Monthly Archives: September 2009

Skipping Cross Vegas-No Regrets

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Ben Raby, KCCX, sent me this photo of himself showing bad bunny hopping form under the lights at Cross Vegas last week. (I’ve had a few of these in print during my “career”.) I guess he had moved up into contention early, then fell and eventually started playing around. Guess this didn’t work out for him. Everyone I talked to that raced confirmed the lung burning, throat searing sensation afterwards that I’ve experienced the last two years. Didn’t miss that race at all.

Ben thrilling the crowd.

Ben thrilling the crowd.

Cyclo-X at 85 degrees – Diamond/Blackfan CycloCross Challenge

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I knew the first cross race of the year was going to be hard. It didn’t have to be hot too, but it was. I’d say that was the main topic of the day. Whether we felt shitty because we hadn’t cyclo-x raced much or did we feel that way because it was so hot. I don’t have an answer to that, but I didn’t feel good. Not even close.

I had kind of a sore throat all week after Chequamegon. Yesterday it was iffy about going to race today. But, I thought I needed the practice and break-in period, so I went. I didn’t realize that the weather was going to be so good. I mean bad. It was unbelievable nice. Mid 80’s. Pretty windy. Super nice fall day. There were tons of riders at the even. I’m not sure how many categories they had, but it seemed like there were around 40 guys or so every time they blew the whistle.

We had somewhere around 30 riders in the main event. Plus all the single speed guys. The course was pretty technical. Lots of tight corners. Two dismounts, plus a long sandpit. I wasn’t too worried about the start. I can start fast if I have to usually. Bill Marshall, KCCX, took off and lead for the first few corners. I went by after a while and lead for most of the rest of the race. After a couple laps of the nearly 2 mile course, I realized that my two team mates, Shad Smith and Brian Jensen were 2nd and 3rd. I decided to sit up and wait for them. I thought I was going pretty slow, but it seemed to take a while before Shad was on. And Brian was only a little ways behind, but he wasn’t gaining much at all. Eventually at a U-turn, Brian told us to go on, so we did. In retrospect, I should of waited up a little longer for Brian. He hasn’t done too many cyclo-x races and would of learned a lot by riding behind us at speed. And, he would of finished a couple places better.

So, Shad and I rode around for the better part of an hour together. I was not having the best handling day. Or physical day. The corners were decreasing radius and I was going to the tape on most everyone of them. I didn’t have the best tire set up, but didn’t want to change bikes to get my other wheels. Shad didn’t try to come around at the end. I didn’t really care either way. I was just happy to be done.

It is weird how well you can be going one week and how bad it feels the next. Not that the last week has been anything close to good preparation for a cyclo-x race, but I still should be feeling better than I did. Might of had something to do with staying out late last night and being “dehydrated” from staying out too late. Whatever.

It was nice to see local up and comer Joseph Schmalz get some UCI points up in Madison this weekend. He finished as the 2nd U-23 rider on Saturday and 3rd on Sunday. I think he is planning on going over to Europe to get beat up on sometime this season, so every UCI point counts.

P.S. How about Cadel at Worlds. Why can’t that guy throw up his arms and at least act happy when he wins the race. He needs to learn how to enjoy the moment and quit being so grouchy.

Bicycle theme in the park.

Bicycle theme in the park.


I suck in sand for some reason.

I suck in sand for some reason.


How about the cow barriers.

How about the cow barriers.


Joseph on the podium at the USGP in Madison.

Joseph on the podium at the USGP in Madison.


Baby salute.

Baby salute.

Las Vegas, Cyclo-X, Kayaking

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I was, sort of, kind of, planning on going to to Las Vegas for Interbike after Chequamegon, but I never made it there. I think it is great that there are races to go along with the bike show now. But, the races kind of suck. ‘Cross Vegas, no matter how spectator friendly the race is, sucks. At least for me. I’m not sure if there is fertilizer/pesticide in the soccer field or what the deal is, but the last two years, after the race, I cough up yellow gunk for a week. Plus, the course is not technical at all and is in thick Bermuda grass. (Last year I rode road tires.) And, then the US Crit finals is a parking lot criterium in Mandalay Bay parking lot. I have nothing against parking lot criteriums, but this one is pretty sketchy. And, I haven’t gotten any prize money from last year’s race yet, so I can’t really support this year’s.

