Monday, October 25, 2010

the one where I needed my teammates


Last year, I had magic legs at DCCX and had a blast.  It's one of the only (maybe THE only) MABRA race I'm doing this year - it's the local series, but the competition is deeper elsewhere right now in the Cat 3 women's fields.  That said, this being the biggest race of the series, it was as stacked as it could be with 15 of us in the Cat 3's.

Good start - right where I wanted to be with a rider off the front by a few seconds but catchable.  My goal, have a clean first lap.  I did.  It was fast and clean.  Lap 2 was also pretty solid.  But on lap 3, I was rounding the corner toward team row, an off camber, dusty right hand turn with some roots, when all of the sudden... you guessed it... I was crashing.  Again.  It felt like I was gonna save it.  I clipped out on the inside and almost had it.  Then I hit a bump or something and it all went wrong again.  In a split second that felt like slow motion, I was under my bike, under the tape.  Again.  Sorta like Granogue.

Banged up but fine, when I got up my rear wheel wasn't moving... a quick check, damn, I'd rolled the tire partway off and it was stuck in the frame - I pulled it back on and got going.  Now, I should say that Shea was in the team tent area, about as far away from the pits as you can imagine on this course.  Eric was standing right next to me having watched the whole thing.  He'd put my bike in the pits for me and knew where it was.  By the time I got to the pits at a slightly conservative speed, they were both there having sprinted to help me get the bike change achieved.

A lap later, they were yelling I could have my bike back.  Hmm.... I don't have a spare carbon wheel with a 10speed cassette on it.  Did they know I'd rolled it?

Well, of course they did.  But this is where Charly comes into play.  He'd run to his car to grab his race wheel and had it on my bike that quickly.  After another Becky-is-on-the-ground snafu in the pit (and some accompanying shin bruises to show for it), I was back on my Santa Cruz, which is so much lighter and fits so much better that it was probably worth rolling on the ground to get it back for another lap and a half plus.

But, no magic legs this time.  I'd burned a lot of matches in all that rolling on the ground and trying to get back to where I was.  And it showed on the last lap.  I was closing on a small group, pulling along another rider who'd had a mechanical, but couldn't keep her wheel when it came down to it.  Happy to see that she made it past two in front of us, but I finished 8th on the day.

the ones with the crashes on the first lap

Granogue.  It's always epic.  Last year, particularly so.

This year Granogue was doubling up, with big fields and two days of racing.  I was finishing a stint of 7 races in 16 days.  I think I'm still recovering, even as late as this race report is.

Day 1.  The crash in the sand pit.  Lap 1 - the top 5 of us ran front wheels into cassettes and wound up laying in the sand.  I dropped a chain and had some trouble with the remount, so I spent the next 30 minutes fighting back from about 8th to 4th.

Day 2.  The sketchy remount that I didn't crash on.  But I crashed on the approach.  In fact, crash might not be the right word.  Nystrom described it as "acrobatic" and later said, "I've never seen anyone do a cartwheel with their bike before".  In all of that, I only lost a spot or two and battled to stay on, but Erin and Britlee got off the front by about 20 seconds that I wouldn't get back from Erin.  Britlee dropped her chain on the last lap but held onto 2nd at the line in sprint.  She's strong.

Lots of good folks out racing their guts out last weekend.  Good to see Diane in the points, Kat recovering from a nasty crash on day 1, the masters' "mid-pack" riders duking it out with each other, Phil eking out a granogue double-double, Weaver deciding not to ride the Saturday run-up, even though he could in practice, Cati on my heels, J.T. flying the Kelly green and in the top half her first year racing cross, Stacey in the money in her first UCI weekend, and Zach, putting his shoe back on at the top of the run-up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The triple... UCI3 cross festival, Cincinnati

When I said "more to come", I really meant "we're going to try to wear out the new clutch in our Focus by driving it nearly 2500 miles in less then two weeks."  Triple race report, only a week or so late.

