Tag Archives: race report

DCCX 2011 Race Report: A Difference of a Year

24 Oct

Amazing the difference in perspective from one year to the next.  Bottom line up front: same place as last year — 9th in the 3/4.

Last year, I was pretty ecstatic.  This year, I wanted better.  That said, I’m pleased.  I went into the race fighting off some sniffles, courtesy of my daughter, and still had it for a solid placing.

Thanks to 2nd at Hyattsville, I had a front-row start, and jumped out to take the holeshot for the first time ever.  Diced back and forth with Kyle from The Bike Lane/November/um, what team do you ride for, exactly? for the rest of the first half, lap, and unfortunately faded too much to jump up and grab the first-lap prime.

From there it was just a slow ebb of power.  I had one speed, whether I was trying to jump out of a corner or motor along on the flat, so I would close gaps on the technical sections and then see them open up again as soon as the course straightened out.  The DCCX course was still soft from a drenching on Wednesday, and the long power climbs were like riding through bubble gum.

Like I said, perspective.  An off day this year equals one of my best days on the bike last year.

There’s more to come later this season.

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Race Report, in Brief: Winchester Apple Cross

4 Oct

I’m just out of time to do this report properly right now, but aiming to post something before I forget it all.  We all (me, wife, son, daughter) headed out to Winchester for the Apple Cross on Sunday.  The rain of the previous week weeks month, plus the 2:00 start time, meant the course was torn up and downright boggy in lots of places.  I had a great time.

Not sure what my favorite part was:

  • starting from the back row of 76 starters, and working up through the field to finish 16th;
  • the mid-race wedding ring handoff to my wife, live-commentated by race announcer Bill S. from In The Crosshairs;
  • hearing “Go Daddy” all over the course as the boy rode around to different spots to cheer;
  • having my wife volunteer to wash my bike afterwards in exchange for chasing the kids around the playground;
  • seeing my son figure out how to get started pedaling on his bike (no training wheels) for the first time and watching his confidence grow as he ripped around the registration pavilion;
  • hanging out by the delightfully large fire in the pavilion’s fireplace; or
  • seeing teammates and friends and just soaking in the community that has developed around this little race that barely had a couple hundred racers a few years ago.
We needed all of that.  It’s been a rough couple of months, and a particularly stressful last two weeks.  I missed my first three races of the season, including my own team’s event.  I needed something to blow out the pipes and get a race under my belt; we needed to hang out as a family; the kids needed to burn off all the excess energy from being cooped up over the last few weeks; and I needed to see my wife in some of her many roles, beautiful woman, athlete, mother, caretaker and supporter.
 
I think would have been happy with a nondescript mid-pack finish.  Add in all that other great stuff and improving by a few places on last year’s finish, and I’m delighted.  I’ll be going back to that well of happiness a lot in the months ahead, I can tell.

Giro di Coppi: Get ya head right.

19 Jul

I went too early.

This thought entered my head with about 200 meters to go in the race, as the first two riders came by me on the left shortly after the DC Velo guy in front of me came to a near halt.

What was the tactical plan here again?

To be honest, I’d sort of meant it as a leadout.  I was shocked to be up near the front with 1k to go, delighted with the idea that I might somehow have a role to play after going way, way into the red to catch back on after a break attempt halfway through the lap.  Saw Jason sitting pretty, saw a hole opening in the front row, then closing as the aforementioned DC Velo guy jumped with a little over 500m to go, and before I knew it I’d motioned to Jason to follow (if he saw, he was smart enough to ignore me) and I was through and on the wheel.

We were going, we were launching; I glanced back under my arm and saw daylight.

Ugh, Jason didn’t get through.

Then:

Holy $#&*, we’ve got a gap.

I hit it as hard as I could, thought for a second as DC Velo started to fade and I tried to jump again to come off his wheel that I had a shot at holding the field off, that maybe I’d caught them napping by going so early.

Then the finish hill really started at 200m to go, and I was suddenly pedaling on legs of wet concrete.  Two came by.  Then another, then four, then before I knew it I was slogging through a crowd to the line — or more accurately, they were slogging past me, because I was hardly moving.

Another anonymous pack finish, though Jason shrewdly waited much later, timed his jump and took a strong second place.  Some comfort in a teammate’s success.

