Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The fruits of my labour

...And this is what appeared in my inbox today. Bitter/sweet. I have to train harder now. And more seriously. But I have 9 months before Cross season starts....

"Good afternoon Josh,

This is just a quick note to let you know that you must upgrade to the Master 1/2 CAT for the 2012 season based on the your 2011 points.

We hope to have our 2012 license sales live within the next week.

Congratulations on a successful 2011 season.

Cycling BC"

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The 2011 Cyclocross Season: a retrospective.

Tonight marks a bitter sweet end to a cyclocross season in the lower mainland of BC. Although the season officially ended last Saturday, I have put it to rest tonight. A season that came in like a lion and went out stuttering and out of rhythm. Tonight, I reluctantly unpacked my race bag.

Left unused for the last race of the season, the BC CUP finals in my neck of the woods, I replaced all clothing and accessories to their proper place in the house. It is something I have avoided doing. I became quite good at packing all the things I needed for each weekend race throughout the season as the weather turned, cleaning and replenishing all used items well before race day. Race bag prep is a skill in itself. Before I let on to why it was unused, let me give a quick race report on my last race of the season, one that I actually raced in, the BC Provincial Championships.

The BC CX Championships, held at Mahon Park in North Van came at the end of a very miserably rainy week here on the coast, setting up for a slippy and muddy riding course. Driving to the course on Grey Cup Sunday, I was convinced that we would get soaked by a torrent of rain. However, something beautiful happened that day, as the skies opened up and voila! Beautiful Sunlight at 12:00 PM Sharp.

Dirty!! Doug Brons Photo Credit.

Managing another front row call up (I only started outside of the front row for one race this year--and that was at Aldor Acres--BC Cup #1), I thought my chances were pretty good for the day looking at the field. Spotting James Cameron in the start grid, I pegged him as the favourite for the race, and I hoped for a top 5 or 6 finish on the day. That would have made me happy.

From the gun, I slipped a pedal, and took an extra second to get clipped in. This is something that I have not had problems with for the majority of races this season. If it happens, I usually just pedal until it clicks. But on this day, I did not pedal at all, electing to try to get my cleat to interface with the pedal properly. That had 15 guys pass me before I even started. So much for the call up.

My effort for this race was huge, which is good considering the lack of training I had been putting in leading up to the race. I saw Niels get out to a good lead in the race, as everyone fought hard for the first lap to shake all pretenders. I clearly was a pretender in this race, realizing this after lap 1. The race went like this: some dudes passed me, I passed them, then they passed me. Those were namely Niels and Alex Cojacaru. Jeff was on my tail, he passed me, then I dropped him. We had a bit of a battle going on. By lap 3, the fastest masters 40-49 men, followed a little while later by the fast M40-49 men, Tyler Dumont being one of them. Those guys passed me too as I was having a rough day on the bike.

The mud pit was a mother of all mud pits. Something to behold as it sapped the energy out of my legs if I tried to run or ride it, which I tried on every lap to do. I was unsuccessful to clean the mud pit, and the ride up after it became a run up. After every time out of the run up, I was cooked, and slowed to recover from the effort. I lost scads of time every lap on that thing. I never kept track of my laps, riding to just finish and stop the bleeding. I think all CX technique from Aaron Schooler's School of Cross went out the window on this race for me, costing me a top ten finish. I felt like I was inefficient and slow on all the key features of this course.

I finished the race in 12th place, holding off Ryan Newsome, an M40-49 rider, whom I thought was in my category. All told, this race gives me a bit of motivation for next year to challenge for a higher placing, because I know I can beat some of the guys that came ahead of me on most days. I could not do that for this race. This day, I was content to enjoy the race, and not force myself to barf in my mouth.

I had a tough time when the courses got slow or wet. Pumpkin Cross and Mahon Park seemed to be the toughest for me, followed by the DE-Mighty Race at the South Surrey Bike Park.

I had tough time when my bike and I did not see eye to eye, ending in my having to run to the pits in two races--New Brighton and Lions Park.

I had a great time when the skies were open and beautiful--a win at Aldor Acres, and a third at Vanier--the biggest race field of the season for the Masters 30-39 category. These two races are absolutely my highlights of the year, with my win taking it by a bunch. I thought to myself back at the start of September "Is this a sign of things to come, or the peak of my season, and after this it is all downhill from here". It seems I was right, and as the races became more competitive, I seemed to slow down. Late days at work, fleeting summer fitness, daylight savings time, getting fat on carbs

The BC Cup finals was supposed to be my last race of the season. As our team was putting it on, members were saddled with course set up dark and early. Arriving at 6:30 am, Peter Holzhuter, me and my brother Aaron, grabbed our wheelbarrow full of fun and started to tape out the course. This took us just until 8:30, at which point I began to set up the announcers tent and sound system. by 9:30 we had music and announcements, thanks to Mike Dolling and his extension cord from home.

Race announcing for the citizen class races was fun, but I do not know many of the racers, unlike the BC Cup series racers, Cat. 3/4 riders, and masters. Seeing many of the same folks week after week helps to build a cool community of people, something that is happening surely and slowly. Those riders who show up each and every weekend make it easy for me when I am announcing. Many of them I have raced against for years, so I have some memories of their efforts, crashes, wins, etc.

I enjoy race announcing, just a bit less than racing itself. I would describe myself as one part cheerleader, one part stand-up comic, yet another part as a knowledgeable local cycling fan to be able to make things interesting for the racers and spectators. Perhaps my theatre background and drama teaching experience lends itself to race announcing. I have a long way to go to get good at this, but I think of guys like Phil Liggett--one of the best around, or Dave Towle on our side of the pond--(the latter has announced the Tour de Delta  back in 2009) who know the racers, can slip in anecdotes about them and their successes and career highlights, and can paint a picture of the race for the average spectator. Towle is particularly good at this, as he also has an awesomely distinctive voice.

I just go out and have fun, and hope that it is fun for the races. I heard that James Cameron, BC CUP #6 winner at the South Surrey Athletic Park asked Jeff if  "the guy from last year was announcing this year". I hope I didn't piss him off with calls of "Get this guy and upgrade." I stopped short of saying "He is filling bags, one at a time, with sand." I thought about saying it. Better to leave well enough alone. He will have his work cut out for himself next year as he faces the likes of Bob Welbourne and Kim Steed. Oh wait, those are the same guys I will be racing against. There is the bitter in my bittersweet.

One highlight for me was meeting Andrew Pinfold at the end of the day, and chatting with him over a bowl of chili. What a great guy. Winner of the Tour de Delta, Gastown, White Rock, Ouch team member, Symmetrics, and United Healthcare, this was a treat for me. Down to earth, willing to talk about anything cycle racing related--I really soaked up the bits of banter that we had about his experiences. That was a pretty cool end to the day for me.

My season went like this:

Aldor Acres: 1st-----A great win after my injuries and surgeries

New Brighton: 22nd-----A crash and flat 500m into the race push me to last place

Vanier: 3rd-----I fought for 2nd. Simon Pulfrey wins on a 29er

Lions Park: 6th-----A crash and flat and I drop from 3rd to 6th

Pumpkin Cross: 13th-----A poor warmup, late to the race, and slug like conditions = Hard

South Surrey DE/Mighty: 7th----- Coldest race ever. A killer course. True CX.

BC CX Champs: 12th-----Lack of fitness and warm up, I lacked a killer instinct I had in Sept.

DE BC Cup Finals: DNS-----Announcing is fun. I hope I don't have to give up racing to do it. (If I do, I had better be getting paid to do it.)

