Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sheboygan - WORS #12

WORS point man Don Edberg doing the Elite Men's call ups.

October is a great time in Wisconsin, the weather is usually really nice and the fall colors are absolutely amazing! I always look forward to the WORS season finale up in Sheboygan, WI. Julie’s season ended last weekend with a fairly successful Ironman 70.3 down in Austin, TX. The swim course was short, so it was pretty difficult to gage her swim performance, however she did set a new PR on the bike leg, so she was pretty amped to get back out and do some more competitive cycling this fall to take advantage of her newfound cycling fitness. What better way than to do a mountain bike race!
I drove up to Ames on Friday and loaded Julie and her stuff into the Jeep, then we hit the road for Tyrine’s up in Milwaukee. We all went out for a nice dinner in Milwaukee, then met up with a bunch of others for Mikey’s bachelor party. They rented an old school bus, complete with a keg of beer and a driver that was a ringer for Fat Albert. We had a couple of beers, then headed back to the homestead for some shut eye.
We headed up to Sheboygan the next day for a course recon. I did a lap with Julie to show her the ropes, then I went off and did a lap and a half on my own to get a couple of sections dialed in. We all finished at about the same time, and the smile on Julie’s face told me all that I needed to know about her thoughts on the course. She was pretty stoked about doing the race the next day!
On Sunday, we headed up to Sheboygan with enough time for Julie to get in a decent warm up before her 10am start. The women’s Citizen race had 40 starters and the series leaders all got call ups. As a result, Julie had to start near the back. WORS series director, Don Edberg, started the countdown and then it was ‘Gooooooooooooo’ time! Julie had a pretty good start and held back a little on the first lap to keep herself out of trouble and also to get a feel for the course and the other racers at race pace.

Julie negotiating her way over some large stones like a pro.

I sat, waited and watched the Citizen field go by about midway through the first of two laps. Several women came by and I think Julie finally came through somewhere around mid pack. After she went by, I scurried over to the Equalizer, a crazy steep hill that most racers end up hucking their bike up, rather than riding. She was still in about the same place and she looked pretty comfortable. It was pretty obvious that she was having a great time because she was able to flash me a great smile as she reached the top of the hill!

Julie enjoys mountain bike racing, even when she's huckin' her bike up the Equalizer.

After she topped to Equalizer, I scurried back over to the other side of the course and waited by the rock drop, another good place for a photo op. The first two women came by, third place rolled through about 30 seconds later. To my surprise, Julie came through in 4th about ten seconds behind third! Man was I stoked! After she went by, I rode back over to the Equalizer and waited at the top. The first woman to hit the bottom was Julie! She had passed the first three women and had a pretty solid hold on first overall. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for her! I jumped back on my bike and headed over to the finish line in hopes of getting there before she did.

Railin' a corner, in pursuit her next victim.

She was going really fast here.

I made it to the start and shortly thereafter, the first woman came through… and it wasn’t Julie. Julie had taken a bad line through a sandy section, stalled out and had to get off her bike and run the rest of the section. As she was dismounting, she got passed and that was it. Regardless, it was a pretty amazing result for her first WORS race and only her 3rd mountain bike race. I am extremely proud of her! And to top it all off, the great result really lit a fire in her belly to do more…. I can definitely relate! If you enjoy mountain bike racing and you’ve never done a WORS race, you need to. It’s a pretty impressive organization, it’s the largest state series in the nation, it’s well run, the competition is about as tough as it gets and I always have a great time whenever I go up there.

Even though she finished 2nd overall, Julie finished 1st in her age group and earned the top spot on the podium!

After Julie’s race, I negotiated my way back to the car through the parking area, which contained enough vehicles to transport nearly 700 mountain bike racers to Sheboygan, WI. I began my usual pre race meal of a box of Kellogg’s Mueslix and water. About an hour before my start I suited up and began my warm up. My legs felt pretty good and I felt pretty good about my chances of having a good day. My goal for the day was a top ten finish. Because of the large payouts and it being the season finale, the Elite field is usually stacked with most of the top pros and semi-pros from the Midwest.
As the start approached, the series leaders and pro’s got call ups. My name was called early enough that I was able to slot myself into the 2nd row, behind Cole House and Salsa pro Jeff Hall. The countdown began, then it was Goooooooooooooo! Once again my engine balked at the cross eyed effort that is required to be near the pointed end of the field going into the singletrack. I ended up somewhere near mid-pack of the 50 strong field of pros and experts. I felt pretty comfortable throughout the first of five laps and was able to pick off quite a few others as the lap progressed.

