Thursday, May 28, 2009

Deja Vu

Even though I don’t consider myself a roadie, I do really look forward to Memorial Day weekend and all of the road racing that comes along with it. Even though Snake Alley is a secondary race for me, I still really look forward to the entire event. Being a spectator is almost as much as it is being a participant. My goals for the Snake this year were pretty simple, equal or exceed my results from last year…1st in the 40+ category and 2nd or better in the 30+ category.
Julie and I packed up our gear the night before because we had to leave by around 6 the next morning to give her enough time to do the women’s Cat 4 race. We arrived in Burlington with about 90 minutes to spare to get her registered, warmed up and ready to roll for her first foray into road racing. There were around 30 women in the Cat 4 field and she ended up 17th in the end. I didn’t get to spend as much time watching her race as I would have liked because my first race was immediately after hers. However while warming my old legs up, I poked in every once in a while to see how things were going. She rolled up the Snake like a veteran and looked like she was having a great time despite the pained expressions on her face as she approached the top of the Snake.

Julie feeling the love of the Snake.

Julie, Dee Mable and Emily Schaapveld given each other a beat down.

The usual suspects in the 40+ race were all present and accounted for, Tater Tot, Dominic, all of the ICCC posse, Tom Price and a few others that escape me. Despite registering that morning, I was still able to snag a front row start position and conjured up the determination to get a good start. The starters whistle blew and we were off!
We hit the bottom of the Snake and I was sitting probably 5th wheel. For the first half of the race I was sitting somewhere among the top ten and as the race progressed, the lead group became smaller and smaller. After the mid point, I took a few turns leading the way up the Snake with a little more effort to test the legs of the competition until it got to the point where it was just myself and Jeff Barnes of ICCC. Last year I kinda remember opening a gap with around 4 or 5 laps left and I ended up soloing in for the win. Not the case this year…

Jeff leading the way early on the 40+ race with me lookin’ around. I’m probably checking Julie out…she’s got a real purdy mouth.

Me trying to remove Jeff from me wheel.

Jeff appeared reluctant to take the lead and appeared to be waiting for me to make a move. I was also reluctant to take the lead and was kind of waiting to see what he would do over last three or four laps. On the penultimate lap, I threw down an acceleration going up the Snake with the hope of getting away. As I hit the top, I took a look back and had a small gap. I was pretty gassed and tried to keep the pressure on while flying down the descent. Jeff was still pretty close as we hit the flats, so I backed it off a little to recharge the legs for the last flight up the Snake. We hit bottom of the Snake for the last time and I hit it a little harder this time and was able to open up a larger gap. I turned the screws a little tighter on the descent and was able to make the gap stick this time. As I approached the finish line, I knew the ‘W’ was mine. I sat up, zipped up my jersey to give Rassy’s a little love and thrust my index finger towards the sky to give God a little love as well. It was a hard earned victory no thanks to Jeff for pushing me close to my limit. I never got a chance to talk to him afterwards, he rode a strong race and made it a little more fun than last year. Dominic Moraniec also rode a great race and brought home 3rd.

There I go, lookin’ angry again.

One lap to go and I’m waiting to see if Jeff is going to go Dewey Dickey on me up the Snake.

Bringing home 40+ win number 2.

I had a couple of hours to kill before the 30+ race, so I kept the chamiox on and spun my legs and shot the breeze with some of my bro’s until the start. As I lined up for the start of the 30+ race, I noticed the quality of the field was as expected with Dewey Dickey, Sean Walker, Lee V, Tater, Deninger, Olney and Cody among others. My strategy for this race was to keep my good eye on Dewey as he was the heavy favorite to win. He won the 30+ and the P/1/2 race last year and the guy can climb like ‘Il Pirata’.
I started at the back of the group and remained there over the first couple of laps. After about three laps of whiplash at the back of the group and several tongue lashings from JJ and tPod watching on the Snake, it was time to reposition myself near the front. I managed to work my way to the sharp end of the field within one lap and took a few half-hearted pulls expending as little energy as possible in anticipation of the Dewey’s inevitable attack. As the race progressed, we managed to whittle the lead group down to 5 cats, myself, Dewey, Cody McCullough, Sean Walker and Jacques Cartier. I was reluctant to let the pace slow too much because I didn’t want to give anybody that got dropped a chance to catch back up.

Bringin’ up the rear end of the 30+ field.

