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,, 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, 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,, 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