Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Phelps School CX Race Report

Eastern PA was treated to some incredible weather this past weekend. What better way to spend a Saturday AM than with some friends / rivals on a TOUGH cyclcross course? No one was there to shoot any pictures, but here’s a video from last year to give you some perspective: Phelps Cross 2009 Men\’s Cat 4 on Contour

I was on the fence about doing this race. Last year the course didn’t suit my style all that much and wasn’t very technical. It had some LONG power sections that ate me alive. My friend Johan talked me into it, so we headed down to Malvern PA to check it out. When we prerode the course and saw the changes we were both impressed. It was a course that combined power with some climbing and cornering skills to really put the hurting on you! I was racing with Johan, my training partner that has put the hurt on me many times before on a bicycle. We were racing the Masters 35+ / 45+ which included riders from Cat 1 to Cat 4. They were paying cash back to 7th place in our 43 man field, but I wasn’t worried about that…I wanted to prove the ever accurate race predictor at to be wrong. Johan and I were predicted to finish 8th/9th respectively.

Temps were in the mid 50’s w/ bright sunshine for our 11am start. I had a 2nd row start and hoped to get into the top 10 from the start. The gun went off and I got clipped in well, probably about 9th wheel into the first turn. I didn’t see Johan in front of me, but recognized most of the usual suspects up front. I didn’t want to lose contact early so I pushed myself pretty hard through the first hill, managing to grab the wheel of the lead bunch and fend off challengers from behind. By about midway through the first lap I had worked my way up to a solid 6th or so. Johan manged to sneak by me going into the back section. I had a strong climb and some good turns near the pit to come back around Johan. I saw Bradley and Jeff in front of us and yelled to Johan “let’s get them”. We made it by Jeff pretty quickly but Bradley was making it a 3 way battle for 5th and he wasn’t backing down.

As we passed the finish and got the 3 lap card we had finally broken free of Bradley and I was sitting 6th behind Johan but we had company, Glenn had caught us from behind. Each lap there were three climbs that just took everything out of your legs. As the race wore on I got better in the climbs…but they hurt more each time. Glenn snuck by us and we tried to stick to his wheel to no avail. The leaders were dangling about 20 seconds ahead of us but we couldn’t make time. Then after the run up with 2 laps to go, Johan muffed his remount and let me sneak by. I was watching his shadow behind me…..knowing sooner or later the inevitable would happen. Those last two laps I picked up the pace to hold him off and he picked up the pace to keep my wheel. All the while the leaders were dangling just in front of us. We had cracked the earlier charges of the riders behind us, it was Johan and I, mano y mano, sitting in 6th and 7th. I knew his weak area from earlier in the race and figured if I could charge that on the bell lap and get up the last climb smoothly it would be a sprint to the finish. Although I had never sprinted to the finish in a cross race….could I even throw down a good sprint?

As the last lap wound down I charged up the big / steep hill and held him at bay. I nailed the downhill and false flat afterward. If I could just make that last climb I had a chance. I made my way cleanly by the two lappers and into the final few turns with Johan glued to my wheel. Coming up the last little inlcine (my strong spot) I dropped two gears and stood up, now or never. Carried speed over the incline down onto the finish stretch. I could hear him breathing behind me, dropped two more gears and pedaled my butt off. We coasted across the line…6th and 7th….and exhausted. I had somehow managed to outsprint my own training parter, the guy who got me into cross two short years ago and the guy that drove me down there. None of that mattered, what mattered was the fact that that race saw us push each other faster and harder than we may have ever done. What mattered was the fact that this race will go down as one of our most fun, hardest fought cross races ever. We both collapsed trying to catch our breath. It was AWESOME. And what was more awesome….we both made out entry fee’s back in cash prizes….AND we BOTH proved the predictor wrong. TAKE THAT!

We’ll be telling stories about that race for a long time. Thanks to Kevin St. Clair for designing such an awesome course. Now to go home and rest up for Day 2…the Kutztown Cross!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spring Mount CX Race Report

Last Sunday I traveled about a half hour southwest to Upper Salford Park. Philly Ciclismo hosted their 5th annual cyclocross event. It was a COLD (high 30's, low 40's) windy raw day, but nothing new to cyclocross. We had gotten some rain the few days prior and I expected a similar course to last year. Fun with some good mud! Well it was fun and there was some mud but overall it wasn't "my type" of course. There were a bunch of power sections and few turns...nothing too technical.

