Wednesday, August 27, 2008

WORS - River Falls

Photos courtesy of Superfly, Mountain Goat and Skinny Ski

Chalk up another fun filled weekend in the great white north! The weekend started with a short trip to Ames to spend the evening with Julie where I made a pig out of myself on fish tacos, an ice cold bottle of Fat Tire followed by a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bowl of apple crisp ala mode. Drove the rest of the way to River Falls the next day where I hooked up with Tyrine, Tim, Mikey and a few others from Milwaukee. They rented a pretty cool house for the weekend and let me crash on the floor. They cooked a pretty awesome meal and I once again made a pig out of myself. After dinner, we sat out on the deck around a fire pit lookin’ thing and shot the breeze until it was lights out time.

Pig'n out with the homies.

Lot's of sweet bikes.

Now that's a fire!

I never complain about race courses. All of the folks that put on races typically put forth a lot of work to get everything ready, especially those that put on a WORS race. The course at River Falls was about 90% singletrack, which was a lot of fun to ride. However a race course should typically have about a 50/50 mix of singletrack and double track give or take 10, otherwise it’s going to be a follow the leader type of race. There were quite a few places to pass if you were creative and were willing to ride off course. The first half of the course looked like it was brand spankin’ new, very bumpy, very tight, very twisty with a lot of sections having little to no flow. The second half of the course looked like it was made from pretty well established trails that were fast and had some sweet flow. It also had this pretty sweet North Shore lookin’ bridge that took you around a banked corner. It was on a pretty steep slope, so that if you took it too hot, the edge of the bridge would launch you into orbit. All in all, it was a pretty sweet course, I had a great time as I always do when I’m riding my mountain bike in the woods of Wisconsin!

Sweet bridge.

The race. In the WORS series, all of the series leaders get call ups to the start. They also give call ups to Pro’s and Semi Pro’s, so I got a call up and ended up in the 3rd row in a field of about 60 Pro’s, Semi Pro’s and Experts. The race started and within seconds, my legs were filled up to my hips with lactic acid. About 200 yards into the race, we were routed up a medium pitched hill that continued for another 200 yards. I got off to a mediocre start as this old engine just doesn’t rev as high as it used to and I ended up eating a lot of dust throughout the start. By the time I got to the top of the hill I was pretty wiped out and wasn’t able to take much advantage of the double track at the top to gain a few positions.

Release the hounds!

I'm in there somewhere.

We hit the singletrack and I was still trying to recover from the balls out pace of the start. I have no idea what place I was in at the time, maybe 30th? After a few miles, there was some dude on my wheel and he asked if I’d let him by. I thought about his inquiry for a few seconds… this is a bike race right? I don’t think that I’ve ever had a fellow competitor ‘give’ me a position, I almost always have to earn the position. I don’t remember exactly what my reply was, but after a short while he decided to assert himself and being the sporting person that I am, I gave him as much room as I could without slowing myself down. During my ‘recovery’ period, I was passed by another cat.
The start really seemed like it took a toll on me and I finally got my racing legs back about midway through lap 1. Between being cross-eyed and the first half of the course not suiting my racing style, I felt pretty clumsy throughout the first half of the lap. I noticed a few mechanical casualties along the course during the first lap, mostly due to flat tires. I was running my tubeless set up with Stan’s and had about 25 psi in the front and rear which seemed pretty ideal for this course.
The next four laps were progressively better and I could tell that I was riding the more technical sections faster and faster which each lap. I picked off quite a few dudes towards the end of the race, especially on the last lap, where I think I passed 4 or 5 that looked like they might have been paying the price for their efforts earlier in the race. I ended up finishing 15th overall out of a field of 60 and at first was a little disappointed. I always want to do well in a mountain bike race, but I also realize that it’s impossible to do well in all races. It’s pretty rare that I have a ‘bad’ race and now that I’ve had some time to reflect, this race really wasn’t a bad result, it was more of a mediocre result, I expected to do a little better. However, as I had mentioned before, the course didn’t really suit my racing style and with that in mind, I actually had a pretty good race.

Women's winner Jenna Zander.

