Friday, October 29, 2010

A little Halloween KISS

A little Halloween KISS for my readers. Fake Paul Stanley showed up at the office this morning. He was too busy putting on makeup to ski all morning long, but he still plans to Internet fight every day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Someone who chose poorly was interested in atoning for his sin this morning. We enjoyed a nice sunrise.

And some nice turns. Not as nice as yesterday’s since Rustler was effectively tracked out (at least by October standards), but still worth getting up for.

Touring is as much about the up as the down. I love the up. A nice hike and good conversation with a friend is a reward in and of itself. Skiing down is a bonus.

As much stoke as I get from skiing powder in October, Kikkert’s comments from yesterday did a good job killing it. As Bob put it, “You thought you left those guys behind once the road season was over didn't you?”

Kikkerts said “The ‘rush to the barn’ syndrome is often when accidents occur (also having broken trail is never an excuse to drop in on people...especially in the Wasatch...where every skin track is going to be re-used).”

I know you “worked for many years as an avalanche forecaster” and already have all the answers, but let’s take this to its logical conclusion just for fun. Are you saying that if we put in the booter up the Y couloir, where the way up is also the way down, and you decided to follow us up, starting an hour or two later, that we would need to wait for you to get to the top before descending? That’s nonsense. Get up early and hike fast. If you don’t, go someplace someone hasn’t been or accept that there’s some additional risk in the route you’ve chosen.

Andy put it nicely in a comment on Dug’s blog: “Uh, maybe someone shouldn’t complain about people skiing above them when they didn’t put in the skin track. I’m just saying.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Choosing wisely

Yesterday’s trainer session was motivated in large part by my desire to get a decent bike workout in order to free today up for skiing. Yes, it’s October 27th. But I was still hopeful that conditions would be good for skiing. Dug, Rick, Ben, Jonnie J, Nate, and I met at the usual place at the usual time.

Without the benefit of daylight savings being over, we had to pretend to be still making progress up the ridgeline above Greeley as if we were seeking an actual objective. In reality we were just waiting for it to be light enough to ski. Which, incidentally, is not the same thing as light enough to take quality photos. But you still get the point. And the point is, the skiing was good. Really good.




Looking upon the powder I am about to harvest.


Do you like my new green jacket? Turns out Dug has a new green jacket almost the exact same color. And he also wears black pants. Which is convenient, because now I can just take pictures of him and say they are me, and he can just take pictures of me and say they are him. Not sure who gets the better bargain, but it keeps things simple.

What wasn’t so simple was the exit, which included some bushwhacking and a stream crossing. But it was a small price to pay.

Anyone who opted not to come so he could ride his bike instead chose poorly. But anyone who may have made such a decision would have already been aware of that without me pointing it out.

It’s still snowing today. My alarm clock is set for tomorrow. I’ve been informed that someone who didn’t choose wisely today has already cleared his calendar.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pep talk

It’s October, there are 10cm of snow in my yard, so I did my first ride on the trainer this morning. I should have ridden hot laps at the park tonight. Chasing a bunch of fast guys would have been a good workout and probably would have given me more of what I needed than riding the trainer in the garage.

But my cross bike still isn’t clean from Saturday. It doesn’t look like the photo below anymore, but even though I spent over an hour last night removing dirt, leaves, grass, and twigs with a scrub brush, some of the moving parts still aren’t moving. I don’t have a B bike, so riding the B bike to train while keeping the A bike clean for racing isn’t an option.

Since I probably have between four and five more months when riding the trainer will be necessary at least some of the time, I decided to make a list of things I like about riding the trainer to keep me motivated for the rest of the winter.

  1. I can ride at 6:30 a.m. before it’s light outside and not have to worry about squeezing in a ride for the rest of the day.
  2. My bike stays clean.

You can see from the extensive nature of this list that I have a great deal of passion for riding indoors. I should have no trouble staying lean and fit this winter.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Moab and first storm of the year

Friday and Saturday (and I guess Sunday too, but I didn't stay for that part) were Fall Moab. We left Friday morning and rode Slickrock in the rain that afternoon. Since it was raining, I didn't take my camera. So I didn't get any pictures. Also since it was raining, we opted not to camp and found a cheap but fairly nice motel to stay in. That ended up being a good thing. Though it did mean eating dinner at the brewpub rather than grilling brats.

The downside to all the rain was that it was snow above 2,100 meters. And our plan for Friday was to ride the Whole Enchilada. Which starts at about 3,300 meters. We considered just riding UPS and LPS and Porcupine rim, but the shuttles weren't even running there. So we rode Gold Bar Rim instead.