Cole House gunning for the hole shot.

It was pretty much the same deal during the 2nd lap and I didn’t really know where I was place wise. During lap 3, I could see Landon Lueck ahead of me. Landon has had some pretty impressive results this season, including a 4th overall a Chequamegon. So I figured that I must be pretty close to the top ten as he is a regular in the top ten for WORS races. A little later in the lap, I caught and passed him. After we hit the Equalizer, I saw Julie and she told me that I was in 9th. Saweet! I still felt really good with two laps to go and felt like I still had a lot left in the tank.

Enjoying the flow.

About midway through lap 4, I saw Nathan Guerra up the trail. I turned the screws a little tighter and managed to reel him in. I sat on for a short while in the singletrack, and once the trail opened up, I opened the throttle and passed him. As I began the last lap, I could see Dallas Fowler and Tom Bender up the trail. I buried my head and caught up to them about ¼ of the way through the lap. As we hit a tight, twisty section, Dallas hit a wet root the wrong way and got himself crossed up. I was on his wheel and was just barely able to get by without plowing into him. Bender was able to open a small gap and it took me a little while to close it back up.

Bender has a pretty sweet set of Bobke-esque pork chops.

I rode behind Bender through another fairly tight section for a while and we eventually got stuck behind a few comp riders. Tom handled it well, and it sounded like he was actually coaching the guy ahead of him through a pretty technical section… cool stuff. The trail eventually opened up and we were able to get by. I stayed on Tom’s wheel until we hit the gravel climb. I kept it in the big ring and dropped the hammer going up the hill. I went by Tom and he responded by staying with me to the top. As we hit the top, he politely requested that I not do that again. I managed to laugh a little despite the fact that I couldn’t see straight. I kept the pressure on, hoping that I could maybe drop him. A short while later, I couldn’t hear anybody behind me and I later learned that he had dropped his chain. By the time he got his chain back on, I was down the trail. Too bad, it would have been painfully fun to duke it out with him to the end.

Cruisin' down the Pucker Factor.

Clawing my way up the Equalizer.

Nearing the 'summit' of the Equalizer.

I kept looking ahead, hoping that the guy in 4th would appear ahead of me, but he never did. I ended up finishing in 5th overall, extremely happy with another great result! Gary Fisher pro Jesse Lalonde won with a time of 1:52:06. USA Cycling U23 team member Cole House finished in a close 2nd with a time of 1:52:29. Salsa / Powerbar pro Jeff Hall came in third with a time of 1:54:41, Adventure 212 pro Chris Peariso came in 4th in 1:56:49 and I rounded out the top 5 with a time of 1:57:48.

Men's overall winner Jesse Lalonde.

Hangin' out on the podium, I got to stand on a box.

So once again, I managed to exceed my expectations. I’ve had a pretty phenomenal season and I had a lot of help from a lot of awesome people! When I first got into mountain bike racing, I never thought that I would take it as far as I have nor did I intend to. I did my first race back in 1998 and I was blown away by how much fun it was… and that was the beginning of my addiction. I do this a lot, and for good reason, but there are many that need to be thanked for their amazing support. First and foremost, God for blessing me with a great life and health, both of which would are essential for success in what I love to do! My Mom and Dad, both are in their 60’s and still very active. They inspire me in so many ways and have supported me in all of my active endeavors throughout my life. Julie for her amazing amount of support, encouragement and companionship. She is a personal trainer and a triathlon/running coach and I have always been self coached, so we have a lot of great conversations about training, etc. and bounce a lot of ideas off of each other.
Rasmussen Bike Shop… you will not find a better shop anywhere. Every time I walk into the shop, I’m greeted like I’m a best friend. Their support for all forms of racing has been unmatched over the years, they carry the best products available and you will not get better service from any other shop. Simply put, they are the best of the best!
Phil Godkin of Orbea, Louis Garneau, Probar and Sockguy and Rob Versteegh of Oakley (not necessarily in that order). Both have supported me with the best products available and I’m always flattered that they find value in helping me out.
Friends… I have the best group of friends that a person could ask for. Whether it be out on training rides, races or on the sidelines cheering me on at races. I get a lot of motivation from all of the them!

