Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ho, Ho, Ho.

Merry Christmas to all the bike geeks. May your tree have some fun bike bits under it, to keep the bike fires burning thru the cold season.

I am taking it easy, doing my level best to shovel food & beer into my gullet, while trying to atone for all my fall weekends racing with the wife. But, I did promise some fun stuff, and here it is. I hope to edit down some fun little snippets later on, but here is "Coming & Going", the dual Go-Pro front & rear footage from the E2 Cross of the north race. Now, if I could figure out how to put the rear cam footage in a "rear-view mirror" picture-in-picture insert, along with speed and watt data all on one screen..... Hmmm...

Enjoy the holidays..... well, except for you all heading to Nationals/Worlds... you all, well, er, train or something, OK? Thanks! We'll be watching.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stick a fork in 'er......

She's DONE.

It's a wrap for the Colorado Cyclocross Season. It sure did manage to go out with a cold, snowy, icy, sloppy, muddy, completely off the hook bang. It was a great last couple of weeks. I ALMOST got my fill of racing in snotty conditions... Almost.

This Year's State Championship was probably THE single hardest cross race I can remember doing. Just. Plain. Hard. The team wanted to end the season by going all out. We got set up early for the post race party.

The Alpha Bikes and the Frites & Mayo boys had also been busy, crafting not only a great course down there, but building this monstrosity.
Sadly, with the damp & wet, the flyover proved to be a bit too steep & slick for use in the morning. Some "traction bars" were added later on, but none of the morning races got to race on the thing. It was a definite rush to ride it, so I had mixed feelings about it getting cut out. Probably for the best, as the race proved to have me SO deep in the haze, I am NOT sure I could have ridden it safely later in our race. Would have been CARNAGE on a biblical scale in the beer-drinkin-dads first lap, for sure.

With the Beer-drinking-dads race WAY out of it's normal early frozen-rut timeframe, we were assured of getting the mud rather than icy ruts this time, and the warm day did NOT disappoint. We rolled off in shorts into a wild and wooly, snotty, snowy killer of a course. The large amount of elevation change, and the intensity needed to NOT lay around on the ground left pretty much ZERO recovery anywhere on the course. After the drag race up the road for a start, we plowed into the mud with me right in the thick of it in the 25 to 30 rider back range. First lap proved to be some crazy fun, close and back & forth racing in the group I was with.

It only somewhat settled down for the second lap, with the video showing me passing or getting passed 10+ times in that lap. Still very close & cool back & forth racing. I tried to stay smooth, conserve a bit on the painfully long bike path climb, then hit it hard on the muddy, twisty bits that followed. Staying upright & smooth seemed to help, as I maintained position about 30 back, from the place call-outs given by my slowly recovering teammate Paul.

By the third lap, I began to really feel the lack of recovery on the course. My arms were starting to feel more like I was back riding the Laramie Enduro, rather than a 40 minute cross race in Castle Rock. The intensity needed to stay smooth was so high, I was wondering if my arms & hands were going to crap out before the last lap came. Of course, it did, but not before I did manage to deck myself on the last lap, just to RE-loose one more spot I had worked really hard to get back after loosing it earlier in the lap on the "bike path of pain" climb. At least the bush was soft.

Drug my carcass in for 34th place out of the 76 finishers. This race had 11 DNFs, a pretty high rate at over 10%, and indicative of the severity of the course conditions, as well as the severity of the suffering. Crashes and mechanicals seemed to be pretty widespread. This finish was a good end to my season, and was pretty happy with it, given the course and just how plain HARD the race was. My compliments to the Alpha/Frites guys. It was a worthy Championship course, without question.

It's been a great season, even with my lackluster results. The Team has been a hoot, making all the pain even more fun. Hanging out with these knuckleheads has been great.

A bit melancholy about the end of the season, but very satisfied. While my body and for sure my wife is happy it's done, my brain will be missing each weeks sufferfest. Such a strange hold this strangely addictive sport has on you. Maybe someday I can figure out just what it is.

