Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Badger's perspecive in Dahlonega

Sunday dawned clear, sunny and beautiful. The temperatures are still a bit too warm for "real" 'Cross conditions, but at least it was not 80! The day was still good for racing and I hoped to do well too. I have been riding and racing a great deal more this year compared to the last two seasons, but I still was not sure of how well I was going to stack up in competition. I got to the park in time to get my race number and change into my kit, then take a couple of laps to familiarize myself with the course. I felt good, but the course was very challenging. The major factors for me were the long sections of loose gravel road and trails. As I pre-rode the course my wheels were slipping and sliding all over the place and I had a hard time dialing in the best lines to take through the turns.

photo courtesy Trish Albert / Southeasterncycling.com

Course familiarization done, I took my place on the start line and waited for the fun to begin. I missed my pedal on the first try but still got a decent position in the group and immediately settled in. For the entire first lap I held my spot, but was fast coming to the realization I had made a critical error. My front tire pressure was way too high for the extremely dry course conditions and was sliding everywhere, to the point that I was coming to a near standstill on a couple of the turns. Every time that happened I lost ground on the lead riders and had to fight hard to catch back up. Half way through the second lap, the final insult was making it through the gravel without mishap and maintaining my spot only to wipe out on the dew covered grass. I dropped into 7th or 8th spot instantly, then had to stop and straighten out my left shift lever before I could take off again. In hindsight I should have taken a few more seconds to let some air out of my tire, but all I could see was the lead pack disappearing into the woods, so I jumped back into the saddle to gain back the ground I'd lost. I was able to maintain the gap for the next couple of laps, and finally caught and passed a rider in front of me. Attrition in the lead group did me a few favors too as two riders flatted due to the harsh conditions and I was able to jump up a few more spots. I was disappointed to hear about Bob's misfortune as he was riding so strong. The last two laps was a calculated duel between me and Jeff Welp. I had the upper hand on the long grass sections, but he held the advantage on the gravel and barrier sections. Fortunately the finish suited me well, so on the last section of gravel path I threw caution to the winds and gave it everything to stay right on his wheel. I somehow made it through without crashing and burning, and was able to take advantage of my road speed to come around him for 5th place. Overall a good effort, but I wonder if the result would have been different had I been more attentive to my bike set-up. However, knowing the best tires / air pressure is something that only comes with experience. I don't have much of that, but I'm learning!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Last race of the year and did not know what to expect from my waning fitness and a new course that no one knew and I didn't get a chance to pre-ride on Sat. Lucky for me the weather wouldn't be a factor as it had been warm with spring like temps all week with race morning cool and foggy.
This week I had cameras mounted on the front and back and was able to get good footage that I could combine for a nice video, the video is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MncA4nwg3uA
Now for the race, I had no expectations on my finish just wanted to enjoy myself and attack the course which I thought was the best of the year, I really liked the steps and the downhill leading to the run up the steep bank. Not going into a lot of detail I started off slowly and moved into 4th place on the 2nd lap with Lamar and Torre hot on my wheel, I bridged up to Dan and Gerard and for a while we rode together but they eventually pulled away and I began to think that I would be happy just to finish on the podium and was checking back to see where Torre was, going up the first set of steps was a good place to see if I was loosing or gaining ground and for 2-3 laps the gaps stayed the same but I was putting out near max effort and didn't know how long that could last, finally I saw a little more breathing room and realized that 3rd was in the bag, whew it was hard well earned podium.
I got what I think is the best race photo in several years taken by Trish so I had to buy it thanks.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A hillbilly in Blue Ridge?

Like Wendell I hadn't ridden much in a couple of weeks (when it gets cold I gets lazy) so I wasn't expecting much for the race. I did go down to the course on Sat. evening to pre-ride and got there just as they were finishing the set up.
On the pre-ride I rode the hill each lap but not at speed so it was questionable if I could do that in the race after a couple of laps. The ditch didn't seem too bad so I rode it also but thinking back Check Spellingon it I would have been faster to run the ditch, jump back on and power up the hill. The last lap of my pre-ride I timed myself at about 80% effort and came in at 7:42, well I should have aimed for that in the race the next day and would have probably finished better.
Race day morning was better than I expected, nice temps and good humidity, choose to wear the battle flag jersey but an interesting note if you go to the Veterans Memorial Park in Blue Ridge you will notice that most of the veterans in the Civil War from the area fought for the North, you will probably find that in the mountains that was not unusual.

