Monday, November 9, 2009

1st Place at Tacchino!

Race #5 in the Mabra Cyclocross Series took place on a warm day down in Upper Marlboro, MD. An unfamiliar track faced the racers in the 2009 Tacchino Ciclocross. The Squadra Coppi Cycling Team's annual race had been contested in previous years in Leesburg, VA. A short, uphill sprint on the pavement kicked the race off. Neal Sapp took the holeshot but a good start put me right on his wheel. He was keeping a solid pace so I was happy to hold my position throughout much of the first lap. A first-lap prime (a free tire-glueing at Conte's Bike Shop) was up for grabs so I decided to slip around Neal on the back side. While pre-riding the course earlier that morning I noticed that it could be difficult to pass in the finishing section. There was a couple of 180 degree turns followed by a fast sweeping downhill on grass before you hit the pavement for a short sprint to the line. I wanted to test my theory early in the race and go for the prime. The move was a good one because I had no problem holding the chasers off until the line. The next couple laps saw the field shatter and the riders in the lead group rotate on the front. The pace was not painfully high. No one made any hard attacks to get away. I was content to let it play out and ready for any moves. With a lap to go, the pace started to pick up. I jumped after one attack and found myself on the front early in the last lap. I wanted to keep a good pace but did not want to go into the red too much and be ready for the finish. No one tried to pass. I think everyone was content to let me lead for a bit. There was a few sections were you could get a draft so they were waiting to pass later. I just kept the pace going at a solid speed. The race was single file as we neared the backside. I knew if I could just get to that technical finish I would be hard to beat. I began to get closer and closer. Neal Sapp was close behind chasing in and out of each corner. I was concerned about one area...a slightly uphill, wide-open grass section. I poured on the gas to make sure Neal did not pass. I took the right lines at the finish while Neal could only follow. I hit the pavement with speed and had no problem holding it to the line for the win (and the Ommegang Tacchino Jersey!).

Monday, November 2, 2009

5th Place on Halloween

Halloween day saw another break in the Mabra series with the Pax Velo Cycling Club's All Hallows CX Race.  Once again I saw this as an opportunity to get some experience and race in the regular 3/4 category.  The course had a little of everything to offer.  A steady rain the prior evening and morning of the race turned a seemingly simple section of the course into a slippery mudfest.  After a long, slightly uphill grass start the course ventured out over some fast fireroads before heading into the woods over rooted single-track.  I started on the second row but was able to get to the front by the time the field entered the first turn.  The first lap was a mad pace and slowly weeded out the competition.  The lead group was down to four by the middle of the 2nd lap.  The pace continued to be high but was feeling good about the situation.  Most of the course was flat so I sat in as much as possible to conserve energy.  I was confident in and out of the slick corners and felt I could stay close and try and make a move later in the race.  My only concern was the mountain-biker friendly single-track on the backside.  My skills in that area are a bit weak and there is not much terrain similar to that throughout the season. I was getting gapped each time through and had to dig hard to get back on with the lead group.  I continued to fight hard but finally lost touch with a little over two laps to go.  We entered the long muddy stretch where the tires dig in deep and you have to give it all you have just to propel the bike forward and keep it upright.  I quickly went in to the red zone.  My legs were screaming as they filled with lactic acid.  Stephen Wahl and I could only watch as Andrew Welch and Rusty Williford eased away.  I had aspirations of recovering and chasing them down but it was not meant to be. I really suffered from all the previous efforts and had to focus just to get through the rest of the race.  One rider slipped away from the chase group and settled in with me and Stephen.  I knew the podium was in reach as long as there was no mistakes so I found a effort level I could live with and rode in for a 5th place podium finish.

The Mabra Series starts up again next week in Upper Marlboro, MD.  My win last week puts me on top of the standings in the B Masters so I will be looking for a victory and to preserve my 1st place ranking. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Victory in DC!

