Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Squirrel's Nest

Brutha Squirrel, look at the size of his heed, looks like sputnik.

Ch-ch-ch-chia Chad Vandelune, good to see ya smilin' bro.
This cat can grow the coolest skullet and beard, chia style.

As most of you know by now, two really good friends of mine suffered a huge lose back on September 5. 8 month old Price Vandelune passed away in his sleep from what was diagnosed as SIDS. Chad and Dorothy Vandelune (along with daughter Sydney) are some of the nicest people one could meet. I’ve probably spent more time traveling to mountain bike races with Chad than anybody else and through our travels forged a pretty strong friendship. I was pretty devastated when I found out about Price. My sister has a 5 month old daughter and my brothers’ son is going on a year. I don’t even want to think about it…
So this weekend was all about the Price Vandelune Memorial Fund and things kicked off with a ride at the Science Center to raise some fundage. Around 50 or so peeps showed and I heard reports that nearly $1,300 ended up in the pot once all of the dust had finally settled. That is the main reason that I am so into cycling, we’ve got a great group of people here in Dead Moines and everybody genuinely cares about each other. You could say that we kinda have the family thing going on.

Sunday: the last race of our fledgling IMBCS. I say fledgling because we’ve been treading water since it’s inception and in a lot of ways I’m OK with that. Everybody knows everybody and it kinda has that good ole’ grassroots feel to it. Chris Maharry’s Sycamore TT went through a pretty major transformation this year. The Sycamore Trail has pretty much succumbed to urban sprawl, high water, ATV’s, junked out cars and trailer park trash.

Master trail builder Squirrel, brap!!

CITA kingpin Ryan Hanser, if you see him, shake his hand and say thank you. If you're a hot chick, give him a hug, say thank you and give him yer digits.

This year’s edition, appropriately called ‘Squirrel’s Nest’ was held at the Science Center Trail System. Squirrel had a very hand in the evolution of this awesome network of trails smack dab in the middle of Des Moines. Race director Chris Maharry announced that half of the proceeds generated from the race would go to CITA (Central Iowa Trail Association) and the other would go to the Price Vandelune Memorial Fund. At the end of the day, CITA received $400 and the Vandelunes received close to $500. Pretty successful fund raising weekend!

Dirty goodness, Iowa style.

The race: I pre rode the course on Saturday and due to the short length and the technical nature, I figured one of four cats were going to win, Andy, Squirrel, Conlan (JC), and possibly myself. JC and Squirrel are the two best bike handlers in the metro and a course like this would suit them well. Andy is pretty good bike handler also, but I’ve seen him romance too many trees in past races to be in the same class as Squirrel and JC. It’s not uncommon to see blood and / or dirt skid marks somewhere on his body after a race. Despite Andy’s affinity for trees and other immovable objects, he’s still one of the fastest in Iowa and always needs to considered as a threat.
I would typically ride a hard tail for a short TT like this, but I haven’t ridden a hard tail all season and my body, especially my nether regions, greatly appreciates that. I chose the Orbea because she’s been good and not bucked me all season. I also love the way the bike feels, she fits me like a glove and is very nimble on tight, twisty courses like the SC.
When my start time came I had no idea what kind of times everybody was throwin’ down. I locked the front and back out for the long, paved slightly uphill grind. As I approached the turn off into the dirt, I unlocked the front so that I could maximize power transfer to the rear until I got to the top of the short climb by the pump house. Once at the top of the climb I unlocked the rear and began my descent down Rollercoaster, the coolest stretch of singletrack in Iowa.
Once I hit the pavement after Rollercoaster, I locked the rear out again for the climb up into the Hillside. Once at the top I unlocked and began pursuit of my minute man. Much to my surprise, the first person that I caught and passed was JC. I figured I must have been riding really well and found it very motivating. As I passed JC I offered some words of encouragement and, with his tongue hangin’ out, he offered what I assumed to be the same. I passed a couple of others and motored on to the finish with a time of 18:31, good enough for first overall. Andy had the 2nd fastest time clocking 18:55. Squirrel brought home 3rd with a time of 19:02. WWJ came in 4th with a time of 19:11 and Sea Biscuit rounded out the top five with a time of 19:49. Great job to all!
Because it was such a short effort, I decided to go again. Andy decided to go again also (on his singlespeed) and this time he was my minute man. My goal was simple, catch up to Andy and knock him into the weeds as I pass by. I didn’t see him until I hit the hillside and I had finally caught up to him just as we were approaching a couple of big logs. As soon as Andy realized that I was on his wheel, he dumped the clutch and launched himself over the first log at full speed. I suck on big logs and slowed as I approached it. I popped my front wheel up and over. As my front wheel approached the top of the log I lifted my back wheel over. I was going a little faster than usual and mistimed the rear wheel. My wheel bumped into the top of the log and went skyward. My front wheel hit the ground and rolled about 20 feet before my rear wheel came out of orbit. Yep, my eyes were as big as a VW hubcap throughout the stunt and was quite happy when I realized that I had pulled it off. I saw Andy off in the distance and watched as he rode over the 2nd big log. As much as I enjoyed the experience from the previous log, I found it to be in my best interest to cyclocross the 2nd log. Once over the 2nd log I continued my chase. As we approached the finish I began to close the gap to Andy. As soon as he realized I was getting close, he drilled it and crossed the finish line a couple of seconds ahead of me. Good times!

