Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nothing New Here

Hello Friends...

I will not be using this blog for new posts any longer. My new blog site (Pfun with Pflug) can be found by clicking HERE. My old blog posts will remain on this site, but if you want to see anything new go to my new site.

Happy Trails - Gerry

Saturday, December 12, 2009

One reason I like to do the cyclocross nationals is because it is a great way to end the season with a big bang. Not only is the racing a lot of fun, but the whole experience at the race is something not to miss. Ultimately, the plan of coming out here is to do well and really end the season on a high note. Sadly, my plan to finish one of my races well did not come through.

Today my starting position was better, with a fourth row line-up. The start was fast and my position seemed okay going into the first turn, but like almost every race the past couple of days a crash in the front of the pack caused things to backlog for everyone. I happened to get stuck directly behind this mess and probably fell from about 20th to 50th place. After everything started going again, the leaders had a good gap and I had a lot of work to do to get back towards the front.

I kept moving through the group pretty well. I kind of knew where I was in the race because I was getting my position called out by spectators on the course. With about three laps completed, I had worked my up to about 25th place and was feeling good. I ran up the long step section on the course, jumped on my bike and attempted to pedal, but snapped my chain with the pedal stroke. I was way too far from the pit to even consider running in for a bike exchange and since I was not in any serious contention, I decided my best choice was to DNF. Man, what a bad streak of luck I had out here.

Now that the racing is done the real fun will begin. It started this afternoon with Brian and I watching some awesome master racing. Tonight there is a whole cyclocross nationals bash going on, with a movie premiere, bands and a big shindig at the Deshcutes Brewery. Tomorrow will even be better with the elite women and men doing their races. Considering how crazy the atmosphere was at the races today, things will be nuts tomorrow for the elite races.

This video link is from the first lap of the single speed race I did yesterday at a tricky off camber section of the course that was icy and frozen. There is a glimpse of me about 45 seconds into the video. I think this will give everyone an idea of the treacherous the course was during its frozen period. This afternoon all of that stuff melted up pretty good and it became a muddy mess.

Well, time to enjoy the evening with a bunch of cyclocross fanatics. Happy Trails, Gerry

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Luck

The single speed race at cross nationals did not go too well today. First, the lottery method of call up put me towards the back of the pack at the start. I basically started in the position I would have had with the registration method of being called up, so no loss there really. Things went a little better for me during the first lap and half as I was able to avoid a magnitude of crashes and work my way into the top 30 riders. But, then, my luck turned bad again when I crashed hard on an icy off camber section of the course. The crash caused my right brake lever to completely crack off my handlebars, leaving me with only one brake and no lever hood to grasp for steering control. With no single speed pit bike and being too far from the pit to beg for another bike, I made the choice to pull out of the race and save my legs for the next day.

My luck did change for the better again when after my crash I went over to the SRAM Tech Tent and was set-up with a new right brake/shift lever. I use SRAM stuff on my bike because it is light and shifts incredibly, but the customer service they give is second to none. Thanks for the help SRAM.

Well, I am resting up now for the big race tomorrow after hanging out at the course and watching a lot of great cross action all day. In addition to getting some rest, I should probably keep my fingers crossed tonight for some better luck, too.
The temperature went high enough late today to melt a lot of the snow and ice off the course. This will probably turn the course into a sheet of ice for the early races tomorrow, since the temperature is going down to 20 degrees tonight. No snow fell today, but it is possible for tonight. My race tomorrow is at 9:30 AM, so it should be pretty sketchy and interesting.

More updates to come tomorrow. Happy Trails, Gerry

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nats 'N That

Well, I had a chance to ride the course yesterday and today and I must say it is a blast to ride. I will also say that it is not roadie friendly and is definitely suited more for mountain biker riders, mostly because of the snow and ice on the course. The only downfall I can mention is that the course could be wider, especial after the first turn. Each of the larger races totally bottlenecked at the first turn off of the starting pavement.

Brian Wieczorek raced today in the 40-44 men B race. He started near the back of the entire 142 rider pack and worked his way up through field to finish in 55th place; quite an accomplishment considering the course conditions. Kelly Cline, a MAC Racer and Promoter had a good ride in the B Race and finished 12th place. Additionally, in the 40+ women B race, Pittsburgh Rider, Suzan Falvey, had a great ride at her second ever cyclocross race and finished in 6th place. The picture above Doc W. and Suz is pictured below.

The interesting thing about the B races and other non-championship races is how they stage the riders in the starting grid. In an attempt to make the start fair for all, ten numbers are randomly selected and called out to all staged riders. If the last number of your bib matches the called out number, you can go to the starting line. I guess it is the fairest thing that can be done to give every rider and equal chance of a good starting position. Unfortunately for Brian, his number was the last chosen. The open single speed race that I am doing tomorrow will also be staged in this fashion. There are 129 riders in the single speed race and my bib number is 888, basically meaning I would be starting in 88th place with the old registration method of calling up riders. I will be happy with any starting slot better than 88…keep your fingers crossed for me.

