Since I didn’t manage to make it to the Minuteman CX race last year due to some alarm setting failure and mid-week races are hard so I didn’t make it to the Midnight Ride of Cross prior to Gloucester, this was my first time heading out to the Bolton Fair (.. in Lancaster). In an interesting scheduling setup, they had the cat 4 race at 11am but also interestingly, with the juniors. This plus the proximity made it a great race to have Kara and Madeline come out to watch and cheer me on which was super awesome.
Venue was good. Nice, simple grassroots race without a ton of vendors, tents, etc. While I appreciate the production value of a Gloucester or a Providence, I think that these sorts of races are what it’s really all about. A pre-ride of the course showed it to be more muddy than I expected and there were a fair number of slippery turns coupled with some power, especially on the first half where there was some significant-for-a-cross-race climbing. And there was some decent wind gusting which could be an interesting obstacle of sorts. Glad to still have Oscar’s tubulars but wondering a bit if I was going to have the lungs/legs for racing. One way to find out, though.
With the staging having me starting in what would have been the third row, I had a goal of making it into the top 20 for the day. But we ended up staging behind the juniors which meant I was probably on the 5th row or so. They got us started and I took off. I had another halfway decent start and managed to move up a decent amount by the grass and put on the power through the first uphill to get past most of the juniors and a decent chunk of my field. But it hurt. A lot.
Wood chips as a sand pit alternative. Photo courtesy of Kara Katz
Course was pretty nice. The wood chips were a nice little touch and it wasn’t too boring. The flyover was out for safety reasons so only two sets of barriers to force dismounts. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find my power for the most part. And it was pretty turn-y and turns are still my nemesis — I slow down way too much for them and then have to work way too hard leaving them. Anyone want to volunteer to help me out with cross cornering? Seriously. I need it.
Passing a guy and trying not to have course tape get tangled up. Photo courtesy of Kara Katz
At one point, Marty from Geekhouse caught me and we had a good little thing going for a lap or two where we’d pass each other back and forth. But one time through the deep mud just sucked me in and he got away from me, never to be caught again. Was probably some of the windiest time but it always seemed to be a cross wind so I couldn’t just draft and recover.
Anyway, kept sliding back but whenever I’d look back, I’d see another Quaddie (there were four of us in the race — Jim, Justin, Pat and myself) and push a little harder to stay ahead of them. That ended up being effective and I was the top finisher from the team, 23rd of the 81 finishers (90-ish starters?). 3:30 down on the winner.
Not too unhappy with it but had hoped for a little bit better. It was a pretty clean race for me outside of the cornering being kind of like a moron. And I was sick the week before and haven’t been training well regardless with all of the move related stuff.
So going to try to get in some solid training over the next couple of weeks — intervals and some skills work. Really do need to get the cornering down. Hopefully the results I want will then follow.
Russ Campbell gets what might be the best race face photo of me ever
catching up on the blogging… this was written earlier in the week but not posted. Oops! And sorry, no photos since it’s late getting up to begin with!
Providence was another early morning for the cat 4 race since our start time was 8 am and it’s just over an hour away. Was able to swing car pooling so headed down with Justin leaving at 530. Made it to the venue and finding parking was the predictable pain - there isn’t enough and the signage wasn’t great at that point. But parked, registered, pinned up, etc and went out to pre-ride the course. Felt pretty good about things - very similar to last year’s course where I did fairly well and legs seemed to feel good.
Lined up on the right hand side of the fourth row and waited for the start. When it came, I managed to clip in and get going fast moving up a bit through the pavement which was good. Hit the grass probably around 20th and settled in to try to have a clean race. A few guys passed me early in the grass but I knew I was just getting going so didn’t let it bother me and kept them in sight through the first turns. Hitting the section after the pit, there was the predictable wipeout (grass was a little slippery, easy to take it too hard) and I avoided the mess moving up a little
Most of the rest of the race was pretty much the same. Was in a little group of about five guys for the most part and was pretty strong and staying near the front of it. I’d over cook a corner and get passed but then make it up on a power section. Then on the next to the last lap, I had mostly broken free and was working towards the next group when I managed to overshift and drop my chain. Couldn’t get it back on so had to dismount and fix it too slowly watching the guys from my group pass me. Got back on the bike and pedaled hard and was close by the time we made it back around but I was kind of toasted from the effort and skittish of making the same mistake twice so they got away on the last little technical section
Still pushed hard and held a guy off to end up 22nd of the 94 starters which I was pretty damned happy with. Chilled for a while, checked out the veloswap, watched some racing and then headed home.
