Sunday, January 15, 2012

Race Report: Masters Worlds 2012

I'll be thinking about this one for a long time, trying to figure out what I could have changed, how I could have raced better. I'm disappointed with myself in that I know I can race better than I did today.

I got to the course around 10 and watched the first ladies' race. The course had already started to thaw and was a mess. I sat in the car for a bit to stay warm until the course opened at noon. I went out for a lap then. There was about a half inch to an inch of mud on top of still frozen ruts. I felt ok about all but one short section through the woods. I went back to car and cleaned up and changed into my skinsuit and headed out to warm up. I got a great warm up in and was confident when I pulled to the line.

I had pulled number three so I was first row, great spot. I shed my jacket and leg warmers and waited for the whistle. We got the start and were off. I was sitting seventh off the pavement and moved into fifth by the time we went downhill to the barriers. That's where my race started to go to hell. I knew a girl was on my wheel. She took the inside line while I went wide on the downhill turn before the barriers. I guess she caught a rut because she came right across at me. We both went down with her bars getting tangled in rear wheel. Getting untangled cost us several spots. I picked up the bike and got over the barriers and up the hill. I remounted only to realize my chain was off. My bike just felt "off" after that. I came down hard off the flyover and decided to pit so my bike could be checked out.

The bike exchange in the pit wasn't bad, but it wasn't the smoothest I've done either. I jumped on and took off. I headed out to the woods. I was geared wrong going into the sand and had dismount and run it. I remounted to find another dropped chain. WTF? I got back on and was able to ride the entire wooded section. I headed back into the open back section, AKA the bog.

I tried to ride the tape where the ruts were less, mud more shallow. I guess I caught a rut because the next thing I knew I was wrapped in tape and had a course stake through my skinsuit. I untangled and ran with bike, trying to get a good remount. I then realized my bars were cocked. I stopped and straightened them. I jumped on but couldn't get going. My rear wheel would not roll. I tried to spin it to no avail. I shouldered the bike and started running. And kept running. Matt came out and asked what was wrong. I told him the wheel was clogged. He said my bike was ready. I cleared some mud off the rear wheel and was able to ride about 100 yards before it got too clogged again. The pit was in site but I could barely lift the bike to my shoulder.

I got my Ridley back and was off to the second wooded section. I did the run up and stone steps with no problem. Up onto the pavement to the start finish. I looked up and saw my lap time--18 minutes. I really wanted to cry.

I went back out on course and rode aggressively. At this point what was there to lose? I rode so much better. My lines were good, I tackled the bog like I owned it. As I neared the second pit entrance, Matt ran out and told me they had put a Zipp on the rear of the Mercxx, that I should pit. I round the corner to the pit and my bike locked up--grass and mud. I swear the thing weighed more than my son. I had to squat to shoulder it. I took made the change and headed out. I made my way to the run up and stairs, and headed to the pavement. There was someone in the course. I realized I was being pulled. I honestly said to him, "really? Just let me finish.". No dice. I got a participant's medal and was sent on my way to pout.

Now I need to figure out what I could have done differently. Quicker off the line and I wouldn't have crashed with girl by the barriers. Possibly zig zagging the ruts would have prevented the second take down. The course conditions were tough, but obviously there were girls who were able to handle them. I wasn't, not today. I hate ending the season this way, but it has to end sometime. I'll have a chance to go at this race again next year, hopefully with better results.

Snow, a layer of mud, and frozen ruts *photo credit:  Lauren Hendrix
Post crashes .  Dirty! *Photo credit:  Lauren Hendrix
One way to get the mud off.  I think he liked doing it.  *Photo credit:  Lauren Hendrix
Over the first barrier.  *Photo credit:  Lauren Hendrix

CX Worlds

Yesterday I went down to the park early to get a look at course. It was under 20 degrees and the course was frozen solid. There were lots of deep ruts, and the sand was frozen hard enough to make it completely rideable. Finding a line in the course was tough because if you got caught in a rut, it took your wheel. The best ploy was to zig zag back and forth.

I stuck around and watch the women's races. Lots of ladies went down hard. I was watching near the pit and saw several of them take a big bite of the metal fencing. At that point, the only bike exchanges were for broken equipment from crashes. At noon, the course opened again and I went out for another lap. The conditions changed significantly in that short time. The top layer of ground "melted" do there was a layer of slimy mud, but still frozen ruts below. The crab grass was getting mixed in with the mud, making it clog everything up.

After cleaning up the bike, I went to get some food and warm up before going back to watch the boys race. We had four Big Sharks down for the races. Chris Harre finished 44th and Trent Donat was 50th in their race. Josh Johnson was 15th and Matt Davidson 32nd in their race. By the end of Josh and Matt's race the course was trashed.

Louisville got less than an inch of snow last night and it got down under 20 again, so I imagine the course will be frozen for morning races again. It's supposed to be in the high 30s by the time I race. I decided to skip this morning's pre-ride because it won't be the same course by the time I race. I'll take a lap at noon and see what it brings. Matt and Lauren are sticking around to cheer, Michelle made the trip from Dallas, and Steven is in the pit with SRAM, so I'll have lots of additional support.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Race Report: Chicago Cross Cup New Years Resolution

In the spirit of full disclosure, like so many of the out of town races I did this season, these races were no where on my radar at the beginning of the cx season.  My season was going to be done in early December after state, and I then found myself driving north in the rain on Friday afternoon.  I had no real idea what to expect, other than sand because it was on a golf course.  But, I was ready to have fun. 

