Wednesday, November 23, 2011
After pretty much following in step with the ABRA and WVMBA calendars for the entire season, I took a turn and, rather than racing some super fun cross races within an hour of home, decided to spend my weekends high on coffee and nutella driving up and down the east coast to participate in the collegiate racing series. As a student at WVU, I have the awesome opportunity to continue to race mountain bikes until the end of October therefore extending my already long mountain season by about a month.
I posted some serious results during the collegiate season taking multiple wins and never anything less than a 3rd place finish. The season rounded out with the WVU home race at Wisp Resort on October 15-16 serving as the conference championship. Taking an early lead on lap one of the three lap 26 mile XC race, I took the win by around 10 minutes. The course was great and suited me well being fairly climbing with a 2.5 mile long climb leading to the finish. Later that afternoon, I also competed in the short track race on top of the mountain where I tore apart the race by lapping the entire field. The course was, again, great. It was definitely a power course providing huge opportunities to lay down some serious wattage and make some big moves. It also had a nice big rock garden tossed in to keep thing interesting for both racers and spectators alike.
So, after all of the conundrums that come with traveling 4-6 hours every weekend and hosting a race it was time to get focused for the National Championship. Seeing as we would be heading to nearly 9000 feet at Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico, I knew I was going to need to take some serious fitness with me in order to try and negate the effects of the altitude as much as possible. Competing against guys from Colorado means that, all else constant, they have a 10% advantage on me just from living and training at elevation consistently. However, Coach Rob knew this all too well and set me up with a serious workout plan for the two weeks to get me in shape for a National level race. With a painful bliss, I hammered out interval after interval until it was time to hop on the plane to Albuquerque.
After too many hours of plane, airport, and car we arrived at the resort. Upon arrival I received a visual reminder of the elevation. Snow not only dusted but coated the top of the mountain about 1500 vertical feet above the base of the resort. I saw this as no big deal until I came to realize that the XC race snaked its way up through the woods all the way to the peak. That left some decisions to be made on clothing. Too little and I would be a popsicle at the top but too much and I may end up a cold, sweaty gym sock.
I headed out for my initial preride of the course on Wednesday afternoon which my youtube video does a good job of describing and showing. At that point, the course was awesome. Not too muddy and pretty tacky. However, when we woke up Thursday morning it was a different a story. Old man winter paid Angel Fire an early visit and left the town covered in 6ish inches of snow. I headed down to the bike shop to see what was going on in terms of course conditions and was told that they were cleaning the course with shovels and snow blowers. So after waiting a few hours for things to get cleaned up and taking time to throw on a tackier rear tire I headed out for preride number two. This time things proved entirely different. The course was not only covered in snow but also beginning to turn into a quagmire. The climb up wasn’t too bad but the descent was absolutely terrible and left me covered in a sticky, constantly hardening clay. At that point I realized that not only would the race be a physical test of ability but also a mental test of sheer desire.
Our condo was nicely placed two hops and a jump away from the start so there was no rush in the morning to get ready for the race. After getting up around 7 AM to eat, I milled around the place, watched some TV, and slowly got my cloths ready. Around 10:45 I headed down to get warmed up and check out the course and it’s a good thing too! On the ride over I noticed some shifting problems, which ended up being caused by a tweaked hanger. Thanks to the handy guys from Shimano though I had a new hanger slapped on and was warming up by 11:15.
The start went off with a bang at 12:05 and it wasn’t even 30 seconds before I was off the bike. Starting 3 rows deep and in the middle of the pack, I couldn’t get a line to the outside around the madness of lost traction and was forced to dismount with many others on the first climb. I hustled up, went cross eyed, and ran my butt off to get around and in front of most of the madness. Maybe 3 minutes later I was off the bike again, running with everyone else through ankle deep muck. The course had already had 2 races and nearly 100 riders over it 5 times before we hit it so things were just an absolute crap shoot. I ran hard, rode harder, and crashed even harder until I found myself finishing the first lap of three in 12th place. Riding solid behind two University of Colorado guys for most of lap two, I was able to keep a good pace with them and pass one at the top of the climb. I chased the other one, going back and forth with him, for the last lap until he got a lead on me in the final descent and then sealed the deal when I overshot the last muddy turn and hit the deck. Being my first National level event and first event at altitude, I can’t complain about my 11th place finish although I do wish I could have reeled in that UC rider.
