Sunday, November 27, 2011

Jefferson Barracks Cyclocross Race

 Not nearly as muddy as Mount Pleasant last weekend, the race at Jefferson Barracks was not a course that played to my strengths.  It was mainly a power course, with long, slow, sticky straights and rather easy technical sections.  I dismounted in "the pit" every lap but the last one.  It just seemed like it took too much energy to pedal out of than to jump off and stretch the back.
I started like a monkey on crack (thanks, Pat Collier!) as usual, narrowly missing the guard rail at the end of the first straight.  After that, the power left my legs and I figured out how to lose 14 places in a 1/4 lap.  Wow.  That was my worst implosion yet this year.  I found my climbing legs half way through and got back up to 9th place.  My cheering family was the difference, I think.  They can yell like no one else!

Thanks to Chris Creed for the photos.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mount Pleasant Winery Cyclocross Race

Somewhere in Augusta, Missouri there is a hillside that wants it's mud and grass back.

It's so typical of me to bail on a rainy, cold day of racing.  I mean, I don't have anything to prove anymore and I can take all of the jokes and jabs my racing peers give me when I don't show up for events like today.  However, I really, really like Mount Pleasant and I just turned my brain off and went to the race.

The cross race there is on a killer hillside.  The course winds back and forth, up and down, and even goes up a flight of stairs and through a wine bar!  Normally, it's fast, bumpy, and ripe for my mtb skills.  And I thought that today's muddy and wet conditions might also play into my hands.  It did, sort of.  But there was a slickness there today that I haven't witnessed in a decade or more.  Literally, pedaling in a straight line was no assurance of grip.  I had great pride while going up the final tricky incline that I had not fallen...then I fell.  It was a slow motion, frictionless fall and a slow motion, tractionless recovery.  Other than that, my bike, clothes, and shoes were covered in mud, and I couldn't shift anymore by the last lap and had to settle for 6th place.  Not that I could have caught Anthony Dust, with whom I had battled for laps and laps.

Ah, well.  It was the first muddy race of the year for me.  Only two more 'cross races to go, and I might just get by without anymore mud.  Then again, maybe not.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

All hail Kona!

I've been dying for a full suspension 29er for a while now.  I tried one brand three years ago that was not ready for prime time, but I was still blown away by the control.  Since then, they have become more common and much better overall machines.

I'm pleased as punch to be on the receiving end of a new Kona Hei Hei 29er.  I am shifting almost all of my racing focus to using off-road bikes (Tuesday night crits notwithstanding) and this is going to be my main cross country machine.

Kona Hei Hei 29er Supreme

I'm eying every UPS truck that drives by Big Shark West to see if they are dropping of this goodness.  So far, nothing yet.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Creve Coeur Cyclocross

 Creve Coeur is usually a place for me to avoid when cyclocross racing.  I mean, it's flat.  I'm not good on the flat ground.  However, with my newfound excitement for racing my mountain bike in inappropriate places, I decided to do it anyway.  And it was great!  I lead the first long lap and only began to get passed in the second lap.  I was never farther back than 4th place!  The first photo is the second or third lap, chasing Scott Ogilvie.
 There was a killer dirt mound on the backside of the course.
 I was putting some distance between myself and some 'crossers, while getting gapped at the front by the fast guys.
 Scott schooled me EVERY time on the barriers.
Some VERY cool corners.  I finally got away from Scott when he rolled a tubular on a particularly tricky corner.  Too bad, as I was hoping to actually race to the finish line.  I ended up 3rd place, my best placing in a 'cross race since 2001.

Thanks to Chris Creed for the great photos!!!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

st. vincent cyclocross race

Thanks to Mike Dawson for the killer photo!

After the horrific race at Faust Park last weekend, I was very close to giving up on cyclocross racing, AGAIN.  I mean, really, I give up on it every year.  I start the 'cross racing season with all good intentions, and then bail on it because...well...I suck.  I have never mastered the sport.  I can't insult all of the good 'cross racers by saying that I have put in the time to be good at it, because I haven't.  I just expect it to be like mountain biking and it's not.  I don't put in the time, my good intentions get shoved down my throat, and I sell the 'cross bike and quit for the season.  In my defense, the season is only 7 or 8 weeks, so it's not like I'm giving up an enormous chunk of racing, but it is extremely helpful to race 'cross because it lengthens the racing season, effectively shortening the down time winter enforces upon us.  If you stop racing in Missouri when the MTB racing season ends (most of the time mid-October) then there is a 4-5 month wait to race again. 

So, every year, I start racing the Bubba Series and every year i quit.
I didn't exactly quit this time, although I did quit racing an actual cyclocross bike.  I don't ride those bikes well.  I'm timid, I'm non-aggressive, and I'm slow on those bikes.  One could argue that racing a mountain bike on courses designed for 'cross bikes is slow, too.  And that's a good argument.  But, at least for me, mountain bikes are generally faster as long as the course isn't perfectly flat and non-technical.  I love riding mountain bikes, and when I set one up right for 'cross, it's not a bad tool for the job.  For me, it's the best tool I can grab.

So, I grabbed the P.O.S. Sette, outfitted in the lightest way I could think of, and headed to St. Vincent park today for the Bubba race.  The course was awesome with a capital AWESOME.  Really fun, ups and downs, sand pits, chicanes, climbs, descents, etc.  I did better than I have done in a 'cross race in almost 10 years, 6th place.  For a while there, it looked as though I might keep it in the top 5, but what I gain in handling and confidence with the mountain bike, I lose in the power sections to the 'cross bikes.  And, let's face it, there are some good riders in this series and I could have been on a rocket powered scooter and still been off the back.  And they ride 'cross bikes very well, thank you.

There you have it.  I'm as good as I'm going to get on 3-4 hours of riding a week with this 44 year old body.  And I'm thankful for that.