Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend in Louisville

Wow, what a long and great weekend. Between the racing and getting to see family it was a ton of fun.

The weekend started early on Friday. We were up and on the road by 7:00, and after a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts we hit the open road evenutually hitting I-65 south. I have done this drive more times than I can count and it really is a boring stretch or road. Our plan of attack was to hit Hubers on the way down to pick up apples, gourds, and some pumpkin ice cream. After that we would head over to Champions Park to check out the course for the weekend USGP events. We hoped to take more photos at Hubers, but the batteries died on our camera. Here is Kelly as Dracula.

When we were leaving Hubers there was a slight sprinkle and the sky were completely overcast. After making our way down from the knobs we crossed the Ohio River and eventually pulled into the parking lot at the park. After getting the bike and helmet out I headed out for a lap of the course. I was greeted by some fast grass sections, plenty of off-camber slick ups and downs, 6 sandpits, and the infamous Green Monster. The deepest sandpit made the Carpenters Park sandpit look like nothing. There was a big drop off into the sand, and it was really loose and deep. I decided I would probably run this section, and not risk getting bogged down. As I was running I looked to my right to see Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks come flying by, making it look effortless. As my short pre-ride ended the rain was coming down harder, and by the time I got the bike on the rack it was really pouring. It appeared that the next day was going to be a mudfest. That night we hung out with my Aunt Paula, had a good Pasta dinner with meatballs and pasta Sauce from Bertos in Downers Grove, and finally watched “Knocked Up”.

The next morning I had some toast with PB&J, coffee, and a couple of bananas. We then loaded up the car and headed back to the park. After arriving I picked up my race packet and walked a bit of the course to see how things were looking. Racers on the course were looking dirty, but not super muddy. The muddy sections were definitely really slick, but it wasn’t deep mud or super slop. After a good warmup it was time to stage for the Cat 2/3 race. This was the first race I have done with call-ups. Call-ups were based on race #, and I didn’t hit the jackpot with this one. I had a 7th row call-up (8 riders in each row). For today’s race there was a total of 67 riders. 67 riders on a really narrow course (no wider than 10’ on any part of the course) meant there would be some wild stuff on the first lap. After the 3 minute countdown, the official shot the gun and we were off. The guy in front of me was really slow getting going and I lost some places immediately. After a 50 yard asphalt section there was a 90 degree left hand turn onto the grass followed by a looping 180 degree turn to a 90 degree right hand turn onto a narrow sidewalk. After about 50 yards there was a right into a tight chicane on the grass. This was the location of the first crash. Bikes caught in the tape, people riding over bikes, people yelling, total chaos. I got caught behind the crash, but didn’t get knocked down. Back on the pedals, forward into a straight section into two 180 degree turns before the double barriers. More carnage, bikes knocking together, people falling. Over the double barriers, back on the bike to a really narrow part of the course, which was awesome with all the people lining the route cheering. Onto the asphalt to an off-camber right hand turn to a mudpit to a looping 180 degree turn to another 180 degree turn to a drop-off into a sandpit. Through the sand, more people going down. Out of the sand to a sharp uphill into a 180 degree turn. Back on the grass straight to an off-camber left hand turn and onto the asphalt. Hammer the asphalt, 180 degree right hand turn to a fast straight past the wheel pit. On the brakes through two tight muddy corners. Straight section to the big sandpit. Off the bike and run. Back on the bike right hand turn to another sandpit. Not deep sand, but real loose and squirrelly. Through a couple more tight corners into some fast straight-aways and a stair run-up. 180 degree turn back through a muddy section onto the asphalt. More people going down on the transition between the mud and asphalt. From the asphalt into a really off-camber uphill into another down hill back into an uphill. I rode the first uphill dismounted at the top and ran the down /up. Back on the bike through a really slick rooty, right hand turn. Back on the asphalt into another off-camber uphill into a downhill and a 180 degree left hand turn on to the grass followed by two more sandpits. Back on the grass into a sharp down hill into a 180 degree turn followed by a stair run up.

I would dismount before the downhill, run the turn and up the stairs. Remount at the top and back onto the grass. Cross over some asphalt and back into the crowds. Under the flyover and over a steep ledge, and quickly into a 180 degree left hand turn. Quick right/left and now the stairs up the flyover. Up the super steep stairs to the top. These steps were almost vertical.

Remount and down the ramp and quickly into a left hand turn. Back on the gas through a couple of fast turn into a straight away.

One last chicane and back on the asphalt to the start/finish. Now all I had to do was do 3 more laps. After the first lap it really spread out, but I was always was racing someone, which was really cool. I was able to chase down a couple of people and had a really good battle with a Texas Roadhouse rider on the last lap. I was able to get to the flyover in front of him on the last lap and held him off to the finish for 45th place. At first I was a little disappointed with my placing, but after looking at the results from the race compared to the Ohio Valley Series a lot of the guys in front of me race A’s and do well. I was definitely outclassed by some of these guys, but I felt really strong and hope it is good sign for the next couple of weeks. The best part of the race was having my Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, and a couple of cousins there cheering me on and ringing cowbell.

