Monday, November 10, 2008

Up or Down

I raced Ascutney on Saturday. I raced Putney on Sunday.

I killed it on Saturday. I got shelled on Sunday.

Ascutney was a tough little bugger. My gearing is not set up for going up hills so there was a plenty of grinding over crests at like 10 rpm. For so much up there didn't seem to be much down. But there was a pretty good amount of mud. And the muddy/grassy switch backs before the pit were a pretty fun challenge. The sandy parking lot was hard to negotiate with any speed.

The first few minutes were pretty fun. After the barriers there wasn't a lot of room to mount before you hit a swale and a rise. I was lucky to be ridding a practice lap with a nice guy who mentioned the possibility of waiting 'till after the rise to mount. At the time, my arrogant self thought he was a little loose and I was sure to crush him. But when we came into the barriers four strong with a pack there wasn't a lot of room for me to mount comfortably. So I ran to the top of the rise. Hopped on and never looked back.
Well, in actuality I looked back a lot. I led for the rest of race but kept making sure I wasn't letting the gap shorten up. Peter Vollers was kind enough to call me a sandbagger before I had even finished the first lap. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the race. I kept thinking,"Why am I even out here. This looks bad. I look like an ass. This is stupid." The last three laps felt like a slow tempo workout. Stupid.

I didn't stand much of a chance at any kind of decent finish on Sunday. The good news was that cash went ten deep. And guess how many of us there were on the start line? Yup. Ten.

I started my race off in winning fashion by taking a bonehead line into a tight hairpin and abruptly taking a spot at the back of the pack. Sweet.

Once I could see that there was a gap between the lead pack of six or so and the three of us making up the chase I made the bonehead decision of thinking that we could catch up to them with a little bit of sweat and hard work. Yeah we'll work as a team for a lap and make it back on right? What happens in that situation is that you pull harder than you should on the first last, letting two guys suck your wheel, only to let them blow by you after the run up. Sweet.

I did manage to not run over Colin when he decided to lay down in the mud behind the shop. Sweet.

I caught up to a nice guy named Matt (nice after the race) and was severely disappointed when I didn't ride away from him after passing him. So what did I do? I let him sit on my wheel for four laps before letting him take one. When it came to the last lap I got tired of playing games and hit in through the technical stuff up top. My accelerations matched my shoulder checks and I've never run up that hill so fast. 6th place hurt. Thanks Matt. After a lousy first couple of laps it was nice to have a race.

If you want to watch me take a stupid line and hit a wheel and fall click here.

And a big thanks to everyone that was cheering me on. Baker, Buzer, Pip, Rob, Daq, Kevin, Boog, Sarah, Kirstin, Linnea, Jim at the rest. Thank You.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's pretty much the Toby Wells show 'till the end

Northampton Cyclocross 2/3 Men Laps 6&7 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

Had to post it. Plus it's some exciting racing esp. at the end.

Gonna Race?

Looks like mother nature's gearing us up for some nice racing conditions this weekend.

Should be fun.

Monday, November 3, 2008

That was just Totally Crazy

Man! Those two races are kind of a blur! Saturday in particular. But talk about some really fun races.

As you can tell by my previous post, I was setting my expectations pretty low for Saturday. I was gonna be happy with moving up 20 spots. And, I've got to say this is not an ungrounded expectation. I've heard many Wednesday night horror stories of starting 94th at Gloucester and "not having any fun" racing because there's "no way you can win". And that all you're doing is fighting to move up a couple of spots.

All I have to say to that is hog wash.

My starting position was pretty much what I expected. First the guys with points got called up. (And a couple of random Verge and BikeReg guys WTF?) Then ten at a time numbers started. I kept checking my number to see if my set would be next, or even close to next. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope....dang, this is rough. I didn't get a good look back to really see how may riders were behind me, I was way to nervous that the whistle would go at any second.

The one saving grace was that I knew I did not want to get jambed on the inside of the first corner. So I lined up on the very left and when the whistle blew, I booked it down that left line. After the officials I popped onto a little dirt strip with no one in front of me kicked it hard and then hit the brakes harder. I felt like I passed 40 people there alone. Two turns later I was making bee lines towards the apex and dropping numbers like the Biggest Loser family style.

I knew gaining spots early was the only way to be competitive and I really don't know how I got so far up. I'm still stunned.
But before too long I could see the chase pack, and what appeared to be Colin's International jersey. And that was a very good sign. I knew I must be doing something right if I could make it up to a first row guy. Turns out the only reason that I did catch up to him is that Mr. MTB himself ate it on some pine needles and jacked up his rear shifter.

After that things get a little blury. I was pysched to see that Colin got some footage up and hoped that it would clear up the rest of the race. But then I was bummed to watch him drop his bike in the pit and the screen go dark. Sad.

