Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ore 2 Shore

At the Start...

After suffering through this race last year with little training and a mechanical, I felt I had to come back and race it again!!  This year Mary Ann was going to do the Soft Rock and enjoy herself instead of suffering through the hard rock.  We took an extra day off this year so we could enjoy the weekend and not feel rushed.  Unfortunately… Mary Ann crashed hard at Maybury the Tuesday before the race and was not able to ride.  She was pretty bummed… so I guess this guarantees that we will be headed back up next year so she can do the race!  We packed up and had an uneventful drive up and then I met up with Jim Bonnell and Jay Click for a preride of the start and then finish.  The trail was dry and sandy which wasn’t a surprise as that seems to be a theme for the trails this year.  After a nice walk and dinner with Mary Ann, I was out and dreaming of inhaling sand and ore dust.

I am a “get to the start line early guy”, but this race amazes me as with more than an hour and a half till the race start, people had bikes in the starting grid.  I’m not talking about 1 or 2… but 50 or 60!  A cool aspect to the race is that they have a preferred start area for people with finishing times that would put them in the top 50-75 of the race.  With my lack luster 2:56 time last year, I was not one of the lucky ones.  I warmed up and then placed my bike towards the front leaning it against the curb on the outside.  Once we moved up for the start, I managed to be in an ok position. 

The start was fast… I pinned it up the hill out of town to get with the lead group.  This worked until a couple guys got together and when down before we were even out of town.  I had to almost stop and then pin it again to get back with the group.  There were a couple more close calls on the pavement and then when we hit the dirt there was another pile up!  I rode around it and then chased all the way to the luge climb.  I saw Jim a couple times during the chaos on the road, but lost sight after the wreck in the dirt.  Once on the luge climb, I saw Jim about half way up the first portion and made it my mission to not let him out of sight!  I was yo-yoing off the back of the group heading to Ishpeming, but managed to claw my way to the group by the time we hit town.

At the finish... Mary Ann thought the dirt on my grill was cool!
I was trying to recover in the group and then the lead guys made a wrong turn and there was a small pile up.  Once back on track, everyone was pinning it and I was just hanging on for life.  The 2 track was sandy and everyone was sliding around trying to maintain a reasonable pace.  Once in the power-line section things settled down and everyone was grinding away at their own pace.  I was able to advance my position a little through this section, but so was Jim.  Once at Misery hill, I pushed up the hill and passed a few people.  I could see Jim ahead and he was going out alone trying to catch the group ahead.  I latched on to a guy that was going pretty good and a group pulled together just before the road section and started to work together.  Jim back off and joined the group.

Jim and I at the Finish!

Once we hit the road climbs our group started to whittle down and we caught a larger group that contained Jimmie Colflesh.  The pace slowed over the second climb and I could see a small group ahead of us.  I attacked on the downhill to try and reel them in.  Jimmie jumped with me and as I eased up, he came around with Jim on his wheel.  I jumped on and we stayed together all the way to the 2 track.  The 3 of us rode with one other guy all the way to wood chip hill (Which should be name sand hill as it was pretty sandy and loose this year!).  I was pretty maxed out hanging to this point with Jimmie doing most of the pulling.  Jim and Jimmie got a gap on the wood chip hill as I took a bad line at the top to get around someone.  They took off through the final single track sections and I was starting to feel gassed and was taking bad lines.  I backed off a little and was caught by another rider.  It motivated me to push a little harder.  I eventually caught him, rode his wheel to the finish and went around him almost cramping in the process.

I rolled across the line with a time of 2:48 for 59th in the mens open class and 64th over all.  I learned a lot this year and had a great time racing with Jim and Jimmie.  I am looking forward to racing next year and hopefully my time will net me a preferred starting position!!

Mary Ann trying to Ice her elbow!  LOL!!
At the top of Sugar Loaf!
After the race, Mary Ann and I had a lot of great food at the Portside Inn and Elizabeth’s chop house and had a great time walking around downtown.  The next day I headed out to ride the Marquette Mountain trails.  I rode all the loops out there and had a great time.  The trails are very well maintained and have a lot of cool features and challenges!!   We then headed to Sugar Loaf and hiked up to take in the views and hung out at Presque Isle Park.  The weather was perfect as was the company!