Jason makes his move while I've already become a bit of blue & white road furniture on the left. Image courtesy Jay Westcott, http://www.jaywestcott.net

Started to feel a bit better on the cooldown ride back to the school, realizing that as we’d been approaching the turn on to Barnesville Rd for the last four miles of the race, I’d been almost certain I was cooked and off the back.  I went in a two-up move halfway through the last 12-mile lap, following a (much more impressive) move by teammate Jordan and two others.  Unfortunately, my breakaway partner was unattached, so every other team in the race had reason to see us come back.  We still drove it, me hoping someone else would come across as much for the firepower as for the tactical help.

We had the fleeting pleasure of a lead big enough for the moto ref to move between us and the field, but it was short-lived.  And then the real suffering started, as I tried to recover up one of the tougher rolling sections of the course.  Spat out the back, clinging to other wheels as they came by.  We closed to 25m behind the field, but the gap went out again.  Then 20m, but again popped off as the pack accelerated down a roller.  The whole time, going what felt like just as hard as when I’d been off the front, even though I knew I was thrashing and flailing and generally not getting much power to the pedals at all.  Finally, got to 10m back, and I was able to make one last surge to get back in the field.

So yeah, I was a bit giddy to have moved up on the penultimate climb, to be advancing position again.  Seeing the front of the race once more was so unexpected that any sense went out the window.  “Jump on the wheel going way too soon on an uphill sprint notorious for eviscerating the early attacker?  Yeah, I can do that.”

So.  The engine is revved, the legs were well better than I expected.  But next time?

Get ya head right, son.

Update:  Apparently I missed another key detail; that after Jordan came back there was still one more rider left out front.  Oops.  Would have been helpful to bridge up to him, since he won the race in 2010.  Ah, not like I could have gone any harder in that move as it was.

Reston Town Center Grand Prix

7 Jul

Fast, fast, fast.  Jason’s got the highlights here.  Amazing how much more of the race you can see when you’re up at the front.

Reston is a great technical crit that rewards both raw speed and, with eight corners in 1.2k, bike handling.  It’s always in late June, and always a showcase crit, so guys show up flying.  This year it was even faster, coming a week after most of the field had been through three hard days of racing at the Tour of Washington County.  You can hope that the field will have tired legs after a big stage race, but a lot of the time it’s the opposite as guys are feeling the training effect of repeated hard days on the bike.  This was an amped-up field for sure.

My plans of a great start to ease the early fight for position were quashed by realizing on the line that I had a slow leak in the rear tire.  So sprint back to the car, quick wheel change from a helpful teammate, and get back to the rear of the group just in time for the last 30 seconds of the chief referee’s spiel.

The pattern was set by five minutes into the race: sprint hard to keep the gap manageable on the last two corners and uphill home stretch, then be super-aggro to close up gaps or move up through the corners on the rest of the course.  I wasn’t deliberately tail-gunning it, but I definitely heard the follow moto ref more than I had wanted.

Photo copyright Jay Westcott. http://www.jaywestcott.net

At one point, I noticed my tongue wasn’t dragging on the ground quite as much as before, and saw that the field had sat up with about 10 to go.  Amazing, I might actually make it through this thing.  Then a guy put in a short attack, and we were strung out again for a few laps, until six to go when the whole field just stopped pedaling.  Thanks to Joe Jefferson’s enthusiastic commentary I knew there was still a guy up the road, but everyone was just looking at each other.  One of the corner marshals said he had 20 seconds, which could well do it if we were all going to stare at each other.

We still had two sprinters and a late-break specialist in the field, so it seemed like a good time to light that last match and close this down.  I got to the front for the only time all day, and pulled for a lap or so.  The Bike Doctor guy off the front came back, the counter from Whole Wheel went immediately, and I was cooked.  I started looking for a wheel to grab but couldn’t hang on to anything.

As I spent a lap trying to cling to the field and finally being ejected from the rear, Jason was launching to get on what looked like the winning move.  I saw the three of them heading towards me as I came around the next-to-last turn, where the two parts of the course face each other.  The speed at which I was going to be lapped was as exhilarating as it was depressing: Jason’s move might just do it.  Those guys were flying.

