Monday, November 29, 2010

Somehow, I missed the turn on my way back from NJ and never found this track. I'll find it and ride it next time for sure.

Taneytown CX, the Turkey Chase

The MABRA cross series came to an end at the Turkey Chase in Taneytown this past Sunday.  I was glad I signed up for the race this year and even happier once I rode the course. It was a lot of fun.

Hosted by TEAM Fuji at the Taneytown Memorial Park, the venue made use of every square inch of the park and then some. The pancake flat terrain was very deceiving and the course designers threw in a number of twists, turns, off-camber hills and one run-up to keep us on our toes and working hard around the entire course.  This was another race that didn't cater to any particular style of rider and had something for everyone. The dry weather limited the amount of mud we encountered, but, there was more of it here than at any other venue I've visited this season.  Sadly, we won't have an epic cross race like the one we had at the Capitol Classic last year. Mud, snow and ice were not on tap and we raced under sunny skies and brisk Autumn temperatures.

Call-ups moved a few guys forward and the rest of us back a little. The pack was dense, but, I picked the outside line and that helped as we went into the first set of turns.  I was on the right side (lower line) of the first off-camber hill and that helped move me ahead of some guys that tried to stay high. An inside line got me to the next section in good position and I picked through the crowd when the opportunity presented itself. The main group got strung out pretty quickly and it was hard to ride most sections in a pack. Single file through the tight turns, jump on the gas and pass before the next turn. There were a few open power sections to pass or get passed and I tried to limit any losses in these areas. I'd close down the gaps when the course became technical and hoped the guy in front would crack or bobble. I was running 15th on the second lap and was at the tail end of the lead pack. The second pack was about 10-15 seconds back from us and loosing ground as the race progressed.

On the third lap a rider took a bad line, went into the fence and took out the two guys behind him. I tried to sneak by on the inside line and got knocked down as one of the riders picked his way out of the mess. Everyone recovered quickly and I moved up a couple spots in the process. The lead rider slid out at the bottom of the off-camber run-up and I had to lock my brakes to keep from running into him. That sent me down and into the tape. We both recovered (again) and got to work on the next technical section before the road section and the timing table. We both gunned it on the road and were jockeying for position on the bell lap. He held his lead and I held his wheel. I managed to pass on the back side of the warehouses and he puled ahead near the ball fields. It was a good battle. We opened the gap on the chase group and had a few guys within striking distance ahead. Bill was one of these guys and he lost a few spots in some altercation a little earlier as well. They caught wind of our challenge, kicked it into high gear and effectively shut down our attack. Crossing the line, I was 11th overall for the Masters B race and 5th (again) for my age group. The top 3 overall finishers were in the 45+ age group as well. There are some pretty damn fast old(er) guys at these races.

Like Rockburn, I had a LOT of time to kill before the tandem race at 4pm. I passed the time the same way I did 2 weeks ago with a couple beers, talking with friends and taking some pics of the other races. Cyber Monday seems to be slowing down the internet, so, I'll post those pics a little later. The extra time did give me a chance to re-dish & true the rear wheel on the tandem, adjust the brakes, tension the timing chain and give her a proper look-over. The borrowed C'Dale was ready for her final cross race of 2010, possibly forever.   

David was not at the morning race. He decided to sleep in and met me for the tandem race late in the afternoon. That meant my stoker would have fresh legs for our challenge against Padam,  the reigning tandem masters. We rode around to warm the legs while the Elite guys raced. There were a lot of tandems rolling around the park and it appeared there would be some kids out there as stokers. A very cool thing to see. We lined up on the front row and were a little bummed to see the Kelly team of Connolly-Shiao (KBS/LSV) missing from the race. However, the Tom Tom club was there as was the AFC team of Blair-Driscoll. We got the hole shot and actually held the lead a little longer this time. As expected (I am a realist) Padam passed us and we went into chase mode. We were able to keep the gap a little smaller this time and even closed it a few times during the race. At one point we were right on their wheel with only a few turns left in the race. I can only assume they were toying with us, because they blew our doors off once we hit the road on the bell lap. The Tom Tom club was slowly moving up on us throughout the race and at one point I was concerned we didn't have enough course left to counter their advance. Once we hit the technical sections, we were able to put those fears to rest and could focus all our attention on the leaders. As we crossed the line, we looked back to see how far back the Tom Tom team was.  Oddly, they were not behind us. One of the teams with a junior rider was in the third position, followed by another team with a junior rider. Off in the distance, we could see the Tom's stoker off the bike and pushing, as he has done in several other races. Mechanicals have plagued them throughout the series and kept them off the podium once again.  However, this being tandem cross, everyone is a winner and they scored a nice bag of premium coffee beans. We got a water bottle. I guess we'll have to assign alternating weeks to share it. Hmmm........

