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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Second Fiddle


For the third race in a row, I finished second at a CX race. Last week at the Tacchino Race I finished second and then this weekend I did two Ohio CX Races and finished both in the number two position. Not that placing second in a race is a bad thing, but winning is certainly more fun. Without a doubt, few things can compare to the feeling of a win. But, even though I only finished second at both races this weekend, I still felt like a winner because both races were super fun.

On Saturday, I competed at the Team Lake Effect Cyclocross Race in Kent, OH. The course was an interesting mix of fast grassy field type riding mixed with an almost equal amount of mtb style double track. Being more of a mtb racer than a road racer, I thought the course design would suite my skills very well after pre-riding it. The start of the race was a bit crazy with about 20 riders (instead of the typical 8) lined up on the front row and all wanting to win the sprint into the first gravel to grass transition turn. After the first lap, things did calm down some and a group of about six of us began to separate from the rest of the pack. Towards the beginning of the second lap, however, Matt Weeks threw a pretty hard attack going into a turn which transitioned from grass to gravel to asphalt. Matt carried a little too much speed into the turn, which caused him to go down directly in front of me. I am still not sure how I did not go down with him, but I am glad to have survived the carnage. From this point in the race, the lead group was whittled down to me, Steve Cummings, Shawn Adam and Ernesto Marenchin. Steve-o then got away from the group in the wooded section and began his individual TT to the finish. Ernie, Shawn and I were left in the chase for second place with a constant battle for position going on between us. At the end, I was able to work my way to the front of our little pack during the finishing stretch and hold on to the spot for second overall.

I did the OVCX - Alan Infirmary Hill CX Race just outside Columbus in Granville, OH on Sunday. At this race, I had the choice of either doing the elite master race, the elite race, or actually doing both races. I started the masters race with the game plan of also doing the elite race in my mind. I think this might have caused me to take things a little too conservatively on the first couple of laps. In addition to my lackadaisical start, I also got hit in the eye by a low hanging pine tree branch that kind of obstructed my vision for a lap or so and then had another racer almost take me out when his attempt to bunny hop a barrier failed. But, even after all of this, I still made it into the lead group of the top five riders. One rider, Fred Rose, was able to get a gap on the rest of our group on either the third or fourth lap. A lap or so later only Phil Noble and I were left in the chase after Fred. Phil and I made a few attempts to get away from one another, but pretty much rode the rest of the race together. At the end, I was able to make it into the last turn in the lead spot, which allowed me to win the sprint for my third second place in three races. After my effort in this race, I had no desire to immediately inflict more pain on myself by doing the elite race, especially with only 15 minutes to recover in between the two events.

So, yeah, both races, even as the second fiddle, were good fun. I am sure the fact that both races were held on fast, dry courses added to the pleasure of racing this weekend. It is not often during cross season that I get to race two weeks in a row without mud, so it certainly has been a nice treat to race mud free recently. This coming weekend I will be racing at the WVMBA CX Race in Bruceton Mills, WV on Saturday and at the Team Lake Effect CX Race at Kirkland Park in Cleveland on Sunday. The cross season is winding down, so come on out to the races and play before the season is gone.

Happy Trails, Gerry

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crowd Control


Due to my occupation, I have received quite a bit of training in the methods of managing and controlling large groups of people. During this training, I have learned there is always a chance that a large group of people can become disorderly when they converge in one area, perhaps even to the point of causing a riot. With proper crowd control techniques, though, like those displayed at the recent G20 Conference in Pittsburgh, a riotous crowd can be well managed and controlled. This past weekend it would have been nice to use some of my crowd control training to separate a group of people from me. This group I was focused on spliting up was not a posse of disorderly Anarchists, but a pack of rowdy cross racers all shooting for victory.

This past weekend I did two cross races; the MAC Fair Hill CX Race and at the MABRA Tacchino CX Race. Neither race was super crowded or anything, with each having about 40-50 riders in the elite master category, but since I have not done any MABRA or MAC Races so far this season my starting position was staged near the rear of the pack. Starting position is so important at a cross race because unlike road or mtb racing, there are usually no long climbs or areas to allow the riders to separate quickly. Additionally, cross courses are typically only about 3 meters wide, so on the first couple of laps things can bottleneck at technical points on the course pretty often. Take all this into consideration with the fact that the fastest series riders are staged at the front of the pack, giving them a clear, unobstructed shot to go full speed on the course. Meanwhile, riders staged in the back of the pack must work their way through the crowd even to get near the front.

At the US Cross Nationals this December, I will be starting at least 40 riders back in the master men 40-44 race and about 90 riders back in the single speed race, so my plan for racing this past weekend was to use my bad starting positions for practice in moving through riders staged and starting ahead of me. In my opinion, the only way to learn how to move through a lot of riders quickly is to do it during a race. At both races this weekend, I was able to practice riding through two fairly large packs of racers before it will really count in December and actually did pretty well at it.

On Saturday, at the MAC Race, I started four rows back and by about 1.5 laps into the race I was able to make it through the majority of the riders who started in front of me. The only problem was that a group of five fast riders (all of whom started in the first row) had separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Then, from about lap 2 or 3, I was forced to chase this group by myself, which is never a good place to be in any race. A few times during the race I did get pretty close to the group, but never close enough to completely bridge the gap by putting out one huge effort. I ended up finishing the race in 6th place, directly behind the breakaway group of five.

On Sunday, my starting position was in the third row, so it was one row better than on Saturday. My start was not great, but I was able to latch onto the lead group by the middle of the first lap. From there, I was able to continue working my way through the main group into the top three riders. After the main front group of about 4-5 riders solidified, I then started to throw some attacks off the front of the pack and keep the pace of our small group pretty high with the help of Blair Saunders. Unfortunately, Blair suffered a mechanical on the last lap, which left me all alone with Dave Fuentes. I knew Dave would have a better sprint than me, so I did try to get away from him a few times during the last lap, but none of my efforts were good enough to get clear. At the finish, Dave did win the race and I came in second.

All in all, I am pretty happy with my results from this past weekend and my ability to quickly work through the riders that started in front on me. After reviewing my performance from the weekend, I realize now that I should have probably been just a little more aggressive at getting around riders on Saturday to make contract with the group of five in front of me. Hopefully, I will make a mental note of what I did right and wrong at each of these races and learn from them for nationals. Of course if I didn’t do well this weekend at getting through the crowd, I could always resort back to my professional training and use my riot baton to take a more forceful approach of gaining control over the rowdy group of cyclocrossers in front of me, as this has certainly been proven as an effective method in separating most groups. I am sure, though, that the sanctioning bodies of the cycling community would not be too happy with this action.
Happy Trails, Gerry

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's been a long season

I did my first race of the year on March 29th and have pretty much raced every weekend since then. So far this season, I have done 33 races and there are still ten more on my schedule to do until I will take my winter break. Surprisingly, even with doing this much racing, I do not feel tired or like I am close to burning out. As long as I am having fun at what I am doing, I will continue racing. I will admit, though, that the Marilla Cross Race this past Saturday was almost enough to break me from racing again on Sunday at the Chagrin River Lake Effect Cyclocross Series Race in Ohio.

