Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Sincere Thank You

To all of the people who cheered and there were so many of you, to my friends who have helped set me up with the best equipment available, to all of my friends and extended family in the NECX, to all of my competitors who pushed me to go harder and then congratulated me when we were done, and to my wife, who encourages and inspires me to succeed every day.

Thank you, we did it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Feeling Fine Now

It really is pretty amazing when you think about it. Just about seven weeks ago I was in a pretty dark and desolate place, dealing with the gradual recurrence of my RA over the course of the summer. My right knee was consistently swollen and range and function was somewhat impaired, the persistent and constant neck and back pain was back, I wasn't sleeping very well and I was pretty darn down in general.

I'd spent the entire year with the goal of being in the best shape possible for the now in progress cyclocross season. The early summer fitness was really good and the numbers were all looking promising. We'd decided to pare way back on racing over the summer and only do those events that we really enjoyed and fit well with the schedule. No pressure and no stress and with luck, no burnout.

Long story short, the RA symptoms re-emerged in early June, right after I'd started a new job and went from a no stress existence that had me up and active all day to the stress of a new job and being sedate for nine plus hours a day straight. As soon as I recognized the symptoms my concern arose. Unfortunately rather than improving over the summer with the advent of some lesser treatments, the progression continued, much like the initial onset years back. By late summer it was a constant, daily issue and we'd decided on a more aggressive treatment approach, the same approach I'd been on prior to 2012. However getting that treatment, due to the cost and dealing with insurance and pharmacy hoops, delayed the start past where I'd been hoping for.

I knew, based on my previous experience, that the meds worked quickly. Afterall, they act by shutting down the immune system response that is causing the problem to being with. However, my concern now was that I'd been unable to complete the big block of really high end training that I'd planned for just before the cross season started. Effectively, I was pretty bummed that I'd missed the window and would have to start the season both still with lingering issues and without the fitness I'd hoped for. Couple this with the self induced pressure I'd been adding on performing well this year especially, since I'd moved to the masters 45+ field and I was concerned.

Incredible how quickly things can change, what with the spring being absolutely incredible for many reasons; not working and getting to do a ton of projects that I'd been dreaming of completing for years, riding like crazy and getting some good results and great fitness. I was definitely riding a high at that point. With highs there are unfortunately lows. I didn't realize the oscillation would be so severe or so quick though.

Lets keep things in perspective, to add a political analogy, it's like the difference between Democrat and Republican in the US in terms of the entire political scale. Our two dramatically different parties are separated only by minor issues that you could count on one hand, really its only a couple of issues where they have minor differences if you look at the larger picture. Every freshman learned that in political science in college. Drop our bi-partisan system into the full political spectrum, a good graphic is a timeline, and then you have a perspective. In reality, this is similar to my issues. In the grand scheme, I don't have issues. The fact that my biggest concern is not racing as well as I'd hoped because I have minor health issues is really pretty weak, given that the majority of other people out there, in other areas of the world as well as domestically, have real issues to deal with. But the reality is, we are not those other people and perspective is ones own.

As quickly as things can change one way, they can change again. I'm back on the meds and as expected, they made an almost immediate difference. The neck and back pain was the first to go, almost overnight. Gradually over a few weeks the knee swelling subsided and now the toe issue is on the mend. The constant, nagging aches are a memory, almost a bad dream. The fitness is starting to return and the results are respectable. Things are back to the somewhat artificial normal of being back on meds, which may be as good as it will get, at least for now.

I've got to say, in the grand scheme, I'm pretty lucky for many, many reasons. My issues are minor and are controllable. My life is darn near perfect, which I've realized for a long while. I'm very fortunate and although it is sometimes difficult to see because of life's little detours, I do see that, and am thankful.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ummm Bacon

Unfortunately, not that kind of bacon. This is the crispy kind made by hitting the deck and sliding across it. The friction wearing away the outer layers of skin, exposing the warm tones of flesh underneath.

It had been years since I'd gone done. Guess the tires just couldn't handle the pressure, or rather, the speed I tried to carry through the grass corner was a little too much given the pressure that I'd forgotten to adjust in my new front Clement PDX tire after I'd glued it up to the new tubular rim. It cornered like crazy, as if the bike were on rails, right until it broken loose and sent my fat rear immediately to the ground.

