in Bedford.

We took up our spectating at the bottom of the run-up, which afforded a pretty good view of most of the course. The run-up was steep, and started with a single barrier at the bottom, forcing a dismount. The steep uphill was fresh cut and soft, making the going pretty tough. At the top, a remount was difficult at best (better if you had the skills to remount from the drive-train side), and led into an equally steep, soft, bumpy descent.

For the first two laps, Mike was racing in second position behind Pascal! He said that he suddenly realized that probably meant he was going too hard, and he backed it down just a little bit (although he admitted that he LIKED being so close to the front of the race). He continued to look strong throughout the race, although the sweat was pouring off of him. In the final laps, he made up some ground, and managed to finish 7th overall - a TERRIFIC result! He had a great weekend of racing.

After his race, I headed back to the car to get ready for my own. Warmed up on the trainer and did a bit of socializing, but never had the opportunity to pre-ride the course. That is something that I need to make sure happens moving forward, so I know what to expect and when. I lined up in the second row, next to Rebecca. Her family and much of the women's elite team showed up with big signs - it was her 30th birthday, and they let everyone know it!

Our start was delayed due a course change. With the dry, soft, fresh cut course, the conditions had deteriorated badly in some sections - particularly right before the run-up. The officials and promoters decided after a couple of very badly rolled ankles in the men's race, to remove the barrier at the bottom of the run-up. As the start official said, it didn't really serve any purpose anyway - it wasn't like anyone was going to be able to ride up that slope!

I had another not great start that got worse as we entered the first turn, and I got caught behind the chaos of the field trying to all get around a 180 degree turn at once. I managed to hang on for the next section of the course, where we again piled up headed up the run-up. Think of 20 women with bikes on their shoulders, running up a steep slope covered in black silty soil, about 4 inches deep. It was a slog-fest, and anything but pretty. At the top, there was literally no remount room, before treacherously heading back DOWN the steep slope, now with exposed rock and about two steps in it.

I could see the leaders coming out of the barriers as I was headed in, and coming out of there, I managed to pick up a spot or two. Throughout the first couple of laps, I picked off about three riders. Unfortunately, after that the gas ran out. I wasn't able to hold my position, and started going backwards. Two of the women I had worked to get around passed me back, and now I was on my own, getting lapped by Lyne Bessette (that seems to be a common theme for me this year!). I ended up lapped by a few more of the leaders, and finished at the back of the pack.

The course was good, but I just didn't have the snap. This was the first of our double-header weekends - hopefully I am just getting used to the back-to-back racing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Coonamesset Eco-'Cross

Mike and I did this race last year, and we loved it! It is very technical - more of a mountain bike course really than something you would find for 'cross. The course runs through a working farm, so besides running between the rows of blueberries and through the pumpkin patch, you also pass the donkeys, ducks and alpacas, as well as having to ride up freshly tilled garden rows, through a long sand pit, and up two loose, sandy run-ups. This year, to add to the excitement, there was a section of the course that skirted a paddock - the trail was fresh and narrow, with 90 degree turns that had an [electrified] fence on one side, and trees on the other, leaving little more than a bike width of trail!

We arrived fairly early as I wanted to watch the beginner women's race (and parking was going to be an issue). Linda from Sandwich was doing her first ever cross race, and I wanted to be able to cheer her on. She was nervous before the start, and wasn't really sure what to expect. She looked really strong throughout the race, and finished with a huge smile, and 6th out of 8 racers! Congratulations, Linda, on a terrific first race! I do hope to see you and Brian at one or two more events this season, and thanks so much for the cheering during my race.

Mike's race was next - Masters 35+. As always, this is a tough field, and today was no different, with the likes of Mark McCormack taking the start (and the win). Mike had a terrific race, however, and ended up finishing 10th/30 in his field! I was so proud of him for doing so well.

I set off in the Women's Open race later in the day, and it was HOT by then. Despite this not being a USAC-sanctioned race, there were a lot of women lined up at the start to give this one a go. I lined up in the front row and still had a TERRIBLE start up the hill, and then got caught in traffic/crash going into the first narrow singletrack. After that sorted out, we headed for the tight paddock section of the course. Although everyone was able to ride it, the woman who had crashed got very impatient with me for going slower than she would have liked - oh well!

I got passed by a couple of the women in the first couple of laps, and managed to pass one other racer. From there, I was really on my own, riding my own race. When I looked up part way through and saw that we had 5 laps to go, I couldn't believe it - it felt like I had already been riding forever, but in reality, it had only been 30 mins...

I managed to ride the entire sand pit on my first lap, but not once after that. I also quickly started making mistakes - waiting too long to dismount in the sand, and MAJOR issues remounting at the top of the run-up that followed it. I was glad there was often no one up there to see me - it would have been embarrasing.

At one point, a junior racer passed me, and I wondered where he had come from, since I hadn't seen him coming up on me from anywhere. I also thought to myself that he must have picked it up if he had been riding behind me that whole time. It took a half a lap more of riding for me to realize I had just been LAPPED. DOH! Shortly thereafter, I got lapped by the women's race leader, Rebecca, as well - to me, this was great news - one less lap to ride! YAHOO!

