Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Breakfast with Ingrid

Skiing this morning sucked. I wish I’d stayed in bed. Mike M., Jon S., and Aaron were lamenting their choice as well, wishing they, like Adam, had had headaches and chosen not to come.




Rick isn’t in any of the photos. He climbed up with us but just did one lap. Said something about having breakfast with Ingrid. Which was unfortunate, because he missed seeing Mike skid his Megawatts halfway across highway 210.

Unless you really were having breakfast with Ingrid, you should have been skiing. But you already knew that. Sorry about the headache, Adam.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Who knew?

All these years I’ve thought that skiing was about the only way to have fun in the snow. To that end, on Wednesday I ducked out of work just early enough to take in a couple backcountry laps with Daren. It was cold. Like minus 11 F (minus 33 with windchill!) kind of cold. My fingers, face, and toes felt every bit of it. Still, the snow was nice. Really nice for November.

Thursday I enjoyed a nice recovery meal. I was sure to eat my five a day of fruits and veggies. Although I’m not sure that fruit stuffed between pie crust counts towards the five a day. I don’t particularly care.

Friday was more backcountry skiing. What a difference a couple of days make. The sun was out, the snow was still nice, but it was warm. Like hike in your base layer with no jacket kind of warm. I’m already up to eight days of skiing this season, and I’ve skipped most of the Saturdays to race cyclocross. We’re off to a good start—hope it keeps up.

I’ll admit, though, that I was a little reluctant on Saturday to give up the chance at more skiing to race cross in the snow. I was apprehensive about cold, I was apprehensive about traction and crashing. I just didn’t think it would be very fun.

How wrong I was.

I lined up in the 35A group. There were about a dozen of us. The five contenders—Art, Bo, Tom, Tim, Gary—got an early gap. I was right behind Mike K. through lap one, but eventually lost him and had Seth, Jay, and Mark P. on my wheel. I slipped in the off-camber section and went from the front of this group to the back, but took the front again when we got to a straightaway on lap two.

Legs felt good and three of us opened a small gap on the fourth. But with the snow and ice on the ground, staying with the group and shedding anyone else would require some skill just to stay upright.

There was one section with a patch of ice right at the bottom of a dip. It was straight and high speed, but as I rolled through it, I had to turn my wheel slightly to keep balanced, and when my wheel hit dirt again, it grabbed and burped. I was tentative with the low tire, but it had enough pressure to keep riding. Traction was actually better, I just had to be careful with it to keep from going flat.

Then I burped again in the same place, but this time it didn’t hold. Tire went completely flat. I had a CO2 cartridge in my pocket, so I aired it back up, but by that time the three I had been with all passed me, and I wasn’t bringing them back unless they suffered their own misfortune.

Keeping the bike upright is part of racing and one of the more engaging aspects of cyclocross. Sure I’m disappointed about my tire, but it was my fault. Had I ridden cleaner, I wouldn’t have burped it. After I burped it once, I should have found another line. Maybe tubulars wouldn’t burp, but they may have rolled off the rim. After every race there will be “if only” moments. It’s up to me whether I use these moments as learning experiences or just another lame excuse.

The last two laps, I found a line through the snow that avoided the ice altogether, but it was too little, too late. Inexplicably, I was still having a ridiculous amount of fun. I was on the edge of crashing pretty much all the time and even went down once on the last lap. I didn’t care.

I went into the race dreading the snow but raced nonetheless out of a sense of duty. It’s quite likely nationals will be snowy, so I figured I better practice. I came away hoping that there’s snow on the ground at nationals and that there’s snow on the ground for the remaining UTCX races.

Brad has been having an ongoing debate with himself about racing with gears or on his single speed. He concluded that he didn’t care whether he could get better results racing with gears, he was having more fun on the single speed. I feel the same way about racing in snow. I’m not the best bike handler and won’t likely get better results in the snow (unless it keeps faster people from even showing up), but I had a helluva lot of fun and can’t wait to do it again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Daren and I went backcountry skiing Saturday morning. Winds were nuking—at one point I had to hunch over to avoid being blown over.