No big deal, it will heal. We are already a few days in and it is healing up quickly. The bike is all right as well, which was a huge relief given that it was my new SuperX.  It won't be long now and the this will be just another scar on the roadmap of poor choices and mistakes that are my legs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SSCX September Roll-up

The same things happens every year it seems, cyclocross season hits and all hell breaks loose in terms of loosing track of time. I think it is primarily due top how rapid fire the season is, what with doubles every weekend of the season not to mention organizing clinics, weekly training sessions and build four new bikes for Team TwoAdventures so far. Lets just say my head is spinning and I'm way behind on the posts. As such, this is going to be a roll-up of the outstanding SSCX races to date. When last we spoke, I was hanging perilously from a mediocre finish at the Roll in the Hay season opener, at least partially due to some mechanical issues revolving around a dropped chain.

Quad Cross:

Fast forward 23 hours and a bunch of bike tuning and we are now taking the line at Quad-cross, which is held in Maynard, AM at the Rod and Gun Club. The event is super local, so much so that I rode to the event. The bike was dialed up in good shape and the chain was so tight it barely spun due to the excessive load on the bearings. No way it's gonna drop off so lets just hope it doesn't snap. The course is good for me with a bunch of power sections as well as technical sections that for the bike handling card, luckily more a strength of mine.

At the start we had a good size field with all but the previous day's winner, Chandler, on the line. I'm quickly reminded how fast so many people can start a cyclocross race as we are in a mad sprint for position. I push hard and manage to get into about 4th spot by being down right rude to poor Abel. Doug started really hard again, Curtis was chasing with vigor and Matt was in the mix as well. After a lap or so Curtis had moved up and ahead solo when Doug faded a bit and I was doing my best to close the gap. Within a lap I was on and hanging close, though I got gapped with my 40x17 on the steep back hill to Curtis' slightly shorter gear and bigger punch. I was able to gain ground though in the fields and in the corners so we were pretty well matched.

With two to go I attacked hard on the fast downhill section and went with all I had to pry a gap. By the barriers I'd opened a bit of a gap and kept hard on the gas the whole way around the final lap, get a precious little breathing room. The bike held together as did my legs and I was able to finish up ahead. That marked my first victory in an SSCX event in the past couple of seasons, ending a much too long drought. Cathy had an excellent race as well, fighting hard as always on a challenging course, winding up on the podium as well. A very good day for Team TwoAdventures! We celebrated by heading to the Halfway Cafe in lovely downtown May-nard with cohort Jason D., who drove his spiff custom Seven CX rig, mounted on the roof rack, into the parking garage. Unfortunately, it didn't quite clear. Luckily it was just barely to tall and only minor saddle damage ensued.

Next up on the race schedule was the Verge Series Green Mountain weekend of racing but that isn't SS friendly so I will save that for a post still have to write. Flip ahead a week and that put us into this past weekend's events. It was another weekend double on the Zanconato SSCX Series with the White Park Race in Concord, NH on Saturday and the classic Suckerbrook Cross race on Sunday in Auburn, NH. Another good weekend of SSCX racing was sure to be in store for us. As mentioned previously, Cathy and I put together new bikes just last week and were anxious to see how they would turn out for racing.

The weather did not disappoint with another stellar weekend of near perfect late summer/early fall weather. Sunny and mild with cool evenings is also starting to prompt some color on the maples and induce the dropping of some leaves. Given that the New England world championships of cyclocross (the Gran Prix of Gloucester) are just around the corner, last week was a heavy training week with a good block of intensity as well as some good endurance work. To cap it I planned to do the single race on Saturday but double up and do two back to back races on Sunday, a feat I finally last year came to realize is well beyond my abilities and as such I swore it off for this year.

White Park Cross

The White Park race was new last season. It was convenient and an incredibly well designed course. It also had an ample supply of technical features which catered to my strengths. This year the race was part of the SSCX series so it was a certain that we would partake. The weather was perfect as were the conditions. The course had a few changes from the previous year, adding a little more climbing and making a sweeping mid speed paved corner into a high speed corner of doom. Beyond that the course was very similar. As we pre-rode the steep ups were a real challenge on the SS but manageable. I was hopeful.