Unfortunately the ride home was accompanied with some wheezing and an increasingly worse cough which meant that I bailed on the Sunday race and haven’t ridden at all this week as I tried to get over it followed by just enough cold rain that I didn’t want to risk it returning.
Woke up again dark and early Sunday morning and was pleased to (not) hear any rain falling. Especially after the overnight storm which had woken me up. Got ready, bike in the car, etc and was ready to go. As I was doing so, the drizzle started. By the time I reached Peabody, it was pouring. Great. Another rainy morning. But then the yellow Mavic car got on the highway a few miles further along and the sky started to clear.. As Chip said, kind of poetic but it was a good start to my day.
Got to the course and the rain had stopped. Was running a little behind but did the usual. Picked up my number, got it pinned on (it was a day for the skinsuit), did a lap, cursed the beach bit and following 33 stairs, rode a tiny bit of the lap again, then went to staging. Warm up? Who wants warm ups. As we waited on the line, it started to drizzle again but it didn’t really get beyond that.
We started and I had something approaching a decent start. Not great. But decent. Was able to get going and moved up a little on the uphill paved section. We hit the grass and I started playing “don’t lose ground”. Did reasonably well at it and decided that the goal of the race for me was going to be to ride it smooth. Find the flow. Push, but not too hard. Ride within myself and ignore the rest.
Top of the staircase of doom, photo thanks to Roger Cadman
And you know what? It was a solid plan. I consistently picked people off. First it was Russ. Then it was Pat. Then it was chasing down the ECV guy with the bunny ears. And each time, I just kept it smooth and steady and was able to stay in front of them. Maybe the course just worked for me — it wasn’t super duper technical, although it had some spots. There was plenty of grassy power stuff which tends to work pretty well for me. In any case, I had a good for me race and ended up 45th of the 98 starters. 15 places better than the predictor said so can’t complain too much.
Flowing through one of the gentler turns, photo thanks to Roger Cadman
There was, though, still one problem. Mud was making it tough for me to clip into the Eggbeaters. I probably lost a few places due to that on the gravel-y power back section when I couldn’t clip back in to pedal hard. After the fact, I discovered that the cleat was actually loose on the right shoe which probably didn’t help. But I’m close to deciding to throw in the towel on the Eggbeaters and just go back to the SPDs and see if I can deal with the knee wonkiness on long rides with some cleat adjustments. We’ll see. This weekend is probably their last chance to be redeemed.
And yeah, it’s almost this weekend. Friday night. Bag is almost finished being packed. Bike is ready. And I head down to Rhode Island in like 7 hours. So time to go watch some tv and then fall asleep.
Wow. What a weekend. I only did one day of Gloucester last year so decided I had to do the double this year. Then we ended up moving jus over a week before and I was a little sick the middle of the week. Not the best recipe for good results but I figured I’d still go out and have a good time. Especially since I was going to be borrowing my teammate Oscar’s tubular wheels with a set of Fangos. Been considering getting a set of tubulars for cross and since he was going to be out of town, asked if I could borrow and he said sure. So I picked them up Friday night, put a cassette on them and said “good enough!”
Saturday morning started super early as Charles wanted to get there by 6-ish so we would have plenty of time to set up the Quad tent, get out numbers, warm up and check out the course. As we’re driving up, the rain started to fall. Well, guess it’s about time I got in a good, muddy race. We get there and it’s still dark. We figure out where we’re going to put the tent and put it up. Then registration, number pinning and all that jazz. Then it’s off to check out the course a bit. Of course, it’s early and so no one who actually knows the course is there yet and we end up riding part of the Sunday course. But hey, so it goes. Plus side, the rain basically let up / stopped.
Charles got on the trainer and I decided to go visit the ever wonderful Mavic guys to see if they could make my shifting less sucky. They did. 1 Then a little bit more warming up on the course and found where we had gone wrong earlier and checked it all out. Initial impression? Hard course. The mud run-up that was hard last year when dry but holy crap hard when wet and slippery, a set of stairs, normal double barrier, a fly over and lots and lots of off-camber turny stuff. For someone who is really a road rider but fakes it during cross season, not the best combination of stuff…
Staged and was glad that it wasn’t raining but then it started drizzling again as we waited. Then we were off. And I screwed up the start. No real good reason why… it’s on pavement, I was in the right gear, just didn’t manage to get clipped in and powered up fast. I probably didn’t lose any places but I certainly didn’t gain any. Need to do some more work on my start!
The first lap was a bit of a mess. Lots of traffic, I failed entirely at moving up. I did at least dismount and run some of the sections where traffic was stupid and probably did okay as a result. But kept going hard. Nice thing was that the tires/wheels were awesome… could definitely tell the difference of the lower pressure on some of the off-camber-y stuff but I just am not good at that stuff and so slid out a few times.
