Monday, June 22, 2009

WORS Cup....sort of....

With Lake Maskenthine getting postponed….for the 2nd time this year, I had a rare weekend off from racing two weekends ago. It was kinda nice to stay home for the weekend. This past weekend…sometimes the best lessons learned are from the mistakes that we make. Last year, I had one of my best races ever at the WORS Cup. This year I pegged the WORS Cup as one of my ‘A’ races and I really felt like I was ready. My warm up consisted of a lap of the course, my legs felt fresh and I felt like I had all of the technical sections of the course dialed in. I got a 2nd row call up and had gotten off to one of my better starts, sitting somewhere near the top ten rolling into the singletrack.

Just before the start of the men’s Elite race, Don does a great job in creating a great atmosphere at all of the WORS races. It doesn’t get any better than this!

The 60+ strong Pro/Cat 1 field getting themselves all cross-eyed at the start.

Sitting at around 10th and feelin’ pretty good about things.

We hit the first techy section, which was a little muddy, but nothing major. I took a bad line and got re-routed into a tree. I was going pretty slow at the time, but it was enough to force me to unclip in one of the worst places. I lost several positions and had to put forth a lot of effort to regain the ground that I had lost. Because I was well rested, my heart rate was a lot higher than what I was used to. As most experienced mountain bike racers know, when you approach the red zone, the bike handling skills tend to go out the window. I was steadily making up some ground when we hit another technical section. I had ridden through the section several times and never really had any problems with it. Not this time as I t-boned a stump in the middle of the trail and ended up rolling over my handlebars. As I was re-mounting my stead, I noticed that my handlebars were miss-aligned. I tried like a madman to straighten them out, but they wouldn’t budge. Game over.
I rode down to the bottom of the hill and back to my car. While riding, I found myself trying to figure out what my emotions were and what to make out of the situation. I grabbed a wrench out of my toolbox, straightened my handlebars and hit the road for a long ride to get things sorted out. That turned out to be a great idea. I’ve driven a ton of miles throughout the state of Wisconsin, but I’ve never ridden a bike on the roads. It ended up being one of my most enjoyable rides on pavement with rolling hills, a variety of trees as far as the eye could see and the smell of pine. During the ride, I was able to sort out what went wrong with the race. It basically came down to getting myself into the red to early in the game, as a result, my bike handling went down the crapper. Lesson learned. The only casualty of the incident was a slightly bent brake rotor. It could have been a lot worse, so for that, I am very thankful. I also have to mention that Julie’s support throughout the mishap was pretty amazing. She is like minded enough to understand what a person goes through when things go in fuego for an ‘A’ race.
I made it back to the car with plenty of time to spare to help Julie get ready for her race. She was pretty nervous and had indicated that her legs felt like Jello brand gelatin. I did my best to give her assurance that it was the pre race jitters doing their thing. My advice to her was pretty simple, don’t make the same bone headed mistake that I made. Keep yourself in check at the start and chip away at the competition when things get settled down. Iowa City Cat 1, who will be a Pro soon, Robin Williams was there and gave Julie some much needed advice from another woman about riding through some of the technical sections. That ended up being a huge help for Julie and bolstered her confidence when it came time to throw it down.

Making preparations to unleash her fury on the women’s field shortly after the start.

Julie is really good at going around uphill corners.

Threading her way through one of the many sweet sections of singletrack.

Julie was rippin’ through the singletrack like a scalded dog.

Julie taking the corner like it’s bermed.

Julie ended up racing a very smart race, starting near the back of the 18 woman field. With all of the extra energy that I had from ‘not racing’, I ran all over the course, taking pictures and yelling encouragement. She rode through most of the technical sections exactly as Robin had advised and kept it rubber side down the entire race. She gradually worked her way through the field and pulled out a 5th place overall and 3rd in her age group. Starting near the back of the group most likely cost her one or two positions, however she is still very new to the mountain bike racing scene. With more racing will come more confidence, and confidence is what starts in races like this are all about. She’ll get there. I am extremely proud of and excited for her!

Julies’ diesel engine powered her to a strong finish.

Julie earned a shiny medallion and the highly coveted honor of standing on a WORS podium box.

