Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sugar Bottom

The Sugar Bottom Scramble has been one of the most popular mountain bike races in Iowa for as long as I can remember. It has always drawn the biggest crowds and the best of the best in Iowa are always there. Popularity like this does have its’ minor drawbacks as the trails at Sugar Bottom get a lot of use and requires a lot of work from the folks of ICORR (Iowa Coalition of Off Road Riders). The trails at Sugar Bottom contain a lot of everything, including a crap load of exposed roots and wash boarded, high speed braking areas, all of which leave my upper body beat to a pulp after a race. With all that they have to deal with, ICORR does a good job of keeping on top of things and I always look forward to riding and racing at Sugar Bottom.
Despite plans to compete in the 70.3 Series Ironman triathlon in Austin, TX in less than two weeks, Julie decided to suit up and take my old Mongoose out for the beginner race. We loaded up all of our junk into the Jeep Saturday morning and headed out for Iowa City to do a recon of the course. After our recon, we continued on to the Quad Cities to hang out with Josh, Scooter and Kennan. We met them at their church and then went out for some grub afterwards. We ended up eating at this bar in Rock Island. Julie and I ordered the chicken marsala. It ended up being more like wood chip marsala as the chicken was ‘thoroughly’ cooked. I figured that I had already done enough damage with the nutrition, so we decided to add insult to injury and went to Whitey’s and split a very large Oreo cookie malt. I love ice cream…

Kennan and I sharing a laugh over a funny joke that she told me about how she now has more hair than I do.

Scooter, Kennan and I feelin' the love of the mountain biking culture.

Kennan loves her uncle Cam, even when he is stinky and sweaty.

We hit the road bright and early the next morning to make Julie’s 10am start. She ended up having a pretty good race despite having a minor disagreement with a tree. She drew a little blood, lost a little skin but still managed to keep it upright and finished in 3rd in the women’s beginner race. Not too shabby for a tri-geek, I'm very proud of her!

Julie preparing to unleash her fury.

Julie shreadin' the roots like a pro.

Riding on rails.

After Julie finished her race, I went out and did the last half of a lap for a warm up and then lined up for the start of my race. Brian took the hole shot and I settled into 2nd place on his wheel going into the singletrack. I stayed on his wheel for as long as I could, however it didn’t take long for him to open a small gap. Once I lost his wheel the gap increased due to his familiarity and my lack of familiarity with the course. I settled into my own pace and tried to maintain 2nd place throughout lap 1. As I approached the end of 304 on lap one, I was surprised to see that I was closing in on Brian. I had closed the gap pretty quickly on the novice loop and asked Brian what the deal was. Apparently he had some sort of altercation with an immovable object, a root or maybe a tree? He kinda looked like he was in a little pain. I did my best to shadow him for the rest of the lap and we rolled through lap one in lock step in 46:57.

WWJ and I telling Brian how funny he looks on a bike without Kim riding shotgun.

Brian leading the way at the end of lap 1.

I took the lead as we began lap two until we hit the top of the gravel road. As we neared the entrance into the singletrack of 201, Brian took over the lead and I was more then happy to oblige. I pretty much shadowed him for all of lap two and the first half of lap three. I could tell that he was still in a little pain. Despite his pain, we maintained a pretty fast pace and I had an absolute blast following his wheel. I did have one small episode that got my attention during lap two. We were rolling along on trail 105 and hit one of the longer bridges. As I rolled onto the bridge, my front tire washed out on me and I was able to catch it before I got dumped off of the side of the bridge. I had about 23 psi of pressure in the front and rear tires and thought that I might have burped a little air out of the front tire. I scared the crap out of myself as I thought that I was going to take a flyer off of the side of the bridge!

Cyclocross Hill is all about momentum...if you don't got it you'll be huckin' your bike up the hill.

Shadowing Brian up Cyclocross Hill on lap 2.

