Monthly Archives: March 2007

The 12 Miles of Hell MTB Race – 1st Win of the Season

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I decided to go down to Lawton Oklahoma for a Mountain Bike Race this weekend. I hadn’t ridden my MTB bike for awhile, let alone raced one. I plan to mix it up a little more this year. Catherine Walberg from Topeka was up for the challenge too.

The race is appropriately named The 12 Miles of Hell. It is a mass start event in the Wichita Mountains. It was actually alittle over 17 miles this year, but it’s name is for the original race. It would of been just fine by me if it was only 12 miles long. It’s the last official time for the race and I’ve won it three times previously, so I though I’d go down and try for another rock. Those are the prizes-rocks with plaques. Perfect.

I’ve won the race previously in about 1:10, so on Saturday, when I was pre-riding the course, I figured it would be an hour and a half. I wanted to go as easily as possible, since I hadn’t been off-road in such a long time. I thought trying to keep Catherine reined in was going to be the issue pre-riding. Not the case. 2:15 later, I was back at the car, worked. It is one of the most technically demanding courses I’ve ever ridden. Nearly all the single-track is rock. Loose rock, solid rock, sharp rock. Pretty much just rock. The climbs are steep, loose, super technical. I found that there was no way to ride the course easily.

Anyway, Sunday, race day, I felt OK. The start is on about 200 meters of pavement, then a sharp turn straight up a 3 minute loose climb. I led off the pavement and had a pretty good line up the early portion of the loose climb. Will Black (super good rider from Texas) and Cameron Chambers (ex-Gary Fisher 24 hour rider) were on a different, but good line also. About half way up, I was still leading and Cameron passed me on some loose stuff on a single speed. Big gear. I’m thinking, “what’s wrong with this picture?” Anyway, by the time I’m to the top of the climb, my lungs are pretty much blown. I guess I wasn’t ready for the exertion. After a short technical descent and a little single track, there is another open, tank track, loose, climb. I was leading again when Cameron came charging by in his huge gear. This time the gear got a little big and I passed him for good. I looked back a little while later and he and Will were riding together. The rest of the race went fine. The most memorable part of the race was the view from up on the ridge. Looking down at the mass of riders, single file, serpentining their way across the rock. Many found it easier just to walk. The course is so demanding that you can’t let your guard down for an instant. I found that out close to the finish when my barend caught a small tree and threw me over the bars. It seems like the majority of times I fall in a MTB race it is when it seems tame and harmless. I won in 1:28 something. Will was 3 or so minutes back. And amazingly, Cameron was just another 3 minutes back. It was not the course for a single-speed. He rode incredible. Catherine won the woman’s race in 1:56. She finished 25th overall. There were officially 729 starters, so her result was excellent, obviously.

Below are a few photos. Click on them to enlarge. Thanks to Michael and the gang at Wichita Mountains Bicycle Club for promoting such a cool event for such a long time.


Salt Creek/Sand Springs Criteriums, Tulsa Oklahoma

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Packed up the car again to head South to miss the Kansas weather again. Seems like I’m spending the whole month of March in either Oklahoma or Texas. It was in mid 70’s on Saturday for the Salt Creek Criterium. It was really a circuit race, being 5km around with a couple hills. The Mercy Team from Ft. Smith Arkansas had their whole squad, plus a few. It seemed like every other jersey was blue. I had 3 guys with me, Brian, Bill and Adam flying the HRRC/Trek colors.

Nothing much to write about here. Mercy had decided that they wanted it to come down to a field sprint. They never had less than 8 guys at the front doing tempo, so that was how it would most likely turn out. Bill flatted with 2 laps to go, so he was out. Brian and I talked and figured he could take off with a lap to go and most likely make it to the line. He got away pretty easily, but half a lap later, flatted himself, only a couple miles from the finish.He would of won. Bad luck.

I felt just OK and thought I had a fair chance with a uphill finish. I started the sprint on Brice Jones of Jelly Belly. Brice is fast. I knew I had to jump first, but blew it when he jumped to the left when I was expecting the right. He beat me fairly easily. I was 2nd. Chad Cagle from Mercy third.