What’s next? It’s full on beer, pizza, hamburger and French fry season!! Now that the season is over, I’m planning to sell a number of things that I’ve had in my garage all year, I’ll put all of it on the blog in the next couple of weeks. If you’re on the market for a bike, you’ll have to look elsewhere as I’ve already sold the Orca and I’m pretty sure that I have a buyer for the 2006 Orbea Oiz.
I’m also partaking in a joint effort with I.O.W.A. for the 2nd annual women’s only mountain biking clinic on October 18 at the old Science Center of Des Moines. I think it’s going to be a pretty big event this year with lot’s of great sponsors, a ton of free schwag, some free food not to mention that it’s free to all who wish to participate! For more details, visit or the official website of co-host I.O.W.A. at

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Crohn's Crash and Burn

Photo's courtesy of the Jackal.

Last Tuesday I rode the Mongoose over to Greenwood Park to do the renegade cross practice race with the intent on getting a really good high intensity workout in. I left with three things: the satisfaction of getting a great workout in, confirmation that my body has a strong disliking for running, and a very sore groin. I had planned to do the Cross Out Crohn’s race the following weekend, however my groin soreness (most likely from all of the jumping on and off of my bike) had me concerned that I might jeopardize my performance at my last mountain bike race the weekend after.
The soreness was gone after a few days and while I was devouring a plate of bacon, eggs and pancakes this morning, I extended my legs for a little stretch in an attempt to make some more room for all of the food I had sitting in front of me. My legs actually felt pretty good and might be up for a little aggression. So I called t-Pod and told him to make sure that he had some room in his truck for a mountain bike.
We arrived in Newton with enough time to get a decent 20 minute warm-up / course recon in. I took a look around to see who the main antagonists were going to be, t-Pod, Eppen, JJ, Olney among a few others. I lined up at the start knowing that I was going to get a great workout in! The race started and I rolled in line somewhere around 4th or 5th wheel behind Chris Hanson. Chris loves to blow his wad early in the race so I let him lead me around for about the first half lap. Eppen shot off the front right away and was quickly opening up a pretty big gap. T-Pod shot by me and went after him.

The 1/2/3 field fixin' to feel the burn.

About halfway into the first lap, I passed Hanson and went after Olney. A couple of laps later, I caught and passed Olney and gradually pulled away. There quite a few corners throughout the course, some of which I had a slight advantage on with fat tires. I tried to take advantage of those sections in an attempt at bridging back up to t-Pod. I could feel my tires doing the two wheel drift through a lot of the corners and my aggression in the corners had finally caught up to me. I got slightly off line through on of the sketchier corners and my front tire washed out on me. I went down in a heap. I picked myself up, did a quick assessment for possible damage to myself and my stead… all was good, so I hopped back on and continued. I kinda took my mishap as a sign that I better back it off a little, before I hit the deck again and do some real damage.

This is what I looked like before I hit the deck.

Oakley Rob unleashing his fury.

I bet you didn't know that Shrek races bikes.

With about 4 or 5 laps to go, I was approaching the faster set of barriers. I unclipped my right foot and lifted my right over my bike. As I began to unclip my left foot for the dismount, my cleat didn’t disengage. I remember having enough time to think about how much things were going suck as I rolled into the barrier. Rather than burying my front tire into the barrier, I opted to lay the bike down instead and did a nice slide into the barrier. As I slid into the barrier, my right IT band / femur slammed into the barrier and knocked it over. It kinda sucked for me, but it was pretty funny for those that saw it! I did another quick assessment of the damage, picked myself up once again and put myself into damage control mode.

I think this is after I hit the deck because I'm not lookin' too good here

Eppen rode away from everybody else like a pro and won. Brutha t-Pod held on for 2nd and I salvaged a hard earned 3rd place for the day. I was pretty happy with the result as I didn’t really care about where I finished. My goal for the day was to get a nice, cross eyed hour long effort in and I definitely achieved that!

The Jackal bringin' home the bacon in the 4's for Rassy's.