Problem is that I had borrowed Mike M.'s freeride bike specifically for the Whole Enchilada. It weighs about 22 kilos. I suffered up all the climbs on Slickrock thinking about the joy of riding that thing on a big shuttle run the next day. The shuttle run didn't happen, but it was still a blast on Gold Bar Rim. What a great trail. Here are some photos.

Dug is a master of climbing ledges.

Kenny isn't bad, either.

Bob also has good technical skills, but his greatest asset is a short memory. His interval between being doubled over in pain and being the first to try a scary move is shockingly brief.

If you can get over the fact that he's devastatingly handsome, you'll notice Ricky making some tough moves as well.

The big bike wasn't great for going up. Geometry isn't designed for that. But it was fun to go down, even when the line required a mandatory air.

Aaron can do it all and make it look easy.

John putting his foot to the floor.

The second half of the ride had a number of challenging descents.

And some ominous clouds that threatened but didn't rain.

Bob nailed this tricky staircase.

I rolled the hard part no problem...

...then went ass over teakettle when I hit a rock on the rollout.

The views on this ride did not suck. Some guy named Mike showed up and took these photos. None of us knew him, but he claimed to be a friend of Kenny's.

After the ride Saturday, Jon, Steve W., and I were heading home, but only after taking advantage of the barbecue grill at the hotel to cook some brats and enjoy them on Kenny's delicious bread. No better way to end a ride.

I wanted to be home Sunday since Rachel and the kids had been out of town the previous week visiting her family in Indiana. Sunday was our first non-school day to hang out together. And being the lucky guy that I am, our family likes to hang out at bike races when we get the chance. So Sunday afternoon, we headed over to the final Raleigh Cross race of the season.

Last week, my goal was to line up with the A flight and not finish last. This week, I had no goal. I'd spent nine hours the previous two days pedaling around on a very heavy bike. Between the exertion and the spill, I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a truck. But I raced anyway. And rain in Moab also meant rain in Salt Lake (and snow in the mountains!), so we had our first race with typical cross racing conditions.

The first lap is usually my best, but this time it was terrible. The first turn was scary, so I didn't contest the hole shot. The second turn I got off line and hit the sidewalk hard. I thought I blew out my tire, so I soft pedaled to make sure it was still holding air. It was, but I couldn't tell how much or if it was likely to roll. In the sand trap, I was caught behind a pileup and lost more ground.

I spent the next few laps trying to catch the group in front of me. I thought I was making progress until I had more difficulty in the sand trap. Then I lost them for good. From that point on I was focused on practicing my handling in tight, muddy conditions. This stretch of repeated 180's in the trees gave me trouble every lap.

There were several dismounts in this race, the first pass in the sand required a 180 that was faster to run than ride. Then there was a barrier before a runup that Rico bunny hopped and pedaled (he lapped me on this section on his way to the win--I felt very slow). Then some concrete steps down through a pavilion and back up. And finally two barriers after a hard right hander at the bottom of a hill. Very technical course, very challenging for someone still trying to figure this technical stuff out. Here I am remounting after the double barriers at the bottom of the hill.

I had the best cheerleaders in the world, though. Seriously, hearing them encourage me every lap, no matter how far off the back I was, kept me motivated to keep chasing.

Coming into the last lap, I had one of the Glenn brothers in my sights. He looked to be fading, and I was still feeling like I had something left. I thought I could catch him and avoid the lanterne rouge.

He was a couple bike lengths ahead going into the trees. I thought I'd make my move on the straight before the runup. Then my front tire washed out in the mud, and I was on my side trying to get unclipped, trying to get back up, trying to get back on. That was it. I rolled in with Cody right behind me, mercifully not trying to add one more to the tally of riders who had lapped me.

This is hard racing. Harder than I ever imagined it would be. The weather made it harder still. Yet at the same time it's amazingly appealing. The season is short. The races are short. The community is great. It's never boring. Every course presents its own challenge. It's spectator friendly and family friendly and a great way to spend a day.

After the race, I asked Steve whether he thought my result was because spending nine hours riding trails the previous two days is a bad way to taper or just because I suck at cross. He said "I am going to say a combination of bad tapering and a lot of bad ass cross racers in Utah." That list of bad ass cross racers has to include Daren, who won yet again on Saturday. That's four for four. He's the only one to do that since Jason Sager finally got one on Bart on Saturday.

