Saturday, May 19, 2007


Mountain bike racing has an interesting dichotomy. Mountain bike racing is largely about racing in any and all conditions, rain or shine, mud or dust. There is one small problem however, racing in the mud damages trails and can be a safety hazard for the inexperienced. Both of which are a major concern to all that care about mountain biking. I prefer to race in dry conditions, but I also find some enjoyment in racing in the mud. Never mind the fact that I handle my bike in the mud about as well as I can handle the sight of Bison Basso applying his chamois crème.
So I woke up the morning of the race to the lovely sound of thunder and rain. I groaned as I rose out of bed knowing that I would most likely be racing in the mud. I took a look at the Super Duper Doppler radar and there was an enormous mass of red and yellow floating over Iowa. The northeast edge of the mass was just west of Waverly… We might just get lucky…
Ryan Legg showed up at around 7:30 in the am, we loaded all of his stuff in my car, stopped by Starbucks for a bladder buster of Mississippi mud and hit the road. It rained cats and dogs the whole way and it wasn’t looking good. We got about 5 miles west of the race course and the rain miraculously stopped and the pavement was dry. We arrived at the course and the dirt was still pretty dry too. We were pretty stoked about the conditions even though you could see the weather off to the west.
I did a little bs’n and got registered and began my pre-race ritual of finishing off my box of cereal, hydrating and getting suited up in the Rassy camo. As I was getting ready, the skies began to open. It started off as sprinkles and eventually turned into a steady downpour. Despite the weather, Ryan and I went out or a recon lap. In a race like this, it’s pretty important to check the course out because Carl Buchanan, Jeff Kerkove, Casey Mann and Paul Meyermann love to change things up on us. That’s part of what makes this race so fun! One of the changes included this insane, sandy hill that most of you had probably already heard about by now. The sand was really soft and loose. For every step forward, I felt like I was sliding a half step back. About halfway up I could feel my heart jumping out of my throat.

Playing in a 'sand box' that most kids would envy.

Despite the rain, the course was in pretty good shape, not too peanut buttery, but still slicker than snot in a lot of areas. There was going to be a lot of running up hills. The temps were forecasted to be in the lower 70’s, but no such luck today. I don’t think the temps ever got above the mid 50’s. Ryan didn’t bring any cold weather gear and partway through the pre-ride, he decided to bag it.

Pre-race prep

We lined up for the start and despite my best attempts, I could not string together a sentence without sounding like I was speaking a foreign language of my own creation. Carl gave the command and we were off. We started up the gravel climb with me leading the way. WWJ pipped me for the hole shot into the woods and I entered the woods 2nd wheel. The lead group stayed together as we were all trying to get a read on the conditions.
We hit the first open section and I took the lead from WWJ. I led the way into an uphill, singletrack section and began to pull away. I got to the rock garden section and wasn’t really sure which way to go. I kinda sat there for a few seconds to figure out which way to go, made my choice and continued on. As I approached the rock garden I quickly realized the fastest way through this was to get off and run. The last thing that I wanted to do was slip on some mossy rock and bust my arse or my stead.
As I was going through the rock garden I heard somebody behind me. I couldn’t tell who it was at first, but it ended up being Andrew Carney. Sweet! A new face at the front of the expert field. It’s pretty awesome to see a few guys stepping their game, getting faster. I love and thrive on close competition, there’s something about getting pushed to the limit while threading a mountain bike through a bunch of closely spaced trees while cross-eyed.

Enjoying a short reprieve from the peanut butter.

I ended up leaving Andrew behind and continued to open the gap. At the close of the first lap I remember thinking that the trails were actually in pretty decent shape and was looking forward to a couple more laps. As I started the second lap I quickly realized that all of the traffic behind me, along with the steady downpour had made a total mess of the trails. It had gotten to the point where I either had to walk certain sections or totally ride off-line to get any kind of traction. Most of the trials were like riding in a log flume, the water was starting to pool up in the center of the trails. I began catching and passing sport riders and could tell that some were having some major difficulties with the conditions.

Negotiating the log flume.

It is situations like this that make it difficult in being a race director, do I pull the plug early or let the race continue despite the concern for safety and the welfare of the trails? As I completed the second, I looked at Carl and made the recommendation that we call it a day. He and Kerkove had been discussing the possibility of pulling the plug and I think my recommendation helped with the decision.

Happy to be done, I shore am purdy!

Shortly after that WWJ came rolling in 2nd place, followed by Andrew Carney for 3rd. It was a pretty tough race in some tough conditions. Props go out to all that showed and toughed out the conditions. It’s too bad that the rain couldn’t hold off because this is one of the coolest courses in Iowa. A lot of hard work went into prepping the course.

Wrong Way Jay, 'which way do I go?'

After the race I hosed the bike down, stashed it in the car and proceeded to make an absolute pig of myself with a couple of plates of some pasta dish provided by The Brown Bottle. As always, Carl and his crew were able to round up some great food and so much schwag that after all of the awards, he still had a lot of schwag left over. Nobody went home empty handed.


