A fish, MarkTwain and a pig walk into a bar............ cross report.
Largemouth bass are an interesting species of fish. They like to spend much of their time lounging around in warm lake shallows waiting for dinner to arrive. Hang a shimmery jig near and it will swing around and strike it immediately. It just can’t help itself. So like a large mouth bass going for the shiny lure shimmering in the murky shallows I measure my relationship to Cyclocross. Quite simply I enjoy the sport, the discipline of cyclocross. No shame there I trust. The Geist, the social scene, the riding, racing, technique, the geeky gear and equipment thing. It’s a quirky package of fun. Included and curiously one of the cruelest oddities of the racing schedule are the district / state championships. They are assigned a date so far into the season that most of us, ne, nearly all of us give it a pass if not forget that it exists. Depending on the Holy Trinity of bike racing realities; a) are you completely raced out, b) have you used up your allotted time away from family for the season or c) the reality of Holiday commitments have yanked you out your Mud and Cowbells reverie thus leaving you free and cleansed once again.
Mark Twain was quoted as saying “a sucker is born every minute”.I arrived Sunday at Toro Park with that motto tattooed across my forehead. Emblazoned for all to see. Yes I am here. Yes I don’t know why. Yes I am excited and nervous and since they posted that there would be a 60+ men’s field and God if I play my cards right I could win that danged thing. Bought it, hook, line and sinker.
The overall field of us over 55 was sizeable. 21 or so of us Presque geezers with some really heavy hitters in the mix though I had no idea who was I might be racing against for the age group title.
The course was a long-ish, fast, power-type with only one get off at the man-made barriers. Not too technical overall but they had seen fit to include as many figure eights in the grass as you’ll ever see outside of Belgium. Other than that it was dry ground with the occasional ball bearing covered hard pack, slippery turn that would cause you to feel your front wheel skip sideways a few inches thus causing your rapidly beating heart to skip a beat and that feared pucker sensation to flash by. Something to keep you honest, searching for the right line and when to apply the gas just so.
Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. I rode well. I rode well enough. Around 8th out of the 20+ overall. 6 laps @ 48+ minutes. The last two I could feel the legs draining of all energies. Chased several wheels too hard early on. One of which I was certain I should be racing against but lack of oxygen and nervous energy can fog the mind. We’re bike racers so we know all about that stuff. As it was he wasn’t in my class J . Just as Viper said to Maverick in Top Gun. I was writing checks my body can’t cash. The last lap seemed glacial in pace but I cruised in victorious. The jersey was mine! The heavens parted, the angels assembled and sang a joyful noise. Well not really but it felt good all the same. So like several other Mice I get to wear a 2013 State Champions Jersey for a year. Sometimes it pays to take a ham sandwich when you go fishing.
The Surf City Cyclocross Series Final was held at Aptos High School just south of Santa Cruz, home to hilly and tricky terrain so usually a technical and hilly course. This year’s iteration raised the bar a bit with a mountain bike worthy course that had me nervous as hell after doing two laps of a pre-ride. There were two long, run ups, Rooty climbs, sandy/loose climbs, a steep road climb, lose off-cambers by the dozens, a bumpy steep descent into bumpy, bushy, sharp 180 with an immediate steep climb with zero momentum, gavel straight-a-ways, gravel turns, a stair case with four barriers added to make it more fun and a steep downhill that worried me most of all. I know I do well in hilly and technical races, but this one was off the charts and I was scared of getting hurt again.
I finished my warm up on the road away from the course so I could concentrate on warming up and not getting more nervous. Returned to line up and got a second row start with just 12 riders in the 55+ group. We raced with the 35+ and 45+ A’s, so getting lapped by the leaders from those fields was an almost certainty starting two minutes behind them. The start line was at the bottom of the steep road climb with was followed by a little descent that lead right to the first run up. I knew that one should be near the front to keep from being slowed down on the run up, but I couldn’t get the motor going up that first hill and was very near last entering the run up (which I basically walked up because people in front of me were slow on it).