My ineptitude notwithstanding, I'm already looking forward to double cross weekend next weekend with the big halloween race, in costume, on Saturday. Assuming I can get my bike clean between now and then, that is.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cyclist yard

My neighborhood, like so many others, has a few homes that aren't occupied. Foreclosed or not, maybe just walked away from. Not a lot, but they are there. Sign of the times, or at least the economy, I guess. With nobody living there, the yardwork doesn't get done. Lawns are brown, flower beds are infested with weeds.

Frankly, I view these homes as a good thing. Because my goal when it comes to yard maintenance is to not have the worst-looking yard on the street. I am a cyclist. And as a result, I spend most weekends racing my bike. If I'm not racing, I'm training for an upcoming race. When the training ride is over, I am recovering. Mowing the lawn may occasionally (no more than once per month) be active recovery, but pulling weeds is not. As a result, my yard looks like crap.

This condition--cyclist yard--is usually remedied in the off-season. Which in the past has meant taking one weekend in the fall to pull weeds, winterize the sprinklers, and fertilize the lawn. One weekend in the spring is then dedicated to dethatching the lawn, applying weed and feed, and making sure the sprinklers are working again. The problem is that this year there is no off season. I started racing in March. The last cross race of the year is next year. In January. When my yard will be covered in snow. The first road race of the season is six weeks later. Which is six weeks before the snow will even be melted. Clearly I have a problem.

I mentioned this to another cyclist friend over the summer, and he said that he hires out his yardwork. Which I could do. For approximately the same amount of money as I spend on race fees, I could hire out all my yard work and have the best-looking yard in the neighborhood. But then I would have no money for race fees, would therefore be home on the weekends, and if I'm home, I couldn't possibly justify hiring someone to do the work for me. You see my predicament.

The solution is to come to accept it. Which I have. The neighbors evidently have as well, since I am yet to receive love letters from the neighborhood association about the condition of my yard (they were quick, however, to send one about the team trailer being parked in my driveway, so it's not due to lack of attention on their part).

The problem I am unable to accept is the similar affliction of cyclist car. The floor pump, three pairs of shoes, two pairs of gloves, helmet, sunglasses, and water bottles that are almost permanent residents* of the back of my car are not the problem. These I accept and even embrace--I just keep everything in my car so I know where it is. If I'm not going to drive, I'm going to ride my bike, so I just take what I need and put it back in my car after the ride. It's when I leave my dirty kit in the car and forget about it for three days that the symptoms become problematic. I could learn to live with it, but it's hard to drive when I can't breath and my vision is obscured by watering eyes.

*Actually, more like seasonal residents. They are removed in winter and replaced by skis, boots, poles, beacon, pack, and climbing skins. But there's no practical difference except that perhaps ski clothes only require about a day to reach the unbearable level of toxicity, while cycling clothes seem to take a bit longer.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cyclocross racing is like sex

Another two race weekend, one didn’t go so well, one did. Or at least it went well enough.

This little bit that Bart wrote about spinning a small gear in cross, well the part where he says “racer after racer was attempting to come out of a corner way over geared. By the time they got on top of the gear it was time to set up for another turn. You get little acceleration when over geared and lots of muscular damage/back pain.” You could substitute my name for “racer after racer,” and sure enough, I got little acceleration and lots of muscular damage/back pain. By the time my race was over, my back was cooked.


Bart pulled me aside after and explained what I had done wrong. But I’d have to wait to apply what he told me, because I left my B number plate at home, so I wouldn’t be tempted to use it in the afternoon. I did, however, pass along these words of wisdom to Steve, who used them to great effect. He finished seventh in the B race, his best result to date. Dial in the pacing a little more and practice some dismounts, and he’ll be on the podium.

Greyson Tipping (Revolution) was also privvy to Bart’s words of wisdom and applied what he learned to take the win. Even more impressive, though, is that the guy who finished right behind Greyson was Ryan Ashbridge (Revolution) on his single speed. Ryan and the other single speed competitors started three minutes after the B race. Ryan, with a three minute handicap, passed every rider in the B race save one, and was maybe 40 seconds behind him. Another impressive single speeder was Steve Wasmund (Cutthroat), who commuted to the race with no insignificant amount of gear.


Daren kept his streak alive with another dominating performance in the Masters 45 race. We were pre-riding the course, which was one loose 90 or 180 degree turn after another. I was behind Daren, and I told him “I can’t see your face, but I can tell you’re smiling about this course.” He turned to me and revealed the smile.


Daren’s brother, Doug (Canyon), traded wins yet again with Bob Walker: Texas Ranger (Contender). That means it’s Doug’s turn next week. Tanner raced well in the elites, spending a good chunk of it in the top 5 before finally being passed by Alex Grant (Cannondale) and Reed Wycoff (Contender), then losing one more place when he crashed. Bart, of course, took the win. It was a bike handler’s course, and nobody (locally at least) can touch Bart in that regard.


