I intended to do just one more Race Report Roundup for the season, but the Coyote Point report ran long, so I figure I’d separate the “peak season” into its own post. Except that for me, it was anything but peak. And in any case, inspired by the master-class in race reports provided by Donut over at the latest addition to my favorite bike blogs, I’m going to knock out these last few reports.
Surf City Cyclocross #2: Watsonville Fairgrounds
I love the Watsonville venue. I also love Surf City Cyclocross’s sensible starting time of 12:45pm for the B’s. So I managed to roll out of bed for the first race that people who think the season ends in December don’t show up for. Sweet. I actually don’t remember too much from this race, besides that it was super-duper bumpy. I think they imported some cobbles from Roubaix and stuck them underneath the grass sections. Bumpy bumpy bumpy. There was plenty of time to appreciate the bumps, too, as the course designers sent us back and forth around several 180-degree bends on the grass. I remember that part, because the guy with reindeer bells on his bike and I passed each other in opposite directions at least a hundred times during the race (have you ever heard the sound of doppler-effect jingle bells? It’s pretty memorable. And no, I couldn’t catch him). In any case, I was bouncing all over the place off those buried cobbles it must have shaken all the memories of what else happened during this race out of my head. I came in 13th out of 26 riders. Mid-pack lifestyle, and further evidence that my prospects for anything better this season were slipping.
I do remember other stuff, like stuffing my foot in my mouth for the second time I ever talked with Brian Vernor (the first time was in Japan a few weeks earlier), crashing a party at Paul‘s house, and going with Jason to a place called Burger (but ordering a pizza). You know, the kind of fun interesting shenanigans that I’d write about if I wasn’t super-boring.
Surf City Cyclocross #3: Watsonville Fairgrounds (the other direction)
So a few weeks later I found myself back at Watsonville Fairgrounds. Deja vu? In more ways than one. I had actually been off the bike almost completely for two weeks coming into this race, and had kinda gotten myself into a serious funk by conflating the amount of riding with self-worth (which is pretty bad when you’re not riding, not to mention going through the holiday gluttony). Anyway, getting my ass out and racing was a good antidote, so I got down to it. Slowly. Very slowly. Actually, I had already decided on the opening line of the race report before the race was done, and that was: I rode like shit. Pedaling squares, bouncing all over the place on the bumps (too much tire pressure? Well, I still managed to bust a hole in a tube and noticed my rear tire was flat after the race)
The course was somewhat similar to the previous Surf City race, but run in the opposite direction. There was a pretty cool section of off-camber slippery-dry-grass 180s on a hillside, which served to show how bad I am at off-camber corners. But I appreciated the gesture.
I decided to represent my buddy Enopy at this race, by pairing up Team Ichigo‘s jersey with my 2009 Sheila Moon skinsuit. I figured that if I was racing like shit, I could at least look fabulous.
Unfortunately, I managed to bloody up that skinsuit and tear a hole in the the leg by going down on a gravelly corner at the start of the second lap. Whoops. That took the wind out of my sails further (as if there was any to begin with, given the lack of training and general pity-party that the previous couple weeks had become). I hobbled into the finish in 12th out of 16 riders, and got one ruined skinsuit for my efforts. So now I’d moved from “top third” to “mid-pack” to “bottom third” within a few short weeks. Oh well.
Afterwards, I used the self-serve “medical tent” at the race, which to quote one of my Twitter friends, “made CCCX’s medical tent look like Stanford Hospital.” It was literally a bunch of bandaids and cotton balls, and a couple bottles of iodine and alcohol. Luckily, I had my stash of Tegaderm at home, so I was patched up in style an hour later. Of all the cheeky sponsors to have for our team, I would love to have Tegaderm (3M). Because I need it. While also hopefully never needing it. Er, you get the idea.
I missed the last Surf City race (because it was the day after the Old Caz Grasshopper, again), but apparently placed 6th overall in the B’s this season. Put that on the list of palmarès that I don’t keep! Put another way, attendance counts, even if you only do three out of four races.
ONE TO GO!
Bakersfield. Norcal vs. Socal. The important one. Would I continue my backward slide into the “off-season,” or would I buck up and put together a decent race? I’ll get to that next time… For now, why not read my report from last year, which I assure you will be far more entertaining than my forthcoming report of the 2012 edition. Until then…
When we last left off, I was regaling you with the tale of my failure to actually race SSCXWC (which was followed by Team Rapha‘s failure to respect the only rule the race has). Oh well. The day after, I hopped on a plane to Japan, and even raced my bike twice while I was there. But I’d like to address that in the context of the trip (i.e. put it off), so I’m going to pick up with the first race I did as soon as I got back to the states, which was…
Bay Area Superprestige #4: Cyclocross Coyote Point
I came back from Japan fatter, slower, and more jetlagged than ever. What better time to do the final race of the big series in these parts? This is one of my favorite courses (though perhaps not as much as the hilltop Coyote Point course, which was, sadly, not used this year. Almost as sad as missing both races in Golden Gate Park this year, but I digress). In any case, resplendent in my orange bubbles, I lined up and tried to make myself invisible behind the first few rows of Serious Business B-tards. I mean, look at these guys:
(Photo by Jeff Namba)
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
So we’ve got Jason “Chasing the Podium™” Ferrier, a 12-year-old that doesn’t feel pain, the usual Above Category Hit Squad, and a Cal Giant Rider. I didn’t think they allowed those guys in the B’s. Anyway, I knew this was going to be a punch in the balls, but there was no turning back.
The whistle blew, and we were off on that paved straightaway leading right into the main climb of the course. Thanks to Nate K’s awesome video, I have documentation of (my ass at the) the start of the race:
That's me in orange. That's you, getting mooned by me.
I didn’t take off like a rocket, but at least I didn’t do too badly on the pavement, which then led into the dirt climb…
Note that John Luk is here, executing his patented “line up early start in the front of the B race then get passed by everyone” technique. This photo is of course illustrative of how far I had moved up going into the climb, or how far he had dropped back in the first 30 seconds. For the sake of both of us looking better, I’m going to go with the former.
