Friday, October 21, 2011


My first race of the weekend is a little less than four hours away. My stomach has a pit in it that feels like it contains a significant portion of the universe's dark matter. Doesn't matter the race or the venue, I feel this way every time I pin on a number.

You'd think the nerves would go away after a while, but they don't. I mentioned said nerves a couple weeks ago to Peter, whom I've raced against since we were Cat. 4s. He said "the fact that you get nervous every time is probably one of the reasons you race your bike."

And I suppose he's right. I realize that nobody else cares how I finish. But I care. So I will be nervous until that feeling is replaced by adrenaline and fatigue.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cross racers and child molesters

UTCX #4 this weekend takes us to Weber County fairgrounds. Weber is one of my favorite courses, with one exception: the log barriers. In addition to the artificial barriers, the Weber course takes in part of the equestrian course where there are some logs that aren't big enough to give horses any trouble but that can be problematic for a cyclocross bike, especially a bike ridden by someone with no bunny hopping skills.

Only guys with exceptional skill, such as Bart and Rico, can successfully hop the big log (1:09 in the video). But pretty much everyone else can nail the smaller log (1:24). Everyone, that is, except me. My routine was to manual my front wheel up and over and then smash it with my rear. Which is not particularly smooth. And in cyclocross, you have to be smooth to be fast.

To remedy this lack of skill, one of my training objectives this week was bunny hop practice. So I grabbed an obstacle and my CX bike and headed to a park. I laid the obstacle down in the grass and just rode back and forth, practicing hopping over it until I felt like I had it nailed. Then I propped it up a little taller and tried the higher setting. After a few rounds, I got this pretty well too.

Good thing I wasn't flailing, because this park is near a high school, and I happened to be there right as school let out. Turns out the high schoolers like to hang out at the park after school, so I had a small audience. I'm sure they thought I was pretty weird for riding in the grass on what from a distance appears to be a road bike, jumping over a camp propped up with a pair of shoes.

If I didn't seem weird enough at that point, I'm sure I sealed it when I changed back into my street clothes, an act I performed as I have so many times in my car. And of course during the critical few seconds when my bibs were off but my boxers were not yet on, a car pulled up two spots down and a 16ish year old girl got out. I just hope nobody called the police.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Horses for courses

"It's one to one. I'm keeping track."

That's what Rick said to me after UTCX #1, which, incidentally, was my best ever finish in a 35A race. I'm wondering now whether I'll equal that result all season (my best result last year and highest finish ever was 6th in the 35B race at UTCX #1). I'm now 1-2 against Rick, after he and nearly everyone else in the field put the wood to me in UTCX #3. The photo below (thanks, JDub) was taken on either lap one or two. I was never that close to Rick again the entire race.

Ever the optimist (can you race a bike and be otherwise, considering how rare it is to win a race?), I think I'm figuring some things out. Last Saturday's course at Ft. Buenaventura is a favorite for some. Not for me. The long power stretches where you're on the gas for 60+ seconds at a time are popular, but for whatever reason, I am good at efforts of 10 seconds or less or 6 hours or more. Anything in between, I struggle. I did fine in the turns and in the technical sections, but as soon as we hit the straights, I was attacking off the back.

I think part of my problem is with my starts. Cyclocross leaves you no opportunity to recover. So if you go anaerobic in the first 30 seconds, you may never get out of that hole. Winning the hole shot at UTCX #2 and trying for it at UTCX #3 were my undoing in both races. But it's a catch 22. If I'm not in the lead group on lap 1, I'm not going to catch up later. My best results have come when I've started strong and limited my losses from there.

But I guess that's what I love about cyclocross--there's so much more to it than just pedaling your bike. And of course there's the race within the race--even if none of us ever see the podium, throwing down with my friends for seven days worth of bragging rights is what really matters.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I don't know how he sits down

By now you've probably seen the video of Danny Hart's world championship-winning DH run. Just in case you haven't:

The riding is in a league all its own. To corner like that in those conditions is remarkable. The commentary, though, is at least as entertaining. The last statement of the video certainly describes Danny, but it also describes someone else I know.

The other day, I ran into Matt B. at the bike shop. We were both picking up some odds and ends for our 'cross bikes and chatted a bit about the upcoming season. It somehow came up that when we race 35A, neither of us races to win simply because that's not a realistic expectation. Instead, we race not to be last. In Matt's case, however, that was his objective before he lost his leg to cancer.

At UTCX #1 today, Matt lined up in the 35A field. If you're thinking of pinning on a C flight number for a cross race, take a good, long look in the mirror and think about if that's where you really belong.

In Matt's case, to quote the World Championship announcer, "I don't know how he sits down with balls that big."