Second lap was a bit better. Rode a little cleaner and slid out a bit less. Honestly a lot of the rest of the race kind of blurs together. I do have a memory of hearing two laps to go but then having three. But it seemed that the cat 4 field had to do more laps in general both days due to the winner2 so it may have been related to that. Also, on the last lap, I was getting close to catching Russ but then I pushed a little too hard in a corner and went down losing some time and then not being able to make it up and catch him.
I ended up just a bit muddy… photo thanks to Abel Tomkinson
Overall, ended up 57th of 111 on the day by outsprinting a guy on the finishing uphill (in that I sprinted, he didn’t but I’ll take it!). Better than the prediction (61st) but not as well as I hoped. After the race, the weather cleared pretty much entirely and I got to hang out and enjoy the day watching all of the races except the last half of the elite men. Was pretty awesome to have a bunch of the Quad team there cheering each other on, watching races, and just generally being team-like.
Then it was home to rest and recover and get ready for day two on Sunday which I’ll do a separate post for…
Sunday was the unofficial start of the New England cross season with QuadCross. As the race that my team puts on, I was fairly involved with some of the aspects of making it happen but most of the credit goes to Ted Packard for once again carrying the torch. This year, we were lucky and had the help of the Newbury Comics CX team and the Threshold team. Both were out in force for the course setup on Saturday which I had to miss due to some house purchase/moving related stuff. But I got to the venue early on Sunday morning and was like “hmm… there are a lot more cars here than I expected”. That’s about the time I realized it wasn’t cyclists. Turns out it was guys for the paintball field who were having to go in the other entrance due to road work on Sudbury Rd. Anyway, they got on their way and I started helping with some final course-work + getting registration going. Then went off to find my bike and get ready since I was in the first race.
Actually succeeded at doing some decent warm up laps for one of the first times ever. Did a few laps and started to dial things in. Course was going to be fast and seemed fun. Felt reasonably good, although more sleep and less stress would have been preferable. Kept checking to see that things were going well and almost missed staging. Damn it. Made it just in the nick of time and slid into where I was supposed to be staged. Most people reasonably did staging by their number but not everyone and the officials weren’t super picky about it. First race of the season, first race of the day, first race for a number of the riders. Usual spiel and we were off. Annnndd I spectacularly failed at getting my foot clipped into the pedal. Damn it. Recovered as best I could but not the start I wanted. Lot of traffic going up the hill and through the first section to the sand pit where I just ran it making up a tiny bit of time. And then again failed at clipping in. Which was pretty much the theme of my race. But start kind of drilling it in the woods and slowly start creeping my way back up a little bit. It hurt but I didn’t feel awful when I was pedaling. Even the run up could have been worse, although I really do need to spend a little bit of time running outside of races. At one point, Thomas from Geekhouse caught up with me and we battled a little ala much of last season but then at some point he bit it in a corner and I didn’t see him again. Also at one point, I completely flubbed the Newbury barriers; Thom and Roger were nice enough to say it’s early season and just keep going (which I did) but it nagged at me. I just couldn’t get the kind of flow I wanted going.
Ended up 31st of 60-ish starters rather than in the top 20 like I was hoping. Fitness felt there-ish. Technical side, not so much. And I need to figure out why I was having pedal/shoe problems. Might be the new pedals (switched to Eggbeaters from SPDs). If so, back I’ll go. But worth at least giving a little bit more training time.
Anyway, finished the race, out of the chamois and then spent much of the next lot of hours running around to help where needed, cheering on racers, catching up with people and just generally not recovering.
As the day drew on, I somehow managed to convince myself that I should do the singlespeed race too. I sort of blame Chip and Conor but really it’s mostly just me. I don’t have a singlespeed bike, so I grabbed some zipties and rode over to put on the clean kit. Then around the parking lot and grassy field. My legs were wondering what sort of stunt I was trying to pull but I basically went for “shut up legs!” and kept rolling around. Went to the starting line and figured what the hell, I’d start at the front for at least one race ever. We attempted to talk the official into a shorter race but failed and then we were off. And I was promptly near the back with only a few guys behind me. But at the same time, I had no pressure. This was a lark. I just wanted some more time on the bike to work on the skills. So I put my head down, continued telling my legs to shut up and concentrated on riding clean laps. And you know what? It worked pretty damn well. I actually had my fastest lap in the singlespeed race and none of them were really “off” time-wise. Not sure if it was the smaller field, the lack of pressure or just it being more time on the bike but I felt good. At some point, I passed Thom of Newbury and decided my goal for the rest of the race was to stay ahead of him (sorry Tom!) and I succeeded. Didn’t manage to catch my teammate Pat on his first race of the day but came close at one point and then just had a little bit of sloppiness to throw things off.
