Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gateway Cross Cup Weekend

With a routine week of training behind me it was time to load up the Focus Saturday morning with Dale and head off to STL for the Gateway Cup weekend.  In the past the event was a single evening affair on a Wednesday, but it was nicely moved to a weekend for double the pleasure (or mostly pain).

I have a hate-hate relation with this race as the first year I raced horribly and last year was the morning of the back implosion and subsequently warm up laps just made things much worse and that day was end of my 2012-13 season.  Put on top of this the $45 entry (with no discount for a second race) and the somewhat of a grass crit with little to no technical skills required and it's just not my favorite of races (I will be so bold as to say it is by far my least fav I will do all year).  But... now that my little rant is over it does bring typically a decent masters field and so I toe the line and will continue to do so. 

Got to the race venue with plenty of time to unwind and catch up with a couple MWI kids who made the trek south as well as our Commander and Chief (Mike H.) over that the Rapha-Focus mini-compound. 

Temps were pretty nice during warm ups and the pre-ride found about the same setup as past years which meant fast with not too many places at all to recover.  Got a front row position between Bill Marshall (#2) and Tom Price (#1) which the USAC rankings had me 6th in this race, but didn't recognize anyone else on the front row.  Whistle/light goes and it was on for 40 minutes of racing.  Tucked behind Price the first lap until he slid out (eventually dropped out) near the end of the lap and then I was on my own for a couple until reality set in and a guy came around me quick enough that I was unable to hold his wheel (off he went) and with one lap to go a guy from Trek Midwest passes me and I was able to hold on for a bit before a bobble had him going up the course without me.  At this point I was having some real problems getting a full breath (worse than regular) and my power/energy was dropping.  Bill Marshall, who had a mechanical on lap one was charging from behind, but I was pretty confident I could hold him off until I made a stupid error and overshot a corner with less than 800 meters of racing and by the time I got back on course and started again he came by with enough momentum I couldn't get to his wheel and so there I was finishing 4th 3 seconds behind him... and off the podium. 

**Above photos from Eville Mike (STL Biking)

Pretty concerned with how my body dropped on the last lap and frustrated at such a stupid simple mistake, but after a couple hours of thought my attitude changed 180 as I actually had a solid ride on a wide open course that I had dreaded leading into the weekend.  Collected some 'coin' and kicked back with Dale the rest of the day enjoying the races.

Patrick getting kitted up for his Open race (in which he did great)
I know the Cardinals were playing in the WS in STL, but the fan turnout for the afternoon/evening was nutty low for a C2 event.  Will be interested to see if this event continues in the future.  Always amazing to watch the pros/elites totally flow the same course we armatures bounce around on; and that's why they are elites...

Crashed at Jay and Cory's for the night (super huge thanks for the beds) and before you know it off for day two.  Fought a little bit of a head cold/sniffle during the night and was unsure about racing Sunday morning, but figured I would ride a couple warm up laps and see how I felt.

Deb had a fun day while Ian was off with friends she and Darion hit the local pumpkin patch for quite the outting.  They had a great day.

Chilly start to the morning during pre-ride and found the course changed up in a couple places requiring a tad more turning (which is good) breaking up some of the open sections and actually giving a slight reprieve to catch a breath.  Didn't feel too bad and the breathing was decent so I figured I'd give it a go. 

There we were again toeing the line for another 40 minutes.  Decent start again as I slotted behind Marshall, Price, and one other ahead of them for 1/2 of the first lap.  Tom and Bill moved off the front and I pursued keeping them within reach for the first lap, but after that it was decision time: get to them and burn a big match or settle into my tempo and be realistic... Easy choice - #2.  Half way though came upon Tom laying on the ground not moving or looking good (but being attended to) and so I was in 2nd 14 seconds behind Bill (now solo) and four or five guys 10 seconds back.  Continued to ride my tempo and by the end was able to hold off the pursuers and finish 2nd. 


Myself, Bill, and Randy Murdock

All in all a solid weekend of racing on a course I'd been dreading for some time with the exception of a significant loss of energy and a stupid bobble on the last lap Saturday. 