Things actually got super-hectic on the climb. Even though the speed was reduced, it was still a case of 80 guys trying to get onto the “good” line, so there was a lot of bump n’ grind going on. I stayed upright and managed to not get bogged down or stopped behind someone.
In any case, back to the video. I actually GAINED positions on the climb. Whoa. Then at the top, I actually attacked and got even further ahead, after utilizing my “almost hit a lightpost” riding style. Amazing, right?
I was having a good race, technically-speaking. I kept it together on all the technical sections, rode the gravel and steep parts, and all that good stuff. Of course, every few minutes I would be passed by a few guys, which conclusively answered Steven Woo’s question of “Where’s your Japan fitness?” (the answer, by the way, is: Back in Japan, by gorging itself on ramen and pastries). But I wasn’t stressed over that, I just didn’t have the speed to run at the front of the pack. Fine. I was still enjoying myself!
Then, on the last lap I found myself locked in a battle with another rider. Now, some people might battle for the win, or the podium, or even a top ten finish. But one of the nice things about ‘cross is that you can be in the middle of the pack there’s always SOMEBODY to race. Well, I had found my man and caught him up the climb, then made a move to get ahead of him right before the first part of the descent. And that’s when I decided that I needed to open up a bit of a gap to last me for the rest of the lap. So when I got to the second descent (the bumpy, hardpacked rooty one, as opposed to the swoopy loose slow one) I got into the drops and off the brakes…
And then, that sickening sound. Pshhhhhhhhhhh. Whether it was the extra speed, extra weight on the front wheel from being in the drops, or my general lack of finesse, the result was the same. I had pinch-flatted my 32mm tire on this mountain-bikey descent. And as my tire rapidly deflated, so did my hopes for the top-half finish I was headed for a moment earlier. I think my common sense leaked out too, because I was soon running down the middle of the track on the descent, running afoul of Captain Morgan, before realizing that I needed to get the hell off the racing line.
On the other hand, the “racing line” happened to also go directly past my lovely team tent, where all manner of handups were on offer.
(I’m the only racer to have appeared in two consecutive photos by David here, and if you look carefully you’ll noticed that it’s not the same beverage in the other photo).
So I decided to enjoy my forced march… After my spirits had been sufficiently lifted, somebody helpfully pointed out that the Ritchey neutral wheel pit was 10 meters ahead. So I went and got a wheel and rode out the rest of the race. If I hadn’t flatted, I would have probably finished in the high-30s or low 40s, but I ended up 58th, out of 79. C’est la vie.
As threatened last time, here’s the long-boring-race-report coverage for the next few races… But look, pretty pictures!
Surf City #1: Aptos High School
How I felt: Not so good! The Bad Sensations were in place, feeling like I had an impending cold, perhaps. Whatever. The course looked fun, but actually really damn hard too, with 200 feet of climbing per lap. The start led straight into a steep and sustained road climb, then turned around at the top of the hill into a bumpy singletracky descent around a tree, then across a street (down a curb and up another one) into an off-camber dirt drop-in to a hardpack descent with a chain-link fence to the right. Then there was a chicane around a tree (first bottleneck on course) that led to the super-fast singletrack section down to the road… Actually does anybody really want to read this? Suffice to say, Aptos High School. Watch Hans’ video of it or read Jim Hewett’s reports if you want a good recap of the courses.
If you let your kids come to our tent we will hand them a cupcake and a megaphone and teach them how to heckle. And Tim Westmore will take photos.
In any case, it was quite hot, and as the race drew nearer I was feeling less and less good. Several rides over the 4×4-ish log barriers had convinced me that I could ride them, but not very fast. I’m pretty sure that running it would be faster than riding it slowly (though of course, riding them fast is the best solution). Once again, the “small” barrier problem manifests itself: If you can’t hop them and most people can, you’re at a disadvantage (in addition, there were real log barriers which I knew I couldn’t ride, so those weren’t even an issue).
How you’re supposed to ride the logs… Demonstrated by Kirt.
Of course I rode them so badly that I thought I might have pinch flatted and developed a slow leak in my rear tire. I mentioned this to Chris, who had just finished his race, and he said “take my bike!”. I asked for just a wheel, but he insisted on it. So I took it… A 16lb S-Works Tricross with file-tread tubulars and SRAM Red. Plus, Chris’s saddle height is the same as mine so it was good to go immediately (with a little more air in his tires). Oh, and I had decided to ride without gloves (er, lost them), but I was fine the week before so “what’s the worst that could happen”. The pros ride without gloves all the time, right?
Bike change? Why not?
In any case, I set myself up for a good start position just to try it out, lining up in the front row (on the inside) alongside the Spokesman kids and the Above Category Junior Hit Squad. Those juniors know how to line up, especially for guys who can’t even drink the beer that you can win at Surf City races. The whistle went and I was off. I didn’t lose too many positions up the hill and got to the first dirt in a pretty good position. Rode the rest of the race and, well, had nowhere to go but down in positions. At the end of the first lap, Jonathan Krier passed me like I was standing still. Literally, he was going twice as fast as me into the road climb. Damnnit. Also, my left hand had developed two holes in it (well, blisters) from my death grip on the hoods over a very bumpy course with no gloves. I’m still recovering from that one. Well, I kept riding and held my own, finishing up in a respectable 16/46th. I can’t blame anything on my start position, either!