After the run up I moved up a few places when people would make mistakes (there were a lot of those!). Luke was watching and told me I was in 7th place at one point early on, so I had some motivation to move up. I was able to out climb a few people on the steep road climb and make less mistakes on the tricky areas and moved up to 5th place (according to the now published split times) by the second lap. I managed to do damage on the climb and technical sections again on the third lap and moved up to second (again, according to the split times, I didn’t know it at the time). I had a really good rider ahead of me named Jamie, who I had not even been close to this year, but I was able to close in on him by the 4th lap. I rode right behind him and tried to recover for a bit and hope that he would make a mistake. I was too close though, and when he slowed to a near stop on the sandy climb I lost momentum and had to get off my bike and finish on foot and re mount for the chase. Now he had a fair bit of a gap and I had to ride hard to close. Then after the sandy run up, his chain came off and he slowed, but it was on a narrow section between a fence and a steep drop off so I couldn’t pass! He managed to “shift” the chain back on with the front derailleur and stayed moving and in front of me, dang!
The next major feature was the bumpy downhill to 180 bumpy turn to bumpy climb and I stayed back enough to not get into his crash if he failed. Sure enough, his front tire slid out and he was scrambling to get moving on foot! I made the turn and rode the bumpy climb out of the saddle and made the pass. Next came the steep loose bumpy downhill that some people didn’t even ride and I knew I had to make it without falling to hold the gap. I took it conservatively to keep from getting out of control and bounced down to the bottom, still upright.
I thought I was in 3rd or 2nd at this point and didn’t see anyone from my field in front of me. On this lap I was passed by the lead three in the 35+, so I knew I had one less lap to do than the lap count on the previous pass through the start/finish area, so only one more after I make it to the finish. I concentrated on not making mistakes, which was getting harder because I was so beat up from the course. I just wanted to get a podium spot for the first time this season and brighten up the year, so I pushed hard where it was safe and rode a bit conservatively anywhere I could screw up and fall.
The last lap had that painful feeling of being nearly spent, but knowing you only had to face each obstacle that one last time. I could not see Jamie behind me, so I took the big downhill especially carefully. This hill was an argument for disc brakes because my hands were exhausted from braking and holding onto the bar for dear life, I don’t think I could have survived one more descent. Only a few sketchy turns, and the stairs with barriers left to go, and I got through them all. After the stairs, with 200 yard to go, Henry Kramer (current world Champion in the 55+ category but racing in the 45+ group here) came up behind and said he needed to get by, he was racing for the win. I thought to myself, well I might be racing for the win too, but I let him go by on the best line. Turns out he was just short of winning the 45+ because as we rounded the final corner, they announced the guy in front of us as the 45+ winner. Then I was surprised to hear them announce me as the 55+ winner! I wasn’t sure I heard it correctly, but it was true. Jamie was the last man standing and I was more than a minute in front of him and another guy who also passed him for second.
Wow, I was alive and un-hurt AND won! I had to keep my cool till the results were final, but was sure stoked when I got to stand on the top step and collect a little bag of Luna Bars and Clif Shot Blocks. So a win over my nerves and over Jamie and another guy who has been killing my during MTB season, great way to end the Thanksgiving weekend!
We had another excellent weekend of racing at the Lion of Fairfax. Superpro never ceases to amaze us with another fantastically hard race course. Our very own Sarah Powers observed it as ”the kind of course that makes even the most skilled cross rider think they suck at cross.”
While it was another tough day of racing, the Meeces once again prevailed! Brian Ort and Michelle Morrill finished first place AGAIN! Scott Symon (1st place, Cat B SS Men), Lindsay Mohle (2nd place, Women C) and Thom Fox (3rd Place, 55+ Master Men,) found themselves on the podium once more. Last but not least, Andrew Shatz finish 3rd for 35+ B Master Men. Way to crush it team! Congrats to all the Mice who came out and raced hard and cheered.
The Mice ain’t afraid of no Cat! Even if that cat is the San Jose Cougar!