Next up is another ‘A’ race up in Mankato, MN. I had a really good race last year with a 2nd overall, my best finish in an MNSCS race. My goal is to equal last years result, or maybe even improve it by one position…

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WORS Dirt Circus - Wausau

Photos courtesy of Tyrine


I didn’t make the decision on Ida Grove or Wausau until Thursday night and Wausau won. My form has been really good the past couple of years…the best that its’ ever been in my 11 years of mountain bike racing. Because I am the ringleader for the Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series (IMBCS), I do feel a sense of obligation and desire to be at every IMBCS race. However, I also feel a very strong need to hit some big regional races to put myself to the test to see how I stack up against the best that the Midwest has to offer. Sea Biscuit has been involved with the IMBCS for as long as I have, so he went to Ida Grove as the IMBCS rep while Julie and I made the 7 hour trek to Wausau.
We drove up on Saturday with the intent of doing a recon lap or two of the course, however the weather had other ideas. I left Des Moines at 6 in the am and it was raining…it rained the entire way up to Wausau. The course at Nine Mile Forest can typically handle a lot of rain and for the most part, the course actually gets better when it rains before a race. We arrived in Wausau that afternoon and not only was it raining, the temperature was a balmy 43ยบ! We checked into the hotel and then went over to the course to register and ponder the idea of riding.
We arrived at Nine Mile at about the same time as Tyrine, so we caught up on life and had a nice group discussion as to whether we felt like suiting up for a recon ride in the icy rain. Race headquarters was located in a nice shelter and tucked away in one of the corners was a fireplace. I took a look at Julie and instantly knew that her course recon was going to consist of reading the WORS racer handbook in front of the fireplace. The Superfly half of Tyrine and I decided to buck up and get a lap in. So I put almost all of the warm clothing that I had on and headed out for a lap. Once I got rolling, it really wasn’t all that bad, the course was in great shape and I had little to no mud on my bike when I finished the lap.
At some point through the night, the rain had stopped and morning broke with cloudy skies and mostly dry pavement outside. I took a look out the window and smiled knowing that course conditions were going to be great considering the swirling toilet bowl like showers that the state of Wisconsin had received the day before. We arrived at the course with a couple of hours to spare before Julies race in the Category 2 (Sport) class. No less then 30+ women lined up for the sport race. Julie had expressed a lot of enthusiasm for racing in Wisconsin and Minnesota because of the number of women that toe the line….music to my ears!
I didn’t get to see any of her race because my race followed hers and I needed to my act together and get a good warm up in. She ended up finishing 13th overall and 6th in her age group. They had to do the same lap that the Elite class did and there were some pretty technical sections, including the notorious Ho Chi Minh trail which is littered with a lot of sharp, tricky, meat grinding rocks just waiting to devour unsuspecting mountain bikers. I was told by several peeps that no less than 27 cats in the Elite field had flatted at some point from the jagged stones of the Ho Chi Minh at last years race. If that weren’t enough, almost all of the singletrack contained plenty of wet, snotty roots that are more than happy to re-route you into the neighboring weeds or the tree from which the root feeds. Julie only had to dismount a couple of times on the Ho Chi Minh, which made me quite proud considering that she’s still a rookie of sorts.

The calm before the storm. I’m in there next to Eppen, I told him that I was going to crush him. He laughed at me. I was wrong.

The WORS series is big enough that Pro’s are categorized separately from the Category 1 age groupers. So all Pro’s and series points leaders get call ups, which for me is much needed considering how lousy my starts are in big races. I got a 2nd row call up in the 50+ Elite field, Don said ‘Gooooooooooooo’ and we were off. It took me a few tries, but I finally got clipped in and found myself mid pack once again. Thankfully the course threaded it’s way through a lot of wide open cross country ski trail before dumping us into the first section of singletrack. I was able to work my way through the field until I latched onto a group of seven. By that time, the lead group was long gone and so were my chances of catching up. It was all that I could do to hang onto the group that I was with, especially when the trail turned upwards. My legs felt like a couple of wet noodles and I knew that today was going to be one of those days where I was going to be suffering like a wounded animal…and suffer I did!

Paul Ellis leading the train of pain.

Threadin’ our way through the awesome pines of the northwoods.

Nine Mile singletrack...just add water.