So, I decided to stay up in Wisconsin, to ride singletrack, play in the woods, split wood and kayak Lake Superior. The sea caves along the shore East of Meyers Beach are spectacular. If you’ve never been up there, it is a mandatory life experience.

Today I just about got on a plane and flew back east to Boston for the Mayor’s Cup Criterium Saturday and a UCI Cyclo-X in Vermont. But, I didn’t get to Kansas until super late last night and didn’t have the energy to pack up two bikes and drive to the airport. I guess my Cyclo-X season is going to start with a local race in Kansas City on Sunday. It’s cross, so it’s hard wherever.

Shoulder rehab?  Probably not.

Shoulder rehab? Probably not.


Filling the wheel barrow.  The handles are the weak link here.

Filling the wheel barrow. The handles are the weak link here.


Kayaking in Lake Superior.

Kayaking in Lake Superior.


Coming out of a cave.

Coming out of a cave.


This guy is a true survior with a spectacular view.

This guy is a true survior with a spectacular view.


Sunset on Lake Superior.

Sunset on Lake Superior.

Chequamegon 40- Hayward, Wisconsin

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If you would have told me on Friday that I was going to finish 3rd in Chequamegon and be in contention to win coming into Telemark, I would have been happy. But, Saturday, after the race, I’m bummed with that very result. It is funny how your expectations and outcome differ.

I knew before the start that something was different. I rode out to the Birkie Trail and rode the first few miles of the course and felt good. Better than good. I have this thing I do before a race. I ask myself, if I had to throw my chip back into a bag and pull a new one out, would I do it? Saturday morning it was a definite no. I was good. But, in the back of my mind I still was questioning my endurance since pretty much for the last month, I’ve been just pedaling around.

Okay. Here’s the long version-

The race started all jacked up as usual. I talked to Gary (Crandell-promoter) after the race about it and maybe next year it will be better. But, with 2000 people riding out of a town on MTB bikes, it is always going to be pretty sketchy. Anyway, when the quads were supposed to gun it and take off, they decided not to and everything got jammed up. Someone ran into my rear derailluer and that was the story of the day for me. Maybe, not the story, but a long chapter. I tried to straighten the derailluer on the road going 30mph, but didn’t get it fixed. I didn’t realize at the time, but my cable housing had exploded and the cable had unraveled. The whole race, I had the use of only the middle gears in the back and they only stayed adjusted if I kept two fingers on the shift lever.

Anyway, Cole House, BMC, went pretty hard through the field and into the Birkie Trail. He kept the pressure high. Ryan Baumann, Livestrong-Trek, took over and pulled a ton the next couple miles. I put in a couple digs coming off the Birkie Trail into the snowmobile track, but there were still a bunch of guys together, maybe 25, when we got onto Phipps Fire Lane. No one really wanted to get into the wind, so we just rolled until the next Birkie section. Brian Matter, Gear Grinder, put in a pretty good attack when it started going up on the Birkie section and it got whittled down a lot. I didn’t know a couple of the guys, but Jeff Hall, Brian Matter, Bjorn Selander and his Trek-Livestrong teammate, Ryan Baumann were in the group. Missing were Doug Swanson, Ian Sanford and a few other usual suspects.

When we got near OO there is a steep hill where the lights start on the Birkie trail. It seemed like everyone was bogging down, so I put in an attack to see how everyone was going and had a gap until we got to the warming hut at OO. Brian led down the descent after OO and soon afterwards there is another steep pitch and then a left turn onto another snowmobile trail. I went hard there, but we didn’t get too far away. Turning onto Janet Road, there were only 8 of us left. But, once again, no one other than Ryan wanted to keep the pressure on. I assumed he was pulling for Bjorn. We cruised Janet Road up to the Martell’s Pothole section. Usually there is a ton of huge water puddles here, but it hasn’t rained forever, so there was hardly any water. I wanted to lead through this section to lead into the corner. We had to go around some water and I got a small gap, but making a sharp right, my tires were wet and I slid out and fell. Cole ran into me from behind and both my bottles fell out. I wasn’t worried as I picked up my bottles, but Jeff or someone decided it was a good time to not have me around and it took me until the next climb to get back on.