Superpro Racing out did themselves once again with the inaugural San Jose Cougar. It was a HOT day of racing with a long, grueling climb complete with a gnarly, mulch-y descent, lots of twist and turns and no shortage of bumpy ground. I think there were more racers bouncing around in the saddle than in the kids bounce house.
There were a good number us who showed up to this awesomely painful event and kicked some ass. Kudos to all who suffered through and major congrats to all the Mice who podiumed!
35+ Master Women: Michelle Morrill (1st)
45 + Master Men: Brian Ort (1st)
55+ Master Men: Thom Fox (3rd)
Women C: Mouse newbie, Lindsay Mohle (1st) Men’s SS B: Scott Symon (3rd)
While the big kids were out racing CCCX 1 & 2 (more on that soon!) a few of us decided to “dress” up and race our bikes in an undisclosed location. The weather was perfect, the course was hellish and the race was a blast!
On Monday, September 2, 2013, Katy and Tim unexpectedly lost their beloved Allie, who had just turned 14 years old. While we will never understand why a tragic event like this could happen to a young lady full of spirit and spunk, we will have her memories that each one of us will carry through time.
No parent expects to lose their child at such a young age, which means the financial burden can be quite extensive. Therefore, in lieu of flowers, please help to defray the cost of bringing Allie back to Hawaii by contributing here. Any and every amount helps!
We will be saying goodbye to our sweet Allie on Tuesday. We welcome all those who would like to bid her farewell and share memories.
Tuesday, September 10th, 5PM. Allie Rotondo memorial service in Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland CA. The Grove where the memorial will be held is located within the upper part of the park off of Skyline BLVD near the Big Trees trail. To get to the Grove, drive up Joaquin Miller Road till you hit Skyline BLVD. Turn left at the light onto Skyline and continue for about a mile (google map:http://goo.gl/maps/WDsqJ). Big Trees trail is located on the left side. Park along Skyline. Follow the signs towards the left side of Big Trees trail down to the grove.
After the memorial, please join us for a potluck. Bring a dish and drink to share with friends. 3370 Brunell Drive, Oakland CA 94602, located just a few miles from the memorial site.
Anthony G Donates Bike Goods to the NorCal High MTB League
How cool is this team? Team-member Anthony Giammona noticed he had a lot of bike parts he no longer needed but still had life in them. Rather than pawning off the parts on Ebay or Craigslist, Anthony thought the NorCal High Mountain Bike League could make better use of them. Anthony collected additional parts from fellow teammates and was able to donate 14 shopping bags of bike goods, several wheels and even a whole bike! Way to go Anthony. Our team members rock on and off the bike.
Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge track racing in Portland OR
I have been racing on the track at Hellyer Velodrome since 2008. Since I started racing I have had a few race goals. I managed to knock two of them off my list this weekend.
The first goal was to race at Portland’s Alpenrose Velodrome. Whereas Hellyer is a big, open track with smooth corners and fast lines, Alpenrose is short, steep, bumpy and idiosyncratic. The banking is so steep it took me an hour of practice before I stopped worrying about falling off, but I got used to it quickly once racing started and came to love it by the end of the weekend.
I achieved my second goal during the Masters 40+ Points race. The race was 60 laps of the 1/6 mile track and every 10 laps officials rang a bell for a sprint. The top 4 people across the line on the sprint lap won points, and at the end of the race the person with the most points was the winner.
I started cautiously since this was my first race, but pretty quickly warmed up to the track and the competition. With 20 laps to go a couple guys rode away from the main field. I didn’t attack hard, but accelerated a little. I looked back and to my surprise no one had followed me and I had a 25m gap. I decided to go for it and hit the gas hard.
The next time I looked around I had a half-lap on the rest of the field, and pretty quickly after that I had 3/4 of a lap, but then things got HARD. The pack started to speed up a bit and I spent several laps with the back of the group in sight, but unable to close the final gap.
I ran through some mental arithmetic- 16 laps to got meant a little under 8 minutes of racing. Could I hold on that long? I had to try! I had put too much work into the race to get caught.
