Archive for the Race/Ride reports Category

2010 MTB Nationals and Stuff

Posted in Race/Ride reports on July 25, 2010 by bencycles

Whew natz was hard!
2010 natz

And oh so sweet. I honestly didn’t do as well as I might have hoped, 10th in the 35-39 cat 1, but I absolutely put everything I could into it, turned myself inside out for that tenth spot. In my mind, that’s important and very satisfying. I’d like to blame the 9000′ altitude for my result, and I think that was a factor, but there were some fast dudes out there, too.  Props for sure.

I really really like these big events. The venue at Sol Vista was great, the scenery was amazing, the vibe was awesome and people were amped. It was Nationals after all.

I hadn’t been planning to go. It was in the middle of what I’d scheduled as recovery and build up for the now imminent Breck Epic. But it was happening near my grandparents who I also wanted to visit and then when my team, Celo Pacific, offered to reimburse some of my travel expenses (thanks!), I had to go out and experience the awe of Nationals. It was a great experience.

Packed and ready to fly.

Some interesting finds in Sky Mall:

One of the best parts of the trip was getting to ride with my 90-year-old Grandpa.
Grandpa

Man, that guy has seen some stuff in his day. I’m in awe. My Grandpa was kind of my father figure when I was a teenager and I used him as a model when I was trying to get my shit back together in my early twenties.  I’m glad he’s still around so that we can do things together as two “grownups” now. Just hanging out on the patio with a beer and watching the clouds over Pikes Peak and chatting. I find the dynamic of having an adult relationship with my Grandpa to be extra special.

Oh, and I went to go revisit where I grew up in CO.

We lived in a shack in the woods outside of Colorado Springs. It was an old hunting cabin and someone had put a makeshift shower on the back porch when we bought it. We had running water in the place, but no indoor toilet and no fancy central heat. Just a small wood stove in the living room where my parents slept. Over the course of a few years, my step dad and I built a full house around that tiny little shack from materials he would buy at auctions.

From something like this:

To this:

You can still see the shape of the original cabin. It’s the right side of the house, obstructed slightly by a tree. But even after we put in a septic system and indoor toilets, we kept the outhouse just for all those good memories of number two in the dead of winter when it was -30 F.

We had 3 of these small cabins on our lot and left one mostly unmodified. My Mom was a sign painter; a hand letterer which is a bit rare now that most signs are cut from vinyl. She used the small cabin as her work area, a giant easel in the main room for banners,  kerosene heaters to keep it above freezing in the winter. Thinking about it now, it’s hard for me to imagine what my mom went through to keep our family going. Thanks Mom!

Oh yeah, and my old pig pen:

Damn, did I just put that on the internet? Well, I used to raise pigs for 4-H. Guess I was kinda poor white trash. This area did used to be where all the poor people lived, after all. One neighbor raised goats and tied a 50 gallon drum into a tree for a water heater. Another neighbor buried an old car to make a septic tank. Of course now it’s all subdivisions and shopping centers.

I can’t wait to burden the Sprout with all my merry stories of walking to school in the snow… : )

Anyway, now that mtb natz is over and done with, I’ve been spending this week trying to bulk up for Breck Epic with a healthy diet of pizza, ice cream, and beer. I’ll start training again next week…

In the meantime, I’ll leave with this: A few years ago, our town commissioned a statue it hopped would epitomize the “essence” of the SoCal surfer. Instead, what it got was a goofy statue, lovingly named the “Cardiff Kook”. Well, poor Kook gets decorated with something new and fun almost every month. And really, for that reason alone, I sort of love the Cardiff Kook. This is by far the best one yet:

Ciao.