Well, that is about it for my daily updates. I will write again tomorrow. Happy Trails, Gerry

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Off to Bend

The end of the 2009 cycling season has come and it is time for my last two races of the year. As I write this, I am flying west with Doctor W. for the cyclocross national championships in Bend, OR. The racing should be awesome in Bend and I am sure the scenery will be equally as grand. While in Bend, I am going to attempt to do daily posts about the racing action and the experiences of the trip. But, first, I need to give a brief race report from the last race of the Cleveland Lake Effect Series at Broughton Farm, which was near Akron, OH.

My individual effort at Broughton Farm was nothing to write home about, finishing 5th overall in the elite race. I was hoping to have a great race before nationals, but like last year at Broughton Farms it was not to be. I was third overall in series points before doing the race and needed a race win and for Shawn Adams to have a bad race in order for me to move up to second overall in the series. My pre-race plan was to go hard at the beginning and shoot for the win, but this plan disappeared pretty quickly after completing the few laps.

Matt Weeks took the hole shot at the start and never looked back, taking the win with a 2.5 minute advantage over second place - Paul Martin. I rode a lap or so with Paul at the beginning, but trying to match his power in the soft muddy conditions stole any remaining energy from my legs. Shortly thereafter, Dan Quinlan caught and passed me. I was then joined by Shawn and rode with him until there were about two laps to go in the race. Eventually he got a gap on me and rode it in for fourth place in the race. After determining my legs were not up for taking the win and that my finish was not going to change my series standing, I must admit that I started racing pretty conservatively. The last thing I wanted to do was trash either my body or my bike with one week remaining before nationals. Nevertheless, I cannot account for why my legs felt so flat at the start of the race. Last year I raced on my single speed at Broughton Farm and thought this was the reason for my bad race. This year I can only blame my lack of peak fitness.

Even though I don’t have the fitness level I think that I should going into nationals, I still feel pretty good and will do my best to put out two last super hard efforts in my final two races of the year: the open single speed and 40-44 master men races in Bend, OR. At this point, there is no more time for preparation. I am where I am fitness wise and hopefully it is enough to allow me to at least finish higher than the 9th place I had last year at nationals. But, even if I don’t have a great race, I am sure it will be a great time. Happy Trails, Gerry

Monday, November 30, 2009

Uncomfortably comfortable

The biggest difference between doing well at cyclocross race and not doing well is the ability to sustain maximum effort during the entire event. For the most part, road and mtb racing does allow for a rider to find some recovery time after putting out hard efforts. I call the feel of racing with time to recover as being uncomfortably comfortable. What I mean is that both road and mtb racing can hurt pretty bad at times from the amount of effort I am putting out, but that level of pain does not last for the entire race. Cyclocross, on the other hand, requires a rider to go much deeper into the pain reserves and ride at a completely uncomfortable level pretty much the entire race. I think this difference in effort is a big reason why some of the best road and mtn bike racers don’t always make great cross racers. Being the pain monger that I am, I decided to dig deep into my box of pain this weekend and do three cyclocross races: one on Saturday and two on Sunday.

On Saturday, I did the elite men’s PA State Cyclocross Championship Race in Allentown, PA. Yes, I know that my cyclocross racing age is 42 and that I should probably play with “kids” my own age, but because of my recent USAC category 1 upgrade in cross I had no choice but to do the elite race. Anyway, as my current racing trend would have it, I had a fairly bad start off the whistle. By the second or third lap, though, I was able to work my way into the top five riders. Eventually, this group was whittled down to me and Patrick Bradley, with two riders (Andy Wulfkuhle and Pavel Gonda) ahead of us. After what seemed to be way too many laps of riding with that feeling of being “uncomfortable,” bad Andy took the win, Pavel came in second and believe it or not I actually won a sprint to take third over Patrick. Even though I came in third place overall, I was the second placed PA Rider and therefore was the silver medalist.

Yeah, there was definitely pain associated with PA States, but my racing on Sunday in New York at the Staten Island CX Race was a two headed monster. Being the single speed fanatic that I am, I had to register for the single speed only race. And, for a single speed only race, there was a pretty good turnout. I really think single speed cross racing is going to keep growing and one day be a pretty big thing. Anyway, my start went pretty good this time and I was able to get into a group with about four other racers right after the first few turns and technical features of the course. By about part way through the second lap, a Team Toga Rider and I were able to get clear from the other racers. We pretty much hammered each other and the one gear we had on our bikes for the rest of the race. My gear choice was a 39x17 and he had a 39x16, so I was accelerating faster, but the Toga Rider was faster on the long flats. With one lap to go, things were shaping up for an epic sprint between us. Unfortunately, however, for the Toga Rider, he got a flat tire with about a third of a lap remaining in the race, giving me a much easier win than anticipated.