Men's winner Jesse Lalonde.

Mikey Phillips scored a hard earned 4th.

The bottom line. Jesse Lalonde took home another dominating win with a time of 1:38:55. TJ Woodruff brought home 2nd with a time of 1:40:22, Brian Matter finished 3rd in 1:41:21 and my bro Mikey Phillips brought home 4th with a time of 1:41:22. My 15th place time was 1:47:03. Whenever I can finish within 10 minutes of Jesse, I’m pretty happy with that. Over the past year, he’s established himself as top dog in the Midwest region and I’m just an old duffer from po-dunk Iowa racin’ for the love of racin’!

Next up is the 24 Hours of Seven Oaks and we're lookin' to defend the Rassy team title!

Thanks for reading,


Monday, August 18, 2008


Another epic battle with Kent McNeil.

Photo courtesy of John Peterson.

The Psycowpath Series fired up again last weekend, after a two month break since the last race at Ponca. Bruce Brown pulled into my driveway a little after 8 and we loaded all of my junk into his Element and we hit the road for Tranquility Park, located on the north side of Omaha.
We arrived at Tranquility Park to a full parking lot. It was great to see a lot of people show up for a race. We’ve been struggling to hit 50 peeps at any of our races in Iowa, not sure why other than the cost of gas. Carpooling is a pretty simple solution to that. I don’t know what the final numbers were, but it looked like they had well over 150 peeps show.
As I was getting ready to recon the course, I took a look around and saw Kevin Limpach, Steve Jarrett and one of my favorite antagonists, Kent McNeil who finished 18th overall at Leadville last weekend a little less than an hour behind the winner. With an impressive finish like that, I knew that he was going to put the hurt on me today. As I was riding the course, I knew that the conditions were definitely going to favor the locals. There really weren’t too many long, open, stretched out sections where I could drop the hammer. It was a pretty tight, twisty course and it was also very dry and very dusty in some spots. During the recon, there were several corners where both wheels broke loose.
I finished my recon and headed back to the car. I dropped the air pressure in both tires down to about 25psi, hoping that would help me hook up a little better in the corners. We lined up for the start and my plan was to let somebody take the lead and hopefully follow in 2nd wheel. The race started and Kevin took off like a scalded dog into the lead. I grabbed his wheel and sensed that Steve and Kent were more than happy to sit behind me. I did an OK job of sticking to Kevin’s wheel until we got into some traffic from the 3 hour race that was also going on at the same time as our race. Kevin got by the rider with no problem, I got held up enough that it created a pretty good sized gap between Kevin and myself.
Kent and Steve were still on my wheel along with the rest of the expert field. Kevin’s gap kept increasing slightly as we were negotiating our way through all of the tight, twisty sections. I was having a hard time bringing Kevin back and I was feeling the effects of three consecutive 20+ hour weeks. About midway through lap 1 (of 5), Steve and Kent were still with me, but the rest of the expert field started to fade. While carving through a fast corner, both of my wheels started to break loose and I started to drift off line a little. Kent went by me and I was more than happy to let him take over because I knew that he would do a better job of bringing Kevin back to us. I did my best to stick to his wheel and as the lap continued, I found myself doubting that I’d be able to keep pace with Kent, Steve or Kevin.
As we were chasing Kevin, Kent managed to gap me off a little and at the end of lap one, it was Kevin in the lead by about 10 seconds, followed by Kent, myself and Steve. During lap two, Kent had finally pulled Kevin back in and Steve and I were still about 10 seconds back. I could see the two of them swapping the lead, kind of working together. On one of the tight, twisty descents, I was flying down the hill with Steve on my wheel. I went around a blind corner and into a cloud of dust. Kevin took the corner a little too hot and hit the deck. Kent stood his bike on its’ nose and managed to keep it upright and got safely around Kevin and his bike. I hit the brakes pretty hard, as did Steve and we also managed to get by. Kevin did a pretty good job of getting himself off the ground and back on his bike. He caught back up to us a lot more quickly than I thought he would. However he had to bury himself to catch back up and it was a little too much because he dropped off the pace shortly thereafter.
Kent, myself and Steve rolled through the start finish area and Kent slowed to grab a water bottle. I took over the lead and hit it pretty hard because it was one of the only sections that I could really open the throttle. I figured that my only chance to win today would be to hit it hard on the open sections and hope that it would wear down Kent and Steve. I lead the first half of the lap and could sense that Steve was trying to get by me. I moved over a little and let him by. As we hit another one of the many tight, twisty sections, he started to gap me off a little. I would reel him back in on the climbs and open sections with Kent in tow. This went on throughout the 3rd lap and we crossed the start/finish line with Steve leading, followed by me with Kent firmly attached to my wheel.
Shortly after we started lap four, Steve suddenly pulled off of the course and stopped. As I went by, he said that he was cramping up. Kent and I offered some words of encouragement as we passed. I felt bad for him, he was riding really well and if he could have continued, would have had a great shot at winning. I took over the lead and Kent stuck to my wheel throughout lap four like a fly on poo. Kent didn’t seem to have any trouble holding my wheel and I thought for sure that he was going to blow by me at some point and drop me like a bad habit.
Throughout lap four, we passed a few lapped riders and several spectators along the course. I heard several shouts of encouragement and a few commented on how it was going to be another ‘shoot out’. That’s one of the many reasons why I love to race in Nebraska. A lot of people seem to get just as excited about the epic battles that Kent and I have as I do. It’s really flattering and it creates a really fun atmosphere.

