Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Racing Suckerbrook

Five years ago, I raced Suckerbrook as my first-ever 'cross race. Who knows how many 'cross races later, I still think this is one of my favorites of the season - great course, great organization, and a great cause (oh, and don't tell Mike, but I love Jack! ;)).

I pre-rode with some of the other NEBC women before the race to dial in the lines, and see what had changed since I last raced here (I had to miss it last year due to a family commitment). There were more corners (YAY), the same stairs and whoop-dee-dos (although with more sand this year), fewer trees, the same amount of rocks, a new log and woods section, and the dreaded sand. And despite multiple practice sessions in sand prior to the race, and multiple tries before the race at a clean line, I ended up running most of that section during the race.

As everyone knows (or now knows), the first race at Suckerbrook is TO the race. Despite a 9:45 start time, I was second to line up on the start - at 9:29 ;). But, it got me a terrific starting position on the front row, and I tried (in vain) to stay with hole-shot-Sally on the whistle. I did end up onto the course in 4th, and quickly moved up into second place behind Emily. And that's where I stayed for 3 of the 4 laps - slowly making up time on Emily in the power sections (and the whoop-dee-doo section), only to lose it once we hit the sand. Apparently the front was a good place to be - the course was REALLY dusty, and without a significant number of people in front, I was clearly able to see the entire time (and likely didn't eat quite as much dirt as some others later in the day).

And then, in the 3rd or 4th lap, the 3rd place racer caught and passed me as well. I had seen her coming for a bit and tried ever-so-hard to stay ahead of her. When she passed, though, instead of giving up the chase, I burned matches to stay attached. I was closing in on both Kate and Emily on the final lap when my foot popped out of my pedal on the uphill whoop-dee-doo - leaving me to see them ahead, but not be able to catch.

I was pretty pleased to finish with my best result here ever - landing on the podium. Thanks to EVERYONE who cheered madly from the sidelines - I heard you all, and gave the race everything I could.

After watching the start of Mike's race, and a quick stop at the podium, it was off to the pit for me to watch/support Mike. Here's his version of his race:

I’ve always had reasonable results at SBC and enjoy the race. This was the site of my legitimate entrance into cyclocross back in 2006. Prior to that I had only done a total of two races back in the late ‘90’s. Coming in this year I’ve had a string of issues and most recently back to back horrible results. I saw this race as a crossroad. If the luck changed, I could still pull off a good season but if it didn’t, I may just give it up.

Many of the big guns chose to race the Elite race instead of the Master’s race. Going in, I’d planned to do both. I felt pretty good and was hoping for a good show in the AM race. I started from the front row but once again got a terrible start; I just can’t seem to sprint start in a cross race for some reason. Immediately I was mid-pack. Some strategic chasing and frantic passing got me up to the lead group. Unfortunately I tried a dicey move on the last up of the steep up, down, up but got taken to the tape and hooked around a stake. Off the bike, untangle, running, remount, dismount, barrier and I’d lost half a dozen spots and was gassed. More frantic chasing, passing, and attempting to pass people with superior skills who didn’t want to be passed and the group was gone. All I could do from there was settle and start making ground back, which I did until I missed a turn where the tape was broken in the field and rode off course only to have to stop, turn around and ride back.

The laps went by and I feared the worst, however the gap was coming down. With about 2 to go I was in 8th and could now readily see the group of three just ahead. On the final lap I knew that it was now or never so focused on the catch. I made contact on the back double-track section with a surge around Ryan R. so as not to let him attach. We were thick with traffic and dust so I had to keep on the gas around the corner and into the log hop. At that point I contacted Big Al and Jeff M. as well as some traffic behind them. On the final double-track into the sand I passed the traffic and launched as hard as I could so as to hit the sand first. It worked albeit with a little rubbing when Al switched lanes at the last minute. I pinned it along the fence and then when we made the corner on the pavement I laid down all of the seated power that I could muster, which fortunately was enough to win the sprint, with a bike throw, by a solid wheel length. Nothing like waiting for the last minute I guess.

What Mike's report doesn't tell you is that he had a great ride, finishing 5th in the Elite Master's 35+ field! It helps to make up for some of the racing last weekend...

We both planned on doing a second race, but after hanging out and standing up for too long, decided to sit and spectate while heckling our friends instead! It was a terrific day and many thanks to Jack and Justin for their hard work in making it happen. We'll be back next year for sure!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Winned!*

This year is my fifth season of racing 'cross. I remember back in 2006 when my good friend Cris told me that I needed to "try" a 'cross race to see what it was like. I finished 14 races that season, and have been hooked ever since.

Despite wins on the road and on the MTB between then and now, I haven't been able to get a win on the 'cross bike. Last weekend at Green Mountain, that changed - finally! Of course, I had to race the "old ladies" (W 35+) to get the win, but I'll still take it.

