Thursday, October 25, 2012

Green Acres CX & Jackson Meadows

Round two of the cat 1/2's! This weekend the competition was quite a bit tougher. Last weekend a few of the top cat1/2's had been at Fort Collins USGP so I was looking forward to testing myself against a full field. Green Acres was on Saturday, it's a great venue with (for a local race) lots of spectators, good sized fields, and a varied course with a little bit of everything. It has a relatively big hill, a sandy run up, a fast off camber downhill, and a few good technical sections. Not only is the hill big, but you start straight up it! I had a little lackluster start because of this and lagged behind the leaders on the first few laps.

However I felt really strong on this course and I moved up quickly, soon I was 3rd on the trail bridging up to first and second with three guys on my tail.

I caught up to the two leaders within a lap, Jesse, Josh, and Smithers coming up with me.  I quickly blew past them and went to the front, I felt amazing and I wanted to test everyone.

(Me, Eric, Jesse, Josh, Smithers, and Fred in order)

Being at the front of a cat 1/2's race driving the pace was incredible, but it didn't last. Again, I pushed it too far on a downhill and crashed. I lost a good 40 seconds on the lead group...

I went deeper than I have in a while, and about half way through the race I caught back on to the lead group, and then hit a patch of slick grass and crashed again.

(me riding the sand run up)

I went really deep again and closed down the gap to 8 seconds, but with two laps to go they started to go really hard and I didn't have enough left in me to catch them. I finished 5th, but lapped every rider that didn't beat me except one.

The next day was Jackson meadows. Not my favorite race course, its straight, a few small roller hills and really fast with not many corners and huge barriers. However, I was looking forward to getting redemption for yesterdays crashes.

I had a good start, its not hard to here. the start is a long, tar road section and typically for the first lap or two the front group is really large. After a few laps though it whittles down to just Josh, CJ, Eric and me. Most of the the race was pretty uneventful, We each took pulls at the front, but mostly just watched each other. With three to go CJ put in his attack and I got gapped a tiny bit coming into the run up. I lost even more time on the run up and couldn't get it back before the tar. I was far too tired from my huge efforts the day before. Out in the ind all on my own I lost time quickly and they got out of sight. CJ dropped Eric but Josh won in the sprint.

(You can check out some great photos of my race at Jackson Here!)

I had another great weekend in the cat 1/2's, I really enjoy racing with these guys. It's pretty competitive and I learn a lot racing with them!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Racing with the BIG BOYS as a Cat 2

After winning the cat 3's at Backer Orchard last weekend and getting on the boxes in the cat 2/3's at Madison USGP the weekend before, I decided it was time to apply for a upgrade to cat 2. As a cat 2, I would race in the 1/2's (the highest category, right under Pro) at all the local races. I got my request approved a few days before the weekend, ready to race with the big boys.

The plan was to race the first race, Cross & the Y and see how I felt the next day. It was strange being able to sleep late in my own bed Saturday morning, on the day of a race. Since my race wasn't until 2:30 and the course was only a two hour drive away we didn't have to leave the house until ten o'clock. I was actually a little bit nervous on the drive over, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew I'd do fine, I'd already compared lap times and such... but there was something about the idea of racing in the 1/2's. I could remember watching the 1/2 race when I first got into Cyclocross three years ago and thinking how they were going so fast, and here I was about to go head to head with them. My nerves must have affected me a little bit because I wasn't quite as well prepared as I should have been. I forgot a few things when I packed, (nothing important thankfully) and was generally slow and distracted that morning so we got on the road a little late. Because of this I was only able to get one lap of pre ride in and I didn't dial in the course like I should have. My warm up was affected too, I didn't do a long enough or intense enough warm up.

At the start I finally snapped out of the weird distracted haze, it was time to race! Because of my inadequate warm up, I had a slightly lackluster start and had to do some work in the first half lap that I shouldn't have, but I quickly established myself in the front group. The course was fast, it only had a handful of tight corners but because of the high speed it was actually a pretty technical course in a different way, nothing like Madison USGP, but still challenging enough that I payed for not pre riding the course enough. Right off the first lap, A rider, Lance X, made it off the front. He is a good Mountain biker and the high speed corners were enough like fast single track he was able to simple ride away from the front group by going through the corners faster. This is the part of the race I went back and agonized over, if I had gotten a good enough warm up, I would have had a better start. If I had had a better start, perhaps I would have been able to follow Lance's aggressive lines through the corners and ride away with him...woulda-coulda-shoulda though, I made a mistake and learned a lesson, that's life!