The Walker: Texas Ranger family doubled up, with Kris taking the women’s A win. AnneMarie White moved up to B after two wins in the C and finished sixth. Not too bad, Annie. Jason scored a top 10 in the Men’s C, so a good day for couples whose last names start with W. The Men’s C race saw a couple of blowouts that, as Jared Eborn (Porcupine) described them, “would have made Rose Park gangsters recoil with fear.” He should know, one was his. Kudos to Jared for running half a lap to the pit, getting a wheel, and continuing to race.

My race followed the usual script: I started fast and gradually faded, losing places each lap. Since I didn’t get the hole shot this week, I think I lost about the same number of places as last week, I was just starting from further down. I was still holding onto a top ten position when I crashed and lost a few more spots. As Bart pointed out, I raced the course all wrong and paid for it. I was pretty peeved at myself for the poor performance. At least I got paid.


Sunday was a chance for redemption. Cody (Ski Utah) convinced me to sign up for the A race. The fields are small enough in the Sabbath series that they race A and B together anyway, so I figured I’d give it a go and set a lofty goal of not finishing last. I figured it was a good chance to get a feel for how fast the fast guys really are.

Turns out they’re really, really, really, ridiculously fast. I used my sprinting skills to good effect on the start, fourth coming into the first corner behind Eric Rasmussen (Kuhl-Specialized), Brandon Cross, and Keegan Swenson (Cole Sport). They started gapping me right away, then in the first barriers, several guys went by me like I was standing still, including Matt Ohran (Cannondale) and Cody. In the turn coming out of the barriers, Brandon crashed, and my first thought was “ouch, I hope he’s OK.” Followed in rapid succession by “sweet, I might reach my goal of not finishing last*.”

*Terrible, I know. But cross racing is not road racing where it’s a major international scandal if a rider doesn’t wait for a competitor who’s had a mechanical. Part of that is because being skilled as a cross racer means having finesse, which helps one to avoid crashes and rolled tires and the like. Part of it is that cross racing is like a street fight on wheels.

After a lap or two, I had pretty much settled into my equilibrium point, and my race within the race was on. Dave Sorenson was just in front of me, and Troy Gorman (RMCC), who was at the front of only three racers in the B flight, was right behind, chasing hard.

The course was funky, featuring a short run-up that took you behind the backstop of the softball diamond, out onto the infield, off the field onto the sidewalk along the third base line, with a hard right hander beyond the outfield wall. Then you crossed the sand volleyball courts before winding back and forth up and down a short, steep hill.

A few laps in, I remembered Bart’s advice and dropped it into my small ring on the hills. This allowed me to conserve energy through this section and hit it hard on the fast straight that followed. It was enough that I was able to get around Dave on the flats and start building up a gap on him and Troy.

With about five to go (these were short laps—about five minutes each for me, about four and a half for Eric), I was feeling good about the gap I had built up when I washed out on the hard right hander exiting the ball field and crashed. I got back on, got my chain back on, and smacked my levers until they were nearly straight. I didn’t lose position, but Dave was now right on my wheel, and Troy was closer than ever.

I didn’t panic and tried to ride steady and not blow up. Dave was right there the whole time, then with two to go and Eric, Keegan, and Patrick having already lapped me, I could see Ohran and Cody right behind me as well. I was racing to keep four guys from passing me. I figured even if Dave passed me, if I could hold his wheel, I could outsprint him at the line. Thankfully it didn’t come to that, and when I hit it hard on the final straight after the hill, I had a little cushion before the end.

Officially I was 11th out of 13. Nothing to write home about, but I’ll take it. I’m happy enough with the result because I felt like I learned something the hard way on Saturday then put it into practice on Sunday. Little by little I will get there. As Cody’s girlfriend Candace put it, “cyclocross racing is like sex—it takes years of practice to become good at it.” To which I added “but also like sex, even if you perform poorly, it’s still a helluva lot of fun.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Six of seven

Lust: One of the B-school marketing basics is STP—segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Apparently the Scottsdale travel council has done a bit of this and determined that tourism revenue will be maximized by positioning their town as a luxury destination for attractive rich people who like candles and very small islands in their swimming pools, and this attractive rich people segment can best be reached through targeted advertising in the New York Times.


I would have been more enticed to make another visit had they shown a picture of some buff singletrack or maybe the mountain bikers with a backpack full of booze who kindly offered me Tecate and shots of tequila* at the top of a lung-busting climb.