After the race, I recruited Simon to our team:
Stafford Lake CX – Novato, CA (A Murphy Mack Joint)
This was a new race and nobody knew what to expect. But news had started to leak out ahead of time from the course-building volunteers (thanks guys!) that it was pretty burly. It was also raining pretty heavily the day before, so the prediction was for a mudfest on course. The night before, I got a call from Andrew offering to loan me some mud tubulars (brand-new Challenge Limus), so I couldn’t refuse that. I picked them up on the way to the race and slapped ’em on my bike to go out for a pre-ride. Without checking the tire pressure. But they felt fine! At least until I came into a sharp downhill right-hander (after the “off camber descent” which was after the “long off-camber traverse” which was after the “staircase runup”). That’s when I decided to really rail it and slid out onto my right side (hitting my knee, hip, and head on the ground, as well as jamming my left index finger on… something). When I got up, I realized that the lack of adhesion wasn’t between the tire and the ground, but rather the tire and my front wheel. Yep, I had rolled a tubular. So I put it back on and rode back to my car to change back to the clincher (Michelin Mud, at 28psi, I now know… The rear Limus tubular stayed at 24psi as-delivered, I learned later).
The stairs before the rollers before the whoop-de-doo before the uphill slog to the the offcamber corner of doom…
So then, off to the start. Or rather, off to the bathroom first. They called 2 minutes to go when I was getting into the outhouse. And since the A’s were still finishing their race (well, the slower ones anyway) I didn’t think there was so much urgency for the B’s to start on time. Well, I was totally wrong, because I saw the B field take off while riding to the start! Shit! I kept my cool and rode through the SS field who was still staging, then concentrated on getting up to the back of the field before the first bottleneck. And basically, I did. The course started with a gradual gravel road climb until reaching a left-hander onto a bridge that led to narrower dirt. And at the bridge is where I caught up with the back of the field. I’m saying it wasn’t any worse than lining up on the back row.
Not my start… Not even my race in the picture. Hey, I see Hans there! That means there’s a video.
In any case, I fought like hell to make up positions along the way, although I was still very far back in the pack at the exit of the singletrack and across the bumpy grass to the bottom of the runup. I passed a few more people on foot, and then a few more on the off-camber section. I’m not usually aggressive enough about going for passes, but I needed to take positions wherever I could in this case! Of course I still managed to take anything that was offered to me on course (a few welcome sips of beer from Andrew, and an entire chocolate chip cookie from Sarah, making them the best support team EVER).
[Missing Photo which I would pay good money for: Me crossing the finish line with cookie bits flying everywhere as I attempt not to choke]
(barriers of unusual size do exist!)
Eventually I was trying very hard to catch Nick Navarro and equally hard to hold off Daryl Rogers. This pair from Freewheel-Hunter are basically my rivals right now (CrossResults-Confirmed!). I had just caught up to Nick on the last lap when I took the high line down the off-camber-descent and succumbed to the bumpiness, tossing me off the bike and losing me 5 or 10 seconds in the process. Finished 18th/36. Mid-Pack from the worst start position possible. Maybe I could have done better with a good start, but I was satisfied with how I rode the race afterwards.
Bay Area Superprestige #2: Sierra Point, Brisbane CA
This is the site of my first-ever ‘cross race, and one of the few venues I’ve raced at four years in a row. And the weather cooperated like it never has before, producing a fast, (relatively) smooth, and dust-free course. And I even got a call-up, delivering me to a third-row start. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, the fact still remains that I suck at starts, be it my gear selection, getting clipped in, or just not training. You know, one of those. So I lost positions fairly quickly (as evidenced by the aerial video… Check me out on the right!). Well, I rode hard, and gained back some ground once we hit the dirt. I ended up battling my way up in the field and duking it out with a couple guys who I don’t know.
After the barriers, I was always slow to get back up to speed in a very bumpy remount zone. The better strategy was to run all the way to the top of the hill before remounting, and had I swallowed my pride and done this, I’d probably have caught Daryl sooner. He was smarter than me and gapped me every time in that section…
That is, until I got within sight of Chris Atkinson (Teem Crash!), and smelled blood. Maybe it was my own, because that bit of excitement in the chase led to a silly crash right after the “muddy plywood board right-hander onto pavement”. I was on the ground, but not hurt (much). Catching up to Chris would be difficult though, as I had lost time and positions. Still, I eventually caught up to Daryl and laid on the gas to get around him in last part of the lap. After that, I came around the U-turn into the finishing straight and found myself in the midst of almost a 5-up sprint down the finishing straight. I didn’t catch any of the guys who had the drop on me, but I held my position for a respectable 31/92.
The rest of the Sierra Point festivities were, of course, madness… Complete with HeckleGate and lots of good times up on the hill for the Elite race…
And Ultimate Radness being provided by Scotty Chapin:
Well, SSCXWC happened in Golden Gate Park the very next weekend. I went to Friday night’s kickoff party (No. 1 of 3 for the weekend). When I woke up the next day for the qualifier, I was sick. As I was scheduled to get on a plane for Japan on Monday, I didn’t want to risk further illness and stayed in bed all day. On Sunday, I took the sensible option and didn’t saddle up my bike, though I did go watch. It kind of sucked to not actually participate in the event that I had so much invested in, but that’s the breaks. The event was amazing, but I’m going to defer to the coverage handily provided by other folks for now.
The consolation prize was that my CX bike and I spent the subsequent two weeks in Japan. More on that later…
So, I originally started writing a post about this back in October, but never finished it… In it, I stated that I was considering combining two things I like, Japan, and ‘Cross into one absurd trip in November. See, the story would start with me hopping on a plane immediately after racing SSCXWC, and heading to Japan to do the Nobeyama CX Race. Then I’d bum around for a week and follow it up with another race in Saitama. When I wrote the post, I wasn’t even sure I was going to do it, but said that I was toying with the idea of bringing my bike on vacation and shattering the myth once and for all that all Americans who race ‘cross in Japan are badass and fast.
Well, I did it. I think I accomplished that mission. But that story will have to wait a little while. In the meantime, I’m back now and “racing” here. Since the last “Season So Far” report, I raced a few times! Long-winded reports for those races are coming, but the high notes were…
Surf City #1, the Halloween Race, at Aptos High School – Bike change 2 minutes before the start, lined up in the front row, climbed 200ft per lap, did pretty well!
Stafford Lake CX in Novato – Missed my start by 10-15 seconds and rode my way into the field. Still finished mid-pack. Rolled a tubie in the pre-ride and my index finger is still jacked up from the resulting crash.