Luckily for me the group slowed down again and I was able to catch up. I had now lapped the field, which meant I gained 20 points and jumped immediately into the race lead! This was my second goal- I have tried to take a lap on the field SO many times, but I had always been caught before.
I still wasn’t sure how much of a lead I had and with double points on the line for the final sprint I knew I had to make the top 4 across the line. A friend was in the race with me, so I asked him for help. He agreed to give me a leadout and I came across the line in 4th place- good enough to seal the win!
For the effort I won $60 and a great feeling that lasted all weekend. The extra plus was hearing the announcer talk all weekend about the out-of-town guy who showed up and caught the locals by surprise. Great weekend and great fun bike racing!
Went up for the Sierra Cup #4 Mountain Bike Race at Kirkwood Sunday which was the State Championship for Cat 1.
I was the only person signed up until the last few hours of online registration, at which point a guy from Truckee added his name (doh, almost won!).
Since Kirkwood is at 7800 feet, I figured I would have a tough time against him since he lives at altitude.
On the start line, I saw the guy and recognized him from the Peavine race where he dominated, so I figured I was racing for second.
A guy named Ray also signed up “day of”, and he beat me at Peavine that day too, but I usually can get him, so maybe I won’t do the podium/DFL combo again!
On the first long climb to 8,200 feet, “Truckee” is way up with the group of younger Cat 1’s and I bid him farewell and battled with Ray and another guy at the back of the group.
By the top, Ray and the other guy had fallen back and I figure I’m in second (not 100% sure there are no other 50+ riders who did “day of” registration).
Half way through the first of four laps, there is Truckee walking his bike! I figure I am probably in first now and with Truckee having a LONG walk, could likely pull off the win and get the much coveted (by me anyway!) State Championship jersey.
The course was really hard with a lot of technical sections, some of which I could ride some of the time, but a couple I never cleaned. I heard a helicopter on my second lap, apparently they had to air lift an injured rider to the hospital. I was just trying to stay upright and survive, but was pretty sloppy on some tricky bits. I crashed a couple of times but managed to stay on my feet while my bike fell from beneath me. This course had everything, a tough, loose rocky creek crossing, rocky/power climbs, many sketchy corners of moon dust , a 2’ drop, sharp rock/moon dust combination descents (not a personal favorite!) and enough sharp edged rocks to threaten your tougher tires.
On the forth lap, I got through every tough section thinking, good, won’t have to survive part that again, then on a rocky, moon dust descent, I felt that terrible feeling of a rear wheel flat!
Damn the race gods, why me! I rode on in denial since there was still some air left in the tire, but soon realized the low tire was no match for the sharp rocks and technical descents. I had about three miles to the finish and I figured Ray was not far behind and maybe Truckee was even coming back. I decided to run the rocky parts and ride where it was smooth, but that part of the course was almost all rocks. I finally gave up and decided to put a tube in the tubeless tire.
I got the tube in, but my pump was not inflating the tire, grrr, WTF?! I had not used that pump in a long time, and I was cursing not carrying a CO2 inflator. I finally got some air in the tire (all the while looking back to see if Ray was coming) and started installing the wheel on the bike and all of a sudden the tire burst from the rim with the tube bulging out everywhere! By some miracle, the tube didn’t blow up and I re-seated the tire bead and inflated it with less air so it wouldn’t blow the tire off again. So I was back to running the rocky sections where I would surly pinch flat, and riding where the trail was smooth enough. I could not sit down if there was any bump in the trail at all, and rode with all my weight over the front wheel while standing. I finally got to the last section near the parking lot and rolled down a little steep, bumpy downhill to gravel combination that I thought would take out my tire, but it was right at the finish, so I just went.
When I finished, there was Ray, saying that he flatted, then gave up because it was so hard with the elevation, and I was the lone finisher and state champ!
So thanks to the race god who smiled on me (but made me pay for it!) and the 25 people who can rip my legs off for not showing up and gifting me the jersey.
That course was gnarly and the elevation a killer, but neither of those things slowed Daniele, who was way faster than me even with an injured shoulder! Hats off to you dude.