*Which, had I accepted, I was certain I would have promptly thrown back up from the effort I had just made. Nevertheless, it was a nice gesture, especially considering the challenging, technical descent I had before me that required every bit of skill and coordination I could muster.

But then again, they’re trying to maximize revenue, and all I bought in Scottsdale proper was a bottle of coke. I drove to the trails from my (less-expensive) hotel in Phoenix.

Gluttony: After Lotoja, I ate pretty much everything that wasn’t bolted down. I put on two kilos in as many days. Since then, I’ve made a half-baked effort to watch what I eat, an effort that in the spring probably would have been enough to take the weight off. It hasn’t. Wonder if that has anything to do with my weekly training volume going from 12-15 hours per week to 2-5?

Envy: Daren told me not long ago that he was a bit envious of the success I had racing on the road this season. Well the tables have been turned, my friend. I have suffered more than I thought possible on the bike for mid-pack finishes in cross races, while Daren has two wins in two races. He has been bagging those wins in an open category, while I’m struggling to find the front of the race in the B flight. But instead of smiling and asking “how do you like them apples?”, he shares training, racing, and technique tips and endless encouragement to try and bring me along as quickly as possible.

Sloth: I sent Steve a link to this photo of him from UTCX#2 in Ogden. His response: “The beauty of still photos is that nobody can tell how slow* you are going.” Wise words from a man wearing a skinsuit that epitomizes my mantra “if you can’t be fast, you should at least look good.

*Which is not to say he was going slow, just slower than he would have liked for someone accustomed to being at the front of the race.

Pride: A comment I made on twitter seems to have struck a chord with a number of others.


One of those was Jonathan Lozon, to whom I gave a shoutout in my wrapup of UTCX#2. What I didn’t know at the time was that in addition to his top 10 at Weber, Lozy went on to win the C race in the Raleigh Cross series. It was his first win ever. How can you not be proud of him for that?

Greed: I’ve mentioned before that Utah is a great place to live if you like to race bicycles. If you include MTB, there are as many as six options for mid-week races during the summer, a full calendar of weekend MTB and road races, and now two series of cross races, conveniently scheduled so as not to conflict with one another.

Which is not to say our races aren’t quirky. USAC rules state cyclocross courses are to be a minimum of three meters wide throughout, yet the Draper course is at least 60% singletrack*. Perhaps even more quirky and annoying than the singletrack is that we have handlebar-mounted number plates. And the Raleigh Cross series even chose to follow the UTCX lead in this regard. Seriously? Is this a MTB race or a cross race? Jonathan from Revolution Wheelworks summed it up nicely:


*Singletrack apparently composed of equal parts dirt and goatheads.

Strange and fascinating indeed. Still, I’m happy to have the opportunities to race, whether the courses include singletrack or we have turns in the final 200 meters or not.

Monday, October 11, 2010

UTCX #2 – Weber County Fairgrounds

This cross racing business has been like heroin. Wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but my friends were doing it, they pushed me to do it, they made it easy for me to do it, and once I tried it the high was exquisite and exquisitely painful. And now I’m addicted—can’t wait for my next fix.

I spent the whole day Saturday at Weber County Fairgrounds, so I’ll try to give a rundown of all the races (let me know in the comments if you like the full report of all races, because it takes a lot more time for me to write and for you to read). Weber is a great cross course, built around the firm sand horse racing track and utilizing the small rolling mounds (hard to even call them hills) on one side of the track. Portions of the track itself are featured, as well as the dry, grassy equestrian course in the infield, including a couple of the equestrian obstacles.

55_podium_UTCX#2_2010First off for the day were Masters 55 and Men’s C. Doug Cottle (Canyon) got the hole shot in the 55 race with Bob Walker: Texas Ranger (Contender) right on his wheel. Doug got a small gap in the rollers, but the two were back together on the track. Doug attacked again in the infield and was away for good. Bob finished second, reversing the order from last week. Lou Melini (Contender) rode a solid race and rounded out the podium.

The C race had a huge field with over 40 starters. The lead group stayed together for a good part of the race, but eventually Graham Greenlee (Contender) rode away from his competitors for the win, followed by Jeffrey Perry and Kevin Gardner.

Next up were the Masters 45 and my first race, the Men’s 35B (plus one woman). Daren was under pressure to come through again, considering his brother just won the 55 race, he won last week on a course he doesn’t like, 39601_167397716607771_160573563956853_574923_180957_nand the Weber Fairgrounds course is his favorite. His teammate Jeff Clawson got the hole shot and led through the rollers and onto the track. Daren took the lead in the infield where he’s fast through the corners and smooth over the barriers. He forced himself to go as hard as he could on the track because he knew the chase wouldn’t make up time in the technical sections. It paid off, and he stood on the top step for the second week in a row, with Steve Briley (X-Men) in second, and Jeff (Canyon) in third.

