Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Qiansen Trophy aka #chinacx

 Where to begin on this whirlwind trip!  I guess at the beginning.  Subaru Cup - Mitch Hoke says, "Hey, You want to go to China and race Cross"  "Its free"  - I say, "No Way"  and so it begins...

A month later and I'm filling out race applications and receiving broken English e-mails from a guy named Song and wondering to myself if this is even real.  A few expedited Passport renewals for Andrea and Elicia, some Chinese Visa's and we are off!  Just don't drink the water and don't eat any fresh veggies that might have been washed in the water!

The alarm chimes at 3am and we were out to Milwaukee.  After a 5 hour layover in Detroit we board the plane for a epic 13:30 hour flight to Beijing!  Surprisingly the Beijing airport is quiet and customs is a piece of cake.  Outside our translator is waiting for us and we hop the bus for a 2 hour transfer to Yanqing. 

We arrive roughly 28 hours after we woke the previous day in the US.  With little to no sleep on the plane we were pretty tired, but pumped to be there.  Many of the other American racers had already arrived.

The next day after a decent amount of sleep we called a taxi(quite the challenge with the major language barrier) and we were off to the Great Wall of China at Badaling.  The Great Wall is over 4,000 miles long.  Try to wrap your head around that one....it was truly impressive.  I was blown away at how steep it was in certain sections.

After our trip to the wall we hit the city via bicycle to go and check out the race course.  First Impressions...bumpy and fast!  3 forced dismounts up steps, but no barriers.  3 good drops with some tricky surface transitions and a short fast brick start/finsh stretch.  All in all I was pretty happy with the course and I knew it would suit me well.  Navigating the city streets....that on the other hand was pretty challenging.  HONK HONK HONK!

We finished up the day with a Welcome Banquet dinner that included tons of good Chinese food.  Nothing crazy though...chicken, pork, rice, noodles....pretty standard.  Oh yeah...and flesh of a donkey!

Race day was pretty low key.  A good breakfast and then the waiting game.  Pinning on numbers and preparing  bottles.  I pedaled over to the race course around 12:30 arriving just in time for the 1:00 opening ceremonies and 1 last inspection lap on the race course.  I watched most of the Womens race to check out the start and some of the lines they were taking.

The race:  It started out good with a fron row call up.

I was 5th or so off of the pavement and then filed into the first few run ups in 4th place.  For about 35 minutes or so I was battling in the top 5, but then I hit the wall.  I fell off the pace of the group and I knew I was in trouble.  Luckily Arnoud Jouffry U23 World Champ was behind me and I had a chance to regroup and hopefully follow his wheel back up to the to 5.  It didn't work...I only blew up again!  Now in 6th position with 3 laps to go and a huge group coming up quickly.  They blew right by me and I was instantly outside of the top 10.  dang.  Oh well.  I just barely held on to a top 15.  In the end I had only lost 1:00 in those last 3 laps...and for how I felt that was pretty impressive because it should have been more.  It was such a high speed course!

Glad the first cross race of the season is over with...its definitely a vastly different effort than the MTB.  I think the next round will go much smoother.  Hopefully Providence and Boulder are next up.

After the race we had another amazing dinner with all the athletes, race promoters, and UCI staff.  Then it was game on!  We were staying at a Hot Springs Resort.  So it was time to go check it out.  It was pretty spectacular sight to walk into this resort and see 20 Americans laid out from racing on the heated marble tile slabs getting ready for Chinese Foot Massages.  40 minutes of pure pleasure followed by 15-20 different style hot tub spas including one with flesh eating fish to make your feet smooth!  It was a trip!

We hung out in the hot tubs for about 4 hours and partied it up!  Good times.  The next morning we hit the town before leaving for the airport.  We took in some local culture by doing some souvenir shopping, checking out the food carts and of course a morning exercise session!

The flight home went fast for me....9 hour of sleep on the 12 hour flight!  Winning!  Huge thanks to the Qiansen Sports Group for their amazing hospitality and a trip of a lifetime. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

From Frazzled to Five Timer at The Fat Tire

WOW - Can't be much happier than I am right now after the weekend up in the Northwoods.  I think I race well up there because its so relaxing.  It's just my kinda place...

