Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Kent and Shim tag teamin' me.

This years edition of Lake Manawa Mayhem marks the end of the 2009 Psycowpath season as well as the penultimate race for the 2009 IMBCS. I’m not 100% on this, but I think a decent finish will pretty much lock up both the Psycowpath and IMBCS series overall, good enough for another season of free entry fees for both series in 2010…a great way to reward all of the division winners in each series.
Lake Manawa is the type of course where it is less about fitness and a little more about bike handling. With a total of 121 feet of climbing (according to my trusty Polar 725) and only a handful of short, fast, open sections for passing, the only form of natural selection was how well you could handle your bike through the many serpentine sections of tight singletrack. With the previous days rain making the course conditions about as close to perfect as they could be for optimal traction, it made bike handling a little less of an issue. It was the type of ‘close to perfect’ conditions such that my bike had no dust or mud on it when I had finished.
At last years race, it was pretty much a follow the leader race. It seemed that whenever somebody got dropped from the train, it was most likely because they either had a mechanical issue or they wrapped their bike around one of the many man eating trees that the trail weaved its’ way through. This year was no different and as the gun went off, holeshot Limpach took the lead, followed closely by Kent, Shim and myself. Shortly after Kevin took the lead, he had minor bike handling issue that knocked him off line and narrowly missed taking out the lead train. Kent and Shim got by and he nearly took me out again when he shot back in line in front of me. The mishap enabled Kent and Shim to open a small gap on Kevin and myself. As the lap progressed, the gap gradually increased and I had to patiently wait until the next passing opportunity to get by Kevin.
We finally hit the next open section and I went by Kevin. At Manawa, a small gap is pretty difficult to close down because you can only go so fast through the tight, technical sections. It took the remainder of the lap to close the gap. I took an occasional look back and saw that I was pulling away from the rest of the field and it looked like it was going to come down to Kent, myself and Shim.
We started lap two and I was pretty content to let Kent and Shim, who happen to be teammates, lead the way. I sat on while they swapped the lead, however I knew that I was going to have to assert myself pretty soon. The longer I waited, the more difficult it would be pass Kent or Shim. As we neared the end of lap two, I made a few attempts to get into the lead, however Kent had other ideas. I could tell that he was keeping on eye on what was going on behind him and whenever I hit the throttle he was very quick to respond and made it close to impossible for me to get by.
As we began lap three, I was finally able to get by Kent. The only problem was that I had to work so hard to get by, that I was temporarily out of gas and had a hard time maintaining enough effort to keep myself ahead of him. He passed me back shortly after I got by and I began to realize that it was going to take some creativity to get by and make it stick. As we rolled through the singletrack, I kept looking for short stretches of openness that might allow a small chance of making a pass.
About halfway through lap three, Shim had indicated that he thought he was going flat. Shortly thereafter, I heard the sound of knobbies grinding against a rim…game over. With Shim out of the picture it was shaping up to become another one of those epic battles between Kent and myself that we’ve had so many of over the past few years. Most of my favorite and most memorable racing experiences have been against Kent. I love all of the many tight battles that we’ve had and always find myself looking forward to racing in Nebraska in anticipation this very situation.
As lap three and four progressed, I continued my search for ‘small sections of openness’ and I also tried to pass on a few of the open sections again, all to no avail. As we approached the end of ‘lap four’, Kent put in a monster effort to keep me behind him and I was content to remain behind him with the idea of balking passes throughout the remainder of the race, enough to make him stand up and exert himself in an attempt to keep me behind. My hope was that this would wear him down a little and make it easier for me to make a pass…and make it stick.
As we crossed the finish line at the end of ‘lap four’, Kent sat up and motioned to high five me. I was kind of perplexed by this, however being the high five kind of person that I am, I returned the high five. He then said ‘nice race’ and I thought to myself, and told him that we had one more lap to do. He said ‘no, I’m pretty sure that we did four laps’ and I again thought to myself that we had only done three. I rode over to the officials table to get the official count and as I rode towards the table, some dude in the crowd said, ‘you guys still have another lap’. I spun around and headed back onto the course, hoping that Kent wasn’t long gone.
I continued on in pursuit mode and couldn’t see anybody ahead of me. There were a few sections where the course doubled back on itself and I couldn’t see him anywhere. At that point, I began to think that maybe he was behind me because he couldn’t have gotten that far ahead of me. I looked behind me and saw nobody, so I backed off the effort and waited for him. The last thing that I wanted was to win the race with an asterisk. I would rather risk him being ahead of me while I waited, then win the race under these circumstances.
I kept noodling along at a medium pace, not really sure where he was and as I crossed the road, there were no road crossing marshals. That should have been my first strong clue that something was amiss. Despite my uncertainty, I continued on and as I neared the end of the lap, I saw a dude riding the trail ahead of me with two kids riding in front of him. As soon as I caught up, I quickly realized that it as Kent riding with his kids! We had a pretty entertaining chat about my oversight and about the race. We did, in fact do four laps. Even though I thought we still had a lap to go when we officially finished, I seriously doubt that I would have been able to get by Kent. He rode a smart race, he was incredibly strong when he needed to be and he was very attentive to what I was doing behind him. I tried everything to get by him and couldn’t get it done. The funny thing is, this happened to me at this race two years ago with Shim. I blame it on my age. Despite finishing in 2nd, this ranks right up there with the rest of my favorites. It’s tough to beat close, clean competition!
So with a 2nd place finish, I’m pretty sure that I locked up the series title for both the IMBCS and Psycowpath. There are a lot of good folks to thank and more appropiate thank you’s will come in a later post. For now, the short list…God, Julie, my family, the folks at Rassy’s, Phil Godkin with Orbea/Garneau/Probar/Sock Guy/Gu (I’m probably missing a few other products) and Rob Versteegh with Oakley. Each of these friends provided some means of support that made this crazy road that I’m traveling possible. Simply put, they are all the best of the best! Julie also rode a pretty solid race and locked up the Psycowpath series womens Category 2 title.