I’m still trying to figure out tactics for cross racing and how to approach different courses. This week I decided to just drill it from the gun and hang on as long as I could. I got the hole shot and led through the rollers. On the track, I pushed it for all I was worth but had several racers right on my wheel. I led the group around and into the infield where I was passed momentarily before retaking the lead to complete lap one. I led through the rollers again, then on the track, Kathy Sherwin* (Hudz-Subaru) launched an attack and came around me with four racers on her wheel.

*Wondering why Kathy Sherwin was racing in our field? According to USA Cycling rules, “Women may enter any men’s race for which they are eligible by age, category, and any performance requirements. They may also enter categorized races for men that are up to one category lower than their women's category. For road, track, and cyclocross events, category 1 women may enter men’s races up to two categories lower.” In Kathy’s case, she’s over 35 and racing one category lower by racing in Men’s 35B. If anyone were checking, that is. But since the UTCX series isn’t USAC-sanctioned, nobody was checking.

I held on as long as I could, but I’d gone out too hard and couldn’t sustain it. I ended up in no man’s land with the lead group mostly staying together up ahead. I lost a couple more spots on the ensuing laps. Kathy duked it out up front with Travis Mickelson (Contender), with Travis eventually taking the win. Denny Kalar (Cole Sport) finished third. I wound up in eighth after outkicking Bill Gowski (Contender) over the final 50 meters.

Next up were the women. In the C race, AnneMarie White Women_C_Podium (Wasatch Pilates) won for the second week in a row. Which, if we were USAC sanctioned, would mean a mandatory upgrade. See you in the B race next week, Annie? Rachel Clayson (Spin Cycle) and Heather Richerson will probably be glad to see her go.

Robynn Masters (Contender) won the B race, followed by Kara Harris and Nancy Alcabes (both from Ski Utah). In the A race, Kelsey Bingham (Roosters) took the win, followed by Kris Walker: Mrs. Texas Ranger (Contender), and Kathy Sherwin, who was slowed by a crash but apparently not by having just finished on the men’s podium the hour before.

kiddie_cross_podium_weberIn the kiddie cross race, everyone was a winner.

In the men’s A race, Bart Gillespie (Revolution) made an early move and was on his own the first several laps. Jason Sager (Jamis) wasn’t finished that easily, and eventually chased him down. The two rode together for several laps before Bart made a late move in the infield on the bell lap to put Jason away for good. Reed Wycoff (Contender) rounded out the podium. Eric Rasmussen (Kuhl-Specialized) has his sights firmly set on peaking in Bend in December, and gutted it out for fourth. Tanner looked solid throughout, finishing 10th—not a bad day for the Cottles. Bryce Young (Simply Mac) unfortunately had a bad crash and broke his collarbone (and an Edge, nay Enve, wheel). Between Bryce and Todd Taft (Ski Utah), that’s two broken clavicles in two weeks of racing at UTCX.


In the 35A race, the lead group of five stayed together throughout. Bo Pitkin (Big Ring) did most of the work on the front, with Matt Ohran (Cannondale) and Art O’Conner (Big Ring) also taking some digs. Sam Moore (Canyon) stayed comfortably in the middle of the group, with everyone aware he’d make a late move. He made it in the rollers of the last lap only to be caught on the track. Ever combative, Sam made another move in the infield, and this time it stuck. John McKone (Cole Sport) finished second, and Art came in third. Bart, Sam, and Daren are the only winners so far in their respective categories of A, 35A, and 45.

Joel Roberts won in Junior Men, Brock Holt (Bountiful Bikes) won the Masters 35C race, Alex Whitney (Canyon) won the Clydesdale race, though he may have had to eat a few hot dogs since road season ended to qualify for the 93kg minimum weight. Ryan Ashbridge (Revolution) won the singlespeed race, with Steve Wasmund (Cutthroat) and Jess Dear (RMCC) rounding out the podium.

After a waffle, a PBJ, and a Rock Star, I felt ready (enough) to throw down again in the B race in the afternoon. Having burned my matches early in the 35B race and paid for it, I held back on the first lap to try and conserve some energy. I was in the lead group on lap two when a move went, and I followed. I should’ve let it go, as it cost both of us. The chase group led by Nate Drozd (Salt Cycling) caught and passed us. I held onto that for a while but eventually lost contact. After a lap or two alone, I fell back to the group with Mike and Steve in it and rode with them until I burped a tire on the second last lap and lost a half dozen spots in the pit changing wheels.

