Morgantown Road Race

•April 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The Morgantown Road Race features an awesome course, a 44 mile single loop with a flat to rolling first 24 or so miles. The next 20 miles more than make up for that though, they’re composed entirely of going up and down three climbs. The course has some awesome switchback descents that are a ton of fun. Unfortunately the climbs up to those descents were less fun, more on that in a minute. Strava link: http://app.strava.com/activities/46556525

I headed out to the race bright and early with Zac C. of Snakebite, still undecided on my plan. We were both doing the 3/4 race, and I was vacillating between saving as much energy as possible, trying to hit the first climb that forms the selection completely fresh and near the front, or trying to get in an early break and get a 45+ second head start on the climb. Either way I didn’t expect to be particularly competitive, but given the course I was pretty sure to get a good day of training in either way. Upon arrival we did the usual, registration, facilities, get dressed (only the 2nd time of year I got to wear short sleeves so far!). Then we rolled out to try to track down the finish. And turned around because we thought it was on a different road. Then turned around and tried a 3rd road, where it also wasn’t. We’re now out of time and go line up, still without any idea where the finish is. I make a note to take a closer look at the course map next race (not for the last time). Some helpful guys from other teams are telling their teammates where the finish is and answer a couple questions we have, official gives his talk, says there are some big flags a mile? kilometer? out from the finish and another set 200m out. Good enough.

Race rolls out down the hill from the church where registration was held, neutral through town, then starts. Very shortly after the neutral ends a guy who, uh, looks even less like a climber than I do attacks, rest of the field rolls along conversationally. Couple more guys roll off and are brought back, pace is still mostly easy, seems like everyone’s waiting for the first real hill to begin racing. On the false flat that starts at mile 11 or so one guy rolls off the front, holds a small gap, and the field is still kind of cruising along not looking real interested in riding hard yet. A gap opens up in front of me and I impulsively bridge. Guess I finally decided on my race plan. The 2 of us work for a couple miles, and near the top of the hill another 2 guys come across, right after that we catch the guy who went off solo early. I figure 5 is good, not very threatening, and maybe we’ll get some slack and I can get over the top of the first climb with the leaders!

A couple miles later things must have heated up behind us, a bunch more guys come across, and shortly we have 10 or 12 guys. Figuring the move was going to promptly self destruct I drifted to the back to recover, only to have a smooth rotation form up to my surprise. The group behind is, apparently in the mood to race now though because the gap is still falling, one guy pulls through way too hard and blows the paceline apart, yelling occurs, chaos, we get brought back. About 3 miles before the selection climb. Oops, guess I played that wrong. I slotted in near the front hoping to stay close enough to be in contention, but about as soon as it kicked up to the 10-13% section I started sliding back. End of the real race for me, but I had a lot of fun hanging it out a little on that descent. a chase group formed, we got about within sight of the group in front of us, then hit the next climb. I got dropped again, chased back into the group on the descent, found out there was one more climb to go, which I had somehow missed. I make a note to take a closer look at the course map next time (not for the last time). Rolled in solo for 36th out of 50ish, improvement over last year! And amazingly strava says  I was only 5 or so minutes behind the guy who won, so maybe some year I’ll make it over the climbs close enough to actually chase onto the lead group. Good goal for the future I suppose.

They Say Cyclocross Is Like a Mullet

•November 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I can’t wait to be at the business end again. Especially since I couldn’t even talk anyone into giving me a beer handup this week! I did manage to take a donut handup, but a lack of anything to wash it down with meant I ended up spitting most of it out a short time later. I had a hard time getting enough air going up the hill without my mouth stuffed full of pastry!

I suppose this is nominally a race report rather than a sob story about a shortage of handups, so on to the main event:

Race was in Wooster at the OSU Agricultural Development Center Campus, the same place as a crit earlier in the year (I got 2nd in that race. I guess fitness helps with hill climbing. Who would’ve guessed). The weather was pretty awesome, 50some degrees and sunny. The course wound it’s way up then back down a hill, kind of like a less steep, less technical, less muddy much less awesome version of Koppenbergcross. It was a whole lot of fun racing up and down a hill although the mountain bike background of the course designers definitely showed through. It was a lot of fun to ride the course, but not as much fun to race because parts were very narrow and I kept getting hit by tree branches. The race started on an uphill section of pavement, then we made a u turn onto the course and never rode that stretch of pavement again. I decided to squeeze in as many pre-ride laps of the course as possible (I was still laboring under the delusion that I might be competitive), so I lined up second row behind my teammate Scott Kuboff.  That turned out to be a pretty good call and i managed to follow wheels and go through the first corner around 5-7th, the closest to the front I would make it all race. I rode 1 good lap (out of 5) before my body insisted on shutting it down, and it was pretty much all downhill from there (except for the donut hand up, and unfortunately not literally).

Ended up 11th out of 17 I think, and managed to at least not give up tons of time to avoidable mistakes, so the focus now moves to fitness and being smoother through technical sections. It’s a huge shame it gets dark so early, it makes it just about impossible to go to Royalview and start rebuilding my comfort cornering. It also stinks to be out of shape because riding in general is just so much less fun, and unfortunately fitness only comes so quickly.