BASP Sierra Point Night Race in Brisbane – Best Sierra Point course yet due to rain the day before. Rode a decent race too, but crashed and lost a few positions.
SSCXWC in Golden Gate Park… No wait, I got sick the day of the qualifier. Damn.
(Pictured: Not Me… But I’m sure a little hypothermia would have helped me get over that sickness before hopping on the plane to Japan!)
Okay, I’ve been slacking off. So before things get too out of control, I present to you my race reports for the early season. Too long, didn’t read? Have a look at the photos instead!
CCCX #1 – Fort Ord, Monterey, CA. Men’s B.
The first CCCX race is traditionally the first race on the Norcal calendar, and a great place to give the bike and the legs a shakedown for the season to come. Or, to put less of a brave face on it, it’s where I go to get the first-race debacle out of the way. You see, Fort Ord and I have a history. In 2009 I went ass-over-teakettle on one of the venue’s loose descents, then flatted immediately after the pit on my second lap. First race DNF. In 2010, I managed to bang my knee up bad enough the weekend before by slipping and falling in a train station, and wasn’t even able to show up. And that brings me to 2011… My first race of my second complete season as a B. I carpooled down with Eric at the wheel and the CX Magazine Cheap Bike (“Zeke”) on the roof, hoping for the best … But already signs of trouble were appearing when I “Joey’d” a barrier on my pre-ride, knocking the front wheel out of true and sending me scrambling to get it straight enough to not rub Zeke’s V-brake pads. A friendly mechanic sorted me out before the start and I lined up.
Right from the get-go, there was a 2-minute climb that brought me to redline and had me wishing for a slightly lower gear than the 1×9 setup on the Zeke, but not getting totally dropped. So far, so good. At the top of the hill, the course turned into a mostly singletrack descent, punctuated with a few loose sections (including my old nemesis from 2009, which my skills were better-developed to handle now). My teammate Ted had edged ahead of me on the climb (nice work!), and I settled in behind for the descent. I didn’t go around because I figured that with 29er tires and hydraulic brakes he’d be able to descend faster than I wanted. This wasn’t actually the case though. I should have asked for a point-by, or just gone for it. In any case, the race was young so it wasn’t much of a problem. It turned out that Ted and I would be battling the whole time, but due to circumstances I hadn’t foreseen.
The second half of the course contained a stretch of paved road with a U-turn at the end to form an out-and-back. I had worked my way back up and into sight of the front, when the pack came into the U-turn. Three wide. I was on the outside. A note for future reference: you know you’re in trouble when you hear the apology before the crash. And the crash came: I was pushed off my bike and into the pavement by a rider in red. I didn’t even see who it was (though I did see plenty of red after that).
The good news is that it had happened in the slowest part of the pavement, and that I wasn’t seriously hurt. The bad news is, I had just lost several positions, my bars and left lever were tweaked to the side, and getting crashed out in the first lap tends to take the spring out of your step. In any case, I hopped back on and banged the shifter back into place, but not the bars, and tried to get back into the race. And I was making pretty good time too, until a few (!) chain drop incidents dropped my position accordingly. Zeke’s 3rd Eye chain keeper was useless every time the chain dropped on the inside. I lost more time to this than to the crash, from what I can tell. At least having to stop to put the chain back on gave me a chance to straighten the handlebars!
In the end, I came through in a respectable 12th place, having neither had a successful race, or an utter debacle. And I tried to outspent a guy in red on the finishing straight, for justice! But I failed. And it wasn’t actually the one who crashed me out. Turns out, it was a friend of mine who did it, and all was forgiven when he handed me a beer by the finish. I came in 12th out of 19 riders, 4′:00″ behind the winner.
CrossVegas – Las Vegas, NV. Wheelers and Dealers Race
Sin City. Interbike. CrossVegas… The industry race. My second time. I don’t have a UCI license, nor am I “elite” in any sense of the word, so I did the industry race as a representative of Sheila Moon Athletic Apparel. The events leading up to the race itself were easily more colorful and had more of an impact on my result than anything I did on course, but that would fill up an entire post on its own. Suffice to say, with 23 rows of starters and going from the very back of 150-ish riders, it was utter insanity. My only goals were to go as hard as I could (which I did, results be damned), and not be lapped by Jon Cariveau.
Starting from the back is never great for success, but it barely mattered in this case. I was so compromised, and the first lap included an oval circuit to string the field out, and the course was so wide (UCI-legal, yo) that I wasn’t really caught behind anybody at the start. I rode hard, moved up some, and settled in for the race. The course was actually more technical than usual, given that there had been a few days of once-in-a-lifetime rain in Vegas to soften up the ground and even create the tiniest bit of mud underneath the legendary “Velcro-grass” of the Desert Breeze soccer complex. And so it went…
Success! I came in 105th, which means I passed 61 people. I suppose that means I did better last year, but you know, extenuating circumstances definitely had an impact on my race-readiness. I took a cooldown lap or two, wherein I tried to ride up the stairs, and got passed by multiple world- and national-champions doing their course inspection. Only in Vegas… Maybe the rest of the story will be told in another post…
Video Feature! It’s not about me at all, but if you have a spare 42 minutes, check out this awesome video feature by Sporza featuring Bart Wellens and Rob Peeters. It’s awesome, really. And will take you less time than to read this post.
And Then I Got Sick for like two weeks.
After Vegas, I promptly displayed signs of “Interbike Plague”, which put me in the hole for about two weeks or more. Screw that place. Again, My Vegas Strategy needs definite work in 2012. Coming back on Saturday after Interbike means I missed the Folsom race, and my sickness kept me from racing the weekend after at CCCX. It’s okay though, I thought, I’m pre-registered for the Lion of Fairfax! That’s a fun race, even though I have no shortage of “history” with it (last year: My love-hate relationship with my tubulars began when I flatted one on the bumpy, rooty section of the course. Whoops).
Intermission: In which I endure ridicule for being a roadie.