B_podium_UTCX#2_2010 Mike Pratt (Canyon) took the win, with Nate in second and Greyson Tipping (Revolution) in third. Mike finished eighth and Steve 11th.

Steve and I were talking on Sunday, and he said he felt like he packed five hours worth of intensity into a 50 minute race. I think I suffered less spending 185 kilometers in the break at Lotoja than I did in Saturday’s two cross races. It is a different, harder beast to be certain.

Ali Goulet, who hasn’t done much to train aside from riding his freeride bike, had this to say (via facebook) after the race: “5th today straight off the free ride couch, i'm thinking if you train more than 3hrs a week and you're outside of the top 5 its (sic) time to rethink your whole cycling life...”

Perhaps. Or perhaps if you have so much talent that you can place 5th in the A race “straight off the freeride couch,” it’s time to rethink your whole cycling life. To suggest people who haven’t been on the couch have something to rethink cheapens the effort of the four guys who beat you.

We all race for different reasons and with different expectations and different criteria for measuring success. On Saturday, I was impressed by Jonathan Lozon (Big Ring) cracking the top ten in the C race. Cody Haroldson (Ski Utah) buried himself for the full 60 minutes in the A race. Candace Hayden (Ski Utah) turned herself inside out not to be last in the B race when she probably could have contended in the C’s. Are these results any less impressive than a former multiple USGP winner taking fifth in his local series because he can't be bothered to train?

I’m bummed about my flat in the B race. But a flat when I’m already out of contention doesn’t take me out of contention. To pretend otherwise is a weak, tired excuse that everyone can see through. Once out of contention, the race is to not get caught by the guy behind me and to try to catch the guy in front. Success is to keep my head down and suffer so I’ll be stronger for the next race, regardless of whether I place eighth or 14th or DFL. A flat tire is nothing more than an interruption in the suffering and a new set of guys to chase and be chased by.

I still have a lot to figure out in terms of training, pacing, and bike handling. But one talent I do possess is an ability to suffer—hopefully that enables the remaining pieces to fall into place.

Photo credit: Utah Cyclocross.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Famous last words

I started the 2010 racing season with eight points towards the 20 I needed to upgrade to cat. 3. Earning the remaining 12 before they started expiring in August was my goal for the year. Remember back in April when I said that my cat. 3 upgrade was the last one I was ever requesting? I lied.

Dear [SkiBikeJunkie],
The following request to change your USCF category has been approved and processed by USA Cycling:
xxxxxxxx - 2010-10-04 15:34
Member: [SkiBikeJunkie]
License: Road Racer
Request to change category from Cat 3 to Cat 2
Request was approved on 2010-10-05 19:30

Not to toot my own horn (really what is a blog for if not to toot one’s own horn?), but this isn’t something I expected to do, ever. It wasn’t anything I thought realistically about until two months ago. In June, I was feeling overwhelmed racing as a cat. 3. The state championship road race was a make or break event. I went into it intending to give it everything I had, and if it didn’t go well, I thought I might walk away from racing. I had a good result, and I got some confidence.

I won for the first time this season in July and from that point ended up with 10 podium finishes in my last 20 races, including four wins. Going into Lotoja, I was very nervous about racing against the 1/2 field. Nobody was more surprised than I was with how I finished. With that result, I had the points to move up, so I figured I should find out whether it was a fluke result or not by doing so.

Part of me is hesitant about making the move, as there’s still more to learn from racing as a cat. 3. But I started racing as a cat. 5 last year at an age when pros are retiring, and I’m not getting any younger. I won't be alone, either. My brother Steve's upgrade request was approved as well. If I’m going to go, now is the time. Or rather, next spring is the time. For now, I need to focus on cyclocross, where I’m still a cat. 4.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who are these people and where did they come from?

Saturday was my first ever cyclocross race. Ordinarily, I would spend this time of year riding my mountain bike for fun, not racing. But Daren has been pretty adamant that I race cross this year. When we were watching the Tour of Utah prologue, we bumped into Mike K. from Church of the Big Ring. Mike asked me if I was racing cross this year. Daren answered yes before I could say a word. So that’s what I’m doing. And Daren has come through in a huge way to make sure I’m as prepared as possible.

Saturday I somewhat self-consciously lined up with the 35B field. I was self-conscious about racing B because a lot of the guys I race with on the road race A. But considering I’ve never done this before, and it’s better to learn how to race from the front of the pack than the back, I figured I was OK to throw down in B initially. And 35B is even OK, because, well, I’m over 35. If I had any doubts about whether this was acceptable, they were assuaged when I saw Andre from Canyon also lining up in our group.

