Thursday, May 17, 2012

What is Up

Race #5 in the Arizona State Series was to take us to Prescott and into the thin air and pine tree forests. We were expecting a break from the heat of the desert and what a break indeed! Arriving at the venue to find 6 inches of fresh snow I was excited. Having many snowy races under my belt I knew exactly what we were in for and looking forward to the bizarre conditions. 
Unfortunately the race was decidedly cancelled so we drove the 2 hours home to ride in 70 degree sunshine. Arizona is such an amazing place to be a cyclist. You have all these climate zones and varieties of trails within just a relatively small area, combined with year round sunny weather and amazing scenery I can't imagine anywhere else I would rather be.

The big race for me this year was to be the whiskey 50. Unfortunately I missed the registration cut off and was unable to get in. Lucky for me the State Criterium Championship was the same weekend and I was able to enter 3 races. Finsihing 5th was the best I could manage for the weekend in the Masters Catagory.

Thanks to Trek and Bicycle Ranch of Scottsdale I was able to get on this new Trek Madone right before the weekend. This thing is smooth! And the fit is so intuitive .
Next up was Ohio State Championship Race #2 at Mohican State Forest. This is one of my favorite trails in the east. A single, 25 mile singletrack loop with tons of climbing and loads of flow. The weather SUCKED. IT was in the 40s, windy and cloudy, I was freezing before the start. The start by the way had been moved up one hour since the last time I raced one of these and I arrive just in time to line up without a warmup...uncool.
The race started and the large field rolled out down the road towards the trail. I dropped my chain and ended up in about 6th going into the woods. Surged up into 4th and then it was like the brakes were starting to drag. Somehow I was having trouble closing this rather small gap up to 2nd and 3rd. Something was wrong and I eventually figured out that I had not tightened my seatpost clamp after the post air travel rebuild. 

So there I am hurting and falling backwards into about 9th place before I am able to beg a tool and fix the post clamp. 

The course was awesome and I just raced as best I could moving back up to finish 5th by the end. 

After the race there was an awesome party with beer and fire and all things wonderful. It was great to hang with my longtime friends and fellow racers again. I got a little drunk I must admit but not before properly rehydrating with HEED from Hammer Nutrition!

Tomorrow is the final Arizona State Championship Race and basically my fate is sealed as long as I finish. So it's going to be a good race to experiment with a new strategy and enjoy some Flagstaff, high altitude singletrack!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

MBAA Race #4 Sierra Vista

Sierra Vista is situated near the Mexico/Arizona Border and was home to race number four in this year's Arizona State Series. The course is a hilly one at mild elevation (4000ft), and is located on a U.S Army base.

With dogs in tow, L.A. and I arrived the night before for a quick preview of the course along with Nick Thomas. I had raced here one year ago but it was still nice to get a pre-ride in. Pre-riding a course gives it a feeling of being an important race and seems to really focus my mind on the job at hand. It also reminds me of traveling, being at national or other high priority races, and generally makes any race more like a "big event". It was nice!

The course was very climby, just like I remembered. But it was also very loose and had many sharp, tire eating rock formations in some high speed sections of trail. I realized I may have made the wrong choice when I grabbed my last new pair of skinny sissy tires off the shelf. But they were mounted and I had no replacements so sissy tires it would be.

The morning of the race was cool and extremely windy. The weather was predicting gusts above 40 mph, warming up consisted of getting blown around and eating flying sand. I pedaled around and complained for about 10 minutes and then headed over to the start.

I got a front row start and a pretty good sprint off the line to match. I settled into 4th heading into the first windy, loose climb and then took 3rd near the top. I made a little space between myself and 4th place but still lost some ground on the leaders.

24 minutes later I was coming through the flat area near the start to begin my 2nd of 5 laps. Lap 2 had me feeling optimistic as I hit the beginning of the climb again. I could feel my back tire was low but that was ok for the climb as it allowed for better than normal traction. Before long though I was down on the rim and had to stop and dismount to fill it. A little C02 was all it took and I was back on the bike in seconds.

Near the end of lap 2 I hit a sharp rock and lost all air from the rear...damn. I stopped, tubed it, and headed off again, now in 4th place.

Lap 3 was great until I flatted yet again on the very same rock that go me on lap 2! Unreal. I limped to the finish and accepted some help from the pit to install a new tube and was off to lap 4. On lap 4 I realized I still had a chance at 3rd and started taking chances on the faster parts of the course, resulting in another flat, this time in the front. Riding the flat back to the pit was no fun, but they had everything ready for me and I was able to finish. This was enough to keep me top 3 in the points race with 2 races to go in the series!