Cincinnati.  The only 3 day cross festival, well, anywhere really.  Three days of hanging out on a gorgeous weekend in October with friends from cross - Diane, FatMarc, Bad Kat and Andy, Wes, Weaver, Kris, Breyla, Meatball- it's cool how fun the cross community is.  They cheered for me and asked Shea (who rode in the last race each day) how he finished the next morning.  Good gang.

Friday - Cyclo-stampede.  Put a park on the side of a hill and then throw some spaghetti on it - that's what the course was.  Friday's course had more climbing and descending than some mountain bike races I've done (yes, Fair Hill and Wakefield, I'm talking about you).  Stand to get up there, grab brakes at the corner at the bottom of the next downhill, repeat.  I actually sorta liked it in a masochistic way.  It was truly a course in which I was either a) standing to climb, b) wishing I was standing but not having the power, or c) putting my bum off the back and grabbing some levers, hoping those carbon brake pads morphed into something just a little more powerful.

Front row start in a smallish field.  They stage the Open 3/4 women ahead of the masters (35+ women) and then start us all together.  I led onto the grass - I wanted to - I didn't have a great line on the first off camber to the right and figured that making others follow me was better than the alternative.  On lap 2, I got passed by a young woman on a really sweet bike.  Turns out, she would win, and the bike (a Stevens) was brand new.  I watched a masters' rider go through the tape twice on the same turn after the barriers.  I contemplated riding the mini-waterbars they had on a hill.  But I didn't.  It wasn't a 100% ride for me, so the dismount and run was faster.  I don't think any of the women's elite riders rode it either.

I had a big gap in front and a big gap behind.  I finished 2nd.  Pleased, but wanting more.  I then proceeded to walk around, talk, wait in line for things, stand around some more, then run around the course watching Shea ride to 3rd (his first cx podium - a 12 year old won his race).  Yeah, so in other words, I completely screwed my recovery in ways that I paid for on Saturday.

Saturday - Java Johnny's - oof.  Legs feeling a hot, hilly day yesterday.  A big ring course.  Oof.  Nothing like needing some power.  A pretty flat park, with some sketchy acorn tree corners, a pain in the butt sandpit x 2 (think U-turn in the sand, just an excuse to get me off my bike), some fun ups and downs behind the pool.

A good start.  I led onto the grass.  I was second by the time a stake and some tape yielded to my bike with a crunch on a sweeper.  Turns out FatMarc nailed the same stake several hours later, only they'd beefed it up a bit.  I rode the tricky S curve around a tree/uphill.  Whoops.  I didn't ride it all the way.   A quick flip of the front wheel and I was laying on the ground, under my bike.  3 spots down, but only one was in my race.

I just couldn't hang onto those masters' riders.  It was where I needed to be to get help and get back up there.  Kat was on my wheel.  I tried to keep her there - we were racing for 5th and 6th and if 4th had started to fade at all, I wanted help in the chase.  But no such luck. Kat dropped back on the last lap and I finished 5th on the day.  The announcer noted that I'd missed the podium.

After being very diligent about my immediate recovery, eating a fantastic iced pumpkin muffin from Java Johnny's and taking a little nap, a college friend showed up and I got to explain 'cross to her while talking about what it's like (for her) to be a medical resident.  Then we watched Shea get badgered by announcers and hecklers alike as he rode to 4th behind 3 guys not old enough to drink.  Two of them were under 15.  To say that Cinci has a great juniors development culture is an understatement.

Sunday - the infamous Harbin ParkA course preview didn't really show me what was everyone was talking about on this course - JPow and others had declared it an all-time fave.  But what's the big deal?  Well, balance, folks, balance.  Some winding around the trees technical sections was spaced out from the off camber ups and downs by a couple of power sections.  The high speed off camber section was followed by a no-brakes-but-I-really-want-to-grab-em downhill where you can easily hit 30mph.  The sand pit was maybe rideable uphill, but I ran it to save matches.  The second pass through per lap was downhill - with speed and a good entry, you could gain seconds in it.