Started the day with a couple of warm up laps, then cheered on Greg, Jeremy and the rest of the team in the CAT4 race. Greg had a huge lead only to be caught on the last lap. He had a great finish in 2nd. Jeremy had another good ride in 7th.

My race (the Elite Masters 2/3/4) started at 12:15. Thanks to Saris / Cycleops for the trainer tent that kept my legs moving and kept me warm. I wasn't too crazy about the start, it was on loose gravel and I wasn't sure if I would get a call up. Luckily I did by virtue of a good race at Town Hall Cross...started outside the second row.
Pinky's first race!
I started off in the top 15 and worked my way past some riders. The mud and turn sections were great places to make passes and gain some time back on the leaders. By the end of the first lap I was up to 4th. Being relatively new to this class, I didn't know all of the competition, but I knew there were a few fast guys that had issues on the first lap that were breathing down my neck! I got locked in a good battle with Brad Ford (ahead of me in the picture below). With the wind blowing you had to be in the draft if you were with someone...and Brad was smart to take my lead and he stuck with me for the first couple of laps. I could see the lead guys up ahead, but just didn't have what I needed to get back up there.
After the first sand section there was a fast gravel path leading into some mud. You can see the "pink streak" below!

Once I got free from Brad I could tell that one guy was slowly making up time. With two to go he passed me. After 4 laps without anyone to block the wind I was shot, but I tried to hang on. I rode the back section well and set up a pass on the last lap through the tight stuff. I blew the next sand section and he got enough of a gap that I wouldn't be able to close it before we hit the line. I ended up fifth out of a field of about 45, so considering the competition I am very happy with the race. Missed bringing home some cash by one position, but hey I don't do it for the money that's for sure!
I rushed out of there and switched to coaching mode. It was Autumn's second to last soccer game. It's awesome to see the progress the team has made this year and they had a great game...scoring a bunch of goals and winning (although we don't really keep score)!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

HPCX Jamesburg NJ MAC#8 Race Report

On Sunday I made my first trip out to Jamesburg, NJ for HPCX, round #8 of the MAC series. After a decent ride yesterday, I was hoping for much of the same today...maybe even a better start?

The day started out chilly, in the low 30's. That left some frost on the course as the sun came out turned things slippery for the first race, men's Cat4 C. I felt pretty good in warm up, nothing spectacular. There were a lot of turns, some roots and some good elevation big climbs per se, but you could tell you were going uphill. There were also no real power sections which suited me well. On this day, the guy that could manage the climbs and find some flow through the turns would be up front.

My race (B Masters CAT2/3/4) started at 10am. About 90 of us lined up outside the starting grid for call ups. The start was an uphill asphalt climb that led to a fast downhill into a series of tighter turns. Not exactly my forte, but I knew I needed to get into the first tight section in a decent position so I didn't get bottled up. Somehow the call up got messed up and I wound up in the 2nd row instead of the first. The guy in front of me didn't get clipped in right away which led to me being stuck behind him. I got out to the side and held my own, but as we entered the fast downhill I saw I as in 12th or 13th. I chose to take the inside into the tight downhill right turn which probably wasn't too popular with some of the guys that caught my elbow in that turn but it's what I needed to do. The shot below is about 1/4 way through the first lap and I was sitting 10th wheel. photo

I made a few passes in the lower section and up passed the pit area and as we hit the tight technical turn behind the start I saw I was up to 4th. I wasn't redlining it too bad and was feeling pretty good. Coming across the asphalt lot into the uphill section I was up to third and as the resistance cranked up going uphill I found myself easily riding by the two leaders. OH SHIT I thought, now what? I was pretty close to maxing out so I figured why not push the next two climbs and try to get a gap. Cross the finish line and I had somehow managed to open a gap. Could I hold it? As we made it by the officials one more time I could tell the gap was opening up. Kelly Cline was giving me some good words of wisdom and trying to tell me to settle, be smooth and let them do the hard work to bridge. I was still working mind you... (glad I brushed my teeth!) photo

Coming through the bell lap I was feeling pretty good. A few lappers here or there, but I could take my lines, be smooth, carry speed and minimize my efforts. I came across the line solo with about a 30 second lead. Race wound up being shorter than usual at 31 minutes, but I'll take it. I'm confident that I could have held the gap if not extended it. So, I grabbed my first MAC win...I would have never imagined. Shame I can't / couldn't do all of the races. With 6 races in out of 8 completed I sit in 4th in points. I don't know that my schedule will let me do another MAC race this year, but I'm happy for what I've accomplished. Now it's time for some local races. Can't believe the season is winding down already.