After either 8 or 9 laps, the race was finally done. I finished 12th of 18 women and was excited to find out that I was apparently one of the few who managed to stay upright during the race - I saw bloody elbows and knees, and one of the women managed to crack her helmet on the concrete wall just past the barriers. She was ok (and raced again the next day).

Oh, and lesson learned? Beer is NOT a good recovery drink, even if you are watching the next racers coming over the barriers ;-).

After the race, we got to hang with our good friends Mike and Jennifer. They live full time in CA, buthave a house in Falmouth, and our visits conincidd perfectly. They came out to cheer us on at our race, and then we managed a walk on the beach and some catching up time before heading home to race again on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


What a scene! It was literally a "Who's Who" of the 'cross racing scene all day, from the Beginner Men and Women as they went off at 9:00 a.m., all the way through the Elite races later in the afternoon. Most people think that I go and race 'cross because I love it (well, there is that) when in reality, I go for the chance to hang out with some totally awesome people, at great venues, and get caught up ;-).

Mike and I arrived in time to see some of the beginner races. It felt odd to me to be standing and cheering for the 3/4 women - I know almost all of them by name, and raced with them all last season. They looked great, and some were out for their first 'cross races ever, or their first of the season. I cheered madly for them all, and there were so many of them! It was fantastic to see a field of close to 30 women out racing and having such a good time. I heard that the clinic that Rebecca offered was both well attended and a big hit!

Waiting for Mike's race to start, I got a chance to socialize some more, and to walk most of the course. A huge kudos has to be given to the organizers of this race - flawless registration, real course crossings, a new bridge and a new stair run-up made this an awesome venue! I wonder, though, who got to go out in the woods and paint all the rocks (and how they missed the ones I hit!)? ;-)

Mike had a great race in the A Masters category (starting at 11:00), finishing 17th overall. I could tell that his knee was bothering him early in the race, but everything seemed to settle in as he moved past riders counting down the laps. I was able to cheer him on from most of the course and to see his finish before it was time for me to go and get changed, and start getting ready for my own race.

This was my second 'cross race with the Elite women, and there was some great talent lined up at the start. I was pretty intimidated standing between Marci Titus-Hall and Perri Mertens and behind my teammate Cris, but decided to just go out and see what happened. One thing I am good at is managing my own expectations now that I have moved up to race at the higher levels, so to me, finishing anywhere above last is an accomplishment (and even that can be a good thing, as I found out at York)!

I didn't get a great start, but didn't hit the first gravel turn last, so was pretty psyched about that. I got caught in a bit of a cluster when Anna M slid on an early flat on an off camber turn, but it worked to my advantage, as I managed to pass a couple of women as a result (note that Anna went from last as she got to the pit to change her flat, to passing me later in the race and finishing 5th!).

About half way through the race, I passed Alie K, who is a teammate during road season, but races for Richard Sachs during 'cross. She and I ended up leap-frogging each other for most of the remainder of the race, with her putting time on me on the mounts/dismounts, and me putting time on her going through the woods and the sand.

With about two laps to go, I caught and passed Alex Jospe (IBC). I REALLY, REALLY wanted to beat Alex in this race - I raced against her all last season when she was still racing 'cross on her MTB, and could never make it happen. After I passed her, she sat on my wheel, and managed to pass me riding through the sand pit. I caught her again on the grass and got by, but she sucked wheel hard enough to later get past me in the final lap, after missing a turn! Maybe next time ;-)

As we came out of the sand for the final time with Alex in front and Alie still on my wheel, I knew I was going to have a fight to the finish on the pavement. As I turned the final corner, I gave everything I had to sprint to the line, throwing my bike forward and literally beating Alie by an inch (or less!). I was elated - I put in a strong race, didn't have any mishaps, and finished much better than I was anticipating, 13th out of 19.

Part of my success and inspiration came from my "fan club". The whole race, no matter where I was on the course, I could hear friends cheering and offering advice - GO! Grab her wheel! She's right behind you! You're doing awesome! A HUGE thanks to everyone who cheered, and especially to Carrie, Rich and Mike who were all excited and providing great encouragement every lap of the race!

Well, after the weekend of racing I had, I'm beginning to feel like I might actually belong racing in this field ;-). Can't wait for next weekend!

Men's B Masters Race

Todd (or is it Tim ;-)); Michael and Eric between the sand pits

Dave headed for the pavement; Anthony and Rich over the barriers

Men's A Masters Race
Jim, Wayne and Mike together; Mike, climbing the stairs

Women's Elite Race

Cris looking strong early; Uh-oh! That's Amy flying OVER Cris in the sand

Congrats to Sam on her first 'cross race ever!

Cris - on her way to 2nd despite the endo; All of us happy with our finish!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Psyched to be Last!

I had hung up my road bike for the season after Saco, but decided to have one last go at a crit today up in York, ME. I am SO GLAD that I went - this race was AWESOME!