Another front row start.  The Ohio ladies like to gravitate to the second row when they get about 8 deep in the call-ups.  Fine by me.  Second wheel onto the grass, I was about 3rd by the time we hit the steep up-down-up off cambers.  Good thing.  I felt/heard someone clip my rear wheel and definitely heard several people behind me crash.  A tell-tale hiss meant a flat.  But it wasn't mine, and I was standing in the pedals, trying to get a gap up the rather steep finish line hill.

I rode in second for about a lap - Leah was already off the front.  By the start of the second lap, I was plodding through the sand.  I got passed.  Twice.  FatMarc yelled at me.  I got on their wheels and stayed there for about a 1/2 lap.  I got dropped but was holding about a 7-10 second gap.  On the first half of the 3rd lap, I had a good sand pit.  I tried to bury myself and make it back to 2nd, knowing the other rider in that group was in the Masters' category.
Photo: Jeffery Jakucyk

I stood up, on an uphill.  In my easiest gear.  My legs laughed at me.  On a different day, that was a big ring uphill.  But not Sunday.  I backed off.  The gap was reasonable behind me.  No need to crash.  I rode pretty hard still, though.  The barriers were swimming in my eyes on the last lap.  I squeaked up the finish line hill with a smile.  Hey, I regained that podium spot.
Photo: Jeffery Jakucyk
More Cinci cross photos:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the ones in massachusetts: part 2

Day 2.  Brisk morning.  Much of the course was similar, but different.  Everyone was talking about the run-up.  Now, I'll say this - in last year's mud, I'm sure it was terrible, miserable, clawing with your hands to get up it.  Honestly, I thought it was a pretty standard run-up and the dirt was torn up enough that you just had to look where you put  your foot.  Oh, it was too steep to push your bike, that's for sure.  No sand.  An uphill road start/finish.  Some long power sections in the wind coming off the ocean.  Did I mention this race course is literally in the park that is the beach?!  As in, the bathrooms have changing stalls and footwashes.  And there are huge rocks on the coast and scattered around the course.  A few mini-spiral of death S-curves, including a very challenging one set on the hillside next to a softball field.

Second row start.  Chilly.  Embro working but not as well as I'd like.  Talked to a woman (Christine, I think) that apparently I battled with last year at DCCX.  She had started in the elite field ahead of us. Impressive memory, she even knew my name.

A great start. Or so I thought.  I was about 5th wheel up the hill when all of the sudden, I was boxed in and swarmed from both sides.  Elbows rubbing, handlebars in my butt, onto the grass we went - everyone upright, but I was about 25th wheel.  Lots of ground to make up.  I was making progress passing people, including a few on the run-up and remount.  Those that had forgotten to shift, paid the price at the top and the first lap was like a wobblefest with 8 or so women trying to stand on their pedals while I tried to weave through without getting knocked over.

Somewhere in there, though, someone apparently stuck a post-it on my bum - "Please pass me then crash right in front of me".  This happened about 4 times in a lap and a half.  Once near the sand, a woman literally passed me and just fell over.  I rolled over her bike, grabbing brakes in time that I didn't endo over her thigh and managed to only lose a spot or two.  More time was lost when ladies crashed in the off camber mini-spiral and on the S turns to the barriers.

I felt decent, was working hard, but just couldn't get up to the lead group.   I worked my way into the top ten, where I battled with about 4 other women for the last two laps - all of us were within a few seconds of each other, and held my last lap position to finish 10th of 88 starters.  Not a bad day and one of the few races where I was really racing the entire time and a two second slack-off or bobble meant I was going to lose a spot. 

In retrospect, other than the start, my biggest mistake was that we weren't working together very well - I definitely did some drafting and once managed to take a pull that was reciprocated, but other than that, it was a battle for each spot and we missed opportunities to draft near the chainlink fence and leading up to the run-up. Clearly we're not used to organizing a chase because I know there were women with me that had the legs to get up there if we'd been a bit smarter.

