Thursday, November 10, 2011

USGP 2/3 Predictor by

My goal for the weekend - beat the twelfth and thirteenth place results predicts...

I pasted it into a spreadsheet here.

42 races and counting

I'm not sure why I even added it up, but I'm at 42 races and counting for 2011...

20 Road Races/Criteriums
5 Louisville Short Track
2 Cross Country Mtb
1 DINO Short Track Mtb
14 Cyclocross

With two more CX races this weekend, one more next weekend, maybe three more the next, and on and on and on...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Even before the cross season began, the decision to race 2/3's or the UCI race at Cincy3 and USGP has been discussed, considered, and reconsidered. Finally the week before I decided to go with the 2/3's at Cincy3 after a solid, but not quite "ready" performance at Storm the Greens. The main reasons - 1) There are a guys that routinely beat me registered for these races, 2) Racing for a top ten sounded a lot more fun than racing not to get lapped and 3) this is the best measuring stick to last year I could ask for.

So how'd it go? I'd say pretty darn well! I’ll get to the racing in a moment. First, the team/weekend as a whole - was awesome! I was able to get to know teammates Meghan and Dave and met Stephen for the first time and got to experience a full on PRO set up. We made camp each day right alongside the other top level teams and had a top-notch mechanic (Dave) tuning our bikes and taking care of us in the pits! Thanks to all of our sponsors and supporters for making this possible, including Bob's Red Mill, Stevens Bikes/Sinclair Imports, Carroll Composites, Panache Cyclewear, Mad Alchemy, PrincetonTec, SquirtLube, Challenge Tires and Feedback Sports

Now the racing…

Friday we raced the Darkhorse Stampede at Devou Park....
I had car issues on the way up and didn't warm up or preview the course at all; I simply knew the course was muddy. For obvious reasons, I chose not to try for the holeshot and went into the first turn in the top ten. Guys slid out all over the place, but soon there was order among chaos with about six of us strung out on the front including Jason Monk (Main Street Velo) and Chris Mayhew (JBV Coaching), two I knew to watch. I followed wheels, hoping they knew where the course turned next and eventually we finished a lap. There was plenty of mud and climbing and all the suffering I wanted.

 Mentally I never checked into this race and before I knew it I'd slid to seventh, made two PRO bike exchanges thanks to Dave and Larry in the pits, and we only had one lap to go. I was used to racing an hour and the shortened 45 minute race was certainly different. I dug in and started fishing for the next guy up the road eventually catching Chris with a half lap remaining and putting in one last attack to overtake him. The rest of the lap I spent holding off a late charger from behind only to miscalculate the finish and get beat in an uncontested sprint. He was in the U19 race though, so I finished 4th with Monk on the top step.

Saturday was Java Johny's in Sunset Park, Middletown, OH....
This was, hands down, my favorite course of the 2010 UCI3 weekend. There's not much elevation change, but the small pitches included are steep and punchy. It flows and you can gain time in every turn if you're alert and it generally fits my power profile with very few diesel sections and plenty of short duration, high power sections.
Opening a gap in lap one (Photo by VeloVivid Photography)
Preparation for the race was like night and day compared to the previous day with plenty of course recon, warm-up, mental readiness, and bike prep by Dave, our team mechanic (This gave a PRO feeling to the day). I started in the first row and went to the front immediately, building a ten second gap to the field in the first half lap. About 1.5 laps in, Travis Mullen joined me and we began to work together, even though he complained of marathon training eating into his bike time. He held steady until Etheridge (Raleigh), Monk, and Hurt joined us when Mullen faded a bit. Etheridge slipped off the front and built a minute gap – alone – in his second race of the day!

Holding an early gap (Photo by VeloVivid Photography)
Around the midpoint of the race, I slid out in the only muddy turn on the course and got gapped off second and third. As I came by the Papa John’s camp, I heard Mandrola encouraging me to, “just give it 1500 watts one time and you’re back in it!” With two to go I mentally dug deep and clawed back onto the back just in time to hear Gatch say over the loudspeaker, “If Monk has anything right now, he’ll attack the group and drop Smith again.” I cursed him under my breath until he began to give better advice like, “…but if Smith has anything, or even if he doesn’t, he’ll fake it and go to the front to set his own pace and recover a bit.” So I listened, and it worked. Somehow, though, I got dropped again and as Monk and Hurt got the bell I was six seconds down again and on the limit.

I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a game of cat and mouse. Whether it was or not I’ll never know, but it gave me enough motivation to push forward and latch onto the back with half a lap to go. The pace was killing me; I wanted to move to the front but didn’t have enough to make a pass so I just held on. Again, I heard Gatch over the loudspeaker, “…this is going to be a battle to the end for second. So far today we’ve not seen anyone come from behind after the barriers, it’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out!” Thanks John, you were right! I didn’t hear anything else over the loudspeaker the rest of the race, but I knew where I would make my move.