Yes, Marilla was bad. Pretty much the whole course was covered in two inches of slimy mud by the time the "A" race started. I really don't mind racing in the mud. It is the clean-up and mess afterwards that is such a burden to me. Not only is the bike trashed, but all the clothing and everything else just seems to take forever to properly clean. After the race on Saturday, I wasn't too sure that I would want to clean everything I made a mess of on Saturday, only to take it back out on Sunday and destroy it again. Well, I did get everything clean and after sitting in my hot tub for awhile, I soon forgot the misery of Marilla and decided to race in Cleveland on Sunday.

As unhappy I was with all my cleaning chores this weekend, I was happy with my race results. At Marilla, I finished 2nd after battling with Mike Mihalik for 60 minutes. It was a lot of fun trying to find the fastest lines in the mess of mud out there, especially with me either chasing Mike or having him right on my tail. With about a lap to go, I slid out on a slightly off camber section. Mike was able to get about a ten second gap on me after this mishap and I just couldn't close it with a lap to go. Oh well, a nicer guy couldn't have taken the win and I can accept being the first loser of the race.

Even though there was mud at Chagrin on Sunday, it was nothing like the Marilla Race. Basically, there was just one deep mud puddle on the course to make things a mess on Sunday. The rest of the course was pretty fast, but definitely not a typical cross course. The course was more of a short track mountain bike course, but still a great time to ride. In a way, the course made me feel like I was racing in a Belgian Forest or something, with the transition from bright open sunny fields to dark, rooted trails winding between pine trees. Adding to this ambience was the large open pit fire with smoke blowing into the trees. On the first lap, Matt Weeks and I pulled away from the other riders. We worked pretty good together until there was about three laps to go, when I fell off his fast pace. I thought that I had second pretty much wrapped up, but Shawn Adams came on super strong after taking a fresh bike from the pit and eventually catching me. I tried to hang with him on the last two laps, but I was pretty much fried by that time. I managed to finish third on the day, with Shawn coming around Matt for the win.

The one constant about both races was the amount of excitement that the spectators at the race created. It is always so cool to see people cheering you on during the race. I know it certainly makes me ride harder and also makes the pain more bearable. So, thanks to everyone that endured the nasty elements out there during the two races this weekend and made my racing even more fun. Like I said at the beginning, racing is all about having fun; that is why I am usually smiling at a race. Yeah, it has been a long season for me, but I am still having fun. Happy Trails, Gerry


Thanks to JR Pesko for the above photo and if your are interested in seeing more shots from the Marilla CX Race, checkout this link: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fnatures.smugmug.com%2FSports%2FCycling%2FMarilla-Cyclocross-2009%2F10158414_7bULZ%23698846913_jxWEV&h=1a8605e9615fc9d69a14716aba9dfda9

Monday, October 26, 2009

Staying Local

After traveling all over the US this summer doing long, hard races, it has been nice to stay fairly close to home and do some local races. This past weekend I was lucky enough to do two super local cross races that were actually in the Pittsburgh Area instead of Ohio or east of the Susquehanna. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to travel for cross, but I think it is also good to take a break from traveling whenever there is chance, especially when the local races are so much fun and competitive. So, anyway, this past Saturday, I did the Murraysville Cyclocross race put on by Fred Baldasarre and his Team FU Members. On Sunday, Gary Dugovich put on another one of his sweet cross races. It was so nice having two quality races within a short driving distance.

This was year number two for the Murraysville race, but other than it being a little bit warmer, I would have thought it was a re-play from last year with all the mud. It was so muddy that I actually decided to do a cyclocross sin and race my 29er with cross tires instead of my cross bike. Initially it seem like a good choice, but as the race went on I started to feel sluggish on the 29er. I ended up pitting my 29er for my cross bike with 3 laps to go, probably 1 lap latter than I should have made the decision. I immediately felt a difference in my ride and started making up time on the riders in front of me. With about a quarter lap to go, I was about to catch the 3rd place rider, Kevin Kralik, when I overshot a turn and went over a steep hill. I was so wrapped up in the course tape that I couldn’t stop until the bottom of the hill. After coming to a stop, I had to run back up the hill with my bike and re-enter the course. I really thought that my heart was going to explode in my chest after that run-up. Somehow, even after all this, I was still able to finish fourth at the extremely muddy race.

After cleaning up my two bikes from Saturday, I was not too anxious to destroy them again in the mud on Sunday at the Raccoon Cyclocross Race. I decided to bring my single speed cross bike along with my geared bike to Raccoon , since it seemed to work well at the first Raccoon CX Race this year and because it is so easy to clean after a muddy ride. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to first see a fairly long road section on the course and secondly that course was not too muddy overall. Because of this, I was able to stay on my geared bike during the whole race without having any issues. Matt Weeks, Steve Cummings and I escaped pretty early in the race. Matt was riding hard at the front of our group. His pace was enough to drop Steveo off of our threesome and I was then dropped about a lap and a half latter. After falling from Matts pace, I joined up with a revitalized Steveo and managed to hang with him until there was a little more than a lap to go. At the end it was Matt in first, Steveo second and me in third.

Thanks to Team Freddie FU and Gary Dugovich for all of your hard work at putting on two great cross races. This coming weekend, there is actually another fairly local cross race in Morgantown, WV, the Marilla Cross, which is a must do event. On Sunday, I will headed back up to the Cleveland Area for another Team Lake Effect Cross Event, Chagrin River CX.

Hope to see everyone out there. Happy Trails, Gerry

Thanks to Vaugh Wallace for the photo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Team Spin CX

Since doing the Cross My Heart and Hope to Die Cyclocross Race put on by Team Spin in Willoughby, OH last year, I have been patiently awaiting the return of this race. Well, this past Saturday my year long wait ended and I was again not disappointed with this outstanding event.

The course was changed this year, but all of the changes made were for the better. First, the crazy start going through the picnic pavilion on the 2008 course was removed and replaced with a much safer and wide open grass launching pad. The overall direction of the course was changed from counterclockwise to the opposite direction, which seemed to make the course flow better. The third, and most significant change was the removal of the nasty mud/water pit, which was on the 2008 course. Finally, the course was made better by the addition of more technical features like a massive spiral of death.

I expected the course to be super wet and saturated from all the rain we received during the past week, but the conditions were much better than I expected. Additionally, it did not rain on race day, which was a most pleasant surprise from what was initially being forecasted in the weather. Of course, sections of the course were muddy, but everything other than the crazy long run-up was able to be ridden. This run-up is the trade mark feature of this course and in my opinion should never be removed. It just hurts that good.