Taylor's in the hurt locker, even before the race starts, he looks real mean in them Oakley's.

Check out the Mostly Reverend, he's wearing a helmet!!!

Proper post race nutrition is extremely important to ensure a speedy recovery. Looks like a cup of Endurox Beer4.

As I had mentioned earlier, this weekend was all about raising funds for a couple of great causes and it was a huge success! From the looks of it, everybody had a great time and in the end, that’s what it’s all about.
This weekend Andy and I are heading up to the Land of Oz to do the Blockhouse Roll. I’ve done the race a couple of times in the past and the trails, only open to the public on race weekend, are pretty sweet.
Two more races to go, then hamburger, French fry and taco ride season begins!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Chequamegon… the biggest mountain biking throw down in the nation. Located in the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin, the Chequamegon 40 starts in Hayward and finishes at the Telemark Ski Resort just outside of Cable. 40 miles, point to point, mostly on the fabled Birkiebeiner Trail. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite races. The course is pretty much tailor made for my type of racing, lot’s of smokin’ fast flats, some rollers and some pretty insane, steep, long climbs and little to no singletrack. Despite the lack of singletrack, the race is still very technical in its own way. The speeds are so high, that the seemingly wide trail tightens up quite a bit in a lot of areas.
Goal: my only other Chequamegon experience was in ’03, 22nd overall, 4th in age, with a time just north of 2:22. I went in shooting for a top 20 overall and top 3 in my age.
I bunked up in a cabin that was about 5 blocks from the start with Padawan Gammell, John Newell, Jim and Sally Logan, Lang Wightman and Fishaus. Woke up to a morning low of 25, lookin’ out the window over the lake to watch the beautiful northern Wisconsin sunrise, the air looked crisp with clear skies on the horizon. The temps were sure to rise and was just about perfect by race time.

What I woke up to on race day.

The mass start... mass chaos.

Rolled up to the start about 10 minutes before the start and had a front row seat… then about five minutes before the start, Greg LeMond and his posse of what looked to be elderly folk slid in front. Once the dust settled I was in the 2nd row, still good enough for the 4+ mile rollout on pavement. Looking around, I could see that the field was stacked as expected. Lot’s of pros, Swanson, Tilford (former world masters champion), T Brown (former Olympian), Hall, the brothers Lalonde, Matter, Shouten, Phillips, Stolte, Hanson, Plews, Woodruff and a whole poop load of others.
The cannon went off and so did I. I tucked in behind the front row and caught the tow out of town. It seemed like about every 30 seconds I’d hear knobbies rubbing against knobbies. Cats were fighting for position all the way to Rosies. As we approached Rosies the aggression came to a head. The sound of rubber and metal scraping along pavement on the opposite side of the road caused me to move a little further to the left, exposing my nose to the wind. At this point I didn’t care if I was working a little harder than most of the others, I didn’t want to join the list of casualties.
As we hit Rosies, everybody hit the throttle and it was a mad dash to the front. Things became real sketchy real quick, I didn’t like what I saw so I backed it down a little to ensure safe passage into Rosies. When I arrived at the top of the hill I could see that I was a long way from the lead group and the second group. Not exactly what I had in mind but at least I was still upright. I upped the pace and eventually latched to what appeared to be a 3rd group as we hit the Birkie trailhead.
I worked my way to the front of the group and kept on rolling towards the 2nd group. At about mile ten, eventual race winner Jesse Lalonde rolled by me on his singlespeed. I grabbed his wheel knowing that he would pull me the rest of the way to the 2nd group. We caught the 2nd group, I sat in on the back of the group to recharge, Jesse continued towards the front and motored off the front towards the lead group.