Levi’s GranFondo – Full Route + Willow Creek “Gravel” Option.
Wait, what? This isn’t a CX race… On the eve of the Lion of Fairfax, I got the opportunity to ride Levi’s GranFondo in Santa Rosa. After feeling like a sad sack for the prior two weeks, this sounded like an excellent idea even as it opened me up to condemnation from all my dirt-loving friends. Whatever. It was awesome, and I even met some of my internet friends like The Noodleator. She wrote up the actual event far better than I’ll ever be able to do, so check it that link if you’re interested!
In any case, I wanted to do more races this year than the last two years… But I started thinking about it, and realized that there’s more to life, even during CX season, than racing every weekend. Balance! In any case, I’d race ‘cross the next weekend, right?
Intermission Part 2: Medocino Fat Tire Festival
Jughandle Juggernaut XC Race – Caspar, CA. Men’s Super Sport.
No, it turns out I wouldn’t. Instead of going to Sacramento and/or CCCX the next weekend, I drove up to Mendocino to join about fifteen of my friends and teammates for the Mendocino Coast Fat Tire Festival. We rented a house, hung out, did awesome XC race on Saturday, and awesome fun-ride on Sunday. Due to a mix-up at the bike shop, I didn’t have Mr. Moots for the weekend, but rather a Santa Cruz Blur TRc. What an interesting bike that was… In any case, it kept me out of trouble and let me get at least 50% more rad over that weekend.
I also rode the prototype of Ibis’ new big-wheeled machine:
CCCX #4 – Manzanita Park, Prunedale CA. Men’s B.
Okay, we’re back. Back to ‘cross. I had given back Zeke the Wednesday before, so I had to get my Cannondale back into racing shape. I swapped the big ring to a Salsa 46t, and installed the other half of my Poor-Man’s Mini-V setup in preparation. Because, you know, the best time to do mechanical work on a bike is the day before a race.
CCCX at Manzanita Park. The course was the so-called “reverse” configuration (running the opposite direction of the week before, and the time I raced there in 2010). The advantage of the reverse direction was the elimination of the paved climb, which absolutely killed me the year before. This course was super fun! There was only one runup, with a barrier at the top, a shallow sandy climb, a couple of cool sections through the trees, some loose singletrack turns, and more 180-degree turns on baseball fields than I could count. And the conditions were “good”, meaning dry and loose, much different than last year’s epic slog.
There were definitely nerves at the start, since it was a flat dirt approach to a corner, and nobody wanted to go down there. I went out decently fast, but not fast enough to be in the front group, and just kept my pace through the whole race. I definitely got bottlenecked in the first narrow section, and it took a while to work my way up. Yells of encouragement from my friends told me that I was near the top ten, so I kept drilling it, eventually even catching up with and passing Jason, who had been hanging out at the front of the race at the start (and had placed 6th the week before, as well as at Lion of Fairfax). I got a lot of encouragement from friends on the sidelines, including Chris Matthews, who told me to “pass those three guys!”. People should tell me that more often, because I did. I eventually ended up working with Mike, the winner of the singlespeed race. We were fairly close in speed, at least in the sections where I couldn’t cheat with gears, so neither of us was really dropping each other. Later on, he told me that I was keeping his pace up by being there… Glad to help!
At the finish, I found out I was actually 13th, out of 32, at 2’36” back from the winner. Top-10 would have to wait for another day.
Rookie cyclocross racerRand Miller also came in 4th in the Elite race, only 1’07” back from Andy Jaques-Maynes (who was taking it easy after winning the 24 hours of Moab the week before. Slacker).
Later that week, I’d attend a clinic with rockstar Joachim Parbo…
He knows what’s up.
CCCX #5 – Toro Park, Salinas CA. Men’s B.
Double-race weekends. I don’t do them very often. It’s usually more driving than I want to do, plus I am a lazy bastard. And finally, this race was the day before the “big race”, so there was of course the temptation to save myself for the next day and concentrate on the Super-Prestigious race to come. Well, with BASP no longer being a points series, I decided that they aren’t any more of a priority to me than any other race. To prove it, I showed up to race in Salinas.
I arrived within minutes of Sasha and Marko, forming a three-pronged Moonie Attack on the lightly-attended field. It turns out that lots of people were saving themselves for BASP, because there were only 15 starters in the open B field. The 35+ B’s raced at the same time, so we were all going simultaneously. The course was pretty simple: A shallow paved climb that quickly turned sharp (very sharp, 15-20%), then veered off into haul-ass singletrack for about half the lap. Braap! Things were going pear-shaped from the start though, as I did not have the legs to keep up with the “kids” in my race. Sitting, standing, pushing my granny gear or not, I just wasn’t going hard enough to keep a good position in the first lap up the hill and settled into mid-pack. As the race wore on, I kept moving up, picking people off in the turnarounds, or over the barriers. As were approached the end, the front group was long since out of reach, and I was battling in a group of three or four.
I made sure to get in front across the finish line coming into the bell lap and gave a good effort up the steep climb, but as soon as my nemesis on the carbon Scott MTB came alongside for the 5th time, I just pulled the plug and settled in behind, figuring that I’d make my move in the latter half of the course. See, using energy up the climb was a tactically smart move, because the long descent provided ample recovery time, but I just didn’t have the legs to stay ahead of him (or couldn’t hurt myself enough to do it). So I waited. Down the singletrack, and into the right-hander through a gully that started us back on the gradual climb to the start (and contained the paved U-turns, the dirt U-turns, and the barriers). I don’t even remember where I made my move, but it wasn’t that hard to do considering he was slower than me on this half of the lap even without any turns. After that I just drilled it without looking back, and was able to stay ahead across the finish line.
I’m not sure who came in 6th, but I found out after the finish that I had come in 5th! My first podium since upgrading to the B’s… And the first time I brought home the berries. Definitely an awesome accomplishment for me, even with the lightly-attended field.