And in a good case of irony, I won a CO2 inflator in the raffle!
June 22: Roaring Mouse Bike Fit Workshop and Specialized Road Bike Demo Day
Specialized TEST THE BEST Road Bike DEMO Day
Come ride the newest Specialized road bikes and talk with the experts on hand to answer all your questions.
Date: June 22, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM- 1:30 PM
Special Raffle: One lucky winner will get a new Specialized road helmet
All clinic attendees receive 20% off all Specialized accessories and parts. (Not good towards bikes or labor)
Bike Fit Workshop Overview
Time: 12:00 PM-1:00 PM
A good bike fit is critical to cycling comfort and efficiency; it can prevent pain and injury, make you faster, and keep you feeling strong on your bike.
Our workshop will hit the major touch points, (saddles, bars, shoes/pedals) and the importance of positioning the bike under the rider. Attendees will learn the importance of properly measuring sit bones and arch heights with the assometer and archometer. Whether you’re a commuter, racer, touring fanatic, or weekend warrior this clinic will help you find optimal comfort and performance on your ride.
Lunch: Pizza will be on hand for clinic attendees
Benefits from a proper fit:
Increased comfort and ease
Gain more power, comfort and efficiency
Custom bike fit serves your individual needs, riding style and cycling goals
Special Raffle Item: Free Custom Bike Fit from Roaring Cycles- Value $250
Saturday, March 9 will be the fifth anniversary of the passing of Matt Peterson and Kristy Gough. San Bruno mountain was one of Matt’s favorite climbs - he would do repeats there in the morning before work. This year, as in years past, we’ll commemorate them with a ride up the mountain, arriving just before sunrise, which is at 6:29am.
Some, perhaps all, of you may want to be seated for the next sentence. (Seated? Good.) I went downhill biking on the weekend and managed not to kill or maim myself. wat? srsly, DH!
I really love riding on the road and haven’t touched a mountain bike in years (and never a cross bike), but when I got an invitation from a friend to go to Kicking Horse for his wedding and found out from him that it has some awesome and unrelenting downhill, I was intruiged. Now, any reasonable person who has not ridden a mountain bike or on the dirt for years may have stopped at the intruiged stage and left it at that. I think my last real dirt ride was 10 or 11 years ago on some trails of questionable legality in Toronto’s Don Valley and I really hadn’t had too much fun on them. A person who is not a great descender (and has crashed on descents) may also have left it at that..
However, the more I looked at the trail maps the intrigue turned into fascination. My wife was a bit concerned, not wanting me to injure myself, not only on the day of a wedding, but only a few days before our trip to Le Tour. But she let me go anyways (the “be careful”s kept coming though). I have heard stories of people breaking legs while mountain biking on days of weddings, but figured that since I wasn’t the one getting married, I’d be fine :)
I watched downhill on youtube (well, ok, just danny hart’s epic run at the worlds and the video of the urban downhill race in valparaiso). As the day of the trip approached, let my hair grow longer and didn’t shave to help make sure I didn’t stand out amongst the local dirties (well, ok, I was just being my usual lazy self) and I booked a rental bike and armor, hesitantly asking the rental lady if they offered lessons (they didn’t anymore) and if I’d be ok without them (they recommend having some background with cross country - following Isaias on some fireroads would have to do). At that point, I still could have bailed entirely or gone to a cross country bike and hit the moonraker trails just down road from the resort.
The drive from Calgary to Golden on Friday was fantastic - perfect weather and the rockies just like I remember them. At the rehearsal dinner in the evening, I caught up a bit with friends. Any mention of biking was greated with raised eyes and “are you sure?” and “don’t hurt yourself”. Even Andy, whose wedding I was attending and who had originally mentioned the downhill there, was surprised. While not a competitive cyclist by any means, he is adventurous and has gone riding at kicking horse many times and still said that even the intermediate runs were a bit much some times.
