Wednesday, December 31, 2008

KCCX Day 4

Single Speed Race
58 degrees, windy and at 8am. Need I say more. These guys raced in the worst weather last year (-1000F windchill), so the fact that they got the highest temperatures of the year was poetic justice.

Single Speed finish + a few minutes
"Cold Front" rolls in. It's never good when you see purple clouds in December. Never. Grey is cold, Green is Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, but purple is just frigid. Temperatures fell 8 degrees in the first 6 minutes. Or was it the other way around? It doesn't matter. At the start of the Elite race, 22F. Windchill: 6 degrees, or gawd am cold!

Elite Natz!

The best of the best view this as the only event. Myself.... I've already had a top 10 in a national championship this year so everything else is gravy.

I'm not so big on cold weather. Actually, I hate it. If my hands go numb, I usually race like hell. Other guys on the team ride very well when it's cold. Steve, Shadd, Bill, Joseph. I like it when it's HOT!

I'm number 109 which means I'm in nearly the back row. Sort of like the 30-34 race except that the guys here are all elite, as in many of them have UCI points and many others were close on many occasions. We're all cold, with many riders keeping the thermals and tights on till the "1 minute" warning. A tornado of clothing leaving riders towards the sidelines and we're off!

Nothing. No gas in the tank. I couldn't pedal, couldn't steer, couldn't breathe. It was just a bad, bad, bad. I got crashed 2x in the first 1/2 of the first lap and was OTB. Awww, hail. To add insult to injury, my bike didn't shift and wouldn't stay in gear, which meant that I probably had a bent derailler hanger. Bike change.

Got on the "B" bike and it was a total buzz kill. When you go from a 16 pound bike to a 19.5 pound bike, it's never going to feel fast. As I was pitting, I told Joseph I was going to need the light bike back. After all, there was lots of climing....

By the end of it all, I got pulled about 1/2 way through the race. But not before having some fun. The WONDERFUL part about the home town crowd is if you're doing as crappy as me, you get beer hand-ups! One word: Awesome.

So that's my story from KCCX 2008. I guess the next couple of years it's going to be in Bend Oregon. While I'm sure they're excited, I'm going to miss a national championship being in the KS every year since 2005 (2005-2007 Collegiate National Road Champs, 2007-2008 CX National Champs- KCCX).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Season Nearly Over... FINALLY!!!

The Holidays have mostly come and gone. It all started with Thanksgiving, with a whirlwind of holidays, and racing. The "real" Cyclo-cross (CX) season is upon us and it's time to start riding fast. "Real" meaning late season and close to Nationals. The races that usually matter most and leave a final memory of how your 2008 CX races really went. Strange how that works. If you race poorly in the early season, and that's how it usually is for me, then improve your performance dramatically in the late season, you'll remember that as how well you performed.

But if you reverse the scenario, then the season was a disaster. Hmmm......
Okay so the late season goes a little something like this:

Thanksgiving: Stuff yourself, gravy on everything followed by pie, then more pie.
48 hours.
Jingle Cross: C1-C2-C2 for 2009!
one week.
4 days
6 days
Fort Worth for Xmas!
New Year's in Austin
TX CX Champs: Jan 3 and 4.
Home and relax... riiiight.

If you are reading this then:

Monday, December 29, 2008

KCCX Day 3

Okay, I've finally got some time to finish these posts up. Here we go.....

Masters 30-34.
Getting home and to bed at midnight sure made that 7am alarm go off very early. It's a bit like groundhog day at this point. Get up, eat something HOT for breakfast. It's winter now, I've got all day to be cold, why would I want to start the day like that? Make lots of piping hot coffee. Throw my race bag into the back of Matt's Man Truck with all the bikes and head out.

By the time I got to the races and got my stuff ready to go, Joe was just starting the Men 19-23 race. He ended up riding to 18th place which is awesome considering the competition. Intersting observation though... At the 35 minute mark everyone in the top 20 absolutely blew apart! Lap times got 15-25 seconds slower and all the small groups shattered. That's how hard the race was. Incredible. I rode next to Joe during parts of the race, giving him updates on how guys were riding. It was probably the best warm up I've done in a long time. That's forshadowing....