The lead group with Mikey taking a pull.

As the race progressed our initial group of about 10-15 slowly shrank. As we approached mile 14, our group had caught up to a few stragglers that had fallen off from the lead group, including the Eppens. At checkpoint OO (mile 16), the lead group of 12 was about 20 seconds ahead of us. Our group was about 8 strong, the Eppens, Paul Hanson, Zack Vestal, Bjorn Selander and Dirk Rettig were some of the more familiar names.
Our group pretty much stayed together until we hit Fire Tower Hill, an endless, technical, three tiered climb that knocked me down to my 34x27. That’s when the shite hit the fan. We could see the remnants of the lead group about halfway up as we started the climb. Hanson drilled it all the way to the top, I crested the top about 15 seconds behind him. The rest of the group was quickly dropping out of sight. Once over the top I drilled it in pursuit of Hanson.

Workin' my way up Fire Tower Hill, it hurt real bad.

About a mile or two later I reeled him in and took control of the pace. He sat on my wheel the entire time and at one point had informed me that ‘I was killing him’. I said, ‘yeah, just don’t dog me at the finish’. We kept motoring along and eventually caught up to Evan Plews. He latched onto to Hanson’s wheel and I continued to pull the two along until we caught up to Bill Stolte at about 5 miles from the finish. Bill looked kinda like he had popped and wasn’t able to hang on.

Blockin' the wind for Hanson and some other dude.

With about two miles left, we started hitting some pretty steep rollers and my efforts were starting to catch up to me. Plews and Hanson rolled by me and I was dangling off the back. With about a mile and a half to go, the elastic had finally snapped and they rode away from me. Glad I was able to deliver Hanson to a nice finish… I can’t really fault him as there are no rules against sitting on another competitors wheel, I might have done the same thing if I would have been in his position. Had I not done all of the work that I did, we probably wouldn’t have caught up to Plews or Stolte, so it’s all good.
I ended up finishing the race in 13th with a time of 2:13:31, about 1:40 behind the winner. I crushed my best time by about 9 minutes and won my age group by close to 5 minutes. Mission accomplished… Simply put, I had the race of my life.

Top five.

6th through 10th

10th through 15th, check it, I made the big screen.

Padawan Gammell checkin' out some chicks butt.

Newell brinin' home 5th in his age group.

Some techy data for all of you geeks out there. My average HR for the race was 173. When I’m on top of my game it’s usually around 179-180. So I wasn’t as fresh as I could have been. I still have 3 races left this season and didn’t want to taper too soon. Based on my experience, I can carry top fitness over about three weeks of tapering. Once I go beyond three weeks I can feel myself starting to slow down a little. My last race of the season will be the WORS season finale up in Sheboygan and I want to show up with all four cylinders firing.
Next up is the Sycamore TT, I heard that it’s going to be on the Hillside section of the SC this year due to all of the urban sprawl that has plagued the Sycamore Trail.