3 bikes - 1 cross race???
 2 weeks ago my cyclocross bikes started to arrive.  I was pumped and thought I would be able to get them together in time for a local race before the real season starts.  In short...I did, but I didn't and it was really really frustrating.  Lots of small issues turned into a major cluster of a day, however I managed to throw 3 bikes on the roof and make it across town for the first WCA race which was luckily in Sheboygan.  I won, but it was one of my hardest efforts of the season.  I had issues with both cross bikes(this years and lasts) and had to switch to my mtn bike for the finish, but even had issues with that after building it that morning from Grand Junction.

Lk G rock drop

After the ugliness on Sat I wasn't that confident heading into Sundays WORS race.  I had fixed the issues with the MTB(saddle about 1" too low) and was ready to give it another go.  I had a good start and mentally was back in the game.  Physically however I wasn't in top form.  I was already dehydrated from Saturdays cross race in the upper 80's and although the temps were low at Lk Geneva I was drenched in sweat from the humidity.  I was riding well technically, but the legs were starting to cramp.  Tristan attacked on the last climb and with CHEQ looming I was not willing to go too deep and risk major cramps.  I settled for 2nd.

I think the craziness of the weekend forced me to realize I really needed to rest up for CHEQ...my 7th weekend in a row of racing.  During the rest something flipped mentally and I became hungry for the win!  I dropped everything and was fully focused on doing it right.

We drive up Friday morning like always.  The lady at the Phillips Subway coughed on my sub...it freaked me out.  We arrived and joined up with Tyler G and crew for a pre-ride.  All standard.  We stayed in a new hotel, but it was much improved of the traditional place we used to choose.  I shined up my Superfly 100 after the preride, we had a homemade meal Andrea cooked and brought up with us.  She is awesome.  All was perfect.

Race morning was also pretty standard.  Some coffee, some oats, some granola.  I tried not to eat as much as normal...my stomach was a little full at the start of Grand Junction and I didn't like that feeling.  Had a great warm up with Trav and told him I was mentally ready.  He said something like - sometimes that what it takes...you just have to will your way thru things -  Awesome that it worked out the way it did...
Cheq Start - Calm before the Storm

The race started pretty standard until the quads took off around corners number 1 and Cole House stood to accelerate and broke his chain.  Of course mixed emotions going thru my head already.  Cole is a great rider and for sure was my biggest competition.  I hated to see him go out, but at the same time I was already mentally preparing for drastically different race tactics, and was now putting even more pressure on myself to win.

RACC Rocking thru Rosies
Things were slow thru Rosies field.  That was fine by me.  I stayed at the front and stayed safe.  I finally looked back after the first few rollers and realized the lead group was 150 guys...uh oh.  So I put in a hard effort and followed by Jason McCartneys hard effort we were down to 12.  Pretty standard from there across OO and then it got crazy.  Around a right hander on the Birkie Trail a quad high sided and took out 4 or 5 guys including Trav and Michael Olheiser.  I couldn't beleive it...I was pretty mad because earlier in the race the quads were screwing around on the leadout....totally not cool.  We slowed things up and let the guys who crashed latch back on, but then immediately another crash.  Then I got scared.  Something weird was happening and I needed to get to the front and go a little to avoid this section of carnage.

By the time we hit firetower I'm guessing the lead group was 8 or 9 guys.  I climbed pretty good up firetower.  Started in 5th at the bottom and finished the top in 3rd wheel.  I was ready for the birkie, but was getting some cramps.  Not good.  Luckily when we started pedaling hard they went away.  JMAC put in some short attacks, but nothing ever snapped the group too bad.  5 Over the top of the Birkie, but guys were latching back on down Telemark Rd.

Cresting the final climb.
I knew it was coming down to the last few climbs.  I stretched things out on one of the final descents.  Trav came around and attacked to the final few climbs.  He was leading into the last climb and ripped that left hander to instantly gain 10ft.  I was pumped and thought he would win.  I was following JMAC ready to counter if JMAC bridged to Trav.  Half was up the hill JMAC dumped 3 or 4 gears and had to sit down.  I went around him and sensed a swarm so pedaled hard.  Trav must have been fading on the top half of the climb because I went around him pretty fast and instantly knew win #5 was in the books. Chequamegon Winner again!