Of course that's not what I was thinking about during the race, I was just enjoying being in the front group in a 1/2's race. I felt great, I wasn't in much difficulty and felt in control. It was almost like a really technical criterium after the chaos of the start and everything being established. Nobody was going easy (especially since Lance was still up the trail in first), but we were eyeing each other up so to speak. You could feel the tension in the air, like everyone was just waiting for some one to make a mistake, or for a attack to be launched. Coming into a corner right after the start finish a few laps in, just that happened. It was a sharp corner with a lot of speed coming into it and I had seen a few people look a little shaky through it in previous laps so I decided I wanted to be in the front going into it. I accelerated quickly past everyone into first just before the corner and while going through it heard my suspicions confirmed. The rider in third wheel went down and took everyone else with him. I looked back and it was just me and Fred Mills. "Lets go Josey! We got a gap!" he said, I nodded my head and start to really open up the throttle.

After a few laps of Fred and I taking turns driving the pace, Smithers and Matt Allen were the only riders able to bridge back up from the crash. I backed off the pace a little bit as they catch back on and let Matt take the lead. Matt sets a pace, but it wasn't a very aggressive pace and Lance pulled away to the point were I knew we wouldn't catch him.

We continued that way for most of the rest of the race. I had a minor mishap with my front derailuer and had to pit, but I caught back on quickly. Coming into one lap to go Fred attacked! I reacted quickly as I had been planning on attacking soon. With a little over a lap left he let off the pace and I counter attacked. I held a high pace strong until the last quarter lap and dropped Matt, then Smithers attacked me up a hill. It took me until right before the finish to close down the small gap he had on me, so I was third wheel coming into the high speed barrier close to the finish. I came over it fine, but out of it I didn't remount quite fast enough and Smithers and Fred got a small gap on me! I started my sprint early on the finishing stretch to try and close it down but right before I could catch and pass them Fred started sprinting and Smithers reacted. I finished fourth overall behind Lance, Fred and Smithers. 3rd in the 1/2's because Smithers was a master 35+.
3rd place at the Y Cross Race

The next day at Theo Wirth I was much more organized and got out early to do plenty of pre-riding and and get a good warm up in. I was a little nervous about the monster, super steep run up stairs but confident as well, because there was a single barrier coming into the finish that was low enough speed I felt comfortable hopping it. This time Eric Thompson (a few years ago he was on the U23 national championships podium) was here, so the competition would be a little tougher. Eric, Lance, and Fred got about a ten second gap on me from a little bit lackluster start, but I closed it down by the second lap no issue. I was was resting from my effort when I stumbled on a remount and they got a few yards gap on me. I went extra fast on the the downhill coming into the run up, as I knew they would be stronger on the run up then me but I was going to fast and crashed! I got back on quickly, but they already had a good 40 seconds on me and the crash knocked the wind out of me. I bunny hopped every lap till the finish, but I never closed the gap. Shortly after I crashed Fred smoked a corner and rolled his tire, so I passed him and finished 3rd. Eric won the the race in a sprint with Lance.

I made some mistakes but learned a lot from them, it was a good weekend.
3rd place Theo Worth Cyclocross Race

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Baker Orchard 2012

There's nothing like waiting for new bikes to come in the mail, especially when its the day before you're going to race on them. It seemed like I waited forever for the UPS man to come down the drive way, but it really was not that long. I got my two big cardboard boxes of carbon goodies in the late afternoon a little bit before Dad got home. Getting my two new Trek Cronus CX cross bikes put together took a little longer then expected, but I was able to do a short familiarizing ride on my Cross track in the field that night.

The next day was Baker Orchard, the first Cat 3 race I did this season. Up to this point I had done Cat 1/2/3 races and 2/3 races but not a straight up Cat 3 race. It's not a US grand prix or anything, just a local Minnesota race held at an apple orchard. It's a fun race never less, but of course I'm biased, coming back to a race you've won the previous year is always exciting. Its like "Hey, that's a fun course... I won there last year!". It is also extra special because when I won it last year, it was my first Cat 4 victory.