Wind is not conducive to avalanche safety. Wind can redistribute snow into wind slabs many times thicker than a layer of new snow from even the largest storms. So we made the decision not to ski the north-facing slope on the lee side of the ridge we had just climbed. The south-facing aspect was surprisingly good.

Sunday morning, Daren sent me a text asking if I had seen Bart’s observation from Saturday. Same aspect and elevation, less than 200 meters from the slope we were considering skiing.

As you can see from the picture of the Samurai holding his pole up, that wind slab was pretty deep.

This morning, Mike H., Tanner, and I were back to the same spot. The wind was still blowing.

Dug et al opted not to even poke around Days and skied the south aspect out. But we figured we were there, so we may as well check the snow out.

Mike kicked half a dozen cornices and didn’t get anything to move. He kicked one particularly large cornice directly above the lower angle slope we were considering skiing, and nothing moved. “That cornice was definitely heavier than a skier,” he observed.

Still, we decided to dig a pit. We did an extended column test that failed and propagated about 60cm deep with a Q1 shear at four taps with just the weight of my hand. Below the slab that failed was a layer of sugary, faceted, weak snow.

Anything that fails with the weight of your hand is a red flag. Anything that shears at Q1 (a clean break between two layers) is a red flag. Put the two together, and it may not matter that the slope is less than 30 degrees.

The south aspect skied great. Snow was soft, and even though visibility was poor, it was still fun. Incredibly fun when you consider it’s still November. Tanner headed to Alta for more first tracks. Mike and I went to work. When I got to work, I read the following in today’s avalanche forecast:

Dropping a cornice on a slope, seeing no results, and diving in is asking for trouble.

Um, yeah.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jonah and the whale

I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and read books. I’m too busy watching TV. But watching TV is difficult when I’m commuting, what with the need to keep it at 80 while I’m glued to the bumper in front of me and updating my Twitter status and all (though I would never text while driving). So I listen to audiobooks.

Audiobooks are awesome. It’s like story time when I was in elementary school but even better because there aren’t little girls doing each other’s hair or boys picking their noses or trying to give each other buttercups. I’ve read, or rather had read to me, various novels, memoirs*, and even some non-fiction that I would never have made it through otherwise.

*I’m particularly fond of the memoirs of men who are gay or grew up the sons of alcoholics in Depression-era Ireland and highly recommend Dry, Running with Scissors, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and Angela’s Ashes. Angela’s Ashes I haven’t finished yet, but it’s way awesome so far. I started it after a succession of Hemingway books following which I didn’t think I could bear any more Hemingway because it was too depressing. Turns out Hemingway’s stories are like the Brady Bunch meets Leave it to Beaver by comparison. But it’s still worth reading, as is For Whom the Bell Tolls.

But the “had read to me” part is important. Because the reader* matters. A lot. Some books are fantastic on their own but made even better with a good reader. The Book Thief is one of those. Other books I can tell would have been more enjoyable with a better reader.

*I have a hard time saying “the reader” after that creepy (but good) movie of the same name where Kate Winslet plays the illiterate Nazi cougar. I even considered titling this post “the reader” but couldn’t bring myself to do it because of the association.

One book that it never even occurred to me to listen to as an audiobook is the Bible. Because quite frankly I don’t think there’s a reader alive who could keep the passages with all the begats or the various and sundry rules about how to treat unclean women or how to properly slaughter sheep from becoming terminally boring. Or at least I thought that until I saw this video.

The story of Jonah from Corinth Baptist Church on Vimeo.

I would totally listen to the Bible as an audiobook if she were telling the stories. Hallelujah.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My face hurts

I have a hard time getting out of bed before 6:00 a.m. to ride my bike. The thought of riding after dark, in the cold, is only appealing when there's no viable alternative. So why is it that getting up at 4:30 to start hiking in the dark in the winter with the cold and wind is not a problem at all?

Maybe watching the sunrise over the Wasatch is part of it. Maybe first tracks is another part of it. Oddly enough, conditions in which I would be miserable on the bike, I love on skis. I don't mind foul weather. In fact, I kind of get a high from being out in it.

And evidently I have no shortage of friends who think likewise. This morning we split into two groups, Ben and his crew heading to Grizzly Gulch, the rest of us to Days. In the photo above, Mike is dropping into Days. The Grizzly crew didn't have it quite so good.