At the start we had most of the normal crowd of regulars including Doug, Curtis, Jeff, Brian, Chris, Abel, newly converted to SSCX racing Steve, and some others like Jerry and G-Willi as well as the women including Katina, Kerry and Cathy. As always the start was a mad dash, this time for the sandpit, about 100 yards into the lap. I came into it in the top half dozen or so, with Jerry absolutely killing it at the front. On the power section around the field I came around and laid chase for Jerry. He was going really, really hard. I honestly thought he may just ride away with it, the crafty little bhastard. Doug, Curtis and Jeff were not far behind us and charging hard, as usual. No rest. As we were nearing the end of the lap in the far end of the course I took the fast sweeping corner really aggressively and managed to sprint around to the front.

From there I laid the steady effort down and tried to pry out a gap. It took a while but the fast power sections actually gave me some breathing room while the steep climbs were hindered by my 40x17 gear; a little on the large side compared to the others in the field. Doug, who had pulled by Jerry  would gain some space on me in those sections on each lap. Curtis was also making steady progress on Doug and Jeff on Curtis. Later Curtis would have bike issues and have to pit but Jeff continued his progress up working at Doug. I retained a little room and went into conservative mode where I ride carefully making ground where possible but not taking unnecessary chances, as well as cheering for the guys chasing me. I really like doing this not to be a wise ass but to honestly encourage others who I know are suffering at least as hard as I am. This is my same MO everywhere, be it MTB, cyclocross or road racing. It isn't that serious, it's just riding bikes. Nobody lives or dies as a result of the outcome and we all do it because we enjoy it, for fun. So lets have fun doing it or else, why bother?

As luck would have it, I managed to hold my lead as the laps slowly ticked by. Doug came in next with a solid ride and Jeff right on his tail. The best was the two up sprint for 5th and 6th (I think) by teammates Jerry and Curtis. Classic example of  working with what luck gives you, racing your race and having fun. Cathy rode hard and struggled mightily up the hills with the gear I gave her and made it just fine. Another great race for the season.

Suckerbrook Cross: 

This was the first CX race that I did when I decided to jump into the discipline in earnest back in 2006. I recall racing hard with Todd S., who I didn't know at the time, and one other guy at the front of the Master's B race, in which I was third of the group of three. I still have the trophy proudly displayed (I don't exactly have all that many trophies). Prior to that I'd only done two races, back in the late 90's, one down off RT95 south of RT93 in an office park as I recall though I can't remember where exactly. I do recall riding across parking lots and running up a set of stairs.

Anyhow, I think that I've been back to Suckerbrook every year since 2006. Jack and the folks that put the race on are wonderful people and I really enjoy supporting them. As such I though it would be a good idea to double up and do two races since the money was going to a good cause and I could use a solid ass-whupping. As it was, the race that was the best fit given the timing of the SSCX event, my primary race of the day, would be the Elite race which was an hour long and started an hour before the SSCX race. There you go, a perfect fit plus it would give me a chance to try out my sweet new Carver Bikes 38mm carbon tubular disc brake compatible wheels and Clement PDX tires. The setup is really nice and I'm very grateful to BigAl at Bikeman for the hookup on the wheels and Chris at Bikeway Source for the tires as well as Cathy for helping me mount both pairs (yes, we each got a pair of these beauties) last week. Bonus was that there were only a small number of guys registered so we'd probably just ride around and chat for hour anyhow, right?

On the line, I see a huge mass of humanity with a good sized bunch of legitimately fast guys. Does this mean we won't be riding around and chatting for an hour? That doesn't really fit with my warmup plan for the SSCX race. Because nobody pre-reg'd, I got a sweet front row start and had a hungry hoard of 43 other guys, most of who were much faster than I, looking at my back wondering who I am and what the hell I'm doing in front of them.

We go and I get a fairly clean start and push as hard as I can. After a couple of laps I'm still in pretty good position and can tell that if I continue to go at my max, I can hold position and possibly make some ground as the race wears on, which would net a top 15 spot at the least and possibly a little better. That would be in the money in the legitimate Elite race with real Elite racers there, more than one even. That would also pretty much guarantee I would suffer really badly in the SSCX race, which would be finishing up in about an hour and a half. With that I pulled the plug and started a backslide to get to a group that I could comfortably ride around in circles with without doing too much damage.