Throughout the first half of lap 3, our pace was beginning to slow a little. We rolled through 304 and as we neared the end, I decided that if I was going to try and win this thing, I would need to take over the pace sooner rather than later. As we exited 304, I took over the lead and as I passed, Brian told me that he had nothing left. I opened a pretty good gap going through 305 and as I approached trail 101 I was starting to feel the effects of my effort. I backed the pace off a little to try and recover. I also tried to take it a little easier around corners for fear of my front tire washing out on me again.

Topping Cyclocross Hill for the last time on the way to my 1st 'W' at Sugar.

I managed to keep my lead and ended up winning for the first time ever at Sugar Bottom with a time of 2:22:07. Brian held on for 2nd with a time of 2:23:55. Shim made the trip from Omaha and brought home 3rd with a time of 2:33:11. Kevin McConnell came in 4th with a time of 2:36:08 and WWJ rounded out the top five with a time of 2:38:17. Brian’s wife Kim won the women’s race by a pretty good margin over Robin Williams. It’s always great to see more women show at mountain bike races. We’ve had a few more than usual show up at the last few races, I hope the trend continues!
The folks at ICORR did an excellent job with the race and it looked like everybody had a great time enjoying the awesome trails and the near perfect weather!

Julie is always happy, but she is especially happy when she is with me at a mountain bike race!

Next up is the rain date for IMBCS #3 and the Psycowpath race at Manawa State Park in Council Bluffs. This will be the series finale for both the IMBCS and Psycowpath and should be a pretty big event if the weather holds.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 18, 2008


Photos courtey of Skinny Ski...mostly.

Chequamegon has quickly become one of my favorite events and my biggest priority of the season. The ever increasing quality of the fields over the past few years has pretty much established this race as the Midwest regional championships. All of the top pros from the Midwest region make for a fiercely competitive field. Sprinkle in a national cyclocross champion and a couple of regulars on the national pro mountain biking circuit to keep the pace at the sharp end of the field high, and you’ve yourself a national caliber event. My goals for the 40 this year… improve upon last years 13th overall finish and win my age group for the 2nd year in a row. Thus far, I’ve had my best season ever, so I had every reason to believe that both goals were attainable.
Padawan Gammell arrived in my driveway shortly after 8AM on Friday, we loaded up all of our gear into the Jeep, stopped by Starbucks for some road trip goodness and began our trek up to the great white north. We arrived in Hayward, WI with enough time to suit up and do a partial recon of the course. It had rained pretty good on a couple of occasions during the week leading up to the race and the course confirmed it. Most of the tread was nicely dampened and there were several puddles throughout to provide a nice coating of mud on our faces for exfoliation.
After the ride, we went back to the cabin we were sharing with John Newell, Jim Loganator, Brian Duffy and Ken Sherman. Duffy’s wife was nice enough to make two huge tins of homemade lasagna and garlic cheese bread. We all made complete pigs of ourselves and pretty much sat around the rest of the night in a food coma.

Our view from the cabin, check out the big honkin' fish in the background.

Padawan Gammell getting his steed dialed in.

Race day arrived bright and early. The skies were overcast and the temps were in the 50’s, about twice as warm as it was the morning of last years race. We checked the weather radar and it was raining like crazy in southern Wisconsin and there was scattered showers coming from the west. It looked like it wouldn’t arrive in Chequamegon land until sometime in the afternoon. John, myself and Padawn Gammell all had preferred starts, so we were able to focus on a good warm up. I rolled into the start area about 5 minutes before the start and took a spot next to the Eppens. They were sitting on top of a new 34 pound tandem with 29” wheels, custom made just for them.
The shotgun went off and the rolling mass of 1600+ mountain bikers took over the small town of Hayward. The start of this race is one of the most nerve-racking experiences that I’ve ever had on a mountain bike. The pace is controlled by an ATV until we hit the 3 mile stretch of Highway 77. Once we hit 77, the ATV takes off down the road at a speed that a person on knobby tires can’t hang with. It pretty much becomes a free for all with everybody trying to get to the sharp end of the group. Every time that I’ve done this race, there has always been a couple of pile ups on the paved rollout. This year was no different. As we rolled onto 77, I heard the grind of one set of knobbies growling against another, followed by the sound of scraping skin and metal on blacktop. It sounded like it had happened two or three wheels behind me and it was a big enough pile up that it had created a small gap between the top 50 or so and the rest of the field.

