Saturday, February 25, 2012

Southern Cross, Sort of.

For me, "Southern 'Cross" was "Southern MTB".  It was a great opportunity to dial in my new endurance racing bike before 6 Hours of Warrior Creek and Cohutta 100.

Southern Cross is a 50 mile Ultra Cross Series race.  It is primarily gravel and fire roads with some pavement and traditional Cyclocross course stuff thrown in.  We left from the beautiful Montaluce Winery and Estates at 10:00am (ish) in sunny, cool conditions (I would later see a frozen puddle at the top of one of the climbs).  The course begins with a traditional 'cross course, complete with run up and a fallen tree dismount.  It didn't take long until we were out on the road, the road turned to gravel and pointed upward.  There is basically 2 big, big climbs with a rest area (the same one) at the top of each climb.  Somehow I missed the first one.  No big deal.  I carried enough stuff with me that I was prepared to skip it.  Lot's of descending goes hand-in-hand with lot's of climbing and Southern CX doesn't disappoint.  It was the one place I had an advantage on the MTB.  I could bomb the descents and not worry about pinch flatting or if my brakes were gonna be able to slow me down.  I saw a lot of CX bikes with mechanicals along the way.

The 2nd climb was a little more gradual, but that only made it longer.  This time when I got to the top, I did stop at the aid station to refill a water bottle.  I've been passing people all day long, and going back and forth with some of the fast single speed guys.  By now there aren't many MTB's around and the competition is a bit spread out.  I take every opportunity to make up time where I can.  Pedaling the descents and standing on the climbs.  When we hit the road I managed to pass a few more riders, but a MTB is not a good match for a CX bike on pavement and I did get passed by a couple of riders.  After 5 or 6 miles on the open road we turned off into Montaluce again for more agony on the cyclocross course.  I crossed the Start/Finish line at 3:28 which beat my goal time of 3:30 and was good enough for 6th place in a deep 40+ field.  Not bad for a MTB in a CX race.

The bike performed flawlessly.  From the Rotor rings to the Hayes Gram brakes everything worked awesome.  The Vee Rubber V12 tires worked great and rolled super fast.  I think this is the set-up I'm going to use at Warrior Creek in a few weeks.

See you  on the trails!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Road Racing = Not MTB Racing

Today was a good reminder of why I have no road racing goal events.  Oh sure, the weather was beautiful.  It was a great day to get some miles on the bike.  I got some great power data.  It's very colorful with all the riders in their new kits.  Plus there is no mud, no trees to hit and no constantly being pounded by the terrain.

There were also no climbs, no descents and no technical sections.  In fact I spent all of my time swimming in a school of fish that all wanted my spot.  And unless I wanted to keep wedging (weaseling?)  my bike into position, I would just keep getting pushed to the back.  I guess there was about a 10 rider break judging by finishing position.  I never saw it.  Guess I was too far in the back.  The first lap was kind of hard - or maybe it just took me a while to get up to speed.  After that it was just riding around in a tight back trying to get positioned for the sprint.

I got to the front a couple of times, but I guess I wasn't aggressive(?) enough to stay there.  My only choice was to wait for an opening in the wall of cyclists in front of me then sprint like crazy.  Which I did and finished about 13th in the field sprint.  I did another lap to get some more miles in.  Tomorrow will be a long ride in preparation for my upcoming endurance races.

Southern Cross is next weekend.  The 50 mile 2011 UltraCX season ender/2012 season opener.  I'm still up in the air on whether to race my single speed CX bike or my sweet, new Solis Pyrolite 29'er hardtail.  There are 114 entries in 40+, only 28 in single speed.  Decisions, decisions.

See you on the trails!

Friday, February 17, 2012

One for the road

This weekend it's off to Greenville, SC for the Hincapie Spring Training Series.  It'll be a chance to get some real race condition  power numbers to help my coach keep me suffering appropriately.