Rest up, it's only 9 months to cross season!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lyons & tigers & bears, oh my.

Sunday in Lyons was yet another hoot. I'm digging all the snow, Ice & Mud right now. The COLD, I can do without. My toes may never get over this last few weeks.

With a SHORT start into snowy off-camber, Lyons was ALL about the start, and I boned that pretty bad. Just seemed to get on the wrong wheels over and over, and did not get aggressive enough when it was not working. I think I ran into 4 back wheels, and got abruptly stopped by having my front wheel kicked by someones premature dismount.

Ended up in the top half, and had a blast. You can see how not to start an icy race here:

So the Last big show for the year has moved to Castle Rock. Since I heard the original venue was pancake flat, I think I like the change. Hints & tweets of "more technical for sure" and "disco flyovers" have me curious about the course. HPM will be there in full force, with compound mode engaged, so stop by, it's the last party for the year.

Have some juicy tidbits from the ACA/BRAC/whatever Colorado racing Local Association meeting last night to share later as well. Changes coming for the season points competition for next year, seems like for the better. I also have a cool video edit coming up from running front AND rear cameras at the E2 Cross of the north race, idea and second camera courtesy of my teammate Johnny D.

That was supposed to be a "teaser", so stay tuned, and rock on at the big finish party this weekend down south. Time to wrap it up ya'll.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Double the fun, double the pain

It's been since the Boulder Cup/Halloween weekend since I pulled a double. I forgot how much that hurts. Headed up to Loveland for the E2 Cross of the North race Saturday, then out to Lyons for the Boulder Cyclocross Series final.

The Cross of the North race was a really good one. a great venue (think a heated building to warm up in, change in and power wash your bike in.....), and a VERY well run race, that the promoters put a BUNCH of work into (Think plowing a full course, bobcat work, and all that...). Those guys put on a great show, too bad they only managed to drag 159 riders up there to race. The bubble effect remains in full form.

Had a great race up there, even taking into account the mere 30 rider beer-drinkin-dads field. At 9:05, it was still full-on COLD and the course was 100% frozen rut central, with a packed snow topping. Got a front row call up on my pre-reg hip number, after Tim Madden was only able to draw ONE rider off the top 40 of the list. Managed to grab 6th off the first snow section into a gnarly "BMX hump/drop/run-up/drop hump" section. Here's Dan Farrell "dropping in" on that little Gem in the 35+ race.

Seems as if the rider right behind me balked at the nasty drop and shut it down behind me. this sprung the front 6 free. It quickly split into single riders in the tough, slick conditions. It started to melt about 1 lap in to our race, and each lap was a new adventure as the course started changing fast. I held off a late charge form a couple of people, mostly by just making fewer driving errors, to hold out for a 7th place out of 28 finishers. By far my best percentile placing of the year. Felt good to finally get a decent race in.

Here is the first lap seatpost cam for the Cross of the north race.

I was talked into running front AND rear cameras for this race by my teammate Johnny D. Am going to cobble together a "Coming & Going" kinda production off that, but will take some time. Watch for it.

Today's Lyons race was HARD. Technical, snowy, and nasty. In other words, really cool. Pulled a 29th out, in spite of feeling blown from racing the day before. That same teammate pulled out a podium finish in 3rd today, and 2 other teammates in the points. A great day for the HPM crew today.

I'll have more on the Lyons race later this week, but for now I need to go to bed.......

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Powder Day

The saying in the ski world is:

"There are no friends in a powder day..."

In bike racing, I think a few friends are good. (At the least, to help ride in the course...). It was a bit "blustery" upon arrival.

The Cyclo-X Louisville race at the semi-infamous "Bowl of Death" was far different than the last few editions, and even more so for the early morning races. The kids out there trying to break open the course with powder well above the hubs on their 24" Redlines was both a bit comical, and also seemed to lean towards child abuse or at the least a violation of several child labor laws.

10+ inches of snow, and it piling up fast was the theme in the morning. Later races saw the course changing with staggering speed, from frozen powder plowing to rutted. muddy slime. It was a day that will stick in your memory for sure.

