17 October, 2010

Full Moon Vista Ellison Park Cyclocross

Alright, blogging in bed from the iPhone so as you can imagine I'll want to keep this brief (but of course I always say that).

So for my first foray into the upstate NY cross scene I decided to head to Rochester for the Ellison Park Cyclocross. Unfortunately I couldn't do the UCI race they were hosting on Sunday as I wanted to race in Guelph, a great stop on the Ontario calendar and the first race in the new Southern Cup series this year.

I carpooled to Rochester with Shawn who would be racing the 35+ after my race, the cat 3/4. The drive was much smoother than the usual GTA trek and I can see racing in this area more often out of convenience.

We arrived and after the longest car to registration walk ever got signed in. The course featured one major climb and lots of deep sticky grass. Aside from the climb and descent, there was not much in the way of features but the long grass and seemingly endless false flat sections would be plenty to suck the legs out of anyone.

I got to the start corral early enough to secure the last spot on the front row and proceeded to get one of my now signature holeshots. By the top of the climb one guy came by, and I figured I'd get on his wheel and go from there. Turns out he was having none of that and promptly rode away and won the race. Awesome.

I figured I was solidly in line for a podium spot, or at least to place in the money which was 5 deep, but lap after lap guys would roll up to me and slowly, painful to watch slow, ride away from me on the many slogs through the grass.

That pattern repeated until 45 minutes (or near enough) had passed and I finished 6th. Damn. In any case all that climbing made for good training and fellow Ontarian and former teammate Mel Bunn was 2nd in the women's race, which was little more than a preride for the UCI race which would be using the same course.

All in all, the Full Moon Vista folks put on a good event and I will be attending more of their races.

Enough blog for now... Guelph RR soon.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

08 October, 2010

Race Report - Green Mountain Cyclocross Weekend

After starting the season with a fairly low-profile local race, I went straight to the other end of things racing a weekend of UCI C2 races in Williston VT, the first of the VERGE NECCS series. Of course I wasn't racing the UCI category there, because unlike at home there is a large Cat 3 field well suited to my abilities. It's challenging but I'm not at risk of getting lapped or pulled, as all the guys are +/- maybe 10% of my ability. Racing in a field of around 100 (since we raced with the Juniors too) is a really different experience from a field of 20 or 25 at home, and is great for working on group racing skills and getting used to passing.

Day 1

Started with a fairly early morning, beginning with coffee and breakfast. We soon headed over to see the cat 4 race in which one of the guys I was staying with was racing his first cross race. John had a good ride and ended up 3rd.

My first impression of the course, or what I could see of it from the start/finish area was something along the lines of "hmm, I bet there's a bit of climbing on this course." Little did I know...

The tech guide stated there was to be no practice on course aside from specified times which were two half hour slots, one of which was AFTER my race for the Elite Men and Women to take advantage of. Of course, I missed the other half hour that I was to use so thanks to some advice from Vicki I hopped on in the small gap between the masters 45+/55+ race and the 35+. I got in only half a lap, but it was enough to know that there was more than a little bit of climbing per lap - there was a lot. One never ending gradual climb off the start, a couple punchy little ones, and another long grinder halfway through the lap.

To add to the insult of a hilly course (with my lack of climbing ability) I started getting major GI distress during my warmup. I blame the HEED that I drank, since it was the only thing I had that was not totally proven in my pre-race nutrition routine.

So I lined up at the start, a little less warmed up than I'd like and full of cramps in my gut, and blasted up the hill. I think I was around 10th-12th wheel on the first descent - way too far up for me on a hilly course in this field. As a result I slowly drifted back the next time we hit a climb, then again on the start climb on lap 2. Somewhere around lap 3 I really blew up, and was quickly shot out the back.

So 10th or so on lap 1, maybe around 20th on lap 2 and then out the back to somewhere around 60th I'm guessing. I was cruising the flats and making up spots where I could, but still steadily loosing a few every time we went up. I figured that was sustainable until the end, but then on one of the sweeping descents I was maybe following a bit too close and the guy ahead went decided to have a yard sale on the off camber corner. Obviously the correct reaction was to lock up my rear brake and crash myself out trying to avoid him... yeah that is a much better idea than simply riding over him (note to self: next time, ride overtop of crashed riders).