Ok back to the race, the whistle sounded and Dan took off like a shot out of a Yankee cannon! Torre and Lamar were not far behind and I took a spot behind Lamar up the first hill to the pavement. I managed to pass Lamar and then Gerard passed me and Torre up the paved climb, I passed Torre about half way up the paved section and caught Gerard at the ditch, I noticed Dan got off and ran the ditch, smart move. Getting across the ditch I would then pedal the down hill hard to hit the loose up hill dirt section with as much speed as possible, this worked to get me about half way up with just a little effort to go over the top. Doing this I passed Gerard and then Dan at the crest of the hill and took the next turns wide almost getting into the tape, again! I managed to avoid taking myself out and screamed down the hill, hitting close to 30 mph, down in the low lands I took a peek back and didn't see anyone and was thinking, damn a big ole lead so I tried to settle down and just ride a good pace not looking back to see if anyone was catching me. At the mulch run section I thought I heard someone behind me but still didn't look back, when I hit the paved section before the start line big Dan comes by like he had just started the race, so fast I couldn't respond. So up the paved ascent for the 2nd lap and Greg T. passes but he has to get off and run the hill so I repass him, back down in the flats we pass and repass each other some more then Torre comes by an then moments later Gerard and Greg do the same. I stayed there as best I could letting them get a little gap up the paved section thinking I could get the gap back on the hill, no didn't work I hit the ditch and let the front wheel dive in too hard and a tumble I took, that was it as far as racing for a podium, 5th place.
I may have went too hard on the first lap but it didn't seem like the effort was that much but I guess no training = no endurance. I reckon if my fitness level was the same as earlier in the year I would have had a good shot at a podium or even a win.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Wendell's World Race # 6, Blue Ridge

Race # 6 (45+ Category), Blue Ridge- A return to racing after two weeks off for Thanksgiving, two weeks in which I rode my bike a grand total of one time. I did manage to go on a couple of runs while at the in-laws for the holiday but was not feeling primed and ready to "turn the pedals in anger" on Sunday morning in Blue Ridge. I decided I was just going to take this race easy and see how I felt so I lined up at the very back of the field on a row by myself at the start. After the start it didn't take long for the competitive juices to start flowing as I got frustrated at being stuck behind everyone as they came to a standstill on the left hairpin leading onto the lower ramp of the climb. I worked on the hill to pass people and got by a number of folks by the time we hit the ditch. I settled into a little duel with Bobby and Randy on the first couple of laps as we swapped positions a few times around the course. I think the long climb was a good feature for me and I was eventually able to get a bit of a gap on those guys there. I could see Jim and another rider not to far ahead of me (50 yds??) at this point but that was as close as I would get, they opened up this gap as the race progressed. So for a couple of laps I was just dancing with myself as the guys behind me weren't coming back and the guys in front of me were going away. Then I caught sight of orange (series leader jersey) behind me and had renewed incentive to ride hard as I was in the sights of the 35+ leader. I tried, but fell about a half lap short and got lapped. On the bright side the leader was the only one who lapped me, in weeks past the first three or four guys came by me. I wound up in 9th place.

Some thoughts on Blue Ridge:
- I thought the course was an interesting balance; a long (at least for cyclocross) sustained climb for the little Spanish climbers and the rest of the course downhill or dead flat for the big Belgians. I really liked this coure.
- In practice I decided the ditch was an endo waiting to happen for me so I ran it and re-mounted and rode part way up the hill before dismounting and running it. I also re-mounted after the first railroad ties in the mulch pit and dismounted again for the second set of railroad ties so I was dismounting/re-mounting 5 times per lap. I'm not complaining that's just what I thought would work best for me on this course.
- Note to self for next year: "Learn to bunny hop"; at least a six inch high railroad tie, as that is about all the second set amounted to coming out of the mulch pit.
- The off camber turn on top of the hill felt like you were going to fall off the face of the earth if you screwed it up; it made me feel better to un-clip my right foot on that turn even though it probably made me slower.
- Having gotten lapped the last three races I've gotten an up close view of how guys who are substantially faster than me are riding different parts of the various courses in the race. The thing that has somewhat surprised me is that they aren't really taking the technical/skills portions of the course much, if any, faster than I am. This sort of blows part of my excuse for being slower i.e. those guys are just better bike handlers or have better CX skills. Guess I'll just have to come up with a new way to rationalize my poor performance; they're probably all on drugs, yes, that's it, they're all on drugs!!!

