Sunday, October 26, 2008

Race Results

WARNING - this post is a rant.

Somehow, the last three to four weeks of posted 'cross race results have had errors. I am mainly aware of errors in the women's fields, so can't comment on the men's results. I understand that it is difficult for the officials to keep track of everyone, especially with large fields, but when racers pay their money, their expectation is that they will see where they end up in the race.

I have seen racers placed incorrectly, not listed at all in the results, and listed as DNF in races they have finished. I've even seen incorrect names associated with a race number. What can I do to help? Is there a better way for us to be scoring these races and keeping track? I am willing to help craft a solution if anyone has an idea.

And to racers: you need to be vigilant about checking the results after a race. Once posted on-site, you have 15 minutes to protest. If results aren't protested, they get submitted and posted, after which time they will not change. It is YOUR responsibility to check and be sure that you are listed in the correct place BEFORE you leave for the day!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Canton Cup

Unlike the previous day in Maine, the weather at Canton was cold. And windy! Everyone had the winter gear out for the first time (with the exception of a brave [stupid] few who raced in short sleeves and shorts!). With the cold and gray skies, it literally felt as if it could snow at any time.

I like the Canton course - it's challenging and has something for everyone: pavement, double-track, bumpy grass fields, tight turns, a track, a loose run-up and three sets of barriers.
The one thing I don't like? The sky-high barriers out in the field. Yes, they say right on them that they are 40 cm. BUT, they are on an uphill that is gullied in the middle. This means you can see daylight under them, and they really are taller than 40 cm. This will be important later ;).
After standing most of the day in the cold cheering for teammates and friends, I really didn’t feel much like racing - it was cold and I had put out a huge effort in Maine and was tired. I had, however, paid my registration and packed my gear, so the game was on. I made my way to the line as late as possible to try and stay warm, and still managed to be in the front row to start, giving me a much better start than in the previous day’s race! Yay!

Going into the second lap, I was really pushing the hairy edge of the eyeball. I could see both Sue M and Marci T-H just ahead, and went slighty past where I should have trying to close the gap. Remember those sky scraper barriers? I ended up taking the first one in my shin! Man that hurt! But, determined, and still able to see them just ahead, I kept on going, trying to catch (I never did). I ended up racing against Hannah K who beat me by a few seconds on the final lap going over the barriers. I was happy to be finished, and knew I pushed hard when my leg hurt so badly I couldn’t put weight on it, and my stomach stayed upset for over a day ;)

1/2/3 Women - Register for MRC Race!

MRC will only hold a women's 1/2/3 field if 15 women pre-reg. So far, there are only 2 of us, and registration closes TOMORROW (Thursday) at 5. Go here to register now! Weather forecast is sunny and 61, and this is right in our backyards!

See you at the races.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Joys of Fall in New England

Fall has definitely arrived in New England. The trees are brilliant in MA, but already past peak in most of norther NH, VT and Maine. Still some good color out there though, and with temps in the high 20s at night (!) and low 50s during the day, there is a great smell and crispness in the air.

Mike and I went up to the house in Bethel on Friday to check things out and ensure all was well, since we hadn't been up since August. Thankfully, the house is still standing, and we haven't [yet] been over-run by mice seeking warmer housing. It was definitely chilly though - temp on Sat morning was a balmy 27, and there was frost on the car.

OK, so the REAL purpose of our trip was to go and race 'cross at New Gloucester. This is our 3rd year racing at this venue, and I can't say enough good things about it. I know that the schedule conflicted with Mansfield this year, but a visit to Pineland Farms for an excellent 'cross race should be on everyone's fall list of things to do. They've re-done the store/indoor farm stand and we found some yummy Maine-made salsas, honey and cheese to bring home with us.

After debating about which races to do, we both decided on the Elite races later in the afternoon. That meant no "crack of dawn" wake up, which was really nice. After arriving, I asked Mike to go out with me on the course to help me with all of the sections to have a better race. He gave some great tips, which really helped later on, although I did abandon my attempt at riding the run-up (I tried 3 times during warm-up and ALMOST made it).

Because of the conflicting races, the Elite Women's field was small - 6 starters including Marianne, Linnea, Sue M, Susanne and myself (the 6th woman was unknown to all of us, and missed the start of our race, although she did go on to finish...). I had a terrible start, and was forced to chase down the high-speed pavement into the 90 degree right hand turn, but I caught on in time to see both Marianne and Linnea catch a little bit of air over the first hump before the barriers. What is it with me and starts this year? I can't seem to get going to save myself... I'm going to have to practice this in earnest before the next Verge race!