I was excited when I saw that Alan was going to offer a Master's Women's field, and signed up for that category to support the effort, and in the hopes that more promoters would offer a field specifically for Master's Women. The only downside? We raced at the same time as the 3/4 women (same start time - no gap), but had to stage IN THE BACK ROW! DOH! It was a challenge to get past many of the women in front. I pulled a bit of a dicey move, starting in the middle of the last row, taking 3 pedal strokes, and moving immediately to the far right to move my way up the field.

I could see the leaders of the 3/4 race ahead of me, and put my head down to make as much progress as I could. Part way through the third and final lap, I looked and could see the 2nd place woman in my field behind. At that point, the race was mine to lose, and I didn't want her to catch. I buried myself, running scared, to the line - using the 3/4 field as rabbits (I passed my teammate Sam, but she passed me back and I was too gassed to get back by her). I managed to cross the line ahead of the remainder of the 35+ field to take my first ever 'cross win! Wahoo!

Sunday's race wasn't as kind. I got stuck in some 3/4 traffic forcing me to come to a complete stop at one point, and the leaders were gone. Every time I would catch on, they would accelerate and I couldn't respond. I finished just off the podium in 4th place on Sunday, disappointed that I hadn't had a better race.

The next Verge series race is in New Gloucester, ME, and John G has also added a W 35+ field! Looking forward to getting out and trying my hand again. Before then, there is a lot of racing to do - starting with Suckerbrook tomorrow!

*Disclaimer - the grammatically incorrect title was written by an English major ;)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kitten Cam

Ellie loves laundry
Opie being lazy
I folded all the clothes - the dryer is empty!
Best pals.

It's Here, It's Here, It's Here!

Since I'm sitting in VT ready for the first weekend of Verge racing, I figured I'd better get my race report from LAST weekend's race up...

Yes, fellow crossers, there is a Santa Claus, and he brought the 2010 'cross season! I am literally like a 5 year old on Christmas morning - ecstatic over the possibility of what is to come this season.

Last Sunday was the "official" start of my 'cross season at Quad Cross (I did do one race in August, but hey - it was AUGUST and 90 degrees - not really 'cross ). The best part was that the race was in my hometown - no 2 hour, 1.5 hour or 3 hour drive to get to the race venue. Instead, I rode over from the house to get my warmup in for a 9:00 am start, while Mike brought the car loaded with pit bikes, tent, clothes, food, water... Packing for 'cross is a SCIENCE!

I did a few warmup laps on the course and L-O-V-E-D it. It wasn't technical except for all of the corners - the one thing I am really good at! There were also long power sections, another strong suit for me.

Imagine lining up with 46 Cat 3/4 women, and 6 45+ women at the first "real" race of the season. There were many who were out for their first 'cross racing experience - or their first ever bike racing experience! So exciting to see the enthusiasm, and feel all of that energy.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a great start and ended up in a bottleneck in the first corner, putting me immediately at a deficit. From there, I got caught behind a crash, further opening a gap to the leaders that proved to be insurmountable the remainder of the race. I did, however, have a race on my hands with those around me, and quickly became frustrated at the lack of cornering skills of some of the other racers. I may even have become a bit more vocal than I maybe should have, as a result of that frustration .

One of my Cross Results nemesis' was ahead at one point, and literally put her foot down (not out, DOWN) in every corner. She braked going into a small sandy section, and got completely bogged down in her gearing. At one point I said to her, "For God's sake, SHIFT!". Finally able to get past her, I managed to open a gap in the remainder of the race, by getting into the corners first, and powering back out of them.

I finished in the top 10, but wasn't completely satisfied - a better start and some smarter handling behind some other racers would have certainly helped.

Of course, if one race is good, two must be better, right? Later in the afternoon, I lined back up for the 1/2/3 race - 40 more minutes of top notch fun . I think I might have a slight issue...the fast girls were in the house, so I knew I was going to have to lay it all out. I was worried before the start that having already raced, I was really going to embarass myself. On the whistle, I dug deep and had a great start, only to come to a screeching halt in the first corner - DOH! Apparently bad cornering skills aren't limited to the 3/4 field . I was off on the chase but felt surprisingly good!

Suddenly, as we entered the first technical S-turn, I found my legs spinning and the bike not moving - my chain had jumped off the front ring, but NOT over the chain guide. I had to come to a complete stop to get it back onto the chainring, remounted and found it still wasn't engaged. Another try and I was back iin the race - DFL. EVERYONE had passed me. SIGH.

I put my head down and motored. I made solid progress throughout the race, and was one of the LAST people not to get lapped by the leaders. I was happy about that, but slightly disappointed about the mechanical. I would love to know how that might have worked out since I really felt better and better as the race progressed...

So, now it's on! Races both days, every weekend, between now and the middle of December! The Verge Series starts here in Williston, VT tomorrow, and a pre-ride shows that I really should have made sure to pack my climbing legs.

Regardless, I'm so excited! Thank you Santa, for bringing the 'cross season back.