Next up was L.A.'s race. The wind was still crazy and it was much warmer out. She headed out on lap number one of four sitting in fourth place for most of the lap.

Shortly before coming through to begin lap 2 she moved into 3rd place and looked real cool coming through the feed zone.

Maintaining her place for the 3rd lap she was eating, drinking and focused but so was the girl behind her. She was surprised to find she got caught with less than a lap to go and put the hammer down. Moving back into 3rd and putting minutes on 2 of her rivals who were hot on her heals just a couple miles before the line.

Celebrating her first podium of 2012 with a "superman" as she crossed over the line.

We have been doing a variety of Criteriums and Circuit races this year. This is new territory for me but Lee-Ann is a natural and seasoned Crit racer. It began with an underground training crit, then I was doing a stage race, and now I find myself actually caring about my's whacked.

I used to not mention these races in my blogs because well...I sucked. And I still suck on a road bike but just not quite as bad as when I started.

One race I had been looking forward to was the South Mountain Circuit Race. I ride here often on the mountain roads and trails, and was looking forward to my first hilly circuit race. I like to climb!

This was a 35 minute race on course with a long, hilly, twisty climb followed by a long hilly, twisty descent. 25 dudes were in my field and within a couple of laps I had a feeling I may be a better descender than most.

The field of riders stayed together for the entire race so on the last lap I attacked about halfway up the climb. One rider grabbed my wheel and the two of us gapped the field. We crested the climb and I was hoping to shake this guy on the fast and tight turns of the downhill but no dice. He stayed with me, we put a huge gap on everyone else, I could not even see them as we arrived at the final downhill turn and headed toward the finish.

Out sprinted, I finished 2nd, my best yet in a circuit race.
Next up was the Hungry Dog Crit. I signed up for 3 races and L.A. was racing too!

She raced first with the rest of the Cat 1 through 4 women. Wearing her Hammer Nutrition Shorts and Bicycle Ranch Jersey she got a prim (prize for first place that lap) earning her first cash of the season! Coming around for the final lap the entire group was together as she started her sprint. There was no competition at all in the sprint and she won the race by several bike lengths! Her sprint is really a sight to see. Click here and fast forward to the end to see it!

My masters race was next. I finished 12th, then got crushed in my second race. In my 3rd race was where the real action was. The field was HUGE. I bet 40 or so guys at least. The pace was pretty high most of the race. I was feeling ok thanks to Hammer Nutrition Recoverite between races and Hammer Gel or HEED during race. I wish I could say I raced smart but instead I will tell you I learned a lot this race. Coming into the final lap I was riding near the front. Then heading in the final corner before the finish there was a big acceleration. Someone's pedal made contact with a wheel in front of me and chaos ensued. I realized in an instant that I was probably about to be involved in my first major road bike crash.

Two guys directly in front of me hit the ground and one slides into the path of my bike. We are moving at nearly 30mph, as my front wheel comes in contact with another riders head up and over the human we go! I remember thinking "I am still upright!? Maybe I can save this!" and just then I am gang tackled from the right and rear. In an instant I go from way fast to getting up off the ground and locating my bike in the pileup. I realize I am ok and all but 2 riders are up on their feet. The officials are there and tending to the injured so I assist for a moment before remounting and coasting to the finish.

Being involved in the crash was an eye opener. I learned a lot.

We are doing another Crit this weekend and the following before heading to MBAA 5. Another hilly course with some great climbs, descents, singletrack, TREES! and altitude.

Our Sponsors are Dope! Bicycle Ranch Hammer Nutrition

Friday, March 2, 2012

MBAA Race #3 Hedgehog Hustle at Estrella Mtn.

Our Hammer Order Arrived!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

L.A. and I were both looking forward to MBAA Race #3 at Estrella Mountain. This is by far the most rugged course on the calendar this season. The rocky, twisty, techy course suits our east coast riding style and experience.