So. I unpacked my bag tonight. For the last time for a while. Even though I feel that I lacked consistency this season, each week I went into races with the mentality that I had the chance to win, my confidence bolstered by the first race of the season. That is huge--the ability to believe in yourself, to positively self talk yourself into fighting for every inch of the course. This is something that I have taught myself over the last few years. A bike crash and time in the hospital, with 12 month recovery, helped me believe that I can return to an even higher level than where I was when I went into the hospital in August 2010.

Racing with Tyler Dumont, Tony Bachler, Ryan Newsome, Niels Steiner, Alex Cojacaru, Simon Pulfrey, Mike Murphey, Jeff Hanninen, John Irvine, Ted Matson, Dave Neubeck, Mike Dolling, Matt Hornland, Stacy Hutton, Jean-Ann and Mike Berkenpas, Glen Reitsma, Jason Fluckiger, Scott Sportsman, Jason Bond, Paul Craig, Sven Sturm, Bob Welbourne, Matt Drown, Brian Gunn, Tobin Copely, Aaron Schooler, and many others made this year fun. Having Doug Brons shoot amazing pics on course, and them my scavenger hunting on the Internet for them was a big highlight.

The biggest of thanks goes out to Daryl Evans Mechanical and Daryl Evans Racing for the sponsorship of our team and riders. It helps to have a solid sponsor behind us to help put on some of if not the best cyclocross races around. Jeff and Kari Hanninen do a fantastic job of managing our team, taking care of much of the logistics that we as races know nothing about. Clothing orders, parties, permits, meeting, Jeff does it all. He has a very good wife in Kari for understanding the time he needs away to get it all done. Rocky Mountain Bicycles have been great race and bike sponsors for us over the last few years as the team has evolved, grown, and matured. Hopefully these relationships continue.

We have a good thing going here in Vancouver. Our races are getting there, our courses are more CX like than in previous years, and the vibe is a chilled out, friendly one. I look forward to next year, and to seeing all the cool folks that I had a chance to share some time with this time around. I finish this season tired, ready for fried food, beers, and ice cream, and excited about running the trails through the winter as I hang up my wheels for a while. I look forward to new team clothes, perhaps a new bike or two....Who knows? I might cross the border in January 2012 to race some more CX..... I hope to see you out on the CX bike.

I love CX.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Ride Everything

CX Provincial Championships this weekend. This video pumps up the jam. 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

South Surrey Cyclocross Race Report: CX at it's most difficult

Side hill Mudslide. Photo: Doug Brons.
As the cyclocross season wears on, the races get more and more draining and difficult, week in week out. Fast races in September and October change like the autumn leaves into ugly, cold, slower races in November and December. November 12th was no exception.

Raceday Saturday felt like the longest day ever without any sunlight. It started dark and early for me at 5:00 am, when the CBC announcer blared into my bedroom. I put my contacts in, grabbed my gear and headed downstairs. This was just the beginning of a day that made me feel happy to be alive, grateful for warmth, good food, and beer.

Arriving at the bike park in South Surrey at 6:10 am, Brian Gunn, Ken Leggatt, and myself quickly picked up our wheelbarrow full of goodies, and headed out to mark our part of the course. This years course was easily the best cyclocross course we have had in the lower mainland, and it had everything: stairs, a FLY OVER (awesome) taking riders over a cedar fence, side hill /off camber grass, false flats, a little bit of a pump track, a run up, pavement, a huge mud puddle, and grass. We were in charge of the barriers/ stairs/ dirt jumps area.

One awesome flyover. 

4 hours worth of taping the course, and the DE crew had brought Jeff Hanninen's vision to reality. This was a huge effort by our team to make this course happen, a course similar to previous iterations. By 10 am, everything was in place. I took 60 minutes to get dressed and get warm at my in-law's house close by. Getting back to the park at 11 am, I started my warm-up only to have the rain begin to tease us. Warm-up is a misnomer, as there was nothing warm about riding around the course before the race.  The weatherman got it right today. Nailed it down exactly. The forecast called for rain beginning at noon. The day started 3 degrees and dry. You can imagine what 3 degrees and soaked to the bone felt like...

In the Masters 3/4 race, there were upwards of 31 starters, a really good sized group. I had a cherry call up position, again called first due to my 42 points. Taking the line, I talked to Simon Pulfrey, who was off of his full suspension from Vanier CX, and riding a borrowed CX bike from Kim Steed.

If I were new to cyclocross racing, the race today would have been my first and last race ever. Mud, water, muddy water, rain, cold, and cold. Did I mention it was wet? So wet that my hands stopped working. I could not feel the shifters or brakes, and had to look to see what I was doing. Water logged shoes, water heavy clothes, mud everywhere-- this race was a proverbial war of attrition. Just staying upright on the bike was effort enough. Going fast was difficult due to the bitter, brittle cold wind and rain pelting the riders and course.

Cold, cold, cold. My shoulders tell the story.

I had planned to follow John Irvine and Simon, then Tyler. I did not see or hear the super fast James Cameron called to the line, but he was there. Settling into fifth wheel as the gun went off, I was happy with the position I was in. But after lap one, it was clear just how big the gap was forming at the head of the race.

All tactics went out the window once I managed to crash on the off camber-mud-side hill, get up, and crash immediately after that. On the second crash I injured my left calf, hobbling my run along the muddy side hill. The most spectacular crash I witnessed was at the north end of the course. Coming off of the curb into the 180 turn around/road section, Alex Cojacaru went over the bars, slid along the ground face and chest first while still clipped in, and had the bike come over his head and land on his back. It looked horribly painful, but as I passed him, he told me he was okay. He finished a lap down--I bet it was due to some serious pain he suffered in that spill.

James Cameron, director of Avatar and Titanic and eventual winner of the race, had no problems with the sidehill. He, Irvine, and Pulfrey laid down a a serious tear on the first 3 laps to make everyone chase. After my crash, it was all about staving off the racers behind, and trying to chase wheels in front. My fall pushed me out of the top 5, and into the top 15. Over the next 4 laps, I listened to my good friend Nick Gill on the sidelines give me little challenges to pull me back up in the race.

On the straights, uphills, and descents, I managed to gap riders behind, and pull up to those in front. But I was slow in the corners--something I need to work on in wet conditions. Pushing hard on the straights allowed me to get back some positions, eventually catching Ryan Newsome (who was having brake problems), and finally the clean-leg-shaven Ian Hoffman right before the finish line. He must have been using an embrocation on his legs. That is the only explanation there is to be able to wear shorts on this day. I ended up in 7th place, well back from winner Cameron by about 2 minutes. I am happy with this hard fought result, especially because I had no mechanicals, and I fought back from 15th to 7th. Satisfied to finish this one safely, without too much hypothermia.

Not my hardest effort this season, but the conditions dictated the day.

To say that this race was hard is an understatement. Punishing, torturous, painful, character building, debilitating, crappy, awful, bone-chilling, and horrible are just a few words I would use to describe what we all shared as racers on the 12th. My hands were so wet and cold that 10 minutes in, I could hardly feel the shifters to downshift and brake. One of the hardest races I have ever done.

On a tire note, my Maxxis front Raze and rear Mud Wrestler gave me no troubles this time at 42 psi. A bit high for the mucky conditions in part, but I had no problems. I swapped out my Vitorria's CX Pros for Mud Wrestler's all around on my pit wheelset that I didn't have to use this week, thank goodness. I really can't wait for hydraulic disc brakes to come stock on CX bikes. This race took some major life out of my rims.