This worked well until we came around for two laps to go. I thought it wise to light it back up a bit and get good and open for the upcoming SSCX race. I was making good progress until I came into a fast sweeping corner at the far end of the course a little too hot. The new tires had been hooking up great so I was confident it would hold. Next I knew I was sliding across the course and then pulling my bike out of the tape. Do I smell bacon? Road-rash sucks and I'd avoided it for the past couple years very effectively but not this time. I replaced my dropped chain and got back into the race and marched ahead, finishing out what I later found to be top twenty, barely.

A quick dash to the pit to grab my SSCX bike and then ride toward start for the SSCX race, which was already staging. MTB tough guys Mike and Adam also doubled up back to back but neither of them took it on the easy side the prior race. They saved me a spot up front, which was very nice. The group is super civil like that, which I really really appreciate. And like that, we are off again and back out on course. Switching right from gears to the single speed felt a bit odd at first but I soon settled in. My plan for the race was to be conservative, which is atypical of my normal strategy, break free and stay away on my own or effectively treat it like an MTB race.

Photo from Doug.
I had to work hard to meet the violent start by a hungry pack including Doug who keeps getting stronger and stronger as the season progresses. Directly focused on him was Curtis and then Jeff and Matt. About a lap in I was still a couple behind the lead group but with some creative work, which took about a lap, I managed to bridge across along with Matt and tail-gun for a bit on the back of the lead group, which had whittled down to Doug and Curtis. The two were working each other hard exchanging big turns on the front. I gapped off a couple of times but was able to come back in other sections.

I decided that I'd need to preempt the final lap surge that was inevitable by launching an attack of my own a bit earlier. With two laps to go after we ran up the steps I launched hard from third spot and took the lead. I clawed some space and went hard both in and out of the corners. On the backside access road I did the spin/coast/spin/coast method to maintain a high rate and not kill myself. The lap went well and coming through for the bell lap I had maybe a few seconds gap. I continued to push hard and despite the surges that I could see coming, was somehow luckily able to maintain those precious few seconds gap to the line. Cathy was finishing up her race and I could see that she was locked in a battle with Kerry. I cheered from the pit then went back to catch the finish, which was a sprint. Excellent job as always.

Another excellent race with a whole bunch of great folks. The best was that they did trophies again.It proudly sits next to its older brother.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The SSCX Bikes are Reborn

Following suit with the new bike and equipment stampeded that is currently in full swing at our house, Cathy and I put together a couple of new single speed cyclocross (SSCX) rigs. We've been doing quite a bit of SSCX racing recently and the plan is to continue to use it as part of the dual focus for the season this fall, in order to hopefully keep it fresh, fun and real. We also do a bunch of training on the SS bikes as well so the new rigs  made sense for a couple of reasons.

The primary reasons for the change were to standardize on some parts picks and setup designs. One thing that I hate about typical dedicated single speed (SS) bikes is bolted rear axles with sliding/horizontal rear dropouts. They are a PitA to deal with and you need to run tensioners to keep the wheel in place. That doesn't scale well for racing in the case of a rear flat. It also limits your wheel options and forces you to have SS specific wheels kicking around. I also don't like freewheels. They don't afford you much room in terms of spacing to get the chainline really setup well. To this end, Cathy's bike, a Scandium Kona Major Jake SS, though really, really nice and absolutely beautiful, had a bolted rear end with horizontal drops.

My bike was an Cannondale CAAD9 frame with a BB30 bottom bracket setup with a Beer Components eccentric bottom bracket (EBB). This setup pretty much rocked for the most part and in the couple years of using it, I decided was a solid platform. It affords the use of normal real wheels and normal 24mm spindle two piece cranksets. The only problem with my bike was that it was a little too small for me and had a bunch of toe overlap. I also had a bolt on rear wheel with a freewheel, which although very novel with the snowflake lacing pattern, urban camouflage rim, red alloy nipples, a Paul hub and a White Industries freewheel, still was a PitA to deal with for the reasons mentioned previously. It was though, bomb proof which was nice given that I'd ripped a Mavic Ksyrium rear hub shell apart when setup as a SS for a race years back.