That's a whole lotta bikes!

We hit Rosie’s Field and I was sitting in the top ten. As we rolled through the grass I could feel the group gradually loosing speed from the soft tire eating grass. As we progressed towards the Birkie trailhead, my position digressed. I could feel myself rapidly approaching the red zone and decided to back the pace off before I pushed myself passed the point of no return. By the time we hit the Birkie, I had lost contact with the lead group of about 20 riders. My best chance for a top ten finish was slowly slipping away and all that I could do was watch.
I settled in with the second group somewhere near the middle and stayed there until I felt like I had recovered from my efforts in Rosie’s. Throughout the next few miles and I was able to cram my heart back down my throat and straighten out my eyes and I began to work my way towards the front of the group. As I worked my way up, Marko Lalonde went by and rolled to the front of the group. I knew that my best shot in reaching the lead group would be to stick to his wheel like a fly on poo. I made my way to Marko’s wheel and we swapped pulls for the better part of ten miles while the rest of the group sat on.
As Marko and I were swapping pulls, memories of June of 2007 came to mind when I went up to Nine Mile Forest near Wausau, WI to do the WORS race. We were about 4 miles into the race, I was sitting in the top 10 on Marko’s wheel. He took a swig from his water bottle and the next thing I know, his arse was about a foot above his saddle, both feet are out of his pedals and he’s doin’ the splits over the top of his bike. I quickly realized that the shite was about to hit the fan. While he was in the process of crashing, I grabbed a handful of brake, front and back, probably locked both wheels up, and ran into him. I somehow managed to land on my feet with my bike layin’ on the ground. I braced myself for the inevitable multi-bike pileup and got drilled by the next guy in line. I came out of it still on my feet, but my bike was at the bottom of a pile of bikes. When I finally got back on my bike I was in last place with a bent brake rotor... game over.
Back to today’s race… As our group approached OO (mile 16), we had already begun to reel in a few of the remnants from the lead group. I think the Eppens and Michael Simonson were a couple of the victims of the torrid pace of the lead group, and as we passed through OO, Simonson began taking pulls and it became a three man rotation that included myself, Marko and Simonson with a group of about 15 others in tow. We were flyin’ down a decent littered with baby heads doing about 20 with Marko leading the way. All of a sudden I see Marko’s back side shoot about a foot above his saddle, with both legs once again doing the splits over his steed…. Déjà vu… As gravity began to pull Marko and his bike back towards the ground, I grabbed a handful of brakes and managed to thread my way between Marko and his bike as they both skipped across the baby heads. Marko hit the deck pretty hard and as I rolled by I asked if he was OK, as did a few others. I made it through unscathed and we continued on.

Swappin' pulls with Marko and Simonson.

Fire Tower Hill appears shortly after mile 28 and its’ three tiers of steep inclines reduces most riders to the walk of shame or the granny gear. A lot of races are determined at the top of Fire Tire Hill and it is a place where a lot of gaps are formed. As our group approached Fire Tower, Simonson took the lead going up and I started my ascent on his wheel. By the time we hit the top, Simonson had a pretty good gap on me. Over the next mile or so, I reeled Simonson back in and as I rolled by him, I told him we had a pretty good gap on the remainder of our group. We worked well together over the next couple of miles and there was still one rider gaining on us. I think it was Ross Schnell and he had finally caught up to us a mile or two later.

Suffering like a wounded dog on Firetower.