Special thanks to Jeff Hanninen for all his work on getting this thing up and running. the Daryl Evans Racing Crew, Matt Hornland and the Mighty Crew for taking over the running of the race, Nick Berry for the food--chili and smokies--these were very much welcomed, and Nick Gill for cheering and helping me out of my shoes after the race. And to anyone else who braved the conditions. This was a day that we will all remember--hardcore european cyclocross at its best.

Sorry to the old bitty in the parking lot who caught me in my knickers, post race, as she drove past.

Official Race Report at South Surrey CX
Report at Cyclocross Magazine

Photos are at:

Doug Brons' Flickr site
Daryl Evans Racing Flickr site

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Points, practice, and injuries.

Yesterday on my morning run, I was dealt a blow: a turned ankle on a 5:55 am trail run in the Shed. With head lamps in full effect due to the morning darkness, the left ankle rolled over--the same ankle as always--at the same place on the same trail that I usually have this mishap happen. I caught it in time before I did any major damage, and managed to finish the run, but today, the whole foot is tender. Add to that, some acute tendonitis in my my left achilles, and I have a recipe for pain.

The last time I rolled it badly was in a staff boot camp in June. That time, the bruising was all over the foot, and stepping on it was painful for days until it healed. I took two weeks off of running after that injury. The thing healed fine in time for the Chuckanut Footrace in July.

A few months later, some time off of running after the footrace due to the start of CX season and vacations, and an attempt to get back into regular trail running, and my achilles is starting to wear with pain. It was fine for the marathon this May, and after the injury in June. But it seems that taking time off of running can do more harm that good. Even a morning CX ride today in place of the Cross Border Clash in Washington State that I (regretfully) did not attend, and the bottle of gel caps is looking pretty good right now.

That leaves me with two weeks off of racing since the Pumpkin Cross. I didn't make it to Kamloops last week due to the LAPS gala, and this week the grandparents are visiting the grandchildren at our home, so that leaves me rested and ready for next week. Looking back to Pumpkin Cross, I now realize that I was exhausted from the training that I put in before that race. Coupled with mental fatigue, and poor race prep, and I was out of it before it began. I blame a lack of sleep/rest on that one. Something to remember for the next race. GET MORE SLEEP!

This week Cycling BC released the upgrade points totals for the Cat.3/4 and Masters 3/4. As it turns out, I am tied for first with 42 points. This is great because that means for the weekend, I will be the first to be called up for the Mighty/Daryl Evans BC CUP Race. A win, third place finish, and 13th place finish has helped to keep me in the M 3/4 category. Once riders accumulate 50 points, they are automatically upgraded. It looks entirely possible that I will be moved up after this race, which means that I have to give everything to a good finish for November 12th. Only 8 points an I am in the Masters 1/2 catagory. If I finish in 11th, I will move up. I had better finish higher than 11th. Make that better than 5th.

Last weekend, Tyler Dumont and I toured the two South Surrey CX courses. Solid ride with the man, he and I pushed each other pretty good on a few hot laps of the Nov. 12th Course. He has the ability to ride hard and push himself to the limit, as we lead each other on alternating laps.

Along with the CX practice, I have had a bit of fun winning the race home from work everyday. Although it is a solo race over about two kilometers, I always end up winning. This gives me a great reason to practice my victory celebration. Sometimes I practice the cliches: El Pistelero (which feels corny, plagiarized, and just wrong). the sharpshooter (a bit too violent), paddling my bike across the finish (that one works), the "point to the heavens" (I dig this one).

It may be presumptuous to do this, but you never know when it will come in handy. I have seen many finish line celebrations in the local cross scene that are kinda wasted, riders who do not do much when they cross the line a la Cadel Evans winning the 2010 World Championships. Although modesty does have its place, we in Canada can celebrate and be excited about winning races that we in an expressive, energetic way. I am all about that, letting out a war cry at the end of my battle. Yes, it is only the Master's 3/4 catagory. But how many riders win the bike race you are in? I will tell you: one. And only one. And if that is me, darn rights I am going to let out a little sumpin' sumpin' at the end of the race. I just raced my b'donki-donk off, and a little hard fought release is well earned. I expect whomever wins the race in South Surrey this weekend to do the same....

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

CX Race Prep: The best tools for the conditions

My season has been full of ups and downs:

  • 1st, Win at Aldor Acres
  • 25th, Flat at New Brighton
  • 3rd at Vanier
  • 6th, Flat at EV GP of Cross
  • 13th, Slow start and poor tire choice for Pumpkin Cross

I am 2 for 5 in terms of key results. I push my gear hard, but expect it to respond. The Maxxis Raze were the tire of choice for the first 4 races. 2 successes on them, 2 blown beads resulting in a pit and wheel change. 

Basically I am 50% on those tires. They work very well in the dry grass, or dirt conditions. They have worked for me in the wet before as well. What was terrible this weekend was trying the Vitorria XG Cross Pro tires on the muddy, wet course of Pumpkin Cross. They did not pick up at all, and I had little traction at 50 psi in the grass. The last part is my fault. I wanted to avoid, at all costs, another flat. So, I pumped them up hard. It felt like I was pulling a truck at that PSI.

I look back to the last two weeks of training and I feel I was tired and perhaps over-trained for this race last Sunday. Going into it without a killer instinct, high confidence, and a boatload of determination left me without any motivation to race hard. Even my race prep was rushed, things forgotten at home, and I strayed from my pre-race meals, indulging in things that do not help before a race.

I will go back to the Maxxis for the next race, as they have brought me success in the past. I will keep pressure to 45 or so, and not stray from my pre-race meals and prep. The bike cleaned up nicely, but tonight I noticed the ticking from the rear was a loose rear QR lever. I raced Sunday with that thing not fully tightened. It gets worse two days later, after I thought all was over.

I have 3 races left. I will pull out another good result somewhere. I will make South Surrey another solid race like in 2009.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Local Ride Pumpkin Cross 2011 (or how to start at the front and go backwards fast)

Pumpkin Cross 2011 has just wrapped up, and for me it was less than a stellar result. The skies were blue, the sun ablaze, the temperature balmy, the course sloppy, slippery and slick. And me? I was completely average. Perhaps mediocre is a better word to describe the finish today. The effort was maximal, all that I could muster. Let me break it down for you. Read on!
The effort was there. I am pooped right out from this one. 

The Maple Ridge Equi-Sport Center hosted the many racers today, on a course that was completely flat, with a few step ups here and there, a number of 180s, soooo much wet grass and wide mud bogs, some horse jumps, and a maze of trees to test our skills. Mother nature was kind on us with weather, but the ground was a mess. Local Ride did this event right, and it is right up there with all the other CX races in Vancouver for how well organized it is.
Check out the horse legs on the horse jump.

In 2009, I finished 4th or 5th at this race. Elite mountain biker Greg Day took the win at that race smashing the field on the second lap, sandbagging his way to a win in the 3/4 catagory.

Today was another story. John Irvine, Mike Murphy, Ryan Newsome, Continental stinky jersey, and myself lined up in the front row. I missed my call up due to an extended pre-ride of the course. Catherine Pendrel was honored at the beginning of the race for her World MTB Championship win, taking home a pumpkin pie. For us, the only thing the CBC commissaire gave us was an abrupt whistle to start the race after he moved us down to the start 300 feet from the commentators tent.
Such a cool thing to race with a world champ.
I had a difficult time clipping into my pedals as I started, taking me nearly 10 spots before I was locked in and good to go. After that, I just bled positions. A fast first lap was taxing, and I maintained my position for that lap, until my 50psi tires managed to spin on the beat down flat bogs and soft grass. I thought I was going to just turn it on and kick it up a gear and claw back to the front. Thus, the switch was not working today. I did not have the jam to even flick the switch and turn it on. At all. At any point in the race, I could not go fast. Chalk this one up as an-off day.