Adventures in CAT3

My CAT3 upgrade was approve the end of June!  This was one of my major goals for the year, so this was a big relief.  This allowed me to take some time off the bike and relax a little.  I really needed a mental break as I was pretty smoked from all the spring road races and then Lumberjack on the SS.  Getting ramped back up was a little rough, but after a solid week of training while on vacation, I was feeling like my form was coming back.  

Waterford Worlds (7/18)
After coming back from vacation, I headed over to the Waterford to test my legs in the A race.  I had attempted this once right after Lumberjack, but dropped out as the legs were dead and my heart wasn’t in it.  This time I was fresh off of a break with a solid training block and ready to go.  There was a pretty large group and the pace was high from the word go.  I think we passed the B race at about the 15-20min mark and almost passed them again just before the end of their race an hour in!!  I was able to move around and was at the front of the peloton a few times, but not really a factor in the race.  I was feeling good until just after the hour mark where they called a prime and all hell broke loose!  I don’t think there was a peloton for about 3-4 laps, just groups of guys trying to hang on to whatever wheel they could find.  It mostly came back together and I rolled in with the group for 20th.  The race was fun with an avg speed of 26.5mph… I have work to do!  Hopefully by next year I can be more than just pack fodder.

Le Champion Pave
This race was my first CAT3 race.  I didn’t race here last year and didn’t know what to expect with the rough brick paver section on the main drag in downtown Flint.  Part of the reason for working to get to CAT3 was to have teammates.  Collin, Josh and I talked and put together some basic guidelines for how we were going to race.  The race started out pretty mellow outside of me missing my pedal and having to push to get back to the front of the group.  Brian Wachlarz went solo immediately and we let him dangle.  I decided to open up my legs and chase him down on a prime lap.  I didn’t catch him in time, but pulled him back to the peloton.  Collin then got in a break, so Josh and I covered attacks and slowed the peloton.  They called a prime for the peloton and Josh hit it hard and won it with ease.   About 30min in, Brain Bangma made a hard attack and I went after him along with John Gracely.  This formed a second break of 4 after Chris Abston bridged up shortly after.  Not wanting the peloton to catch us on the last lap, Brian said he would pull the back straight if someone would pull the front.  I went to the front and pulled the first half of the lap… then suffered to hang on the back half.  I ended up finishing 3rd in our break and 8th overall.  Collin finished 4th and Josh won the field sprint for 10th.  It was a good showing for the team!

Waterford Worlds (8/1)
I was feeling pretty good and looking forward to mixing it up with the fast guys.  The start was hard, but eased up to a comfortable pace.  I really started feeling good near the hour mark, but the B race had a bad crash at the sprint and they ended up calling our race.  It’s never good to see your friends lying on the ground.  There was a lot of road rash, but everyone seemed to make it out ok except Antonio who went to the hospital with broken ribs and vertebrae.  It appears as though he is going to make a full recovery, but it was a reminder to all how dangerous this sport can be.

Waterford Worlds (8/15)
After some races in the dirt, I was back on skinny tires.  I was feeling pretty good after O2S and looking forward to another sufferfest with the fast guys.  This race was different as nobody was letting the breaks go since the purse was doubled up since the last race was called prior to the finish.  This was also the last race of the season, so the sprinters teams wanted to give their guys a chance at the season points win.  I was able to move around and never felt like I was in trouble.  I even made a short break or two, but they didn’t go anywhere.   Coming into the finish I was in a reasonable position, but I was on the outside and the peloton pushed to the left putting me into the grass.  I could have pushed back, but wasn’t looking to go down.  I chalked it up as CX practice and rode up to the peloton and rolled in to the finish.

