October 8, 2012
There I stood at the start, looking out at a sea of helmets in front of me. The line-up gods had not worked in my favor today, placing me substantially back in the field. Thus, today would be a training ride at best, with the leaders long gone before the whistle even blew. In fact, the start was so slow – as we moved through the different course bottlenecks – that those around me were chatting it up like a bunch of school boys on recess. We would continue to meander around the first lap amidst a thick cloud of dust that by the end of the race would combine with what little saliva I had, to form large sticky chunks around the edges of my lips, which was both gross and unpleasant. And yet, I’d find myself thinking about these chunks throughout the race, working to remove them, or wondering if people thought them to be some kind of strange growth. Amazing how we can be in a situation that demands so much attention, like racing, but that the mind can simply wander off into some odd tangent. But I digress.
So how did I fair today in comparison to last weeks catastrophe? Better, for one I finished, and second I was not dead last. My rivals did still get the better of me, but I could see them for most of the race and that alone gives me hope. I did still find myself at 45 minutes wishing the race was over, I guess I just don’t have 60 minutes in me yet, hopefully that will come.
It’s a slow road, and with such little preparation all year, there is little hope of regaining the glory of last year. But I can’t give up, because there is always next year and every turn I take, every barrier I go over, and every race I do, improves my skill and fullfils the burning desire to be among the leaders. I will say that my love for the sport is reborn, however the heat and dust I could do without.
October 1, 2012
I’m not sure what I expected on my first time out for the season. The year is a far cry from last years intense preparations. This years focus was a 3 week trip to Croatia from which we returned a mere 6 days ago. Needless to say training leading up to Croatia was minimal and Croatia was an indulgence of epic proportions. But you have to start somewhere, and so I did, in the very back.
Being the optimist I though maybe there would be some semblance of last years work buried under the wine and truffles. What I didn’t expect was to find myself on the sidelines with 2 laps to go, head hung over the handlebar, drifting through my memories searching for the feeling I had only weeks ago of floating in the warm salt waters of the Adriatic sea. What kind of cruel torture is this sport? Did I really used to enjoy it? Why did I come back?
Of course as with any dark memory time heals, and even now the optimism in me that has so often times dispelled a wound, works it’s magic. I look towards AlpenRose convinced todays humiliation was nothing more than a wake up call.
December 12, 2011
And so it ends. Not with victory or glory but with knees scraping into dusty gravel and hands ramming into course poles. My USGP race could be described as schizophrenic. On the one hand my legs felt good, but my mind was all over the place. I struggled to be in control, as I would enter into a corner my body would move to turn, but straight is how I’d go course tape be damned. The whole race felt like a battle not against other riders but against myself.
With a top 10 placing floating about a minute in front of me I focused my attention on Slate Olsen. Why Slate? According to crossresults.com he is one of my “victims” (I’ve beat him 3 out of 5 races). He was quite a ways ahead but enough such that I could see him and track my progress. The announcers seemed to be in love with him as they would spend a good portion of the time discussing him and even his mother-in-law. Anyhow, with one lap to go I had caught him and was on his wheel. I think he knew it and slowed slightly to conserve. I figure if we are going to fight for top 30 we should make it fun. I decided to stay on his wheel until the final turn but this turned out to be a mistake. Once around the corner the person in front has a distinct advantage and he used it well and crossed the line well ahead of my futile sprint. And so it ends.
Today (Sunday), while everyone raced a second day, Sabine and I headed up to Mt. Bachelor Nordic center for some good clean skate skiing. No dust, no gravel to tear the skin from my fragile knees just good clean pure white snow and the rhythm of my ski’s gliding through the groomed trails. I love cross but I love more the transition into a different season. Just as I’ll love the smell of mud come October next year when cross returns along with my spirit for it.
Photo courtesy of Matt Haughey
December 11, 2011
I figured I’d best start with the positive. For the series overall I took 2nd and though my original goal was to at least wear the leaders jersey once – William was just too strong. In retrospect a great series, lots of new races (for me) and a great year overall. I’m so glad there is a new series in town and I look forward to doing many of these venues again.