For the SS mountain bikes I'd run normal rear wheels, spacers and a single cog for years. This makes chainline adjustment or gearing swaps easy. I gravitated toward Shimano rear hubs as they are easy and cheap to replace the freehub on. I like this method and always have and so that entered into my design criteria for new bikes, especially if they were going to be used for SSCX race bikes because lets face it, we are not going to have spare SS pit bikes so we need to be able to fix a common problem like a flat or wheel issue as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Now for the new bikes. Our friend Chris at the Bikeway Source managed to score us a couple of new Cannondale CAADX cyclocross frames (with some much appreciated help from the Cannondale rep) in the correct sizes. These are normal geared frames that have a BB30 bottom bracket interface. For my bike it would be an easy swap as the parts were mostly the same. I did get new compact bars and stem and the seatpost size moved from 27.2mm to 31.6mm so a seatpost was in order as well, which I had. For Cathy it was an all new build. Fortunately we had almost all of the parts save the need for a new EBB which I ordered a few weeks back in prep. New bars and the rest, like mine, was mostly swapped over, though we did some swapping around and picking and choosing to get some of the better components that we had like FSA SLK carbon cranksets and higher end (read lighter) wheelsets. I also swapped an Easton EC90X fork I had on my old CAAD9 over to Cathy's bike, just because. We may swap back to the original fork as the color scheme is actually nicer but will have to see.

This resulted in a pair of pretty darn nice bikes, each weighing in at under 18 pounds. I also paid a little more attention to keeping the chains in place. I added an outer guide ring on the front and because I was using spacers in the rear for the cog, I could add inner and outer guide rings on the freehub which sandwich the single cog, making it impossible for the chain to fall off in the rear. Lastly, I moved away from SS specific SRAM PC-1 chains and back to a standard SRAM 8spd chain. The narrower chain gives better clearance with the guides and I've had issues with the PC-1 chains over the years, both on SSCX and SSMTB bikes.

We've had a couple of shakedown rides and the first race is this afternoon. Hopefully they will hold together.

Monday, September 17, 2012

SSCX Season Opener

I'm way behind on my posts. Man, last week was friggin' crazy. Between trying to get in some riding, get the new bike tested and dialed, pick up a bunch of parts for the new SSCX bike we are building up (story for another post) and get ready for the first away weekend of the season (another upcoming story), the weeknights were packed. Add to this a massively busy week at work that nearly ended in me throwing in the towel and just for fun, an impromptu cyclocross skills clinic that I volunteered to put on for NEBC and holy crap, I was wound up and rung out.

Anyhow, last weekend held the opening events of the New England based 2012 Zanconato Single Speed Cyclocross Race Series. Cathy and I have been riding and racing SSCX for years but until recently, the dedicated SS events were relatively few. That all changed last year when some local cross fanatics (mainly Chip and Matt) got together with Zanc and dreamed up a string of events. Many of the local promoters jumped on-board and the series was born, complete with awards, a series point system and eventual winners.

For last season we did a fair number of the events but didn't take the whole thing too terribly seriously. Let me qualify that a bit. Whenever I pay someone money to race and put on a number, I take it seriously. I'm not there to drink beer or eat waffles, I'm racing and I have exactly one goal. That goal is always the same, though the exact definition of that goal may change somewhat. I take that part very seriously, otherwise I wouldn't be there. The part that we were less serious about was the race prep. Most times, the SS race would be the second race of the day. This is good training but doesn't necessarily lend itself to the best performances always. It also has the tendency to make the second race of the day pretty darn miserable.

Many of those who were beating me in the SS race last year were coming into the SS race fresh, choosing to only do a single race. Over the course of the season I realized that they were wise, much wiser than I. Cathy learned this lesson about mid way through the season but it never really sunk in for me. I've also loved the idea of more suffering for the money given that the second race of the day at most events is typically discounted. As such, I would often opt for that. This year however I have vowed to stay away from doing the double.

So finally, for the races last weekend, we had a SS double header with local events both Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday Roll in the Hay with BoB event was new this year, was held about 40 minutes north in West Newbury, MA, and was promoted and run by our friends at BoB and the Speed Merchant Wind Tunnel. This was a new course in a new venue. We rolled in with mixed feeling late on Saturday as we had the final race of the day. The mixed feelings were on the late afternoon/final race of the day start time, mixed as you sort of blow the whole day waiting for your race while trying not to do anything too terribly taxing, like moving the lawn or going for a 3 hour bike ride.