Poopy bike.

A whole lotta schwag.

A huge thanks goes out to Carl, Jeff Kerkove, Casey Mann, Paul Meyermann and everybody else that helped put together a sweet race.

Next up is MBCS #3, La Madre de Las Montanas at Sockum Ridge State Park. I won there last year and I’ll be lookin’ for a repeat!

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tete de la Course

The last couple of years I’ve found myself kinda lookin’ forward to Iowa City weekend. For those of you not familiar with Iowa City, it is home to the infamous University of Iowa Squakeyes. It’s a pretty cool college town with a really cool vibe, especially on the weekend of the Iowa City bike races.
My plan was to do the road race and it would be a game time decision for the crit. Shim was driving through DSM from Omahole so he stopped by my pad, I threw all of my junk in his car and we hit the road for Iowa City. Shim is only a couple of years older than I am but his bodily functions are like those of a 70 year old man. We must have stopped 10 maybe 15 times so the guy could take a leak.
We rode into the land of the Amish folk about two hours before the start of the race so we had some time to kill. I walked around and bs’d with a few folks that I hadn’t seen in a while, always a good time! About an hour before the start of the race, word started to spread that Steve Tilford, Bill Stolte and Brian Jensen, three pro’s from Kansas, were wandering around he venue. Yeah, the P/1/2 class was in for a lot of pain and suffering.
The weather was actually pretty good for this time of the year with temps in the 70’s and a slight breeze of about 90 mph coming out the west. We lined up for the start and I took inventory of the field. The main players for the cat 3’s were all present, Nathan Moenck, Matt Landen, Josh Madsen, Tracy Thompson and a few others. We rolled onto the course at a pretty mellow pace and the pace remained mellow for the first half of a lap. So I took this time to chat it up with Tracy, Matt, Nathan and anybody else that felt like doin’ a little bs’n. The first half of the lap was pretty much all tail wind and we were flyin’ along at around 30mph with the HR hovering around 130. We turned the corner heading back to the start / finish area and the head wind hit us like a wall. I kept my nose out of the wind as much as possible while also trying to avoid getting myself into any kind of trouble with other riders getting beat up by the wind.
As we were rolling through a cross wind, somebody near the front of the peloton must have gotten caught out by a strong gust. Everybody behind reacted and I was at the arse end of the ripple effect. My front wheel got into Shim’s back wheel. I almost recovered but ended up hitting the deck. Thankfully I kinda saw it coming and was able to minimize the loss of skin. Two other riders stacked it up behind me and went down also. I made a quick assessment for damage and quickly realized that my bike was still intact. I picked myself up off the ground, remounted my stead and was able to reintegrate with the peloton. A few of my bro’s in the peloton were kind enough to tell the others in the group to sit up until we were able to catch back up. Once I made it back to the peloton, A few people asked if I was OK, pretty cool stuff… one of the many reasons that I love bike racing. I took another look at my bike and myself to see what kind of damage I did. Lost a little skin on my knee and even though I couldn’t see my arse, I could tell that I did a little sliding on it. I didn’t rip my shorts so it didn’t seem like it would be that bad. I also noticed that my fork had a little damage, though it looked like it was only on the surface.
We made it through the first lap and I could feel the aggression of a few others coming on. I was looking forward to the attacks to break the group up a little because things were getting pretty sketchy with the way the wind was blowin’. We turned the corner into the trail wind and all hell started breakin’ loose. I’m not sure who it was but the first of several attacks were uncorked and the end result of the initial attacks was a break away of six. The group consisted of Nathan Moenck, Matt Landen, Tracy Thompson, Josh Madsen, myself and some dude from Indiana. We work well together and the breakaway stuck. As we were flyin’ down the road I made a point to observe the others in attempt to see who had game. Everybody looked pretty strong with the exception of the cat from Indiana. He had a cassette on his bike that looked more like a dinner plate and whenever we hit the tail wind he lagged behind because he ran out of gears.
During the third lap Nathan started to drift towards the back of the group and was looking at his bike like something was wrong. Shortly after that I heard the familiar crack of a tire puncture. Matt and I kind of found ourselves in somewhat of a moral dilemma. Over the last couple of road races, we seemed to have formed an ‘unofficial’ alliance. Matt and I looked at each other and asked, ‘do we wait or go’. Needless to say, the others in the breakaway were more than happy to keep the hammer down as we were down to five and all of us were in the money. Matt and I had no choice but to continue.

The five man break. Check out Tracy, he looks really fast.

