Monday, November 24, 2008

I Won...

...a bike at the Woodstock Cyclocross Race!! A sweet 26" Roadmaster full suspension mountain bike!! I will admit the bike doesn't meet the needs of my bike snobbery, but I am happy to know that the purchase of the raffle tickets went to the Leukemia Society, and teammate Mike Seguin will be donating the bike to the toy drive put together at his fire house. Oh yeah, and I finished 2nd in the race which was my best result ever in a cross race, and was oh so painfully close to a win.

The Course
The course was in a beautiful park with tons of rolling terrain, and was definitely the longest course of the year. Jason Meshberg and his crew put together a course that had some great ups and downs, offcamber sections, and some leg burning climbs. This was all on top of a course that was really bumpy, and portions of the course had me holding on for dear life, praying that my hands didn't slip off the bars.

The Race
Race started off fast. Jeff Wat of Vitamin Water-Trek went out fast stringing out the group as we headed to the fast wooded downhill. Up the climb and a separation was already made of 7 or 8 riders. Jason Knauff of Vitamin Water-Trek was now putting on the pressure at the front opening a slight gap. As the lap progressed I moved up into 2nd position behind Jason, with Scott Arrigoni moving up to third. Over the next couple of laps a second separation occurred. This time whittling the group down to 4. Devon Haskell came out of nowhere to join our group. Based on the photos I saw she really closed ground to make her way up to our group. I have to say she is looking really strong heading into Nationals. Over the next lap or so we cruised along in our small group, increasing our lead over the chasers. At some point we lost Devon, and the group was down to 3 heading into the last 3 laps. I was yo yoing a bit at this time, but dug deep to catch Jason and Scott on the first climb of the lap. As we headed into the wooded downhill Scott was able to scoot around a lapped rider, with Jason picking the wrong side for the pass. Jason had to slow and I was able to take the inside line, but not before Scott had a slight gap. This proved to be the decisive moment in the race, as Jason appeared to be the strongest rider in the group, and I was sure he would come back to me, eventually leadng me back up to Scott. Unfortunately what I didn't know was that Jason had a flat and would not be coming up to save the day. So for the next 2.5 laps I tried to chase down Scott. His gap was really never more than 20 yards, but I just couldn't close it. I would get closer on the straightaways, and he would open it up in the technical sections. I knew I had to catch Scott before the section that traversed the sled hill, but never made contact, eventually rolling in for a hard earned 2nd place.

Once again I have to give props to my coach Brian Conant. He has taken me from a midpack Cat. 3 to a rider competing for wins. So if you are looking for a coach to help you with any cycling discipline he is a great option and can be reached at bconant at msn dot com

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Paine de Provence

I think most people are either bakers or cooks. Baking being a much more regimented process, but still providing enough room for creativity to keep things interesting. Personally, I was born with the baking gene that I am pretty sure was passed down from my dad. We always baked growing up, and lately I have been getting back into trying different recipes. I have been making a lot of banana bread, but finally got into some bread recipes that require fermentation and yeast. I had no idea how time consuming the process of baking bread was, as it is really a two day process with lots of time required for kneading and rising. Anyway I tried this recipe last week. I was really surprised at how well it turned out. I used herbs de provence along with fennel seeds to flavor the bread.

The week that I baked this bread we had a pork tenderloin for dinner. At Kelly's recommendation, I shredded the leftover pork, mixed it with a spicy barbecue sauce. I then put it on the bread with some white cheddar and sweet and spicy pickles, followed by a few minutes in the oven to toast the sandwich. It was really gooood!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Yin and Yang of Cross

This weekend was a double race weekend for me. Saturday's race took place in Whitewater, WI, with Sunday being a close to home race in Lansing, IL.
One of the great things about bike racing is that the field of play changes for every event, and this could be no more apparent than this weekend. The Whitewater course was a slow moving roller coaster with a couple of really tough climbs, steep run-ups, twisting downhills and off camber sections. It even had a sandpit (beach) with the best line being through the water. This gave the opportunity for a Steve Tilford moment. Luckily it didn't happen to me, but it made for a cool course element. The Lansing event was part of the Chicago Cross Cup last year, and is a pancake flat park with one tough sandpit. They did a great job of improving the course from last year, but it will always be a crit on grass.