Mike disappeared into a cloud of cold smoke. The north-facing descent into Days was great, but the south-facing descent off of Flagstaff had us nervous. Coverage was thin and a bit wind scoured. We were just hoping to avoid rocks. Instead, we enjoyed some of the best turns in shallow snow I have ever experienced. Jamie summed it up best when he said "I thought my legs were going to be sore, but it's my face that hurts from smiling so much."

Monday, November 15, 2010

UTCX #8 – State Championships

Saturday was the state championship race, held at Mount Ogden Golf Course. Hands-down my favorite venue of the year, even if Seth described it as “deciding the cyclocross champ and hill climb champ in the same race.” There was a decent-sized climb that changed the dynamics substantially. There was also an absence of technical elements, with two barriers being the only time you’d consider getting off the bike*. Intentionally, at least.

*Bunny hoppers like Rico and Bart never got off the bike.

My tirade against sandbaggers notwithstanding, I decided to race the B flight. My motivation was primarily that Adam and my brother Steve race B, and I had never raced against them with fresh legs. I wanted to see how I measured up. Nate Drozd deserves props for racing in the A flight, where he got a respectable result on a course I don’t think suits his strengths—I expect he’ll move further up the results sheet next week at Wheeler Farm.

We had 37 starters in our race, most of whom showed up early to stake out a spot. Just before callups, three guys from The Church of the Big Ring made the little ring* move of the day when they rolled in and entered the pen from the front, not the back, placing themselves on the first row. Brian Cadman would have been called up anyway, but I don’t see why the other two thought they were entitled to start from where they did. I wish I would have said something at the time (but I have a blog, so I can say what I want when I want and anyone who doesn’t like it can leave a comment, because comment moderation is also totally little ring).

*In other little ring news, Tim Az won both cat. 4 races at the USGP this weekend. Which is cool. Except Tim has been racing cross for three years, and has won a number of races and been on the podium in even more in that time. But since UTCX isn’t USAC sanctioned, none of that counts towards an upgrade, so when he races out of state, he’s a four. And since he doesn’t do much road racing, he can’t get an upgrade based on his road category.

I love UTCX. I love Matt’s commitment to it. I love having a dozen chances to race in that series plus nearly a dozen more in other races throughout the season. It contributes to Utah having one of the best racing scenes in the country. But would it kill us to get the races sanctioned? Sure, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference for Utah racers who just race the UTCX series, but you have to be a three to race at Nationals. Tim can’t race at Nationals. Tim beats the crap out of the fours at a USGP. Sanctioning and upgrades keep the competition competitive.

The little ring move didn’t make much difference for me. I was second row, had a good start and was fifth starting up the hill. Passed one on the hill and was fourth.

Next time up the hill, Joseph Moffett (Mad Dog Cycles) gapped us all. I knew I couldn’t climb with him, so I didn’t even try. I had second and third in sight when we entered a series of tight, 180 degree turns. I had good momentum through the turns when my tire washed out, and I was suddenly laying on my side, still clipped in.

I lost a few spots getting up and was in seventh. I chased hard the rest of the lap, probably a little too hard. My asthma kicked in as we passed the start/finish line. It felt like someone was standing on my chest, keeping me from filling my lungs more than half way with air.

I’ve had this happen before in road races, and I’ve sometimes been able to sit in until I recover. But I have to back way off or it just gets worse. There was nowhere to sit in, so I dialed it back and watched as seven guys rode past me on the climb. On the dirt road at the top of the climb, I got to where I could breathe again, so I started the work of bringing back the guys ahead of me.

Over the final two laps, I slowly clawed back all but two of the guys that passed me. Eric Martin (Skull Candy) and Mike Pratt (Canyon) were the last two that I caught and passed. I’ve raced with those guys enough on the road that there’s a bit of a friendly rivalry there. I led Eric from the top of the climb. My breathing still wasn’t normal, and he told me I sounded like his dog right before it died.

Just before the barriers, I hit it hard and got a little gap on Eric. I wasn’t going to catch Drew Free, my Revolution teammate who was the next guy up, so I focused on riding clean and just keeping it upright through the finish.