Tour de Gaslight
This was my worst race last year as I did the USACycling race in GR the day before and was spent getting popped the last lap in the CAT4 race.  I was hoping for a better finish this year.  Josh, Collin and I lined up with the same plan as Le Champion Pave… but the rain started to come down as we were getting ready to start.  A lot of guys dropped their tire pressures, but with my extenders, it wasn’t possible at the line.  I figured how bad could it be…?!  Well… the start was ballistic and there was an immediate split!!  I was riding with the front group, but my back wheel was drifting a lot and I had to ease up on the turns.  About 15 minutes in, the back wheel went out hard, but I recovered and I had to back it down a little more.  At this point I was tail gunning and then an East Hills Velo guy hit the pavement in front of me.  I chased hard for a lap and then just when into TT mode.  I looked back and saw a group of 3, so I eased up and rode with them for a bit.  When I saw that we were going to get lapped, I went hard and then latch on to the back of the main pack for a lap and a half and rolled in for 16th.  Josh and Collin both finished in the top 10 at 6th and 10th respectively.  I am not completely disappointed with my performance as a lot of guys dropped out of the race and I stuck with it.  I learned that I need to be able to drop my tire pressure at the line, so I will be purchasing extenders that I can easily do this with.  I also had just finished a long block of training and racing, so maybe if I were fresher, I could have held on to the main pack.  This race will definitely be on the calendar next year…

The road season is pretty much over for me as I will be focusing on Crank the Shield over the next few weeks.  I will be headed to the Birmingham Bikefest and the Devos Crit on Labor Day, but they will be used more as training.   CX is around the corner and I am excited to mix it up in the B’s and possibly the Masters 35+.   

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Catching up: Back in the Dirt

Lumberjack 100
I am not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for this race… and really don't know what I was thinking when I switch my entry to SS!! The last time I did a 100 miler was Lumberjack in 2010 on my geared bike and finished in 8:25. I set a goal to be under 8hrs this year, but I wasn't sure how the SS thing would fit in to the equation. After the typical debate about what gear to run, I decided to keep the same gear I have been running. Mostly because that is what I have and didn't want to buy a different cog… so 56 gear inch it is. I lined up near the front and kept up by spinning at 150rpm as we cruised down the road at 22-25mph!! A guy in a black van that didn't want to wait for us to get off the road decided to pull in the park road, thus being swarmed by hundreds of bikes. Lucky he didn't hit anyone… what an idiot. Entering the single track was uneventful and the pace was steady till we hit the first climb. I took the left hand line and pass a lot of people grinding up the slow steady climb. Shortly after things started to spread out and I found myself riding with Mike Seaman who was going at similar pace as I was. We ended up riding the whole first lap together and most of the second. My buddy Dave Messing also joined our group before the rest area. Things were going good and I felt like the pace was manageable until another SS guy passed us and I jump on his wheel. By the end of the first lap, I could start feeling the efforts and still had 2 more laps left. Mike and Dave where right there again and we continued to ride together. The heat and humidity were really rising and it was starting to feel like I was in an oven!! I was gapped at Fire tower road and ended up riding in the lap solo. At this point, I knew my goal of under 8hrs was not going to be achievable without a negative split, which wasn't' going to happen. I caught Dave on the third lap and rode with him until he stopped at the aid station. Wanting to just "get it over with", I pushed to the finish. I rolled through with a time of 8:11, which was good for 12th out of 47 SS guys. All in all I had a good time, but it will probably be a while before signing up for another 100miler in the dirt.