Testing the legs of Sean Walker, Dewey, Jacque Cartier and Paul Deninger.

On the penultimate lap, the inevitable happened. Dewey unleashed an attack as we approached the Snake. I was in the lead at the time and was able to respond. As we approached the top, he had opened up a gap on me. I took a look back and noticed that Dewey’s attack had pretty much shattered what was left of the front end of the group. I kept the effort near my max in an attempt to bring Dewey back while maintaining the gap between myself and 3rd place. I was able to close the gap a little bit on the descent and the flats, however on the last lap, Dewey re-asserted himself on the Snake and put me deeper into the hurt locker. I put in another monster effort to close the gap, especially on the flats as we approached the finish. I had pretty much turned myself inside out to catch him and noticed that he had backed off a little as though he had the win locked up. As we approached the finish line, he sat up, zipped up his jersey and took a look back only to realize that if he continued his celebration I would pass him before the finish. He quickly went back into race mode and put in enough effort to cross the line a few seconds before I did.
So, in the end my goals were met, though I sure would have liked to taken down Dewey. We’ve had a number of close finishes over the past couple of years and he’s taken me down on all of them. Despite that, I’ve enjoyed every one of them. It’s tough to beat the adrenaline rush that one can experience from close competition, or what appears to be close competition!

Next up is the next Psycowpath race in Council-tucky this Saturday, followed by the next IMBCS race at Banner Pits, just north of Indianola on Sunday. If r@!n happens to spoil things locally, then I’ll most likely head north and do the next MNSCS race at Afton, one of my all time favorite courses.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, May 18, 2009

Inver Grove Heights

Photos courtey of Skinny Ski and my female.

Eat my dust.

With the forecast looking good for Minnesota all weekend, Julie and I decided to head up to Inver Grove Heights in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area for the first MNSCS race of the season. Julie and I headed up to Inver Grove Saturday early enough to recon the course. As we approached the Twin Cities, we could tell that it was going to be pretty dry as the hurricane force winds were kickin’ up all kinds of dust and petrified livestock droppings from the bone dry fields on the way up.
We arrived at the course and as expected, there were already several others checking out the course. I ended up doing four recon laps with hope of getting the course somewhat dialed in. It was a pretty sweet course and it reminded me a lot of Denmans’s in DSM, or maybe Swanson / Manawa in the Omahole area. Pretty flat, very tight, very serpentine, complete with lot’s of dry, loose, sandy corners. I remember talking with Julie after our recon and I told her that it should favor the locals and that I didn’t expect to do all that well because it didn’t really suit my strengths. I was also at the tail end of a heavy three week block of training and my legs were feeling pretty flat.
We woke up race day morning to what was looking to be an absolutely beautiful day. I decided to step out of my (cereal) box and opted out of eating my usual pre race box of cereal. Instead we headed to a local grocer, Byerly’s and I stuffed a bunch of eggs, pancakes, sausage, toast and coffee down my pie hole…man was it good! I grabbed a turkey sandwich to top of the tank as race time approached if needed.
Julie’s race started at 11, and it was her 2nd Cat 2 race of the year. A total of 14 women toed the line. Julie is still learning the ropes to this whole mountain bike racing thing and still tends to take it easy at the start, especially in a race of this magnitude. So the race started and she brought up the rear as the field rolled into the singletrack for their three lap race.

Julie has enough skizlzzllz to roll over very large boulders.

She also has enough skizlzzllz to rail a corner.

It didn’t take long for her to work her way up to the sharp end of the field. By lap two she was sitting in 6th place and closing in on the next two women real quick like. As she neared the end of lap two, she had managed to claw her way up to 4th and ended up duking it out with a chick on a cross bike for the remainder of the race. She ended up in a three way sprint finish and ended up 2nd in the sprint, good enough for 4th overall and 2nd in her age group. She ended up about two minutes behind the overall winner and a scant 1 second behind 1st in her age group. A great result on a course like Inver Grove! I think that she’s caught the mountain bike racing bug, on the way home she looked at me, smiled and thanked me for getting her into mountain bike racing…yeah baby!

Julie duking it out with the cyclocross chick.