I also flubbed going into the barriers the first time, dismounting WAY too early. From the photos, it looks like I took about 7 steps before actually getting over the first barrier. Mike was great, yelling at me to not get off so early - I listened, and nailed that section for the remaining 3 laps (YAY!). Barriers are another one of my weak points. I think I need to start making a list ;).

I ended up racing with teammate Susanne for the entire race - the first two laps on her wheel (or chasing her down to get on said wheel), and then ahead of her as she had an unfortunate tip over on the off-camber dam section. With Susanne just behind, and seeing that I was gaining on Sue M each lap, it made for great incentive for me to keep on pushing through the whole race, trying not to get caught by Susanne, and trying desperately to close the gap to Sue. With one more lap, I think I may have caught Sue, but I think Susanne may also have caught me, as she finished right on my wheel. It was fun though, to actually be racing so close to other competitors - that doesn't always happen for me.

The men's 1/2/3 field was also small yesterday - only 9 guys taking the line in a race that paid 15 deep. You do the math on that one ;). They were racing for an hour, which is 15 minutes more than Mike is used to, but he figured it was worth a shot. I was poised by the barriers as they came into the first lap, and watched with dismay as one of the riders overcooked the corner before, forcing Mike and Tom G to slide out to the side and into the tape. That put Mike in about 7th position right from the get go. As I waited for him to come back around, I chatted with Tim and Todd S who had both raced the 3/4 Master's race earlier, and were now playing pro-spectator. We were all surprised to see the leader come through, with Mike hot on his heels!

This was exciting - Mike was in 2nd place in the 1/2/3 race, and while Brendan had a small gap on him, he also had a gap on Ryan K. As I chased around the course taking pics, this is the way the order stayed for a number of laps, with Brendan's gap slowing coming down. As I was making my way back toward the finish area, I was talking to my friend Ivy when I saw Mike come through AHEAD of Brendan! Unfortunately, Brendan had crashed and had trouble with his chain, putting Mike ahead of him in 1st place!

Mike's lead on Brendan and Ryan continued to grow as the race continued. I cautioned him to ride smart (like he needs MY advice ;)), and he did, winning his first ever 'cross race! Ryan ended up passing Brendan in the final lap, and that was the order of the podium.

Mike's down playing his win - he says that there weren't any big names there, it was a small field, etc., etc. But a win is a win! And between the two of us, we ended up coming home with over $200 in winnings for the day - guess we made the right choice on which races to do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gemutlichkeit at Gloucester

Photo by Geoff M. (click here for his full set of photos)

What do Oktoberfest and the Gloucester 'cross races have to do with each other? Absolutely nothing, but I felt the need to spread some Gemutlichkeit anyway, and to celebrate my roots (I come from a town in Canada that hosts the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany). At least the Erdinger folks thought it was clever!

Photo by Claudia

I've been waiting all year for this race, since it's one of my favorites. The venue and course are fantastic, and at no other time during the season (ANY of the cycling seasons) will you find Women's 3/4 fields of over 60! I realized after a weekend of racing that there were women in my races whom I know, but never even saw...

Here are my top 10 learnings from this weekend at Gloucester:
  1. NEVER, EVER take it easy on a start. Hole shots count, and everyone wants it. Drafting will come LATER. I thought I would go a bit easier and try to get on a wheel, but that was a bad strategy out of the gate, and something I didn't do on Sunday.
  2. Hitting the ground at speed HURTS, even if it's grass. Recovering from hitting the ground at speed takes more than overnight.
  3. Crashing when you are fighting for a top 10 is VERY disappointing, especially when at least three people pass you while you are still on the ground trying to determine if you are ok.
  4. For one lap of a race that matters, I can ignore the hurt of a crash. Any climbing after the crash hurt pretty badly, but I ignored it to try and still finish the race strong.
  5. Finding out you finished a race and won a sprint with a wheel that wouldn't turn helps take some of the sting out of finishing outside the top 10. This is the ONLY time I ever wished for a Power Tap - I can only imagine the wattage required for that final sprint up the hill.
  6. Cheering and screaming friends can help and hurt. They helped me win the sprint ("Someone is right on your wheel - it's Michele!"), but for Michele, it meant she couldn't sneak by me ("Go get her, Michele!"). I have found this in previous races where someone I am trying to pass will make an extra effort when they hear someone on the sidelines yelling for you to pass.
  7. Running around the course taking pictures of your husband racing is NOT a good warmup ;)
  8. I suck at steep, loose run-ups.
  9. Try not to pull your main nemesis around for the final lap - she'll out sprint you at the end. I was ahead of Karen on Saturday before the crash, and for all of the race on Sunday. Unfortunately, I knew she was sitting on my wheel for most of the final lap and there was nothing more I could do. She beat me by 1 second.
  10. Wearing Lederhosen to a 'cross race attracts a lot of attention (and got me free beer)!