Since I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t even know how to pace myself, and didn’t get a good position on the start line (I counted 35 starters, about 30 of whom got there and staked out the good spots before I did), I lined up right behind Andre and figured I’d follow his wheel and see how things went from there.

Andre was the first guy to the top of the paved hill we started on. I did such a good job following him that you can just make out the white and blue of my helmet and my left foot behind him (440) in the picture above.

In hindsight, I followed him too well. Once we got onto the dirt, I could have gone faster, potentially off the front, potentially getting a gap on some of the chasers. But I didn’t. And there were guys that stuck my wheel for the whole of the first lap.

Turns out, two of these guys could climb well, because as soon as we got to the pavement to start lap 2, they came around. I passed Andre and started the dirt of lap 2 in third. I kept them in sight for most of that lap, but the separation between one and two and between two and me increased as we rode through the singletrack.

Then on the climb starting lap 3, I got passed by two other guys. I was now in 5th, off the podium. And there was no particular problem spot on the course where I was losing time, either. I lost time on the climb, I lost time in the dirt. The only place I managed to gain any ground was in the sand in the arena.

On the runup of lap 4, Mark F. from RMCC was right on my wheel. My only cross knowledge comes from two clinics and watching videos online, but I remember Art and Ali talking about using your bike to make yourself wide on the runups to avoid being passed. So that’s what I did. It sort of worked, as he had a hard time getting around me. But then I botched the remount and he went right on by. I was now in sixth.

I spent the fifth and final lap with guys in Contender and RMCC kits tantalizingly close, and since these were the teams of people who had passed me, I worked to bring them back. As I got around them, I realized these were Masters 45 racers that I was catching, and their 35B teammates—the people I was actually racing against—were still up ahead.

As we got to the road, Tim W. caught me and asked if this was the finish. I said it was, and he accelerated away from me. Tim’s a better climber than me, but I knew I could outkick him at the end. Which is why he accelerated early, and why I did my best to match the acceleration and keep him in sight. As we got closer to the line, he looked back, saw I was still there, and said “I went too early, didn’t I.”

I said “yep.” And sprinted for the line.

Daren crushed it in the 45 race, getting off to an early lead…

…and holding it for the duration. Nice to have a coach that knows what he’s doing out there.

Annie smoked the Women’s C field and got her first win.

Steve and Mike endured crashes and flat tires in the B race. I thought Steve might come away frustrated, but he loved it and is looking forward to going back. He’s also looking forward to the more roadie-friendly courses on the calendar.

Rick suffered a crash on the first lap that made his bike all but unrideable. Adam, in his second ever cross race, started towards the back and gradually picked guys off as he went, finishing 11th. Alex K. also finished 11th in his race, with JDub right behind him. Eber battled back from a mechanical to finish in the thick part of the pack. But I didn’t get to watch much of it because I was warming up for my race. Alex stuck around and gave me water handups and encouragement while JDub snapped photos.

Tanner, who has struggled to find training time in his first year of college, finished 9th in the A race and had held steady in the top 5 for most of it, only to fade a little at the end. He’ll be riding into form, not out of it, so that’s a good sign. Bart blew everyone away, winning the A race decisively. He’ll be scary this season, considering he’s also riding into form after not much MTB this summer.

And I have to mention Sunday’s Raleigh Cross race, which Cody from Ski Utah won in dramatic fashion. Steve and I have raced with Cody on the road a lot, having come up through the 4s together, and he’s always right there in the mix. But this was the first time he’s won a bike race, ever, so I’m super stoked, and so is he.

Speaking of riding into and out of form, I decided after the race to take a week off the bike. I’ll pay for it in the next couple races, but I’ve been racing on the road since March with only one week off. I felt some fatigue on Saturday, and it’s going to get worse rather than better if I don’t do something about it. Hopefully some recovery time will have me ready to peak at the late season races. We’ll see.

The real question I had after the race, though, is who are these people, and where did they come from? I know a lot of the road racers in Utah. I’m close enough to the MTB scene to know a lot of the players there as well. I didn’t know any of the five guys who beat me Saturday, and I probably only knew five of the guys in my field total. Same for the B race and pretty much every other field. I’m not so much surprised that there are people who just show up to race cross. It’s fun. I can see why it’s more appealing to some than other racing. But that they just show up for cross and then proceed to open a can of whoop ass on everyone else—everyone else who’s been training and racing all summer—is the surprising part. It’s a whole new set of racers I’ve got to try and figure out how to beat.