Loaded up and headed home where I found Deb had homemade peanut butter cookies freshly out of the oven... have I mentioned lately her awesomeness?!?!?!?

Up next is Colavita Cup (Saturday) and Blvd Cup (Sunday) both in KC.  These are typically larger events with quality big and fast fields.  Looks like a new venue so who knows what to expect.  Taking the family for a KC weekend so I'll jump in the later Open race then the earlier masters on Sunday. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Oakley Nightcap and Joules Cross

Fun filled (and driving filled) weekend of 'cross as I took in the Oakley Night Cap in Des Moines, IA Saturday evening and then hit day two of Joules Cross in Lawrence, KS.  Ended up around 12.5 of windshield time, but that's why invented NPR and PRI, right?
First and foremost Deb is awesome!  From Sept thru Dec she pretty much lets me set my own race schedule and typically gives me a smooch goodbye either Friday afternoon (or Saturday morning) and has some kind of baked goods waiting late Sunday afternoons when I pull back into home.  The boys have pretty much grown up with this as a way of life so it's just kind of what happens in the Fall.  That being said it provides an opportunity to take in several different races in various locations within a 7 to 8 state region and that's a great thing as it would drive me nuts to week after week line up against the same guys and do the same 'dance' typically knowing who is finishing where and so on and so on.  I know most don't have this flexibility but have no idea how that could be fun.  So...
Take in Darion's soccer game early Saturday morning then off to KC to snag my weekend companion (will remain nameless) en route to Des Moines for the Oakley Night Cap race.  The event has always been on my radar and it just worked out that I could make it.  Pull in to pick up un-named person and he tells me he is bailing and that I am on my own.  HUH???  Ok, so since he was the one hooking us up with a place to stay in DM I know need to re-think racing the Open (after the masters) which starts at 10pm... Hmmm.  Drive passes easy and arrived to find a pretty cool venue and a turny (really turny) course. 
Snag my number, change up, warm up and before you know it we are on the start line.  Pretty solid turnout in the masters fields as the grouped the 35+ in the front, 45+ (my group) second with a slight gap, and 55+ behind us.  I get a kick out of not knowing a single person on the start line as it makes it much more interesting then 'ok, follow so and so'.  Did snag front row in my group and looking over the  35+  who probably had 30+ racers of varying ability it's then the official tells us we are all going off together without any gaps.  Lots of traffic from the gun...
Solid start as a hole opened up on the right and myself and two others quickly move though most of the 35+.  Before you know it an Atlas rider in my class jumps away and I am not able to cover it.  Spent the rest of the race battling with a Trek Midwest guy from Omaha as we moved through the fields.  Came down to a sprint at the line and I came up short to get 3rd (and actually 4th in all masters classes).   Fun racing to say the least.
Photo snagged from the one and only Eric Burch (pictured above)
Barrier sequence
Hard to sprint for a line with a bike throw when the officials don't
have an actual LINE for a finish - pretty weak stuff
Snagged the swag (Oakley and Primal gear, an eatery gift card which I gave to a local, and 6 of beer) and decided to book it back to KC instead of being homeless for the night.  Snagged a warm bed with the nameless (which was great) and the next morning on a whim decided to take in Joules Cross over in Lawrence, KS.  After a short drive with coffee and I'm warming up on a grass crit course with a couple of deceptively tough climbs, but nothing at all technical with only 1 set of double barriers. 