Mike had an awesome weekend of racing. He lined up in about the 5th row both days (not great starts in a well-stacked Master's 35+ field), and managed to work his way up and finish 16th both Saturday and Sunday (and coincidentally, I also finished 16th on Saturday...)! Great races for him in fields of between 85 and 90 starters. Unfortunately, Verge series points run 15 deep... Oh the agony.

Now we have to wait another whole year for Gloucester to come back around. I'll have to make sure to get the Lederhosen ready ;)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Coonamesset Eco Cross

If you look ever-so-closely in the really bad photo above, you can just barely make out Mike beginning to fall as he comes into the barrier section of the Coonamesset race this past weekend. He came into the barriers with a group of racers, trying to pass and make up some time. Unfortunately, he caught his foot on the first barrier, and proceeded to fall/crash into the second. Thankfully (?) he managed to get his arm out in front of him to break the fall, but fell with such force that his forearm got wedged between the two boards of the barrier!

Imagine my horror at watching as Mike desperately tried to free his arm from the barrier, the whole time thinking to myself that he likely broke his arm. The look on his face was like that of a caged animal - he desperately wanted to get out of there! After some prying of the boards by a helpful hand (and Mike frantically tugging on his arm), Mike's arm came loose, he remounted and was on his way to the cheers of the crowds. "I think he might have broken his arm," I said to friends. "Don't worry," they said, "he's still racing; it can't be broken." Apparently they don't know Mike like I do ;).

Thankfully, he did NOT break his arm. He does have some bruising, a sore neck, and a skinned knee from the gravel, but still managed an impressive 12th place finish in his field!

After that spectacle, I was less eager than ever to race, thinking that it might be a much better idea to spectate and drink beer. However, after the Masters race finished (and I checked to be sure that Mike really was ok), I headed to the start line for my race with Teri, winning the race to the race – landing ourselves in the front row for the start. Of course we were there so long we were shivering, but at least we won that race, right? ;-)

I got a good start, but was immediately slowed by two racers going down in a muddy turn directly in front of me. The course had changed SIGNIFICANTLY since my pre-ride with all of the rain and traffic, and now the slightly tacky downhill dirt sections were truly muddy and slippery. Being cautious wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I didn’t want to end up hurt before Gloucester.

I managed to pass a few women, and got passed by a couple as well. Primarily, it was an issue of keeping the tires on the ground for many – the slippery course caused quite a few riders to end up splayed across the course. I was doing “reasonably” well, and was holding off Julie L. from IBC as I went into the barrier section (careful, of course, to over-leap the barriers after watching Mike). As I remounted, a junior intent on racing for 5th place with no one around us decided to try and pass me coming out of the barriers and through the very narrow archway, pushing me into the arch. I pushed back, staying upright, he pushed me again, and I ended up going down in the loose gravel, and losing 2 places in the race. Not a cool move on the junior’s part for sure, but nothing I could do about it.

My major goal for the race was not to get lapped. Last year, both the junior leader, and the women’s leader (Rebecca) lapped me on this course. As I was coming through the finish for my final lap, I could hear that Manny Goguen was behind me and about to finish. Determined to suffer through one more lap, I went as hard as I could to cross the line before he did, knowing that all that were still on the course behind me would no longer be a threat. I eased through the final lap with some weird noises coming from the bike (it was my first ride on carbon rims with tubulars, and it really sounded as if the cassette was off the hub), and finished somewhere around 13th. Not great, but I did achieve my goal, and would have remained upright through the race if not being forcibly taken out.

Catamount Cross - Verge 1&2

Saturday - Verge Day 1

Despite predictions of rain, the day in Vermont turned out to be partly sunny, and PLENTY humid. That made for some dusty and tacky conditions, depending where you were on the course.

The course was long – almost 2 miles, and had more climbing than most of us are used to in a cross race! Despite a stair run-up and BMX-type uphill climb, it wasn’t a very technical course, and was described by many as more of a grass crit. That grass, however, sapped the strength out of your legs every time around…

After another week off the bike to go to Vegas, I was raring to go on Saturday. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my act together in time to pre-ride the course, so opted to do my complete warmup on the trainer, and see what was in store for me later (I did get some good course intel from other racers). A second row start wasn’t bad as I was quickly able to pass a number of people headed up the grass and onto what turned out to be my type of course. I knew it would be [relatively] short – only 30 mins, so I went into the red zone, and pushed as hard as I could, treating the race just like a TT.