The group of seven consisted of myself, Ted Hanes, Paul Ellis, MacIej Nowak, an out of shape, recovering from knee tendonitis Mike Phillips and a couple of others. Paul and Ted did the lion’s share of the work during the first three laps and I pretty much killed myself to hold 2nd or 3rd wheel in the group throughout. During one of the more tricky, rooted sections of lap three, Ted hit the deck while leading and Paul and I were able to get through the wreckage without too much trouble. My first thought was to hit the gas and separate Paul and myself from the rest of the group. Paul seemed to have the same idea and on one of the hills, was able to separate himself from the group. I was sitting 2nd wheel when he got away and as soon as the trail flattened out a little, I dumped it down a few cogs and managed to reel him back in. I looked back and saw nobody.

One of the few times that you will ever see me in front of Mikey. He yelled at me for going to slow in the singletrack. I should have thrown my water bottle at him.

As Paul and I exited a section of singletrack, I told him that we had a good gap and to punch it. We maintained the gap for about a half of a lap before Ted and MacIej had bridged back up to us. Throughout lap 3, I heard a few spectators indicate that we were in positions 8, 9, 10 and 11. So the thought of salvaging a top ten, always a goal in a WORS race, was looking pretty good.
Throughout the 4th and final lap, the four of us stayed together and I started showing myself at the front of our group with a few half-hearted attempts at creating some separation. My attempts were unsuccessful and thought of having to sprint it out at the finish was quickly becoming a reality. We hit the final stretch with Paul in the lead. I was glued to his wheel and Ted was on my wheel. I heard Paul ratchet it down a few gears and the sprint was on. Ted went around me and I gave it all that I had. Ted ended up taking the sprint for 8th, Paul was less than a second back in 9th and I salvaged 10th. MacIej must have sat up because he was a further 10 seconds back.
The race at the front was a pretty good one as Brian Matter took another win from the brothers Lalonde, followed by Marko and Jesse in 2nd and 3rd. Brian Eppen brought home 4th and Bender rounded out the top five. The story of the day for the state of Iowa… Kim Eppen crushed the women’s field to the tune of just over 9 minutes and the icing on the cake was Robin Williams finishing just ahead of pro Kyia Anderson for an Iowa 1-2 sweep.

The brothers Lalonde tag teaming Brain Matter… only it didn’t work out this time around as Brian took the W.

The Adventure 212 duo of Chris Peariso and Mike Bender giving each other a beat down.

If Robin were to tuck her pig tails inside of her jersey, the reduction in drag would have been worth at least 5 minutes.

The Eppenator-ette deconstructing the women’s field.

Looking back on the weekend, I am pretty happy to have managed a top ten on a day when I wasn’t feelin’ the love. All that you can do when that happens is put your head down and persist with the effort. Next week I begin my taper into my first of two peak periods of the season, so the flat leg syndrome should gradually be replaced with the fresh leg syndrome.

Next up is the 4th installment of the Nebraska Psycowpath series up in the middle of nowhere Lake Maskenthine. I don’t really enjoy the 3 hour drive to get there, but they have a pretty fun course and I love racing on a different course every weekend, so it’s well worth the drive for me.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 05, 2009

Lewis and Clark / Summerset

Photos courtesy of a bunch of different cats.

Brutha Squirrel and I early in the Summerset race.

Man…what a weekend! Two mountain bike races on two awesome courses... The weekend started off with a solo trip to Council-tucky for the Psycowpath race at Lewis and Clark Monument. Julie has a running group that she was coaching / training for the Dam To Dam running race, so she ended up staying in Des Moines to do the run. Running….the only time that I ever run is if I’m being chased by the law. Thankfully I have enough sense to keep my nose clean enough to avoid any run-ins with the law.
It had been a couple of years since I last raced at L&C. Last year it was cancelled due to some issues with a part of the course routing through some private property. As always, the Psycowpath folks did a great job in dealing with a difficult situation and came up with a good solution with a little re-routing of the old course. I did a quick recon lap and was quite happy to discover that the dirt was pretty close to perfect for mountain bike racing!
The usual suspects lined up at the start less a few folks from Lincoln. Jesse lost his mind a got married on the day of a mountain bike race, so Jesse and Woodman remained in Lincoln and were probably three sheets to the wind by the time we were racing. The race started on a long, uphill gravel road and Holeshot Limpach took the lead. I grabbed his wheel and let him tow me up the hill. By the time we hit the top he had pretty much blown his wad. So I took control of the race and as I passed him I could see that he had ridden himself cross-eyed through his sunglasses. I ended up leading the way into the singletrack followed closely by Kent McNeill and Steve Jarrett.
I didn’t really want the lead quite yet as my plan was to follow Kent or Steve for a lap…I can always ride technical singletrack a little more quickly when I follow them because they’re really good at finding all of the good, fast lines through everything. The three of us stayed together for most of the first lap until we hit the infamous climb dubbed ‘Neverest’. Neverest is long and steep enough that it will reduce most cats to their granny gear. As we approached the climb, I locked both ends of the bike out and hit it pretty hard to see how Kent and Steve would react. I was able to open up a small gap by the time we hit the top. It was enough of a gap that I needed to make a pretty quick decision as to whether I wanted to try and stay away, or back it off and save it for later knowing that I had another race in Iowa the next day.