After the race I cleaned up, and Kelly and I went to get some grub, before heading back to watch the Pro races. We picked up a beer, or two from Bluegrass Brewery during the Pro races. Katie Compton crushed the women’s field, and there was an awesome duel between Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers in the Men’s race. Watching these guys through the technical sections was amazing. Horsepower matched with skills is a beautiful thing.

That night we headed out for a great dinner at Basa Vietnamese. Thanks Paula!!

The next morning we were greeted by sunny skies and cooler temps. I was expecting a faster course after a couple of days without rain. I headed over to the race by myself, and Kelly and Paula planned to show up before the race start. After getting to the race I realized I left my backpack with my helmet, gloves, and sunglasses at my Aunts. Pretty much everything I needed. Thank god, Louisville is easy to get around, and Kelly showed up with enough time for me to get geared up. The promoters changed the course slightly for the 2nd day. Some of the straight sections were now windy, the barriers were high speed, and they added three new sandpits, two of which had turns in the middle for an extra challenge. 72 riders lined up for today’s race. I got a better call up today, and would be starting 3rd row. The gun went off and with today’s course things were much smoother to the barriers.

I was trying to hold my ground, but was getting passed by some of the big guns on the straights. After the barriers people were bumping into each other and going down here and there. I managed to avoid the carnage and had a clean first lap. Today we ended up doing five laps. With a faster course we were really flying, even though several of the corners were still really slick. Several guys misjudged some of these corners and went down hard. Luckily none of them took me with them. I was much more confident on the remount at the top of the flyover along with the sandpits. I ended up in a small group of 4 or 5 riders for most of the race, which always makes cross racing more fun. Today I finished 40th out of 72. Slight improvement over yesterday.
I really hope they have this race next year. It was an amzing experience. I also hope that all the Chicagoans that missed it this year decide to make the boring drive down I-65. It was well worth it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Are you Kidding me?? and Doubling Up is not for Me

Are you kidding me?? And Doubling up is not from me

Check this out. Am I heading to Louisville of Belgium? Stair run-up to a remount followed by a steep ramp descent back to the dirt is going to be a ton of fun. On top of that the pass under will be awesome along with the 6 sandpits. I better put on my hardman helmet and get ready for some serious pain.
Photo from

Raced at Carpenters Park in Carpentersville, IL on Sunday. This race was the 2nd stop in the Chicago Cross Cup Series. The guys at North Branch Cycling put on a great event and make the most of the small venue. The course had plenty of dismounts and twists and turns to keep things interesting, and the speakers pumping out the tunes was great addition. After getting registered and changed I headed out for a quick inspection of the course. Very similar to last year, with the exception of relocating the sandpit. Last year it was an easy entry into the sand that allowed for riding through each lap. This year the pit had a foot drop off from the grass, and after watching others warming up I decided to run the sandpit during the race. I don’t think I lost any time with this strategy early in the race, but towards the end it was taking a toll on my legs. The course was also soft and sapped the energy from the legs, definitely a power course. I lined up with 32 or so riders, with some big guns such as Brian Conant, Kevin Klug and Lou Kuhn. I knew these guys were on a different level, but I hoped I could make the most of my first Masters 30+ event. After introductions by Jeff from Main Street Bicycles we were off. Surprisingly I didn’t feel that the pace was unbelievably fast from the start, and I moved into a Top 10 position heading into the first set of barriers. A rider in front of me bobbled at the first barrier and left his bike on the ground while he continued forward. After a slight slow down I was back at it, trying to close the gap to the lead train. Through the up/down turns heading towards the bumpy downhill remount I was behind Kevin Heppner from Killjoy. Over the barriers, followed by a jump over the sandy creek bed (This seemed wider than last year and was difficult to completely clear). Back on the bike through the narrow chicane section. 180 degree turn onto the asphalt. Top guys are starting to create gaps. Off the asphalt at high speed and onto the grass, dismount over the barrier to the stone lined creek crossing jump. Back on the bike and pack on the power (For some reason this was the remount that was killing me. I bobbled several times, either getting my shorts stuck on my saddle or having a hard time getting clipped in. I was also not shifting to an easier gear before the dismount and it was taking too long to get back up to speed). Around the baseball field to the off camber 180 degree turn. Around the Hawthorne tree to the soft rideable creek crossing. As the laps progressed the crossing was getting deeper and deeper. Each time I told myself just point the wheel straight and everything will be a-ok. Through the creek, back on the gas around a sweeping righthand turn to the sandpit. Off the bike and run. The sandpit for the early laps was hardpacked on the right side, which made running easy, but later the pit was deep and rutted. Back on the bike, 180 degree turn to a bumpy section followed by a really short steep uphill dirtectly into a downhill. Power section back to the start/finish. Now I just had to do the same thing about 8 or 9 more times. Unfortunately I started moving back throughout the race. Stupid mistakes led to gaps opening which led to loss of places. In the end I finished 15th.