By the time my race had started, it was in the upper 60’s with light winds and bright sunshine. All of the usual suspects were there, Brendan Moore, the Oftedahl brothers, the father/son duo of Jay and Jake Richards, Doug Swanson, Paul Hanson and Jesse Reints among others. There were a total of 45 men, 10 of which were pro’s. I had my usual mediocre start and ended up somewhere in the 20’s going into the singletrack. Passing was pretty difficult and I had to keep reminding myself to be patient. I picked off quite a few racers throughout lap one and eventually tagged onto the tail end of a train of racers that included Jay, Jake, the Oftedahls, Jesse, Hollywood and a couple of others.

The start of the Pro / Cat 1 race, 45 cats strong...I'm in there somewhere.

Race winner Brendan Moore takin' the bull by the horns.

This is what Doug Swanson looked like before he rolled a tire.

As we began lap two I passed a couple of cats and took my place in line going into the singletrack. I glued myself to the wheel in front of me and patiently waited for the next opportunity to pass. As lap two progressed, I managed to work my way through the group and took the lead going into the singletrack at the beginning of lap three. I kept the pressure on and managed to gap everybody but Eric Oftedahl.

Taking my place in line near the start of lap two.

Jay Richards of Mapelag rippin' it up through one of the many loose corners.

As lap three continued I managed to open up a small gap on Eric and was closing in on Scott Hebel. I eventually caught and passed Scott and at some point during the lap, I thought that I heard somebody tell me that I was maybe in 5th. Sweet! I didn’t really expect to do all that well, however I was feelin’ the love and I was handling the bike pretty well. I could see the next two racers ahead of me, Doug Swanson and Jack Hinkens. I kept my focus and turned the screws a little tighter knowing that I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to gain any ground on them.

Jack the Ripper unleashing his fury.

Hollywood doin’ his thing on a fully rigid.

Rippin’ it up down a sweet section of singletrack.

Rocketing around one of the many bermed corners.

I sometimes look like I’m angry, however I can assure you that I am in my happy place when racing off road.

I could tell that I was closing in on Jack, however Doug was a little further up the trail and I couldn’t tell where he was after a while. By this time, Comp traffic began to thicken and it was pretty difficult to make time on Jack when trying to get around Comp racers. As I neared the end of the race, I was quickly closing in on Jack, however I came up about 8 seconds short of catching him. Brendan Moore ended up winning the race with a time of 1:27:42. Jack was 2nd in 1:30:12, I was 3rd in 1:30:20, EricO was 4th in 1:31:27 and SamO rounded out the top 5 in 1:31:32. Yes, I was very surprised and stoked with my result! I’d like to think that 2nd overall would have been possible if the race were a little longer and it would be easy to place part of the blame on lapped traffic, however Jack had to go through the same traffic that I did. So it is what it is and it’s all a part of mountain bike racing. Aside from that, Jack rode a great race. I was told that he’s 17 and fairly new to mountain bike racing. He has a ton of potential and should be one to watch in the future.

The Shockstar made the trip up from Decorah and had a pretty solid race.

Women’s race winner Jenna Reinhardt (Specialized) putting the women’s field into the pain cave.

Next up is the infamous Snake Alley Criterium in Burlington, IA. Like last year, I plan to do the 40+ and 30+ races and avoid the traffic jam of the P/1/2 race. If the rain holds off I’m in, however if it rains, I’ll be on sidelines watching all of action.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, May 11, 2009

Platte River

Photos courtesy of T-Bone and MOD / Anne

Somehow all of the rain that central Iowa received managed to slide either north or south of Platte River State Park in Nebraska yielding near perfect trail conditions for the 2nd race of the Psycowpath Series. It was another great day to be in the Midwest with temps in the 60’s and lower 70’s throughout the day with little to no cloud cover.
Julie and I loaded up the Jeep and hit the road bright and early for the 2+ hour journey to Platte River State Park, just west of Omahole, NE. The trails at Platte River are some of the sweetest mountain biking trails in the region, lot’s of tight, twisty singletrack, lot’s of climbing and a lot of roller coaster sections where course knowledge translates to a lot sweet, undulating terrain where momentum will send you rocketing up a lot of the climbs. I wanted to get there early enough to give Julie a chance to ride a lap and get a few portions of the course figured out. This was her 2nd Category 2 race and her first time racing on the course at the same time as the Pro / Category 1 field. During my recon lap, I immediately noticed that things within me were much better than last weekend. I was handling the bike a little better and the bike was handling me a little better. No back tire rub and the big ring made itself available upon command. I took my bike into Rassy’s last week and Sterling helped bleed the brakes. Greg and Sterling also gave me a few pointers in adjusting the front der, so she was dialed and ready to roll. As always, the guys at Rassy’s are the best of the best, going above and beyond expectations to keep me rollin’!
As high noon approached, 26 Pro / Cat 1 racers including the usual suspects as well as several new faces toed the start line. The ref blew the start whistle and we were off. It took me a few seconds to get clipped in and I managed to salvage 5th wheel going up the initial climb. About half way up the climb and I scooted by Shim and another dude, can’t remember who he was as I was a little crossed-eyed at the moment. I settled into 3rd on Kent’s wheel while Nate Woodman led the way up the remainder of the climb.