Cross season has been going on for a little more than a month now and things are starting to fall into place for me. I did not win the Cross My Heart Race like I did last year, but overall I did feel really good and still feel like I am building towards my peak. It is easy to burn out with cross because of the nasty weather and difficult training conditions. Racing every weekend in good and bad weather does seem to help me stay focused and motivated during these last few months of racing. Hopefully, I can continue my progress through the season and peak for nationals in December. Yes, you heard me right, nationals. After receiving my category 1 CX upgrade this past week, I did decide to register for nationals in Bend, OR. It is hard for me to pass up on the final grand finale of the season and for the fifth year in a row, I will be attending this major shindig.

But, before the end of the season in Bend, there are many more super fun races to do. This weekend, for example, there are two local Pittsburgh Area Races that just can't be missed. On Saturday, the 2nd annual Murrysville Cyclocross Race put on by Team Freddie FU is being held and on Sunday, Gary Dugovich is putting on another one of his super cross events. If you enjoy cyclocross and live anywhere near Pittsburgh, you do need to be at both of these races.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to thank the two dudes that took it upon themselves to pit for me at the Spin Race on Saturday. I was going to say thank you after the race, but you had already vacated the pit area. I say "dudes" because my mind was too foggy during the race to actually see who was helping me. I do appreciate your help...whoever you guys are! Also, much thanks to Robert Sroka for the photo and for continually being able to capture awesome cyclocross photos.

Happy Trails, Gerry

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cincy UCI-3, the fabulous and the not so much

I am pretty sure everyone that raced cyclocross in Cincinnati this weekend would agree with me when I say this was a great three day event. I cannot say anything bad about any of the races. Each course was unique and fun to ride. Yeah, sure, the first day was a complete mud fest, but this is cyclocross, so get used to it. The second day was a super fast course, but technical at the same time. Day three had a little bit of everything including a mud pit, a couple of sand pits, some great twisty stuff and a lot of climbing. All three days of racing were challenging in there own way and were all fabulous in my eyes.

Overall my race weekend went pretty well considering that I started in the fourth or fifth row every day. The first lap was crazy hard as I did everything possible to work my way towards the front of the race. Unfortunately, by the time I made it to the front, a fast group of 3-4 riders had slipped away each day. By lap two or three, it was just a matter of maintaining my position and trying to stay consistent. On day one, I was fourth overall in the elite master mudder event. I finished fifth at the Java Johnny's Race on day two and also finished fifth at the Harbin Park Race on day number three. One thing you can't say about me is that I am not consistent...ha.

So, if my racing went so well this weekend and the promoters did such a good job, one might be curious to know what was not so fabulous. The answer to this question is USA Cycling and their never ending ability to screw stuff up. This weekend, Saturday Night into Sunday Morning at 12:01am to be exact, USA Cycling decided to surprise the whole cyclocross racing community with an early opening of nationals registration with no advanced notification. According to the website used for registration, www.sportsbaseonline.com, as of 10/07/09, nationals registration was to start on 10/15/09. It sure was nice of USA Cycling to change registration without any advanced notice and move it to the weekend when many were racing and did not have access to computers, especially since it a determining factor on how close to the front one is staged.

Additionally, Cyclocrossmag.com reported earlier in the year that staging for nationals, would also be based on the rider's race category, with lower category riders being staged first. The online magazine post also reported that the top ten finishers from the previous year would receive call-ups. Since I finishing 9th last year (in the top ten), I did not see any reason to upgrade my cat 2 license to cat 1 because as a master rider categories never used to mean anything anyway. Looking back now, I should have started my upgrade process earlier because USA Cycling also changed/announced that call ups at nationals would be the top eight from last year instead of the top ten.

Well, seeing how I now went from having a possible call-up position for nationals to joining the rat race for an early registration time along with everyone else, I stayed up late on a race night to be one of the first registered riders. To ensure everything would be working right, I logged onto the website early, updated my credit card info and awaited the beginning of registration like it was the actual start of the race. At about 12:00am, I then got booted off the website and spent the next 30 minutes trying to log back onto the crashed site with no luck. In complete frustration, I went to bed only to awake later in the morning to discover the site must have started to work again early in the morning and that 55 riders had already registered for my age class. I probably should have registered at that time, but my frustration ran so deep with USA Cycling, I decided traveling to Oregon for at best a fifth row starting position was not worth my time. BTW, at the time of this posting, there are 161 riders registered in my category.

I have calmed down a bit since Sunday Morning and I may still register for nationals if I can get an upgrade to cat 1 soon, but chances are I will just hold out for next year. It is just amazing to me how local promoters can do such a great job with putting on an event, but USA Cycling makes a mess out registering for the nationals championships.

Well enough bitching about nationals. I did have a lot of fun racing this weekend and hanging with my travel buddy, steveo, for a few days. The next race in my radar is the Team Spin Cross My Heart and Hope to Die Race in Willoughby, OH this Saturday. With a name like that it has to be fabulous. Thank goodness I don't have to use a USA Cycling Website to register for it.
Happy Trails - Gerry
For more awesome photos created by Jeffrey Jakucyk, from the Cincinnati UCI-3 Races, please click here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Big Time


As the song from Peter Gabriel, Big Time, goes, I'm on my way, I'm making it. Why? Well, because after 30 years of bicycle racing, one national championship, a few WPFG world championships and numerous series championships, I have finally had a chance to do an interview for a "magazine." An online magazine, http://www.xxcmag.com/, was kind enough to request an interview from me about my National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Single Speed Series Win. If you have any interest in reading the interview, it can be found by clicking here.

In addition to making the big time with the press, (haha) I also had some big fun at the Month of Mud Grove City Cross Race on Sunday. Before I talk about the race, the first thing I want to say is thanks to everyone from the M.O.M that worked hard at putting on the Grove City Race. I thought the course was awesome and so much better than any other time the race was held there.

The race itself became a race between only me and Steve Cummings (SteveO) very soon after the start. Gorski did a real hard first prologue lap with SteveO and I on his wheel. SteveO and I then took off from that lead out into the first double barrier section and created an early gap from there. By the time we exited the woods together, a quarter of a lap later, I saw SteveO look back and say "wow." I then looked over my should and saw nobody even close to us. Gunnar and Ruggery were the next closest riders, but far enough off our wheels to not be an immediate threat. SteveO and I both knew we would have to work together, though, to fend off any chasers and maintain our comfortable lead. We did not make any agreements as we rode together, but it seemed as if we did because we both would switch off pretty equally, doing hard pulls at the front. We each kept a watchful eye on one another, waiting for the other to make a mistake from which we could throw an attack, but we both rode smoothly and made no serious errors to create a gap. So, the only thing left to determine a winner would be the final sprint to the finishing line. I led the sprint out and thought that the finish was closer than it actually was, meanwhile allowing SteveO to come around my left side and eventually passing me for the win. But, I am not bummed about my second place at all because the course was so much fun and because this was the first race of the cross season where I felt like I rode with good cross legs.