Two hours later I lined up for the 3’s. Small field of only 15 racers. The temp was much warmer than earlier and I was trying to down as much liquid as possible before the event. Race started and my legs were dead. I got a decent start, but was quickly moving back. After about 4 laps I was done and headed to the officials to let them know I was a DNF. It was good to experiment with the double, but I am definitely better off putting all my energy into one event. These next few week should be fun with lots of great races on the calendar. This is the part of the season where I am hoping for some good results.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Second Chances

Sometimes when I first listen to a new album it just doesn’t grab me and I end up putting it one the shelf, only to listen to the album at a later date and realize it is a well crafted piece of music. This happened with the album “Boxer” by The National. The first time I heard the album was back in June while driving with Kelly from the Grand Canyon to Telluride. A good portion of the ride was flat, wide open expanses of land. It was a beautiful landscape, but became monotonous after awhile. The album is very similar in that the lead singer’s voice is droning and can become tiring. At the time I was definitely disappointed that I didn’t like it, as I had read many good reviews of the album, and it just didn’t seem to live up to the hype.

A couple of weeks ago Kelly and I were out and she threw the album into the CD player. I was really amazed at how much I was liking the album. Once accept the singers voice, the songs are really beautifully sculpted, with a mix of strings and electronics. Quite nice stuff, and now I highly recommend it.

Other albums that I am glad I gave a second chance:

Wilco “A Ghost is Born”
Interpol “Antics”
Ryan Adams “Cold Roses”
LCD Soundsystem “LCD Soundsystem”

Sunday, October 14, 2007


This years race at Cam Rock was much different than last year when Brian Parker and I were greeted by snow, mud and riders moving at 5 mph looking like there legs were about to explode. This year we had cool temps, and a super dry course. Kelly, Bernie and I made it to the park with plenty of time to spare. We had enough time to cheer on Jeff at the end of the 4's race. He was looking really strong and hopefully had a good finish.

After getting changed and warmed up, we were given enough time for one lap of the course. The course included a bunch of the same stuff from last year, with a few changes to keep it interesting. Upon examination the course was really fast with a bunch of off camber turns, roots and loose mulch . These aren't my favorite conditions, as I have a hard time judging how fast I can push it through the turns, but that is what makes cross great; each course is different and conditions always vary.

32 riders lined up for the start of the 3's race. The start consisted of an uphill asphalt section into a 180 degree turn down a rutted double track into a sharp left hand turn. My start has always been a week point for me, and this race was no different. I felt like I was engulfed by the entire field field, and found myself sitting about 15th after the first few minutes of the race. The course had a bunch of short steep sections, and at the top of one hill there was a guy playing a trombone, which was a cool addition that had to the Euro feel.

From this point I yo yo'd back and fourth anywhere between the mid teens and the low 20's. This course was all about holding speed through the turns and hammering the flats and hills I felt like I did a good job with the power sections, but really struggle with the loose off camber turns. Any gaps I would open on racers would be gone after a couple of turns. While I did struggle I did feel more comfortable towards the end of the race, so that is a good sign, but as they say too little, too late. In the end, I finished 21st.

My goal for the race was to hopefully finish in the top 1/2 of the field and possibly compete for a Top 10 finish. While this didn't happen, I still see a ton of room for improvement, and know these results are in my future.

Bernie was nuts as usual at the race, and Kelly has banned him from future cross races. He told us to give him one more chance, so we will see.

Next week I will definitely be racing the Chicago Cross Cup race in Carpentersville and am still debating racing the Whitewater cross race in Wisco. I've heard bad things about the Whitewater course and from photos I have seen from last year, if it rains the course becomes a mud bog.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Finally Fall??

Last night I could feel the cool winds blowing in as I finished up my cross practice. On top of that, it was only 6:30 and the sun was almost set. It seems that the seasons are finally changing and Fall is on its way. Fall has always been my favorite season; growing up it meant cross country races, University of Louisville football games and trips to Hubers for apples. Now that I am older, cross country races have been replaced by cyclocross races, but there is still football, and a trip to Hubers for apples. Kelly and I will be making our annual trip to Hubers on our way down to the USGP races the end of this month.

I will be racing at Cam Rock this weekend near Madison, WI. It looks it will be nice and dry, which is a huge change from last years event; where we were dealing with snow and deep mud. Last year ended up with my rear derailleur in small pieces along the trail and a bent hanger, so hopefully things will be different this year. The last few weeks I’ve had some good training, and with Jackson Park behind me I am hoping for an improved performance.