There was a 180 degree turn 50 meters from the end. I didn’t want to fall in that corner, so I took a foot out just in case. As I rounded the corner, I heard the click of a gear shifting. Mike Pratt had caught and passed Eric, had caught me, and was now starting to sprint, and I only had one foot clipped in.

I turned the cranks a couple times before I clipped in, managed to clip in, then sprinted as hard as I could. I beat Mike by maybe a wheel. As Daren put it after the race, encouragingly, I beat all the guys that mattered. Now I just need to figure out how to ride faster than the eight guys who were in front of me.

While I could have done without the crash, I’m happy with the race. The course wasn’t particularly technical, which was helpful to me. Technical would have been better for Daren, who finished third in the 45+ race. His brother Doug got his second win of the year, making him the 55+ state champion. Congratulations, Doug. Tanner had a great race and finished ninth in the Elites, despite a crash with two to go. Rick finished sixth in a stacked Singlespeed field, and Annie was one step off the podium in Women’s B.

I’m finally starting to figure out how to race cyclocross. I still suck, but each week I feel better. More importantly, though, I’m having a lot of fun. And getting my fix of self-inflicted suffering, which is perhaps the part of racing I’m most addicted to. Who knew skinny tires on dirt were such a riot?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Also known as Mark’s brother

Anyone who has been to a cyclocross race or a criterium in Utah has probably been entertained by the commentary of Bruce Bilodeau. At the first UTCX race of the season, he saw my wife standing near the booth where he was doing commentary, so as I came through, he just went on and on about me, telling all sorts of lies about how tough I am and how much he likes racing with me.

Afterward, Rachel said “you should have heard what the commentator said about you!*”

*Since he wasn’t wearing his helmet and sunglasses, and was therefore wholly unrecognizable**, Rachel had no idea that “the commentator” was one of my racing friends.

**Cyclists have two ways of recognizing one another: based on the team kit, helmet, and sunglasses; and from behind. Bruce joked last night that he had to ask a couple of people to bend over so he could tell who they were. Which was somewhat ironic, because from behind Bruce is perhaps the most easily-recognizable racer in the state.

Afterward, Bruce said “I saw your wife standing right there, so I thought I’d give her a show.”

Bruce is no slouch on the bike, either. He won stage one and got second on GC at the Capitol Reef Classic. He toiled in the break at Tour DAY Park City, only to be derailed by a puncture. He’s a guy you want to be in a break with, because he takes his turns and has a smile on his face while doing so. Becoming friends with Bruce is one of the highlights of my 2010 racing season.

He was the obvious choice to MC last night’s Utah Cycling Association awards banquet. As he presented the award for the Cat. 3 series points leader, he said “this racer had 11 top tens, two wins, and five podiums in the UCA series….From Revolution-Cafe Rio, also know as Mark’s brother...”

Congrats, Steve, on a well-earned victory in the season series. Bruce’s “Mark’s brother” comment was funny, but it was all you out there on the road. You fought hard every race, and your individual results don’t reflect half of the contribution you made to the team.

And thanks to Bruce, Ferg and the UCA board, Marek, and everyone else that contributes to Utah having arguably the best race scene anywhere in the country.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Suspension of disbelief

How many men do you know with gray eyes? I can’t think of any. Yet I don’t even know how many novels I’ve read where the action-hero-type protagonist has gray eyes.

And who does this gray-eyed hero fall in love with? A violet-eyed woman. Do you know any women with purple eyes? Didn’t think so.

Gray-eyed men and violet-eyed women are the unicorns of adult literature.

Wanna know what else would require a suspension of disbelief if I hadn’t experienced it myself? It’s November 10th, and I’ve skied three days this season already. Not just getting out on snow for the sake of getting out, either, but real, legitimate powder turns.

Yesterday after work, the Flyin’ Ute and I did a quick run up East Greeley just before the sun set. His first tour ever.

I think he’s hooked.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Brazilian

In road racing, and especially in time trials, racers get all geeked out over making their position, bike, etc. more aero. The arms race to shave every last gram and make every last part slice through the air as efficiently as possible is perhaps best embodied by the Reynolds RZR wheelset that has a retail price of $6000.