Nate leading the train up the first climb.

Nate still leading the way with Kent in tow.

We hit the singletrack in that order and the pace over the first half lap was pretty casual. I took a look back a few times and noticed a long train of my fellow competitors lined up behind me. As soon as we hit the upper pasture I pulled off line and accelerated to the front. Kent followed suit and I think Aaron Elwell jumped onto Kent’s wheel.

Takin' a swig of H2O, check out MIB, he's fixin' to pass me.

WWJ says hi!

I upped the pace and the train behind us began to split apart and at the end of lap 1 it was myself, Kent and Aaron with a gap back to 4th. We hit the initial climb again and I hit it pretty hard, scaling the first half of the climb in the big ring. As we hit the top, I took a look back and noticed that Aaron was gone. It was now down the Kent and I….sweet! It was starting to look like another showdown between MIB and myself. I held onto the lead over the first half of the lap with Kent in tow. At some point during the lap, I looked down and noticed my water bottles and reminded myself to focus a little harder on hydration. As we hit the upper pasture, I took a big swig of water and just before we re-entered the singletrack, Kent shot past me and took the lead. I jumped onto his wheel and prepared myself for the fun ride that I usually have whenever I follow his lead.

Leading Kent and Aaron through the rock garden.

Steve exiting the rock garden.

Kevin was kind enough to show us how not to ride the rock garden.




About ¾ of the way through lap two, Kent suddenly slowed and I could tell that he had dropped a few cylinders. He told me to go ahead and that he was cramping up. I went by and upped the effort a little just in case he was able to pull it back together. I continued the effort until the end of lap 2. As I passed through the start finish area, I took a look back and didn’t see anybody. I scurried up the climb at a pretty good effort with intent on padding my lead. Every once in a while I’d lose focus and back off on the pace a little, however the loss of focus was short lived because there were a lot of fast cats behind me that could challenge for the ‘W’.
I kept the pressure on and the remainder of the race was pretty uneventful, aside from having a great time riding some of the sweetest singletrack available in the Midwest! I managed to hang on for the win with a time of 1:44:44. Steve Jarrett continued is great start to the season with a hard earned 2nd place in 1:45:48. A couple of new faces from the Kansas City area, Aaron Elwell and Shad Shreiner made trip up and brought home 3rd and 4th in 1:46:43 and 1:47:03 respectively. Jesse Peterson rounded out the top five with a time of 1:47:43.
Julie also had a great day and pulled off her first win in the Category 2 women’s class. She was all smiles during and after the race. She had also mentioned that all of the Pro / Cat 1’s that passed her did so patiently, so a big thank you goes to all that passed. Things like that go a long way towards keeping people involved in the great sport of mountain bike racing!

Next up for me is most likely going to be the 1st race of the year for the Minnesota series in Inver Grove Heights or the WORS season opener at Iola this Sunday. I was kinda torn between that and the 3.5 / 7 of Seven Oaks. Right now I need to focus a little less on long hours as I am a little less than a month from my first peak period of the year. I need to get in the intensity and speed of a normal distance XC racing as that is my focus for the season. If you’re lookin’ to do some racing this weekend, I would strongly encourage you to head up to Seven Oaks. The boys of Singletrack Promotions put in a lot of long hours getting the trails ready and they always do a great job.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, May 07, 2009