Kenda Cup West #6, Big Bear Shoot Out

Posted in Race/Ride reports on June 21, 2010 by bencycles

Well well well.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

That’s a nice little present for papa.  1st place at the Big Bear Shootout! In my opinion one of the hardest races of the series so far, though I’m starting to think they’re all hard. 7000 – 8000′ elevation mixed with dry hot air and a nice long 23.7 mile single-lap format had me burning inside and out. I know you mountain people will scoff at that altitude, but I live at the beach. I’m a flatlander and that shit hurt.

we drove up to Big Bear the morning before the race and stayed at a friend’s cabin. Good friends, indeed. It was nice to just hang out with the fam a little bit and take it easy. Going out on these “racecations” for the last three weeks has been taking its toll. I’m getting a little fuzzy mentally (OK, more fuzzy…) and physically it is hard to get recovered and also maintain decent race form when there’s a race every weekend. So Saturday I didn’t touch my bike. We rented a canoe on Big Bear lake and paddled around. It was pretty fun after the Prof and I came to a settlement on paddling technique (I think she won) and the sprout loved it.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

Grabbed a fantastic burger at Get The Burger. Hands down the best burger joint up there. You have gotta try out those milkshakes. Damn.

Sunday. Mellow morning with a full breakfast and 11 AM start. For some reason, I was really nervous about this race. I usually get some butterflies at the line, but this thing had me straight up nervous. Too much time to think about it perhaps. The previous race result should have made me more confident, but instead, I was even more nervous that I couldn’t do well twice.

Fuck it. Time for a spin.

Suit up, prep my bottles and food, check the bike. It all looks good. Gordon at B&L Bikes had my bike dialed with a sweet new XX drivetrain. My shit is light tight clean and mean. 21.4lbs with pedals and cages on a XL 29er. I love it. My weight weenie darkside loves it. That’s win win.

Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6so clean and carefree at the start.

It’s go time. Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Get a good warm up for Big Bear. It’s a tough climb from the gun and cold lags go to the back.

I grab a wheel 5 riders back and set up camp for the climb. Get a good rhythm, a couple lengths farther than I like but I stay on my toes and grab the next wheel if the person in front so much as gives up half a length. Sitting in 3rd now. The pace is hard enough I know it’s there but not in the red.

Then Bam! Dude in front of me goes over the bars- on the climb! WTF?! his back wheel smashes into my bars, breaks my right shifter, twists my handlebars and has my break lever pointing to the sky. Well, that was unexpected…

I keep the leader in sight with one eye and assess with the other. Bike still pedals-that’s good, handlebars 10 degrees off, number plate dangling. Punch the brake lever and shifter back down with my fist as we keep grinding up the first hill. I have to reset my thumb lever every time I shift – it’s just like ’92 again, sweet!

Should I stop? Am I going to ride like this for the next 22 miles? The guys in front have no compassion. They just keep on riding. Guess I’m not stopping either. Lucky for me the handlebar bent towards the arm I broke last year which doesn’t extend fully anymore anyway. Hmm, that’s not so bad, actually…

The Bear Valley rider pulls away from me pretty easy like on the climbs. Maybe it’s the altitude or maybe he’s just a better climber. I push harder to keep him in sight. He’s pretty spry on that 26″ hardtail, but on my 29er I catch him easily on the descents. Hold his wheel on the climbs, make him work on the descents. 2 or 3 times repeat, then cut the cord and I’m on my own.

Then it’s just me and my demons. And that’s a long hard course if you are persuaded by what they have to say. I’ve noticed around mile 10-12 of any race, I usually go through a dark period of mental and physical discontent, but that if I take it easy and ride smart for a little bit, my rhythm comes back and I’m AOK again. This time was different. Nothing was coming back. Taking it easy wasn’t helping. I wasn’t AOK. Fuck. Climbing back up the Pineknot (?) section was the worst. The sun, the heat, my stomach. Nothing was working. Calm, calm, calm. Get to the jeep road. Regroup in my head a little. Get some food in me and hydrate.

Push through to Pirates and the lights turn on again. Then it’s a helter skelter spree of crazy down the mountain taking the worst lines imaginable just to pass lapped traffic. Definitely one of the most exciting and nerve racking parts of the course. The thrill of it all was putting some pep back in my legs.