I was 5th out of 12 riders, 2’47” behind the winner (John Elliot from The Team, who had a healthy 1’32” gap on second place).
Sasha blew through his field and most of the open B field (including me) to win his first race. Nice work!
BASP #1 – Candlestick Point. San Francisco, CA – Men’s B.
Fresh off of my first B podium, I came to Candlestick Point for the first race in the “big show” of Norcal cyclocross – The Bay Area Superprestige series (aka BACX). The course was hot, dusty, loose and bumpy, and set a record for the amount of broken glass at a venue. The character of the course was somewhat like Sierra Point Squared: Mostly flat, but the course made you go up and down whatever hills there were as many times as possible. There was a single barrier at the top of an otherwise-ridable riser, as well as a double-set with a bumpy flat approach. There was a “sunup” on the course that was completely ridable, if somebody wasn’t screwing up in front of you. There was also the first appearance of the flyover, which was fun for racers and spectators alike, and a few really flat-to-downhill sections before the finish that were great places to catch people napping.
From the gun, Jason jumped out in front (capitalizing on a good self-selected start position… Mental note, hang out with Jason before the race) and I did my best to stay with the front as the race got strung out. As soon as the bottlenecks came (maybe the second corner) I was off my bike and running on the inside to gain positions. I don’t know if it cost me or won me positions, but by the time I reached the (ridable) runup, aka Heckler Hill, I was in 32nd place (according to Jenny’s video evidence, thanks Jenny!) and 30 seconds down during the first lap. After that, I was moving up again, and basically riding my own race… There wasn’t much going on tactically with me, unlike the day before. I was picking up positions though, up to and including the last corner where I passed a Fremont Bank guy who was approaching the final turn too slowly. The joke was on me though, as he grabbed on my wheel and easily came around me in a sprint for 18th. I guess he races road, with that kind of smart thinking.
Best video of the event, for sure!
19th out of 81 racers (or more, depending if you trust the results sheet or BikeReg). I don’t know the time gap because BASP doesn’t give them, but I’ve Strava-estimated myself to be about 2.5 minutes back from a podium spot. Not the top spot, though…
Tomorrow, I’ll race Surf City Cyclocross’s Halloween race at Aptos High School… After that, there’s one more weekend of racing (Possibly Sac CX in Folsom on Saturday, followed by Stafford Lake CX on Sunday) before the Sierra Point BASP Night Race… And then onward to SSCXWC and beyond. The season is still young, and I’m hoping to keep it up!
The 2011 Edition of the Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships has been announced! San Francisco, November 18-20, 2011. Have a look at the Facebook page for it right here! What does that have to do with me? Well, take a look at the mascot… Looks like something I’d draw, right?
I’m like a proud papa. The scoop on the event is all on the newly launched website at…
So go check it out, and come on out and join the party. It’s a full three days of radness from November 18th-20th, 2011!
Of course, my history with SSCXWC dates back to 2008, where I signed on to an epic road trip in search of adventure. I wasn’t racing, but I went to the qualifier, the parties, and supported Jason in his quixotic campaign of racing singlespeed cyclocross on a Surly Big Dummy…
Possibly the luckiest shot I ever got of a bike race… Of course, riding in the Pacific Northwest takes its toll on us Bay Area types… I’ve included the comments section from that photo, because really, they nailed it.
In any case, I knew I had to come back and race it next year, and the 2009 SSCXWC was indeed madness… Racing in Portland is something else, that’s for sure.
I don’t remember much, and neither did my camera, having been thoroughly busticated from water damage incurred on the “Social Ride” the day before. That ride was also one of my most miserable days on the bike, ever. And yet I still speak fondly of it!
My camera took photos like this after the social ride. That just about sums up the water damage that both of us incurred.
We tried and failed to win the hosting rights for 2010, which went to those sneaky Seattle types, but San Francisco was able to finally secure it for 2011, and that brings us to now. It’s going to be madness. Will you be there?
So where we left off last time, I had just done the Foothill Circuit race, and even reported on it. Hell, Norcal Cycling News liked it enough that they got permission to repost my coverage of the Pro/1/2 race. I’m happy that they did, because I’m happy any time The Legend Of May Woo grows.
I went on a big ride, here are some medium photos.
Brought to you by Performance Bike Brand Chamois Cream. My review: It works!
The next weekend, I went out for an all-day ‘cross ride. All-day? Well, I left the house at 2pm and came back around 9:30. The theme of the ride was “No F’s would be given.” I was also, in a way, recreating the first “big ride” I did, way back in 2007 , when I rode up Highway 9, into Saratoga Gap and Long Ridge, then progressively used up all my water, food, and daylight by the time I made it back to civilization. It felt very adventuresome at the time, and it had been a while since I rolled out from my front door with big dirt in mind. And big it was!
And I found an arcade and ice cream in the middle of the wilderness, so of course I partook… Not only did it take off any pressure to set a PR up Highway 9, but I also got ice cream. That’s performance nutrition right there.
I kept on riding…
And saw more stuff like this…
It was pretty sweet. Check out this map, which doesn’t form a complete loop because my Garmin ran out of battery. In the end, it was about 65 miles and 8000 feet of climbing. Most of it was on dirt, and it was about 6 hours of moving time (7-ish hours total).
University Road Race Report!
Spoiler Alert: He didn’t, so I didn’t.
It’s Officially ‘Cross Season! (or close enough)
Of course, now here’s what I’m looking forward to… I regret the fact that the days of long all-day rides on Sundays may be gone for few months. We’re less than two weeks out from the first local race, which I may or may not do, but hot on its heels…
CrossVegas, baby. It’s going to be a fun week at Interbike, and I’m really looking forward to the race. And how am I feeling coming into the season? Pretty good actually. I’ve set some good times up the local climbs, and I’ve been riding a hell of a lot more dirt this year than last year. Will this mean it’s going to be any easier this year? Probably not, but I might go faster! I’ve gotten tested, and my swagger is up like 8% over last year.