Thanks for reading,



I have a love / hate relationship with Sugarbottom. I love the trails, the place has just about everything you could ask for in mountain biking with the exception of any significant climbs. It has been the host of the largest mountain bike race in Iowa for as long as I can remember. When I do race there, the first thing that I say to myself when I finish… ‘man I hate this place’!
I really don’t hate Sugarbottom, the place has a lot of cool stuff, my favorite being the pine forested sections. Something about the smell of pine… kinda smells like Colorado. When I do finish riding or racing there, my entire body feels like I hit every tree along the trail. Lot’s of mutant roots and chatter in braking areas, enough to knock the fillings out of your teeth.
The race started, Eppen drilled the holeshot, Culley grabbed his wheel and I thought I had Cully’s wheel… perfect… right where I wanted to be. At the last minute, Nenninger (Grandmaster Lou’s favorite sparring partner) and Todd Gillihan put the squeeze on me. Rather than force the issue and risk hitting the deck, I backed it down and let them duke it out for Cully’s wheel. It was pretty frustrating because shortly after we entered the singletrack, Eppen, Cully and Ryan gradually began to gap off Gillihan and myself. I could have gone with them but I was stuck behind Gillihan.
Once we hit the gravel road, the leading trio was near the top and I was at the bottom. I went around Gillihan and began my pursuit with Andy Lueck in tow. About midway through lap one Andy was still on my wheel and I wasn’t making a whole of progress on reeling in the leaders. I asked Andy if we wanted to lead for a while. He rides there a lot more than I do and I figured this would serve us well. He went by and shortly thereafter he proceeded to T-bone a tree. I rolled by, asked if he was OK. I heard him mumble something as I rode by, I think it was probably a continuation of the grunt that he let out when he made his initial contact.
As the lap progressed I could see Eppen and Cully riding off into the sunset, however Ryan had fallen off the pace. This motivated me to push harder and I eventually reeled him in. He let me by just as we were entering a black section, the trails are marked kinda like ski runs, black = technical, blue = intermediate, green = beginner. I quickly opened up a gap and continued my pursuit of the Eppenator and Cully.
As the race progressed, my legs were constantly reminding me that I was at the end of a pretty heavy three week block of training. They felt good enough to maintain a pretty decent pace, but it wasn’t enough to do any significant damage on the lead that Cully or Eppen had on me. Lap two was pretty uneventful, lap three my body began feel the effects of the punishing course and I felt myself slipping into survival mode. In the end I held on for 3rd with a time of 2:37:29. Eppen won with a time of 2:30:33, Cully brought home 2nd in 2:34:44. Andy came in 4th with a time of 2:41:59 and Ryan rounded out the top 5 with a time of 2:42:59. Great job to all on a pretty brutal course!
I came into the race like any other race, with the expectation of winning. I’ve never won at Sugarbottom and feel like it is within my reach… someday! I still felt really good about how I did, my legs felt pretty weak throughout. My average heart rate for the race was 168, when I’m feeling good, it’s typically in the upper 170’s. So I was a long way from feeling on top of my game. I have some pretty big goals later in the season and have to train through a lot of races in order to maximize my training.
Next up is Chequamegon, the biggest race of the year. It’s the largest single day mountain bike race in America and is one of my biggest goals of the season. The field is always stacked with the fastest racers in the central states along with some pretty strong national level talent. It’ll be a great test that will provide a true indication of where I’m at. My goal… top twenty overall and top three in my age group. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Nebraska State Championships

I can’t believe the final race of this years Psycowpath series has already come and gone. The summer has flown by like it always does, time flies like the wind, fruit flies like bananas… think about it… that was funny.
The Psycowpath season finale, like last year, doubles as a series race and the stand alone USA Cycling State Mountain Biking Championships for the state of Nebraska. And, like last year, it was held at Swanson Park in Omaha. The week leading up to the race was saturated with rain, making a postponement seem inevitable. Friday rolled around and the announcement was made, game on! It was also announced that the start was going to be delayed by three hours. As most of you know, I’m kinda freaky about my pre-race rituals, especially when it comes to food intake. So this time, I made some scrambled eggs and some buckwheat flap jacks in the morning and chased it all down with a pot of coffee. On the way to Omahole, about three hours before the start of the race, I crammed my usual box of Mueslix down my pie hole.
I got a phone call from a buddy of mine the day before the race, telling me that they were planning to run the course backwards. Interesting choice considering that all of the lines on the course flow in the ‘correct’ direction. So I arrived at the course, signed up, suited up and hit the course for a couple of recon laps. Usually one lap will do the trick, but because it was like a new course, I decided to do two laps to get a couple of the trickier parts dialed in. The course conditions were pretty close to perfect, damp, tacky, smokin’ fast in the corners… yep, it’s gonna be a good day I remember telling myself. I was a little concerned however during the recon, when I’d kick the effort up, my legs felt kinda flat, no high end. I still felt pretty good about my chances because I’ve been riding really well the last few weeks.
The race started, I went to clip in and my foot slid off the pedal. I tried again, slipped again, tried again, slipped again, by this time I’m sittin’ mid pack…crap. Thankfully the start area was wide open and when I finally got both feet secured I was able to work my way up to third wheel, behind Kent McNeil, 1st and MG, 2nd. McNeil began to pull away almost immediately. MG was doing a great job hangin’ onto his wheel for a while and I stuck to MG’s wheel like flies on stink. After a short while I was able to get by MG, Aaron Grady was glued to my wheel and was able to get by MG also. I’m sure Grady’s plan was to stick to my wheel and at some point later in the race, turn the screws and stuff my carcass into the hurt locker. He’s been real good at doin’ that to me this season. He needed to finish two places ahead of me to take the series title away from me.