Once again, Godfather Marco, Paul Varnum and the MOB crew did a great job in putting together a fun event!

Next up is the WORS season finale on October 12. Then it’s full on beer, pizza, hamburger and French fry season!! Now that the season is drawing to a close, I’m planning to put my 2008 Orbea Orca on the auction block next week. If you’re in the market for like new road bike, shoot me an e-mail ( and let me know.

For Sale

I’m also planning to host my 2nd annual women’s only mountain biking clinic on October 18 at the old Science Center of Des Moines. I think it’s going to be a pretty big event this year with lot’s of great sponsors, a ton of free schwag, some free food not to mention that it’s free to all who wish to participate! For more details, visit or the official website of co-host I.O.W.A. at

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mayhem at Manawa

Manawa mayhem… seems like an appropriate title for the season finale for the IMBCS and Nebraska’s Psycowpath Series. Of all of the courses that we race on throughout the season, Manawa is probably the course that least suits my strengths in a mountain bike race. It’s very tight, very twisty and is a great proving ground for one’s bike handling skills. There isn’t a lot on the course that is physically challenging enough to create some sort of ‘natural selection’. So it becomes a train of racers at the front, a follow the leader type of race until we near the end when the attacks start to happen. Often times, the podium is determined by who can negotiate their way through the tight, twisty trails without getting themselves into an altercation with a tree. This years edition of Manawa would prove to be no different.
Andy rolled into my driveway at the crack of dawn and we loaded all of our junk into Julie’s truck and we hit the road for Counciltucky. Julie opted not to race with intent of preserving her body for this weekends Longhorn Ironman 70.3 race in Austin, TX. So being the cool chick that she is, she manned the steering wheel to and from the race so that Andy and I could chill.
We arrived, got suited up and did a recon of the course and while riding, I noticed that the course had a little more flow than I remembered from last year. We lined up for the start and the usual Psycowpath suspects were present and accounted for, including Kent McNeil. My plan of attack for the race was like any other race in which I am lacking in course knowledge, file into the singletrack near the front and learn the lines from the locals. Hopefully as the end of the race draws closer, they’ll be worn down enough that I can get by and maybe ride off into the sunset.
The race started and I rolled into the fast, flowy singletrack 3rd wheel behind Kevin and Kent. Throughout the first half of the race, Kent seemed to be pretty content in letting Kevin lead. Kent looked pretty comfortable and didn’t appear to be tiring too much. I was also feeling very comfortable, and though I never really got a chance to check my HR monitor for fear of clipping a tree, I knew that I hadn’t been working all that hard to maintain the pace. I’m not really sure that it was possible to go much faster through a lot of the sections without pushing our tires beyond the point of hooking up.

The expert train at the start of lap 2.

Andy was by himself, but not quite the Lanterne Rouge.

As we began lap 2, Nate Woodman began to nudge his way past me. I initially resisted, however I shut the attempt down as he persisted with the move. As soon as he got by, I settled in on his wheel and maintained my focus on riding good lines and avoiding trees. About midway through lap 2, one of the course marshals was in the middle of the trail, yelling at us to stop. As we rolled to a stop, we were told that somebody had crashed down the trail and had pretty much had the entire width of the trail blocked. It was serious enough that he couldn’t feel his outer extremities. While we sat and discussed ways to continue the race, I heard a few people complaining about the situation and how we had to stop. Reality check… here we are, in the woods, having a great time racing our bikes… for the fun of it. Our fun is temporarily halted because there is a person lying on the trail that could potentially be paralyzed. My only concern at the moment was for the welfare of the rider and that we get out of where we were without getting in the way of the rescue operation. The last that I had heard was the he was moving his fingers and toes as he was being loaded onto the ambulance. I’m not sure who it was, but my thoughts and prayers are with him for a speedy recovery.
The USA Cycling official decided that the best way to restart the race, would be to line us up in the order that was last reported at the end of lap 1. Once we restarted, we would do the last 2 ½ laps of the race. I gotta hand it to the race officials and the USA Cycling official, I think that they handled the situation in the best way possible by putting the safety of the fallen rider first and foremost. After the rider was safely removed from the course, they refocused on the race. I don’t recall hearing of any complaints in the way things were handled after the race.
So the race restarted with Kevin leading the way, Kent was in 2nd followed by Nate and then myself. At some point during the 3rd lap, Nate clipped a tree and it pretty much knocked him sideways across the course. I reacted quickly enough and was able to ride past him without hitting anything and immediately glued myself to Kent’s wheel. Throughout lap 3, I could tell that some of the cats behind me were starting to soften up a little as I could hear the occasional grunt, followed closely by a few choice words as a few of them were clashing with the trees.

