Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Videos from Gloucester

I've been trying to get these onto NYcross.com but they don't embed in a straightforward way.

Eric through the sand pit.

Monkeyman drumming along.

Jim over the barriers.

Jim through the sand pit.

Wildcard in the tree and Eric up the dirt.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gloucester day one. 2/3 men.

There's an interesting feature of the Verge New England CX series - since the "A" races are UCI elite races, only cat 1 riders and up, who hold UCI international licenses can enter them. This means, if you're cat 2, you're in the "B" race.

This makes the 45 minute "B" race substantially faster then they are around here, because instead of being cat 3 in a group of 3s and 4s, you're now cat 3 in a group of 2s and 3s. This isn't rocket science, but those guys go like rockets.

So, on to race details from day one. The start is a paved up hill section - you start at the bottom of the hill and the finish banner is at the top of the hill.

After all the call ups, I end up on about the 4th row, among mostly people who will likely be way faster than I am.

The starter gives us 30 seconds to go, then counts down 15...14...13.........3...2...1...BANG. We're off. Everyone's drilling it up this paved section, full blown sprint, new definition of hole shot. Some people had trouble getting clipped in and went out the back door faster then a goat in a submarine.

Charging up the hill, we enter the first sweeping right hander - turning on to the grass we're 6 wide, I've got people pushing on me, I'm leaning on guys, and everyone is diving and chopping the corners. Every man for himself. You have no friends in Cross. Ben Hur. Put another cliche here, they're all true.

Barriers...first lap, still in huge traffic. Its a twisty "W" setup where you make a sharp 180 degree turn right before you hit the planks. We're still about 4 wide at this point and no one's giving ground. I stay on the bike as long as possible and roll through the corner and dismount. hit the ground in full on sprint, rock the high school high hurdler skill over the barriers and pass a couple guys. No avail, the remount and acceleration after the barriers is ridiculous. I loose 6 or 8 places.

We bomb down a mild decent, and rock into a big set of sweeping turns, right, left, right... past the pit and onto the power alley - its the back stretch of the course , there's a head wind and you're right by the water. Its the longest straightest part of the course, and all the motors are full throttle. Finally, we hit the next set of twisties, and there's more diving and chopping. I'm loosing places faster then the Dow. We get to the sand pit and its a full blown sprint again. Holy hell - its still the first lap!

We finish up the lap, and I get into a group where I can do damage control, sort of. I ride with 6 or 8 guys. From the looks of it I'm somewhere between 30th and 60th on the course. We sort of settle in, but every few turns we either are caught by a faster rider or run into a slower rider. This produces accelerations, which in turn produce attacks. I am not attacking though. The only thing I am doing fast is going backwards.

Damage control goes on for a while, Cory Johansen, a high school classmate and now rival racer from the fine folks at ECV goes by me holy grail style. Then Buffalo comes up. No words, just a few moments riding together. There's an acceleration again, I'm on the ropes, Buffalo makes it.

Now we're 6 laps into our seven lap race. I've been clawing my way into mediocrity, passing, getting passed, railing a turn then and riding like a full blown newbie all in the same sequence.

On the rocky section of course leading away from the water, there's a sudden squish. I hear hissing. Its not a snake. Its my tire. The pit is almost half way around the course, and there's only 2 two go, but this is GP Gloucester. No one takes a DNF. I start running with the bike, lots of people go by me. I don't keep track. Basically its everyone who hadn't already passed me. I get to the pit and get a wheel from the Mavic guys. I'm back on my way, but the wheel I got had about 20 psi in it. Squish squash, I roll along, carefully passing some people and finishing up the last lap. 90 something place. Not real impressive, but the number doesn't tell half the story.

Check back later for an update on my second experience in the 2/3s. It went better, sort of....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Iron Cross Tales

Sector 1 or How to conserve.

What follows is a race report broken up by sectors, and as time allows. I was joined by fellow Iron folks Chuck Q, Tim H (on single speed by choice or fate) Chris D & Chris M (fresh from a trip to the UK) and Ian Briggs, our stalwart UK member. Jenny Ives rounded out the team. Justin L was to be with us, but had some "UCI points" thingy going on. Whatever. (nothing but love man).
Also special mention to Bina Briggs for capturing our pain in digital medium, and the lovely couple of Coach Jim and Patsy Hartnett who tended to the prima dona needs of 4 old guys (sorry Chris D) who still enjoy potty humor.

We staged on an honor system of what time we expected to finish in. Chris Delisie, Chris McBurnie and I being the wimps on geared bikes went down to the staging area in the under 5 hour group. Once there the crowd generally milled about until one cyclist at the front yelled ready, then go. At first I though it was someone having us on, but we all left en mass and thundered up the gravel path.