The three of us worked together and over the next few miles and we had managed to reel in more remnants of the lead group, one of which was Dewey Dickey. The four of us worked together for a while until Dewey rolled to the front of our group and took a monster pull on one of the gravel road sections. We quickly reeled in two more cats and spit them out the back about as quickly as we caught them. As we hit the final miles, Dewey asked how much further we had. I told him about 2 miles and gave him props for the monster pull. He told me there was more where that came from... I suppose it was his way of telling me that he still had some game left. Shortly thereafter Dewey unleashed an attack while going up one of the rollers and separated himself from the rest of us. I dug in and passed Simonson in pursuit of Dewey. As we hit the top of hill leading down to Telemark Resort and the finish, Dewey still had about 4 or 5 seconds on me and I had about the same on Simonson. I gave it all that I had and finished a little over 2 seconds behind Dewey.
As I rolled through the finish chute, I ran into Tom Anderson and he told me that he thought I had finished in 9th. I’m sure the look on my face said it all as I was pretty excited! I took a look at the big screen and it said that I had finished 10th overall with a time of 2:11:51... saweet!! Cyclocross National Champion, Jonathon Page won the race with a time of 2:08:09, Salsa pro Jeff Hall came in 2nd with a time of 2:08:14 and Momentum Endurance pro TJ Woodruff rounded out the podium in 3rd with a time of 2:08:47. The icing on the cake… I repeated as the winner of my age group.

Happy to be finished with a nicely exfoliated face.

Men's overall winner Jonathon Page.

Women's overall winner Lea Davison.

Mountain man Cully Todd has a beard like a billy goat.

Padawan Gammell had a pretty good race, he probably could have done a little better had he properly used the Force.

Big John Newell in too much pain to notice the beautiful scenery that surrounds him.

Duffy doing his best to not get chicked.

The top three women on the big screen.

Men's overall top five.

Men's 6 thru 10th, they can't figure out how to spell my name.

Men's 11 thru 15.

Men's 16 thru 20.

Chequamegon was one of my four main goals of the season and it went better than expected. It took a lot of hard work to achieve my goals for this race. Those of you that know me well, know how much time and effort I put into this crazy sport. It was definitely not a solo effort however, as a lot of friends and sponsors made it a lot easier for me. First and foremost, God blessed me with a great life and excellent health which made for a solid foundation to work from. My parents and friends, especially Julie, for their continued support and encouragement. Rasmussen Bike Shop… I can’t say enough about what Greg Rasmussen and his cast of characters do for me. I can only hope that they benefit from me as much as I benefit from them. They are the best of the best! Phil Godkin of Orbea, Louis Garneau, Sock Guy and ProBar, for the bikes, clothes and nutrition. If I didn’t receive his support, I would still use all of his product line because it is the best stuff available. With all of the mud and water on the course, there were a lot of people that had mechanical issues with their bikes… I had none. My Orbea Oiz Carbon performed flawlessly through it all. Rob Versteegh of Oakley has been hooking me up with latest that Oakley has to offer for as long as I can remember. I used the latest version of the Oakley Flak Jackets. The course conditions were such that a lot of racers had to take their glasses off because of all of the mud and water. I wear contact lenses, so removing my glasses during a race was not an option. I had a lot of mud and water splattered onto my face throughout the race, however most of it rolled right off of my glasses. Again, if I didn’t receive the support that I get from Rob, I’d be using Oakley glasses anyway because they are the best of the best.

Next up is the 9th race of the IMBCS at Sugarbottom. Brian Eppen will most likely be there as will a few other locals that know the place like the back of their hand. It’s been over a year since the last time Brian and I had banged bar ends, we’re both on pretty good form, so it should be a painfully sweet battle.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oakley Rob's Morning Of Fun