The Grady family, aka the Nebraska Tifosi. They walk the entire course ringing cowbells and yelling words of encouragement to everybody. They are one of the many things that make the Psycowpath Series the great series that it is!

Kent and I rolled through the start finish and began the last lap. I opened the throttle again, sticking with my plan of trying to wear him down. I sensed that I had a small gap on him and did my best to keep the pressure on. As we rolled through the wooded sections of tight singletrack, I kept my focus, trying not to put a wheel wrong. As the lap progressed, the gap stuck and actually seemed to be increasing. I managed to maintain the gap and was again fortunate enough to come out on top of another epic battle with Kent with a time of 2:06:35. Kent rolled through, a little over a minute back in 2:07:55. Kevin held on for 3rd with a time of 2:10:10. Darin Schlake brought home 4th and Jay Thomas rounded out the top five. It was a long race and the length really played out in my favor. If it had been a four lap race, I think the outcome could have easily been different. Kent was riding the best of all of us and I think that I just out lasted him. He could have passed me at any time during lap four, created a gap through the tight, twisty stuff and left me for the buzzards.

Yes, Kent's daughter scored a hard earned 5th place in the men's expert race!

As always, the Bike Masters Cycling Club did a great job with everything. A huge thanks goes out to all that helped put on another great race! I thoroughly enjoyed the course, the competition and the people.

Next up will most likely be another trip up to the great white north for WORS #9 in River Falls, WI on August 24. They call it the Border Battle and it’s supposed to be held in conjunction with the Minnesota Series. The competition will be hot so I’ll spend this week trying to recover a little from the three previous weeks of heavy training in hopes of getting another great result!

