Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stony Marathon

This race was pivotal for my series points finish as people typically need a good finish at one of the two double points races and my 5th place at Brighton wasn’t going to cut it. Having home course advantage, I knew my advantage would be in the single track sections. My plan was to pass as many people as possible before hitting the pines. Since this is a Marathon race, Tailwind group some classes together to minimize the number of start waves since everyone goes out at 10:00. My wave consisted of 3 classes that encompassed the ages 19-39, which I knew would be to my advantage as I could pass a bunch of people earlier than when we leave in waves 1min apart. I also liked the fact that my friend and teammate Jeremy Clark would be leaving at the same time with the hopes of working together on the flats. I noticed as we were lining up that Dave Krenk was at this race. He showed up for Brighton and dominated the race and I knew that he would be fast. When the whistle blew Dave went out hard, leading the pack, and I was about 6th wheel. At the first climb, I pushed hard and was now 2nd wheel behind Dave. We pushed hard on the 2-track to pass the Sport/Beg SS before the pines, I passed Dave on the back 2-track climb and pulled to the pines. At this point it was me, Dave and Jeremy in tow. Once through the single track I talked to Dave about working together to get a gap on the rest of the field since we dropped Jeremy. We then worked together to maintain a fast pace on the flats until he flatted on the down hill before the start/finish. I then caught Susan Stephens and rode with her as her pace seemed very sustainable and she was fast on the flats (Giving me someone to draft off of!!) I rode with her and a couple RBS guys for a while and then Susan and I gapped them on the start of the 3rd lap. I again kept pace with Susan until she had a horrible crash in the rollercoaster trying to go between the 2 tight trees in the new section. She said she was OK, so I kept going. At this point I was all alone until I caught my buddy John Osgood at on the climb up the backside of Sheldon hill on my 4th lap. John pulled me around the back 2-track before the pines and then I was off again. My left calf was starting to cramp, so I had to alter my pedal stroke and spin up some of the hills I powered up in prior laps. I was catching quite a few beginners at this point that held me up, but also allowed me to recover. As I finished the last 2-track climb, I saw Dave Messing who was starting his 5th lap and I was just thankful that I was almost done!! I rolled across the finish with probably the biggest win of the season!!

I would like to send out a big thanks to my wife Laurie for being my support person for this race, you did an awesome job!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Back up to speed...

With my knee issue at the start of the year, I felt like i've had a hard time getting back up to speed. Now that my “new” knee pain is out of the way, my knee feels more like I remembered it did last year! Hopefully someday, I will be able to say that I can ride with no pain. I am just thankful that I am able to do everything that I am doing right now. After surgery a few years back, I didn’t think that I was going to be able to do half of what I am doing now.

Fast forward to today, I feel that I have been lucky to finish as well as I have at this point. The down side to finishing well for me is that mentally I see that I have the potential to do well in the series and in turn I expect more from myself at each race. Each race has been a new challenge and has pointed out strengths/weaknesses in my riding/training. Bloomer showed that I hadn’t been riding my MTB enough and didn’t have the confidence to ride fast in the tight stuff. Brighton confirmed the same and showed that I really need to pre-ride prior to each race. Ruby proved that giving my MTB some single track love would help with my results, not to mention that I pre-rode the week prior. I have been really happy with my fitness as this point as my lap times remain pretty consistent from lap to lap.

This Saturday’s race at Stony Creek is probably going to make or break my season as it is a double points event and needless to say I had a less than stellar performance at the first double points race at Brighton. The series takes your best finish between the 2 double points events to count as your double points race for the series and the other one will count as single points. I’ve been pushing my recovery limits since the Ruby race, rode the Stony Marathon course on Monday, Intervals on Tuesday, lots of sleep from Wednesday on, eating the right foods (which surprisingly dropped 2 lbs off!!) and will do an easy pre-ride tomorrow... all in preparation for this race. Stony is a Marathon race that is 40 miles compared to our normal sport races that are around 20mile. Last year I had major cramping halfway through the race, so I am also putting together a plan for better nutrient/hydration. All and all I feel I am back on my game and am hoping to have a couple more decent finishes in the sport class before moving up to expert.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ruby Race - 1st Place

I felt good going into this race as I pre-rode the course with Chris and Greg the weekend before and had some strong feeling rides the week of the race. This race has a long straight before the first climb that allows people to sprint longer than normal. I went out at a good clip but 2 guys were ahead of me going into the first little climb. One guy was fast, so I didn’t want to let him get away, the other guy held me up on the climb as he was spent from the sprint. I was a little frustrated as this section is tight and doesn’t allow for passing. Thankfully the first two guys didn’t take the tight tree path allowing me to pass the guy in front of me and get right on the wheel of the lead guy. We rode like this for a while until we ran into traffic and were held up, almost wrecking me! That let a couple of guys around putting me 4th wheel. I worked hard to catch back up getting derailed on both big climbs on the first part of the course causing me to hike a bike on hills that I would otherwise ride. At this point I was pretty discouraged as the guys in front of me were all good riders and I would have to almost ride a perfect race to catch them, let along pass them! As we were finishing up the back half of the course I could just start to see the 3rd place guy, knowing that he is not fast on the flats I pushed hard through the start finish line to get around him before entering the single track for the second lap. I then slowly started to reel in the second place guy… during this process we were constantly separated during passing. I asked him where Jason (The other rider) was and he said he had flatted, I then knew that this was going to be a tough battle. I finally passed him at the water crossing calling on my cyclocross experience to dismount faster than he did getting around him at the waters edge, but we still had a lap and half to go. He then rode my wheel the whole race. I tried to gap him a couple times, but he held on. I was thinking that he was going to sprint around me at the finishing straight… Lucky for me, I finally put a gap on him at the downhill switch backs, but I could still see he wasn’t that far behind. I pushed to the finish running the water as fast as I could. I tucked in an aero position and pushed on the straight waiting for the sprint, but when I looked back he wasn’t there. I rolled through with my first XC race victory!!