I think most of my forgetfulness is due to the metal toughness of lame as it sounds. Not only are you in the hurt box coming out of every turn and for the first two then last two laps, but you have to watch every line and constantly maneuver your bike, plus you have to worry about who's behind you, who's ahead of you, when you might be able to make a break and when you should make a break and how you can avoid that train wreck and happened half a second in front of you, oh and now that you totally ate it through that sand pit what are you going to do now?

The most memorable parts are:
Yelling out to Buzer and Baker "Look at me! and I started in like 70th!" half a lap into the race. (Thanks for the cheering guys. It definitely helped)
Catching a nice draft off of Colin's wheel only to be ditched when he hit the pits, after that I was very much not liking by strung out between two packs just chilling in no man's land, not catching the group ahead, but not being able to quite fend of that pursuing group.
Sucking onto Cort Cramer's wheel with a few other guys. I sat here for maybe a lap or two, and started to think "Man my legs are actually starting to feel okay. I think I might be able to hit it out of a few corners now."
And in doing so gained a smalled lead which I quickly stuffed as I crapily rode the sand pit and ended up flopping over.
Back into the group it is. But at least I could give those legs a second to freshen up before I had to hit real hard on the last lap.
I hit the barriers full tilt and ended up leading these guys onto the starting pavement where I put it down.
On that last lap it looked like a couple of guys might be dropping back fast and that made it all the more exciting. I asked Colin to pull for a little bit heading down that long stretch before the sand, which in hind sight was not the coolest thing to do. But thought we might "work together" to stay out in front of the chase a little. I don't remember at which point I got back ahead of Colin, but was prepared for a sprint at the end until I felt his tire hit mine at the top of the ride up. I felt pretty bad about this, because it was just one of those unlucky brushes.
Never the less, it was enough for him to drop off by a second or so and for me to get around Hunter Pronovost for sixth. 6th!
I'll take it. Just like Suckbrook, this was hard. My lungs haven't hurt like that since...well Suckerbrook, but before that since like some ski race in the 90's. Dang.

On to Sunday shall we?
I took a nice warm-up lap with Pat Goguen (great guy). And part of another one with Colin Murphy, who I thought was Greg Burbridge (he's not by the way), and who was also very quick to stop talking to me/ridding with me, when he found out that I was 6th on Saturday (compared to his 13th.) I think his words were, "6th, well in that case I guess I'm not ridding with you any more." And he dropped back. I thought for a second he was kidding....guess not. Sorry man, didn't mean to call you Greg, my bad.

Any who. 6th on Sat got me some points for Sunday so I was pretty pumped about getting called up to the third row. (left side again) I tried to ride with no expectations again. But did have confidence that I could ride with these guys. I don't know quite how I got there, but at some point in the second lap I found myself in third thinking that life was pretty cool. Yeah that was 'till I tired to ride the fricken sand pit. It was even shorted than Saturday. I did it no problem at all during warmup. Again, I was almost out of it when I just layed down on my side. From there I just submitted to ridding in the chase group. I was hating life sitting on the back of that thing getting slinky'd around thinking,"This is so not where I want to be." And thinking of Jerrod Shoemaker during the Olympics getting toyed with as he hung on for life at the back of the bike field.

We were a big ass group. I think like ten or eleven at one point. I looked at the 5 sets of wheels ahead of me and thought "Man, that's a lot of points right there. I have to move up." And things did start to thin out. Then we'd gain a couple more people, namely Ryan Rumsey. He and his red bikeman kit jumped in and kicked it up a notch for a while. But then someone ditched it on the ride-up. We lost Pat in a serious bail on the barriers.
And, as an aside I want to extend a little apology to Pat. Several of us were going full tilt into the barriers and I was on Pat's left. He must have hit my bike with a foot, or hit the barriers then my bike, or something. But I remember coming in fast on the outside, him losing it, and some point hitting my bike. Again, another unlucky little bit, I feel bad about. Sorry Pat.

Going into the last lap I think it was whittled down to four of us. We stayed pretty tight 'till Ryan ate it wicked hard in the barriers. Again we were all coming in pell-mell (boggle) for the barriers and Ryan pretty much decided to have a late season tag sale. Poor bloke. I remember working hard to miss his head too. Man there was so a lot carnage out there all over the place, it was nuts.
That left me and Colin alone to work for 4th. (Although I belive series leader James Tosca was with us, but I thought he got mixed up with Ryan) Right after the barriers I made the stupid decision to get in front and try and keep the lead. After a little acceleration I realized that I wasn't going to be able to pull away there, that I made a bad move and so I sat up for a few seconds 'till we rounded the last corner for the final sprint.
What a long sprint too. I hit it hard and thought I might have enough lenghts on Colin but ran out of gears and got beat by half a wheel. (I wish the officals had a shot of that) Such an awesome sprint, Thanks Col, that was fun.
I think it's time to fix that front derailer so i can use my big ring. And get a bottom bracket that doesn't wiggle.
I'm ready for some more 'Cross. Bring it!

Saturday results are here and here
Sunday results are here and here