After the race, I did a 45 mile single speed cross bike ride down to my mom's place near Mars, PA. I rode on roads that I haven't seen for over ten years, so the ride brought back many memories of previous rides and times. It is amazing how quickly present time goes by when the mind drifts off into thoughts of something other than spinning the pedals. Before I knew it, I had arrived at my mother's for some hot dinner and warm apple pie dessert. A great race, a sweet ride and some delicious food...could a guy ask for anything more?

Next up on the racing calendar for me is three days of cyclocross racing in Cincinnati, OH this Friday Saturday and Sunday. Last year I did the Friday and Saturday Races, but since I am not doing the whole M.O.M. Series this year I am doing all three days. Racing for three days will certainly be a good test of how my cyclocross fitness has developed over the past month and if this past Sunday was any indication, I should be happy with my results.

So, BTW, the song Big Time by Peter Gabriel, is not written as a way for him to brag about everything he or anyone has. The song, to me anyway, is his way of poking fun at people that actually think they are bigger than life. Believe me, I know that my life is no different now then it was at any other time in my life (even with all the press). But, I will say that I am happy Jason Mahokey recognized my accomplishment and thought it was cool enough to use in his magazine. Thanks, Jason!

Happy Trails - Gerry

Monday, September 28, 2009

Welcome the pain.

There is no doubt in the mind of anyone who has ever done a cyclocross race that it is a painful experience. Out of all the types of bike racing I have done, cross probably hurts more in 60 minutes than any other type of race. To be successful at cross racing, one needs to look this pain in the face and welcome it with open arms. This past weekend I took two full doses of this cyclocross pain while doing the 2nd Team Lake Effect Series Race at the Kent State University Stark Campus and at the 2nd Month of Mud (MOM) Series Race in Raccoon Twp.

Like my last race in Cincinnati, OH the weekend prior, these two races were held on muddy courses. With all the mud, using my single speed cross bike was a very prominent choice in my mind each day. But, after doing a couple laps on the single speed at the Stark Race on Saturday, I determined that using gears would be the fastest and best choice for this race. BTW, I must admit that I was very impressed with how my SRAM 1x10 drivetrain held up in all the mud. Unfortunately, other parts on my bike did not fare as well. For one, my stem decided that it was time to loosen up during the race. After each lap past the mid point of the race, my bars decided to move a little bit more towards the left. By the end of the race, my bars were at a 45 degree angle when my front wheel was pointed straight ahead. During the race, I was not too sure of the exact problem with my stem, but I knew that I wasn't going to stop and figure it out. Additionally, the cotton casing on my tubular tire became so water logged that the glue started to separate from the rim, which then caused the value stem to move on the rim. This created a large bubbled area on my rear wheel that could be felt with each rotation of the rim. Luckily the tire stayed on the rim for the remainder of the race. Somehow even with these problems and my bad start from being in the second row of riders, I was able to finish 3rd overall in the elite men's race. I guess my body had a huge craving for some pain on Saturday that only a cyclocross race could deliver.

Since the MOM has a single speed category and because I spent too much time cleaning my two muddy bikes on Saturday, I decided the best thing to do on Sunday would be to race a bike without gears. With the course not having any road sections and being very muddy, I figured this would be a good single speed course anyway. My choice seemed to be a good one after the first few laps, once Mike Mihalik and I escaped from the front of the pack. We rode good together until there was about 2.5 laps to go. It was at this point where my body said to me "you have had enough pain for today old man, take a break." Unwillingly, I then let Mike slip away from me and began my individual time trial to the finish. The one disadvantage of using a single speed over a geared bike is the amount of effort needed to keep the one gear rolling. There is no way to make the cranks spin faster other than pedaling harder. And, eventually the body will feel the effects of all this added effort, as mine did on Sunday. By the end of the race, another rider, Kevin Kralik, caught me just before the line. I ended up finishing in 3rd place overall and as the 1st single speed racer. I guess my eyes were bigger than my stomach, as I took a little bigger portion of pain than I could handle on Sunday by attempting to take an overall victory on the single speed. I may not have taken the victory, but I did get a very large Chinese Buffet sized portion of pain for the day.

I am finding comfort in the fact that my cross legs do seem to be coming around a little better each week. I felt much better this weekend than I did during the two prior weekends of cross racing. Maybe it is just a matter of accepting the 60 minutes of pain and realizing I have to pretty much put in maximum effort during the entire cross race. Getting used to not being able to recover is certainly different that a road race or mtb race. Unlike road or mtb racing, a cross race does require a complete welcoming of pain.

I need to say thanks to Stark Velo/Team Lake Effect for the serving of pain they offered me on Saturday and also a big thank you to the MOM Organization for their dose of pain on Sunday. This weekend I will be competing at the 3rd MOM Series Race at the Grove City Community Park in Grove City, PA. This is the longest standing cyclocross race in Western PA, so it will probably attract a big, fast field of riders like it usually does. It is hard for me to believe that way back in 1995 I was the person that actually brought the MOM to the Grove City Community park and that it is still going strong today. Wow!

See you all on Sunday at GC for some welcomed pain. If the weather is nice, I am planning to do a ride after the race from GC to Mars, PA (40 miles or so) for some bonus points. Anyone interested in joining me for the ride, please jump on the pain train. Happy Trails - Gerry


BTW - thanks to Robert Sroka for the photo!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dust and Mud


This past weekend I competed in the two day OVCX Kings Cyclocross Race Series. Each day was held at the same location; an old, closed, public golf course. The race course, however, was made complete different each day by changing the direction of the course and the barrier placement. Not only did the organizers change the course itself from Saturday to Sunday, but Mother Nature did her part by adding some precipitation to the mix on Sunday. The contrast from the fast dusty conditions on Saturday to the slick muddy conditions on Sunday did make for some interesting racing.


On Saturday my bike choice was easy to make. I chose my lightweight geared bike with a 1x10 drivetrain and tubular rims/tires. I took the hole-shot at the start of the Saturday Race and seemed to be able to keep my speed pretty high all day. Unfortunately, I made two costly mistakes during the race: one on the first time through the fast double barriers and a second about mid race, when I stacked it again on the same double barrier section. I did not lose many spots on the first mistake, but the second crash created a gap between me and eventual race winner, Phil Nobel, that I could not close. I ended the day in second place, but was happy with my placing considering my barrier mistakes.


The weather man promised rain all morning on Sunday and his prediction proved to be an accurate one for any race held after 10am. From looking at the weather forecast and radar image of the coming rain, I made the decision to race my single speed cross bike on the second day of racing. Before the rain actually fell, I pre-rode the course and thought that my single speed would certainly be the fastest choice on a muddy course. I started the race in a fairly good position, going into the second turn in about 7th place, but then got stuck behind another rider who had crashed right in front of me. This caused me to lose quite a few spots in the pack and also allowed a group of about 5 riders to sneak away from the rest of the pack. I pushed my single speed as hard as I could, but could not close the gap to the lead group. Additionally, the mud on the course started to dry out a bit, which made my single speed choice not such a good one. I definitely think my geared bike would have been faster. I kept wishing for the rain to start falling again during the race, but it never did. I ended up in 5th place by the finish, which gave me third place overall for the weekend.