As for the last race itself, Wintercross, you could not have asked for a better venue nor a better day. However I showed up with legs made of lead and burlap. The two weeks prior could not have been worse as race preparation. Thanksgiving festivities (food and liquor), and the real killer was a surprise business trip to Germany. The Germany trip consisted of about 40 hours travel/flying time, lack of sleep across the board, stress and a time change to adjust to on both ends. Needless to say I was feeling less than spunky.
Photos courtesy of Matt Haughey
November 21, 2011
Have you ever shown up somewhere with high hopes only to have them suddenly seem hopeless at the start, but once in it, your hopes are raised again to new levels, to finally be missed by an ever so slight margin of error? Yeah, I hate that too.
And so there I was starting in line with Tim Butler, William Sullivan, Tim Jones and John Rollert, all of whom have beat me in the past. But I was not deterred, I wasn’t going to drive 2 hours one way with crazy football traffic to not podium! (By the way, what’s with the flags and pom poms sticking out of everyone’s trunks. Maybe it’s just me but it seems kind of…how to put this…well, it just doesn’t seem to jive with the whole rough and tumble football image).
I lead the first lap but was overtaken by Butler, Jones and Sullivan at some point. I think this is the point I struggle with the most. Why did I let them get by me? How did they get away from me? I felt strong enough and I felt technically competent. Maybe how I feel isn’t reality at all. Maybe I’m just off on each skill such that it’s imperceptible to my minds eye? Am I over confident? Can I improve such a small margin or is this a chasm beyond my own blinded perception?
As the race progressed I was alone and far off the podium. However, there was a glimmer of hope as I passed Jones seemingly out of gas. Then in the distance I could see Rollert, who was in third. I came so close to him that I could still see the mud in his wake settling. I ran up the stairs just behind him, set my bike down and heard – and felt – a strange rattle. My rear wheel had come loose. Really? Anyhow, it took me a bit to get it all resolved, as my brain couldn’t do the math trying to recall “lefty loosy, righty tighty” while also standing on the opposite side of the wheel lever. Meanwhile, the crowd was yelling something about a dollar that happened to be sitting right in front of me. So, while distracting, at least I got something for my troubles.
That was it though. I enjoyed the rest of the race flying through the back section and otherwise enjoying a great course. 4th. Just shy of a podium. How glorious that would have been, but it gives me aspirations for next year. I’m so happy not to be the best in the world. How boring would that be?
Photos Courtesy of William Sullivan
November 14, 2011
It’s hard to know where to start regarding this race. It was neither epic nor problematic, my expectations were vague and undefined, and my health was lost somewhere between a long season and a full blown cold.
The course was a perfect cyclocross course with mud, pavement, barriers and the crowd was electric. The drumming squad was on hand to add an element of college sports to the vibe sans the pom poms.
Me? Well, I raced, but as you can tell from my lackluster opening sentence it was a mediocre race. My legs felt slow and stiff, the mud dogged me at every pass and I felt timid in the corners. On my last two laps I honestly felt I was getting a sore throat right then and there. At that moment my “logical-brain” debated stopping, except that part of the brain was conveniently locked up so the “race-brain” could operate unimpeded and without interruption.
I did finish and I did get
16th 17th. On the last lap I slipped on a corner, which I had ridden each time prior, and my foot landed just right to pick up a little wooden stick that prevented me from clipping in effectively. This easily cost me 3 places. But that’s me just cryin’ over nothin’.
This week is thankfully a rest week.
All images taken by Sabine (thanks for coming and cheering!)
November 7, 2011
When I think about my love for sport it often boils down to a sense of freedom that comes when the medium between me and and my environment becomes less stable. Sports such as powder skiing through trees, surfing ocean waves and cyclocross racing through thick mud. After a very dry season so far, the rains came and set the stage for a very muddy race.
The Apple Core took place on a farm, and while flat, had long muddy sections that had me and my bike gliding on the verge of chaos. Power and finesse had to work in tandem to continue forward movement as the mud would devilishly veer the front wheel in sudden strange directions while also grabbing hold of the rear wheel only to let go sending it spinning violently loose. The section was long too – stopping would mean a long run or a difficult restart, so you had to be vigilant and ever persistent to get through intact. Exiting the mud I would be gassed and lament the return 10 minutes later when I would come around again. I realize it seems odd to start this post with love and freedom for the mud only to describe it with such little joy, but that’s how it is often times in the midst of paradise. So carried away with my burning legs and fear of crashing that I don’t have time to pause and reflect on the beauty of the moment. Only now, next to a fire and a sleeping dog can I think back and realize the inner child spirit that was welling up within me each time I’d float through the mud. The pain now a distant memory, all I feel is the motion of my bike gliding like ski’s through powder, effortlessly forward.