I got yanked on the bell lap in order to ensure a clean finish, but the refs were kind enough to place me.  Unfortunately, Jason’s move was caught, and the guy from Carytown (who had just been in the previous move with Jason) won the sprint by lengths and lengths.

All in all, a hard, fun day on the bike.  And my teammate Jay was there with his camera making us all look like rockstars, so we’ve got that going for us.

HoCo2xCX: Rockburn Cross

22 Nov

Quick hits from today’s outing at Rockburn:

  • Go figure: Not riding your bike outside for most of the week is not good for maintaining handling skills.
  • Other errors: poor sleep all week, no pre-ride to speak of.  I was still trying to figure out the right lines on a few turns during laps three and four.  We only did five laps, so that didn’t work out so well.
  • 14th of 52 starters.  I guess I’ll take it, but I’m not all that psyched.  Took almost three laps for my legs to really wake up, and another lap after that for me to stop making dumb technical errors (e.g., passing someone with head down and then completely missing the next turn until I felt the course tape snapping across my forearms).
  • But it does feel good to win a sprint for whatever place you get.  So I’ve got that goin’ for me.
  • Now is the point in the cx season you get punished for not doing your homework.  All that core strength work I’ve been slacking off on doing?  The forgotten once-or-twice-a-week yoga session?  Yeah, my back and hamstrings are reminding me of that now.
  • Nice event by Adventures for the Cure.  Great venue, challenging course, good kids’ race (the boy won again; I’m worried the other three-year-olds will start calling him a sandbagger).  But why was there no signage anywhere at all?
  • Per FatMarc’s observation, it’s bad mojo to say, “ok, last lap/run/race.”  So I keep tacking another race on to the season every week a couple of days before what would otherwise be my last race.  Hoping to get my stoke on in NE next weekend.
  • Teammate Jeff is a good man.

Tacchino CX: What About Home Field Advantage?

9 Nov

We put on a darn fine race on Sunday if I do say so myself, though most of the credit goes to others who did far more work than I.  In particular, Promoter Jim deserves much love and adoration.  The man is something of a visionary when it comes to putting together a full day’s entertainment that just happens to involve a cyclocross race.  I’m serious — if you put this guy in charge of Nats no one would know what hit them, but they’d all go away damn sure they had a good time.

Oh, yeah, the racing.  Child care contingencies meant I showed up too late to pre-ride the course and instead went straight to work at registration.  If you were helped by a rather inefficient man with a baby strapped to his chest, that was me/us.  So my warmup (once I conned got new teammate Tara to watch the baby) was a) running back to the parking lot to get my bike, b) crashing as I carried my pit wheels and my son’s balance bike under one arm and got my frayed pants cuff caught in the chain, and c) slathering lots of embro on my legs to try to make up for the non-warmup.

Note: Home field advantage doesn’t mean jack if you don’t actually know the field.  I knew I should have volunteered for course setup instead of registration and tear-down.

As it turned out, though, that warmup was perfect preparation for what I was about to do.  Got a great start from the third row and with some slightly aggro (but not too rude) riding was sitting in tenth at the start of the second lap.  Just coming out of the twisty woods section to get on the first gravel road stretch, I put too much front brake on and locked it up in a corner (see: pre-ride, lack of) and went down.  Got up to discover I’d rolled my front tire.  So, off I ran for about 2/3 of a lap to get to the pit.  I was way in the back by the time I got there.

Editorial comment:  Where the hell was my beer feed?  Of all the times for no one to be offering me alcohol — seriously, this time I would have taken the handup.

Prior goal: podium and/or contend for win.  New goals: don’t get lapped, and see how many people I can catch.

In the end, I still made it on the first page of the results in forty-somethingth.  Caught plenty of guys, got a shout out from our announcer about the fact I’d forgotten to take my name card out of the spokes before leaving the pit.  “He’s competing in the Squadra Coppi AlleyCat 2010, folks!”

And now I’m sore in all sorts of weird places from running so long with the bike on my shoulder.  Yet another reason why you shouldn’t believe anyone who tells you that there’s no need to train to run for cyclocross.

The rest of the day was rather glorious, with the boy taking home the win in his Lil’ Belgians age group and me screaming “You’re my heroes!” to my married couple teammates as they cruised by in the tandem race while the sun set and you could just make out the “Baby on Board” sign the stoker wore.  Lots of other good memories to write about, but I’ll give those their due in a less egocentric post.