Kent McNeil, off the front like a rocket

MG suffering from the ire of McNeil

By the time we had gotten around MG, McNeil had a 15 second lead on us. Initially, I tried to close the gap, but then I realized that if we did catch him, Grady could potentially win the race. If McNeil were to hang on for 2nd and me 3rd, Grady would win the series. So I kept myself ahead of Grady and maintained a pace that kept us about 30 seconds behind McNeil. At the end of the third lap Grady was still on my wheel. As we entered the woods for lap 4, he had completely disappeared. I had no idea what had happened to him. I could sense throughout the third lap, that he might have been yo-yoin’ on and off my wheel. So I initially figured that he had popped.
As soon as I realized that Grady was gone, I punched it in an attempt to reel in McNeil. I caught up to him about midway through lap 4 and rode his wheel until the end of the lap. Riding Kent’s wheel at Swanson is about as much fun as you can have on a mountain bike, the dude is smokin’ fast through all of the technical stuff, kinda like riding on a roller coaster. We hit the start / finish area and began lap 5, I passed Kent as we were rounding a corner and I upped the ante. Shortly after we hit the woods again, I could tell that I was beginning to open a gap on him. I kept the pressure on and the gap kept increasing. By this time we were hitting a lot of lapped traffic. As a result, there were a lot of peeps behind me and I sometimes couldn’t tell if it was a cat that I had just passed or if it was Kent or Aaron catching back up to me. So with the constant threat of somebody catching back up, I kept the pressure on.

Grady firmly attached to my wheel

Grady and I railin' a corner

I started lap 6, still had the same paranoia goin’ on, so I continued to keep the pace high. About midway through the last lap, I began to realize that I had a pretty sizable lead and could relax a little. I ended up winning the race with a time of 2:06:05, Kent held on for 2nd with a time of 2:08:55 and is the USA Cycling Nebraska state champion for the 2nd year in a row. MG held onto 3rd with a time of 2:14:56, Monte Brewt brought home 4th with a time of 2:15:00 and Aaron recovered from a flat tire to bring home 5th with a time of 2:15:08. Great job to everyone that finished!

Chasin' down McNeil shortly after loosing Grady

Entering the woods with the throttle wide open on the last lap.

The final Psycowpath podium of the season, the payoff after a lot of hard work.

As with all Psycowpath races, everything was great, the course, the organization and the peeps. I do think that running the course backwards took a pretty serious toll on some, I saw a bunch of cats limping around after the race with their shoulders in a sling, bandages around knees and a lot of dirty skid marks on lycra and skin. Despite the casualties, it still looked like everybody had a great time!
So, for the 2nd year in a row, I won the Nebraska State Championship race on a course that used to tear me up one side and down the other. I’ve gotten to know the course pretty well now after having raced there for the past few years and it has become one of my favorite places to race. I also managed to repeat as the Psycowpath series champion, which means no race entry fees for next season… saweet!
A huge congrats goes out to Kent McNeil for repeating as the USA Cycling Nebraska State Champion. If Kent had been able to compete in as many of the races as I did, he would have made things a lot more difficult for me in my quest to repeat as the series champion. Kent is easily the fastest mtb’r in Nebraska and in most cases, faster than I am.
Aaron Grady proved to be the revelation of the season. If continues to race, he will be the man to beat in the future. MG (Matt Gersib) also had a great season, he used to destroy me in mountain bike races a few years ago.

Next up is the 24 Hours of Iowa at Seven Oaks. 24 hours of mountain biking goodness on some of the sweetest tread in the Midwest! This years Rassy ‘A’ team will consist of myself, Padawan Jed Gammell, Andy Lueck and mountain biker turned tri-geek Ben Garrett.

Thanks for reading,