What a freaking hard race.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

Who’s the pretty boy, now?

That thing shattered me, and that’s what made it great.  But the best part (well, aside from winning at Big Bear, Whoop Whoop!) was suffering that bad and digging that deep and finding something in there that got me through. Bike racing is all in the head, but it takes a hell of a lot of physical pain to reach it. It’s a good feeling when I do.

Clean up the cabbin and drive home.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

Next up is a little time off the bike. Time for some yoga and a little surfing.

Ciao.

Kenda Cup West #5, Santa Barbara Bike Fest

Posted in Race/Ride reports on June 7, 2010 by bencycles

This one is my favorite:

And it comes with this:

Mmm mmm mmm. The view from that middle box is a nice treat. Winning The Elings Park race of the Kenda Cup this weekend was a great feeling. A lot of work goes into making those two hours of a race come out well. There is so much that can happen, with or without your control. Equipment, food, training,  family, work…  But that’s not news for anyone. I’m just basking a little.

Sunday morning we loaded the car and made the 3 h drive in just 4 hours, what with all the stops for me and my kid to take a pee. We must share the same bladder.

Got to the venue under a cloudy sky, my favorite! The park is right on the coast, but it was pretty warm at 11am. I still had plenty of time to scout the course and do a lap before my race. Good thing, too,as there was a lot of twisty singletrack with a couple of surprise turns on the descents hiding in the grass. The stutter bumps going into some of the steeper turns were really really brutal, too. Otherwise, the trail was smooth, fast, and flowee. I added 10psi to the fork and opened up the rebound a little so I could hit the descents hotter. This was gonna be fast.

30 minutes before the start and the cloud cover broke, unleashing a hellfire sun to cook us like tandoori chicken.

2 minutes. Count the riders, face check.

1 minute. Check what gear I’m in. Breath.

30 seconds. Right pedal up. Grab the brakes. Weight forward.  Why do I do this? Visualize.

Release. Everything goes away.

Grab a great start and gap the field going into the dirt. Back off a little. It’s gonna be two long hours. Where’s Garry? Look back to see his wheels on mine and the pack lined up. Climbing now. The hot stiffness of hard effort. Let him pass, recover, let him pace and keep close. We get a small gap on the group and I work like hell to stay on Garry’s wheel. Dude’s pretty fast in singletrack and were sliding skid turns through the tight descent. Up through the flowy section he’s starting to gap me. Stay smooth. Catch back on. It’s a good pace, the podium’s a lock if you keep it.

Garry grabs a gap on me. Outta sight in a heartbeat and I’m hurting from that start. Recover recover recover so I can catch him on the next climb. I see him up there. Keep him in sight. Count seconds at the yellow bush. He’s got a minute gap on me going into lap two and I’m thinking it’s a race for 2nd. Then I see him at the turnaround and I see his face. Pain. I get hungry again and push a little harder.

The third and fourth place guys are seconds behind. Maybe 30 feet back, trading places with each other, both coming for me. They aren’t gaining but neither am I. I’m faster here, they’re faster there. Always back there and I can’t break free.

Then I see him. Garry’s 50 yards away as we come out to a long smooth climb. Shit, I’m going. I’ll see you two later. I almost catch his wheel before we descend again. It’s right there, but then we make the left to descend again and he gets in front of the lapped traffic just at the descent and I’m stuck behind. Come on Come on Come on. Stay cool.

“that’s my guy up there, whenever you can”

A spot opens up, “Get that Fucker!” he yells as I come around. He lets me through and I hit those stutter bumps like a motherfuckn riot. Damn good thing I stiffened up that fork. Teeth clenched, knuckles white, growling from the insanity. Try to stay loose, but I think I’m gonna shake to pieces down that thing.