Overall, it was a really good two days of cross racing. The OVCX guys should be complimented for putting on a fun and well laid out course for each day of racing. Racing two days in a row was a good test of my early season fitness, too. I am probably where I should be for the beginning of the season fitness wise, but I still need a little more time to develop faster cyclocross speed. I think if I can continue doing two races every weekend, I will get my cross racing legs back in no time. Racing cross and the high intensity of doing it, is certainly a lot different than doing a long endurance mtb race. But, I do feel as if I am racing a lot better this year than I was at the same time last year. Hopefully I can build on this good early cyclocross season fitness and have some really good races later in the fall.


This weekend I will be doing the 2nd race of the Team Lake Effect Series in Stark, OH on Saturday and the Raccoon Twp M.O.M. Cyclocross race put on by my friend Dugo on Sunday. Hope to see you all there! Happy Trails - Gerry
To checkout more photos from the OVCX Race, click here


Sunday, September 13, 2009

KISS



On the evening after my first cyclocross race of 2009, I felt compelled to write a blog about kissing. Nah, not even close. This blog, like all my others, is about bicycle racing. Sorry, ladies...

Anyway, when I was a US Marine, the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) was used to remind us to keep problem solving simple. The time has come for me to use KISS again, but with a new meaning; Keep It Single Speed. But, my reference to a single speed in this blog post is being directed to a cross bike this time, not a mountain bike. As I have preached many times before, there is no bike as dependable, efficient and fun to ride as a single speed, which makes it a perfect choice for cross racing, especially when held on a muddy course.

As many of you know, I am a cyclocross racing fanatic, enjoying the sport both as a competitor and as a spectator. There are very few things I would change about the sport, but there are some UCI Rules I would absolutely change if I had the ability, which could make cross racing even more exciting in my opinion. Not that there is any chance for these things to actually occur, but I feel like they need to be mentioned. First, and most importantly, I would require all riders to race on a single speed bike. Second, disc brakes would be allowed for use in any race if you wanted to use them. Finally, my third rule change, which will tie my other two rules changes together, would be to do away with the "pit" and pit bikes.

Let me explain my thinking here a little bit before you start typing your angry emails to me. If everyone in the race could use a single speed bike with disc brakes, there would really be no need for a second bike. The flawless operation of the single speed cross bike would make the necessity of having a bike in the pit on a muddy day completely unnecessary. On a single speed bike with disc brakes, the drivetrain would not need to be cleaned of mud and mud would not accumulate on brakes/wheels. Additionally, the brakes would actually work in all types of conditions. These rule changes would put every racer on an equal playing field and would select the strongest, most skilled rider as the winner.

I have been trying to build the perfect single speed cross bike for the past 4 years or so. This summer I was finally able to build a single speed cross bike to meet all of my demands. To begin my build, I bought a SWOBO Crosby complete cyclocross bike. For more details about the crosby, click here. I had to buy the whole bike because a frame only choice was not available. The Crosby, as it was designed by SWOBO, is an awesome, completely cool looking bike for commuting or even recreational racing. But, my goal was to build a true, lightweight, single speed cyclocross racing bike with disc brakes, so almost all of the OEM parts were stripped off the bike.

I chose the Crosby because it was adaptable for using disc brakes. Additionally, the frame has rear sliding dropouts, which allows for the use of a quick release rear wheels instead of bolt-on wheels. SWOBO designed the frame with plenty of mud clearance, even with the use of wide 700x35mm tires. The frame has a large, multi-shaped downtube to give the frame a lot of lateral stiffness, which is very important on single speed bikes. It was also built with a slightly sloping top tube to give better standover clearance. The underside of the top tube is also flattened to make it more comfortable for shouldering. A few years ago, I had a very similar frame design in my mind and sent my ideas to a couple of custom builders. Most of the builders did not understand what I was trying to achieve and the one that did understand my thoughts quoted a price of nearly $900 for just the frame. SWOBO sells their whole bike for pretty close to this price!

I added a Civia Full Carbon Disc Brake Specific Fork, FSA RD-460 Road Disc Wheels, a Thompson Seatpost/Stem Cockpit, Profile Alpine Pro Carbon Cranks, Bontrager Cyclocross Race Bars, a WTB Saddle and Time Clipless MTB Pedals to complete my custom lightweight build. And, BTW, the Speedgoat Stickers on the downtube are not included. The stickers were an extra put on by me to advertise for the coolest bike shop in the world.

Is there anybody else out there ready to start a single speed cyclocross revolution? We could be called the KISS Army. Oh, wait, I almost forgot the fan club for all of the KISS Rock Band Fans is already called the KISS Army. Thinking about it now, though, I am sure they wouldn't mind us stealing their name for a good cause.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to say something about my first cyclocross race of the year. First off, I need to recognize the outstanding job that Team Lake Effect did in putting on the race and designing the course. Everything seemed to go smoothly during the event and the course was a lot of fun to ride also. Considering that I have had a pretty nasty cold all week, I am pretty happy with my final 6th place result. I was able to battle at the front and hang in with the lead group until the last half lap or so. The skills seemed to be on target and the bike functioned flawlessly. It is early in the season, but I do feel like once this cold decides to clear-up I will be ready to roll. Happy Trails - Gerry

Monday, September 7, 2009

Another Beer Glass

Pretty much ever 100 mile race I have gone to over the last three years has given me a beer glass either for registering or as a finishing award. Needless to say, I have accumulated a pretty significant amount of beer glasses during this time. This past weekend I added another glass to my collection after finishing the Shenandoah 100. Grabbing a glass out of a filled cupboard of old race glasses for a drink of water or any other beverage can certainly awaken some old race memories with the collection I have built.


As my collection of glasses has grown over the years, so has the NUE Race Series. It is amazing how fast the 100 mile races have become. It is also pretty cool to see how many people are getting into doing these long races. Only two years ago, I was able to finish 5th overall with a time of 7 hours and 48 minutes. This year I finished 9th with a time that was 13 minutes faster than 2007. I might be getting faster, but it seems as if so is everybody else.


I changed things up a little for this race by using gears instead of riding a single speed bike. After racing all season with only one gear, it was certainly nice to use the "easy button, " as Staples Office Store might call changing gears. The thing I liked most about using gears was being able to throw my chain into the big ring on the fast, flat sections on the course. Climbing has never bothered me too much on my single speed, but I must admit it was nice going into an easier gear every once in a while. Which bike do I prefer to race, geared or single speed? I would say without a doubt it would be the single speed. It was nice experimenting with a geared bike again, but I will definitely be racing a single speed mtn bike again next season.


