Cycling News and Blogs

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Slip-n-Slide

This past Sunday at the Washington County Fairgrounds we had our first "real" cross race. There was MUD. Finally, we had some rainy weather worthy of the Pacific NW. The course was similar to last year without the horse ring with all the poop. Flat, slick, and lots of corners.

I had Luke with me, so I didn't get a chance to pre-ride the course. However, we did some time on the trainer warming-up. The big local bike blog writer was hanging in front of our tent, so I made an effort to strike up alittle conversation. He was doing a story on the race teams that do the Crusade. Luke was the highlight of the story! Check it out at BikePortland.

I haven't cracked the top 18 yet to acquire a call-up. The line-up after that is based on a random number draw. I got lucky and was the 2nd group, so I was toward the front with a great position. Unfortunately, my start lap was TERRIBLE. Probably the combination of no pre-ride and 1st time on mud this year. I fell backwards pretty quickly. A couple of my team-mates that started behind me caught me and I was chasing on the 2nd lap.


I was accelerating out of the corners too soon and did the serious slip-n-slide. As caught on film below. Horizontal is not a good position for bike racing!



photo by pdxcross.com

Things finally started to settle down for me on the 2nd lap or so. I started closing gaps on the straight aways and started passing folks. The power was in my legs and I needed it to catch-up. I made good progress and caught back up to my nemesis, Ken, who started in the same group as me. We went back/forth the last couple laps. Unfortunately, I pulled my last stunt on the last lap and he passed me as I fell directly in front of him.

Key takeaways from the race for me: 1) I have the fitness and the mental strength to fight back. I got back up and kept on charging after 4-5 falls. I was happy with myself not giving up. 2) I've been sick the last three weeks and avoiding the VO2 intervals. I definitely felt it as my legs cramped up the last couple laps. Especially felt it when I dismounted and ran the barriers. 3) Need to keep in control in the corners. Lost WAY to much time on the groun

Fantastic, fun, big grin on the face type of race. Let the rain, mud, and fun continue.


photo by Victor Duong

Thursday, October 08, 2009

don't SLAP ME

Here's a simple technical change I made to my cross bike that someone might find useful. My Shimano 105 front shift lever broke a couple races ago and I can't shift to my big chain ring. I figured this was an opportunity to test out the single chain ring idea. Many people run this on a cross bike to reduce the risk of chain drop. Much of this is due to less chain slack which reduces the opportunity for chain slap which reduces dropping a chain. I'll give this new setup a try the rest of the season and plan to upgrade to an "official" single chainring if all goes well.

I consulted the fellow with the most impressive toolbox at the team tent last race and he suggested remove links of the chain until your hanger is about 45 degrees to the flat chain. Here's a couple before and after photos.


BEFORE (about 135 degrees when in big ring in rear and small ring in front)




AFTER (about 45 degrees in same condition - much more tension on chain)



Remember, technique of bike handling plays a BIG part in dropped chains. It's important to set a bike down gently after a bike carry and getting ready to re-mount. Also important to pick up the rear wheel alittle if you run along side your bike instead of carrying it. I rode a 2 chain-ring setup for 3 years and rode in the small chainring most of the time. However, I really only had a couple dropped chains.

Cyclocross racing has alot to do with "avoidance of bad luck". Reducing the chance of a dropped chain that can take time to repair and that just means you getting passed by others.

Ride hard and ride smart!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Heiser Farms - 10/3

This weekend is the "big" kickoff to cross season since Cross Crusade starts Sunday at Alpenrose. However, I decided to get it kick started with a smaller race in Dayton OR at Heiser Farms. One might ask, "Paul, why aren't you saving your legs for the big race on Sunday?". Well, in my view Alpenrose is classic and awesome, but it's a big circus for the race. Last year, I had about 140 racers in my field and it was the biggest turnout ever at ~1300 racers. This year they expect about ~1600 racers. So, I'm really "saving my legs" for next week at Rainer - an open course with plenty of opportunity to pass.

I never raced at Heiser, so I convinced my carpool mates to leave early to pre-ride the course. Took only 50 minutes to get there instead of the 80 minute google estimate, so they gave me a bunch of hell for waking them up to early. However, it's always best to be early to pre-ride and get into the "game mode".

I didn't race last weekend at Barlow, so I had a couple week break from racing. I wasn't sure how the legs would do. However, I was feeling confident since I met a major goal during the week in my training. Exceeded my year goal on the 20 minute test. I set a goal of 310W back in February when I was 290W. I had hit about 310 on the road in July, but my true "measuring stick" is the test on my indoor trainer. I hit 322W (4.2W/kg) and still had some in the tank! That made me feel great about the progress this season.

Sorry, I digress.... back the race report. My bike seemed to be in good shape. I had some mishaps earlier with flat tires due to "operator errors", and I worked out all those bugs. The engine didn't feel great during the warm-up on the trainer, but I wasn't too worried about it. I rolled over to the start line.

There were two team-mates in my field. Jeff, is an ex-pro mountain biker and a very strong masters rider. I also recognized a fellow from River City that I raced with in Eugene. Big strong TT rider. I couldn't keep his wheel in Eugene. However, today he was my "marked man". I told myself that I HAD to stick with him. That was my goal! Having a goal in a race really helps the motivation going when it starts to hurt.

There were about 15 guys in our field, so the hole shot wasn't a big deal to fight for. Jeff and RC guy took the lead and I stuck on their wheel. Here's a cool photo from the hole shot (cool since it makes me look like I'm in 1st place!).....


There was about 6 of us together at the end of the 1st lap. It dwindle to 4 of pretty quickly after the grass power section. I was going back and forth with a fellow while Jeff and RC guy were in the lead but not far off. They were starting to form a gap so I told myself "get that RC wheel". I passed the guy I was battling with and got back to leaders. At the end of the 2nd lap, there were 3 of us with a good size gap.

The next 4 laps went like this...... I would catch the leaders, hang with them, get gapped in a deep gravel power section, chase like hell, catch them in the barriers at the start/finish line. Since I was in 3rd, my team-mate Jeff didn't have to do any work. Poor RC guy had to do all the work. I knew in my mind that Jeff would crush him on the last lap (you see, Jeff really should be an A rider).

The night before, I was talking to some fellow PV rides about recovery in a cross race. Honestly, I haven't really focused on planning my recovery during races. I would go hard as I could and recover went I was pooped. Tatically, it wasn't a smart way to recover. They reminded me to go hard in the hard sections and remember to go hard before a "recovery section" to catch a wheel. Sit on that wheel during the recovery section. Then go hard and pass in the next hard section. I think I did much better with this plan at Heiser.

On the last lap, I caught them again at the barriers and I sat in back waiting for Jeff's move. He went and RC guy and I couldn't keep up since we worked like dogs the entire race. RC guy started to gap me, and I really didn't respond with the killer instinct. Sure I went fast and hard since it was the last lap, but I really didn't kill myself to keep his wheel. At that point, I settled for 3rd place since I was very happy with my race. Of course, I almost caught him towards the end at the barriers and missed 2nd place by only ~5 seconds.

First podium in a cross race. Yes, it was a small field, but it was a small field of the my new B+ category. The finish spot wasn't my success. It was meeting my goal of sticking with RC guy. A major confidence boost for me.

Later today is Alpenrose. Let the true mayhem begin!