Some of the regular KC crew is on the line along with Bill Marshall (just got faster) and a guy who, for the lack of better description, just looked fast as he was drilling it in warm ups. 
Whistle goes and Bill takes it out fast, but not lung popping fast.  Shortly after I move to the front and keep the pressure for the first lap just to see who is who.  Small gaps but shortly after lap 1 Bill is glued to me and the 'other guy' is not far off.  Three of us get together while Bill and I pull and eventually Bill lets the guy know he's got to contribute so he does and the pace immediately goes up (crap, I am in trouble here as the climbs have been giving me fits)...  With two to go a small gap opens and I am dangling, but 1/2 way though close it back up just in time to see Bill and the other guy fly away to start the last lap.  Finished the last lap steady and ended up 3rd (theme for the weekend) while Bill was gaped at the finish to get 2nd.  Fastest I've ever seen Joules but that's good as STL next weekend is another grass crit.
Chatted with the winner, John Nelson from Sioux City, IA after the race and hopefully will see him again at Jingle Cross; nice guy and strong on the uphills.  Collected swag (socks and beer) and headed home.
Roger Harrison pics below:

I have no idea what my stance is all about here?!?!?!  Photo fom B Marshall

Pulled in to see the crew out back picking up walnuts (we have two huge w trees) in the backyard so before I unpacked I jumped in the work.  Afterwards it was backyard football with the neighbor kids jumping in, basketball with Ian at the gym, Deb's homemade Taco soup (which was great) and topped it off with Sunday night football while folding laundry (and sampling some of my winnings).  Not exactly Lake Woebegone, but it does just fine by me...

Next weekend is Gateway Cup on Saturday and Sunday.  Looks like a fast and decent sized masters field on another grass crit course (at least this on has you on and off the bike more which is good for me).  Will be nice catching up with a couple of the MWI 'yanks' who are heading south.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

'13 360 Cup

So this past weekend was 360 Cup, a two-day'er in Lawrence, KS.  Missed it (along with most) last year so was really looking forward to racing a new spot. 

6:30am solo departure had me pulling up to a slightly chilly 9:30am course already full of folks warming up.  Registered, changed up, and hit the course to see for what I was in store.  Cool layout with plenty of ups, downs, fast turns, technical turns, power sections and only one spot with a potential dismount (double low barriers on a riser).  With dismounted sections as a strong suit for me I was a little disappointed, but that didn't last long as the rest of it was a blast.  Decided on the Clement MXPs instead of the PDXs as the course was pretty grippy even though they got some rain the night prior.

Small(ish) field in the Masters 40+, but good solid competition had me excited for the whistle.  Not a stellar start had me a couple wheels back until we hit a longer open section where I went full on.  Rode a pretty clean race with only one real mistake where I bobbled on the 2nd barrier while riding late in the race and took a solid hit to my lower leg as I tumbled.  Other than that the legs and lungs felt good and was able to win with somewhat of a decent gap.  Really fun course.

Great mix of a little of everything on this course

Rode the barriers about the same as I ran them;
couldn't tell which was faster, but I know what
the fans liked
This and above photo from Matt Cunningham album
Combination of four seperate photos from Roger Harrison

Little cash and free beer; hard to beat
After the race I hung around a bit before heading across Lawrence to the River Trail.  It had been years since last there and holy cow that is a perfect training place on a 'cross bike!  Really lets you rip into corners and push the limits of the tread (Clement PDX).  After a fun hour session I headed back to catch the Open race.

After that is off to Overland Park where I was a guest at casa Bill Marshall for the night.

Next morning it was a quick cruise back to Lawrence and found the course reversed for the day's action.  This made for, in my opinion, a much faster race.  Warmup laps were great on the MXP's again.  The temps were great for 'cross but a little chilly on the start line.

Off we went and was mildly better off the line and before we got too far down the course I had jumped in the lead.  Rode the first two laps at a good tempo with a couple guys setting close behind so 3/4 way thru the 2nd lap I made a solid effort for the next two laps and the gap opened.  I was able to ride a fairly clean race and was fortunate to snag another win. 

I have yet to clip in clean at a start this year, but its getting better

***Above photos from the shutter master himself Roger Harrison.  I take the photos and do a little editing via picmonkey.com.

360 Racing did a great job both days on the course and support.  I'll be back.

Packed up and headed home.

So this concludes my first month of races and the end of my first designated block.  This week is total recover with no racing next weekend then it's more tuning as some bigger races approach.  My body is telling me the rest is needed, but  

Next up is the Oakley Night Cap in Des Moines, IA on the 19th (masters at 5pm and then Open at 10pm).