… and now it’s like three weeks later and I haven’t actually posted this. So just going to do so and not do any editing or photo adding like I had planned.
I don’t know when I first ran across a blog post about last year’s Ronde, but when I saw Chip talking about this year’s edition, I knew that I needed to get in on it. 60 miles, mix of road and trails, on cross bikes, April. Sounds pretty awesome, no? And to top it all off, also a fundraiser for Bikes Not Bombs. So I gathered up a few of my Quad compatriots and signed us up as a team of four. Some shuffling later due to schedule changes and it ended up being myself, Jim, Gerry and Walter. A solid crew for a long ride across roads and trails.
We got to the Washington Square Tavern in Brookline and there were already a ton of people there. Seriously, there were enough bikes that it was tough to get past on the sidewalk. Checked in and waited for our latter half start time. And then we were off. For some reason, I couldn’t get my Garmin to follow the route (grr), so we ended up having just the cue sheets to set us on our way
The route ended up being great and (mostly) easy to follow without getting lost. Riding on a variety of roads (including some new ones for me) and then riding some of the trails in Rock Meadow Conservation area, the Arlington Great Meadows, Whipple Hill, Prospect Hill, a long stretch along an abandoned rail line (finding where this ended for us was our one spot of getting lost-ish), a lot of riding along the top of aquaducts and then Cutler Park. And only two parts that were super sketchy ;-) The first being the trestle bridge along the abandoned rail line (tried not to look down, but still yikes!) and also going down the back side of Prospect Hill.
Our team was making pretty good time for the first half or so of the ride. But then I noticed something funky was going on with my cleat. Thought I had just managed to move it out of position so stopped to check it. But it looked fine. Then I noticed that my pedal wasn’t screwed in all the way. Removed it and tried to put it back in, but it wouldn’t go all the way in, leaving probably two turns of the threads outside the crank arm.
But it looked like it wasn’t going anywhere, so on we went with me trying to be a little easy on it and not standing for any climbs and doing more run-ups than I would have preferred to avoid too much torque on the pedal. Then, pedaling along in Cutler, my foot goes flying a little and all of a sudden I am pedal-less. The threads completely stripped from the crank and so I was down to just being able to use one pedal. But the rest of the team was up ahead of me. So I took off trying to catch up to them. When I realized that the course at this point was an out and back, I turned around and headed back to the entrance of Cutler. 3 miles of trails with one pedal done.
I weighed my options in the parking lot as I waited for the rest of my team to make it back out. I could do the 7 miles left as a set of one leg drills. Or I could try to get a ride. So I did what any self-respecting cyclist would do… I started riding towards Brookline after letting them know. It was an interesting experience. But I made it back and actually ended up getting there in front of them as Jim was bonking and needed to stop for water.
I ended up with a ride time of 4 hours and 30-ish minutes for the 55 miles of riding I did. And I had a blast. Thanks to Rosey for organizing and everyone for coming out to make it a ton of fun. And next time, maybe I’ll remember to pull my phone out and take some photos.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to look for a new crankset for the cross bike…
Okay, I started slacking and race reports stopped being written. So now you get a few race reports for the price of one! Don’t you feel lucky?
Baystate Cyclocross 2010
Okay, on to the first set. The weekend after Thanksgiving, I had signed up to race both days in Sterling at the Baystate Cyclocross race. No one else seemed to be going up, so I roused myself ass-early on Saturday to get there in time for the rocking 8 am start. But it was a quick drive out so I got there with plenty of time to register, check out the course, etc. Also, I’m remembering that it was pretty damned cold. But I started out in my typical near the back position and slowly worked my way forward. But honestly, I was sucking. The course was pretty twisty and I was doing myself no favors with my shitty cornering. Still, managed to pull out 23rd out of 40, pretty much entirely based on powering through some of the straight sections.
Came home, rested and spent an hour or so watching cross videos online. MUST. CORNER. BETTER. Woke up the next morning, repeated the head down and got ready to race. On the pre-ride, really liked the course. And appreciating the time I spent thinking about cornering and feeling a lot more comfortable with my cornering. We line up, start and off we go. Unfortunately, after the parade lap, I get hosed after the set of stairs as I suspected might happen with the small space and the drop of death (seriously, there was something spray painted saying basically YOU WILL DIE). But settled in and got prepared to just move my way up as we go around. We get to the halfway point of the lap which was a couple of tricky 180s on hills and I end up getting pushed into one of the stakes/the tape. But it’s racing, so get back on and get going again even though I’m now basically in last. Pretty soon it’s apparent that I’m going nowhere fast as my rear tire is flat. Start running around the course but then I remembered that there’s not neutral support and I don’t own any pit wheels. Decide that’s that. It was pretty much a given that I’d have a DNF at some point, although not the reason I would have chosen. Packed up, headed home, and made it out on the team ride on the road bike so that I could salvage a little bit of the day.