Oakley Rob’s Morning of Fun couldn’t have come at a better time. The Science Center trails were close to perfect, damp and tacky in most spots. And it is one week before the big dance up at the Chequamegon 40 and it served as a great race pace tune up for my mind, legs and bike.
I started the morning off with one of my favorite things, shoving a plate of bacon, pancakes and a cheddar and goat cheese omelet down my pie hole. And then I like to wash it all down with a pot of coffee. All at the risk of tasting recycled bacon and eggs during my race while my heart is jumping out of my throat.
I arrived at the SC with an hour to spare, got signed up and then hit the trails for a course recon. As expected, Andy and Squirrel put together a great course that would probably net a finishing time of around 20 minutes for the top finishers. I never really know what to expect out of myself whenever I do a short race like this. It takes a little less fitness to do well and it tends to favor the better bike handlers. I also never really do a lot of LT training, with the exception of races on the weekends and the Tuesday Night World Championships.
I wanted to get at least 30 minutes of race pace work in, so I asked Chris to slot me in for an early start so that I could do a 2nd run later. I took a look at the start list and saw that my bro Kent Carlson was to start 4th. He’s fast and would make for a great rabbit to chase, so I slotted myself in 5th. Once Kent took off, I locked out both shocks and prepared to launch myself into orbit. The starter said go and off I went.
Shortly after I started up the road, my legs started to rebel at the violent effort that I was demanding of them. I stood up and drilled it until I could feel the lactic acid starting to build, then I sat down and continued the effort until I hit the dirt. I kept both shocks locked out until I got to the top of the grassy climb near the flower garden. As I began the descent back down, I released both shocks and let it fly.
I hit the singletrack and went through the Rollercoaster at fast as my technical prowess would allow. It’s not quite as fast as it used to be, the crazy weather from the early summer months really transformed a few sections and took away any familiarity that I once had. I still made pretty good time and hit the end of Rollercoaster looking for my minute man, Kent.
As I hit the Hillside I could see Kent near the top of the climb. This motivated me to push a little harder. As I progressed through the flowy, serpentine trails on the hillside, I could see that I was gaining on Kent. I kept pushing the pace and as we went through the log section, I closed the gap down to a couple of seconds. As we rode through the final section of singletrack, I had finally closed the gap. He saw me coming and hit the afterburner. I latched onto to his wheel and, even though there was no room to pass, began my search for a creative way to get by. My search ended shortly after it began, as common sense took over when I came to the realization that even if there was room to pass, I probably wouldn’t have gotten by. Kent was goin’ like a bat out of hell and it was all that I could do to stay on his wheel. In the end, I don’t think that I lost any time… we both probably gained some time by pushing each other deeper into the bowels of the pain cave.
I ended up with the winning time of 19:10. Kent and my numero uno coaching client, Padawan Gammell tied for 2nd with a time of 20:09. Andy came in 4th with a time of 20:23 and WWJ rounded out the top 5 with a time of 20:47. All of these cats are fast mountain bikers and I feel really good about being able to finish ahead of them for this type of race.
As soon as I had crossed the finish line from my first run, I was informed that my 2nd run was to begin in 30 seconds. As I lined up I did my best to shove my heart back down my throat. I had it about halfway down when the starter sent me on my way. I tore up the road again and my legs were a little less rebellious this time. They still hurt and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to cut a faster time than my first. I caught and passed a couple of racers on the Rollercoaster, one of the passes happened to halfway up one of the rollers where I can carry a lot of speed. I closed in on him sooner that I had expected and nudged my way by him. I tried to make myself as skinny as possible, so as to not shove the poor guy into a tree. As I went by, he apologized as if he were the one at fault. It was nobodies fault and wasn’t a big deal, nobody hit the deck and I had to slow a little though it was nothing significant.
I finished my 2nd effort with a time of 19:50 and was happy that I was able to get two excellent race pace efforts in. My average heart rate for both runs was 174 and I felt pretty good throughout both runs physically and mentally. On a side note, I never did get that taste of recycled bacon, eggs or coffee that I was fearful of. Things are looking pretty good for next weekend!

So next weekend is the big one, the Chequamegon 40 and my goal is to improve upon last years result of 13th overall. I finished 1st in my age group and I’ll be looking to do it again!