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rockburn Cross

Another weekend of double dipping and the dipping was good.  Took the kids up to Chambersburg and rode the pump track with Larry and Oliver on Saturday. Then, spent Sunday in Howard County on skinny tires riding around in circles.

I'll get to the pump track session tomorrow, maybe. Right now I'd better focus on Rockburn while it's still somewhat fresh in my mind. David and I strolled up to Rockburn for the second day of the HoCo 2x CX races. Schooley Mill was on Saturday and while registered, I couldn't race.  So, I double dipped (again) on Sunday and did the Masters B race at 10am and then the Tandumb race with DKEG at 4pm.  It's a hellava long wait between the two races, but, it was worth it.  Early registration got me on the 3rd row of the Masters B race (3/4 35+&45+) and in a great starting position. It was a pretty full race with a lot of guys fighting hard for position.  I went off fast and hoped to get into a lead pack early in the race. The competition was tough and everyone else had the same idea. We went up the road section in a fairly large group, guys were rubbing elbows and jockeying for position all the way around the first half of the course. One guy tried to force an inside pass and he went into the tape when I held my line. Another guy tried to force a pass and we locked handlebars for a moment. My front wheel came off the ground and I thought I was a goner.  The bikes unlocked and we kept riding only to be sent into a pole and the tape 100 yards further up.  I went down that time and lost a couple spots. We were maybe half way around the first lap. It was going to be a physical race to be sure.

I ran through the sand pit and made up a spot on the inside corner. My transition was smooth and I was back up to speed quickly. A little straight-a-way and a hard left into the single track. Some roots on the high speed turns meant you had to check your speed, but, I was able to carry momentum and open up some gaps in this area.  The little climbs hurt me a bit and the geared riders were able to make up ground in these areas. Still, the legs felt good and I kept the intensity as high as possible.  By the time the second lap rolled around the field had spread out and you could ride your race without too much interference.  I really enjoyed the course this year. Last year I liked it, but, being new to cross I don't think I rode it well. Hell, I KNOW I didn't ride it well. This year was different. The tires were perfect, I had the right gear and everything just clicked. A nice semi-technical course that played to both types of racers. Power sections for the big engines and twisty, off-chamber turns for the technical weenies like myself.  There was something for everyone here.

The next couple laps were simply trying to ride smart and push as hard as the legs would allow. I bobbled a turn or two next to the tennis courts, but, nothing too bad. I guess it was my third or forth lap I decided to ride the sand pit. Many tires had packed a good line and riding was much easier now. I believe it was on this lap that Bill caught me and never looked back. He had a great race out there and I just hope to make the highlight reel, as he was passing me. Prior to this I was in something of a "no mans lands" with no one within attacking distance, either in front or behind. I had become complacent and I let up a little too much on that lap.  Shell shocked, I couldn't mount a decent counter-attack and watched him slowly ride away.
Bell lap was all about riding smart and not giving up any spots. I was able to do both. I found just enough extra kick that I was able to open the gap on a rider who had been breathing down my neck a littler earlier. He faded off the back and I drove hard through the final sections of the course.  Near the tennis courts I looked back to see my gap had increased a few more seconds and I knew unless something catastrophic occurred, I could soft peddle to the finish.  Rolling in I was 13th in the Masters B race and 5th in my age group.

The tandem race came next, well, not actually next, more like 5 hours later. So, I had a lot of time to kill and tried to limit my beer consumption while I whittled away the afternoon. I later found out I cracked a beer while standing next to the parks liaison that help organize the race. Apparently he just shook his head as he walked away and I was just blissfully unaware of the entire situation.  Oops. Where was I? Right, 5 hours to kill. I watched the Little Belgium's race, the junior's, the women's race, 3/4 mens, 1/2/3 men's, got a portobello  mushroom sandwich and fries (which were tasty), took a few race pics and laid out in a warm Autumn sun for a bit. Nice way to kill a few hours.