The Mabra Cyclocross series resumed on Sunday down in Washington DC with the very popular DCCX CX Race. 506 pre-registered racers converged on our nation’s capital to do battle at the 4th race in the 9 race schedule. Ranked #2 in the ¾ 35+ category earned me another front row start in the 115 person field scheduled for a 10:00am start and it was very helpful in the slightly uphill start. A group of 5 made the selection fairly quickly due to the technical sections early in the course. Keith Rohr, Neal Sapp, Kenneth Morris, Jonathan Seibold, and myself put a gap on the field that would stay until the end. The key feature of the race put on by Family Bike Shop of Crofton was the long flat section over crushed gravel that traveled straight into the wind. Keith led the group through on the first lap while we all sat in each others draft protected from the wind. I took over on the second lap and deliberately slowed the pace a bit through the windy area. There was no need to work too hard seeing as how we had already put in significant time on the chase group. Shortly after, Neal Sapp went on the offensive using his proficient bike-handling skills and attempted to get a gap on the lead pack. We were able to shut down the move. I continued to stay patient and monitor the situation. As with every race, there was moments when I was deep in the red and hurting. I just told myself, “they are hurting too!” Keith, having the best motor of the bunch, put in a hard attack through the wind in the effort to snap us from his wheel on the next to last lap. The move was risky but he knew if he was successful it could mean victory. Fortunately, Neal and I were able to hold on and the effort probably cost Keith in the end. Neal then took over at the front for a bit and as we entered the course after the starting area I sensed a slowing of the pace. I assume Neal did not want to be on the front for the last lap and thought that this was an opening. My legs were not totally ready for the move but you have to go when opportunity presents itself. I jumped out of the saddle and quickly got a small gap while Neal chased. With the windy, flat section near I knew I had to make a decision…can I take this all the way to the house on my own? Will Neal and Keith ride together and chase me down leaving me exhausted for the sprint finish? My answer came to me in the form of a crash by Neal. As he chased, he came around a muddy corner too fast and slid out dropping his chain in the process. I had only one option…ride as hard as I can! I was able to navigate all technical areas and avoid any dumb mistakes on my way end. A 15 second gap allowed me to come across the finish line with my hands in the air celebrating my biggest win ever!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

3rd in the 3/4 at Winchester!

The Winchester Wheelmen hosted The Apple Harvest Cross at Jim Barnett Park in Winchester, VA this past weekend. Like last weekend, this race is not sanctioned by either the Mabra or MAC series so I decided to move up into a stronger category for the experience. I chose the regular 3/4 instead of the usual 3/4 35+. I thought chasing a bunch of young guys around in the mud would be fun.

The course was soggy from all the rain we had in the days before but mother nature gave us a break from the showers on race day. A fast and furious start allowed a small group to get a gap. Stephen Wahl had an early mechanical which cost him valuable time but he would put in a good ride and finish 5th on the podium. With a little more than 2 laps to go, Andrew Welch, Paul Rades and myself were at the front. These two were strong and really fighting it out while I was trying to stay close. I came around a corner and headed straight into a muddy section where I lightly tapped my front break and my wheel came to a halt throwing me straight over the handlebars. As I am flying through the air all I can think about is the bike. It was also going to take a fairly hard spill. Please be damage! I jump up and the first thing I notice is that the chain has come off. I quickly get it back on. I then jump on the bike and realize that the seat is bent sideways. I attempt to ride it with the seat sideways but I knew that was not going to work. I jump off and start slamming the seat back in place as Rusty Williford and Tim Brown, last weeks 3/4 winner at Hyattsville, pass me. I finally get it back in place and start to chase. I'm in 5th place at the moment with moving up on my mind. I catch Tim and he says he is at his limit. I go by and start after Rusty. As I come around the next corner I see Paul Rades has had a puncture and walking his bike off the course. Andrew is all alone at the front soloing away for his first career win. I continue to chase but have to settle for 3rd place.

The Mabra Series starts back up next weekend in Washington DC.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two Races in One Day!

The Route 1 Velo Cycling Club hosted the first-ever Hyattsville Cross Race on Sunday near Washington DC. They put together a fast, technical course that required both power and skill. The race is not apart of either the Mabra or MAC cyclocross series so the fields were not as big and the competition not as steep. I registered in my usual category at 10am (3/4 35+) but also figured this would be a great opportunity to do a double and jump into a higher category race and test the waters.

The race organisers made the decision to do call-ups (invitation to the front row based on points earned throughout the season) based on the current Mabra standings. I got off to a very nice start as we ripped through the short prolouge and entered the course. Stephen Robinson, who has beaten me in the two races we have competed against each other in this year, was clearly going to be the favorite to take the victory. He immediately went on the offensive and started the selection. I was able to stay near him while Kenneth Morris, similiar to last week, was hanging close on my wheel. Over the next couple laps, Stephen would pull away on the flats while I would pull him back on the technical sections. Kenneth was still there glued to my wheel. I considered talking to Kenneth and trying to work with him to catch Stephen seeing how sections of the course were flat and fast and favored drafting but decided against it. I gambled that he would struggle to hang on by having to make up the small gaps from sprinting in and out of corners and technical sections over time. My goal was to stay in front and be ready for any mistake that Stephen might make. Unfortunately, he did not make any and I could not reel him in on the final lap. With Kenneth really close near the end, I dismounted and ran the sand section to assure no major mistake, maintained my slight lead, and powered home for the 2nd spot on the podium (and a $50 gift certificate to the local bike shop).