This course was not a dirt crit, such as Aldor Acres and Vanier, where you could throw your bike into the corners and know that everything was going to hook up perfectly. Today was a course suited to a rider who could throw down some big watts and keep fighting in the slow and mucky conditions. John Irvine blew the race up with a crazy fast start and was powereing his way to victory of lap one when he rolled his tubular in the maze and  quickly pulled out before he could complete the lap. I kept fighting my bike to keep it upright, and lost time out of the corners where I came to a near dead stops, my back wheel slipping and sliding through the trees. Names over the loudspeakers were pumped over the grounds, and I kept on hearing the leaders like Mike Murphy, Keith Wilson, and Ryan Newsome. I was too far away from the action to be motivated to get up there, or to know what was actually going on.
Gene Simmons chasing me down.
When Gene Simmons passed me, I fought to keep on his wheel, but my body just was not having it. No matter how much determination I had, it was not enough to overcome my level of fatigue that this course threw at me. I could not respond to the level put down off the top, and continued to go backwards as the race wore on. "Lighten up and had some fun", I thought, and began wheelie dropping the horse jumps.

Catherine Pendrel caught me just before the end of the race on the last half of the lap, and we rode it in together. It was movtivating to follow her wheel. Today, I left my fast at home, and was just plain tired. Tired enough to not even look up at the lap counter to see where the heck I was in the race at any time, and tired enough to chase down anyone who passed me.

My choice of tires was the Vittoria XG Cross Pro Clincher, a step away from Maxxis this week in order to not blow the bead yet again. I will come back to them, but you see, me and the Raze have not been seeing eye to eye lately. We need a bit of a break. So I pumped the Vittoria's up to 50psi and tried to ride through the slop and slippy grass with very little traction. Mistake numero uno.

Mistake two, three, four, and five were: not getting my head into the race from the start, not watching the clock for when I needed to be at the race, not bringing underwear for after the race(--thanks to Winners for being open at 10am on a Sunday morning), and not showing up for my call up. Mentality plays a big part in sport. I look at the Canucks some days and think "They were not mentally prepared for this game tonight". It happens to all of us, and today the vampire bite of lack of mental prep sunk it's teeth deep into my brain.

The preliminary results are up and I am listed as 1 lap down, number 216. My number is 210. This sucks as it is a BC Cup and results should be accurate, but really, I was in the top 15 So the fight for 15th is on.
Happy that mess is over.

Today, I did not have CX racing in me. The next race for me is the joint Might Riders/Daryl Evans South Surrey Bike Park Race. We have teamed up with Mighty Riders, the punk rock-rebellious-Occupy Vancouver-meat eating-tattooed-street fighting-barefoot-Pabst guzzling-middle finger to the man-many wardrobed (how many jersey designs does this team have?)-car pooling-East Van-CX loving team to bring you a course I love and won on in 2009. I have hope to redeem myself and my season, as there are just a few of these local races left. Do I still have confidence in myself? Should I sleep more and ride less? Am I overtrained? Did I just pump my tires up to 60psi? Doubts, you all need to eff off and let me get my fast back. Two of the next 3 local races are DE's. I might announce the BC Cup finals and rip that race a new one, off of the course. We shall see.

Taking stock midway through the season, things looked good after the first race, mechanicals characterize the 2nd and 4th race. Highlights? The win at Aldor Acres, 3rd at Vanier, then the mechanicals. Who knows where I would have placed without the two flats.  Today was a bummer for me. Hopefully this was the anomaly race for the season.

Unofficially: Pumpkin Cross--1 Lap down.
Officially: Pumpkin Cross--13th Place.
Corrections to the results have been made! They can be found here.
Thank you Local Ride for a great day and fun racing. See you next year at Pumpkin Cross 2012!
Next time around, this will be me.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Cycling Photos: A post race scavenger hunt

After I am done sweating and gritting it out with a maximal effort, looking for a good result, my post race hobby is to dig up results and any photos from the event. We have a few photog's who make it out to the races to shoot the pain and suffering that many of us go through on a weekly basis. Those same photographers have been know to handle themselves on a cyclocross bike from time to time. Of the pics that show up on this blog, I am ever impressed just how talented these guys are, and how they manage to shoot in some difficult conditions, turning out week after week some really beautiful shots . Doing some blog hopping tonight of my fellow racer/photographers, I came across these two from the Escape Velocity GP of Cyclocross in Coquitlam from Thanksgiving weekend: 

Third place is lonely when not very many show up to race....Photo: Doug Brons 
I should be able to lean the bike over more, but the corners were slick, and abundant...Photo: D.B.
Doug Brons has a keen eye for the camera, and he knows cycling. I remember yelling to Doug while I was redlining on lap 3 that "I want some pics this week!". The man obliged, and over a week and a half later, these two show up on blog here. I suppose if you ask or yell nicely, you can get what you want. Thanks to Doug and the people who make it out to these races, process the shots, and share them for the good of the sport in our corner of the world.

This weekend is Pumpkin Cross. I am ready for the rain and wind and looking for some hardman style racing.  World Champion Catherine Pendrel is putting on the second annual Cacti Cross in Kamloops on the 30th, and then Mighty Riders and Daryl Evans Racing team up on the 12th to put on a dynamite race back at the South Surrey Bike Park, our 4th year running, if I am not mistaken. Check out the site here. Perhaps we will see some of these photographers in Kamloops and over the bridges in Surrey? I hope so.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Running in 2012: The early season plan

Without a CX race this weekend, I managed to do a bit of CX'íng and trail running. Saturday was CX specific drills at the South Surrey Athletic Field with Jeff. Practice included riding the course for the BC Cup Cyclocross Finals, and hitting practice for cornering and barriers. And Sunday, I got my run on.

Sunday took Sean and me on a long run at 7:30am. Long is relative this time of year, as I am building for the Marathon in May, and the Chuckanut 50 in March. So a 14 km run is the extent of my travels, as I look forward to getting faster for the upcoming year. Pretty soon, 14km will be halfway through for a long run. Until it becomes only a third of the way through. Having done my first marathon in 2011, the marathon distance now seems very doable.

I like to start the early part of the year, winter and spring, focusing on running. The Spring Series road cycling races put on by Escape Velocity are fine if you like road racing in winter conditions--cold, wet, and sometimes snowy. Props to them for putting them on each year. Don't get me wrong, I dig racing in the cold, wet, rain, and snow, but just not on my road bike. Give me my CX bike or a good pair of runners when the weather turns for the worst. The wear and tear on my swag road parts and wheels is costly, the racing is sketchy, and the payoff is not my bag. I like to focus on running because I feel it is actually a better workout throughout the winter and wet, early spring. 

Running can be (is) less treacherous than early season road racing and riding, more adventurous (to some), and kinda like mountain biking, but without the bike. Did I mention I like to run primarily on trails? I do. Trail running is the most challenging, forgiving on the body, and fun. I would much rather hop fallen trees, pound the dirt and mud, and keep my mind working to cover every obstacle safely and quickly, rather than concentrating on the sidewalk or yet another lap of the block. I did that for a few years in the morning before work. 3 laps of Boundary Park 3 times a week for one year, and I was finished with that. That is when my brother introduced me to the Petzl MYO XP Belt. A killer light that allows me to trail run for the last 4 years in the dark of autumn, winter, and spring at 5:45am. One of my most used pieces of running gear--I love the thing. I have been through a couple of them as they crapped out under warranty, but still, it is the best light to run with for the money. This little gadget has allowed me to squeeze out a 10km run before my family is even up, twice a week. 