Nothing happened for a while. We just cruised along, all 8 of us until we got to the Seeley Firetower climb. I think maybe a bunch of other guys caught on here, but I wasn’t really looking back too much. My gears we skipping up nearly all the hills, so I thought it would be best to lead up the climb. I could hear some heavy breathing and tires slipping on the loose sections, so I decided to go hard. The climb is a few minutes long with 4 distinct pitches. I couldn’t hear anyone behind me starting up the final loose section. I looked back at the top and had an okay gap, so I didn’t to go. I rested down the descent and when I got to the logging road at the bottom, the lead quad decided it would be best if he never got more than 20 meters in front of me. It wasn’t just dust, it was sand that I was breathing. This was the same section that I had rolled my rear tire off a couple days earlier in training. I couldn’t see anything, let alone the rocks. I looked back a couple times and saw Cole pulling Brian and others behind me. I finally nearly rammed the back of the quad on a sharp right turn and gave up and waited for the group. I’m not sure who was left then. I think it was just Brian, Cole, Ryan and Bjorn, but the other guys might have been there too. When we hit the Birkie trail, arguably the hardest part of the course, Bjorn put in a attack finally. And, he didn’t have it. Not even close. I think Brian sensed this too and jumped for the single-track section that connects the course back to the Birkie trail. He went down the descent pretty good followed by a punch up the next couple hills. I didn’t think anyone else was going to be there. I felt good and kept looking back. Cole was the only one there, trying to get back up to us. It seemed like every time I wanted to go hard, my gears would skip again. Brian acknowledged after the race that he was revving it up a little everytime he heard the noisy mess. In retrospect, I probably should of tried to take off there, but I was pretty confident in how I felt at the time, so I waited.

Cole clawed his way back and we hit the logging road, 6 miles to go, in a group of 3. Cole said he was cramping and sat. Brian and I did half-assed pulls the next 4 miles until the Telemark ski trails, 2 miles to go. Brian lead into the ski trails and I was 2nd. Anyway, about a mile and a half to go, there is a small climb. Brian jumped pretty good and my gears screwed up once more. Brian got a gap and I caught back on in a sharp right corner descent into “single track”. I hit my rear wheel hard on a rock and felt the spray of latex on my legs. Big problem. Trek had just brought me a set of Bontrager XXX Carbon 29’r wheels and I had about 5 pounds pressure in my rear wheel. I caught back up to Brian in the woods and there were just 2 steep pitches left in the woods before the last open climb. Cole was dropped. Brian punched it once more at the base of the first pitch and that was it for me. I’m sure my gears skipped a couple more times, but that wasn’t the problem. I was gassed. Cole grinded by me on the next pitch. On the last climb up to the top of the ski hill, Brian had 50 meters on Cole and I. I sat up, not really caring if I finished 2nd or 3rd. In retrospect, once more, that was a stupid thing to do.

Coasting down into the finish, I was trying to ride heavy on my front wheel, trying not to ruin a $1000 carbon wheel. But I was really watching Cole blast down the hill gaining on Brian. In the last sweeping corner, Brian still had 20 meters or so, but it looked like Cole was going a lot faster. I was thinking, shit, if Cole wins this race, I blew it. Anyway, Cole caught up to Brian, but lost the sprint to the line. I just rolled in 20 seconds back. Not too happy. There is only one place in this race and Brian Matter got it. I would not have been able to turn the last sweeping corner at speed with no pressure in my rear tire, but I should not have given up. At the very least, I should have gone down the hill with Cole to be in contention. I thought it was over much earlier. So much for experience.

Waiting in the holding pen for the award ceremony, it was nice to see Catherine Walberg roll in for 3rd place in the women’s race. Last year, after I flatted, I rode the whole race with her and she finished 3rd. I thought she was going to have a good result by the way she has been training recently, but you never know on race day.

After the awards, I went over to the Trek guys and had a couple beers while they replaced my derailluer cable. Then Bill, Catherine, Katie Lindquist (7th in the women’s race) and I rode gravel the hour back to Hayward to get the van. All headwind. We were all blown after 75 miles.