Leading the way pushin' Mach 4 down Neverest.

I put in a half hearted effort to maintain the gap going down the hill and the gap stuck. I think that Kent might have taken a wrong turn back at the top of the hill, so that gained me a few more seconds. I decided to keep the pressure on knowing the Kent and Steve would be a little quicker than I was through the singletrack. As the lap progressed I could tell that Kent was closing in on me a little, however I still had a pretty good gap when I hit Neverest on the second lap. I hit Neverest pretty hard again, knowing that it was the locale of my biggest advantage. It was pretty much the same deal for laps three and four and by the end of lap four, I could no longer see Kent or Steve. So I backed off on the effort a little to try and save myself for the next days race. I ended up bringin’ home the bacon with about a minute advantage over Kent. Steve brought home 3rd another couple of minutes back followed by Holeshot Limpach with Shim rounding out the top five.
It was another great day of racing with some good peeps. Rox and her posse did a great job, as always, with the race, so a big thank you to them for all of their hard work!

Sunday, Summerset State Park….what can I say about that place to give it justice? If you did the race or have ridden the course, you’d know what I’m talking about. The folks with CITA worked their butts for four years building all of the trails from scratch, only to have some of them wiped away last year with flooding. The best way to describe the trails…if you’ve ever ridden the Telegraph Trails in Durango, that’s pretty much the first half of the course without the lung bursting climbs. The second half of the course was all very fast, big ring trail and pavement. It was one of the more diverse courses that I’ve raced on with a nice mix of everything that makes for a great race course.

Squirrel took the holeshot and celebrated by hopping over a log.

In the days leading up to the race, my bro Squirrel had expressed a very strong desire to lead the way into the singletrack. I was thinking about the holeshot for myself, however I knew that he wouldn’t hold me up because of the technical nature of the first half lap of the course. So that’s how the start shook out, Squirrel lead the way into the woods with me on his wheel. We stayed together and separated ourselves from everybody else pretty quickly and as soon as we hit the first opportunity for passing, I took over the lead and never looked back.
I found myself handling the really technical sections well and didn’t have any mishaps despite the mistakes that typically come on a course like this at race pace.

Kinda reminds me of Durango, CO.

Buff singletrack.

I started hitting lapped traffic during the 2nd of five laps and never really experienced any difficulties in getting by anybody. At some point during lap three, I had caught up to Julie on one of the more technical sections and much to my pleasure, rode her wheel for a short while. She rode the stuff like a seasoned veteran and negotiated Fuller’s drop like she had done it a thousand times before.
I was fortunate enough to take my second win of the weekend despite tired legs from the previous days abuse of 3,500 feet of climbing at Lewis and Clark. Squirrel’s technical prowess netted him a hard earned 2nd place finish followed by singlespeeder Josh Shively, who made the trip from LaCrosse, WI.

Yep, we have mountains in Iowa. If you look closely, you can see Julie at the top.

My studly female kickin’ it on the drop.

If you put a wheel wrong here you’ll be takin’ a bath.

Julie keeping it rubber side down on one of the many off camber sections.

Click here for a pretty sweet video that Piggy made.

CITA did a great job in creating a great race course as well as a fun atmosphere around the start finish area. It was pretty obvious that, despite all of the crashes evident from all of the scrapes and dirty skid marks on a lot of the participants, everybody had a great time before, during and after the race.

Next up….I’m on the fence with either IMBCS #4 at Ida Grove or the WORS race up in Wausau. I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback on the Ida Grove course. Race Director Jesse Bergman indicated that it has the type of soil that it could handle some rain up until the start and still be in good shape for racing. On the other hand, Wausau has always been one of my favorite WORS race courses and it’s been a few years since I’ve been there. It’s probably gonna be a game time decision.

Thanks for reading,