Exiting the woods with the pedal to the metal.

The expert train completing another lap.

As we began the 4th and final lap, I could tell that Kent was looking for a place to pass Kevin. I dropped it down a gear so that I could react when Kent decided that it was go time. Sure enough, Kent dropped the clutch and went around Kevin. Determined to stay with Kent, I reacted and followed. I had to ride through a pretty deep patch of weeds to avoid knocking Kevin off of his line and was able to get by. The real fun was about to begin! The pace went up and I really had to stay focused on Kent’s wheel in order to stay with him. Steve Jarrett was also able to get by Kevin and he was firmly attached to my wheel. As the lap progressed, Steve tried to get by me a couple of times. At one point on the course, there is a pretty good sized log that you could ride over, or you could take a slightly slower route around the log. I always opted to ride around the log, as did most others because there was little to gain by riding over it. I knew that Steve was riding the log and figured that he was going to try and pass me there. As I rode around the log, I held my line and as the trail merged, he was slightly behind me and had to ride off course a little to avoid crashing both of us. I told him that I knew what he was going to do and we had a pretty good laugh over it.
As we approached one of the final short open sections, Kent knew exactly what I was planning to do as he kept glancing from side to side in anticipation of my inevitable attempt at getting by. I tried to wait for the right moment and then went for it. He saw it coming and was able to react quickly. I probably could have asserted myself a little more, however it was a little too tight to get by without causing us both to wrap ourselves around a tree. So I backed it off, knowing that we had one more open section.
We snaked our way through the final miles of tight, twisty singletrack with Kent still in front and Steve firmly attached to my wheel. As we approached the final open section, there was a small ditch followed by an immediate 90 degree turn. As Kent hit the top of the ditch, he slowed down in attempt to stall me out as I rolled to the top. It’s a pretty clever trick and perfectly legal (and ethical) and can be very effective in creating a gap if the rider on the business end isn’t expecting it. I was able to figure it out pretty quickly and reacted by going to his outside. We accelerated at about the same time and instantly gapped off Steve. I tried to get around Kent and simply didn’t have enough room to get by. So I tucked in behind him and as we wove our way through the final section of singletrack, I looked for other potential places to sneak by. There were none and Kent ended up taking the win. I rolled through in 2nd about a bike length behind Kent with Steve bringing home 3rd about another bike length back.
Even though I didn’t win and despite the course not suiting my strengths, it was definitely among the most enjoyable races of the year. Kent is such a good bike handler and I have enough confidence in his abilities, that I can ride within inches of his wheel, knowing that I’m going to hook up through every corner. I’ve always been able to carry a lot more speed through some pretty technical courses while riding his wheel as opposed to me leading the way. Good stuff!
So with this result, the IMBCS title is once again mine. I initially thought that the Psycowpath Series title was mine also, however in looking at the points, Kent and I are actually tied for first! The series rules state that in the event of a tie, the tie breaker would be to count our next best score. The problem is, Kent and I only did four races each, so we’re still tied for first. I would think that the next option would be to count our total race victories. I have three while Kent has two, however the rules do not go beyond adding an additional score, so we’ll see how they determine the series champion. Whatever they decide, I know that it will be fair and I’ll be OK with it. In the end, I am just thankful that people are willing to devote the time and effort that it takes to host races and a great series like the Psycowpath Series!

What’s next? Well, I’m thinking about doing Godfather Marco’s Cross race in Newton this weekend, followed by the WORS season finale on October 12. Then it’s full on beer, pizza, hamburger and French fry season!! I’m also planning to host my 2nd annual women’s only mountain biking clinic on October 18 at the old Science Center of Des Moines. I think it’s going to be a pretty big event this year with lot’s of great sponsors, a ton of free schwag, some free food not to mention that it’s free to all who wish to participate! For more details, visit or the official website of co-host I.O.W.A. at

Thanks for reading,