After my single speed race, I did some spinning on the trainer, drank some fluids, ate some food and stretched my legs to prepare for tackling my second race of the day against a group of fast elite men. I thought that my preparations between races would be enough to keep me in the mix during the second race, but I can tell you now that it certainly was not. Right from the start of the race, I went backwards faster than I was going forward. I was totally at my limit and was completely questioning my logic about doing two CX races in one day. After the third lap, and all of the positioning insanity of the first couple of loops, I was able to get into a pretty good rhythm on the course. I basically told myself that I was not going to win this thing, so I needed to knock my level down to more of an uncomfortably comfortable type of speed rather than a full out effort. I made the decision to enjoy the course and learn where I could make up time and keep up my speed without exerting too much effort. Surprisingly, even though I was not going full-tilt, I was able to work my way back into the top ten riders. Unfortunately, After about 45 minutes of racing and with three laps remaining, my fun on the course came to an abrupt end when I flatted my rear tubular on the furthest section of the course away from the pit. I pretty much immediately decided that riding the flat, or running to the pit would not be a good choice with so little time left in the race. So, convinced that my pain dosage was more than enough for the day, I took the DNF and went back to my trainer to spin out the concrete in my legs before the long drive home.

My hat goes off again to the promoters of both the PA State and the SICX Races; both events and course were awesome. Of course, it is hard to have any complaints with another weekend of dry racing, especially in late November. I am certainly not used to this much love from Mother Nature during cyclocross season and it is kind of taking a huge chunk of that uncomfortable feeling away from cross racing. But, I must say that re-gluing yet another tire on my racing wheels this season is probably much more painful to me than doing a cold and muddy cross race is anyway, so I guess there is always be something to give me a little anguish.

Another weekend of racing gone and only two more to go before the off season begins. Next up for me is the Team Lake Effect Race at Broughton Farm in Akron, OH. Hope to see you there friends to share a bunch of uncomfortable feelings with you. Happy Trails, Gerry

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cows, Guns, Trophies and Cyborgs.

I had an interesting weekend of racing with a lot of different sights and observations.

The racing and sights started on Saturday in Bruceton Mills, WV at the Don Parks Residence. Don has had cross races on his property ever year since 2004. Before racing there on Saturday, my only other race at Don’s was in 2005. The changes in the course from ’05 to this year were 100% better and made the race a true fast and fun cx course, thanks to Gunnar helping with the design. The start of the race traveled up Don’s driveway passing a fenced in cow pasture, with the cows standing along the fence watching the racers closely like the fans at a Belgium Cyclocross Race. The race then went around Don’s house and twisted around his entire yard in a clever design. After the first couple of laps, Gunnar and I separated ourselves from the rest of the pack. I tired to get a gap on Gunnar a few times during the race, but my single speed bike choice was just not giving me the right gear to get clear from him. I made a decision with 3 laps to go to switch to my geared bike, which was waiting in the pit. The bike change made an increase in my speed immediately noticeable. After the switch of bikes, I waited until the next lap to make another attack on Gunnar. I attacked on the toughest climb of the course and was able to gain a few seconds advantage with my move. I was then able to maintain my gap over Gunnar for the remainder of the race and take the win. While taking a cool down lap on the course, some guys with guns started shooting at a target, which was just off the race course loop. I am pretty sure that WV is the only place where herds of domesticated animals and guys with guns come to checkout a cross race. The only thing to top the sights viewed during the race was receiving a trophy for the win that was almost too big to fit into the back of my car for the trip Home.

My second race of the weekend was at Kirkland Park in Cleveland, OH. Again, the course put on by Team Lake Effect was superbly designed. Kirkland Park is a little park right outside Cleveland with a small amphitheater built into a hillside. The course uses this man made feature along with concrete steps also built into the hill for technical features, along with a lot of twisty stuff. In addition to the toughness of the course, I had to race against the Ohio Cyborgs (my new nickname for riders like Paul Martin, Matt Weeks and Dan Quinlan). Paul is and has been Mr. Consistency for years and Matt is riding super strong this year; both perform more like machines than humans. Dan is newer at racing cross, but has really started to come on during the past few weeks. Both last week and this week I witnessed two crashes which would have caused most riders to abandon the race. Last week Matt went down hard on a gravel turn and then pretty much got back up and started working his way back through the pack. The only thing that kept him from rejoining the lead group was a rolled tubular tire later in the race. At the start of the race on Sunday, Dan did something that caused him and his bike to go head over heels at least a few times. Again, I figure he was probably done racing for the day; however, by the end of the race he fought back for a fifth place finish. I am not sure what is in the water up there in Cleveland, but these guys are definitely a little tougher than your average human. Anyway, I finished the race in third behind the cyborg duo of Matt and Paul.

This coming weekend I am traveling to Allentown, PA for the PA State Cyclocross Championship Race and to Staten Island, NY on Sunday for two more CX races. On Sunday, I am doing a single speed only race at 11am and then the elite race at 2pm, so this is going to be one hard weekend of racing with 3 races in two days. Maybe some of that Ohio Cyborg Toughness has rubbed of on me this season and it will help me be just a little stronger this weekend. If not, at least I am sure that I will still have the opportunity to experience more interesting sights in and around the races , but I am sure none of them will be quite as unique as those in WV. Again, thanks needs to be given to Team Lake Effect, Don Parks and all the other WVCXS People for putting on two great cross races.

Happy Thanksgiving Friends - Gerry