I love this shot...not too often you get to stand on the podium on top of the current MAC leader! Thanks for the shot Eloy!

Groovylab photo
So I high tailed it out of there to make it to Autumn's game. They mixed the boys and girls this week and Greg was kind enough to cover for me and get things going. Would have been there in time if I didn't win that stinking race! The game was good, the girls definitely upped their game with the boys around. We have two weeks to go and you can really see how much the girls have learned this year.

Then we headed down to my mom's house for dinner and some trick or treating. She's got a great community and the kids just love going from door to door with their cousins. Mom and Dad enjoyed it as well! (Autumn was the ladybug w/ glasses and Joshua was a golfer)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MAC Series #7 Beacon Cross Race Report

The MAC series is rolling on. Last weekend's New Jersey double header started on Saturday at the Beacon Cross in southern NJ. We were treated to a chilly morning. I headed down with Greg and Marten who were racing the Cat 4 men's race. I had never raced Beacon before, but I had been to Sunset Lake numerous times for triathlons. Southern Jersey is known for its sand and this course was known for a few things...high speeds, the two story Ampitheater of Pain (AoP) and the 90 meter beach section.

I got bundled up and headed out for warmups with Greg and Marten. After the first lap I realized that I did not shift out of my big ring the entire time! There were a couple of technical sand sections with thick sand and of course the AoP and beach sections. The AoP was littered with banners, spectators and it's own announcer that heckled the riders as they gasped for oxygen climbing by him. The course brought back memories of my motocross days picking lines through fast sand corners and staying light on the front end.

Greg and Marten had great races. Greg got a front row call up and Marten was on the other end due to day of entry. Greg made a bid for the lead early but couldn't hold off pressure from behind and finished a hard fought 3rd. Marten found the HOV lane somewhere out there and had an incredible finish on Greg's heels in 4th!

I lined up on the 2nd row, and started in the big ring. It was a long gradual uphill road start so I knew the guys w/ the big legs had an advantage. I was confident in my running skills and hoped to make up time on the AoP and beach sections. The race started off fast and I found myself stuck back in about 15th position....not good on such a fast course.

The course was very wide in some sections and very narrow in others. I got hung up in one bottle neck on a technical uphill section when the guy in front of me got stuck in the tape. Surprisingly I was holding my own (somewhat) on the long flat sections and I was able to make passes on the technical turns. I had some great runs in the beach as well.
(Photo credit to Dennis @
Sweet panoramic beach shot courtesy of Marten

With two laps to go I could see that I had made my way into the top 4 and the leaders weren't too far ahead. I put in a good push to see if I could bridge the gap.
(Photo credit to Dennis @
Coming into the barriers with two to go I made up some time on the leaders and was not far from their wheels.
(Photo credit to Dennis @
I knew a good run through the AoP would put me where I needed to be, but did I have enough to make the pass after I got there? On the bell lap we were this close together, I had bridged the gap!
(Photo credit to Dennis @
By this point we were riding clear of the rest of the field. This was the first time this year that I had been this close to a win...and a win in the MAC series and a field of this size was at one point unthinkable. The three riders in front of me have been up front the whole series and I knew two of them were powerful road riders that I wouldn't beat in a sprint. I stayed with them through the beach but they were too strong in the flats and coming into the AoP for the last time they had a gap....too big of a gap.

So I came home a close 4th. My best performance of the year and I was very satisfied with how I rode. Finally felt like my bout of overtraining has worked its way out of my system.

Sunday I headed to round 8, HPCX in Jamesburg NJ. Then off to a soccer game and trick or treating. Sunday report coming up next......