Tree Farm Relay
The Crater
I look forward to this race (if it can really be called that) every year. It brings out just about everyone in the scene that just likes to ride their bike and have some competitive fun. It has 4 person Mens, womens and mixed categories with 4 lap and 8 lap distances. This year I wanted to get some of the faster guys on the team together to have some fun and challenge the top teams. It was then suggested that we put together a team of all SS bikes. This seemed to fared well with the group and the team ended up consisting of Collin, Josh, Todd and myself on the team. The team name of "One Ring to Rule Them All" was chosen and we were joking around about dressing up, but decided not to. The race starts in a Leman style with everyone running down the hill and jumping on their bikes. Collin was the lead out guy and was near the front at the start. Collin rolled through in 4th place due to a nasty crash, but he was ok. I took the second leg and immediately passed the guy in 3rd and was chasing the guy in 2nd. I was holding the gap, but struggling to make up any ground crashing at one point when my front tire slid out. I handed it off to Todd who caught 2nd with a solid lap. Josh hammered his lap making up more ground on 1st. Collin managed to catch 1st on his second lap and the rest of us just worked to extend the lead!! It was a solid team effort with very consistent lap times that brought home the win!! It was also great to be able to hang out enjoy the beautiful day with friends. This was Mary Ann's first MTB race and even though her team didn't place well she impressed everyone with a really fast time!! I think she is hooked!!
Double Log Pile in Expert Loop
Brighton XC Race
I wasn't originally going to do this race, but since I haven't been on my geared bike all year and Ore 2 Shore coming up, I thought it would be a good idea. This would be the first expert 40-49 race for me. I have been watching this class and knew who the players were, but not sure how I would stack up. DC and the Wiz were signed up and I knew they were out of my league, so I focused on finishing as close to them as possible. Everyone was lined up when I got to the staging area, but a couple of guys let me roll to the front row, which was cool. The start was quick but not unmanageable with DC and Wiz riding up front and Selle and Charles close behind. The group split at the first hill and Selle, Charles and I fell off the pace. The three of us rode the whole first lap, picking off riders from earlier groups. We were cruising through the last section when I caught a tree with my handle bar and crashed. Selle and Charles eased up to make sure I was ok and then continued on. I got up, evaluated myself and put my chain back on, then started to chase. Halfway through the 3rd lap I caught them along with Osgood and Lako. The 5 of us rode for a while till Osgood dropped his chain on a climb, the 4 of us continued. I knew I would have to hit the hills hard to put a gap on these guys, so I went around them at the start/finish and got on Lako's wheel to better position myself. Once we hit the climbs Lako and I were both pushing the pace, he let me go around on the second climb and I put in a big effort on the gully climb creating the gap. I was keeping a solid pace until the short punch climbs and started to cramp. I kept pushing while nursing the climbs a little. Lako rolled up near the end and offered some encouragement to push to the finish. Ended up finish 3rd behind DC and Wiz, not a bad day on the bike!

Catching up (Again): Spring Road Racing

West Michigan Stage Race

Saturday morning's TT was a cool out and back route just outside of Ada along the river. The road was a little busy and rough in spots but a fun rolling course. I was rocking teammates Trek TTX and all the TT goodies (I need all the help I can get!). I hit it hard at the start and settled into a good pace... I was using a power meter to pace and was hitting the number I was shooting for. The turnaround came quick and I was starting to feel good and stepped it up on the way back and then sprint into the finish. I was happy with my time for the 7.2mile course (16:52), but felt I had too much in the tank at the end. I was hoping for top 5 or better, but was still happy with 9th out of the 75 guys and less than 20s out of 3rd.

The Crit on Saturday was technical and I was a little nervous about guys being sketchy in the corners. I got there early and rode the loop for about 20min and felt good about the course. As we did our warm up laps, I worked a little to get to the front for the start. I ended up 3rd row. The start wasn't too bad and the pace was steady. Guys were being pretty smooth in the corners... at least at the front. The pace stayed fast for most of the race. When it slowed I rolled off the front and pushed... one guy came with me and we rotated a couple times. When he slowed, I went back to the front and pushed it again. I looked back and we weren't shaking anyone near the front, so I eased up and sat in. I ended up too far back and wasn't aggressive enough at getting back to front and ending up rolling in 12th. Everyone got the same time for the crit (outside of a prime and the top 3 getting time bonus... this was bs, as we dropped a big group and half the field was pulled.)