Regardless we got there, grabbed our numbers, chatted some, sweated a whole bunch as it was out in the wide open fields and the temperature was like 95 degrees and then suited to check the course. I liked it, a mix of switchback climbs, a death spiral and some wide open cruisers, reminiscent of the Green Mountain cyclocross races. The start was uphill on loose crushed rock and we were in order of registration. Cathy and I registered late so were probably four rows back. Not to worry, it doesn't matter that much. Out of the start Doug was killing it and went immediately off the front as people madly followed through the finish and into the first switchback climbs I managed to settle into a top five or so spot. Through the stair step run and around the grunt switchback that led to the death spiral I probably gained some more and was sitting in pretty good position.

Down the back stretch I picked up a couple more spots and moved into third behind Doug and then Jeff. Then my chain popped off. SoaB! No surprise as that back stretch was fast and choppy which meant the chain to bounce around a bunch. I was also doing well over 20mph which meant big RPMs. I had also loosened the chain slightly to try and smooth out the drive train the night before. I got the chain back on but lost a few spots. Frantic pedaling and I regained a couple of spots including Matt. Unfortunately just after I passed and was gaining on the lead group it blew again sending my knee into the stem. Off the bike and replace the chain once again, this time lesson learned. It isn't going to take the abuse of any violent pedaling. Steady pressure and an even stroke is all it will accept. Sigh!

With that I switched to constant steady, primarily seated power, which made for a hard race, but allowed me to continue. I was making progress and gained back a few spots including Matt who was not loving the course or the heat, and previous race leader Doug, who also dropped his chain. Stupid dedicated single-speeds! There were now three people ahead of me, Chandler who was on his geared race bike with zip-tied shifters to keep it in one gear, Jeff who had a SS 29er MTB with drop-bars and 1.3" 29er tires and Curtis on his converted to SS with single cog and fixed derailleur as tensioner carbon race bike. The setup Curtis runs actually had chain guides as well which means you almost never have any chance of a chain drop and the chain flows smoothly, if not silently, around the drive-train while accounting for imperfections in the drive-train that hinder a dedicated single-speed setup that relies on a fixed vs. variable length chain tensioning system.

I continued to close the gap to Jeff and Curtis but never saw Chandler after the first lap or two. He had a really good race for sure. By the end I was almost within striking distance, almost, had I had another clean lap but it was not to be. The best I could muster was fourth place. Still, I was satisfied as the fitness felt good as did the power. I was confident that I was on target and with some mechanical help, I should be in better shape for the next race, which was of course the next day. That story will come shortly.

Cathy had a solid race and despite not liking the course as much as I, still rode strong, ending up on the podium. Very nice indeed. Her bike held together just fine and she had no issues save the heat and vertical nature of the course. Many thanks to the folks at BoB for putting the race on and for the Zanc series for legitimizing the equipment choice.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Bike

Yea, I know, another new bike. I get new bikes or new configurations of old bikes pretty darn often. That said, I've been running the same cyclocross rigs for a few seasons now. The ones I have are really nice and I'm lucky to have them. So why something new? Simply put, technology has moved forward significantly to warrant the change, in my opinion.

The root of this change revolves around the wheel. Cyclocross is often played in adverse conditions, like rain and mud. The current trend is to use really expensive, really light wheels that use tubular tires. Light is good. Tubulars are good. Carbon is good. However, when you mix carbon rims with carbon braking surfaces with arguably poorly performing rims brakes and throw in wet or muddy conditions, you get really marginal braking performance. But brakes just slow you down though you may argue. Quite true, but when you want to slow and can't, it becomes disconcerting. Additionally, the idea of having an expensive and structural component to the bicycle, the rims, as a wear item seems, less than ideal.

Enter disc brakes. I'll save the long of it but the short is, they have gotten much, much better over the years and the bicycle companies have finally settled on some standards (like rear-hub spacing which has been set to match MTB standard) are now pretty much fixed. You can now use 29er disc brake MTB wheels with your cyclocross disc bike. The weight penalty of running disc brakes has also been all but negated by the advent of lighter and lighter composite frames and components. In terms of the brakes, yes they are using cable actuated brakes and yes there are some drawbacks. Fortunately, performance is not one.