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Until about six months ago, I had no idea that Lake Ahquabi State Park existed. At about that time I had gotten an e-mail from Bruce Brown asking about my thoughts on having a new IMBCS race at Lake Ahquabi State Park. His description of the course was pretty simple, it’s a lot like the Chequamegon 40 race course. With the real Chequamegon 40 a little over a month away, it seemed like it would be the perfect way to gage where I am for that type of course.
With Ahquabi being described as a pretty wide open, double track course, it seemed like the perfect place for a beginner to make their debut. My friend Julie had expressed an interest in trying a mountain bike race. She told me that her mountain bike had a flat tire, so I told her to bring it over and I’d fix it and give the bike a much needed tune up. Upon rolling the bike to my work stand, I went to hoist it up into the clamp. As I began lifting the bike, I thought that I was going to throw my back out! I finally wrestled the bike into the work stand and then looked across my garage at my old war horse, a 22.5 lb., 1998 Mongoose ti frame tricked out with vintage early 2000 XTR components complete with Chris King hubs on the wheels. Yes, she’d like this bike much better. I fixed her bike, then blew the cobwebs off of the ‘Goose and prepped her for a post-retirement race. I also had a little chat with the ‘Goose, telling her that she’d be OK with her new pilot and to not buck Julie in her first mountain bike race.
One of my goals when I took over as IMBCS president, was to try to maintain a wide variety of race courses throughout the series. We had just about every kind of mountain bike race course that you could imagine. The only type of course that we were lacking, was a Chequamegon like course. Enter Lake Ahquabi State Park. My reconnaissance of the course confirmed that it was in fact a nice replica of Chequammy. Very fast, fairly wide open, lot’s of rolling hills, some pretty tough climbing and a whole lotta fun!
Like last week, I was capping off another 21+ hour week of training with the intent of training through this race in preparation for a few bigger races coming up in September and October. So I wasn’t expecting a lot out of my tired legs. As the race started, I could tell that my legs were a little better than last weekend. We hit the first hill and my intention was to hit it fairly hard in an attempt to create a little separation and prevent a lot of peeps from grabbing a tow off of my wheel while going through some of the faster sections. I stood the entire way going up the hill, but also tried to keep my perceived effort below the red zone.
As we crested the top of the hill and began our descent down a pretty gnarly downhill, I could tell that we had lost most of the expert field on the climb. Shim was on my wheel and he had WWJ on his. Shim told me that it was just the three of us and it stayed that way for the first four miles of the race. Shortly after that, Shim told me that WWJ had popped off the back. We hit the last couple of climbs and I could tell that Shim was starting to yo-yo off of my wheel. On the last climb of the first lap, the separation finally stuck and I was on my own.
During the second lap (of five), I took a look at my HR monitor and my heart rate was hovering in the upper 150’s. When my legs are fresh, I can usually maintain heart rate in the 170’s, which is where I would have liked to have been for this race. However, upon applying more pressure to the pedals, all that I could muster out of this tired old body was an effort in the lower 160’s. And that’s pretty much where it stayed throughout the race. The rest of the race was pretty uneventful, with the exception of one precarious moment at the beginning of the penultimate lap. As I crossed the finish line at the end of lap four, I went flying around the grassy corner and found myself slightly off line. As I rounded the corner my bike slid into a two wheel drift while doing about 25mph. I’m pretty sure that the diameter of my eyeballs grew to a point where they were larger than my glasses. Ride ‘em cowboy!
Like last week, I was again fortunate enough to win the race by a pretty good margin. Shim won the 35+ category and also brought home 2nd overall and WWJ rolled home in 3rd. Chia Chad came out to play in the dirt and netted a 4th place overall finish. A couple of other noteworthy performances, Kent Carlson ripped it up in the singlespeed category, winning by a little over ten minutes. Julie had a very successful debut winning the women’s beginner race and managed to keep it rubber side down the entire way!
A huge thanks goes out to Bruce Brown and his host of volunteers for putting on a great event that went without a hitch. He put together a great course that everybody seemed to really enjoy. There were a lot of awards and schwag, enough that very few people went home empty handed. He also provided a great post race party, with a lot of great food and beverage. Overall, an outstanding effort in his debut as race director!

Next up is the Psycowpath race at Tranquility Park in Omaha. The last time we raced there, I think the temps were in the 20’s and the wind was howling at about 80 mph. Hopefully the conditions will be a little better this weekend!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Seven Oaks

Anybody that lives in Iowa is painfully aware of all of the rain that we had received over the late spring and early summer. Seven Oaks got hit pretty hard on a number of occasions and a lot of the trail got washed down the side of the hill, literally. My bro Sea Biscuit and the rest of the Singletrack Promotions crew put in countless hours to get the place back into race ready condition. It was not unusual for them to spend a weekend up there doing trail work, only to have a rain storm blow through and undo most of what they did.
Persistence paid off for them and they produced the most technical version of the Seven Oaks course to date. I got a phone call from Squirrel the day before the race and he described the course as ‘gnarly’. Those of you that know Squirrel will know that when he calls a certain trail gnarly, you can pretty much figure that there will be several sections throughout the trail that will make you think pretty hard about whether you should hike or ride it.
Andy showed up in my driveway around 8, we threw all of our junk into my car, loaded up our coffee mugs and hit the road for Seven Oaks. We arrived in plenty of time to do a little BS’n and a course recon. Squirrel wasn’t kidding, the course had a couple of sections that were quickly dubbed ‘north shore’ sections. There were several bridges that were made of logs that might have measured 18” in width, some of which were on an incline or decline. There were a lot of new sections and reroutes, most of which was off camber and / or bench cut. There were also several tight switch backs and put ones balance to test.