Good things from the race were keeping the rubber side down and getting a pretty good start, I still have the snap to be near the front of the race off the line fortunately. Really need to improve my focus for next race, there was a period in the middle of the race where I was just aimlessly pedaling my bike around not really racing.

On Returning From Injuries (and the worst parts of being hurt)

•October 26, 2012 • 1 Comment

My cyclocross season was derailed early in the season by a broken collarbone. Surgery, 6 weeks in a sling, that whole mess. I did get a good start on becoming bionic:

Surgically repaired collarbone

A plate and 8 screws, and I was fixed up!

The worst part of a broken collarbone isn’t that it hurts, they give you meds for that. The worst part is that you now have a nearly useless arm. For anyone who hasn’t been in this situation, just about every task becomes more difficult. Some things are completely impossible to do. Some things are just 3x as hard to do. Instead of just pulling on a t-shirt the procedure is take off the sling, pull the t-shirt up your left arm to your shoulder. At this point the shirt will inevitably end up twisted some weird way that makes it hard to put on no matter how careful you are, so you have to figure that out. Then you have to finagle your right arm through, find the head hole with your head, and finally pull it down. Then put the sling back on. A 5 second process suddenly takes 2 minutes.

Having an arm in a sling also (obviously) means no riding outside. The obvious solution to minimize the twitchiness from being exercise deprived is to set up the trainer. Which was ok, even if trainer riding is always very boring. Until after first 20 minutes or so. Then my upright position would cause my bibs to start bunching and give me a wedgie. Didn’t matter what i did with the straps, on or off, it still happened. I tried leaning forward and resting my right arm on the tops every few minutes. Still no dice. So I did very little riding while my arm was in a sling. I’m not going to look at strava because it’s depressing, but there just wasn’t much staying in shape.

After I followed up with the doctor, got more x-rays, and got the sling removed I promptly started a series of long outdoor rides of course, since I was itching to ride outside after my long confinement to the trainer.

Just kidding, I actually was still stuck on the trainer due to weather, getting dark early, finding nagging bike problems, etc.

It was in this light of minimal fitness and very little outdoor riding that I approached my first cross race post surgery. I did manage to get out the day before to do some mount/dismount practice, ride my bike on grass a bit and just generally play on the bike outside, which was fun, went pretty well and had me feeling a little bit more confident. Even if my fitness was weak, maybe I could still make something happen with skills!

I would be making my return at the Solon race, which has historically had about a quintillion turns, very few power sections, and almost no elevation change. It’s really not my favorite course and, when I’m in shape, is definitely not a course that suits me very well. Since my fitness is in the shitter I wasn’t as perturbed by this as I usually would be, I figured it might level out the playing field for me. I pre-rode a couple laps of the course with Andrew Miller and found the course to be soggy, with a lot of slick spots in corners, and true to traditional form. A few relatively short muddy sections that wouldn’t normally be a concern, but on a course with so few fast sections mud wasn’t getting spun/bounced off the bike as much as it normally would.  All of the mud sections were rideable when I was warming up, but I decided I was going to run the uphill section because it was a slow section anyhow, I don’t have a pit bike, and I didn’t want to pick up that much mud.

With course recon complete, I elected to make sure I started the race well warmed up and limber. To accomplish that I stood around and chit chatted with people while avoiding riding my bike, unless it was to roll someplace I would otherwise have to walk. After the masters race ended I rode 1 more recon lap which seemed to do a pretty good job of warming me up. Probably indicative of my current fitness.

I had pretty serious doubts about both my top end power and my ability to recover quickly if I went a little too deep and blew up, so I didn’t fight to line up front row but instead slotted in second row, near the middle. The start narrows pretty quickly into a left turn, and having healed so recently I wasn’t really in the mood to mix it up diving into the first corner at max speed or rubbing elbows. Combined with my questionable fitness and the nature of the course I pursued the strategy of being smooth and steady, hoping to pick off a bunch of people as the race when on. I never remember much of races, but the things that stick out are:

  • Bobbles and dabs. Lots of both. Way too many of both.
  • On the first lap the field jammed up going into a pair of tight, slick, back to back hairpin turns. I got off my bike and ran past some people, tried to run into the corner to get past another guy, and had my legs slide right out from under me. Fortunately the guy who’s tires I kicked didn’t fall on me.
  • On one of the early laps after the barriers I screwed up my remount and hit my leg on the back of my saddle. Then did it again. Then ran a bit and finally got it right. Only to find out that my mounting debacle had caused my chain to drop (oh ya, I’ve been meaning to get a chain catcher since August). couldn’t pick it back up while I was rolling, so I had to get off the bike and put it back on.
  • Had a pretty good battle going with Ian Broadhead for a while before I finally managed to put him away

The positives were that I did get out and race, managed to keep the rubber side down, and didn’t blow up. Lots of opportunities to improve, which is always a mixed blessing. I ended up 13th, which was a little outside my goal of a top 10 finish, but I really didn’t know what to expect or how my body would handle race intensity and moving all over the bike to steer,so I’m only a tiny bit disappointed. I did pick up some series points, and I’m hoping I can make a run at a decent series result now that I’m back!

Hindsight being 20/20 I think I would have been better off starting more aggressively and trying to go into the first couple corners in the top 5. After racing I think i have enough fitness to avoid completely blowing up during a 40 minute race, although all the turns meant a lot of time was spent coasting so this may not be the best barometer.