NBX Grand Prix of Cross 2010
Now I had planned to have Sterling basically be it for my season aside from Ice Weasels. But the DNF from the second day at Sterling wasn’t a good way to end things, so I signed up for Saturday down in Warwick at the NBX Grand Prix of Cross. I rode down with Oscar, which was good as we talked a lot about things to think about around the team. Got there, registered and did the usual recon as a warmup. We lined up and we were off. The start was uphill on pavement so I pushed hard and moved forward a bit on it before we hit the grass. But then we got to the sand along the beach and man, that sucked. Running is so not my strong point, especially running followed by a runup. But I suffered through it and tried to stick with a group. I was encouraged by keeping Ron largely in sight through most of the race and stayed ahead of Oscar and Fred. End result was 48th of 98 starters. A much more satisfying result and I felt like I was racing reasonably well, even though I was tired and (apparently) starting to get sick.
Ice Weasels 2010
Last race of the season fro me was to be the 3/4 race at Ice Weasels. Now, Ice Weasels has a reputation of a party where a cross race breaks out and I’d have to say that’s largely true. Since I was doing the 3/4 race, I had a luxuriously late start which was helpful with Kara and Madeline coming down as well. Unfortunately, I had basically been off the bike since NBX the previous weekend due to being sick and it showed. I had no handling and no power and it showed. The course was super bumpy and I felt more beat up halfway through the race than I’ve felt in a long time on the bike. I suffered through it, got lapped by the leaders (who seemed to be taking things way too seriously) and ended up finished 60th of the 71 starters.
And that’s a wrap!
And with that, my first season of cyclocross was over. I had a blast and am looking forward to next year. I’m hoping to have better fitness going into the season and also do some things to take my skills up a notch so that I can get better results. That said, for my first season, I’m pretty happy with how things panned out. Thanks to my friends who kept trying to talk me into trying cross out until I finally did, the more experienced guys on the team for showing me the ropes, the rest of the Quad team for coming out to help make the races fun, and Kara and Madeline for putting up with my eleven cross races in three months.
Oh hello Internet. I hear you like race reports. So here! These do seem to be getting later and later each week, though. I blame wasting too much time on twitter and stalking on crossresults
I knew I wanted to do the race up in Lowell since everyone said it was awesome, but I did my usual stupid procrastination and the Cat 4 race filled up before I registered. Argh. But, there was a 3/4 race. So I decided that the pain cave would be a pleasant place to live for 45 minutes and I signed myself up for the 3/4 race.
I woke up Sunday morning early and was like “oh hell yes, I can sleep more”. But I didn’t. I woke up and took Madeline to play for a bit so that Kara could sleep. Helping a nine month old walk quickly around the living room is a good way to start your warm-up, right? Then made myself some oatmeal (thanks Bob’s Red Mill!), ate and finished getting my stuff together as well as helping to get stuff together for the rest of the family to come up and spectate.
We get to Lowell and I go to try to get in some quick course recon as it’s in between races. I get in about half a lap before the next race starts. I pick up my number and keep rolling around to keep warm and try to loosen up a bit more. Then, I manage to get in a good full lap before I have to stage. There’s lots of good here. Even the parts that aren’t good for me are good.
We line up to stage and since we’re staged by crossresults points and I’m a lowly cat 4 in a 3/4 race, I get to line up exactly at the back. I mean, I’m pretty used to it. We start and I basically manage to be something like three guys from the entire back of the pack as we finish our parade lap.
Okay, maybe I’d like to have moved up some during the parade lap around the track. Oh well. It’s becoming the norm for me that I start at the back and then just end up working hard to work my way as far forward as I can. For some reason, though, I’m having a hard time kicking it into gear. But somewhere around the middle of the first lap, I clicked into gear and started actually racing.
Rather than bore you with a ton of prose, I will instead give you links to some more of the pictures that my wife took with quick twitter-like commentary on each.
All in all, I had a great time and racing up wasn’t at all the disaster I thought it would be. I didn’t come in last and I actually feel like I did okay. And really, I loved loved loved this course. The sections from the photos were great but I also really really liked the little back section with the gravel road, the grassy power section and the track.
For more photos, check out the set my wife put up on flickr.