Sean and I used to run 3 times weekdays, with a long run on Sundays, but the M-W-F wake-ups were getting to be tough as the week wore on. Now it is twice a week, and a long run on Sunday when we can stomach/coordinate it. Do I like running better than cycling? I just plain and simple like to be outdoors in the woods. When I am on my cross bike, I love cross more than anything. When I am on the road bike in the summer on a scorching day, that is my favorite. Running is the best when I am running.   

So the goals for 2012 are being set. The Peninsula Runners Trail Series is now posted on the website, and that is one of the most fun, challenging, and best of the local run series. I am looking to throw down some personal bests for 2012 on some tough trail courses starting on New Year’s Day. 

The First Half Half Marathon is a must do. I have done all but one since 2004, and my half marathon times have been coming down each year that I do it. This run is one of the best organized races around, sort of like the BMO Vancouver Marathon on a much smaller scale. 

After the trail series and First Half, I am attempting my first ultra marathon in the Chuckanut 50. I am looking forward to this being a hard training run for the BMO Vancouver Marathon. At this point, I do not know what I am getting myself into with this one, but I bet it will prove to be a kick in the pants. 

And following the Chuckanut 50, I will try my hand at the Dirty Feet Trail Race half marathon in Bachelor Heights, Kamloops, for the second time. Phil and Grace Hiom put on a great series here after just over a year of organizing some of the best (interior) races around.

All this running sets me up for the BMO Vancouver Marathon on Sunday, May 6th. After all the aforementioned races, I will have enough miles under my belt to try for a BQ at the BMO. My 10km PB suggests that I have it in me, but anything can go right or wrong on race day. My CX season has been all over the map with regards to good luck and prep, and bad luck and prep. The experience of the BMO last year will help. On a new course for 2012? That may be a bit tougher to deal with.

So there it is. Some respite from CX racing this weekend. Pumpkin Cross put on by Local Ride is right around the corner on Sunday, and I still have a costume to organize. I am happy that they got rid of the course from 2008 with that massive run-up, and make us go over horse jumps now.

Looking forward for some redemption heading into the last half of the Cyclocross season. 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Escape Velocity Lions Park Cyclocross: Thanksgiving Report

Escape velocity put on yet another edition of the Lions Park Race, last seen in 2009. That year, I raced to a 4th place finish in the now defunct B category, collecting a set of sunglasses and $20 in prize money. This year I wanted to better my previous finish, and thought that I would have a good chance based on my recent results. Having placed well at two of the last 3 races, I  went into this race with no expectations. I did my race day rituals as normal, warmed-up as always, and then thought that I could lay it all down on the course. Since there was only 5 days since the last race at Vanier, not six as usually, attending one Canucks home opener with my good friend Andy (turning that evening into a late night), and having one day less of recovery may have made for a bit of a slower race (Does that really actually make a difference? Possibly). What did make a difference on this race day was the lack of bodies at the Lions Park cyclocross race.

 EV decided to separate the masters 3s and 4s, the 4s starting one minute after the 3s. This made for a small field of 3s. Only 6 of us toed the line today in the Masters 3 category, a far cry from the nearly 60 at the last weeks Vanier race. The Lions park course was much like that of 2009: the same start and finish area was employed, the pea gravel was still there, the south side roots and trees were all there. It was déjà vu of 2009 right down to the weather: overcast and about 14 degrees. The course was not muddy, nor wet, but the many slightly damp 180 degree turns made for many out of the corner accelerations/ sprints. 4 warm-up laps of the course and I was good to go, if not a little underwhelmed by the turnout.

At the gun, Tyler, Tony and I took off to distance ourselves from the other three riders, Jeff being one of them. We managed to hit 40km/h on the grass of the park, but could not smash the group on the first lap. We all stayed together coming through the start finish area when I hit a root and decked it after the first lap. My front tire washed out and I went down on my right side, handlebars all twisted up. Niels Steiner was following and nearly ran right over top of me.

This crash gave both Tony and Tyler some daylight to fly, and sent me back to 5th place. Over the next lap I chased hard and managed to bridge up to the two lead riders, putting in close to 30 seconds on Niels and Jeff, and locking down third. On lap 5 I tried to overtake Tony on the outside going into a right hand 180 after hanging on his wheel for two laps. He managed to shut me down there, and pedal ahead, perhaps feeling the pressure to ramp it up.

By lap 6 of nine, the gap reformed between me and the two leaders. I had trouble maintaining my speed through the pea gravel, and lost a bit of time each lap from going out really hard at the start. This is where my week of training and late nights began to take their toll on me. With just before two to go, I noticed the dreaded “Fwummp!” from my rear wheel. I had blown yet another bead. Luckily I was right at the pits, if not slightly past it, and ran back against the course to change my wheel.

The wheel change was terribly slow. I had some trouble reattaching the brake straddle cable. During my slow change, Niels and Jeff both passed by. I managed to get going again, and had to hammer to try and regain my 3rd place. That did not happen, and I was forced to be happy with 5th or 6th place, 30 or so seconds behind Jeff. Once the flat happened, I lost much of the impetus to exert my maximal effort.  Deflation!

It was a little disappointing to have such a small field on Saturday. It was encouraging to have Niels, Jeff, Tony, and Tyler, some of the diehard CX racers around supporting the race. When they showed up, it did not really matter than there were no other races. Those guys are racers that I love to to toe to toe with and see who comes out on top. The race was still a fun go. Tyler mentioned that after the first two laps, he thought he was done and that he would blow up. The fact that he continued to push on shows that everybody’s elastic could snap at any time, it is just how long is a rider going to push on through the difficult times to make it snap for everyone else. Tyler did that today. He snapped our elastics first. 

When my elastic snapped, I kinda threw in the towel. Collecting two or more points from this race would have bumped me up to the Masters 1-2 category. In the back of my mind, I believe that I did not want to collect them at this race, and was content to stay in the Master 3-4 for another race. Tyler may not be so lucky because of his two second place finishes, and now a first, he may be upgraded. Maybe I am making excuses for myself and my inability to keep up today. As Ryan Trebon said in a recent interview with Colt on Cyclingdirt, "You are only as good as your last race". I made a few mistakes during this race and had a hard time settling in.

After the first race, I believed that I could win more than 3 races this year. This is proving to be hard, as each race day plays out differently, with different circumstances. I have been blessed with two high finished, and doomed with two flat tires taking me all out of contention. Perhaps I need tubulars? My bike prep has been better since New Brighton, my fitness is really good having raced 3 weekends in a row. No amount of training can really simulate a race situation and the stress you put on your body and bike. I will use the last three weeks to be super for Pumkin Cross.

A new Maxxis Mud Wrestler adorns my rear wheel right now. I will take next weekend off of racing, put in 13 days of hard training, and show up at Pumpkin Cross on the 23rd. I love that race, and my race prep for that one is to find a costume that will let me ride fast.

To add insult to injury, I did not start my watch, so I have no data to share from this race. What a day. 

Results and Pics to follow. In the meantime, check out these totally unrelated videos. Thank you for reading!