Race conditions last weekend were about as good as they come, dry, fast trails, temps in the lower 70’s, little to no wind and nothing but sunshine. A great weekend to be in the Midwest! Chia Chad decided to cross over from the Dark Side for some dirty goodness this weekend, so he and I loaded up our junk into the Jeep and hit the road for Omahole at around 8. We arrived at Swanson Park with plenty of time to get registered and do a little bs’n before it was time to recon the course. About an hour before the start, I was rolling through the start area to check the course out. Sometimes you have those days where you kinda feel like your riding with two left hands…today started out as one of those days. Throughout my recon, I could tell that my bike handling was a little off. It happens every once in a while and I have no idea what it is that causes it. All that you can do is roll with it and try your best to avoid any altercations with the trees, roots and the wildlife. I also had some issues indexing my big ring during the recon. I tried to adjust it before the start but was unable to really improve it on the fly.
We lined up for the start and at the gun, I managed to get clipped in pretty quickly and contest for the holeshot. I didn’t want to go out too fast because I wanted Kent to take the lead going into the singletrack. Kent eventually pulled ahead of me as we approached the singletrack. Shortly thereafter, Kevin Limpach took the lead and upped to pace a little. I went into the singletrack third wheel, firmly attached to Kent’s wheel, right where I wanted to be. Everything was going pretty good, my handling issues seemed to be behind me until we hit the gully. Kevin and Kent cleaned the gully like a couple of pro’s. I took a bad line and had to dismount. I’m pretty sure that I caused a small bottle neck behind me, but it wasn’t such that I lost any positions, but it was enough that Kevin and Kent were able to establish a pretty substantial gap on me. Not at all want I wanted.
I put it in chase mode with Shim, Steve Jarrett and another dude in tow. Throughout the first lap, I could feel and hear what I thought was my back wheel rubbing my frame. There were several times when I thought about pulling over to fix whatever it was, but I opted to ride through it until it forced me to stop. Whatever it was, it quit doing it about midway through the race and I’m glad that it did because it was very distracting. Swanson is the type of course where my focus needs to be on the course 100%. It’s very tight and twisty and a short lapse in concentration will have you into the weeds real quick like.
Sometime during lap two, I could see that Kevin was beginning to fade. Shortly thereafter, we caught and passed Kevin. I could start to see Kent up the trail and a few people along the course were telling me that he was about 20 seconds ahead. While all of this was going on, I was starting to gap off the group behind me on some of the open sections. This happened a few times earlier, however they would close it back up in the more technical sections of the course, especially in the gully, where I botched it on the first three laps. I was finally able to stick the gap towards the end of lap three and I kept the hammer down to try and increase the gap while also trying to bridge the gap to Kent. It was also at this time that I was no longer able to index my big ring. It wasn’t really that big of a deal because it’s not really needed on this course. It did kinda ticked me off though, I take a certain amount of pride in being able to maintain all of my bikes on my own and they usually work flawlessly for me. I finally gave up on it and settled into the middle ring for the remainder of the race.
During laps 4 and 5, the gap between Kent and myself remained at around 10 – 20 seconds. Steve managed to get around Shim and was in hot pursuit of me. He was able to close the gap a little, but never was able to catch me. I could tell on lap 5 that he let off the gas a little. That’s pretty much how the race ended, Kent brought home the win in 1:44:55, I came in 2nd in 1:45:19 and Steve followed in 3rd in 1:45:58. Shim brought home 4th in 1:46:56 and Todd Price rounded out the top 5 in 1:46:58.
I really wanted the win, it’s pretty satisfying winning on a course like Swanson, where just about everybody has a significant home course advantage on me. However I’m also very happy to walk away with 2nd place behind a mountain biking stud like Kent McNeil, and ahead of Steve Jarrett. Both are two of the best bike handlers that I know of and if I can finish near either of them on a course like Swanson…well I have to be extremely happy with that.
Now that I’ve had a day or two to reflect, I know what ultimately lead to my ‘undoing’. You guessed it, botching the gully on the first three laps. It created an insurmountable gap between myself and Kent less than five minutes into the race and I was never able to close it up. Botching it on laps two and three furthered the damage and in the end cost me about ten seconds. The remaining 20 or so seconds probably could have been managed if had been able keep myself on Kent’s wheel. That’s mountain bike racing for ya. I still had a great day, despite all of the issues that I had going on. The weather was close to perfect, the trails were close to perfect and I was racing my mountain bike with some of the coolest people around.

Next up is the 2nd installment of the Psycowpath series at Platte River State Park. Another venue where a lot of the locals have a significant home course advantage. They have a pretty awesome network of trails and I always look forward to racing there.

Thanks for reading,