The North Shore style found its' way to Iowa

Well, not quite North Shore style... if you fall off this bridge, the consequences aren't quite as severe as they would be in BC.

Trail re-route, the old trail fell into the drink.

Singletrack, Seven Oaks style.

Kinda reminds me a little of Colorado!

Despite the mostly dry conditions, the turnout was disappointingly low. I’m guessing the sunny, balmy 95 degree weather probably kept all of the fair weather racers at bay. That’s OK because there was still some good competition in attendance, WWJ, Andy, Padawan Gammell and even Kevin Limpach came over from Omahole.
I knew going into the race that I wasn’t going to be able to produce my ‘A’ game. I was at the end of the first of three consecutive 20+ hour weeks and had a pair of pretty tired legs. I have some big goals towards the end of the season and need to train through all of the August races. The race started, and sure enough, my legs were not firing on all four cylinders. I still got the hole shot going into the singletrack with Kevin firmly attached to my wheel. We hit the bottom of the hill and started going upwards and I could tell that I was already starting to create a small gap between myself and the rest of the field. So about halfway through the first of three laps, I decided to put it into cruise control and put in just enough effort to keep 2nd place a comfortable distance behind me.

Lot's of climbing at Seven Oaks, 2,550 total feet for the race. Thankfully there was also a lot of shade.

The course doubles back on itself in several locations, so I was able to keep my good eye on the competition and could see that WWJ had a pretty firm lock on 2nd. I could also get a pretty good idea on how far back he was and was able to gage my efforts accordingly. At one point during the race, my pedal clipped a phantom rock on one of the new sections. I was so close to saving it, but during the course of my ‘save’, my front wheel began to point itself down a very steep rock and tree infested hill. Yep… it was definitely time to bail. I laid my steed down and was able to minimize the damage to myself. I was able to get back up pretty quickly and resume the battle.

There's typically a pretty nice breeze when going downhill, today it felt like I was being blown in the face by a giant hair dryer.

The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful, at least as far as I could tell. Apparently Squirrel had a mechanical issue with either his bike or himself and decided to pull the plug early near one of the bridge crossings. It was pretty hot out and I guess he thought the do-do brown stream beneath the bridge looked pretty inviting. He stripped his Rassy kit off and jumped in for some skinny dippin’ fun. He told me that he saw me coming and thought he’d jump out of the water offer me some encouragement. However, his better judgment told him that if he were to jump out of the water, in the buff, and start yellin’, he’d likely scare me more than encourage me… He was right. I probably would have screamed like a little girl and involuntarily altered my course off the side of the bridge.
Despite my tired legs, I was fortunate enough to win the race with a time of 1:53:51, WWJ held on for 2nd with a time of 1:59:41 and Iowa City native Kevin McConnell rounded out the top three with a time of 2:04:11. It was a tough, but fun day on the bike. The heat didn’t really bother me all that much. I did a pretty good job of hydrating the day before and also during the race. I had an absolute blast riding the course and am really looking forward to the 24 Hours of Seven Oaks race coming up on Labor Day weekend.

Next up is IMBCS #7 at Lake Ahquabi State Park, just south of Indianola. It’s a brand new venue to the IMBCS and race director Bruce Brown has pretty much dubbed the race as Iowa’s version of the Chequamegon 40. Sounds like it will be a great tune up for the Chequamegon 40, which happens to be one of my biggest goals of the season. The forecast for this weekend is looking really good and a lot of peeps have been talking about doing the race. Should be a great turnout!

Thanks for reading,