My race was first at about 8am. There was a large Cat 1/Pro showing and I was looking forward to racing despite fighting illness for the previous week. I had my new Superfly dialed in and was looking forward to ripping up some trail regardless of the outcome of the race.
The girl said "go" and we did. I clung to the tails of the fast guys as we filed into singletrack and moon rocks. As the 30 mile race progressed I passed more and more racers who were fixing flat tires due to the shrapnel like trail surface. I was not feeling very strong and it showed. I got passed and did very little passing. The trail was fast and smooth and gravely in some sections. Then in others I found myself doing trials type technical moves and powering up short burst type climbs.
After lap 1 I heard a crack and eventually realized my seatpost clamp had broken allowing my post to slip. Anyone who races understands that this is not a fun way to ride. I dealt with the bad luck blow and still made it to the finish in 5th place, with no flat tires or crashes, and had loads of fun racing this sweet trail system on my new, black, fresh Superfly Pro.

Next up was Lee-Ann's race in the huge Cat1/Pro field. Temps were rising and we were both looking forward to seeing her tear the course up in a good way. She was to do 25 miles and I was to be her support in the feed zone.
Coming through the feed zone after the first ten miles she looked and felt great, and was comfortably sitting in 3rd. Then, halfway through the race she flatted, which normally is not a big deal but a second flat after left her dead on the trail. She had to walk for literally hours across the desert to reach the parking lot. Parched and burnt she opted not to finish.

Luck was not on our side and here we are already halfway through the State Championship Series.

Next up is the Sierra Vista course near Tucson. mild altitude, lots of climbing, and likely some new competition! Hopefully some better luck as well!

Thanks to Darren Williams for the photos as well as our sponsors~!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

MBAA Race #2 Wihite Tanks Whirlwind

White Tanks is a pretty fun course. Very fast with a few really rocky, technical sections. Located on the far west side of the valley. Last year I flatted on this course and finished way back like some novice on a hybrid.

This was to be my first race in my new sponsor's kit. Bicycle Ranch of Scottsdale.

I had a plan, the plan involved sticking with the leaders up the first climb, into the tech section, and then riding their draft on the long, long downhill back to the start/finish. There was a large pro/Cat 1 showing and the start was crowded. I found my way up near the front and was feeling that all too familiar burn of a real Pro class start. Within minutes the top 3 guys began to get a gap on me. I burned several matches to catch up only to have them pull away as the terrain got steeper. I burned more and surprised myself with the level of hurt I was able to find within the first few minutes of this race. "shit, this is not going as planned" I thought to myself as I hit a wall and was forced to recover as the leaders rode away together.

Now I was all alone in 4th spot. I was hoping to get caught or catch someone I could work with on the back side of the course, however I was not willing to slow down and wait. For the entire race I was alone, running from the guys behind and chasing helmets in the distance. I never passed or got passed by anyone and overall it was an uneventful race until about 200yards before the finish.

I lost it on a sandy turn, had to put a foot down, and by the time I was back on the trail I noticed another pro right behind me. Luckily I was able to beat him to the line by a few seconds to hold onto 4th. Not good enough for a podium and my second 4th in a row. Currently I sit in 3rd place in the points series with 4 races left.

I have been doing as many road races, circuit races, and crits for training as well...and learning and improving little by little.

The next MBAA race is in just a few days, at the most technical course on the calendar.

Big Ups to our sponsors, Bi
cycle Ranch, Hammer Nutrition, and Trek/Bontrager!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

MBAA Race #1 McDowell Mtn

After having such a great race the week before I was really looking forward to the first MBAA race of the season. McDowell Mountain is such a fun course, so fast and plenty of flow. No matter the race outcome I was sure to have fun on my bike!

My start was early, about 8:30 am....temps were only in the 40s under sunny skies. We arrived about 7am and got in line for registration. The reg line was extremely long and slow moving, I stood in line for over an hour waiting to register. The officials had to delay the start of the race. Even then I had about 90 seconds to get to the start line by the time I got dressed and prepared my bike. To top it off I had to line up all the way in the back of the large cat 1 field that is starting with the Pro's this year. Not a good start to the first race of the year.

This is an extremely fast course (like most MBAA race courses) and staying with the front group is uber important. I gave everything I had at the start but was only able to make it into the top 12 or so by the time we filed into the singletrack. The front few guys were riding away and there was nothing I could do to catch up. I was on my own as I worked through the field on the first lap.

Going into lap 2 I was able to work with another racer briefly and this provided some much needed recovery. L.A. was at the feed zone providing some much needed support and also let me know how far out of first place I was.

I was riding well, feeling pretty good, and had no idea what place I was in. Just racing as fast as I could go without crashing, and I still managed to fall on a slick and fast downhill. It was a hard fall onto the hip but I was up and going again in no time, now on my third lap.