I was told the RR has some hills, so I was hoping to shake things up. The first longish (for Michigan) climb was about a mile from the start. I was sitting too far back and having a hard time moving up due to the guys in front being content to just go for a ride. Things thinned out when someone attacked off the front freeing up the left side... I made my move and went straight to the front and started to set the pace on the climb. Shortly after, a guy came around and I jump on his wheel. There were about 4 of us up front setting the pace. When the pace slowed on the down hills, I would jump to the front and crank up the pace. I was hoping for a big separation, but it really didn't happen. As I sat in for a while, I got blocked by the riders and it took a wreck up front for me to get back with the guys in front. The rest of the race was pretty uneventful. I was looking around and thinking that if this was a 2 lap race, it would be more to my advantage. As we approached the sprint I moved up... but ended up behind the slow train and by the time I got open road, it was too late. 14th on the road... but didn't lose any significant time.

Ended up moving up to 7th overall... it was a fun weekend and I plan on doing it again next year!

Waterford Worlds

There was a big group 40+ in the B race with the sky turning black. The rain rolled in right as the race started. Dominick joined me in the B race and made an early break while I sat in the field, but were pulled back. Shortly after Stefano from the Greyhounds was up the road along with 2 UofM John and Clay who are always strong. They looked like a good group, so I bridged up. Dominick rode my wheel and then eased up to give me a gap. Shortly after Paul from Team O2 bridged up and said let’s go... we had a solid group and a fairly smooth rotation and formed a big gap on the field. With 2 to go... everyone just rode out the last laps waiting for someone to make a move. I could tell John was more of a sprinter and I wanted to be on his wheel, but he ended up being on the outside of the last corner and I was on the inside. I couldn't see him till after he jumped first and I couldn't make up the gap and rolled in for second. Fun/hard race!

Frankenmuth RR

My team mate Jim and I met up and went for a warm up ride. He was excited about racing with his new wheels, which looked sweet on his bike (Which is the most important part right?!). During the warm-up he had a front flat and had to borrow my spare wheel. The start was pretty uneventful, other than the fact that when it is really wet. I quickly learned that carbon brake tracks and cork pads have very little braking power when wet. The solution was to go towards the front to avoid the surges. The leadout guys were working the front the whole first lap along with some AAVC guys. I put in a few good pulls to liven things up and to warm up the legs. AAVC put in an attack near the end of the first lap and I thought it was going to separate the field... but it didn't. The rest of the race was pretty uneventful and it was pretty obvious that it was going to come down to a sprint. I was in a good position the whole last lap, but at the last right hander there were a bunch of guys trying to get at the front. Last year, this caused a wreck, so I throttled back a little. I was riding mid pack near the centerline getting boxed in. As we approached the "hill", I saw my line to the right and took it. As I made it to the front 15-20 guys, I saw Jim roll to the side of the road with another flat! This sucks as he was in the front 5 and probably would have finished on the podium. At this point I had to put the hammer down to catch the front guys... after the race Shawn Schaffert said he was on my wheel from the hill before the corner and said multiple times "we passed a lot of people". Rolling into the finish I wasn't sure where I was in the group and I also wasn't 100% sure where the actual finish line was!! Couple guys said they thought I won, but after looking at the video, I lost by a tire. One step closer to CAT3…

West Branch

Saturday RR

Wet, Cold and miserable. I wasn’t feeling 100% coming into this race as I had been having some stomach issues, but this is one of my favorite road races. My goal was to stay towards the front on the first lap. The pace was pretty slow, so I made an attack to liven things up. The pace headed into the hill at the end of the first lap was pretty fast as a group broke away and we were chasing. This thinned the group after the hill which made it easier to breathe and move around in the peloton. I had a good position coming into the hill on the finish... but didn't have the legs to do anything and finished 13th.

Sunday Crit

I got a long warm up in and the legs were feeling much better. The pace was fast (26+mph) and the group thinned out pretty quick. I focused on riding near the front and took a few pulls and bridged a few attacks. Some CFT guys and an Einstein guy were keeping the pace high. I had a reasonable position coming into the final turn when a guy called "middle" and about wreck a couple of us... WTF? Didn't hit it soon enough, but pulled in enough guys to finish 5th.  I think at some of these races, I need to start hitting it earlier and riding people off my wheel, instead of following wheels in the sprint.