Saturday brought the short track and another chance for me to try myself in a huge field. With 71 starters on the line I was more than nervous given the speed of a short track. When the gun went off I punched the gas and immediately began elbowing my way to the outside. We started into a climb again and there was no way I was getting stuck behind a bunch of guys slower than me again! I found a Fort Lewis wheel and let me lead me towards the front. Whoever the kid was, he was riding super well and I was hoping to hold his wheel for most of the race however he gave it a little more gas than I had at one point and I lost him. Midrace or so I made a move for the top five. I was feeling good so I launched an attack, which was unfortunately thwarted by fatigue and the altitude. I ended up dropping back to 12th where I remained for the rest of the race. Again, I am super happy with this result given the many firsts but was a little disappointed that my A game didn’t show up for the short track.
Overall, the mountain bike season was pretty good to me. Being my first “serious” year on the bike and training I have to say I am stoked to look back and see what I accomplished. I don’t think it is quite time to hang up the race shoes for the year yet though…..I mean, there is still cross! Well, back to the airport and homework!
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Saturday will kick off with a Cross Country race out in ACSI territory on the backside of the mountain. After XC concludes Short Track and Super D will take place on the front side of the mountain utilizing 1/3 of the downhill trails on the mountain. Sunday morning will start off with Dual Slalom and end with a gnarly DH race down High Roller and Resurrection.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
In total, about 30-40 or so cyclists started the trek over the Westover bridge and towards 100. The initial route followed the Hammer route up big shannon, and it felt quite odd not riding at hammer pace. At the intersection, we turned right onto Schriver Hill road. Following a break to fix a flat, I was rejoined by both Darren and Marco, both of whom missed the turn-round back in Mt. Morris. Shortly after turning onto Kirby road, we neared the 45 mile / 60 mile route turns, where I took the 60 and waved Darren off as he took the 45. To quote the previous post, I had thought Marco also turned off for 45 miles.
The 60 mile group then picked up the pace a little bit, but was forced to stop for a flat after about another 5 miles. As the group was getting ready to go again, to my surprise Marco pulls up next to me claiming Rule #5 and going for the full 60 miles. Impressed with his willingness to go for it, I wished him luck, while not guaranteeing he would get the same support received the day before should he crack.
Once we started going again a good paceline formed for most of the trek up 19 to Waynesburg. It was about here that the rain really started coming down, making the next set of miles miserably wet. At about the 40th mile, we stopped at a food point for some much needed nourishment, which consisted mostly of cookies and cream pies. However, during this whole period - Marco was nowhere to be found. With nobody knowing where he was, and knowing that some people were picked up by the sag wagon, we continued onward. Eager to get out of the rain, the group worked at a good tempo pace, with JR occasionally throwing down some attacks, none of which my legs wanted to cover but occasionally responded to.
Pulled back into Morgantown just over three and a half hours, finishing with 65 miles on the day. Good long ride with a good group.
The ride proceeded to a 7-eleven for water and food. We were about to start riding again when Marco rolled by, apparently he had missed the turn off. Marco was in it for the long haul and did well until we approached the 45 mile mark when he got dropped. The next 15 miles consisted of Gunnar, Kyle, Dave and myself taking turns pushing Marco up hills and back into the peloton until we could get to a spot with cell service so we could call for a pick up…Marco wasn’t the last to need a pick up.
The rest of the ride consisted of steady climbing and hard intervals on the flat. Most notably was the section from Big Shannon to Masontown where for some reason several of us decided to line up and crush it. The effort ended with Gunnar, Kyle and myself rolling into town alone. All in all, it was a great 103 mile ride on a great day. Good job to everyone, especially that 16 year old kid known as “the kid” (I know, we’re soooo creative.) The best part is, tomorrow’s A.S.S. ride should ‘be even more better’ with doughnuts and a pizza buffet afterwards.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Saturday morning at first looked to be similar to many of our previous race days, as the rain started coming down just as I started loading up the SuperSix for the Greene County Road Race. For the WVU Cycling team, rainy race days have become the rule, not the exception, as many of our previous race weekends have had miserable weather at best. However, after crossing the state line into Pennsylvania, rainy skies turned into clouds, which turned into sun. It might be a good day after all.