And, although it is old by now, check out Joey.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Reflections on Vanier

Now that the full race results are up, it is interesting to see just whom attended last Sunday. New Brighton's winner, Tony Bachler, pulled in for 7th place. Alex Cojacaru, whom I race with at the front of Aldor Acres, was 11th. These results are indicative of the fact 1: They had poor start positions at Vanier, and 2: that the Masters 3/4 catagory is very deep and competitve. After the first race, I thought to myself that I could win at least 2 more races this year. That will be a difficult task given just how many solid riders there showing up to these things.

John Irvine and I started front row, and finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Three races in, and this catagory is the biggest with 59 riders at Vanier. The citizen class was a huge field as well, with just over 40 or so. It is so good to see so many riders taking up CX. My brother in Kamloops and a crew of his friends have picked it up there, with weekly training sessions. Kamloops is the perfect place for CX--miles of terrain to ride forever, and great parks to hold the races in.

Perhaps what has kept CX turnouts low in previous years towards the end of the season (like November as the season is over here by early December) are the poor-weather race mornings, and the fact that buying a CX bike is adding another bike to the stable, on top of a road bike and mountain bike, two tools that most riders have to enjoy biking. This mutant-hybrid-Cyclocross-bike-thing is something that might be seen as extravagant by most. However, it doubles as a great commuter bike, fun winter bike, and great bike for riding the trails of the Watershed any time of year. Plus, the season starts in August (for some), and runs through to February.Or it doesn't have to stop. So, really it is not a short season. Unless you live in Kamloops, and have snow to contend with.

One hour on the bike on the gravel paths, park trails, or road is something to combat the seasonal affective disorder bringing us down during the dreary months of the sun setting before 5 pm. It is time that we flip the bird to our warm beds on a dark Novembruary morning, get our bootie covers on and ride. Make our way out of the heart of Vancouver to attend races in Bellingham, Vancouver Island, and other far away places like Maple Ridge, Vernon, and Kamloops. Attend clinics like the School of Cross put on by Aaron Schooler in September, or Kevin Noiles Bicicletta Clinic. Or attend Gentleman's Race.

Cyclocross is the most fun and friendly style of bike racing. For spectators is it one of the best types of racing to watch. One thing is for sure: cyclocross is growing in BC. Get on the CX train!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Vanier Cyclocross 2011: The strongest/ smoothest man wins.

Me ascending the steps in third place, chasing. Graeme Joseph Photo Credit.

The 2011 Vanier CX race presented by Trek Red Truck/Steed Cycles/ West Coast Racing was held under sunny turning to overcast skies in the shadow of the Burrard Bridge. I attended the gala event for the Langley Lodge Saturday night with my brother in law, Sean, and thus thwarted my own plans for a lovely, restful, non-alcoholic beverage consuming evening. I still woke Sunday feeling pretty good after 8 hrs of sleep. Pre-race meal included 3 glasses of water and a cup of oatmeal, some energy candy, and a bottle of gatorade. Standard fare as per usual.

Each year the course at Vanier evolves. The year's start was consistent with previous years, but many of the 180 degree turns have changed slightly each year. Much of the race (perhaps 90%) is on grass, allowing for it to suit a rider who can generate a tonne of power. It undulates with little kickers and knolls here and there. New this year was the addition of 4 small railway ties placed about fifty feet before the stairs. This proved to slow me down, though I never needed to dismount to cross the ties. The last couple of days have been dry in the lower mainland, so it proved to be very, very fast. 

It was great to be called up first, not on points, but for being pro-active and registering before everyone else. The commisaire said that she did not have the list of upgade points, so those who had high placings in the previous two races were shut out for a prime start. I wanted to improve on my 24th place-flat tire finish from last week, and my 6th place finish at Vanier from 2009 when Brian Postlewaithe pipped me with 100m to go.

The field was HUGE, lined up 8 across and nearly 7 rows deep. This was something to behold. The Masters 3-4 catagory is a healthy catagory. Perhaps the weather and location had something to do with that today. Absent was Tyler Dumont, who finished 2nd in both Aldor Acres and New Brighton. With so many racers it meant that there was going to be traffic and congestion as it bottlenecked going into the stairs 200m in. 
With my front row call up, and the Cycling BC commisairre starting the race without a countdown, just simply a "GO!", I got caught with a poor clip in pulled in for sixth position on lap one. Tobin Copley, John Irvine, and a few other riders got in front of me as I pushed as hard as I could to get to the stairs with the front group. John was the quickest to the stairs, putting the beat down on everyone and riding solo off of the front from the gun. He was always within about 100 feet or so of me for the whole race, but tracking him down proved to be difficult.
It seemed like I was closing the gap on him, riding in second with a few riders in tow, until Simon Pulfrey from Steed Cycles caught up to me on perhaps Lap 4. I don't know where he started, but we all know who he is. He is the rider rocking the Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er Full Susser. And he can ride! I think today his ability to rail the corners with so much traction made a huge difference on that bike. Riding with him, I kept thinking probably what everyone was thinking--"don't let this guy get away--don't let him beat you," but he is just sooo strong. 

Simon Pulfrey (Steed Cycles) just over my left shoulder. I did not see him coming. Man, my arms are long!
The race for me came down to the last 2 laps. With  2 to go, I was with Simon when he made a move by the start finish. I rode with him for a short while until he gapped me. I saw him make the catch of John on the second to last lap. At this point, my goal was simply to go as hard as I could to make myself puke, drip snot rockets out of my nose, and foam at the mouth. I figured that this was the only way I was going to make up any ground on those two. Alas, I never did puke, nor did I catch Simon or John. 
This is where cyclocross became fear inducing. I did not want to lose the race, I wanted to win, naturally. I tried my damnedest to catch them. But when that seemed to be out of reach on the last lap, I began looking over my shoulder to see a hard charging Ryan Newsome of Local Ride Racing. Fear became the motivator to win 3rd place today. I could not catch the other two, and that getting caught by Ryan was going to be my reality if I didn't stomp the pedals. Ryan did not catch me, I would not let that happen. I managed to roll across the line for a 3rd place finish today. A tough course on a fast day with the largest field yet. 

Move data from Movescount. This is why I love CX. And Suunto.
Some raceday blunders: today I got wrapped up in the course tape on the top side by the museum parking lot on two different laps. I managed to get it under my bars and decided to show it who was boss, tearing that stuff right off of the stakes they were attached to. Also, I was not in the easier gears crossing the barriers on probably 4 laps, so remounting became a slow process to get myself back up to speed. Something that Schooler taught me, something that I should know/ remember, but pooched it numerous (perhaps 4 or 5) times today on the 180 hills and barriers.  It took me at least an extra 5 seconds to get back to top speed. Losing 20 seconds like that, and some of the course tape took their toll on my ability to catch John and Simon.
Just an average workout for me, really. I had extra mayo on my fries. That explains the high HR. 
Perhaps we should all be embarrassed to be beat by a dude rocking a 29'er. I suppose that the strongest rider won. Correction: the strongest rider did win. He was the fastest and smoothest, end of story. I doubt that I could ride that quickly on my hardtail. Simon seems like a really great guy after talking to him post race. If I were him, I would feel a sweet, smug satisfaction tonight. This win would be very gratifying. He rode like a star out there today. However, he is now officially marked for the upcoming races. I bet that many of the racers will not be letting him out of their sight.

I think I have to push a little harder in the heart rate department to get something more out of my blood pumping organ. Can I spell 194 bpm? I wonder if it is possible. Is that the key to winning? Nope. Is being smoother? Yep. Talking to Paul Berry of Spoke in Motion (Kamloops), he observed that very fact, just as I have stated in previous posts. Cross is about efficiency. I was not the smoothest today. Next week is another race, at Lions Park in Coquitlam. I placed 5th at that race in 09. Perhaps like today, I can move up 3 spots? 2nd sounds good, but it will be another hard battle. Glen Reitsma told me that I looked calm, composed, and smooth--totally contrary to to what I was feeling. It is funny how one can look like they got it all together on the outside, but on the inside they are losing their s**t. That is what cross was today.