We crossed the road for the final time and I sat at the back, gas tank empty, waiting. In the last straight before the sweeper leading to barriers Monk and Hurt left the window open on the right and I jumped out with all I had. My breakfast almost got left in that sweeper as I managed to recover and then push the pace through the barriers forcing a mistake from Hurt. I landed on the pavement with Monk inches from my wheel and adrenaline took over – I gave all that was left and some and managed to hold him off!!! 20 more meters and I’d have been a step lower on the podium – 2nd place after fighting back not once but twice was dubbed the “most heroic race of the day!”
Leaving it all on the line (Photo by Jen Farmer)
Second step with Etheridge and Monk (Photo by Jen Farmer) 
Sunday was one of the best-known courses in the area at Harbin Park, also just north of Cincinnati in Fairfield, OH...
This course has it all – uphill sand, downhill sand, power sections, mud sections, steep downhill sections, pavement, and uphill barriers. Even in 2010 when it was dusty dry it was the heaviest course of the weekend and this year was even more so. Nearly the entire course was either slippery or soft and power sucking.

After two hard race days and digging deeper the previous day than I ever thought possible, my legs were dead. After a preview lap with a couple second looks I opted for an easy trainer warm-up to get the blood flowing. At the start line I learned I’d forgotten to sign in (oops) and had to give my John Hancock before taking another first row start. As we waited for the whistle I had good feelings from the mental battles won the previous day, but not so good feelings about how my legs/body would fare on the third day of racing.

The whistle blew, I charged ahead and was the first off the pavement. I quickly opened a gap on the field and raced my own race without worry of someone crashing around me. The gap grew to around 15 seconds until Travis Mullen (Shamrock Cycles) joined me at the front once again. Soon Matthew Means (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes), Monk, and Etheridge joined us; Mullen may have even gotten away by himself for a bit. While riding in a group of four, I managed to find a root in the mud hole near the start line and ended up flailing to get out from under my bike.
Navigating the sand (Photo by Marcia Seiler) 
A gap opened and from there my body had little more to give. I sat fifth and even with the knowledge of the previous day’s chase in my mind the gap wouldn’t shrink. Late in the race Mullen had a mechanical and had to DNF and Zeb King (Appalachian State University) powered by me leaving me in fifth with a lap to go. I managed to keep the gap to King in check, while he seemed to be gaining on second and third up the road. There was a ten second gap when we entered the last off camber technical section and only about two seconds when we came out. At that point I knew I had to wait to jump with a few hundred meters of heavy uphill remaining to the finish and with about 150 to go I emptied the tank and grabbed 4th on the day. We always want more, but to be honest – if you’d offered me 4-2-4 finishes on Friday, I’d have taken it! It was an awesome weekend with easily three of my best five races lifetime!
Video from Harbin Park, I believe by one of the Roberson brothers.

Thanks to Mitch Graham and all of the crew working to make the Cincy3 CX Festival not only possible, but an outstanding weekend! We racers (and dabblers in promotion) appreciate your efforts and look forward to coming back next year!!!

Next up is USGP just a few miles from home – hopefully the good form will continue and I can put together another solid weekend!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Missing Iceman Cometh

Three years ago this weekend, my friend, Mar(io/k) and I headed north for our first ever Iceman Cometh Challenge. We'd gotten in via Kentucky Point Series standings at the last minute and he raced Sport, I Beginner. I don't remember a lot of the details from the race except the number of people! There were somewhere around TWO THOUSAND racers!! My biggest to date might have had a hundred. At the end, I got 5th in my Beginner age group and from there set a goal to finish top ten the next two years in Sport and Expert categories. It was a whimsical goal, but that's the way things go...

Oh, I forgot to mention - we slept in a tent and this is what our bikes looked like the next morning.

Two years ago we opted for a cabin and had more company, Mo, who raced the Pro Women's race and took a top 10! (She's a bad ass) and Mark J who won his Beginner age group. I managed to accomplish my first goal with a 7th in Sport age group and Mark turned in a solid time as well, though the time gap between us flipped!
Our cabin on the edge of the course.

Last year we registered early and by the time we left I wasn't looking forward to it - the race was messing with my CX season, and one of my favorite venues, Gun Club! This time it was Mario, Kiersta, Mark J, and Glypie in the caravan. Finally my two year goal had been accomplished - 4th in open age group (just as good as Expert)! Everyone had a solid race (except Glypie, who was our driver) and plenty of fun.

I decided to pass on the 2011 race shortly after getting home last year and now that it's only two days away, I'm sad not to be going. I don't regret the decision, as Cincy3 is going to be a blast - I might even get to race for a W for a change! Either way, letting a tradition pass is sad. Some day I'll get back up to Traverse City to accomplish at least one last goal - a Sub 2 Hour race time!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Long overdue (Photo Edition)

Brookside Park: "The Stairs" (Photo by Chris Jones)
Brookside Park: Start/Finish area (Photo by Chris Jones)
OVCX Athletes of the Week (Photo by Doug Dobrozsi)
Gearfest log hop (Photo by Kiersta Tucker)
USGP Ft Collins: Prerace Sunday (Photo by VeloVivid Photography)
USGP Ft Collins: The flyover (Photo by VeloVivid Photography)

USGP Ft Collins: Barrier Run-up (Photo by VeloVivid Photography)
"All Smiles" at BloomingCross (Photo by Tim Brown)
Storm the Greens: At the Whistle (Photo by Doug Burton)
Storm the Greens: BRM 1-2-3 (Photo by Marcia Seiler)
Storm the Greens: Steps (Photo by Doug Burton)
Storm the Greens: The Mud Pit (Photo by Paula Smith)
Storm the Greens: My Cheering Section (Photo by VeloVivid Photography)

Long overdue...