Sunday, there was a real technical criterium in Sand Springs, a small town outside Tulsa. It starting raining in the morning and kept raining though out the afternoon. A bunch of fair weather bikers these guys are, with less than 1/3 of Saturday’s field showing up to race in the rain.

The course was a figure 8 with a small hill, a U-turn, and a bunch of high speed, off camber corner’s. I was reading Bill Strickland’s book, “The Quotable Cyclist”, in the morning and saw a quote from my former MTB teammate, Ned Overend. It said something like you need to use smaller races to experiment and learn from, to get better for the bigger, more important races. I know Ned was mainly commenting on MTB racing, but it also really applies to racing criteriums in the rain. You’re never going to learn how to corner fast when it’s wet if you don’t race when it’s wet. There are so many things that need to be taken into account, that you’ll never be able to know them unless you participate.

Anyway, I’m pretty good in the rain and knew unless something disastrous happened, I’d have a good shot at winning. Nothing disastrous did happen. I lapped what was remaining of the field with just 6 laps left. From then on, I concentrated on helping Bill beat the other 4 guys left of the field. He attacked a couple times, but couldn’t shake them. I started leading him out with about a half a lap to go. Mostly downhill with a few sketchy corners. Bill ended up finishing 2nd by half a wheel, giving us a 1-2-6 finish. It’s been a pretty good season for our team so far, even though it’s early. We’ve raced 10 races and have won all but the race on Saturday (my fault). I doubt that winning percentage can go on much longer. But, it’s always a goal I guess. Results and pictures below.

Salt Creek Criterium PRO 1/2

1st Brice Jones Jelly-Belly
2nd Steve Tilford HRRC-Trek/Shimano
3rd Chad Cagle Mercy Cycling Team

Sand Springs Criterium PRO 1/2

1st Steve Tilford HRRC/Trek/Shimano
2nd Bill Stolte HRRC/Trek/Shimano
3rd Bryan Fawley Team Hotel San Jose-Austin, Tx


Perry Road Race Weekend

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I decided to stay local this weekend and race the hometown Perry Road Race, 20 miles from Topeka. I’m flying out to Redlands California for the Redland’s Stage race on Wednesday and figured I needed to train/rest some. One or the other.

On Saturday, we weren’t going to ride until the afternoon, after it warmed up some, so we decided to plant some of the garden before we left. The early season stuff, lettuce, chard, spinach etc. I haven’t added much to the soil the last couple years, so I thought I’d go collect some cow manure from a friends pasture. It was easier and harder than I thought. I’d taken a shovel, but it was dried up and just peeled up in one piece. I filled 4 heavy duty trashbags from Home Depot, probably something like 300 pounds or so. I got home and rototilled it in and planted. It’s supposed to rain something like 4 out of the next 5 days, so it was probably good timing. But, my hamstrings are torqued from bending over so much and manhandling the rototiller.

Sunday was the Perry Road Race. The course is a 5 mile circuit with a pretty good 1/2 mile climb up to the finish. Riding out to the race, racing and home is nearly 90 miles. 90 windy miles. The ranchers have started burning the pastures and field the last week and it looks like England in the 1500’s in all directions. If you’ve never witnessed it, you should. It looks like there’s been a forest fire burning for a month. The air is pretty horrible for a few weeks each spring. Luckily, I’m usually gone at least half the time.

Anyway, I felt just ok riding out against the 25 mph headwind to the start. There weren’t that many starters in the 1/2 race, less than 20. I thought rotating for the first few laps would be civil. But, no one really wanted to rotate much, so I started riding pretty hard in the gutter. The first time up the hill, Bill put in a little punch at the top of the finish hill and only Adam and I were left cresting the top. From then on it was a 3 rider TTT. I was probably riding harder than Bill and Adam appreciated, but I felt pretty good and wanted to get in a hard effort. We had a short discussion on the way up the last hill and I ended up winning, with Adam 2nd and Bill 3rd. Bill won overall since he won the first race a couple weeks ago. Adam finished 2nd overall.

Saturday, Shad Smith won his millionth Clinton Criterium. And also Sunday, Brian Jensen won the Hell’s Kitchen Road Race outside Ft. Smith Arkansas. He only put in a “short” solo effort and rode the last 26 miles by himself. He’s in Arkansas for the majority of next week training during spring break.