On top of the course being hilly, it was a really short loop, probably in the 3-4 minute range. This meant the hills would play an even bigger part in the race. I think we ended up doing 11 or 12 laps. Top 10 got call-ups with me falling in behind in the 2nd row. Start whistle and a couple of guys immediately crash. I get around the mayhem and find myself sitting about 10th wheel. Up the first climb, and I am able to move up to 6th. The next couple of laps are spent trying to get up to the group of 2nd-5th. After a lap or two I bridge up to the 4th place rider and was able to gap him. Over the next couple of laps I set my sights on catching the 2nd and 3rd place riders. As I was getting close to the two riders, the 2nd place rider put in a big attack, getting a nice gap, and I was never able to get near him again. So for a couple of laps I battled it out with the the rider in 3rd. I was finally able to gap him on the first climb. After the first couple of laps, this climb became a run-up for me. It was super steep, and with a 1x10 drivetrain with a 42 tooth chainring, it was much faster for me to run.

Pushing the Pace on the run-up

So for several laps I was by myself trying to set a good pace, when I noticed another rider coming from behind. He was getting close, but with two laps to go I thought I had enough to hold him off.
Up the Climb
Unfortunately, on the last time through the offcamber chicanes I went down. Just enough for the rider to close the gap. I never let him get in front of me, and led him through the sand for the last time. Up the final climb we start our sprint, he tries to come around on the left, but I hold him off with a bike throw, finishing up in 3rd place. This was probably the slowest average speed I have ever done in a cross race, but at the same time some of the toughest racing I have ever done. With the course being so short the climbs kept coming at you in such short intervals that there was hardly anytime to recover.

Lansing was sure to be high speed from the gun and it didn't disappoint. Whistle blows and I find myself sitting about 8th place. As the lap progressed gaps were opening, and I put in a hard effort to move up, now sitting about 5th. First time through the sand and I ride it cleanly, moving up to 2nd place. For the next several laps I sit on the wheel of Jason Knauff of Burnham Racing. Since he has already won a couple of races I figured it was his reward to set the pace while I wheelsucked.

Through the sand with Jason and Scott, Parker in close pursuit

As the race progressed the group eventually whittled down to 3 riders; myself, Jason, and Scott Arrigoni of Verdigris. We had a good gap, with the most treacherous part of the race having to deal with lapped traffic. It was really difficult to ride fast, and safe, while trying to pass riders with all the turns and obstacles. Luckily lap traffic never played into the outcome of the race. With 4-5 laps to go, Jason went down in the sand and Scott and I were able to get a gap. Scott was setting a nice pace, but Jason was able to bridge back up to us after a couple of laps, and was obviously the strongest of the trio.

Following Scott through the Chicane

Coming into the bell lap I was sitting 3rd wheel, and had a couple of gaps open dealing with lap traffic. I was able to close these down, and we all came to the last barrier and sandtrap together. Jason put in an awesome run through the sand and opened up a nice gap, holding it to the finish. I also decided to run the last time, after I had a bit of trouble getting clipped in after he barrier. Even if I did try to ride it I don't think I could have made it though, as I was beat by that point, and running seemed like the safer option. I think Scott ran too, getting a bit of a gap on me. I tried to close it down, but there wasn't enough real estate, as I rolled in for another 3rd place.

This was definitely my best weekend of racing on two completely different types courses. Hopefully this is a good sign going into the last two races of the season. Can't wait!!
Photos courtesy of



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Step by Step

We finally had some cross weather here in Chicago, with a couple of days of rain followed by cold temps on race day. The drastic change in conditions was a real shock to the system, and had me digging into my bag to pull out the Craft winter gloves.