While the stormy forecast might have scared off a few people, over 40 starters were present for the combined mens 4/5, 5 field. Racing for WVU was Kyle Kukieza and myself. Other familiar faces included the Dynamic guys, including president Todd Latocha. Once the race started, I found myself getting pushed to the back of the field from some eager Cat 5's. Although at this point all I wanted to do was sit in, I did not want to have to navigate through a field once the climb came up. With Kyle behind my wheel, I made a move to move back up to the top third or so and jumped back inside and stayed put until the climb. Once we started going up, I shortly found myself up at front with Todd by my side. Although him and I are relatively strong climbers, we didn't really push the tempo up enough to truly break away.
Cresting the peak, our tempo pace had split the leaders to about a group of eight, with one a bit off the front. Not being too overly concerned, our group worked well to slowly bring back the leader. The middle section of the course was mostly flat and rolling, and the group maintained a strong paceline throughout. Soon after passing the 27th mile, I took a GU to prepare for the hill climb carnage that would soon be upon us. The "tentative" plan of attack for the hill was to ramp up the tempo hard with Todd and try and stay away. In addition, Kyle would be blocking any attempt at a chase to bring us back in the end. Kyle graciously accepted the sacrificial role in exchange for a lead-out if the either the break didn't stick or happen.
As we hit the hit the noticeable part of the climb, it suddenly got real hot. Not knowing the climb length, I let Todd get a couple bike lengths on me in fear of blowing up. Unfortunately, the climb was much shorter than I anticipated and I hit the crest with a match or two that could have been used. Despite that, I was sitting 4th and riding solo and I knew I was likely the last person who got away. If I wanted to keep my place, I had to give it everything and hope Kyle was doing his job behind me. When I saw the 1 mile to go sign I found some extra energy and cruised to the finish.
As it turns out, Kyle was in a group of three behind me, doing his best to slow down the chasing pace. Once he knew I was clear, he was free to move and prepare for his sprint. Despite a mechanical not allowing him to sprint out of the saddle, he still won out and claimed 5th. In summary, it turned out to be a great day for racing and a perfect execution of team tactics (contrast to my last post!) allowed both of us to finish top 5.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
This past Sunday was the road race leg of our home race weekend, following an awesome downtown crit in Clarksburg, WV. The road race course was about a 12.2 mile loop with some rollers and 2 climbs. The climbs themselves were respectable in terms of grade and length, certainly enough to break a C field. The morning of the race was certainly an adventure, as driving from Morgantown to Lost Creek in a thick fog got my attention up a lot faster than my coffee did. Fortunately, the race got delayed half an hour, which gave me some more time to digest my epic Black Bear dinner from the previous night. Very clutch. However unfortunately, our police lead cars did not show up in time and Todd had to drop out of the race to fill in.
Once the race started, Kyle and the NC State freshman set the pace up front at about 18 miles an hour for about the first 7 miles. Somehow they also managed to effectively block anyone else from attacking during this time. Once we got to the gravel hill I finally said enough is enough and launched an attack and drove up the pace. After hitting the descent, there was about 8-10 riders who could sustain my pace and I thought this would mean a break group would form.
Nope, huge wrong on that one.
I can't begin to explain how many people would not take a pull and just slowed the pace down. Not only did this let dropped racers back in, but relegated me to the back after a hard pull. Not much else happened the rest of the second lap, although the pace was at least above 22mph. Had a short conversation with Kyle just before the climbs, saying if we were going to make a gap, we had to do it this time. As we were getting ready to hit the gravel climb the second time I heard a scream from behind me. I didn't know what happened or how, but Kyle was down and out. Still, I attacked again on the climb trying to shed as much of the group as possible. Crested the peak with VT and App riders close by and this time I surely thought a gap could form.
Once again, following the descent people would not pull. After some serious yelling and unkind words, people started doing work and an apparent break of 6-7 riders formed. This carried about until the first set of rollers came again and I found myself off the front after nobody followed my pull. I was not about to slow the pace down so I continued to attack. After maybe a minute a Navy rider pulls along side me and says "WVU, its just you and me." I was definitely ok with this and we started doing some serious work. This must have lit a spark up the chasing field as they caught back on after a couple miles and instantly shut the pace back down. Once again, the group increased to about 14 or so and I was getting pretty unhappy. I knew if I didn't get away for good on the climb this final time it would be a lot harder to post a podium finish. As with the previous laps, I put myself up front going into the gravel climb and gave it my all to get away. When cresting the top of the hill, I had maybe 10 seconds on 2nd, who undoubtedly had time on others behind him. Taking any and all chances to stay away, I hit the descent hard and fast giving my all to stay away.
Then it happens, caught by VT. But its the final stretch into the finish - He'll push on with me to the end right?