After the finish I was pumped to hear that Momentum Endurance riders also went 1,2 in the short and fat.  Won the short and fat single speed.  Then we watched Chloe come across the line in 1st and Andrea in 10th.  Couldn't have been any more perfect for me!  Super impressed by Trav's never give up ride of the day!

Again very proud of Andrea who had been having a killer season.  There are some really fast girls up at CHEQ and for her to score a top 10 two years in a row is pretty great.

Chequamegon Victory  #5 
My 29er!!!  Superfly 100 was flawless all day.  It's definitely the right bike for the race.

Next up:  CHINA!  Ha - Can't believe that one...better get to work.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Grand Shenanigans!

A variety in the schedule and fun was the name of the game this mtb season and I have to give huge props to Epic Rides out of Tucson for making this happen.  It started early in the season with the Whiskey 50 and this past weekend I raced in the inaugural Grand Junction Off-Road aka the Grand 40. 

Gand Junction is cool.  The Grand 40 is cool.  Here's why:  Epic Rides puts on a race that reminds me of the old days of Norba when there was a buzz in the air, an excitement about the races.  The entire community is involved, people are stoked, and race courses are not dumbed down.  You travel to new MTB destinations and race on real MTB trails for big prize money.  Its the way a pro racer wants it to be, its the way a supporting community wants it to be, and its the way Todd Sadow from Epic Rides wants it to be.  It just works for everyone.

The race for me started with a Thursday flight from Appleton - MSP - SLC - Grand Junction.  We arrived at the airport and had a sweet Ford Aerostar limo and hilarious driver back to the hotel.  Friday morning we woke up and walked down to Main Street Bagels for a cup o Joe to get the weekend started. 

Once awake Chris and I went out to pedal around and pre-rode the 15 Grand race course.  This allowed us to see the first 7 miles of our race course and the last.  Definitely some techy stuff!  Like I said before REAL mountain biking. 

Friday evening was the Fat Tire Crit.  A way for the racers to give back to the community by putting on a good show and race circles downtown while the spectators drink beer and listen to live music.  Definitely a festival type atmosphere.  The race doesn't mean much to the racers except for a call up on Sundays XC race and some sponsorship exposure.  Some take it serious and others try to save there legs for Sunday. 

I was feeling pretty good about 15 minutes into the race.  Troy Wells and Ben Sonntag were off the front.  I was ready to go for the win and was marking Carl Decker as the guy to beat.  With a lap and a half to go I had a good feeling we were not going to bring back the 2 leaders and I settled in for the field sprint.  I jumped on the high speed backside straightaway and was able to rip the last 3 corners to win the field sprint and finish 3rd!  I was pumped and feeling good about Sunday.

Saturday was the hardest day.  A full day of not much going on.  Its hard to kill that much time in a hotel room, but important to stay rested.  We did a little more recon of the course on Saturday and then went into chill mode.  Chris and I did a Indiana Jones marathon and then went for a dinner with Trav and Chloe.

Sunday morning it was nice and early to avoid the heat of the day.  We were on the start line at 7:30am.  And then we were off.  40 miles of serious MTB action.  What scared me a little was that 25 miles were unknow and somewhere in there was 1:00 hour of climbing and 1 hour of some serious descending with some big drops and open exposure.  Turns out the descents were pretty awesome.  After the first 30 minutes of racing/climbing I was letting the leaders go and trying to stay below the red line which is important for a flat lander to do while at altitude.  However I was ripping the descents pretty good and was able to hook up with Carl Decker and at the bottom of the 45 minute descent we were a group of 6 battling for the win.  Ben Sonntag, Sepp Kuss, Chris Baddick, Carl, Kris Sneddon, and myself.

We started the long climb out of the river valley and 3 guys attacked.  Carl and I were in 4th and 5th and Sneddon was fading.  By the top of the climb Decker was 10 seconds up on me.  On the following high speed descents I was really letting it rip trying to close the gap, but in doing so got off line a few times.  Sneddon caught back on and then proceeded to drop me up the super hard 1.5 mile slick rock climb.  15 minutes of brutal exposed, sun beating down on you, steep climbing.  I was now in survival mode and limped to the finish line in 6th place.

Overall super happy I made it out to GJ.  Big Thanks to Chris Peariso for twisting my arm.  I'll definitely be back next year.