I want to thank the Elite/Expert guys for hanging around to cheer us on… it meant a lot!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Coming up to speed...

Pontiac Lake TT –

Not having trained much this winter due to a knee issue, I wasn’t expecting much out of this race. I used to hate Pontiac, but as my cycling skills have matured, it has become one of my favorite placed to ride. I rode 4 laps the weekend before, so I felt like I knew the course pretty well. As we went off I focused on winning the first race with the guy that went out with me… mission accomplished. Once in the single track I tried to maintain a sustainable pace that would allow me to make it to the top of 2 mile hill without being on the limiter… step 2 complete. From here to about mile 9 I just tried to get around people as quick as possible and push on the flat sections. Coming into the last climb I felt pretty good and put the hammer down knowing it was all down hill after I reached the peak. Once on the 2-track, I put it in a big gear and didn’t let up until the finish. In the end, my plan worked as I won my first sport race by 10s over second and 20s over third!! Close race!!

Fort Custer –

Feeling good after my win at Pontiac, I decided to make the trip to the Fort. Fort Custer is a fun course as it has a lot of unique single track and some wide open 2 track to hammer on. When we arrive, they told us that they were running Granny’s Garden in reverse!! Now this worried me as anyone that has ridden Granny’s Garden knows that there are some drop offs that would be a bear to get up in reverse, but the expert guys said it wasn’t an issue. As we lined up it seemed as if there were 50 people in the class. Watching the clock, instead of listening to the start, I jumped the start by a spit second, then stopped and restarted. This error caused me to be running mid pack at the start and having to pass a lot of people to get towards the front. By the time we hit Cardiac climb I was sitting about 4th wheel when a couple of people failed to make the climb and we had to dismount… this also happened at the CPR climb. Granny’s Garden proved to be tough, but there always seem to be a path to get up the drop-offs. I then found myself riding Jason Dellinger’s wheel for a while until he let me around wanting to ride my wheel, which was fine. After the water crossing I looked back and he was no longer there. At this point I thought I was leading as Jason was the last rider in our train. I then caught and rode with the leader of the Sport/Beginner SS class for a while and noticed someone from my class closing in. I tried to push the pace a little but he kept coming. He eventually passed me just before the boat launch, so I jump his wheel and held on. I noticed that he was slowing on the climbs, so I just waited for the sprint to the finish. As we rounded the last corner before the trees, I stood on it and took him on the inside for what I thought was the win. After looking at the results, I found that Mike Stoliecki went off the front early on and took the win. I felt good the whole race and love the sprint finish… reminded me of CX!! Glen Moore caught some of the finish on film… Great shots Glen!

Bloomer –

Let me first state that Bloomer is not my favorite place to ride… very tight and technical low speed corning which is not what I excel at!! Before the race, I watched a few areas of the course as the expert and elite guys raced. I had a plan for the corner before the down hill at the sled hill… More to come on that!! This time I waited for the whistle and had a good start, I noticed a guy that I had an issue with getting around last year at this race trying to get out front, so I put the hammer down and lead the pack. As I approached the sled hill I put my plan in motion… although the turning patch that I was going to use was tore up from the expert/elite race and did not exist anymore!! As I when off course trying to maintain control, my bar clipped a small pine tree causing a spectacular dismount… Once back on the bike I was third wheel. At the bottom of the hill, I found that my controls on the right side were out of position, so I rotated them back around. I worked my way through the course trying to catch Mark Bourgeau who was running 2nd. I could see him in the single track but couldn’t catch him. My knee started to bother me towards the end of the last lap, so I eased up a little and finished P3. Good finish considering the start!

Brighton Stag Race –

Torn Shirt TT –
Being that tight and twisty is not my specialty; this race always puts me at a disadvantage. Also not riding all week due to my knee issue also didn’t help. I went out 30 sec ahead of Shawn Schaffert, so I used him as a gauge of my performance... which was not good. I fumbled on a couple of the climbs and he passed me in the last couple of miles. I almost made a wrong turn out to the road, but recovered and made up some time finishing on Shawn’s wheel finishing in 5th for the stage.

Short Track Race –
Having raced CX last fall, I was looking forward to the short track race, which was basically 1 ½ miles of riding on the grass around flags for 5 laps. I grabbed a front spot as did my teammate Jeremy Clark. I had an OK start and rode the wheels of a couple of CX bikes for a half a lap and then went around them. I was right on Jeremy’s wheel running P3 until I was gapped during passing. I kept pushing and then when I was passing a couple of slower riders near the end, a rider cut into me clipping my bar. I recovered and thought I was fine, when all of the sudden my bike stopped from the rider turning into my front wheel and sending me flying. I took a second to see if I was still in one piece and then ran back and got my bike. At this point the guys behind me had caught up and I now had to push hard to not lose any positions. Shawn went around me and I was challenged at the end by Jason Dellinger who I just edged out in the sprint placing me 3rd in this stage.

Murray Lake XC
Still sore from the crash on Saturday, we had the XC race to complete to end the stage race. This is a fun course but is challenging due to the 2hr length. We again lined up and off we went and I ended up sitting 5th wheel. The front runners took off and I was held up by a couple of wrecks allowing a couple guys to get around me. After being passed a couple of times and then later by the leaders of the older age groups, I knew that this was not going to be a great race for me. I eventually picked off a guy from my class but just didn’t have enough to catch back up with the leaders. Laps were consistent and I felt good the whole race finishing 7th for the XC and 5th overall for the Stage Race. It’s looking like I have my work cut out for me this year.