3 races in, it is really cool to see the community that we are developing with CX that is unlike any other type of bike racing. Talking to Simon, John, Mike Berkenpas, Scott Sportsman, Tobin Copley, Niels Steiner, and many others riders from different teams is making this to be a super fun season. Knowing other racers and having a blast is one of the best things about cross. It is a hard go, but in order to grow it, we need to be as welcoming to each person we meet at these races. These are extreme-stress inducing races, but when all is said and done, it is great to hang out with so many people who love it.

Thanks to Sven Sturm, Mike Tunnah, Matt Klymson, Cycling BC, the City of Vancouver, and all the volunteers who executed a great race today. Very well done. CX is growing, and the hard work we all put in to supporting the local scene only helps.

Vanier: 3rd
New Brighton: 24th
Aldor Acres: 1st

Full Race Results
Find a picture of yourself at Daryl Evans Racing flickr site.
More pics by Graemej here.
ssportsman's race report and pics.

Monday, 26 September 2011

New Brighton Cyclocross 2011: An epic (failure) day in the rain and wind.

CX is many things: joyful, a great workout, extremely fun, hard as all get out, and sometimes disappointing. To win, you have to prepare properly with training and equipment, make some moves at the right time, be a bit lucky, stay upright, and stay out of trouble.

This was the second race of the CX season in the lower mainland/ metro Vancouver area. New Brighton park in Vancouver is a beautiful little gem that seems to be set aside exactly for cyclocross racing. I imagine that this is what CX racing in Belgium would be like. The course this year was outstanding: many 180 degree turns, 2 sand pit, some steep run/ride ups, a bit of pavement, and plenty of wet, off camber grass. 3 laps of the course on my preride, and I thought that I could figure out how to be quick enough for the day.

Being the first to be called up today based on my last result, I wanted to grab the holeshot and stay safe on the first corner and remaining 300 meters until past the barriers. Then, I thought, I could manage to find a small group including Tyler Dumont to work with to do damage on the field of riders. The field today was huge--8 rows of 6 across--nearly 50 guys in the masters 3/4 catagory.

Grabbing the holeshot. Photo credit: Dustan Sept.

Yet for all my preparation, grabbing the holeshot, being passed by Tony Bachler and Alex Cojacaru, I rationalized that 3rd wheel was fine on the pavement. It clearly was not.

Alex went and decked it on the first ride up 400 meters into the race. With a washed out front end, he went down hard. I was forced  to ride over him. Tony took off like a shot, while I de-tangled my bike from Alex's, and everyone came to a grinding halt. A bit too aggressive of a start, a bit overzealous on the part of my fellow racers to take a chance before we could get out of the danger zone. As I remounted, I heard a "fwuumping" from my tires. I thought that it was my brakes rubbing on the wheel (which it was, but more on the blow sidewall bead side of things), so I thought I could ride it out. Until I hit the sand.

In second after the crash. Dustan Sept photo credit.

What happens next was deja vu from 2009--BANG!!--the exact place in the race that I had the exact same blowout. This forced me to run the remaining half lap to the pits for a change. When it blew, I thought to myself "the poor bastard whose tire just blew--that's gotta suck". Until I reached around and checked my own tire, only to realize the dreaded truth. '
               How not to win a cross race: blow out the folding bead.

Not even one lap in. Less than 3 minutes into the race, my chances for another win were over. I had a great week of training, my bike prep was sound, but my fatal flaw (besides not being able to afford clinchers), was dropping my tire psi down below 40 right before the race to get a bit more traction for the wet course. 35-37 psi just does not cut the mustard for a guy my size at 6'3 and 180 lbs, and from now on, regardless of conditions, I will push 40 plus. You would think that I would learn? This is the 3rd race that this has happened, 2nd with the exact same bead blowout at New Brighton. Going from 1st to DFL again sucks. I managed to pick off a number of guys and end up 22nd. Not a bad number I must say, as it is my favourite. But just not a great placing in a cross race. Not really in any race.

It is uncanny to me how history repeats itself. I have seen this episode before, and it ends badly. Not to say that New Brighton was not epic--today was a mutha of a CX day--howling wind, blowing, pelting rain,  yet lovely warm temperatures in the mid teens. I dig the wet, mud, and wet, but please mother nature, keep the temperature at a balmy 16 degrees for the rest of the season. In 2009, I had the fortune to get around a crash and have a 2011 Tony Bachler-esque style of day, riding off the front alone for a lap and a half, until I flatted, went to DFL, watched Nic Hamilton ride off to victory, while I fought back for 16th. Today the disappointment was only 2 minutes into the race.

On a side note, I decided to run the sand every time. This was slower, but watching other riders painfully make their way across it gave me hope that I was doing the right thing. I was approaching a female rider, Alison Beamish,  as she struggled through the sand until I saw her come to a dead stall, and fall over into me and my bike as I passed her. She did not dismount when she could have, and ended up smacking my elbow pretty good, and catching my pedal in her back. I yelled out a loud word of pain and frustration (you can figure that one out). She approached me at the end of the race and told me about the mishap, and offered up "no hard feelings". She was pleasant, perhaps nervous talking to me, thinking that I would lash out for the lack of power in the sand. I told her it was cross racing, and that in the grand scheme of things, it is just for fun. No need to get all broken up about it. Which is true. All is fair in cross and war, I guess. It is a bike race, not child-rearing, or anything else with any major consequence to life. We are racing in BC, and not Europe. BC cross scene is still in its infancy. Perhaps even in it's conception. I hope her back is alright from my pedal. I will see about my elbow tomorrow.

After my blowout and the lead way out of reach, I thought of pulling the pin on the race, but decided to finish the race simply because of the level of exertion and stress that CX racing put on a racer. I cannot simulate what today was like in any type of training ride. I am happy to have finished, clawing my way back nearly 30 spaces.

Next week is Vanier. I had a great race at Vanier in 2009 on a double weekend, racing with Dave Broemling for the first 3 laps off the front, then being passed by Tim Abercrombie, eventually settling for 6 in losing  a sprint finish to Brian Postlethwaite. I hope that next week with be a better result, as I remember having "a stomach full of anger" after New Brighton. Perhaps I will have my revenge for this week's race at Vanier....then again, it is only a bike race. As much as I make this a big part of my life, it really is just fun.

Full Results:

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Refletions on a cyclocross clinic: Skills to work on

Start/Finish flats at Aldor Acres. I have my angry face on.

The School of Cross has come and gone, and I have a need to jot down some of the finer points that Mr. Schooler schooled us on. Cross is all about compartmentalizing each individual technique, obstacle, or challenge, completing it with the most efficient means possible using the least amount of energy. Essentially, cross racers are lazy. Or hasty, but highly skilled.... Hopefully. Be smooth, as Schooler definitely was, on all of his examples before we practiced.

On the race report via CX Magazine, Aaron writes

"The first clinic of the School of Cross series went off without a hitch on Saturday with over 20 degree Celsius weather kicking off the clinic, and it only got hotter. The morning started off with the basics: mounting, dismounting and shouldering, with more of the practice skills coming in the afternoon like bunny-hopping, cornering, stairs, barriers, and much more!"

So here are my two cents from the clinic. 