Last weekend marked the return of the Foothill College Circuit Race Race, presented by Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club. And, amazingly, I was there! Race reports aren’t really my thing, but since Norcal Cycling News managed to write a weekend race report purporting to cover this race without actually writing about it (great photo notwithstanding), I will take up the slack. This is the first, and may well be the last time this year I lined up at a road race, let alone “covered” one (my race coverage is as good as AT&T’s coverage in San Francisco).
Andrew Cathcart, destroys the field sometime around time this race was run.
The course: 1.09 miles, clockwise around the campus, 60(ish) feet of climbing per lap, several turns but no corners. So call it a crit, or call it a circuit race… But I called it a good warmup for ‘cross season. Although Foothill College has hosted a race in the past (see above!), the FCCR is essentially a new event run by Los Gatos Bicycle Racing Club.
They started late. In fact, they started so late that I could have made it on time to race it, if only I was allowed to. Which I’m not. In any case, John Luk was easily recognizable in the pack by his extremely-aero-position and extremely-neon-tires. After the race, he said that he “didn’t need to do anything the whole time,” I think I’m learning about this road racing thing, little by little.
John Luk and his magnificent tires
Up front, “newbie” road racer Colin “Sup Dawg” Daw (Wheel Away Cycle Center) was laying down what I can only assume to be a conclusive smackdown on the field. I didn’t actually see, but considering all his Strava KOMs, I’m just going to extrapolate and say that he casually rode away from everyone and then probably did a few repeats on Bohlman as a cool-down*.
* I can also report that after Foothill, Colin made the move to the 3’s and promptly took second in the Patterson Pass Road Race. Nice!
You know, the one that matters. First of all, I must thank the organizers for putting the 5 race after the 4 race. Normally. the scrubs are the ones that get shafted with the early start times, especially in cyclocross. But today we got that crucial extra hour over the 4s for some mysterious reason. I’m certainly not complaining.
At the start, Chris “Hot Lava” Evans (Webcor/Alto Velo) reminded me to reset my Garmin so that my Strava ride didn’t include my warmup. “I didn’t warm up,” I replied. I mean, I do all the warming up I need on the drive over, or in the porta-potty closest to the starting line (I once set a “PR” minutes before the start of the BASP Golden Gate Park race). In any case, we’ve all read the article by now that says that shit doesn’t work, right? I thought so.
The race was to be run neutralized for either “the first lap” or “until the fountain”, which was fine by me. The course ran clockwise around the campus, which is normally against the flow of one-way traffic, so it was (nearly) everyone’s first time riding the course. A little recon was definitely welcome. Even so, I thought the fountain “bottleneck” that they kept warning us about was much ado about nothing. Maybe the organizers wanted to avoid a Cat 5 freakout-into-yardsale. I don’t know! As soon as we hit the first climb, it was pretty clear that things weren’t neutral anymore, but since this was not cyclocross, people were happy to keep the pace down a bit. The first thing I noticed is that the steep-looking first part of the climb wasn’t so bad, but that the rest of the climb actually went on a lot further than it seemed.
I cropped this photo a little more dishonestly when it was on Instagram…
In any case, round and round we went, until three or four laps in when I found myself on a wheel that was headed off the front. After a few seconds, the guy made motions like he wanted me to work, so I obliged. Well, sort of. I actually just came around him and backside of the course, then opened the throttle. Of course, nobody chased, because that would be stupid. I mean, that guy is so dumb going off the front so early like that, right? Well yeah! I knew that I was far from the strongest guy there (ahem, Chris), and I sure wasn’t going to be the smartest either, so I decided to just have some fun. After all, most of us are going to finish mid-pack, so why not finish mid-pack after actually doing something? Around the back and over the start/finish line I went, without looking back, and then down the descent and around the fountain into the climb. At this point, Chris Evans (Webcor/Alto-Velo) appeared on my right.
“You know,” he said, casually, “I don’t think the chances for our break are very good.” Well, that was for sure. Shortly thereafter we were swallowed up, and I rode out the rest of the race with a few less matches, but the satisfaction of getting Sheila Moon Racing some TV Time. Afterwards, Chris remarked that he “just pedaled up” to me and “didn’t have to work” to do so. It’s nice to know that I posed that much of a threat.
Photo by Steven Woo. The disorganized finish!
I eventually recovered from the redlining I had endured while off the front, just in time for the speed to ramp up towards the finish. I didn’t position myself far enough forward before the last bit, so nothing exciting was going to happen. In any case, Jacob Jedlicka (Uzbekistan Express) won, followed by Jesse Mayberry (???) and Justin Balderston (Unattached, but let’s say Mike’s Bikes). I came in 13th, claiming that I “didn’t sprint for 10th.” I think Chris claimed the same thing, except that he actually did come in 10th. So there! (Also: Please upgrade).
I also learned that I can explain away all failings to secure a good finishing position by saying that I misread the end. So that’s what happened, and I’m sticking to it. Speaking of misreading the end, I just found another photo of the finish that shows what it actually looked like. Not even close! Well, maybe it was for second and third.
Things got off to a fast start in this race, with several attacks going off within the opening laps, including Matt McNamara (Sterling Sports Group p/b Sendmail p/b Himself).
McNamara wasted no time to take a flier!
This race was fun to watch, because it was obvious to my barely-trained eyes that “racing” was actually occurring. In any case, the break eventually got too big and the race came back together. Either too many passengers got on and slowed the break down, or maybe everybody “bridged up” until there wasn’t anybody left back in the peloton. I’ll leave it to somebody who knows what they’re talking about to make that call.
Then, something unusual happened. I was just being a layabout by the Start/Finish line (not unusual), when a rider came across the line with a flat tire, and having one available in the pit. So, in a much-less-amazing version of the should-be-famous Bobby Julich/Tour of California story, I volunteered mine…
Hey where’d my wheel go?
And with the free lap rule in effect, Josh Dapice (Audi Cycling Team) got right to work, sending himself and My Rear Wheel (Shimano Wheel Technology p/b Slonie) off the front for three laps in a row on his way to finishing in the top ten of the Cat 2 field. Well-played, Josh. We’ve collaborated on the next level of spectator excitement: Sending our own equipment into the race and watching it go around and around!