Onto the first run up the Chris's and I were together. Naturally I dropped a chain so in a crowd I kept running and managed to get it back on. Then into the spiral of death. No tight little twist, but a giant, field enveloping, never ending, "I'm about to puke" spiral of death. Chris D and I are on the way out when a rider slides out in front of us. In my one cat like reflex move of the day, I swerve right while Chris dodges left. We grin like idiots at each other for having cleared and fellow riders begin complementing Chris.

From there it's onto some sketchy gravel (that would later claim some Jenny Ives blood) and onto a recreation path. There the pace lines form up and folks tend to calm down some. Many folks were happy to drive the train so being nice I let them drive. Through the sand pit and on to the first hill, paved and not too steep but long. Gaps started forming but I let them open since we would hit dirt soon and I don't want to be redlining it there. Once we navigate the through the fence we hit fire road.

Up, up, up. As expected folks start to fade and I just work at keeping a good tempo over the rough stuff. A few time folks will come up and I tag along nicely taking what rest I can. Many folks have already flatted so there will be some long days. Over the top onto a long level gravel road along the ridge line. Another pace line forms up with Chris D and I sitting pretty. One hurried gentleman comes screaming down as the road tilts down and we jump on. We approach pavement again and need to go left. Like lemmings I watch several folks follow this guy right despite signs and yelling riders to go left. Down the twisty descent I lead, and encounter another rider who is left/right challenged at the turn on the bottom.

These are the rolling paved roads before the KOM climb, and we all are getting along more or less. I'm amazed at the couple of single speed guys, knowing Chuck and Tim are doing the same.

As we approach the KOM climb I again focus on keep a steady cadence and not maxxing out. 3/4 from the top folks are starting to loose it so I lift the speed to get out of harms way then start to crank it over the top and onto more fire road climb. Here I manage at one point to open a gap, knowing I'll want to have room once we hit the single track climb, Lippencote Trail. As the road levels out and tilts down a group with Chris D catches up to me. Here I'll work to stay on the front until I hit an unforeseen rock that almost throws me over the handle bars. Then the shorts snag trying to slide back and my weight is stuck over the handles bars. Some how I regain my composure and position on the bike. I approach the first check point and set up to make the turn onto Lippencote and sector 2 with only one wheel in front of me...

...to be continued.

Monday, October 13, 2008


If you race a bike, if you ever raced a bike, if you ever might want to race a bike, you need to go to Gloucester. The Edringer Grand Prix of Gloucester is one of the largest cx races in the country, and without verifying the claim, I'm pretty sure its the biggest CX race on the east coast for sure.

Here's the thing, size doesn't matter - this is the best race of the year, not because 1300 racers show up to throw down, but the fact that this many racers travel to the eastern end of Massachussts each year indicates how much fun the event really is.

First lets look at the race itself. The venue is Stage Fort Park, an beautiful venue right on the Atlantic Ocean. More than one section of the course places goes within such a close proximity to the water that an error in steering could produce a soggy rider. The course is classic cx, twisting and turning back on itself, making 90% of the race visible from a few vantage points. There' s a snaking up hill barrier section and a wild sand pit that borders on rideable, but is just hard enoungh that only a perfect ride through will be successful- the safe bet is to run, but riding it in front of the crowd is always tempting.

This year a great contintgent of riders from the NYCROSS.com world made the 3 hour car ride East for the big show. Here is a further illustration of how rad this race is - almost all of us had some sort of catatrosphy during our races, yet no one was discouraged and we'll all certinaly return in 2009.

Cheif among the disasters was Dave Beals's first lap crash in the masters 55+ race. Dave went down hard when another rider got tangled up with him as they approaced the barrier section. Unfortunatly Dave broke his collar bone. Medical attention appeared rapidly and Dave was taken to the hospital. Not to be detered, after being released from the hospital he returned to the park, with his arm in a sling, and spent the rest of the weekend cheering and heckling riders from all over the country. Dave - best wishes in your recovey, we'll all miss you at the training rides and races for the next couple months.

Other, far less pertinent disasters included flat tires, snapped derailleur cables, sketchy crashes, scary starts, and Ryan Treborn beating Tim Johnson twice in two days. Now, given the fact that really, nothing went the way of the nycross army this week, and I'm still stocked as hell on the race, you should all recognize how sick Gloucester is.

They'll be some more gloucster themed posting this week, but for now I'll say, mark your calender for 09, you have to be there.