Masters 30-34.
Back row. I shouldn't even have had a number, just the initials DFL would have worked. The number series started at 500. I was number 2232. Ha! I utilized three different techniques for this race. 1) Jed Schneider: I lined up a full row behind the field. This allows me to clip in and get a running start at the other guys waiting for everyone in front of them. It also gives me a moment to look for any lanes that may develop. 2) Jensen: I went flying up the right side of the road, on the shoulder and away from any slow starters getting in my way. Then avoided a nasty crash across the finish line and into the grass. 3) Stolte: drive around guys like they're traffic barrels, don't be nice. I probably was in the top 25 or so guys coming off the pavement, which helped. Now is when the race gets hard.....

Groups were forming and fracturing, only to reform +/- a few guys. People were jumping and scrambling for better position. I made it a point to hit the, "GO!" button for the first lap and see where I was. At the end of lap 1, I heard I was top 20 and moving towards the group going for 13th- 18-something. Ahead of them by about 4-6 seconds was a group going for 8-12th. That's when I started noticing the absolutely incredible home-town crowd!

Some athletes claim to not hear crowd noise, some say they can spot a certain someone in a mass of humanity. The crowds weren't that big, relative to what was to be on Sunday, but I heard people yelling for me everywhere on the course. Thanks to all! Your support enabled me to perform that one bit extra. You allowed me to race with emotion, with the desire to excel beyond what I've done in CX before. I could not have done it without everyone!

At the end of lap 2 I had caught up to my team mate Matt Ankney who did me a magnificent favor by hitting it, full gas, across the finish stretch to put me on the tail end of the 13-18 group. Still the 8-12 group was in front of me dangling. Close, but farther than I would have liked. I jumped across on a steep uphill section. Why not? I wanted to do well, the crowd was going crazy for me, and what did I have to lose? Might as well try. I jumped, and my Scott CX bike flew across the gap on my super light wheels. Wow! I made it to this top 10 group. Myself making it the 8-11th group. Two guys were on the same team, motoring and making it a bit difficult to follow. The cumulative effect of the slinky in CX when you're at full throttle is brutal.

I made some attempts to be in second place but the guys weren't having any of it. There was a little bumping but nothing out of sorts. Actually, all of us raced very clean and very hard. The way sport should be. I decided, after about 2 laps with this going on, that I just needed to attack the two guys and see if I could separate them. Maybe I could even drop the other one too. I did drop the first of the two team mates, and the other one, but still had one with me. We rode a good race, unable to drop each other. Until two to go, when the fourth guy came back to us in what had to be an amazing recovery. In the end, he got away and I was racing a very good rider for 9th place.

I guess the important thing about CX is knowing how to ride to the maximum of your strengths while exploiting the weakness of your opponent. And that's what I did. My opponent was bigger than me and had a good jump on the flats. I'm not known for sprinting, but I can find a way..... I jumped him on a slight uphill section about 250m from the final asphalt section, went around a fast corner, up some stairs, around a hairpin corner where I saw Jeremy Haynes as I said, "It hurts," and finished 9th place.

At the finish line was Promoter/ CX team director Bill Marshall, happy about the performance. I was so exhausted I basically collapsed. And that is probably the hardest I've ever raced in my life.

Here's a pic of the result sheet. They line you up by number order. 500 was the first.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

KCCX Day 2; Friday.

And that's a wrap! I'm closing the book on the 2008 season. Time to relax a bit and focus on the job, life and all those little chores around the home that have been getting put off for weeks, months..... since last winter.

Day 2. Working in Pit row.
My neighbor has been checking out some new cars so we went to watch in his new hottness (test drive style, ahem).