The Kids did a VERY abbreviated course, so the Beer-Drinking-dads were left to pound out a path across several big chunks of course in our race. It all started as we lined up, and realized we were facing a virgin start chute, with that 10 inches of fluff unbroken and piled up deep. As Tim sent us off, 2 pedal strokes into it, it was clear that running was going to be easier than riding for that first lap. with about half the field grinding away on the pedals, and half trudging along on foot all the way around the bottom of the bowl, it was clear that the running/riding decision was a draw that lap. As things started to unclog a bit after the off-camber section following the long run up, it was finally worthwhile to mount up and ride. Well, just to the second run up, where once again, the entire hillside needed running, all the way thru the chicanes past the pits. Me & my bad knees have not run that far in many a year. was pretty demoralizing, but I kept hoping that it would pack out quick & become rideable.

By the second lap, it DID get where you could ride a LOT more of the course, so my fears of exploding kneecaps was mitigated, and it started looking less like a snowy Boulder-Boulder and more like a cyclocross race. Lots of bobbles & dabs. If you came off the packed singletrack by even a TINY bit, it would lead to "tip dive" off the trail and a foot dab, at least. First cross race in a long time where visibility was an issue. It was snowing enough, a bit of glasses fogging, and you had hard time seeing where the packed sections were at times.

Was not the smoothest that day, had my issues keeping things pointed the right direction, and was not as dialed as I could have been. One of those days that you had to CAREFULLY modulate the power going to the ground, or you could spin right out. Had been battling up to a little group, then lost a bunch of ground with THIS gem at about 2 to go:

Managed to get back up to them, and even pick off a few, when I pulled THIS stunt going into the bell:

Yes, an astute observer would notice that both boo-boos were at the exact same spot, and exact same line. Yep, I managed to crash on the SAME spot 2 laps running. AFTER telling myself to avoid that line after the first crash. Seems like oxygen deprivation & hypothermia is not the best for short term memory. The second fall was not as graceful as the first, and rattled my cage pretty good. Having a rattled cage and the nasty descent after the Finish did not mix well, and I managed to REALLY loose contact with my little group, and never got back to them in that last lap. 30th place in the end. Not great, but I did not feel as flat as last week, so that felt good.

Here is all of lap1, running & all

This was one race that will stick in your memory. We get few enough races in such conditions, and with it actively snowing & blowing, it was one for the books. Next week is a New race in Loveland, and the Boulder CX Series final in Lyons. Thinking I'll double up this coming weekend, what with states the following weekend, and on a schedule that precludes racing 2 days for most people, next week will be my big finish weekend to the season.

I don't understand the thinking for the splits across the 2 days for the States this year. Last year, the split lined up so many masters could race both days, but this year Sunday is mostly a junior & Open only day. I am afraid the crowds on Sunday will be non-existent, and it just feels "dull" as a season ender. A lot of people enjoyed racing both days and in groups they don't usually get to race with last year, but not as much chance for that this year.

Season end is coming up quick. A bit bittersweet for me, have a little bit of burnout, but know I will miss the scramble every week. Such is the schizophrenic feel to the end of each Cross season.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


The Assimilation is complete.

The deal is done, no matter your opinion on it. The storm of comments on 303 Cycling has died off, the predictions of new found greatness or darkness and doom are back in the closet. ACA has rejoined the Borg, er, USAC. Does it REALLY matter in the long run? Not really, since it's just racing bikes around, anyway.

I had the "pleasure" of attending and placing the vote for the High Peaks Masters team. Being as we are a bunch of not so fast, beer-drinking, NON-elite cheapskates, and given some of my previous ranting on the subject, you can guess our vote. (Oh, that and 100% of our members who replied to our request for feedback wanted a no vote.... Democracy and all, you know.)

It was very obvious from the tone of the ACA Club Council meeting on November 18th that the deal was already deemed done. The ACA seemed to have already rolled over (maybe for a good reason...), and USAC seemed to have decided that no matter what the ACA did, they were going to "retake" Colorado racing one way or the other. I got a distinct "this is what we are going to do, take it or leave it" tone to the USAC position.