Turbo is the only person I know that races on these wheels. He works for Reynolds. The wheels are splendidly light and magnificently aero. But I’d need to make a lot more money than I do now for the marginal advantage they give me to be worthwhile. They have a 82kg rider weight limit. I wonder if that’s because riders over 82kg would break them, or because if you weigh more than 82kg you’ve got problems as a racer that these wheels can’t solve?

Other disciplines of racing, notably mountain biking and cross, are a little less obsessive about weight and aerodynamics. Having tires that adequately grip the course and being in a position on the bike to handle technical terrain will yield more speed than shaving a few grams or reducing a little drag.

Nevertheless, racers in these disciplines will still seek every perceived advantage, whether it has any real benefit or not, including one that can be had for free provided the racer owns a pair of scissors and can cut straight enough to remove all non-number material from the number plate. I’m not sure if the intent is to reduce weight or to improve aerodynamics. Maybe both. Either way, I’m a big fan of the number plate trimming style I fondly refer to as “The Brazilian.”


Photo brazenly misappropriated from Cycling Utah. Go give their fall/winter issue a look and patronize their sponsors so I don’t feel guilty about it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fourth gear

JunkieBoy is the best cross racer in the family. His remounts are cleaner than mine are. His handling skills are remarkable, especially considering all he has is a rear coaster brake. He's not particularly fast, but his bike weighs half as much as he does. It would be like me riding around on a 35kg bike. I don't imagine I'd be particularly fast on that, either (who's trying to kid who here--I'm not fast on my 8kg bike). Now that he's had a taste of doing two laps like the older kids, he's unwilling to consider the shorter race.

I'll need to avoid the urge to get little league dad on him and push him way too hard, ruining it for both of us. But with as well and as much as he rides at age six, I kind of doubt there's going to be a whole lot I can teach him if he keeps after it. I just love that he enjoys coming to races and seems to have as much fun as I do while we're there.

My race made me acutely aware that I lack a fourth gear, so to speak. I've got a fifth gear for covering attacks and bunch sprints in road races. I can hold it for 10 to 30 seconds. I've got a third gear for long road races, where I can just keep grinding at medium-high intensity for hours at a time. But I don't have a fourth gear that's below sprint intensity, above road race intensity, and lasts for about an hour. Cross races are an hour of fourth gear intensity.

Daren commented after the race, "you looked good those last two laps. You need cross races that last for two hours." Or better yet, three.

My first lap was reasonably good. First lap is fifth gear. I was with the leaders coming up the hill and into the first turn, but I just can't hold that intensity for very long.

I lost the chase group on lap two but kept them in sight and was intent on chasing on. I was closing in on lap three when I took a gravel corner too hot and went down. I was more angry about the lost ten seconds than I was about the bleeding.

On lap four, I could tell Matt Ohran (Cannondale) was suffering. Out of 13 starters in the 35A field, I was in 12th after one racer had a mechanical. Reeling Matt in would be a legitimate pass and keep me from the lanterne rouge, my only real (and at this point, realistic) goal racing in the A field. I caught him on a short uphill, and he didn't even try to stay with me. In fact, I don't think he even tried to race after that. I'm still counting it.

I ended up finishing 11th, which, incidentally, is my average finishing position in the 35B races. The difference in the B race is that in addition to the ten guys faster than me, there are about 25-30 guys slower than me. I only really care about who's ahead, so I think the move to 35A was a good one. It has the added benefit that the races are 60 minutes, whereas the 35B races are 40. Minutes 25-40 of the race are usually my worst. Minutes 40-60 tend to be my best. If I can be better from 1-25, survive 25-40, then finish strong, I think I can be in the mix eventually.

Steve had a great start to his race, getting the hole shot and staying at the front the first two laps. He too faded as the race went, then came back for a strong last lap. He and Grizzly Adam were close enough to be sprinting it out coming up the hill. Steve crossed first, but just barely. Afterward I witnessed one of the more poignant moments of cross racing, as Adam staggered over to the gutter, and on hands and knees dry heaved for a while. Adam is a tough guy, and to race himself to that point over a mid-pack finish shows just how committed he is to this sport. I don't know if it brings out the best, but cross racing brings out the toughest in people.