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 01, 2008


The 24 Hours of Seven Oaks as once again charmed with beautiful weather with temps in the 80’s and sunny skies. The trails were in near perfect condition and as technical as ever. The 2008 Rassy ‘A’ team consisted of myself, Andy Lueck, Jed Gammell and singlespeed maestro Kent Carlson. Andy won the lead off by default due to his youthful exuberance and love of running. Andy and soloist Ben Shockey were duking it out for the lead at the end of the first lap with Shockey coming through in first. Unfortunately, on lap five, Ben paid dearly for his early efforts and gave into heat exhaustion and had to pull the plug. Too bad because he was a very strong contender for the win.

The pits from above.

I took the baton from Andy and sped off in pursuit of the Shockstar. I caught and passed Ben at the bottom of the first descent and team Rassy never looked back from that point on. Our toughest competition was a team from Chicago and their 2nd or 3rd rider had some sort of blowout and ended up bailing out on his lap. As the race progressed so did our lead and we ended up winning by two or three laps. Nobody seems to know for sure what the margin was… doesn’t matter. Our goal was to bring home another ‘W’ for Rassy’s.
My first two lap times were 38:45 and 38:15. I wanted to do my first two laps at or near race pace to get a good couple of LT efforts in to help sharpen my peak for the big goal of the season, Chequamegon. I have no idea what other people were running for lap times so I didn’t have anything to compare against. My third lap was somewhere in the mid 40 minute range and by this time, we were already on conservation mode.

Feelin' the love, Seven Oaks style.

I think I had my boogie shoes on in this picture.

Seven Oaks sweetness.

Doin' what I love to do.

As the sun set, the temps dropped and the dew pretty much turned the entire pit area into a Minnesota wetland. As is the case with any normal 24 hour race, as the sunlight decreased, alcohol consumption increased and the drunkards were in rare form. Sea Biscuit took over as master of ceremonies. He and his band of hooligans did an outstanding job of taunting all of the racers, creating various obstacles made out of empty pizza boxes and beer cans for racers to negotiate. Just one of the many things that make a 24 hour race so much fun to be a part of.

The Rassy camp at 2:15am.

The Rassy camp at 2:16am.

The night laps were a lot of fun… maybe not so much when I had to crawl out of a very warm bed at 2 in the morning. Once I got rolling and made it to the top of the first climb it was all good and I began to feel the love again. As morning broke and the sun began to rise, so did the temperatures. After we had all completed our 7th cycle of laps, we still ended up having to do one more lap because Andy’s negotiating skills weren’t enough to coerce the other teams into calling it a day. So once again, due to his youthful exuberance Andy was chosen to do the extra lap needed to seal the deal.

Completing another lap, I was happy when Julie took this picture.

Some random highlights from the weekend… Frankenbike was once again up to his creative ways, he had his own version of a bento box (zip lock bags) taped to his bike frame full of green grapes and other nutritional oddities. Andy brought two containers full of his mothers chicken salad. Julie and I were kind enough to lend him a much needed hand by eating the majority of it for him. Padawan Gammell decided at the last minute to swap around tires between laps, only to discover the long, hard way that there are certain things in life that are impervious to the Force. Kent Carlson once again defied common mountain biking logic by doing all of his laps on a fully rigid singlespeed. Just thinking about that makes my nether regions go numb.
Yes, it was another great weekend of life on planet dirt! A huge thanks goes out to Singletrack Promotions for putting on another great event, my team mates Andy, Jed and Kent for putting up with my persistence in cutting fast laps around the clock and Julie for being a great sport and sticking out the entire event, all the while having a great time!

Next up is IMBCS #8, Chris Maharry’s annual time trial at the good ‘ole Science Center trails of Des Moines this Sunday. The last time that I rode at the SC, there was about 3 inches of snow and ice on the ground. So I’m looking forward to getting my tread onto some local dirt.

Thanks for reading,