The result is that my new bike, a 2013 Cannondale SuperX disc with SRAM Red (yes, Cathy has one coming as well and it should be here next week), which has cable actuated disc brakes, weighs in at exactly the same as my old race bike, a Ridley X-Fire with 1x10 setup, Reynolds 46mm carbon tubular wheels and tubular tires. Dang! Many thanks to Chris and the Bikeway Source for all of the help. Also thanks for letting me pretend to be a bike mechanic and 'live the dream' this past spring, during my short lived retirement.

In terms of the brakes, I used to run cable actuated Avid brakes on our dedicated DH bikes ten years ago. These are essentially the same brakes on the new cross bike, save some minor tweaks. If they can control and stop a 40# DH bike and 220# rider from speed at Sunday River on a trail with a 40% grade (albeit with 8" rotors) without fade, I think they should be able to handle a cross bike.

Bring on the foul weather and steep, jungle-cross courses. 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Final KT of the Season

Last weekend, which was Labor Day weekend, Cathy and I did a last hurrah run to Kingdom Trails for a day of fun on the mountain bikes. We made the trip up a couple of times this year and had excellent adventures each of time. We spent the weekend in Maine so it was a slightly shorter trip over.

Saturday was pegged as the best weather and although we'd initially planned to head on Friday (we made it a long, long weekend), we ended up with chores to take care of on Friday in Maine. When we arrived Thursday evening, the phone and thus DSL, was out. The phone company couldn't get anyone out until Friday AM so we had to hang around. It gave me a chance to mow the lawn anyhow.

Mid day on Friday after the line was fixed, we did a short local MTB ride up behind the house. This included some overgrown snowmobile trail and a good climb up some dirt access road to the height of the land. We then got adventurous and dipped down some ATV trail, which basically died out behind a house.

Rather than head back up the mountain, we snuck out to the road down a private drive thinking nobody was home. Wrong, but we didn't stop to chat. We then descended, figured out where we were and climbed back up the mountain on a different route. This culminated in a swamp in one direction and a  blackberry thicket in the other. We braved the thicket and managed to get back onto the trail from whence we came. Then the rain came. Good fun though.

Saturday AM we headed to VT early. Upon arrival at KT we parked and were getting changed when who but the Seibs, who have a place just a few miles from us in Maine, pull in beside us. Coincidence. We chatted and discussed rides and routes and I assumed we would be on our separate ways. However, as it worked out, they decided to split their party into groups that aligned well with Cathy and I and so we got the opportunity to ride together with Don, the kids and old friend George.

They entrusted me to lead and so we started with a trip up the mountain, first on the access road and then up CampTown trail. From there we did DeadMooseAlley and made our way cross slope toward MooseAlley. Trail conditions were great despite the rain. From there we shot over to WhiteSchool which brought us back to town. We then hit some of the East flank of DarlingHill but cut it short to head down and rendezvous for lunch. Cathy and I split a Thanksgiving sandwich and soon we were back out on the trails.

The afternoon saw a different pairing with Cathy, the kids and Kristen in one group and Don, George and I in the other. The plan was to cover some ground and we did. Heading out I saw HillJunkie Doug J., who had done the Burke Mountain BUMPS climb that AM. On our plan was more East DarlingHill including all the good XC trails like LeatherWood, RiverWood (where we saw a young black bear sitting on a boardwalk) and EastBranch. A few more trails and we crossed over to the West side of DarlingHill to the far South.

Webs, SideWinder and then we made tracks for the North end. At the bottom of Tap-n-Die we bumped into Cathy's group, who was still on the go with no plans to stop, as well as friends Keith and Emily who were up for the weekend. The fact that everyone else was still going strong gave new incentive to continue, though George was certainly feeling the burn at that point, and had been for a while. We climbed out on TrollStroll and at the top, Don blew his rear hub out. George was done as well so I ventured off solo to pack in some miles.

I managed to get most of the good stuff in the NorthWest section and was moving South when I bumped into Cathy who had also been deserted. I told her I still had an hour plus in me but she was done, heading out. We parted and I ripped down TrollStroll then climbed back out and hit Tody'sTour.