And speaking of tough, Daren won again. He said it hurt, but the hurt he put on the rest of the field was worse. Bart and Alex G. were neck and neck throughout the elite race. Bart let Alex have it at the end, Alex's first cross victory. Bart, ever gracious, told me afterward, "I've got plenty of wins, and Alex could use the points." Oh to be fast enough to be in position to gift a Cannondale Factory Team racer a victory.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Racing cross is kind of like...

Photo: Thomas Ducroquet

Dug and I were talking about cross racing the other day. He said “you’re hooked aren’t you.” I responded in the affirmative, but I really don’t know why. All I can come up with is this:

Racing cross is kind of like gay sex. For most people there's no reason in the world why it should be appealing, but for a certain sub-segment of the population, it is—the difficulty of it notwithstanding—and they can't get enough.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An ode to my Igloo Playmate cooler

My playmate’s walls doth shield things from the sun,
Kansas is far more flat, than her lid flat,
If snow be white, why then her inside’s dun:
Her lid peaked high, is nowhere that I’ve sat:
But ice therein melts not on sunny days,
Cold bottles she doth keep to cool my cheeks,
To give most sweet of all post-race solace,
That first cold drink, which cares not that one reeks.
And though she doth not speak, yet well I know,
That music hath no more a pleasing sound:
Than the clicking ere lid tips open so,
Presenting thus thirst quenchers all around.
And yet by heaven I feel such deep despair,
If her contents pre-race I don’t prepare.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My stomach is full of…sand?

Saturday morning, I woke up—an hour late—feeling like my stomach was full of lava. Or magma. Or maybe just hot pumice. Not making excuses for my poor result in the race, just trying to set up a video.

One of the guys I work had some Naga jolokia, also known as ghost chilis. They are the spiciest chilis in the world—401.5 times hotter than tabasco sauce (not a misprint—four hundred one point five times). Or roughly half as hot as Mad Alchemy medium cold weather embrocation. In conjunction with our Halloween chili cookoff at work, this colleague brought some of these chilis in case anyone was game to eat one straight up.

After coaxing some people to open their wallets ever so slightly (they’re nowhere near as generous as the guys at Adobe, but this was also nowhere near as hard as downing two 10-patty cheeseburgers and a gallon of milk), two of us each ate one. Here’s the footage.

As a result, I had a bit of indigestion. Going to a Halloween party Friday night and chasing it with party food and drink and then dancing with the wife (in my Paul Stanley platform boots) for several hours probably didn’t help. But it was all fun. And fun is what cross racing is about, even if I never really felt good racing.

Then again, I never feel good while I’m racing. I hate cyclocross racing while I’m actually racing. But the rest of the time I love it. The course at Wheeler Farm was awesome, too. If by awesome, you mean “insanely hard with no place to recover.”

Speaking of places to recover, during the B race on Sunday, I had just drilled it through the tight, twisty trail trying to bridge up to the leaders. When we got onto the wide open dirt road, a fine young gentleman in UVU kit who’s drafting behind me starts yelling at me to go faster. Seriously? WTF? Yell at me if you want to pass, yell at me for not pulling through. But when you’re sucking my wheel, don’t yell at me to go faster—come to the front and take a pull. He’s very lucky I’m not the kind of racer to close the door on him coming around a corner and put him in the trees.

That effort chasing the leaders was all for naught, unfortunately. Steve and I were together and in pretty good position coming around a 180 off camber turn. Steve was looking to take a pull on the front, so I went wide to let him through then turned the wheel sharp to get back on line. I should have used a lot more finesse because I rolled my tire. It was my second race of the day and third of the weekend, so I thought real hard about abandoning. But I couldn’t bring myself to quit. I ran back to the pit and got another wheel. Then proceeded to flatten it in almost the same spot two laps later. I ran back and got a neutral spare. It was a file tread. On a muddy course. Not the best combination.

Not that it would have mattered. Steve and I working together with no flats would have never caught Nate Drozd (Salt Cycling) who won convincingly. The announcers said that the lap times for the top five B racers would have put them in the middle of the A field. This was Nate’s third win in five races, and it wasn’t even close. He’s finished second a couple other times, never worse than that. Perhaps he’s in the wrong category?