In the end I took 2nd – due mostly to not getting a technical. The good news is that this puts me only a few points from the leader. I might just wear the jersey after all. To do so, however is still going to take a herculean effort.
As a side note. I rarely comment on the work before and after, but this time the mud, grass combo was so atrocious to the bike that it’s worth noting the pain and effort it took to return my bike from the grave. Basically the mud was heavy, thick and engorged with numerous long strands of slimy green grass. The grass managed to weave it’s way into every available nook and cranny. When I got home it took me more than 2 hours to clean my bike involving a complete dismantling of my cassette, chain rings, and rear hub. I realize you, the reader, probably have very little sympathy, but after a long day of racing it’s back breaking work. After a day of skiing or surfing there is litte more to do than open a beer.
Photos courtesy of Matt Haughey
October 30, 2011
Most of the Portland cyclocross world was going to be down in Bend for the cross crusade Halloween races and party. I new William Sullivan would be there too. This meant that I had a very strong chance of winning my first race. However it was never guaranteed.
I showed up to a beautiful day and a great course. The field was 18 strong but I felt good. As we headed into the first few turns I was about 4 or 5 back and was keeping my eye on the current leader. About half way through the first lap I had passed most of the leaders and was now following Patrick Wilder. He seemed strong and was slowly getting a small gap. We both hit the “lung buster hill” and rode up the entire thing powering the bike against gravity. My rear tire slipped and I had to get off near the top and finish with a run. This gave Patrick and good 10 second gap and I was worried because he looked calm.
I decided I had to get back on his wheel at all cost, so I pushed the big ring and fought to catch. Once on his wheel I took a moment to catch my breath and then immediately passed. I immediately regretted this decision fearing that I’d worked too hard to catch and was now giving him the drafting advantage. We raced towards the hill for our third time with me now in front. (We had both decided independently to run the hill rather than ride). I ran the hill and when I crested the top I looked back and noticed that I’d created a bit of a gap. I pressed hard to try and build on this time. With each lap the gap grew larger to the point where I began to think a win was a reality. I focused on being calm to avoid any mistakes, flats or technicals. I was having a lot of fun.
Photos courtesy of Matt Haughey
October 23, 2011
This season has been very good to me. No major injuries and last week marked my first top 10 placing in a cross crusade. Which brings me to this race where yet another milestone was achieved. I received my first call up. What’s the big deal you ask? Well there are a number of things to consider. First and formost a call up guarantees that you are in the front group at the beginning of the race. This is necessary to achieve good placing – unless you are superman. Second of all, it means your name gets announced in all it’s glory to those waiting to line up. Believe me, I’ve been there and I know that each time they are calling up the leaders there is a tinge of envy. Does it sound egotistical then to say I’m aware of this fact when I’m the one getting called up?
On to the race. They course was going to be fast and flat, but there was one major obstacle. A huge sand pile with a single lane cut out of the center. This was sure to be a factor going into the start. Everyone was going to gun for position to avoid being stuck in the bottle neck that would surely ensue…especially if some fool crashed…
I was about 4th into the sand pile and felt that I was successfully over but as you can see I “crashed”. Was I taken out? or did I cause him to fall into me? It’s impossible and foolish to speculate but there we were face down at the bottom of the sand pile fully aware of the throngs of riders passing. I struggled to get untangled and back into the race having lost any call-up or hole shot advantage.
I raced hard and gained confidence with every lap. I passed quite a few and managed a respectable 9th (especially considering I was in 8th and had caught 7th but was then passed by 9th who, by the way, had been drafting me for 4 laps. The nerve, but that’s racing.)
Photos courtesy of dmroth
October 22, 2011
An absolutely superb race. It had everything going for it. The course was fast with some technical and sand. My race was highly engaging for me. A fairly large group, a 6 man break, a gap which I later closed, down to 3 with 2 laps to go, the final attack, and a 2nd place finish.