How does my bike not just fall apart and my bars not snap or my rotors not shear off? These are the things I contemplate as I’m descending faster than I should. “I have to do that section 3 more times?”

Climbing up the purgatory of that long road back to start it all over again, I catch Garry. Not looking good, it turns out he’s been sick all week and will eventually dnf on the day. Honestly, it’s probably the only way I’m gonna catch that guy so… I’ll take it!

“Ooh, I’m in 1st place now”

“Oh shit, I’m in 1st place now. I have two more laps to go, don’t fuck this up, smooooth”

So the next two laps are pretty much the same hellbound sufferfest of fun as the first two. Only, mentally, a whole lot more stressful now. The mentality of chasing is a whole lot different than the mentality of staying off the front. When you are chasing in a mtb race, your goal set is easy; catch the guy in front of you. Carrying it out might be a little harder, but the goal is simple.

But when no one is in front of me, well, how fast should I be going? Gotta keep my gap but I don’t want to take too many risks. What if I flat? Are the guys behind me gaining? All I have to do is drop my chain once and number 2 is gonna close that gap…. and on and on for two long laps.

Fantastic. So much drama. I claim to hate it but I fucking love it.

Anyway, I’m really windbagging this post. Like I said earlier, basking.

Look behind me. Zip up the jersey. Roll through the line. It hurts to stand.

Spend 4 hours in a car while my wife graciously drives us home and my daughter sleeps.

ciao

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 – The New Black

Posted in Race/Ride reports on February 15, 2010 by bencycles

I picked up my new ride from B&L Bikes last week.
Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29
I have so much bike lust at the moment, ridiculous!

It took a lot of searching, but Gordon managed to track one down in my size somewhere up in LA. Then somehow finagled it down here and finally into my greedy little hands! Those guys at B&L Bikes really went out of their way to get that bike to me, thanks! Any brick and mortar can load their floor full of fancy gear but it’s the people in the store that make the place. Having worked at various bike shops nearly 10 years before graduating college, I think good service is a rarity in the industry and all too easy to overlook sometimes. The guys at B & L have that mix of bike knowledge and friendly that’s hard to come by.

Anyway, how ’bout that bike?

Well, the S-works 29er was pretty much exactly the bike I would have dreamed up for myself, but alas, the price tag was a bit out of my league. The next model down with a frame that has the same geometry and made from the same mold as the S-works is half the price. True, the parts aren’t as flashy as all that XX action, but I figured with a few choice upgrades I could have a bike almost as rad and save some cash to buy my kid shoes, too.

Out of the box, I think the Expert was around 24.5 lbs or so. Not too bad for a XL 29er out of the box. But being the weight weenie that I am, a couple parts deserved attention. The first to go was the stock triple XT crank which I immediately swapped out for the mega dope S-works carbon double crank.
Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

In addition to looking rad it also narrowed my q-factor and dropped a cool half pound from the bike. Plus it gives me the option to upgrade to a XX spider in the future if I want to run SRAM double rings. The bike has removable bb cups, so you can run a traditional bb or pop the cups out and run the Sworks. Nice.

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

The bike came stock with a 143mm saddle which is a bit wide for my skinny ass. Gordon suggested the new Henge saddle in the 130mm width. It has more padding than the Phenom saddle and is still pretty light. The shape feels good, too. The Thomson post saves a few more grams from stock and is a proven post I trust.

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29
I swapped out the stock cassette for a 11-34 XT I had lying around. The 36 cog of the stock cassette might have been handy with the double setup, but that thing was a doorstop. The gold chain was a nice touch Gordon added. Pimp, eh?

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

In the cockpit I switched out the stock alloy bar (which is wider and has a shape I like – might put it back on) for a carbon flat bar I was running on my old bike. The controls are all stock. I absolutely love those Avid Elixir CR SL brakes. Good modulation and more power than my XT’s. The grips are thicker than I’m used to So I’ll probably put some ESI grips on soon.