Afterwards.   I stood at the finish line, laughing and chatting with the ladies who'd been nearby.  Ali pulled out 22nd - awesome for her.  It was clear that it was a hard race, though none of us could pinpoint why.  And that we'd had fun.

I grabbed a chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie (serious yum, even though I was already a bit chilly) and Shea had the car packed up before I even knew what to do with myself.  (He had a second row start Sunday and finished 19th on a course that didn't necessarily favor a technical mountain biker as much as Saturday's).

We stopped in nearby Manchester for brunch at a little restaurant before braving the drive.  Shea's lobster eggs benedict looked pretty awesome.  Too bad I'm allergic to shellfish.

Driving home.  Using a complicated computer-charges-phone-which-uses-3G-internet-to-get-audio-broadcast of Steelers vs. Ravens, I listened to the defense blow it in the last minute of the game.  Oh well.

Moral of the story.  Gloucester is totally worth the drive.  In case you were wondering.

Monday, October 4, 2010

the ones in massachusetts: part 1

Race reports from Gloucester, Mass (pronounced glouster, in case you don't want to sound like the idiot I was last week, saying it the way it's spelled).  The hub of New England Cross.  One of the biggest races in the Eastern half of the US.  1700 riders pre-registered over two days.

Our last minute decision.  We decided to go to this race on Tuesday.  No, not a Tuesday in August.  But last Tuesday.  You see, I was enthralled when I glanced at the pre-reg list.  The concept of lining up with nearly 100 other women was just too good to miss out on - a big field around here (and, as the New Englanders admitted, up there for most races) is 40 or 50...  They were staging by points, a system that meant my last-minuteness wouldn't put me all the way at the back for the start.

The trip.  10 hours.  With stops.  Rain.  Traffic in Connecticut.  Bridge crosswind in PA hard enough that we stopped at the next exit to check the bikes.  We went through PA and around NYC.  Others went through it.  Their drive was even longer.  Arrived to a little b&b in Rockport with a huge soft bed.

Day 1.  Driving the 10 minutes to the race as the sun rises over the Atlantic. Not bad.  A brisk morning.  Shea was wait-listed but got a number, starting from the very back of the 8am men's 4 race, he worked his way to 30th by the finish. 

My pre-rides told me the course was pretty technical and way fun, and the start was going to be critical.  A downhill road start to an off camber bumpy grass section that quickly went through a 180 degree chicane before spurting out onto a flat straightaway.  The possibilities for crashing and bottlenecks on the chicane and off camber were significant.  I wanted my own line through there, not someone else's.

After some of the women missed their callups, I wound up on the front row for the start and was 2nd wheel onto the grass.  I hung behind Brittlee for about 1/3 of the first lap before passing her and riding in the lead for a bit.  Holding the pace down, I was trying to let someone come by and be in the wind.  But they were too smart for a while.  When the eventual winner flew by me, I missed her wheel and crushed myself trying to catch her.  Turns out she's 14.  Awesome.  We drove 10 hours so I could get my *ss handed to me by a woman too young to drive.

This was one of those days where I just felt great on the bike.  I was in the right gear every time I came off a downhill or remounted after the barriers.  I was off the brakes and flowing through the corners.  I was strong in the sand, hitting the line around the rooty tree, missing the rocks on the downhill before the barriers.  I wound up 6th, less than a minute off the winner.

Afterwards. We enjoyed a beer (yeah, just one for me) while watching the lobster boats check traps in the harbor and heckling by the barriers during the masters' races.  I was in the pits with some friendlies for the elite women - which was fun until new-to-Baltimore Evie rolled a tubie about as far away as possible from the pits and DNF'd.  Watching the pro's hit those corners with no brakes, whew.  Good stuff.  We hung out in the evening over in Rockport, indulging in ice cream and eating seafood (fish for me) for dinner.  Lobster was $13. With sides.

I'll put up some pictures later this week when I find them online.  Surely there were some cameras out there, and I know Shea shot some video of Day 1.