At the end of the first lap, I was sitting in 7th place behind Blake and Christina from MRC/Landry’s. I managed to pass both of them going into the second lap, and pushed to try and stay ahead. Unfortunately, I made a tactical error thinking I could ride the stairs (yes, I tried it in a race situation first!), and lost some time when I was forced to dismount. Christina ended up pinching me out in the corner approaching the BMX uphill, and then couldn’t follow through over the hill, forcing me to stop and dismount! That set me off, and I chased, but was never able to catch back on. I did lose another place to Silke Wunderwald who was doing her first ever cross race (FWIW, she finished 7th in the W1/2 field at Fitchburg this year)! The course suited her well also, as it wasn’t that technical. I ended up finishing in 7th place overall, but ahead of Blake ;).

We spent the rest of the day watching many of our friends compete in the Men's 2/3 and Women's Elite fields, and then a number of us headed into downtown Burlington for a few beverages and some dinner. A fun way to end a great day of racing. Click here for more racing pics from Saturday (thanks to Steve L. for the photo on this page).

Sunday - Verge Day 2

Unlike the monsoon weather many of our teammates were facing in Bedford, Sunday in VT was again humid and started out foggy with a few sprinkles, but no heavy rain. The humidity and mist did cause the course to be wet, making the more technical course a little more slippery than the previous day.

The course was different than the previous day – more technical in nature, but still long and with some good climbing. The changes today included a long slog up to a run-up with three logs across the hill, a section of singletrack in the woods with a bridge crossing, and a screaming fast downhill that put you into a VERY tight chicane that while rideable, was faster to run. We then crossed another bridge and came at the barriers in the opposite direction from the previous day. It was definitely more challenging than the previous day, but also more fun.

I made sure to get out and pre-ride on Sunday to know the course before the race started. Things were a bit slippery in places, and there were definitely some good and some bad lines out there. I had somewhat over-cooked a corner on Saturday, and while not going down, managed to scare myself pretty darn well. I needed to be a little more conservative today…

I got a not great start off the line when Stacey M didn’t quite go on the whistle… Still managed to make up some places, and really moved up when I passed Leah and another racer who crashed in one of the first ruts on the course. The whole race for me was about catching the racer in front, which I managed to do a number of times. I even managed to catch and pass Silke at one point, but it was short-lived – she passed me back, I tried to get on her wheel, and she made me eat her dust.

In the end, my race ended up being between myself and Mary F – one of my main MTB competitors this season (and overall winner of the Root 66 Sport Women’s series). Going into the final chicane, I was ahead of Mary by a small amount, and Luke Keough was about to lap us both. Luke held back knowing we were about to finish our race (a real class act, especially since he was miles ahead of his next competitor), and I started to sprint up the finish hill. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Luke’s wheel, and then heard him say “C’mon, let’s sprint it out” as both he and Mary passed me by. At that point I didn’t have the legs to respond, and I ended up finishing 9th, one place behind Mary.

The race Sunday hurt, and apparently the pain was evident as I crossed the finish line with nothing left in the tank. Overhear on the loudspeaker was Richard Fries announcing to everyone that I was finishing, wearing a “mask of pain” ;).

Click here for more pics from Sunday.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

Everyone in the bike industry knows that last week was Interbike in Vegas. Since PK was being inducted into the MTB Hall of Fame during the week, Mike and I made the trip west with PK and Nanyee, and our friends, Wayne and Jean.

It was a long week with lots of walking, but we had a great time! While Wayne and Mike ogled bikes and new bling for said bikes, Jean and I stood in lines for free stuff, and autographs ;). We ate at buffets, did the free beer surf, and of course, went to both 'Cross Vegas and the US Crit Championships.

Here are some pics and vids of the cool stuff, people and places we saw on this adventure - enjoy!

Cool bikes and gear

Redline cross bike; Any beer bike is cool, but a PBR bike is a must!

Look MTB; A replica of Tomac's first MTB

It sure looks fast!; Find 9 friends, and you have a great ride from Santana!

Awesome detail on a musical Waterford; MKR is lusting after this Ridley

Ritchey's 'cross bike; Sustainable bike building - from bamboo!

Campy's fancy display for the new 11-speed groupo; If he can't have the Ridley, he'll take the Ruegamer

Cycling Celebrities

The ecclectic Gary Fisher; Our own PK joining a select group of MTB Hall of Famers - congrats!

Joe Parkin wrote The Dog in a Hat; Oh wait - those aren't celebrities!

People and Sights

Cross Vegas

The lead pack in the race.

The chase group (and excuse my enthusiasm at Lance doing the dreaded double-hop remount...)

The finish - Trebon and Johnson (and is that our sponsor, Dave?)