From there I cruised steadily south and picked up a shadow. I didn't look back but someone jumped on and was hanging right tight to my wheel, which I thought was pretty cool as I was moving at a good steady pace. After riding a couple of trails I stopped to see who it was, half expecting that it would be someone that I knew. Turned out to be a young rider from Montreal who was down for the day. We chatted a bit then headed off for some more.

Up and out and one more run down SideWinder where 1/2 way down I burped the rear tire badly losing most of the air but keeping it upright and keeping the bead on. I aired up with the pump and told him I'd try and catch. I got up to him on the climb out, by short-cutting some switchback, but the toll of the long day was hitting me hard. At the top of Webs we parted and I made my way back via some more singletrack on the East side of DarlingHill. By the time I hit EastBranch I was spent. My hands hurt, my legs were junk and I was ready to be done. A beeline to back to EastBurke via VAST and I was done. Cathy was sitting there with some other friends, Keith and Emily, drinking a beer. We sat and enjoyed the day a while longer then packed up for the trip back to Maine.

Another excellent day and another great adventure.

Friday, September 07, 2012

2012 CX Pre-season Opener

A couple of weeks ago was the pre-season opener of cyclocross in New England out in the western part of the state in Monson, MA. Cathy and I have done this race the past couple of years with relatively good results. Going into the event I had mixed feelings. My training has been off a bit from the early part of the summer. I've certainly lost fitness and strength. Not sure if it is dreaded overtraining, the lingering RA issues or if it's all mental. Regardless the numbers are not adding up. The season also came all too quickly this year, as it always seems to, but this year especially. Being busy with work is no doubt part of that.

The day of the race was great weather. No monsoon or hurricane as in years past. The course was dry and dusty in fact. Actually, the weather was too nice to the point of being down right uncomfortably warm. The sun was high and bright and the temperature was in the 80's. The chant of the day was 'too hot for cross'. The sentiment it turned out was not far off.

I've been struggling with heat lately. I'm blaming it on some medication I was taking which listed issues with the sun as a side. Fortunately I'm off the stuff as it wasn't, IMHO, helping anyhow. Before the race I rode some laps and felt OK. Based on attendance I knew it would be a struggle but was still partially optimistic. On the line we all went hard and I hit settled into third spot. Within a half lap I moved to second but the leader, Dave H., was pouring it on hard. I chased and made no ground, in fact he continued to gain on me.

With that effort I sputtered a bit and got caught by Don S. as I was coming around for the third lap. I sat on and thought that we could work together. The run-up was giving me fits and putting me way over the top. Not sure what changed as I'm usually pretty good with the running sections. Anyhow, I followed but hung back a little bit on the technical woods section, just in case.

I've know Don long enough to know that he likes to hang it all out there, which often pays dividends, but nearly as often ends in spectacles of calamity. Sure enough, he'd watched me take my 'secret line' through that section and gave it a go himself. What he missed was that in hugging that tree, you needed to use the first rock as a kicker to jump the second rock and setup correctly to clean the third rock. Needless to say the second rock flatted him instantly and the high speed corner at the bottom didn't go so well. It was like Days of Thunder, at the end I mean, and he slid low and I stayed high and missed him. I've nearly killed Don by nearly running him over in similar fashion on dirt-bikes, sleds, MTBs and now cross bikes :)

From there I collected my thought and kept the gas on as best I could. Dave continued to ride away and I fought hard to keep a charging Snoop away, barely. And so it ended, but not before the first and second Elite racers, Justin and then Todd, who started a couple minutes behind the masters, caught and passed me. I kept Alec off though. Small things.

All in all I was reasonably disappointed with my performance. I've been targeting cross all season and was really hoping for more. The heat cooked me again as well, though I managed to not get physically sick this time. Will see how it goes this weekend, which will be the official start to the season. I felt pretty good last night and although my lying b!tch PowerTap was flashing 'you still suck' all night, the results looked promising. Either that or everyone else was on a rest night.

Cathy on the other hand had an excellent race. After what could arguably be called the worst start in history and hitting the first section nearly dead last in a very large field, she steadily clawed her way up through the field and well into the top ten. Looks like she is ready to race.