I love this time of year.  I've worked in NASCAR since 1995.  Every year, every team I have ever been with has a "Daytona thrash".  It's lots of work to be done in a short period of time.  Or maybe in a long period of time because I'm at work pretty long.

With the extra hours of work, racing every weekend and getting in base miles, well... not everything gets done.  January is the time of year to get priorities straight.  Some things are just not going to get done.  It's a reminder to consider the things that you could/should be doing instead of what you are doing.

So, maybe I'm not at 100% at the early season races, and maybe the yard is a wreck and the vehicles need maintenance.  But I'm making my training hours count.  I'm at work when I'm at work and I'm at home when I'm at home.  And I'm at home when I'm on the bike hammering!

So, maybe this was an early excuse for a future poor result at Greenville.  But, I'm there to get power numbers.  I may as well get the best ones I can.

See you on the trails! (after Saturday)

Up next: Southern Cross!

...actually the quest to borrow a cx bike may be up next

Monday, February 13, 2012

Winter Short Track Series #5. Debut of Stealth

I skipped Winter short track Series race #2,  So race #5 marked my fourth race of the series and 4th different bike raced.  Like all the other bikes I raced, I had never raced this one before either.  In fact I had just picked up the bike from CycleWorks in Mt. Airy and it was too cold to do much test riding.  Which was my excuse on Sunday.  I did manage to get a test lap in before my race.  It was one of the laps where you can't help but smile.

This was my first time racing on my new American Classic 29er Race wheels.  They are a bit wider with a redisigned a beed lock.  The are super light and snappy.  The extra width of the rim allows the tire to conform to the trail a bit better - making my Vee Rubber V12 1.95 tires grip like wider tires but still roll super fast. 

The bike itself weighs in under 21lbs. in full race trim.  The stealth color scheme, offset by the white cables, white Hayes Stroker Grams, and RavX seatpost and stem drew many compliemts.  The bike just LOOKS fast.  ...until you pick it up.  Then it looks and FEELS fast.  ...until you ride it.   Then you know it's fast!  I can't wait to race it for what I built it to race: 100 mile NUE races like Cohutta and Shenandoah. 

Next weekend, it's off to Greenville to mix it up with the leg shaving crowd at the Hincapie Spring Training Series.  How does it go from being winter short track racing one weekend to spring training the next?  ...I'll let you know.

See you on the trails! (except for Saturday when I'm in Greenville)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A fast lap at the Winter Short Track in Rennaisance Park

     This year I've raced a rigid 29er, a 26" full suspension, and a 29er hardtail at the Renni short track.  In the past I've also raced cyclocross bikes.  Here's my take on a fast lap:

   We'll start out coming in to the woods.  There is a left hand bend with a tree tight to the right.  Just before the tree is a small, angled root.  Sometimes this will push your bike to the right.  Don't worry about it.  Just ride over it and look beyond the tree to the right.  You won't hit it.  The next obstacle is the square concrete drain thing.  Some ride over it, some stay tight right.  I find it easier to ride over it as this allows you to be in better position for the right hand bend which is usually one of the last sections of trail to dry.  Wether you ride around or over the concrete pad, stay to the right of the big knobby root.  It's faster and smoother and will get you set-up for the banked lefthander.

   There are 2 fast ways around the first banked lefthander.  Many new riders don't take either of them.  The first is to stay wide right which is fairly smooth, but you enter the corner at the top of the berm.  This is fine, as the banking will hold you.  The 2nd option is to enter a little more to the left.  It's a little bumpy, but that's fine because you don't need to brake anyway.  You will hit the corner a little low, then run up to the top where you "pump" the center and blast down the hill.  Either way is fast and both can be done without braking.  Usually.  I only ran off the top of the berm one time (it was a muddy day) and I lived to tell about it.