As the sun tracked across the sky, the temps dropped and we started to get ready for the tandumb race. David and I rode the bike around the roads and on some grass. We practiced a dis-mount and adjusted David's seat.  We were ready and lined up on the front row.  Nice piece of real estate we had there.  The Elite guys had just finished and we were waiting on the AFC team of Padem. Dressed as Mario and Luigi, they made a dramatic entry on the back of a Gator. Another couple was dressed as Santa and his elf. They would later get the best costume award. David and I hit the gas hard off the line, grabbed the hole shot and were beating the reigning MABRA tandem leaders...for about 15 seconds.  They passed us on the first turn and continued to open the gap. Still, we had them even if it was only for a fleeting moment.  We did, however, ride strong and held second place for lap 1 with both the Kelley squad and Tom Tom club close behind. By lap 2 Padam was just a distant speck on the horizon and a team from Kelly Benefits was knocking on our door.  David threw an elbow or two, so I'm told, and was able to thwart their first attack (I hope they know he was just messin' with them). They did eventually pass us and we passed them again.   All in all, I think we swapped positions a few times on lap 2 and the first half of the bell lap. Then, on the far side of the course, they dropped the hammer and slowly pulled away from us.  While this happening, I could see one of the AFC guys riding with one leg. I guess they decided to tie a leg behind their back to make things interesting.  So, the Kelly guys, with their aero-dynamic advantage, pulled away and we tried to close the gap. They put pressure the AFC team and were only a few seconds back going into the last few turns. It was probably one of the closer tandem races we have seen in the series thus far.  David and I were able to keep it together and rode a bit smoother on that last lap. We kept the pressure up and that got us on the podium with a solid 3rd place.  I guess 5 hours of "rest" helped us out after-all.  Tanytown, the MABRA championship,  is next week and we will be looking for a rematch against that Kelly team AND their time-trial helmet.
Photo by Baler
Photo by Baler

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tacchino Ciclocross 2010

My weekend could be summed up in two words, Bicycling Nirvana.  The Bootlegger's Bliss on Saturday followed by a full day at Roseryville and the Tacchino Ciclocross on Sunday.

One year ago Sunday, I did my first "traditional" cross race at the Tacchino, presented by Squadra Coppi.  I had done the Iron Cross a few times, but, that hardly counts as a traditional cross race, in the modern sense. Some would argue the IC is, in fact, a real cross race and what passes for cross now is some sort of watered down version of a once "manly" endeavor.  All I know is it's fun, all of it.  But, I digress.

The Tacchino kicks ass, plain and simple.  Jim and the whole Coppi squad put on a great event and they really kicked it up a notch this year.  Back for the 2010 edition was the incredible course, the tasty beer, sausages, and a live funk band. All that would have been fine for me, but not one to rest on his laurels, Jim kicked it up a notch with better beer, a better course, better swag from the generous sponsors, cool prizes, a Single Speed class, a tandem class (stolen from a stolen idea) AND a moon bounce.  Hell, they even got a horse to run along the course during one of the races.  How's that for a party?!
Photo by RickyD & Jojo
My first race went off at 11am with the "Super B's". They threw all us Single Speed guys in with that motley crew in hopes to give the race a little class and distinction.  It was hard work, but, I think we pulled if off.  One gear love, that's all you need.  There was a little confusion with my number as the registration guys gave it away to someone else. Then they tried to hand me a number that would have me lining up on the back row.  I protested, they told me to chill and Jim stepped in to make things right.  Unfortunately the line judges didn't like 9 guys on one grid and we had to shuffle. Guys looked at me to move back and I told them to piss off. Not my fault someone else can't read a name properly. I held my ground and DKEG took the bullet. He moved back a row or two so I could maintain my third row position. I owe that boy a beer.
Photo by RickyD & Jojo
At the whistle I get to work and make my way up a few spots. Halfway through the first lap I think I'm going to die and loose those spots to some geared riders. Somewhere on lap 2 my legs settle in and I pass an AFC rider who was looking strong on lap 1. I give him some encouragement and think he's done for the race.  A few minutes later he blast pass me like I was standing still. Maybe I should encourage myself like that once in a while.  I try to close the gap, but, he keeps opening it up.  Cargo Mike is now closing in on me. He's been working his way up through the pack and I'm next on his list, apparently.  I ask for a little more from the legs, they refuse.  Mike catches me as we start lap 3 and he's riding strong. I am able to muster a little something and hang on his wheel for most of the lap. No one is challenging us and we have clear sailing ahead. Lap 4 comes and Mike fades a bit, I moved ahead briefly and then he attacks and passes once again. On the far side of the course I stuff my wheel in an off-chamber turn and go down. Mike calls back for me to move my ass and I'm back on trying to make up the time. I close the gap a little, but, he still had more in his tank than me. We cross the line 3rd and 4th with two AFC riders in front.  That was a good race.