I got up Saturday morning and headed down to the course to pre-ride it before any of the other races began.  I wanted to make sure I had a good feel for it and got a full lap in prior to my race.  CCC described it as being four sections:  one power followed by one power/technical, another technical, and a final power section.  The start was on pavement and headed up a small incline and past the finish line.  A sweeping left led out to the grass to a few little off cambers and an off camber hill that was going to be muddy and sloppy as the day progressed.  From there it went to "mini Mt Krumpet" that would have been totally rideable in other conditions, but it was thick mud.  From the hill the course straightened out into a true power section, making two 180s before heading by the pits.  After the pits, the course doubled back and headed through two crushed limestone sandpits.  After the second there was boggy mud leading to the barriers. From the barriers there was another sand pit, and an off camber hill and back to the big hill.  After a quick trip through several more sandpits, the course turned 90 degrees and passed back by the pits into a sweeping 180 to the left and back onto the cart path to the s/f.  

I got a good warm up in before the race and headed to staging.  Somehow I had enough points to get a first row spot.  We lined up, got instructions and were off.  I was sitting around fifth wheel as we headed out on the grass.  I was able to ride the first off camber and headed to the big hill.  I was somehow riding it, about 3/4 of the way up, when the girl in front of me when down.  I tried to maneuver out of the way, but the mud took me and I had to unclip.  My foot slid and I bashed my knee.  I shouldered the bike and ran to the top.  I was sitting in fourth as we came down.  I passed the two girls in front of me in the power section, but was geared wrong into the mud after the pit and had to dismount.  They got ahead of me.  I stayed with them through the barriers, the hill, and the sand pits (which were SO much fun to ride).  We wound to the cart path and I added gear and didn't look back.  I passed them both as we headed out for lap two.  Victoria, the girl sitting in third as I passed, later told me "You just took off.  I didn't know what happened."
Descending the mini Mt Krumpet *photo credit:  William Draper
Lap two and three were much better for me as far as execution.  I decided not to try to ride the hill, to run it and play to my strengths.  I also geared better for the muddy sections and was able to ride them without issue.  I was getting time gaps on the girl in front of me and knew I was closing it down.  As I headed out for the final lap, she was close enough that I was keeping her in sight on the entire course. I was heading up the hill as she was remounting.  I jumped on my bike at the top and watched her pull off the course.  She broke her derailleur.  All I had to do was keep it together and the W was mine.  And that's exactly what I did.  I rode smart and clean and crossed the line for the win.  I was still in disbelief as I got on the podium.  My wins in cx have been so few, and this was a big race.
On the podium with Skylar and Victoria.  These juniors are gonna kill it in a few years.  Watch for them!
I hadn't planned on the second race of the day because I was tired after my first run.  But, the numbers were low and I wanted to make sure the ladies at least had five in their race so they could earn upgrade points.  We ended up with seven total.  I did a short warm up to get my legs ready before heading to the line.  Ellie (the broken derailleur) and I were the only two who had doubled up.  The race was set for 35 minutes, but the official let us know to only expect three laps because the conditions had deteriorated so much.  I got a great start off the line and was third heading into the grass.  It was definitely muddier and slicker this time around.  I had to dab to get up the first little off camber.  In the power section I was able to pass the girl sitting in second.  I chased Ellie the rest of the race, closing her gap, but never catching her.  It was much muddier this time through, and the mud was sticking like crazy.  I think I spent half the race out of my pedals.  Getting out of the sand pits was proving to be interesting as well because a nice little lip had formed.  Midway through lap two, I went in for a different bike.  This is the first time I've ever done a bike change in a race.  I felt pretty good about it, but it took me a minute to adjust from Campy to Shimano.  I stayed on that bike through the end, finishing second for the race.

Sunday's weather was just awful.  I went down early to preride the course.  It was snowing with incredible winds.  The only changes to the course were that the 180s after the hill was removed and so were the barriers.  The rain and snow made it even soupier than it had been the day before.  I got a bad jump off the line and couldn't find my pedal.  I was sitting in 7th when we went into the grass.  I knew I would have to run more than on Saturday.  I rode down the off camber hill and dismounted and run up it.  I decided to run up and down the big hill and had moved into fourth by that point.  I passed two more girls as I headed into the mud.  Again I was geared poorly. I hopped off and ran through the first sand pit and got back on.  I rode into the second sand pit and mud that followed to where the barriers had been and couldn't ride through it.  I ran it and tried to remount, but the wind was so forceful I struggle to get on my bike.  I lost second place there taking three tried to get going again.  I finally ran a little ways and remounted.  I changed bikes on my second time past the pit in lap one.  I bobbled a few turns in lap 2, actually getting caught on one of the plastic stakes in the third section of the course.  I switched back to my Ridley as I went by the pit again because it's a better fit and I'm more confident on it.  My third lap was cleaner for me in that I didn't make as many riding errors.  My lines were better and I rode all the mud and the sand.  I finished third on the day, but this one was definitely not a great performance for me.  I was tired and let myself get pretty sloppy in execution.  

Overall these were great events for me.  I've had enough practice in the mud this year that I was confident in my handling.  That being said, I still learned some lessons about my gearing when I ride it.  I also got some great advice (from the "most influential person in cx") on my positioning in regards to dropping my heels a little more and pulling my knees closer to the bike to add some power.  I also got to meet some really cool people (people I follow on Twitter!) and catch up with some old friends.  For me, that's been the highlight of my cross season . . . new friends across the country.

This video is beautiful!  It shows the course conditions when the Elite Women and Men raced.  My second race was after the Elite Men.  Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!