  You should still be in a tall gear to run down the litle hill.  Hit the right hander to the outside catching the little berm that is available to hook the tires, then stand on the right pedal hard and rail the left hander.  No brakes.  From this position, in the same big gear, stand and shoot to the top of the little hill.  From here you have to tiptoe a bit around the bumpy, sweeping gravelly right hander.  Do not let the bike wash to the outside.  You need to hit the lafthanded banked corner to the center, or right side.  I usually brake a little BEFORE this corner.  Get off the brakes as soon as you can.  You will be surpised how fast you can take this corner when you are off the brakes.  Coast into the tight right/left corners with your focus being on the exit of the lefthander.  Stay wide left on entrance to get a good line entering that lefty.  Executing this properly will save you a lot of time.

   Exiting the cornering you need to be in control of the bike and in a big gear.  That way you can pedal over the few slick roots and rocks through the 2 jumps.  I usually just push the bike forward over the big jump which won't gain you style points, but is a bit faster.  Pedal as soon as you can on the uphill side.  Weight your left leg for the sweeping righthander, but be ready to swap to your right leg for the banked lefthander.  NO BRAKES.  stay to the inside of the corner.  There is a lightly gravelly spot that will slide your bike a bit right.  There is a tree to the right.  DO NOT LOOK AT THE TREE.  Stand and pedal up the hill, shift down if you need to, but keep your weight back a bit to keep from spinning over the bridge.  You are about to enter a fast section and you need to keep momentum up.

  I find it faster to stay to the right after the bridge, altough there is room to go wide left to pass someome.  From here roll down the hill.  If you have energy, otherwise you won't lose much time just rolling it down the hill, over the little jump and around the lefthander.  You do not need to slow for this "corner".  On any bike. 

   Hook the berm for the lefthander at the tree and go over the rocks around the right hand corner.  The lafthander has plenty of banking to hold you, plus it's uphill so it will slow you down anyway.  The bike will float over the rocks and you can make a clean righthand corner.  There is usually a cheering section here to help you along.  Rest a second down the short hill, shift down one gear and the moment you apex the lefthander to go up the hill you need to be pedaling hard.  This will shoot you up the grade to the tighter, more gravelly lefthander.  I usually shift down another gear and pedal as soon as I apex the corner.  Some people just grunt through it in the bigger gear to help keep from spinning the rear.

   Pick the smoothest line over the rocks by avoiding all the little up-ended pointy rocks, being sure to time your pedal strokes to not strike any of them and keep the power on around the lefthander onto the fire road.  This corner is a little gravelly, so use a bit of caution not to spin.  KEEP PEDALING.  The first part of the fire road is the steapest.  Going hard here will pay off big all the way back into the woods.  As the gradient diminishes, shift up and pedal at a pace you can maitain.  After the gravel road, it's parking lot, start/finish line then back into the woods.  I usually swing just a little wide entering into the woods if I'm following someone so that I can see the parking blocks.  Also, be aware that the person you are following may slow for the little root and the tree at the first little lefthander that you already know you don't need to slow down for :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Winter Short Track Series #4: Back on big wheels

   For the first winter short track race I had a strong showing on a 29er rigid single speed (in the SS class).  I missed race #2 because of a conflict with the final NCCX races.  For race #3 I rode a full suspension 26" bike.  It was very nimble through the tight sections and floated over the roots and rocks.  My form was a little off and I struggled in the Expert (CAT 1) field.  This week I was back on a 29er.  My awesome team was kind enough to let me race a Tomac Flint 29.  It's an amazingly light hardtail.  They mounted some fast rolling Vee Rubber tires on some American Classic wheels and it was off to the races.  Since it had gears, I was back racing with the big dogs in the CAT 1 field.
   I felt pretty comfortable on this bike immediately.  All of my laps were within 9 seconds of each other.  Each lap I made an effort to concentrate on hitting my marks and being smooth and in the correct gear.  I suffer up the gravel road, through the parking lot, and do it again.  I actually got to race with a pack of 3 to 4 racers taking turns leading and drafting.  In the end I wound up 9th, but at least I was in the ballpark this week.
   Next week I should be able to unveil my secret weapon as I should have my new bike by then.

See you for the season finale!