The wedding wasn’t until the evening on Saturday so I had a whole afternoon of riding ahead. I wandered over to the rental shop, signed all of my legal rights away, suited up in armor and a full face helmet, and picked up the bike. The guy showing me the bike asked if I had ever downhilled - nope - and then sent me on my way after making sure I knew where the brakes were and giving a few tips on braking and how to (or rather, how not to) sit. I pushed the beast of a bike, a nice Giant Glory, over to the field by the mid-mountain lift and did a few circles. I’m glad I didn’t have my heart rate monitor on because it would have been showing that I was in z5 already. I’ve never had nerves like that before a ride. Then I saw a kid who couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 get on the lift with his dad, their bikes already in the chair in front of them, and knew then that I had to do it - if a 6 year old could do it then so could I.
The thing about being a roadie is that you develop leg muscles to the detriment of all other muscles in the body. In particular, and as many us of can atest to, arms turn into little twigs. Now the thing about downhill bikes is that they are bloody heavy. Kicking Horse has two ways up the mountain: a chair lift that goes half way up and a gondola that goes to the top. Taking the chair lift involves getting the bike onto a hook onto one chair and then taking the next. You can see where this is going. I managed to heft my bike up and then started teetering around trying to get it onto the hook. The lifty was nice enough to slow it down, but it didn’t help as I lurched after the lift, struggling to just keep the bike in the air. He took pity on me and stopped the left, but by that point what little strenght I had in my arms vanished and he had to put the bike on the hook for me. Fail. I got onto the next lift, and started the ride up the mountain. The rollers at the first support pylon were making a nice euro-techno untz-ing that helped me relax on the way up.
Then came the first ride down. The easy trail down was the access road - light gravel with some bigger rocks here and there and definitely not technical. I got the hang of braking and where my weight should be and then headed down a slightly twistier path with some nice berms. Going around then is almost like riding the banks at the velodrome - you have to have enough speed to flow nicely along the banking. I channelled Danny Hart a couple of times, getting the opposite foot down while going through some corners, and started feeling more comfortable. The next time up the lift, I still couldn’t get the bike on the rack but got a couple of centimeters closer. Since the first run had felt good, I took a stab a blue run called Buffalo Jump which gets its name from some crazy quick and steep up and downs that I guess you would be jumping over at speed. I, however, had neither the speed nor the guts and rolled over the flatter option at each bump. At the bottom, there was a ramp that let you get some nice air. It must have been the adrenaline from the ride, but I threw caution into the wind and took the jump, got a bit of air, and stuck the landing. The third time up the lift, I managed to hook the bike. I opted for the intermediate Super Berm run - a nice twisty trail with berm after berm and some nice sections of wooden plank trail. Again I hit the jump at the end and stuck it.
Three times from halfway up was feeling good so I decided to step it up and take the gondola to the top. Loading the gondola is much easier than the lift - just back the bike in and you’re good to go. I don’t have any personal reference to compare Kicking Horse to but as a ski resort its known for steep and black / double black runs. It has 4000 feet of vertical, but it’s only about a 5 mile trip down to the resort so maybe not as long as Downieville, but maybe steeper. The run from the top starts at the top of the ridge - breathtaking views where you can see everything - and drops into a bowl. As I was looking at the trail map at the top, I saw the bride and groom getting pictures. We chatted briefly - the first question that Andy asked was “have you hurt yourself yet?”. Thankfully, I had not. With the pleasantries out of the way, I headed down the mountain. Most upper trails were closed because of snow and trail work, but I did get on to Kranky Pants and then back to Super Berm. The last run of the day was also from the top. I had planned to take an intermediate run called Showdown but as I approached I saw that it started with a narrow plank bridge that I was not quite ready to try yet, so I went down through Kranky Pants, over to Buffalo Jump where I took the proper paths, and across another trail called Hop A Long to the bottom to wash down the bike, drop it off, and get ready for the wedding. Sharing in a friends wedding, staying up until 1:30 and dancing at the top of a mountain is probably not the best way to recover, but it was a great way to cap a day. We took off early the next day and stopped at the hot springs in Banff for some much needed soaking.