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

Swapped the Stem for a nice light Deda and put my Campy carbon top cap on. I’ve had that same top cap on every bike I’ve raced since about ’99. We’ve seen a lot together. The glossy carbon weave of the frame is stunning in the light. I got a lot of double takes at the race with this thing. It’s a good looking bike.

With the parts I swapped out, the bike is weighing in at about 22.9 lbs – and that’s still with the stock wheels, which while good solid wheels for training, are heavier than what I would like to be racing on. That might have to wait to see if I get a bonus from work, though. My kid needs shoes, ya know. Plus they came tubeless ready. Gordon didn’t have to do any taping, just throw some sealant in and air up the tires.

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29
Every bike needs a name.

So hows it ride?

Super!

I picked it up on a Thursday and my first real ride on it was at the Racers and Chasers series that Saturday. I was a bit hesitant to race it without getting familiar with it first, but when I picked it up, the thing looked so good, there was no way I wasn’t gonna try it. Gordon at B & L had my cockpit dialed. I literally jumped on the thing and road it. sweet.

I’ll be honest, the first thing I noticed was it’s a hard tail. It’s been a good 9 years since I’ve owned a hardtail and I did notice the stiffness in the rear end. But really what this means is the timing is just different. With full suspension, I think weighting and un-weighting the wheels over really rough sections is timed a little earlier than with a hardtail, and I had to get used to that. I usually load the suspension and then float over rough sections, but with the hardtail I can wait till I’m a little closer to the section before I compress the bike to float over a section.

By the third and fourth laps of the race, I was really starting to feel comfortable on the bike. It actually started to feel more comfortable the more I rode the bike. Probably because I was getting used to the bike and started relaxing into it more. With my full suspension bikes, they usually start to feel a little dead and unresponsive twords the end of a race when I’m getting tired, but not this thing. It was still feeling spry on lap four.

My old bike had a really steep head angle (72 deg) and 26″ wheels which could be a little unforgiving if I wasn’t paying attention at the bar. I prefer the slacker angle of the Stumpy and because it has the massive carbon headtube and tapered steerer tube on the Fox fork, the front end feels much more solid and tracks through turns better. I thought the stock tires were fantastic. Really a nice feeling tire to ride. I raced them with about 28 – 30 psi (I weigh 165 lbs wet) and felt like I could take the pressure down next time.

Hmm, let’s see: I took out a new bike that was completely different from what I had before and without really ever riding it first, won my race.

I’d say I like my new bike.

Chamrousse loop

Posted in Race/Ride reports on June 5, 2009 by bencycles

If my memory is correct (which is dubious), this is a pretty accurate rendition of the loop I did on my 2nd day riding in France. this was my “recovery ride” after my 85 mile round trip to Alpe d’Huez the day before. Not much recovery to be found in those hills but it was a really fun loop. My route to Vizille was actually much less direct and required a significant amount of dirt roads… but I’m not even going to try and re-create that on google maps and my satnav is being aloof. The first part of the climb from Sechilienne to D111 is a narrow little road through a beautiful village and wooded area with zero traffic, a welcome change from Huez. the clouds of flies, on the other hand… there is a nice picnic grounds just before you get onto D111 and the road flattens out, giving you false hope that your at the top. Your not. Keep climbing, sucka, ’cause Chamrousse is still ahead, though on a bigger road with a bit more traffic. Get to the fire station at the top, pat yourself on the back, put your helmet on, and get ready for fun. I’m not the boldest descender in the world but the road going down was wide open and the turns were very flowing, allowing one the chance for some nice speed, save for one or two hairpins. There is a nice little village at the bottom where a grumpy Frenchman kicked me out of the shade for eating a pastry from the “other” deli. Better to buy your pastry and go eat it in the park, anyway. It’s a nice spin back into town where you can enjoy some wine or $6 beers, mmm. If you are a glutton for overdoing things, you should walk up to Fort de la Bastille in the sun without water after doing this ride (preferably before eating), just to make sure you are properly wrecked and sunburnt when you go to work the next day.