I picked myself up, but the usual post crash lack of motivation was hitting hard, and I basically soft pedalled for the next half lap. I tried to get moving again next time up the start, but there was nothing there. I coasted the descent, pulled into the pits and saved myself the grief of finishing in 300th place by pulling out. Save it for tomorrow... yeah that's what I was doing. Tomorrow I would be out for blood. And maybe trying to recover some dignity.

Day 2

The morning was much the same routine, except the race times were shifted a bit earlier to allow an early escape for those driving from out of town (a great idea). Rolled in part way through the cat 4 race to see John finish up, not quite as strong as the first day but hey, it was his second cross race!

This time I was sure not to miss the dedicated course preview time, and headed out for a couple laps with a whack of cat 3s and M35+ guys. The first lap was a parade pace as we were letting the last cat 3/4 woman finish up, other than one dick from Svelte who felt the need to blast past everyone, including the poor woman who was still racing. Thankfully he got an earful from the rest of us and was not seen again.

The course was a lot better than the day before, although still full of climbing. Not all at once though, which was nice. There was still a few long false flats and at least one part I would definitely call a "climb" but also more turns and sections that actually required a bit of bike handling. The run/ride-up with logs embedded in the ground was nice - I rode it in pre-ride but knew that I would likely be running it most laps in the race, if not all of them, because getting the preferred line in traffic would be questionable and I am pretty sure I am just as fast off the bike on something like that anyway.

I should interject now that surrounding this weekend was a showdown between myself and a longtime friend Brandon. Brandon is a cat 2 on the road, and has historically been a much faster cyclist than me. When it comes to technical stuff however, he is your typical roadie - I can outride him most of the time on mountain bikes, but we haven't raced head to head in cross for a long time so this was our chance to see who would prevail. Unfortunately the Green Mountain courses favoured a rider with good power to weight and did not require much in the way of skills, so it looked like he was going to go 2 for 2 against me. Both days I took off much faster on the start, but steadily lost ground on the climbs with Brandon eventually passing me.

So back to my race - I got off to a nice start, and was riding in what was probably the 2nd group along with my teammate Nick. Nick is also much fitter than me, but it turns out he was just sitting in and would later move up (or I would drop back - same thing, right?). About 3 laps with that group, and then a few of them (including Nick) shelled the rest of us on the climb into the runup.

Not too long after, Brandon also rode away on a climb but I largely kept him in sight - allowing the gap to go out to maybe 20 seconds or so. A lap later and all of a sudden he was going backwards HARD. So hard I passed him on the climb... weird, but ok. I'd find out later he torqued his back and was hurting, but that sounds an awful lot like an excuse ;)

So a couple more laps go by and we're at the bell lap. I'm not having my best race, but I'm holding my own against the guys I'm with. I notice I can probably take most of them in the corners, and while I'm not comfortable I seem to be hurting less than those around me. Good news for the uphill grassy sprint finish that this might come down to. Little did I know, 10 seconds back on my group Brandon was closing fast. About 500 metres and maybe 4 corners left to go I was eyeing up my group and sorting out how I would drop them all in the second last straight and nail the finish. Right about that time, Brandon got on my group, and managed to do so without me noticing. I didn't realize until I exited the last corner (in front of the guys I was with, as planned) and heard someone shifting up to sprint. "hey, didn't I just drop everyon.. oh shit, it's Brandon!" Time to give'r, but he's a cat 2 roadie remember... so yeah, I lost that sprint, but only by a bike length, so I'm not totally upset by that one.

2 for 2, he got me... but there's always Nationals. It's in November, so maybe there will be snow, or at least rain, and hopefully that will make it slippery enough that my technical skills prevail and I can take some revenge.

So that was my Green Mountain cyclocross weekend. Vermont is beautiful, but they have hills there (ok, so I should have known that). Good experience racing the large VERGE series cat 3 field, and a good warmup for Gloucester!

Only 2 weeks behind on race reports now - AWESOME!

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