The five of us stayed together to the finish and we were looking at a five man sprint. There were a few attacks over the last 1000 yards and the cat from Indiana got shelled. So now it was down to four for the sprint. At about 200 yards out, Matt jumped. I responded only to have my chain drop from my 53 down to my 39… game over. Matt ended up winning, Tracy came in 2nd followed by Josh for 3rd and I ended up 4th.
Needless to say, I have mixed emotions about the result. Crashing sucks, my fork was cracked so I had to buy a new one. I lost some skin and I had a raspberry the size of a grapefruit on my arse. I lost a sprint that I had decent legs for due to a mechanical issue. That’s all a part of bike racing though and I still love the sport and am very thankful that I can do what I do on a bike. All is good.
I decided to skip the crit as my fork was cracked and didn’t feel the need to risk the loss of more skin. I had a great time hanging with my buds, TJ and tPod, watching some bike racing, eating ice cream, enjoying the weather and bs’n with others. The cycling culture in Iowa contains people from all walks of life and it’s a cool group to hang with whether I’m riding or watching.

The finish. That's me off the back sprinting in my 39, I look really slow.

Next up is another dirty double with the second race of the Psycowpath series on Saturday and IMBCS #2 on Sunday.

Thanks for reading,



The 2007 edition of the IMBCS is finally in full swing. The first race of the season was held at Sylvan Island located in the middle of the Mississippi River. I believe the island used to be a munitions plant, or possibly a steel plant as there are ‘ruins’ strewn about the island. Anything from concrete loading docks, broken glass, chunks of structural steel, wood chips, and probably a few bombs (hopefully duds) can be found throughout the island. There were even a few muddy spots, saturated with oil, not water. The EPA would have a field day on this place.
So with this race falling in the middle of a Build period and at the end of a 17 hour training week, I was expecting my legs to be lacking a little. WWJ drove down to Des Moines from Sewer City, I threw all of my stuff into his car and we hit the road for the QC. The plan was to arrive in the QC the night before the race and stay at my Mom’s as she lives about 10 minutes from the race course. We arrived at my Mom’s Saturday evening to homemade lasagna and fresh bread, I made a pig of myself as I always do whenever my Mom cooks.

Me mum, gettin' down with the sickness.

Woke up the next morning and arrived at the course about two hours early, enough time to catch my Mom doing the sport race. This race typically draws enough entrants that they run the beginner, sport and expert races at separate times. It’s so much nicer having the course to ourselves, especially a short 3 mile course like Sylvan Island. The weather was about as close to perfect as one could hope for with temps in the lower 60’s at race time. I suited up in the Rassy camo and did a couple of recon laps to get the course dialed in. The course was set up pretty much the same as last years, with a couple of re-routes to avoid some mud holes and oil slicks.
As expected, Jim Ghys and his posse did a great job in setting up a course that was great for the racers and the spectators. There were several spots where spectators could stand and see racers several times throughout a lap.

Pre-race nerves - some people are chatty, some people pee a lot... me, I like to eat my gloves.

Start time arrived and we lined up for the start. Last years winner, Brian Eppen, was there along with a lot of other fast racers from Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. I didn’t really know what to expect from a lot of the others because most of them were from Illinois, so my plan was to get out of the gate as fast as possible and position myself into the top three heading into the singletrack. The gun went off and we made our way down a gravel road that was about ¼ mile long. I didn’t have the greatest of starts and really had to work hard to get near the front. I ended up third wheel going into the singletrack, Eppen was second and I didn’t know the cat in first. The guy in first was pretty slow and when we hit the first open section, Brian and I passed the guy like he was standing still. Andy Lueck also got by and the three of us checked out.
We swapped the lead throughout the first two or three laps and worked pretty well together. I was surprised that Brian and Andy didn’t try to tag team me because are both Mercy Specialized teammates. Brian took a couple of pulls in the open sections was able to easily open a gap on myself and Andy. I didn’t have the legs to hang onto his wheel so I knew that he was going to be tough to beat today.
On around lap four Brian and Andy started to slowly open a gap on me. I tried like crazy to close it up but my legs had no response, so I more or less settled into my own pace with the hope that it would be enough to reel one or both of them back in. I could see that Brian had started to create a gap between he and Andy so I pushed a little harder to try and close up to Andy. I finally caught up to Andy around lap five, it looked like Brian had beat him down pretty good because his glasses were cock-eyed and his tongue was hanging out of his mouth. I managed to gap Andy and started my attempt at closing the gap to Brian.

Tryin' to close the gap to Eppen... negotiating my way through an oil slick.

Throughout the remaining laps I kept hearing people say that I was around 30 seconds back. It doesn’t sound like much, but it seemed like an eternity during the race. I gave it all I had in my attempt to close the gap, but it wasn’t happening. Brian ended up winning by about 30 seconds, I rolled home in 2nd. Andy came in about two minutes back in 3rd.

Race winner Brian Eppen... a beast of a man.

Third place finisher Andy Lueck railin' a corner.

So considering how my legs felt, I feel really good about the result. Brian told me afterwards that I worked him pretty hard, felt good to hear him say that because a few years ago he used to destroy me on the WORS circuit. I gotta give some kudos to Andy, I’m sure that he surprised a few people with his result. He rode a great race and I’m lookin’ forward to some epic battles with him, Eppen, Cully Todd and anybody else in the expert class this season.
It’s lookin’ like my next race will be the Iowa City Road Race and maybe the Old Capital Criterium.

Thanks for reading,