Anyway, now a couple days later, I’m okay with the result. I have to say that I had some pretty shitty luck. But, I also had a ton of really good luck. After the awards ceremony, when I got back on my bike, my derailleur cable completely failed and I would have had to ride the whole race only shifting in the front. That wouldn’t have worked. And, my rear tire still held some air. I wasn’t even a minute ahead of 4th and if I would have had to ride it completely flat, I wouldn’t have been on the podium. So, it is what it is. And when it comes down to it, I physically blew when I needed to go fast, so all the other stuff is just other stuff. It was a “course record” time. I’m not much into that in a MTB race. The course changes way too much to compare year to year. It is pretty amazing that the average speed was nearly 20mph. I’d guessed a 2:05 winning time before the race. The course is so groomed now that a VW Beetle could drive nearly the whole course. If the parade out of town wouldn’t have been so slow and controlled the first mile, we would have been under 2 hours. Pretty cool.

We went over to Telemark and watched the Sunday/Fun Day activities. Bjorn won the Dirt Criterium/Cross while I ate lunch. The only thing he said to me riding by was “his arms were sore”. Not sure what that was all about. Even though it was only 6 miles long, it looked painful.

I’ve been splitting wood, hiking in the woods and swimming in the lake the last two days. I’m trying to decide what to do next. Next week, next month, next…..

Podium-Cole House, BMC, Brian, Matter, Gear Grinder, and me.  (L to R)

Podium-Cole House, BMC, Brian, Matter, Gear Grinder, and me. (L to R)

Same three as above a few hours later.

Same three as above a few hours later.

Leading at the bottom of the Seeley Firetower climb.

Leading at the bottom of the Seeley Firetower climb.

Bill, Catherine and Katie looking fresh after the ride back to Hayward.

Bill, Catherine and Katie looking fresh after the ride back to Hayward.

My friends, Kim and Brian Eppen, demonstrating just another reason not to ride/run a tandem in a MTB race.  You can tell Brian isn't much for waiting.

My friends, Kim and Brian Eppen, demonstrating just another reason not to ride/run a tandem in a MTB race. You can tell Brian isn't much for waiting.

Gary Crandell, aka Fat Man, might be planning on running the race ahead of the field.

Gary Crandell, aka Fat Man, might be planning on running the race ahead of the field.

1800 bikes lined up as early as the night before.

1800 bikes lined up as early as the night before.

Pre Chequamegon Day

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Tomorrow is Chequamegon. It is 40 miles from downtown Hayward to the Telemark Lodge up in the woods. About 1/3 of the race is on the Birkebeiner Ski Trail. The rest of the course is on logging roads and atv/snowmobile trails. The race starts out in downtown Hayward on Main Street. It goes 2 miles out on a state highway at 30+mph and then it hits a new cut field. It is full on, super hard for 3 or 4 minutes. Then it hits the Birkie trail and rolls uphill for a while. It is a really hard start. Most of the course is rolling up or down. There is only one sustained climb, the Seeley Fire Tower climb. It is up for less than a kilometer, but it is steep and loose. Then the last section of the Birkie trail is super hard. Usually where the selection is made. It finishes at Telemark and the last 2 miles are on the ski trails and is pretty difficult. You climb to the top of the ski hill and descend into the bowl and sprint uphill.

It is amazing how well organized the race is. Gary Crandell is so in tune with everything involved that he could probably do it in his sleep. It is amazing that they can enter 2500 riders in a 4 hour stretch. I got there and was 30 guys back in line and walked out of there in less than 10 minutes. 10 people on computers printing out registration. Tons of volunteers. Most every race I go to could should come watch this production and make some improvements.

I am pretty questionable. I have no idea how it’s going to go tomorrow. Historically, by the time I’m out of Rosie’s Field, 3 miles into the race, I’ll know if I’m good or not. I haven’t had a good day in a month, but there is always the first one. Maybe tomorrow.

Gino Hollander – Mountain Town

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I saw the full length version of this film at the Banff Film showing in Lawrence Kansas last weekend. This man has a unique and wonderful view on life and how it should be lived. So much that he says in this film are the thoughts I think, but can’t verbalize. Especially as eloquently as he does. His views can be applied to all aspects of life. Especially sport. He really is a poet.