I pre-rode the course for a few laps to warm up and did some last minute tuning on my bike before I lined up for the race. The course was mostly enclosed by trees and pretty bumpy. It didn't have many corners but it was high speed enough that the corners that were in it could be pretty technical. There was two sets of barriers in the course, one set was pretty standard, just a pair of 40cm high barriers but the other set is made of three large log stairs.
 I had a little bit of a lackluster start but moved up quickly
By the second lap I was leading with Ethan Furios right behind me!

 After a few laps I put in a big acceleration and dropped Ethan who was caught and passed by Rhett Finley.
Rhett then put in a huge effort ad managed to close down the gap to me with a lap to go
Rhett caught onto my wheel on the last lap, we went into the last technical section coming into the finish and I kept the pace high enough that he smoked a corner trying to keep up with me and lost my wheel. I got my first cat 3 win!

Here is a awesome video by Brady Prenzlo showing the race in helmet cam perspective, you can see me some towards at the start and some of the rest of the video. This gives a good perspective on how fast we are going. (skip to 3:00 for our race)

I had a lot of fun at this race, I just got my upgrade to cat 2 so next weekend I'll be racing with the big boys!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Madison USGP

And so the cross season starts! I had done some local Tuesday night races but this would be my first "real" cross race. It's a big race, all the best pros in the country go to the USGPs, but it's early in the season so I just treated it as a training race. Dad and I rode down Friday morning so I could pre ride the course. I had forgotten how much fun a well designed cross course can be! I rode the course for a good hour or so, dialing every corner. Afterward,s we went to a hotel a few blocks down the road and relaxed. I got up bright and early the next morning and rode over to the course. My race (the cat 2/3s) started at 9:30 and it was cold! as I warmed up and rode a lap in between races the temp was 38 degrees. Dad comes up to me and asks, "Do you want to try out some embro?" "Sure." I say (embro is a warming cream that you rub onto your skin to protect from wind and water) after some fussing around with my clothes I decided on a long sleeve skin suit with a undershirt and embro on my legs.

It rained a little bit the night before so the course got just enough moisture to smooth out and have really good traction. It would be a fast race. I lined up third row and took off my jacket and vest for the final few minutes before the start.

Last year here I placed 7th in the cat 4's. This year I was lining up for the cat 2/3's confidently. I had raced a few small Tuesday night races before this and I knew I had improved a lot. I was not ready for just how much I had improved.

Right off the gun I knew everything had changed. Despite my starting row, I quickly moved into the top ten and continued to move up. It was crazy, I could see the leaders up front and I knew I could catch them I just was completely and utterly in control. I moved up slowly but consistently until I was sitting top five. I could see my friend Ian not to far ahead when Lionel came flying by me on a downhill section. I got on his wheel and stayed there but he was much more powerful up the one hill in the course and he got a small ten second gap on me. He quickly moved into first and kept pretty much the same gap for the rest of the race. I caught Ian and gapped him a little bit, at that point I was in third place, looking up the course at the one last adult left ahead. On the last lap Ian caught up to me and I became less concerned about catching second and more on keeping third. Ian was strong, but gassed from his effort in catching back up from me. I came out onto the tar in the lead and it stayed that way. I finished 3rd place, 15 seconds down on Lionel, 5 seconds down on second place and less then a second ahead of Ian. I was super pumped!

The next morning it was not as cold. The sun provided some extra warmth as I pre-rode the changed course with Ian. It was pretty different, they took out a lot of technical sections and the surface was fast and loose. It was going to be a very fast race. I lined up in the same spot, third row right next to Lionel and right behind Ian. This time I started even better. After less then a half lap it was just Lionel, Ian, myself, and one adult. The next few laps were incredibly intense and fun. Never before had I been in a situation during a cross race were I wasn't at my limit and it became about tactics. We were flying, coming into corners at tremendous speeds and trading attacks. I got very jacked up about being at the front with Lionel, too jacked up. I got arrogant and decided to attack with three laps to go. I put Ian and the adult in some difficulty, but Lionel quickly and calmly reacted to it. It was a good attack, by far the best I have ever done, but poorly thought out. I did it coming into one of my weaker sections on the course, with too many laps to go. I was spent after my attack and got gapped by Ian and Lionel. not by much, just a few seconds, but it was enough. The adult passed me, and then on the last lap I bobbled riding the run up and it cost me another two places. I finished 6th.

It was a really fun weekend, a big race and really well put on with a fun course and lots of spectators. I raced far better then I ever have before and learned a lot on the second day. It's a great start to the cross season, I can't wait for more!