The 1/2/3 35+ race was a 12:15 start which gave me a little over an hour to recover and get ready. After the 3/4 podium presentation I choked down a PB&J sandwich and got off my feet for a bit before starting my usual routine of warming up. My goals in this race were quite simple given the fact that I had just raced earlier...survive...and not come in last! As I mentioned earlier, this was not a Mabra or MAC sanctioned race so many of the big guns were not in town so I felt if I rode steady and smart I could make it through while learning alot. I got a decent start even though I was near the back of the pack and after a lap found myself settling in with 3 other guys. I was happy to sit 4th wheel for a couple laps and assess the situation. I was trying to find an effort level that I could sit on and maintain throughout the race because I didn't think I could handle the hard spikes consistently. I was able to stay with this group and actually felt strong on the last lap. I made a hard charge over the barriers and passed a couple of the guys. I then sat on the wheel of the next rider and waited to make a move around him near the end. I could tell he was hurting so I slipped by him immediately after the sand section and made my move to drive it to the finish as all 3 of them chased. I rounded the corner to hit the pavement section where you have to navigate a sharp right hand turn to face the long sprint finish and realized that Keith Rohr was in reach. I clicked down the gears and prepared to give it all I had to try and clip Keith at the finish line but unfortunately he took the corner too wide, got caught up in the tape and hit the pavement. I avoided the crash and sprinted to the finish line holding off all chasers for a very satisfying 11th place. Congratulations to good friend Mike Birner of Ben's Performance Bike Shop for taking his first victory of the season!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

3rd and 5th Place Finishes for the Double Race Weekend.

Last weekends breakaway group were at it again on Saturday at The Breast Cancer Awareness CX Race in Hagerstown. Chip Hoover, Keith Rohr, and myself took the top three spots on the podium. The course was dry but splintered immediately again this week but this time due to technical, off-camber sections. Chip got a early gap first and then Keith put in a solid effort to pull some distance from me. We ran a couple of laps in that order and I was slowly gaining on Keith but then I made my only mistake. I came into a corner too fast and got caught in the tape forcing me to dismount. I was then passed by two racers, Kenneth Morris and Neal Sapp. I jumped on the saddle and the chase began. I quickly bridged up to the two guys that had just went by me and then slipped in front of them. The effort winded me and I took a few moments to recover while they both stayed close to my wheel. They continued to track me for half a lap but I finaly broke the elastic and pulled away. I then knew, barring any major mistakes, that with only a lap to go that I had a 3rd place finish wrapped up. I almost began to ride conservatively but my teamates watching began to yell that Keith was slowing and that I could catch him if I pushed hard. I pushed hard! I seemed to be making up a little ground on all the technical sections and by the time we got near the finish I had it down to about 4 seconds. Unfortunately, the finish is immediately after a technical section where there is little room to pass and I could not make up the final gap.

Sunday at Kelley Acres the racers saw a mountain-biker type course that rewarded profiecient bike-handling skills. Jonathan Seibold certainly fits that mold. He got off to an amazing start and never looked back winning wire-to-wire. My race was simply one of survival. After a few laps I found myself in 5th holding on to the last spot on the podium. I knew that with a little hard racing and risk-taking that I could catch up to the racer in 4th and improve my podium spot/points for series classification. Backfire! A hard slideout at the bottom of a sharp turn that dropped my chain once again saw two racers go by just like the day before. Once again I chased and slowly reeled them both in. I settled in, rode hard but smart and wrapped up another spot on the podium. My youngest daughter Kailtlyn was able to stand on the podium with me and she gladly accepted my prize of a container of Rich’s Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Bar-B-Que.

Click link for Saturday's podium photo

Friday, October 2, 2009

Double Race Weekend!

Saturday and Sunday will see Races #2 and #3 in the Mabra Cyclocross Series. The Breast Cancer Awareness CX Race will be held in Hagerstown, MD with the Kelley Acres CX being held in Middletown, MD. This will be an important weekend for earning points for the overall series competition. The weather looks to be fairly nice so I expect some fast tracks.