I love these early season races. I always feel so focused, fresh, motivated. My bike feels tight with a fresh drivetrain and tires, brake pads and grips.

The third and final lap was exciting. I had joined up with a couple of other really fast guys and we were working our way through some lapped traffic at amazing speeds. Only a couple miles from the finish I dropped my chain off of my ring going through the rock garden and lost the two in front.

I was very disappointed but re-railed the chain and gave chase. After carefully dosing the little energy I had left I caught one of the guys right at the line and outsprinted him to finish 4th in the Pro class by just a few seconds.

Overall I was quite happy with the race considering the stupid circumstances at registration and at the start line. I felt good, rode good, but was too far back from the winner. I am doubting my chances at any real showing in the MBAA Series this year....and reconsidering my priority races.

L.A. was so right on with her drink delivery and information relays. Now it was her turn to race. She went out hard, maybe a little too hard and blew up on her first lap falling back deep into the Cat 1 field. But her racing experience paid off as she gathered herself up and slowly clawed her way back to a 5th place finish in quite a large field. No crashes and some good stories made this a great race for her 1st official Cat 1 battle.It's always fun racing with her but the ride to and from the race as well as the social scene after is what really makes the day for me! We are both looking forward to many more fun filled races.

Not a bad showing for a
couple skinny white kids in Arizona Race #1!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2012 Sponsors!!!

I am excited to be working with some great sponsors for 2012!

It looks like Hammer Nutrition is going to be backing both L.A. and I on the food and drink side of things. They have anything you would need to fuel any endurance event.

Bontrager and Trek are continuing our relationship.

And the big news is that we also got connected with Bicycle Ranch! A full service bike shop in Scottsdale with a reputation for sponsoring the fastest mountain bike racers in the region.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

12 Hours Of Winning!

The 12 Hours of Papago is a race I have been looking forward to since moving to Arizona. The course is cool for several reasons. First it's located right in Tempe, a rather hip area of Phoenix. The course is in a public park, surrounded by city on all sides, and contains some extremely unique rock formations. Also included was a 175 long tunnel, a few miles of canal bike path, a public road crossing, a technical bridge over the canal, climbs, descents, rocks and cactus. Oh,...and the transition area was located on a paved road under an overpass.

L.A. and I arrived just in time to make our own parking place around 6 a.m. It was still dark and the bridges over Tempe Town Lake were lit....I had a good feeling about the race.

The start was cold and dark, about 45 degrees. We ran to our bikes and then out onto the course. I started for our team, named "Hole in One" and managed to be one the top 10 into the singletrack. There were 170 or so teams. I followed another rider who had a light through the first little canyon and then rode blindly for a couple minutes until we were in a more open area. The twilight was giving just enough on the high ground to see and it got brighter every minute.

I was highly motivated to take advantage of the open trail ahead of me before it became clogged with hundreds of lapped traffic. Also I was very rested and filled with adrenaline since it was my first mtb race in months.
Within a few minutes I was out front and thinking to myself "dude, this is going pretty well!".
I was totally time trialing, mildly concerned about using too much to soon, and zoomed onto the pavement and through the underpass/transition zone in 1st place, laying down what would be the fastest lap of the race, averaging 16 mph on that lap! One more time around and it was L.A.'s turn a couple out.

Earlier that day we awoke to her front tire completely flat. Actually spent quite a bit of time jerking with it and knew it might be an issue during the race. Both our bikes were well worn and we knew mechanicals were a strong possibility. So of course she had a flat on the first lap, and of course it was not easy to fix as the tubless valve had been completely jacked in the rim.

Limping back to the transition I did a "relief lap" while she finalized repairs.

Back out on the course her enthusiasm got the best of her and she came back after an extremely "hot lap". Explaining that she went so hard that she made herself sick. I was sitting around chowing down, totally not expecting to go back out on the course yet...but I did. I was starting to hurt at this point and there was still about 8 hours of racing to go!

L.A found her mojo on the following lap, putting down her fastest lap of the day. We were behind at this point but slowly crawled back into 1st about mid day. Between laps I was using zip ties to hold both my shoes and my derailer together. But we remained mechanical free and took the win with 22 laps! Rules stated that each teamate had to do a relatively equal number of laps so Lee-Ann finished up the race for us in the dark, putting down yet another of her consistently fast laps.

It was a textbook endurance race, it had extreme temps, mechanicals, drama, and some very close competition....Oh and free beer from the local brewery!

The award ceremony and after party were totally rockstar! I drank half a beer and was wasted.