To start off I have to say that the guys/gals of Northbrook Cycling and Flatlandia put together an awesome course with tons of great offcamber sections, fast pavement, and two leg burning stair runups. I didn't get there in time to ride the course before the start of the 30+ event, but cruised aoround checking out as many of the technical sections as possible. After a bit more warmup and the end of the 30+ race I jumped on the course for a lap before my race. The two trickiest sections were both found after the two runups. Both were offcamber; one with tight 180 degree turns, and the other being a fast hold on for dear life downhill. On my warmup lap I went down pretty hard on the downhill offcamber section, flipping a couple of times before coming too a stop. Not exactly what I wanted to do before my race, and definitely didn't help my pre-race confidence. I did quickly come to the conclusion that the reason I went down was because I was on the brakes way too much trying to control my speed, and I really needed to feather the brakes, or just let it roll and worry about scrubbing speed at the bottom. During the race I rode the section everytime with no more falls. Unfortunately, the other offcamber section after the first run-up proved to be my downfall during the race.

Photo taken after my tumble on the downhill. I was hoping no one saw me.

So, after the call-ups and talk by the official, we were off. Not a great start, as I struggled to get clipped in. I found myself about 8th place going into the first tight sections, and was sitting on teammate Mike Seguin's wheel as we made our way to the first time up the stairs. I made the decision to run the first itme through the chicanes, hopefully avoiding going down or being taken down by somene else. It ended up being a good decision as one of the riders in front went down, and I was able to scoot through on the inside. The rest of the lap I worked with Mike to catch the couple of riders in front of us. Mike did a great job of getting me to within contact of the group of 3-6, which contained teammate Brian Parker.

Parker on my heels sporting the neon Guy of the Month Jersey

As the race went on I moved up to 3rd place, and was getting closer to Nevada Dave in 2nd place. This was short lived as Scott Arrigoni of Verdigris bridged up to our group. He was riding really strong, and went past us in short order never to be seen again.

Next time through the offcamber chicanes we were getting into lapped traffic, and was making this section even tougher to negotiate. I was forced to take a bad line to get around a rider and went down coming out of the turn. This unfortunately gave David Thomas of Team Magnus a chance to gap us. With a lap and a half to go, Brian and I were in chase mode. Unfortunately it really wsan't a course where trading pulls was helpful. With all the turns it seemed that we were better off setting our own pace. Last time through the chicanes and I am sitting in 5th place. I had another poor choice in lines, and went down, this time dropping my chain. After what seemed like an eternity, I got the chain back on the bike and was off. During this time Tim Yuska of Get a Grip was able to sneak by. I really tried to bury myself the last lap to catch him. Through the last tight section of chicanes I was getting close, and the next thing I know he is off the bike with a mechanical. Not the way I wanted to catch him, but I guess that is part of cross racing. In the end I roll in for 6th place, just out of the money, and just outside the Cat. 2 upgrade points.

I am definitely getting frustrated with my mid race performance the last several weeks. I have really been losing focus and in turn losing places in the middle of the race. I know this is a mental thing, and I won't be able to put together a really good race if I don't correct it. This weekend I am heading north of the cheddar curtain for the Whitewater race on Saturday as well as the Lansing race on Sunday. Since I am not really competing for an overall series placing in the Wisconsin series I want to go into the race with the attitude to go as hard as possible from the gun and hopefully make it to the finish line in one piece.

Photo Credits:



Never Drown Out

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cinnamon Challenge

After a year I have finally obtained a copy of my brush with death. The challenge only had one requirement: eat a tablespoon of cinnamon. Needless to say it didn't work out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween 2008

Kelly and I went as Hall and Oates for Halloween. We were supposed to be Hall and Oates Vampires, but the vampire teeth we bought had us looking like Hillbillies and not Vampires.

This guy had the best cotume EVER!!! He ended up winning te costume contest, by a landslide. The first time we spotted him was from above while we were in the balcony area. He was walking around the dancefloor aimlessly with the perfect Weekend at Bernies 2 walk. Kelly had to get a phot with him, as Weekend at Bernies is one of here favorite movies, and the reason that our dog is named Bernie.