There was not a lot of drama in my race. I guess because it really did not have any real meaning to my season or the series and because I definitely did not suffer as bad as when I race on a bike with only one gear. My main goal was to beat my PR time from 2007, which I was able to do. I think the experience I have gained from racing so many 100 mile races over the past few years definitely helped with lowering my time. Additionally, my time was made faster by a strong group of riders with which I spent much of the day. Jens Neilson, Blair Saunders, Rob Lichtenwalner, Greg Kuhn and I all seemed to work well together during the race. It is always good to race with guys that want to work and it is kind of frustrating when there is one in the group that doesn't want to help out with the pulls.


Anyway, I earned a ninth place finish at Shenandoah and another beer glass to go with it. Now that mtb season is officially over for me, it is time to start cyclocross racing. My first cross race is next weekend in Cleveland and I will be racing cyclocross ever weekend from then until Nationals in December. See you at the races! - Gerry

Monday, August 31, 2009

R & R


Oh, yes, a little rest and recuperation are good. I just drove back from Rehoboth Beach, DE and the body is feeling re-energized to race again. Not only did I take this past weekend off from racing, but I also took off last weekend, too...yes, two weeks off from racing for me. I know it is hard to believe, but it is true. Don't think for a minute, though, that I have not been riding. I actually did a 20 + hour week of riding this past week in preparation for Shenandoah, so the legs are feeling good.

In addition to my many hours of riding this past week, I also spent the past few days swimming for about an hour a day in the ruff surf created by Tropical Storm Danny. At one point, I decided to ride one of the big waves back onto the beach, only to be body slammed by this huge monster into the shore. I have a nice scuff on my nose to prove it. I actually thought the big wave snapped my neck when I hit the ocean floor. One day I will learn to not mess with Mother Nature, but probably not any day soon.

I took my single speed cross bike to the beach because there is less on it for the salt and sand to destroy. I found some cool trails and some nice roads to ride in Rehoboth. Additionally, I also had a chance to practice my cx sand pit skills...maybe a little too much. More than a few of the trails I found turned into deep and soft pits of sand. With the big gear I had on my bike, it was mostly impossible to ride this stuff, but it sure was fun trying. And, if I couldn't ride it, I would just run it, since I was in cyclocross mode anyway. The picture above was from a trail that lead to a large sand dune. I ended-up running with my bike for about a mile up and down this thing to find a trail that I could ride on again. The best part was that I actually had to run because I was being chased by a swarm of biting sand flies for the whole mile.

Well, now for the big news, if you haven't heard it already....I am NOT using a SINGLE SPEED for Shenandoah. I have decided to race a geared bike since I have the NUE Series Singlespeed Win locked-up. I have done well at Shenandoah in the past with gears and would like to try for another good overall finish there. I think only having one gear at Shenandoah would make it a lot tougher to do well overall, so gears it is for me. I also think it will make the battle for second overall in the singlespeed series a little more interesting to watch. So, Matt, Gunnar and Roger, you will need to have your fun without me....Good Luck to you all and may the best man win!

One last note: I finally joined the rest of the modern world and put a profile on Facebook this week. If I haven't tracked you down by now, please send me a friend request, so I don't seem so pathetic and friendless.

See you all for some good suffering in about a week... Happy Trails, Gerry






Monday, August 17, 2009

NOT Leadville, but......


This past weekend there were primarily two 100 mile mtb races from which to choose. A small, unknown race with some guy named Lance doing it being held in the mountains of Colorado (Leadville), if you couldn't guess. And, the other choice, the 6th stop of the NUE Series, the Fool's Gold 100, in Dongalonga, GA...the town was actually called Dahlonega, but Andy and I had some fun saying Dongalonga because we were not too sure how to actually pronounce the name of the small college town. Anyway, being the NUE Series Junkie that I am, I did the Fool's Gold Race instead of Leadville...not that I really even gave any real consideration to doing Leadville.

From what I can find on the internet, Leadville boasts approximately 14,000 feet of climbing. I do not use an altimeter or a GPS Unit on my bike, but I did find GPS information on the total of the Fool's Gold Race, which verified the climbing at just over 14,600 feet for the entire 100 mile, 2 loop race. So, even though I was not at the infamous Leadville 100, I actually got to do more climbing than if I was there anyway. Additionally, when compared to Leadville, Fool's is more of a true mountain bike course with many of the 100 miles coming from single track trails rather than dirt roads. I have never done Leadville, but my guess is that anyone who has done both races would probably say Fool's is tougher to do than Leadville. What do you think, Garth P.???

Well, enough comparison between the two races. Time to tell my story of Fool's and the fun I had doing it. Let me start by giving a description of the activities that occurred on the first climb, an eleven mile monster, which takes about an hour to climb. The race started in a flat grass field, then went for about two hundred yards, before pointing straight up. After the start, I immediately went to the front of the pack to set some good tempo up the climb. My new blogger friend, Rich Dillen, then rode up to me and introduced himself . We shook hands, said a few kind words and then continued with the racing. Anyway, my race plan up the climb was to keep a pretty fast pace at the front of the pack to lessen the occurrence of individual attacks, so that hopefully a group could form to set a steady, but fast pace up the rest of the climb. My strategy seemed to work and a few miles up the hill there was a group containing me and six other riders. We seemed to work well together up the climb and the pace was enough to create a pretty significant gap over the rest of the field. Gunnar S. was the only other singlespeeder in the lead group with me, so I was happy with how things were going.

I did the first climb with only one water bottle, since the first check point was on top of the 11 mile climb. I figured it would be better to climb light and then stop at the top of the climb to grab the rest of my hydration gear rather than carrying everything the whole way up. I figured that other racers would also have this plan in mind and that the climb would also split things up so much that a 20 second stop to grab my stuff would not be a problem. Well, I was wrong. As it turned out, I was the only one in the lead group to stop at the check point (and there was no way I could continue racing with only a quarter of a bottle left to drink until the next check point), so I had no choice but to watch the fast group roll away with Gunnar attached in their draft.

After grabbing my hydration gear and jumping back on my bike, I figured it was going to be a long day alone in the saddle, again, especially after I found that the descent had many fast, flatter sections, which seemed perfect for a singlespeeder to use for drafting. After the long, fast fire road descent, though, the single track started and to my surprise, I soon found Gunnar riding all alone. After catching him, I said "Man, I thought you were gone when you rode away with that group." He said, "Those guys are nuts on the descents!" I agreed with him and then we settled into a fast singlespeed pace, riding together for almost the entire first fifty mile lap.