One more race in the series for this season, I think I may double up this weekend and try doing the CX4 race after the Masters just to see what that second race feels like!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wendell's World Race # 5, Augusta

Race # 5 (45+ Category), Augusta- In contrast to last year in Augusta when it was rainy and sloppy, this year's course was dry, hard and fast. We had the smallest field of the year toeing the starting line. We hit the first set of barriers in a pretty tight group and a rider went down in front of me coming out of the barriers. I was able to squeeze through against the tape along with John Johnson so didn't really loose any time but this sorted the field out a bit. I quickly slotted into a position behind Jim B and was able to stay pretty close to him for several laps; not right on his wheel but closer than I have been able to maintain in the past and I could see Lamar not to far in front of Jim. Marshal and I swapped places this week and he chased me pretty much the entire race just as I had chased him in Macon. After a lap or so I saw Wojtek hook up with Marshal behind me and then I experienced one of those Monty Python Holy Grail moments when I looked back and Wojtek was about 50yds behind, looked back again-he's 50yds behind, looked back again-he's 50 yds behind, looked ahead for 2 seconds and heard him on my wheel. He must have closed the gap really fast on the soccer field section. He stayed with me for about half a lap and then rode away on the paved section, I couldn't stay with him; strong ride by Wojtek! The leaders in the 35+ field lapped me as I expected on this short fast course and I didn't realize it till the results were posted but a 45+ rider passed me along with the 35+ leaders; guess I need to work on my situational awareness there and start looking at bib numbers. I don't think I could have done anything even if I had realized he was in my age group as he came around fast with the 35+ guys and I was fading at the end so I wound up in 7th place. Not sure but this may have been the rider who fell after the first barriers, that might explain the strong come from behind???
Some thoughts on Augusta-
- The uphill barriers on the front side seemed to get higher every lap; about the 4th lap I didn't get my foot over that second barrier and gave the crowd a little show.
- The grassy on camber descending turn on the back side was just FUN to ride, nice feature!!!
- I'm not sure if it was lactic acid induced dementia or an optical illusion with the course tape but on the zig zag section after the steep climb coming up to the VIP area I simply turned one post to soon and rode into the tape about mid-race. I was going so slow setting up for the turn that I didn't break the tape it just stretched out until I came to my senses and was able to stop and un-gracefully extract myself and get pointed in the right direction to ride on to the actual turn. Talked with Bobby T after the race and he said he did the same thing. Anyone else see the mirage there in that turn?
- After 5 races I am sold on the single front ring setup, its all ya need.
- I think I had one re-mount where I stutter stepped so a positive day in that regard.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not Quite DFL

The course was the best that Augusta has ever been run! It was run backwards from the previous years. We started on the pavement, to the dirt, a right hand turn up a steep hill with two barriers. Then it turned and made a long parade around a soccer field. There were three 180 degree turns up and down a hill. A short flat section was followed by the turn into a very steep but ridable hill. The course came back out on the pavement, which was slightly downhill and then went down by the rentention pond to a double set of uphill barriers. It finished with a
slight uphill the the road start/finish.

What a difference 24 hours makes! My legs felt good preriding the course. I took it nice and easy on my 3 warm up laps. It was a good course with a few places to really open up the throttle and some technical elements for those of us that like them. There were only 4 of us as some of the A Women opted to stay in Hendersonville, NC for the second day of the NC Grand Prix UCI Cyclocross races. I lined up with Holly Longley, Ellen Carroll, and Kari Linder. At the start Holly took the holeshot with Ellen and I right on her wheel. We stayed together through the barriers, and then they poured on the speed. I pushed myself around the soccer field and through the turns. The steep hill was no match for me, and it felt like I was dancing on the pedals for the first time all cyclocross season. I put my head down and got into tt position on the road and pushed the largest gear I could. I flew through the grass and up the barriers. I never let up on the pavement each time I came around. I would recover a little bit after the barriers and push the road. After the first two laps, I could barely hop over the uphill barriers even with my bike shouldered. Being short and having 40 cm high barriers makes it difficult to get over. I looked at my speed each time through the soccer field and never let it get below 13.6. If I saw it
wavering, I clicked down a gear and pushed myself harder. The one place I kept bobbling was the first 180 degree turn. I kept taking an outside line when I should have been staying in the middle. I rode the steep hill each time. I had a great race and felt really strong. I was very happy with third place although I know it would have been lower if we'd had a full field. Still, a great race where I felt fantastic!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Macon Photos

The Women's 1/2/3 Podium. 3rd: Ellen Carroll (Team Cycleworks), 1st: Kim Sawyer (BMW-Bianchi), 2nd: Kristin Smart (Atomic Racing)

A tricky entrance into the sandy beach as this Aaron's rider demostrates.