Steve Johnson, the CEO of USAC was up first, and recognizing just how happy a lot of people were with USAC, noted that "Usually on a Friday night, I'm out with my friends sacrificing chickens and drinking goats blood", His best line of the evening. He had a presentation to show titled "What's new at USA Cycling", which used the same silly wheel graphic to show how they believe people decide to take up cycling, listed how many age group masters they had busted for doping this year, how many houses they have in Europe for national team riders, and lots of other fun stuff. He did his disorganized and rambling spiel, then promptly checked out on his crackberry, having to be roused to answer questions at times. When asked why USAC "suddenly" started enforcing the "No Pro" rules, as well as no reciprocity or dual sanctions, blame was put on the UCI for the pros, and "12 years of Drift" and not knowing the upgrade standards of ACA, or what the "anti-doping" controls in place were, is what forced the stop to reciprocity. "Liability complexity" was the reason given for no dual sanctions. In other words, we want the 2900+ ACA bodies in our revenue stream NOW.

The ACA folks then had their time, showing what they believed the membership decline for next year, and it's associated revenue decline would be. Interesting data showing how many riders race how many times over the last year. of the 2900+ ACA members, 385 raced only ONCE in a year. Two and three race day years were also very well represented. "Mid Point" of the number of race days was 12. Half the ACA crowd races less, half more. The ACA expected at LEAST half the current licensees would no longer join BRAC after getting their USAC licences. A big hit to their income, but probably about right. Bill Barr, President of the ACA said "either decision is bad, choice is which is least bad", and that the USAC was going to start and subsidize a new Colorado Local Association and would "bleed" the ACA out of existence if it did not rejoin.

Pete Webber from Boulder Cycle Sport noted that Steve Johnson was a "Terrible Salesman" (He was, seemed like he considered this the takeover a done deal....), and gave a very passionate pitch for re-integration. The best question of the night was to directly ask Mr. Johnson what the extra $50 going to the springs would get a "recreational" rider, the response was in pure corporate-speak. "The value is up to you" was the reply.

Finally a roll call vote was forced, as the building housing the meeting was 1/2 hour from being locked up. In the end, 47 clubs, holding 185 votes went with yes, 25 clubs, holding 100 Votes said no. Most of the larger teams, those with at least some elite contingent and about half the promoters voted yes. The other half of the promoters and the smaller, purely lower category clubs were the no votes, as you would expect.

So, now that it is a done deal, now what? In reality it IS a lot simpler to be ONE association. Ever try explaining the old USAC/ACA split system to a new racer? it was NOT easy. From a local race perspective, you probably won't see much difference from today. The promoters ARE expecting a race fee increase from higher USAC permitting costs, maybe a $3-$5 increase. Of course, anyone wanting to get season points will need to shell out more money to join both groups. The clubs will need to put out more money to join both. Is that extra money a BIG deal in the $2000 carbon wheels argument? Not really, but people are not stupid, and the cost of one day licences vs. pulling a USAC/BRAC membership licence pair now takes racing 10+ times a year to "break even", vs. the 5 times for just ACA in the past. For all those one to five race a year people, they will most likely NOT join BRAC, or maybe even forgo USAC licencing. Seems to me you would rather have these people "in the system" rather than giving them good reason not to. This view is NOT widely shared. USAC is VERY invested in the "Hero & Role model" theory of how people are motivated to take up racing bikes, and that by focusing on growing the top of the sport, the bottom will be "pulled" in. Who's right? Who Knows. Maybe Neither.

No matter, some of us will just pony up and continue to do as we have, for whatever our motivations. Bike racing will survive, maybe or maybe not thrive, and that may not have ANYTHING to do with such politics. So, no matter, lets just go race bikes.

Saturday's "Bowl of Death" at the Louisville Wreck Center looks to be trending toward the potential of an "epic" designation.

Looks to be a Chilly, Icy, Snowy, mess. in other words, PERFECT.

I can't wait.