It wasn't until the last climb before the end of the 1st lap that I was finally able to put about 20 seconds on Gunnar. I maintained this small gap going into the start/finish area of the first loop. I did a quick pit stop and like on the first lap grabbed only one water bottle for the long 11 mile climb, since I had my second camelbak and another bottle waiting on top of the mountain. When Gunnar came into the checkpoint he jokingly asked me to wait up for him, but knowing this was my chance to gain some valuable time, I pedaled away. From what Gunnar told me after the race, I put like ten minutes on him by the top of the big climb. But, not knowing where Gunnar was behind me, I pushed my pace until the end of the race. I also kept my pace high to accomplish a personal goal of finishing in the top five overall again at a NUE Series Race on a singlespeed, if I could.

Everything seemed to be going perfectly for me on the second lap, other than being stung repeatedly by a wasp on the temple area of my head, when it got stuck in between my face and helmet strap, at mile 67. Other than the pain from being stung, my bike was working flawlessly, the rest of my body felt great, my nutrition and hydration was going as planned, and I kept the rubber trail side down all day, too, so all was golden. It was so nice to do a race without having some major problem to tackle. I basically just got into my groove and enjoyed the trails and my ride.

By the end of the race, I had met my goal of being the first singlespeed racer to cross the line and the 5th rider overall to finish the 100 mile race, with a time of 8 hours and 15 minutes. Andy also had a great race, finishing 6th overall and as 5th in the open (geared) class, about fifteen minutes behind me. This was Andy's first time on a NUE Series Podium, so he was pretty excited about his finish. This win gave me a lock on the overall NUE Series Singlespeed Class Win. With now having four 1st places and one second place finish in the sereis, I can relax a bit and treat the Shenandoah 100 as a one day race instead of a meaningful part of a series.

I can't say enough good things about the Fool's Gold Race. The course was tough, but at the same time super fun to do. Eddy, the promoter, also did great job with all the logistical and event planning stuff required to make everything run smoothly. I would absolutely add this race on to a list of 100 mile races to do, even if doesn't have all the drama surrounding a guy named Lance doing the race. Happy Trails, Gerry

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Gerry Pflug Does NOT Eat People

I came to find out this past week that someone wrote a blog about me. If you did not get a chance to read it, checkout this blog here. The poster of the blog, Rich Dillen, is a single speed brethren, but not someone I can say that I actually know. After reading the blog, I figured it would be best to tell everyone not to be afraid of me; I do not eat people.

I think most people reading Rich's Blog probably do realize that I am not all he claims me to be. Man, I wish I was that strong, but, like everyone else, I have weaknesses. And, after this past Saturday's WVMBA Big Bear Ultra MTB Race, I certainly do not feel as strong as I am portrayed in Rich's Blog.

Let me just start by saying that I need to be a little bit more honest with myself when it comes time to rest. All week after the Wilderness 101 I felt tired. I took Sunday after the 101 off, but rode the rest of the week. I did not do anything too long or hard, thinking that this would rest me up a bit to do Big Bear. By Friday, I was still tired, but thought I would be good enough to do another long race. I can tell you now that the race is over that I should have been smart like Jason M. and did a long ride at 7 Springs instead.

I really did not do all that badly at the nearly 50 mile long Big Bear Race, finishing 5th overall and as the 2nd single speed racer, but my legs felt like crap during the entire race. I didn't make things much better during the race either when a few miles into the race I went over the bars and smacked my knee into my stem. Damn, that hurts! The darn thing bugged me for the rest of the race and still feels a little tight today, as do my legs in general.

Sorry to bitch so much about my tired legs...but, you would think, by now, I would figure out when I should take a weekend off from racing and rest. Or, at least be smart enough not to do a super hard race like Big Bear, when I need a break. Thing is, I like to race and it is hard for me not to race. I must admit that the trails at Big Bear were sweet. The network of trails there is amazing and they are by far some of the most technical around. At certain points during the race, I was not sure if I was riding on a XXC course or a closed trails course. Yes, some of the technical stuff was that sick! The technical nature of the trails certainly made time go by quickly for the 4.5 hours I was out there., thank goodness.

Even though I felt pretty tired from Big Bear, I still decided to ride today. Instead of riding the 29er, though, I took out my super light weight racing cross machine. Man, does that thing fly! I rode it over to my hometown cross course, Mammoth Park, and did a loop there before riding home. By the time I did the ride, it was in the peak heat of the day. I figured I better try riding in some super hot weather before heading down to my next 100 miler in Georgia, the Fool's Gold NUE Series Race. The heat did not bother me too much today and I do think that my legs loosened up a bit from the ride.

I think after doing Fool's Gold this coming weekend and the Shenandoah 100 in a few weeks, I will be ready to pack the mountain bike away for a bit. I am getting the cyclocross itch in a bad way right now. How nice it will be to race for like 45-60 minutes instead of 8 hours. Funny thing about bike racing is that no matter how long or short the race is, they all still hurt. Yes, Rich Dillen, I do hurt when I race....sometimes a lot. Happy Trails - Gerry

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ups and Downs

The Wilderness 101, being a 100+ mile MTB race, does certainly have many peaks and valleys to traverse. If there is any doubt about the amount of climbing contained in this race, it will quickly vanish upon seeing the hill profile of the course. Climbing is my friend; however, so it is not the amount of climbing or descending in the 101 that caused me difficulty on August 1, 2009. Like I have mentioned before, I always start my races with some sort of a game plan. My plan for the 101 was to stay near the front, with the geared riders, as long as possible and to keep my eye on the other single speed racers around me. But, just like at the Breck 100 Race two weeks ago, my game plan fell apart quickly.

After the first long climb, a group of about 20 riders was able to separate from the main pack. This group was comprised of all the main contenders of the race and two single speed riders: Matt Ferrari and me. Matt and I hung on to the pace set by the faster geared guys until about mile 20, when finally we both dropped off the pace. Since there was nobody in sight behind us, we both seemed happy to just ride together and keep our eyes on each other. We also had a geared bike rider with us and the three of us seemed to be working together pretty well together.

Other than getting dropped by the main group of geared guys, I thought things were going pretty well. But, then, on one of the first technical single track sections of the race, I must have pinched my rear tire on a rock. I noticed it slowly going low about 4 miles before check point 2. Even with my Stan's Sealant, the tire only held air for about another mile before needing to be repaired. I couldn't believe that I flatted again at the beginning of another NUE Series Race when I was feeling so good. I was hoping that I did not have the same repair issues that I had only two weeks early. You can only imagine how thrilled I was that my tube change had no issues. You can also imagine the disgust that followed when my CO2 canister would not inflate the tube. I was stuck and desperate, again. Luckily, another good Samaritan racer offered me the use of his pump, when I stood on the trail side begging.

I figure I lost about 5-10 minutes to Matt after my flat and knew I had my work cut out for me since he was a local strong rider and was very familiar with the race course. After my flat repair, I rode alone on a slightly downhill fire road, before being caught by a group containing 4 geared riders and 2 single speeders (Gunnar and Roger Masse). I was actually glad to see them and to "hitch" a ride with the group until check point #2, but at the same time, I now knew that I had two fast single speed racers to battle against. Masse had a super quick stop at the check point and probably put 20 seconds on me there since I had to add more air to my tire (added protection against a 2nd flat) as well as grab some nutrition. During our check point stop, Gunnar somehow lost sight of Roger and I leaving, so he was left behind and not to be seen again. Seeing Roger leave the check point quickly made me rush to leave also. It wasn't until a mile or so down the road that I remember Gunnar telling me during our paceline that my seat bag was open and that there was nothing in it. Great! Now I have no tools, no CO2, no tubes, no nothing until the next check point.