Kinder ‘Cross Race Report

4 Nov

Fun times this past weekend.  But first, a message from our sponsors:

The Tacchino Ciclocross is this Sunday at Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, MD — come on out and race!  I’d try to describe just how much fun this will be but I can’t do it justice.  I’ll let my friend, teammate, and race promoter the Unholy Rouleur do the talking:

We’re working to give you a lot of reasons to join us.  We’ve added a little bit of length to the course with a sweeper section with some off-cambers, some stairs, and more gravel road.

Off the course, there will be a moon bounce where your young’n’s can bounce themselves dizzy.  There will also be a roller race, and a Huffy toss… featuring a truly unique, high end stand-in for Huffy, with prizes for those who rock the rollers and toss the Huffy strongest. Team tents will again line the course, with preferred parking close to the pavilions for teams that request it in advance.  Pineapple Alley Catering – who hit it out of the park last year with Belgian style sausages and pommes frites – will be back with that menu, and will add Belgian desert treats.  And for those adults interested in bouncing themselves dizzy, funk band Gallons to Ounces will be playing again, and our sponsor Duvel/Ommegang has added their prestigious Duvel Green to the draft beers on tap.

Of course, since he wrote that, the prize list has just gone completely off-the-hook crazy.  Over $5000 in prizes and swag being handed out.  First-lap primes.  Mid-race primes.  Best kill ratio (start at the back and catch as many as you can) prizes.  And a prize list for the top placings that makes turning yourself inside out even more appealing (beyond, you know, the love of suffering itself, which is the entire premise of this blog and not something to be taken lightly).  Sponsors including Conte’s of Arlington/Bethesda, the Acorn Inn in Nellysford, VA, Stevil Kinevil of All Hail the Black Market, Duvel/Ommegang, Voler, Well Oiled Wine Co., and the Java Shack of Arlington, VA.

Oh. My. God.  This race will be amazing and you should come DO IT!  Tell your friends.

Online registration is closed, but day-of registration is still available in all races everything but the Men 4 and Masters 3/4 (Promoter Jim helpfully set me straight there).  Info here.

Did I mention the weather forecast is sunny, high in the 50s?  Seriously, if you haven’t cleared your schedule to come out for this, what the heck is wrong with you?

Right, so Kinder ‘Kross (I can’t deal with the misspelling so that is the only time I will write it that way in this post) hosted by ABRT was this past weekend on Halloween, out near Annapolis.  My mom and grandmother were visiting, so the whole family piled into a couple of cars and came out.  Most important detail: the boy finished first in the 3-and-under race.  He was psyched and ready to do it all again immediately.

This was a first-year event and as such a huge contrast to the full fields, noise, and general atmosphere of DCCX.  But the venue, Kinder Farms Park, shows some great potential and the proximity to DC could make this a top event with a bit of refinement.  The lower section was a seemingly endless series of 180s on grass, though they made great use of a few off-camber slopes to spice it up.  The turns do need a little opening up, however — there was really no flow.  And in my ideal world the barriers would be on a flatter section so those with some ‘cross-specific skills can carry a bit more speed into the remount.  Following a slightly uphill barrier with a power climb really negates the barrier a bit.  Or, put the barrier on a steeper hill and make it a true run-up.

I got a great start in the small field, but hesitated and didn’t quite go for the hole shot.  I’ve been turning over since then whether or not this was a mistake; instead I was second into the grass.  We were braking a ton through all the twisty sections, but there was no room to get around and I wasted a bit of energy trying to get past on the second lap.  If I’d just been leading, then I could have been gapping people through those turns rather than blunting my sprint to no good end.

This came back to bite me about halfway through as I started to fade.  I would make up lots of ground in the twisty section, but could never get in front, and would get gapped again on the two bumpy climbs on the course.  I didn’t have the focus I did at DCCX and had a short weak patch, before rallying on the last two laps to regain one lost place and come in sixth.

I was still fairly psyched about this (best placing this season, after all), until the latest crossresults.com points list came out today and confirmed my fears that the small field size would come back to bite me.  Boo.

Upside:  I’m on the home team this Saturday.  It’s a series race.  And I got a good enough workout at Wednesday’s practice to be woozy for hours afterwards.  Perfect.