Oh, there it is! (Photo: Aki Yamakawa)
Matthew Carinio (ArtsCyclery.com/Wild Horse Win) won the race. Congratulations, Matthew! Looks like you had plenty of time to celebrate.
(Photo: Garrett Lau)
I actually missed the start of this one because I was out riding singletrack on my road bike and picking blackberries instead of paying attention, but I figured it was an hour-long race and would take a while to settle down.
Start of the Pro/1/2 race
Charlie Avis, presumably in Zone 2 for 45 minutes (Photo: Garrett Lau)
By the time I got back, the field was circling around, content to let the Charlie Avis (Trek Livestrong U23 Team) have a casual training ride off the front for the better part of the race. I think he pulled off after his workout was done, finishing last (but first Pro, which is pretty PRO, or something like that) and letting the guys with real jobs race. Among them was Bill Lloyd (Six Fifty Racing), whom I mention because I am incredibly biased.
Bill Lloyd shows up to put some hurt on the kiddos. (Photo: Garrett Lau)
When the pack was together, I took a little bit of time to think of something to heckle Rand Miller (Webcor/Alto Velo) with. Finally, I decided on “No donuts for sitting in!” but the pack came around again, he was off the front. Well, damn. Rand: 1, my attempt at heckling: 0. Twice over the course of his breakaway, lone riders bridged up to him with hopes to “Pull a Reaney,” presumably. But neither was successful in staying with Rand, who dropped each of them handily. I got the feeling that Rand would rather come in last than come in second in this race…
Rand Miller, not pictured
An Angry Pro/1/2 field (Photo: Garrett Lau)
And, well, that’s what happened. The pack caught Rand at the bottom of the climb, and it was game over. William Myers (Fremont Bank Cycling Team), James Mattis (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized), and Matthew Carinio (again! ArtsCyclery.com/Wild Horse Win) made up the top three in a finish I couldn’t see from my position at the most-sunburn-prone part of the course. It looks from this photo like it was very exciting.
William Myers Wins! Mattis and Cariano close behind. (Photo: Garrett Lau)
Josh Dapice (Audi Cycling Team) was also in the mix in the Pro/1/2 race, although he didn’t have my rear wheel anymore, so he didn’t win. Special mention also goes to Steven Woo (Third Pillar), who seemingly contested every single race (including women’s and juniors), while still taking photos of every race. I don’t know how he does it.
Steven Woo (Third Pillar) smiles, but not as much as May Woo (Sheila Moon, No Relation)
All in all, it was a great day. I finally met Yukie Nakamura (elusive as she isn’t), along with Spanky (and his awesome Porsche). Everybody I talked to seemed really happy with the race, and I hope that it has a long future. It also didn’t hurt that they invited Chairman Bao and a gaggle of other food trucks, proving that somebody at LGBRC knows what’s up.
Don’t live in the US and still looking for a calendar? Leave a comment, I’d love to know. Also, if you could translate the Kansai Cyclocross calendar that would be great, because I really want to race over there. More on that later, actually…
Make no mistake, Bay101/HRS RockLobster is a powerhouse team around these parts. Last year, at one very sloppy CCCX race at Manzanita Park, there was only one man that was able to walk away from the Josh Snead (and the rest of the field), adding insult to injury by riding the runup and bunnyhopping the barriers on said runup. That man is Aaron Bradford. It’s nice to have more guys on different teams that are fast enough to challenge the dominance of the one with “all” the fast guys on it, right? I think so too!
So naturally, Aaron has just joined RockLobster.
Well, crap. Truly, they are becoming the Norcal version of CannondaleCyclocrossworldCircaLastYear, WhenTheyHadAllTheFastestGuysAndWonEverything. Congratulations on the transfer, Aaron!
PS: If you’re offended that I said that all the fast guys were on Rock Lobster, leave a comment! (I’d be totally stoked to find out that Don Myrah reads my blog)
PPS: The Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld monopoly on the fastest guys has been broken up a little this season, with Jeremy Powers departing to Rapha-Focus to engage in some “epic” sepia-toned racing against his former teammates. Then again, it looks like they’re now importing national champions to fill up the roster. Wait a second, I don’t cover national and international-level racing here, why are you still reading this?
Speaking of Josh Snead, it looks like he’s currently building up his coaching business. This man will make you fast. Or at least, he’ll make you wonder how he gets so fast. Seriously, watch the video and marvel at the smoothness. Then, drop him a line and tell him I sent you. Hopefully he asks why I’m writing a blog post and not riding my bike.
Cyclocross Practice Rides
This is getting excited. CX practice rides are starting up. Everywhere. Right under your nose, even. Hell, if you can’t find one, hit me up and we’ll go ride.
By the way, I was going to label this “Cyclocross Training Rides,” but I’m not sure Daddy Friel would approve. I mean, these rides are fun! Unfortunately, the most mysterious and prestigious Secret CX Course is currently underwater…
Registration filled up in 11 minutes this year, again. I’ll be racing for Sheila Moon Athletic Apparel again, and am looking to improve my finishing position from last year’s 92nd place to something more prestigious. Like 85th place. So if you’re gonna be there, say hi! Or, give me a beer handup (remember, the overlords at the UCI just legalized feeding in CX races). It’s gonna be fun!
PS: If you have a UCI license, CrossVegas is not full. Go register for the Elite race. I think they haven’t started requiring national champion status in your country of origin in order to race, but I’m not sure. You should check with the organizers.
• Issue 13 of Cyclocross Magazine is out. Grab a subscription online, or get it now at your local bookstore (if they’re still in business), or bike shop. I even had a (very small) part in this issue.
• I don’t know what Specialized is on over in the paint department, but I want some of it.
(The pictured frameset, a 2012 Crux, is currently for sale. If it was a 56, it may have already been sold. To me.)