My brother Keith shows up with my kids and his daughter.  I have already registered the kids for the Lil Belgium's race at 1 and we have some time for a beer or two.  Tood, Anne and the whole Bike Lane crew rolled out the welcome mat and we enjoy some of their fine hospitality. Back at the kids course, Jonathan was doing laps while the others worked off their energy in the moon bounce. They lined up the kids according to age and had 3 separate races to keep things fun.  Jackie lined up with the other "training wheels" and they were behind the "skoot" bikes.  1 lap for the littlest of the Lil Belgium's and they all got medals and goodie bags. David's boy Will went with the next group and he was really racing hard. They went for 2 laps.  Jonathan Lined up with the 8+ year olds and that group included his cousin Jenna and Jake, David's oldest boy.  He had a smile on his face the entire time. At one point he stopped on the course to see if the kids behind him were "alright".  Seeing as he was near the back of the pack I told him they were fine and he should keep riding.  He finished the same way he started, with a huge smile. Not bad for a kid who didn't want to race.  Medals and more goodie bags for all.

After their races, David and I had to get to work on the tandem.  It needed some new tires, the old gum walls were looking a bit dry rotted and a swap was in order. We also needed to install some pedals and remove the bar ends. Some lube on that 20 feet of chain wouldn't hurt either.  Prepped and ready we take it out for a little spin.  Considering I had just borrowed the bike the day before and neither of us had ridden one together, we needed a little practice.  We tried some mounts, dis-mounts, rolling beer hand-ups, you know, the usual sort of stuff.  Armed with 15 minutes of saddle time on a tandem we acquire the day before, we were ready to race!
Photo by RickyD & Jojo
JoeP and RickyD were fashionably dressed as Piglet and Tigger, respectively. Anne and Andrew from the Bike Lane went as a gorilla and a banana. It was pretty comical. There were 15 tandem crews lined up and some heavy hitters again. The AFC team and DCCX tandem wining team of Padam was there. The Tom Tom Club, Jonathan of Family Bikes, a couple Kelley Benefits teams and a few others.  David and I got to the staging area a little late and had to line up on the back row.  That's a lotta people on big ass bikes to have to navigate through.  Somehow, with all 15 minutes of preparation, we managed to screw up our start and and almost fell off of bike. Righted, we were underway and catching teams quickly. David was a great stoker and we worked well together as we picked off the low hanging fruit.  Ricky and Joe, no problem. I think they owe DC Tony $50 bucks on some sucker bet that they could beat us. Ha!  Next was the gorilla and banana, bamm...done.  Now we had some serious riders clad in Lycra, not funny costumes. A few of those went down on that first lap as well.  We rode the big hill, we rode the log barriers we carried over the regular barriers.  We drove hard into the turns and the bike handled great.  Tandem is addicting and we were having fun. The kids were out on the side of the course cheering us on and it was nice to have them there. We threw out a couple "high fives" on lap 2 and were ready for one more. Alas, the promoters thought were we having too much fun, probably wanted to get to the heavy drinking or were simply cold, they stopped us after 2. 1 more wouldn't have changed our position, but, it sure would have been fun. 5th place will have to do... for now. We'll have our revenge at Rockburn on the 21st.