Fiesta Island Soul Searching

Posted in Race/Ride reports on March 9, 2009 by bencycles

The face of calm serenity

Do time trials count as therapy? I guess turning Metallica up really loud during my warm up musta worked, ’cause I was 10 seconds faster.

The following text is lifted directly from an email I sent to a friend which sums it all up nicely. Why write the same thing twice? That would leave less time to train.

Look on my face? why, that’s my look of zen calmness… : ).
I took 10 seconds off the last tt with less aerodynamic equipment this time. Riding my own bike was a lot more comfortable than the one I borrowed last time, which I think made a difference. Now if I can just get a hold of one of those goofy aero helmets… I taped the aerobar pads directly to the handlebar because the clamps didn’t fit and were too wide anyway.

It was cool because a friend lent me his Zipp 404’s with a powertap hub. I don’t have $1000 lying around to go get one, and frankly I’m not sure I would want one if I could afford it, but it was fun to play with.

I’ve been getting my VO2 max and power tested for a sports drink study, so I was really curious to see how those results would compare to a “real world” situation. It turned out to be pretty dead-on. The watts I was able to maintaine for the tt were almost exactly where the study indicated I would be at about 105% LT. My relative VO2 is decent and my efficiency is pretty good but my max power isn’t super high (not too much of a surprise, flat sections [such as tt’s] are where I suffer most). It helped me hold back on the first lap and finish stronger at the end.

Of Hot Suns and Sharp Palms.

Posted in Race/Ride reports on March 1, 2009 by bencycles

Raced the first race of the west coast Kenda Cup today. There was a big crowed, 30 guys in my catagory, which was great. It’s not as much fun to come in last and still place top five.

img_7946

Opening day of the new season. Just an hour and a half to San Dimas, woke ’round seven and played with the Sprout before loading the car and rollin.

img_7942

prepped and ready, sippy cup, too. After getting to the gate of the park and realizing I was cashless, it was a dash to the RV park and finally back out of the park to Chevron to find one of those little cash dispensing robots that actually works and grab a little cash.

I think I found the last shady spot not too far from the staging area and made camp. This place was packed. Vendors, riders, and all the floatsom that goes with a big race.

I was glad to have a shady spot, ’cause it was getting hot. But to get to the shade I had to cross over a big pile of dried palm fronds. Now I know, DANGER. Those dried palms are the sharpest effing things around! I impaled my calf on that SOB and it really hurt. Between sliding out in a turn earlier in the week and now this, I thought taking it easy this last week was probably more dangerous than if I’d just kept riding hard.

Go line up. There are a lot of people. It was great but i was a bit nervous since I’d ridden so poorly a couple weeks earlier. Grabbed a spot in the shade and waited for the inevitable. Check my start gears. 20 seconds. Start my watch timer, then GO. Fast Fast Fast. And hot. And full sun socal style. Such a difference between a 10 man field and a 30 man field. Guys everywhere. did I mention it was great.

It was a total power course, not the best for me but I wasn’t gonna just give the thing away. Lap two was the toughest. Mentally, knowing there was still another full lap to go after this lap… It was the hardest to stay motivated through, hardest to keep pushing, especially after pushing the first lap like it was the only lap. So much of this stuff is all in the head. Even with the mental demons, I managed a lap time only a minute slower than the first, which was tits. Starting the 3rd lap was like a release, knowing this was it. Tickling the cramps on the climbs, starting to feel heavy, but like I said before, I wasn’t gonna just give it away. Finished strong, even grabbed one place back in the last half mile to claim 7th in a field of 30.

img_7949

Even SPF 50 is no match for the sun around here. Yeah, check out that tan line. And I was feeling that last lap, too. Ouch, hello pain cave. But seriously after all that, the palm spearing my calf is still what hurts the most. The race however was great.