Ok. So I came last. Don't care. Here is a list of my accomplishments:
  1. I stayed with the pack for the entire race.
  2. I raced in the middle of the pack, at least a little bit.
  3. I was semi-active, trying an attack or two (that didn't stick)
  4. With 5 to go, I got on the front and TT'd for two laps hoping to bump the pace and make something happen - I should have waited another couple of laps ;-).

What do I need to do better?

  1. GET OUT OF THE WIND. Everytime I came off the front of the pack, I ended up too far to one side or the other, taking the full force of the wind and not getting as much recovery as I should have.
  2. Spend more time in the MIDDLE to the FRONT of the pack (right, Brooke?).
  3. Protect my wheel. I got ridden off the wheel I was on more times than I can count tonight.
  4. Position, position, position.

The net of it is that I had a blast, and learned even more about the intracacies of crit racing. Darcy even told me tonight that she thought I had already come a long way from my performance at the Witches' Cup... It is my first season of crit racing, so I am still learning.

This is an awesome race venue, too. Great course and views of the ocean to boot. I can't really begin to tell you how much FUN the event really was.

This was Mike's first race as a Cat 3 (YAY!), and he lined up in the Pro 1/2/3 race alongside the likes of Mark McCormack, Johnny Bold, Skip Foley (national crit champion), Gavin Manion (Jr national crit champion - he's 16), two other junior pros and a couple of other pro racers who do this for a living. Mike said this was likely the hardest race he has ever done - 60 mins of racing at over 28 mph! He did awesome, hanging on to the group up to the final lap when he got gapped off the back by another rider...

How do you follow up such a great night of racing? Beers and seafood on an outside patio, of course ;-) !

Here are a couple of additional pictures from the race:

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bruised, Sore and Loving Every Minute of It!

Photo by Paul Weiss

Yup - that's what 'cross will do to you - distort your perception ;-). Yesterday was our first 'cross race of the season in Milford, NH. This was a new venue from last year, and after literally 40 days and nights with no rain in New England, we arrived to a rain-soaked course and a downpour - excellent conditions for a race!

This year's course had a LOT of pavement. Mike and I arrived just after the B Women were finishing, and we heard a lot about the slippery transitions and the wet pavement. Most of the women in the race had gone down at some point - either on warmup, or during the race. The good news was that they were all still smiling ;-). NEBC's Suzanne finished 2nd in her first 'cross race ever, and Michele H (who is racing for ECV but raced road with us all season) finished 3rd, both wielding trophies for their efforts.

Mike's race started at 11:00 - A Masters, 35+/45+. At that point, the rain was down to a slight drizzle, but the course was pretty wet. I walked the course while he was racing, and thought it looked pretty fun - pavement start to an uphill gravel climb into the "spaghetti bowl" (a series of back and forth turns that included two sets of barriers), then into the woods, some pavement transition and into the sand pit (which also included a barrier), back onto some tight, twisty pavement around the tennis courts, onto a dirt path, with a final pavement transition leading back to the start/finish (and a hairpin turn). I got a few good pics of the NEBC men (Mike, Wayne and Jim) while they were racing. Mike did well, finishing 9th!

Wayne, Jim and Mike lined up to start; Wayne headed uphill

NEBC together through the barriers

Mike headed uphill; Mike and Wayne in a Tide moment ;-)

For me, this was to be my first 'cross race as a Cat 3, so I lined up in the Women's Open field at 2:00 pm. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement - I would be racing against Rebecca Wellons, Anna Milkowski, Sally Annis, Zoe Owers and others who are much faster than myself. However, my strategy for this season is to race against these women in the non-UCI races to learn, and hopefully, become a better 'cross racer. I was going to use this race as a barometer - to see where I was with my fitness and skills as the season started.

I didn't get a great start in the race, but thankfully avoided the very first crash as we headed up the pavement. I was able to make up some time in the "spaghetti bowl", and then actually managed to pass someone in the sand run as well. In the second lap, I passed a rider who hit a stump right after one of the pavement/sand transitions, and she stayed right behind me for the remainder of the race. It was good incentive - Libby was in front of me, and this woman behind, so there was no chance to rest.

On the final lap, I caught Libby, and urged her to push just a little bit harder. I ended up passing her, but apparently, that's all it took - when she had recovered slightly, she passed me back, and picked up the pace to beat me across the line! I was really happy with my race - I only got lapped by Anna and Rebecca ;-) and finished somewhat respectably (results aren't posted just yet, and we didn't hang around afterwards). Here are some pics of the other NEBC women in the race.

Janet ripping through the woods; Libby in the "spaghetti bowl"

Julie headed for the woods; Sally on her way to 3rd place

Sadly, Hannah K took one of the pavement corners a little too fast on the final lap, crashed, and hit her face. I do hope that she heals quickly, and Hannah - tell anyone who asks that they should see the other guy ;-).

Oh - on the way home, we saw something you don't get a glimpse of everyday. On the Northbound side of Rte 3 in Tyngsboro, a plane made an emergency landing because it had run out of gas! By the time we went past, they were loading the plane onto a truck to be hauled to the airport in Nashua. The good news - no injuries or car accidents resulted, and the pilot managed to fuel up, and continue his flight home!