The slimy sketchy conditions gave way to hard pack surfaces over the course of this day. Temps stayed in the favorable 40s F range so that bone chilling cold wasn't a factor as it was last year. I watched as a good friend yielded her Masters crown to another competitor. I think she should be proud of her 3rd place. It's true that you always want to win and it's true that you can have a "bad day" or a "good day" or whatever. It's also possible to ride a near perfect race at the maximum of your ability and just get beat by someone who's better. Once she pointed that out to me, then life was back to good. Her 3rd place was well deserved and everyone except 2 people would covet that bronze. Onward!

Next Steve did what Steve always does. Wins a Stars and Bars jersey. Here's Steve's account and that on Velonews. I worked the pit for Steve, which really meant that I got to enjoy a beer and watch the race as no one really took a bike the whole race.

Myself, and the Tilford crew stopped by the Trek Stores KC/ SRAM party to do some meet and greet for the sponsors and SRAM. There was a good crowd and some fantastic beer to boot. The holidays are my favorite season and it all begins with Thanksgiving... (I've got a post that wraps this all up, someday I'll get it up). Some of the guys from the road team were there, including Shadd Smith. It's good to meet up with everyone again. But the only tricky part is that there are national championships going on, so you can't live it up too much.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

KCCX. Day 1. 'Mer-cans can't even win their own races!

One down, two to go. I've written about 7-8 posts in the last 6 weeks but they're not done and it's time to move on to my own personal coverage of KCCX. I'll get them up in time, but now is the time for now.... On to the races!

Pre race: Yow-zas! It's f-f-f-freezing at 730am! 15 degrees and the world is dark and frozen solid. 740am and Joe and I are driving the Matt's Man Truck full of bikes to the races. Matt had a meeting so he was running late which required me to get all his stuff ready for the race. Makes for a bit stressful pre race, but all the running around did help me "warm up." Right?.....

Not so much the "B U29."
Joe and I started in the 4th and 5th row. Coming off the pavement, we were 4-5 or 5-6, somehting like that. John Giles gets the hole shot, which ensures him a good place and everyone else is left chasing. Joe gets held up by a crash, then falls himself. I fall, then get held up by a crash, then fall again later. All that in the first lap.
After Lap 1, all the frozen hard ground loosens up and turns to instant slime. Each corner that I was flying through before, now is snotty and slimy. I fell 3 more times but managed to ride myself into the top 10, after each of those crashes. I still managed to throw myself on the ground a couple more times and did a spectacular job of sliding (good pun) out of the top 10, finishing in the 20's.
Meanwhile, Joe had a hell of a ride, scoring himself a 6th place and having yet another good ride on what could be the early start to a breakout year. But the ride of the day goes to Shadd Shriner, a Physical Therapy Student from KU Med. Shadd's a mountain bike rider with bike driving skills the likes I haven't seen first hand in a while. I was able to go up hill fast, even passing Shadd a couple of times. But the guy just goes down hill in the slime fast! If he hadn't gotten a poor start and held up by crashes I think the win was in his ability.
The win went to Robin Eckmann of Germany! What?! A German winning the 'Mer-can B race? Well, it appears that wasn't the only 'Mer-can race won by a non-'Mer-can.


B 30+
I only know one guy who could start from the back row, ride through everyone, and be in first place by the top of the hill. Brian Jensen (from Denmark), and that's exactly what he did. When the final lap bell rang, Brian had decimated the field and still had time to finish a cold one before standing on the podium. Well done Brian!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chris Wallace, the Manchild

KCCX/Verge Rider Chris Wallace has been awarded a spot to attend the Eurocross Camp December 18th, 2008January 3rd, 2009. Chris has traveled the country this year to better prepare his cycling skills and results to become eligible to face the worlds toughest competition. Chris is the currently leader for the USGP Series in the Junior 17-18 with only two races remaining in Portland, Oregon on December 6th and 7th. Chris’s name will join the ranks of the Nations best Junior and Elite Riders. On behalf of the entire KCCX/Verge team and sponsors we ask that you make a donation to assist the Wallace family and team help send Chris across the pond to Belgium. Thank you for your time and support; it is greatly appreciated.

Help Chris Wallace get to Belgium!