In the 35B field, it’s even worse. As we approached the barriers on the first lap Sunday morning, Art O’Connor said from the announcer’s booth “this does not look like the front of a B race.” Denny Kalar (Cole Sport) has won three times and finished on the podium two more. John Uibel (3B Yoga-Parks) has lined up for three races. He’s won two and finished second in the third. Travis Mickelson (Contender) has won one and finished on the podium four other times, which wouldn’t be so bad, except that he was top 5 for the season in 35B last year. Kevin Gardner and Cortlan Brown are similarly dominating the C flight.

I get that winning is fun. I love to win. You owe it to yourself to race to win (even if you have no chance of crossing the line first) every time you put on a number. But if you’re racing for nothing more than a number, what are you going to do when the inevitable happens and someone faster comes along? You owe it to yourself to truly compete. And since we’re not sanctioned and people don’t face mandatory upgrades after two wins like they would in a sanctioned race, it’s up to racers to self-select (and up to fellow competitors and organizers to apply pressure if they don’t, natch).

Sure, this is coming off as sour grapes. I’ll freely admit there’s an element of that. I expected at the start of the season to race a few B races just to get the hang of cross and then move up to A. I was self-conscious about racing B at all and told myself as soon as I won a race, I was moving up. It’s a short season, so it’s not very sporting to drag your feet about moving up. Obviously I vastly overestimated my own abilities, but perhaps I underestimated the propensity for sandbagging as well.

If you haven’t moved up but should, what are you afraid of? AnneMarie White won the first two races in Women C, moved up to B, and was on the podium within a couple weeks. Tim Az (Church of the Big Ring) and Peter Archambault (RMCC) duked it out for supremacy in the 35B field last year (until Peter moved to A, that is). This year, Tim has been on the podium in 35A, while Peter has been throwing down in the elite field and finishing top 10. Cody Haroldson never finished better than sixth racing B last year and is racing elite this year. Talk about sacking up.

In road racing, I moved from four to three this year right before the state championship races. I failed miserably in the state crit championship where I thought I could win as a four, but I applied what I learned to come within half a wheel of the state road race podium. Next year, I’ll enter those races in the Pro/1/2 field. I raced with the elites in the Raleigh cross series, even though I finished DFL.

My hat is off to guys like Todd Neumarker (Biker’s Edge), who had never raced cross before this season, and lined up in the elite race his very first time. Todd is an outstanding bike racer and wanted a fair fight. Single speed is an open category, Rick is new to cross, but he’s still willing to throw down with the likes of Rico (Kuhl-Specialized), Matt Ohran (Cannondale), and Bo Pitkin (Church of the Big Ring), all guys who are experienced cross racers and make it the focus of their season.

Even my little JunkieBoy at age six, in his second cross race ever, wasn’t content to fill his bag with sand. He rides a 16 inch kids’ bike that weighs more than my cross bike. It has one gear and a coaster brake in the rear only. We lined up for the kids race, which is divided into A for older kids (two laps) and B for young ones (one lap). He was up front with the A kids, and I started moving us back but paused to ask him if he wanted to ride one lap or two. “Two,” he said. If he wasn’t last, he was close, but I don’t think any of the other six-year-olds did two (if they did, kudos to them, too).

Even in the elite category, where Bart has dominated nearly every week (rumor has it his bike handling skills were had by making a deal with the devil), he’s not content to just win. After Sunday’s race, he told me that this was the kind of course where he could have sat in and then made a late move. “But it doesn’t feel like a bike race if I don’t have to suffer.” So he went early and soloed to the win. Daren, who finally lost Sunday to John McCone (Cole Sport) in the open Masters 45 category, had shifted his focus from just racing to racing the first lap and a half as hard as possible, even if it means blowing up and losing, in order to better prepare himself for nationals. In both cases, even though they’re racing open categories, they’re taking risks rather than getting a win however they can.

As for me, well I’m in no way a dominant B flight racer, yet I still feel like I should be racing with the big boys. It’s just that if I should be in the A’s, so should a lot of other guys. I’m thinking about moving up even if it means getting lapped by Bart and half a dozen others. If I’m going to get my ass kicked anyway, I’d rather have it be by the best than by a JV superstar.