Monday, December 21, 2009


A classic Nor'easter formed and delivered a lot of the fluffy white stuff.  Friday the stores were packed with people trying to beat the storm.  Parking lots were full at the grocery stores, the department stores and home improvement centers.  One would have thought Armageddon was upon us.  Me, I was exchanging emails with the guys trying to see who going to ride in the morning.

9 pm and the snow starts to fall.  Nothing heavy, but, earlier than predicted. By 11 pm the ground has a nice blanket of whiteness and I start to wonder if it'll be too deep to ride at 9am. 6:30am and the early morning haze reveals 5+ inches of snow and steadily rising. A quick call to DKEG and he's out. Thumb hurts too much from a crash on Friday. Frank bails to ride locally and do some sledding with Grace. The Outlaw is on the fence then opts out to do a townie ride.  I call the Dutch. He's still interested and DCTony is on his way with two other guys. I have to ride.

I load the car with all the usual stuff for a ride.  Chainsaw, avalanche shovel, come-along and a tow rope. I'm pretty sure I packed a bike as well, but, I needed to have the essentials covered.  The drive up 270 was amusing as I saw no less than 6 accidents involving a lot of cars that had no business being on the road.  Downtown Frederick was covered in 6+ inches of snow and I can only assume the extra inch fell on the drive up.  The Mark boys got an early start and were already outside playing when I arrived. Their father could learn a few things about punctuality from them. Even after the DC/VA contingent arrived,  Dutchie kept us waiting while he brewed an espresso, re-faced his bottom bracket and cobbled a pair of Italian hiking boots.  The snow was getting deeper by the minute.

We opted for the back door and Mountaindale road.  The thought was to minimize steep, paved roads in favor for some traction on the gravel.  A few cars had been down the road and we didn't have any serious problems getting to the trail-head.  Iceberg, that's were we parked and what we attempted.  I won't even call it a "ride" anymore. It was hiking with brief sections where we sat on our bikes and tried to turn the cranks. The "Tip" was our goal and that was all we would see of Iceberg on the "ride".  We did clear off a section of trail leading up to the Tip and sessioned that tiny section of trail until our media cards were full of bloopers and out-takes. Our party of 5 trudged back to the cars were we cracked open some brews and watched our cars fill with the driven snow.  The toughest part of the entire day was dealing with fogged up windows as we made our way off the mountain.  That one will go down in the books for sure.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Capitol Classic

The MAC series championship held at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, VA.had all the elements for a great cross race.  Frozen temperatures, snow, ice and mud were served in copious amounts this past Sunday and I couldn't have asked for better conditions.  Cross, in my mind, is about racing in adverse conditions. While not a huge fan of the mud, I can appreciate the skills required to race in such conditions. Throw in some off-camber turns in the snow and ice and the game changes a little.  It's less about the big engines and more about technical skills and handling.  Sure, you need something under the hood to power your way through the muck, but, a metric ton of wattage won't do shit if you can't stay on the course.

The day started an hour earlier than expected when David called and said he was going to race Cat4 at 9.  The previous days snow made traveling questionable and we got rolling early, just in case.  An uneventful trip got us to the venue early with lots of time to freeze are asses off and survey the landscape.  People were sliding all over the place and we saw several hit the deck hard.  We were still in the parking lot.  This was going to be an interesting day.

David registered that morning, so, he started pretty much at the back of the pack.  I kept waiting for him to ride by when his race started and the poor guy had a lot of traffic to fight through.  He kept pushing the entire time and I could see his progress with each lap.  In the end he finished 37th on the day in his first cross race. Not to shabby considering were he had to start from.  By the time he finished I had gone into pre-race mode and was getting ready for the Masters B race at 10.

Several hundred sets of tires were cutting through the snow and previously firm sections were quickly getting rutted and muddy.  Carlo and I took a casual lap over some of the course and it was quite different from the lap I rode earlier.  We rolled back to the start and line up on a solid piece of ice that once passed for a road.  Fortunately this was just staging and the organizers moved us to firmer ground for the start.  As usual, I hit it as hard as possible from the start and tried to gain positions before the grass, er snow, actually.  Oddly, I found myself moving through the pack quickly and I was in pretty good position for the first time.  Now, I just had to ride smart and maintain for 4 laps.  The first lap was by far the most enjoyable. The course was still somewhat firm in places and my legs felt pretty good.  There was one particular section that I really enjoyed. This was an off-camber, snow covered descent through an s-turn and around a couple trees.  There were a couple roots leading into this section and it was all about cornering and bike skills. It opened up briefly before a sweeping right muddy turn. Pure pleasure if you chose the right line, not so much if you didn't.  I nailed the turn on the first two laps and carried the speed into the next section.  Lap 3 was ugly and I took out a section of tape. I survived lap 4, but, it wasn't pretty.  I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

That put us down at the stream level and some sections of open running.  The turns were a little greasy, but, the ground was flat and you could really get the cranks spinning through here.  The there was a short steep run-up followed by several twisty off-camber turns....that were muddy.  The run would pack my cleats and more than once I had trouble clipping in.  Not really a problem as I'd have to throw an outrigger for the next turn that came up fast.  Through these trees it leveled out again, but now we had to contend with an icy sweeping turn on the road.  Lots of guys were going into this one with one leg out for balance.  Past this we were back at the start with three laps to go.

One particular section that bothered me was the long, twisty section in front of the pit area.  By the third lap this section was deeply rutted, peanut butter mud that sapped my energy. Running a 42x19 made it hard to get on top of the gear and several times I'd have to run most of this 100 yard section.  Mental note: my running on it.  Riding this section would have been better, if I could.  However, if I blew a corner all momentum was gone and it was time to run.  Did I mention running sucks and I'm not very good at it?

Through the peanut butter one last time, over the bridge and to the run-up.  I'm with a couple guys that all seem to have fresher legs than me. They sprint up the hill like a couple gazelles being chased by a hungry lion.  My only hope is to ride smart and minimize mistakes.  They caught me on the run-up, but, I got one on the descent and the other on the muddy turn.  The fast open section is coming up and should be interesting.  The gaps don't change much and we go into the last run-up with me in front. They both take the hill faster and I lose my position.  On the chase, I get a little power to the legs, but, it's not enough to close the gap.  I end up in 12th place in the Masters 2/3/4 category.  My best finish to date in this new found obsession called Cyclocross.

Additional photos by DKEG