OK, OK... I'm way behind and writing feels like a job lately so I'll really keep it short this time.

UPDATE: Photo post related to this one is HERE.

Dry and fast Saturday - Slow and muddy Sunday... that pretty much sums up the second weekend of OVCX racing at Brookside and St Mary's. I finished 14th and 16th after fighting the mud attempting to drive the bike on Sunday. I was let down after winning these two races in Cat 3 last year, but not upset over top 50% results.

Flat and power on Saturday - Hilly and power on Sunday for Gearfest and John Bryan. Finished 14th and 18th with two crashes over the bars in the first half lap at John Bryan. Results were falling backward instead of moving forward and I wasn't happy about it that but even with crashes that lead to my lower back going "out" I managed to hang onto a payout spot.

The next weekend was Gun Club - one of my favorite courses (everyone else's too). Though, when I tweeted that I'd pre-reg'd I got a message asking why I wasn't heading to the USGP in Ft Collins and offering space for me and a bike. After almost saying, "No thanks", calling myself an idiot, and talking it over with a few people, I was about to sit in a car for 19 hours each way for two one hour races. In the end, I didn't even get in two full hours as I got pulled each day but it was a great experience that helped get that "shock and awe" out of the way with no expectations. The altitude, while only a bit over 5200' was enough to hurt. Riding in the group I found myself in was comfortable until we started uphill and my body had nothing to give. My heart rate averaged just over 160 both days of racing when at home I routinely see averages over 180 for full hour races. The short summary of the weekend is a huge THANK YOU to Dion Easthouse (most of you know him from VeloVivid Photography) for the ride and encouragement! I'm not sure who coined the phrase, but he is certainly "good people!"

Next up was Bloomingcross, a moderately flat but twisty, dry, fast course. I tried a new pre-race approach starting Friday before that included alcohol, wedding food (no pizza), and an overall relaxed/roll with it mentality (per Dion's advice in FtC). I didn't take a trainer to the venue and only rode a few laps for warm up. I went to the start line calm and relaxed, yet smiling and ready to make someone's legs hurt for at least a couple laps. The race started, I hit the front for my fifth holeshot in six races (I've got to get them to give a cash award for this!) and kept on rolling without looking back. After a lap I was alone with only my teammate, Rob Kendall staying close. A lap later I was still there with Rob and Mitchell and no one close. I eventually fell off their pace and settled for 8th out of 35 for my best OVCX Elite finish to date - more than happy!

Finally a "weekend off" that included a little over six hours saddle time between the CX and road bikes to keep some endurance in the body. And I also had to spend a bit of time searching for a sense of urgency to study for the PE exam that Friday. The urgency didn't arrive until mid week and it might have been too late - results aren't mailed until December. Mostly I'm just glad the test is over!

And to finally catch up on racing action - this past weekend was Storm the Greens. The name doesn't really apply anymore, as the race moved from the old venue, an old golf course to Eva Bandman, home of Louisville 2013. The new name is a toss up between Storm the Hobos, Storm the Banks, and Be Sure to Lock Your Car. Anyway, the team race plan in the past had been to utilize my one lap speed to stretch out the field and allow teammates with poor starting positions to move through the field more easily - this week the goal was not to blow myself up. It worked - sort of. I took the holeshot again, but didn't go all in. I did enough to stay on the front, but not much more for the first half lap, then Rob Kendall came through (he's fast - 40 isn't slowing him down any!) and I settled in. Two laps later, I was still there - we were set up with Bob's Red Mill 1-2-3-4! We kept it that way until I just lost contact and a couple guys got through - still I felt like I belonged in the front group for a full 20 minutes! I settled right into the second group at the time and was feeling solid until I botched the second sand pit on two consecutive laps losing two and then five or six places and the all too valuable draft going into two of the straightaways. Somehow I managed to regain composure and lay down my third fastest lap on the final lap while trading blows with John Francisco (one of the trio of phenomenal 17-18 year old talent we have locally - also including Drew Dillman and Luke Haley). I managed to hang on without blowing chunks until my attack point, the last set of steps and hang on for 13th out of 49. Although not the best result, I'd consider it one of my best races to date - without the two missed lines in the sand, I'm pretty sure I'd have been racing for 8th in a much larger field!

OK - I said it'd be short and well, it wasn't. That's about as brief as I can be and that's two whole months of racing! I'll do a follow-up post with mostly photos from this same time period soon and there'll be nothing/little more to read than captions!