Dismounts: At the clinic, AS taught a different way to dismount by swinging the leg over, then grabbing the TT while approaching the obstacle (e.g. Barriers), saddle firmly attached to the hip for (always) three points of contact. The rider then dismounts and suitcases the bike over said obstacle. This sounds simple enough, but I managed to crash on my second go of this technique. Very different from keeping my hands on the hoods and approaching the barriers one leg over already. On bumpy terrain, this is difficult to keep the bike headed in a straight line. I experienced this at the race where I had to keep both hands firmly on the hoods heading into the very bumper terrain before the Aldor Acres barriers. Funny how old habits come back in times of stress.With 35 practice dismounts this evening, I think I have it now. 

Remounts: This one still needs a tonne of practice. Tonight I attempted 35 remounts. I think I hit 3 or 4 clean ones without a double left foot hop. A work in progress. It feels good to nail a proper remount. It does not feel good to nail your junk. As a bigger guy, I feel like I am going to break my frame or something else. Need more remounts to be more comfortable, so that it is second nature.

Shouldering: Piece of cake. I have the running down, no problems there. Except for the knocking of the saddle on the back of my head.  Keep the bike level with your shoulder so the saddle doesn't bump you in the back of the head when going up. Remember, small, quick steps, high cadence, and no sprinting. That is how you pull a muscle or exert too much energy. 

Putting all of these together (I know I have missed others) is key to being smooth, efficient, and quick. If you do all of them right every time, you might be Sven Nys. I am still figuring how to put a clean race together for everything that I have to deal with in a cross race. Fitness is big, knowing how to read a race is huge, lying in wait then pouncing is crucial. And technique.

Fitness/form, awareness, bike preparations, and technique are the few things you control in a CX race. Get good those four, then you can concentrate on your redlining. Practicing each compartmentalized skill makes things easier. When they are second nature, old habits will die.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Cyclocross BC Cup #1: Aldor Acres Race Report

Having missed all of last season with my shoulder/ribs/lung injuries/accident, I was pretty stoked to try my legs at the 2011 cyclocross season. I have been waiting two years now to compete again at my favorite cycling discipline, and the anticipation of September 4th, the first cross race of the season,  has been building.

My goal last year was to head into the first event and win the Cat.3/4 race, plain and simple. I thought my form was excellent and my confidence high last year, but a nasty right hander on a rural road descent had other ideas, and I was forced to miss the whole season laid up in bed. Fast forward one year, two surgeries, and a bunch more time spent on my CX bike, throw in a cross specific clinic with Aaron Schooler on Saturday, the day before at Queen Elizabeth Park, and you have a good build up for Sunday.

After spending all day with Aaron and 6 other guys doing 6 hours of drills, everything from dismounts, remounts, barriers, starts, bunny hopping, shouldering, off camber cornering, and 180 turns, the 7 of us were sunburned, hot, dry, and I was looking forward to using these skills on the race course the next day.

My typical pre-race meal of oatmeal, a glass of water, and a banana seemed to set me up as usual, but the night before at Slackjawjake's house had me eating two smokies and a scotch. Not ideal for a dinner the night before, but that was what he was serving.

I arrived at the farm just after 10, grabbed my bike for a preride and managed about 3 laps before the start of the Cat.3/4 race. With the changes to the catagories, this year my race time is changed to 12:00, and I race in the Master's 3/4. 15 points brings an upgrade to Master's 1/2. The course was just as I had remembered it: A fast start finish area for about 800 meters, bumpy turny double track, leading into the barriers, some dipsy-do turns, a steep run up for 40 meters into singletrack switchbacks with climb until the descent over rooty technical trail, a tight 180 into fast, bumpy, doubletrack with a left into the maze section, popping us out onto a hill leading us back to the start finish. The course was just over 2.7 kms. No real changes from 2009, save for the maze that had been created in the grove of trees. It was here that I attempted to run the maze, but after talking to Schooler, he suggested that running might take up too much energy for the amount of time one might gain. I told him I would try it anyway.

With preregistering, I thought I would get a front row call up. Because I signed in late, I managed 2nd row. Not bad, but first row would have been nice.

With Cyclocross, a good start is important for getting out to the front and of the way of traffic, and staying safe. Also, it is key to go as hard as you can, and then harder on the next lap, each lap piling on the hurt and being a sufferfest for the duration. If you lose contact with the front off of the gun, the race can be lost on the first lap as the exertion level is supremely high, and seems to just go up.

The first lap was fast--very fast as I tried to get to the front as quickly as possible to avoid a pile-up or eating dust for the rest of the race. Literally, eating dust kicked up from all the guys in front on a hot, dry day. Things went well with me in third behind Alex Cojacaru and Jeff Haninnen, as I yelled at Jeff to keep up the pace. The run up was long, but short steps and even steady pacing kept my legs and heart in check. By lap three, it was all but Alex, a steed cycles rider whom I do not know, and myself. Steed was tailing up for third, and Alex and I would battle the 45 minutes for first. Alex was running the maze, I stayed behind him on all of my laps but for lap for, when I tried to run it once.

On lap five, I managed to take the lead, and saw the 3 to go sign on the lap counter. With 2 to go, Steed was still there but fading, and Tyler Dumont had managed to pick his way through the pack from 6 row start to make it up to fight for 3 place.

This worried me. I did not want the very fast Tyler Dumont riding with Alex and I due to the fact that 1: I wanted to keep this party a two person show, 2: Adding another bike to the mix could "help"me finish as high as third, and 3: I was worried about losing a sprint to either two guys.

When the 1 to go sign showed up, Alex and I threw it down, not drafting off of each other on the doubletrack road after the start finish, but chosing our own lines, Alex on the bumpier right, and me on the left.  I yelled at him to keep the pace high as we had daylight from Tyler. I pushed as hard as I could, and he pulled ahead of me before the barriers.I tried to rationalize this as "Second wheel is the best place to be coming into the finish", and attempted to pass him on the run up, running even with him, and then backing off. as we hit the top of the run-up. We singletracked it along for a while and he cooked the 180 degree corner before the descent wide, giving me plenty of room to pass him, but I did not take it. On the doubletrack into the maze, I managed to big ring it and pass him, getting to the corner first, and riding the maze. On the second to last switchback in the maze, I heard trouble coming from his bike, and then nothing. He had dropped his chain!

Hearing nothing behind me, I flew as hard as I could to the finish line. With 200 to go, I turned and looked behind to see nobody coming. I sat up, fists in the air, let out a yell of "Yes" or something like it, and felt good. Tyler Dumont rolled in a bit after me. He managed to take 2nd. Alex dropped to 4th in the last 400 meters. Unlucky.

First race, first win of the season. A very good feeling to come across the line first. It only took me a year to achieve my goal of winning Aldor Acres. I now have 8 points now, and am 7 away from moving to the dreaded Masters 1/2 catagory, where I might get shelled. Perhaps it is where I should be? I will find out with a couple of results from New Brighton on the 25th.

Funny how in some races when things are going badly, you hope for an opportunity, a mechanical for sometimes yourself, or for your competition. Today when it came for Alex, I felt bad for him to race as well as he did, and then to have it lost in the last 400 meters. I felt elation to fly to the finish alone. I have been that guy in a race, flatting, dropping chains, or whatever. That is bike racing, and preparation of your bike and body are key. It seems that my bike was tip top. Next time I think I will not have Slackjaw Jake give me a prerace meal. Or maybe he knows the secret?

CX Magazine's Race Report.

Full results:

No pictures were taken of my win. Boooooo! But I will include a picture of my first win, one that happened 2 years before this one, in 2009, on a cold, wet, dark day.