Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Madison USGP's

Leading up to these races I wasn't really sure what my goals should be. I had been racing for a few weeks and feeling decent, but hadn't raced against this calibre field yet. As I browsed the start list, I did the ol' "yes, no, no, no, yes, no, no, no, maybe" as to whom I thought I could beat, or had beaten in the past, I didn't come up with that many "yes" answers. I was trying to be realistic, but this field pretty deep, probably the best field I've ever been a part of. French National Champ, Francis Mourey was still hanging around soaking up UCI pts before heading back to Europe, so was former Swiss Champ, Christian Huele, Belgian Tim Van Nuffel and pseudo Belgian Jon Page. After them it was pretty much anybody who's anybody in 'cross filling the grid.

I decided that a top 15 would be a really good ride and a top 20 would be pretty solid too. I was hoping my 33 UCI points from last year would maybe get me into the second row, but in fact, I got number 22, one of the last spots in row 3.

I kicked at my pedal for about 30 seconds after the gun went off, but somehow managed to not lose too much ground. I slithered though the first few corners with my elbows out, pin-balling my way forward. I noticed I had made good progress because Todd Wells was driving our group and Barry Wicks was on my wheel and a few other quality guys were surrounding me. I knew I had good legs almost immediately because I never felt the need to let off the gas and recover after the initial shock of the intense first lap. I tried not to think about where I was or who was behind or in front of me, but it was hard. I almost crashed in a gravel corner and that helped me refocus on the task at hand. As our group splintered after a few laps, I found myself chasing Troy Wells solo and he was chasing the back of the lead group. Behind I had Barry Wicks and Brian Matter chasing me, not the worst company to be in, for sure.

I dangled in no-mans land for a while, but was picking off guys who had been blown out of the lead group. Two of these huge fish to catch were Ryan Trebon and none other than ol' Frankie Mourey. Trebon was cool to pass and drop, but he obviously wasn't having his best day, but when I caught Mourey, Matter and I were racing pretty hard and I was afraid I would get gapped off of Brian while we were overtaking Mourey. Mourey doesn't speak English, so the thought crossed my mind, "how to I say 'inside' in French?" I obviously didn't know, so I just gave him a nice assertive pass in the corner and he didn't seem to care. I couldn't believe I had just blown by the guy I was watching videos of earlier that week. I thought about retiring on the spot. I tried not to star-gaze, but come on, it's Francis Freaking Mourey!

Anywho, Me, Wicks and Matter raced the last few laps together and couldn't really drop each other. I made a move into the last technical section and was able to put a few bike lengths on those two and hold them off on the run up before the final road section. I wasn't sure how far up I had made it, but I was pretty pumped about the days events. It turns out I was 11th on the day and since it was a C1, that was good for 8 UCI points.

Wow, that was a bit long for just one days recap, so I guess Sunday's recap will be the condensed version... I didn't feel very well at all and didn't do as much slithering through the field at the start, but I still found myself in no-mans-land chasing the front group, with the same guys, plus a few others chasing me. This time I was hurting from being out in the wind so much, when I really didn't have the legs to pull it off. Barry dragged a big train of 5 guys up to me and I tried to get in that group and recover, but that wasn't happening. I got dropped and passed by all 5 of 'em on the run up after a few laps and rode the rest of the race pulling Luke Keough around trying to help him get the U23 jersey. He's a nice kid and couldn't really pull through, so I didn't have a problem dragging him around to help his cause. I ended up in 18th on Sunday, kind of disappointing when compared with the previous day's result, but I would have taken it before the weekend started, so I was fine with it... I guess.

You know you've been driving too much when the 6.5hr drive home from Madison seems short. Looking forward to a local race this weekend, then trying to kill it for the Cincy UCI3 and next round of the USGP in Louisville.

Photos by Caitlin Coar

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nittany Lion Cross

I decided last minute to drive out to Allentown, PA for the first UCI cross race of the season. There wasn't too much going on around here, so I figured I could make it a quick in and out trip and hopefully get a decent result to kick off the year.

I left early Friday morning and got to the venue around 6:30 that evening, with just enough time to do some laps before dark. Pretty similar course to last year, and pretty straight forward. I grabbed a bite to eat and set up my accommodations for the evening, the back of my car. May sound terrible, but it really wasn't bad at all. A Grocery Getter with the seats down makes for an ideal "cheap hotel". With not much in the way of entertainment in my "room", I was asleep early and awake even earlier. If I wasn't already a loser for sleeping in my car, I definitely solidified my loser status by getting a "table for one" at Panera for breakfast. I took my sweet time at breakfast and was back to to venue by 10am.

The promoter was nice enough to not leave the UCI races for the last races of the day, so we were racing at 1:15. I was nervous. Seriously nervous. I always get pretty keyed up before the first race of the year, but I think I put quite a bit of pressure on myself just because I had driven all the way out there for 1 hr of racing, so it had better be a good hour. I was fine once the gun went off, but I was mess on the inside before hand.

I got a good start and slotted into 4th wheel. I just wanted to get a lap under my belt with no mishaps. Before I knew it we had a little gap and there was a group of 5 or 6 of us, with another equally sized group not far behind. Adam Myerson, Luke Keough, Valentin Scherz, his other Swiss teammate, plus me. This was the group I wanted to be in. Once we settled in the pace was pretty tolerable, so I decided to test the waters with small attack. It got rid of Scherz's teammate, but it was too early for me to try to go away alone and no one really wanted to work. Scherz was waiting for his teammate, Myerson didn't mind a group sprint and Keough fancied a sprint as well, so I didn't have much in the way of allies for keeping the pace up.

A few laps later I tried again and this time I dropped my chain shortly after I gave it a go. I couldn't believe it. I probably let out a few expletives, but I couldn't believe that the chain decided to drop now. I probably had 5 or 6 hours of riding on that bike in race like conditions, and the chain decided to come off NOW???

I surprisingly kept my composure and got the chain fixed quickly and chased the front group down within the next half lap. Then it came off again in the wooded/rooted section. It looked like the chain keeper had come loose and moved away to where it wasn't doing it's job at all. I spent the next few laps trying to baby it through the rough sections and still make up time. I eventually dropped my chain 4 times, the last one being with 1.5 laps to go. The legs still felt decent, but I had fallen all the way back to 11th. I chased my ass off and finally caught back on with just under a lap to go, but when it came time for the final throw down, I just didn't have enough left and pretty much had to watch the sprint from the back of the group.

5th place and 10 UCI points is noting to scoff at, but I couldn't help but think what could have been if I didn't have to waste so much effort making up for my mechanical issues, I'd like to think a podium at the very least. Coulda shoulda woulda, I know. Lucky for me I have another chance at redemption this coming weekend when Mike and I head out to Baltimore for two more UCI C2's.

I made it back to Bloomington late sat./early sun. morning and after a night's rest I decided I'd rather do a local cross race and potentially win a little cash, than go out and train hard by myself. I made the relatively short drive south the the Huber's Apple Cross near Louisville KY and was able to beat my head against the wall for a solid 60 minutes and come out with my first win in a bike race in way too long. Thank god for cyclocross.

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