Now, as a team, we’re at 12 win for 13 starts. Redlands is going to kill that percentage!!! Below are pictures of manure collecting and bike racing.


Redlands Classic Stage Race

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I flew out to Los Angeles Wednesday to ride the Redlands Stage race, Thursday through Sunday. I got a guest ride with the Equip Trek Team from Quebec, Canada. Thursday was a 5 km. uphill prologue TT. It’s a new course they’ve used only the last couple years. I didn’t have any expectations, but wanted to better my time from last year of 10:34. I thought I had good form, so I decided to change my normal uphill TT strategy of starting slow and finishing hard. I thought that if I wanted a “good” time I needed to ride the bottom portion of the course hard and hopefully have enough left to finish fast. That didn’t work out. I started hard and completely blew at 1km to go. I put it in a 27 in the back and crawled to the finish. I had 25 seconds to beat last year’s time at 200 meters and it took me nearly 45 seconds to get there. That is something close to 10mph for the last 200 meters. Unbelievable. What’s more unbelievable is that more than half the field could go up slower.

Friday was the Oak Glen Road Race. It’s a completely new course, but finishes on the same 10 km climb it has previously. They added a couple new climbs that looked hard on paper. A new 8 km climb at 70 miles that should of split up the field. The race started crazy. Attacks coming the first hour. Most of the time over 30mph. A 3 rider break got away after an hour or so. At around 50 miles, I took off with one other guy, hoping to start the first climb with a lead. We road pretty good for the next 40 minutes only to get caught at the turn off starting the climb. So, a 0 second lead with a bunch of energy expended. But, I did find out that I had pretty good legs. I didn’t have any trouble staying in the group up the climb. About half the field got shelled here. A few more attacks occured, some dirt road riding and fast descending. About 20 km out, just when it was starting to get interesting, I had a front flat. I stood there for a while and when the neutral Mavic support came to change the wheel, I told him he could take his time because there was a 0% chance I was going to get back on. I started riding and got into the very back of the caravan. Moving up the the caravan, I was in my 11 the whole time. A bunch of my buddies that I used to race with manage teams and drive the cars, so I got a lot of help the next 5 miles. Just enough to start the climb about 15 cars (400 meters) off the back of the huge field that was still together. I was in a bad situation. Make a huge effort to get on the back of the field and get shelled anyway or just bag it and ride easy. It wasn’t that hard of a decision. I shifted into my 27 again and crawled up the hill. But, it was by far the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had going up that climb. It was a little embarrassing having so many specatators yelling for me. But, that’s bike racing. I rode back to Redlands from the finish, so I got nearly 130 miles for the day. Redlands is great for early season form.

Saturday was the 90 minute “technical” criterium. I knew something was going to get away pretty early because BMC didn’t have the horsepower to control the race. I went for a couple early primes and after the first one I didn’t contest, a 5 man group rolled. They stayed away for the next hour. No teams controlled the field sprint. I finished 13th.

Finally, Sunday, the Sunset Road Race. It’s the hardest stage of Redlands in my opinion. 12 laps of a 10 km loop, plus a little extra riding to and from the loop. The lap is about 5 km up and 5 down. Nothing flat. It went hard from the gun. About half the field, nearly 100 guys, got shelled just riding up to the KOM, less than 10km into the race. I started near the back on the climb and was hurting pretty bad the first time up. The second lap I had better position, but a big group had formed off the front. 15 guys or so. The BMC guys had already lost half their team, so Scott only had 3 guys left. It was going to be a losing cause. I felt much better the 3 and 4 times up the climb. The main field got much smaller, but on the descent on the 4th lap, I hit a dip and my handlebars snaped off by the stem. I was going through a downhill corner going somewhere near 40mph I guess. It’s was pretty lucky I didn’t fall. By the time the first Mavic neutral support car with a bike on it came by, there wasn’t any reason to take support. I rode back up to the feed zone and stopped. I didn’t stay around for the end of the race, but looking at the results, it didn’t get any easier. I’m staying in San Diego this week and riding Indio Criterium on Saturday and Ojai on Sunday.