I caught Roger on a big climb after checkpoint two. He rode with me for a short while, but I was able to put a pretty good time gap on him by the top of the climb. I was now in my chase mode and began to focus on catching each rider in front of me. I must admit it is much better for me to be the hunter rather than the hunted. I came into check point three feeling pretty good, grabbed two bottles of Gator Aid and my waiting CamelBak of water. Of course being in a rush again, I completely forgot about asking for a spare tube and would do so at all remaining checkpoint.

Leaving check point three there is a sharp left turn that leads up a steep, root and rock covered piece of single track. On this trail, Harlan Price tells me that the other single speeders were right in front of me. It was only a few seconds later that I had sight of Ferrari again. I caught him pretty quickly and told him of my mechanical. I also checked with him to see if any other single speeders were out in front of him. He said the guy immediately in our sight, Joe Kedrowski, was a single speed rider. By the end of the single track, I was able to get by Matt and Joe. Seeing that I had put a gap on them, which put me into the lead again, gave me a good burst of energy. Like the other highs I felt during this race, it was also short lived, however.
Since I was feeling good again, I went back into the single track pretty fast. I then rode into a rock garden on the trail and proceeded to smack my big toe on a rock. The pain of that impact numbed my toe instantly and left it feeling irritated until the finish of the race. I fought through the pain, though, and was able to get into a pretty good grove again. It certainly makes me feel better when I can look over my shoulder around each bend and see that no one is chasing. At this point in the race, my legs felt really good and I was still catching geared riders on the climbs and passing them. I thought that if I could just stay smooth and continue riding strong, I might be able to win this race. As it has seemed to go all season, though, it would be too easy for me to just finish a race without adding some type of drama.

My drama came on the long rocky descent a few miles before check point 4. This descent is always a little sketchy, but the rain received the day prior made this thing nasty. Part way down this thing, I hit a wet mossy rock that caused me to eject from my pedals, which also caused me to lose my balance. Off to left side of the trail was a super steep and rock cover slope, basically it was a cliff. Me and my bike were pointed directly towards going off of this cliff and if we did, I knew it was going to be ugly. Somehow, and don't ask me how, I managed to free myself from my bike, but unfortunately my bike still took a trip over the cliff. I watched in horror as it bounced from one rock to another rock for about 10-15 feet before coming to rest. My first thought was that this was the end for my bike and that I was going to be plagued by a race ending mechanical.

I climbed down the rocky slope to examine my bike and collect my strewn about water bottles. I spun the wheels and looked for any noticeable major damage, but saw nothing. I then hiked back up to the trail with my bike in hand, all the time wondering if a rattle snack was going to jump out from behind one of the rocks I was clinging on to so tightly. I thought that a rattle snake bite would fit perfectly to the way things were going for me during the race. Fortunately, there were no snakes hidden in the rocks and after finishing the descent with my bike intact, it seemed that my bike was good, too. I still can't believe my bike survived that ordeal without any major damage.

Believe it or not, I continued the rest of the race, about 30 miles, without any others issues. I did not even need to go into survival mode because physically, my legs and the rest of my body seemed to be working fine, minus the toe, of course. I can certainly say that if nothing else, these NUE Series Races have been teaching me the meaning of perseverance. Overcoming obstacles, maintaining motivation and doing what I can to finish these races strong does seem to be a regular occurrence for me recently. I guess as long as I continue finishing on a peak instead of in a valley, all that happens in between the start and finish is good. In this case, I was able to maintain my lead for the remainder of the race and finish with a time of 8 hours and 5 minutes. This now gives me 3 NUE Series Race Wins and a pretty strong lead on the Series Win.
Happy Trails - Gerry

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Big Unit

I may not be Ryan Trebon or Barry Wicks, but I do have a Big Unit and do win some races from time to time with it. Since coming back from Breckenridge, I have not played with My Big Unit (MBU) too much. I guess playing with it for 11 hours in one day is enough for anyone to stop for awhile. After my Breck Trip, I did give MBU a service check and a buff job... and even pulled it out of the garage to play with it for a short while in the neighborhood. You should see the looks I get sometimes when I do that. Anyway, I don't like to neglect MBU, so in a few days I will be pulling it out for another long play session at the Wilderness 101. What makes MBU so special? Well, let me tell you.
First off, let me explain that MBU is not a part of my anatomy, as probably most of you have guessed already. Big Unit is actually the name Kona has given to the fast single speed frame that I am racing on this season. I ordered MBU right before the Mohican 100, but unfortunately it came a day too late for me to use at the race. I am sure if I would have used it there my race would not have ended so abruptly. Since the Mohican, I have had some incredible rides and races on MBU.


Kona built the Big Unit with their special race butted scadium tubing. This stuff is sweet! Not only is super light, but it has a very compliant ride for an aluminum type of material, while still being super stiff laterally. I find that having a laterally stiff bike is extremely advantageous for a single speeder because more energy created by the legs is put into the drivetrain, creating more speed. The Big Unit does this not only with the use of the scadium, but also with a top tube and down tube that has more of a square shape than a round shape. Additionally, Kona uses a CNC chainstay yoke rather than welding the chainstay tubes directly to the BB, which not only gives more mud and chainring clearance, but also gives a stiffer feel to the rear end. This 29er frame is designed so well, it seems to accelerate closer to how a 26" wheel bike does. It is certainly the most responsive 29er frame that I have had a chance to ride.

The thing I like most about my Big Unit is the fit. If in the future I would decide to build a custom frame, it would fit like my 19" Big Unit. This frame feels like it was measured and designed specifically from me. Many times when I get a new frame it takes a lot of time for me to figure out how to make it feel "right." The Big Unit was not like this at all. It was a perfect fit right out of the box. More bike companies should consider using 1" increments in frame sizing instead of using 2" increments. I know for me an 18" is almost always too small and a 20" frame is too big. For most companies, there are no other choices, so for Kona to provide a complete range of frame sizes is completely cool in my book.

Well, enough bragging about MBU. I just thought that I would tell everyone in cyberworld that My Big Unit rocks! The 5th stop on the NUW Series, the Wilderness 101, in Coburn, PA is this Saturday, August 1st. If you want to do a truly hardcore, but completely fun, backcountry endurance mountain bike race, then you should give it a try. I have a feeling that this race is going to be packed with talent this year and will also see some super fast times because of the talent depth. Hope to see you there for the fun, but, if I do, please don't ask to touch my Big Unit! - Gerry