He sits up. App catches on. App sits up. Now the sprinters are all back in it. At this point I'm frustrated. The final mile is a mess of attacks and responses, and despite my efforts, the end of the race turns into a field sprint and I finish 8th.
In road racing, getting help from teammates is essential. Whither blocking, helping to launch an attack, or leading out, having help in the field is undoubtedly a difference maker. I learned this the hard way, watching other teams work together to take away my efforts. Some help blocking, and or sustaining and the race outcome is probably a different story. Hopefully next weekend with the C squad back in action, we can turn the tides and launch an attack that sticks.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
Our first year guys have been a presence in the Mens D field, with Kyle and Dave consistently posting top ten finishes and Jeff not too far behind. Kyle also scored a big win this past weekend at the Duke Criterium, breaking away from the field on the second lap and staying away throughout.
In the Womens C field, Mikaela has been holding strong, gaining valuable race experience. Thus far, she has posted a huge win during the William and Mary Individual Time Trial, as well as 2nd place finishes for the William and Mary Road Race and Duke Criterium, and 3rd place finishes for the NC State Road Race and Criterium.
Representing the team in Mens C has been Chad and myself. Unfortunately Chad was caught up in a crash during the field sprint of the William and Mary Road Race and has been out of action since with a cracked rib. Hopefully he will be able to rejoin the team at some point before the end of the season. Meanwhile, I've been holding my own and finishing with respectable results. The highlight of which being a 5th place finish in the Navy Individual Time Trial.
Our lone mens A rider, Duncan has demonstrated that one doesn't need to follow a rigorous training plan to be fast. Driven by a goal of participation in Nationals in what will be his final race season, Duncan has performed admirably; posting consecutive 4th place finishes during the Duke Road Race and Criterium, a 6th place finish at the William and Mary Individual Time Trial, and a pair of 7th place finishes at the Navy Criterium and Individual Time Trial.
At the midpoint of the race season, Kyle, Mikaela, and Duncan will be looking to help solidify their position in the individual omnium standings, while everyone else will be aiming to get into the mix and make things interesting. The second half of the season will feature road courses with more climbs, which certainly plays to many of our racers strong points. Hopefully we will also see an increase in racers as the weather gets warmer and drives get shorter.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Well thanks to a few navigational errors and emergency bathroom breaks we got up there shortly after high noon to a packed, snow covered, and unorganized parking lot to heaven within a slightly run down industrial park. As I walked in I could hear angels sing as soon as I opened the doors. It eventually was drowned out by my verbal frustration at the line to the cash register, and my computer waiver form not getting accepted. Eventually we passed the guards, got a wrist band, and started shredding. Trying not to go too big too soon, we stuck to the beginners/warmup room and the xc loop at first. Then it was like being in the movie labyrinth - except no David Bowie and the creatures were replaced by little kids wrecking in front of you everywhere - because everywhere around every obscure corner was a new exciting area. They used every single square foot of that place! I felt like a kid trying to describe it to people – “They had jumps and berms and logs and an elevator and teeter-totters and a pump track and a foam pit….” In all seriousness, if you are a mountain biker of any skill level, you need to see this place with your own eyes. You also have to try and not be intimidated. There’s so many good riders there, most humiliating of all is the little kid on a bmx bike, hitting every jump so much smoother than me, or a crazy pool–like park area where everyone is watching as I attempt three failed wall rides. Probably the best part is the foam pit. I’m not much for tricks, but here’s a chance to try stuff you wouldn’t normally – especially since the consequences are minimal (like me landing crotch first onto my top tube). The best part is there’s a tv with a 30 second delay so you can watch yourself superman off the bike during a failed no-hander (Tyler), do a squirmish whip (Zerbe), or nosing it over the ramp (Hilty) – as you climb out of the foam blocks. Speaking of, thanks to my slight weight problem and my bike’s slight weight problem, I would bury myself everytime upon landing. Sequoya commented “Zerbe, you go deeper than anyone else.” Worst part of the foam pit is the kids, either the ones who think this is a wooden themed chucky cheese, or the ones who ride right up, cut you off in line, and flop in taking twice as long to get out or the way. Everyone laughed as I lifted the one kid in the air solely by his one arm, then he refused to take Hilty’s hand next time he was stuck. We did not take a camera, but I paid someone a hefty reward for catching a rare glimpse of Hilty mid-flight.
Next time we go this season (and there will definitely be a next time) we’ll have some crazy sick pictures….