Next up is the season finale for the IMBCS at Sugarbottom. It seems appropriate that Sugarbottom be the final race of the series, as it is the oldest of all of the IMBCS races. Last year, after many years of trying, I was finally able to bag the win…thanks to Brian Eppen making a rare mistake that slowed him down a little. Despite that, I happily accepted the win as that’s a part of mountain bike racing. I’ve made errors in the past that had cost me race wins, so it works both ways!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Photos courtesy of Skinnyski

Fire Tower do it no justice.

Another Chequamegon has come and gone. For the last couple of years, I’ve really tried to make this race one of my key races for the year. I’ve really grown to love the event even though it’s not your typical mountain bike race. There are a lot of things to love about the event, the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin, 2,500 mountain bikers from all over the nation, a lakeside cabin and some of my good mountain biking buddies from Des Moines among many other places.
My goal was to better my 10th overall finish from last year, and even though I was pretty adamant that a lesser finish would not be a disappointment, I was a little disappointed with my finish this year. I actually began to feel the disappointment setting in shortly after I hit the transition from Rosie’s Field to the first section of the Birkie. Yep, five miles into the 40 mile race, I knew that it was going to be a struggle.
Back to the start. I rolled up to the start line about 5 minutes before the cannon sounded and slotted myself next to my bro Mikey Phillips. My first major goal of the day was to make the lead break, and the best way to do that is to stay on the wheel of somebody that is always in it. After the cannon went off, Mikey and I were rolling along next to one of the lead ATV’s. There was a tandem next to us with a couple of dudes. The guy in front was pretty chatty with everybody else, which is OK if you can do it and ride in a straight line. This guy could not hold a straight line to save his life. Mikey and I looked at each other with same expression on our faces, just waiting for the tandem to cause the first pile up of the day.

1700 mountain bikers en masse.

As we rolled out of town, the ATV’s took off and I found myself on Jeff Halls wheel. A good place to be, so I did everything that I could to hold it, including shoving a few elbows into a few cats that tried to butt in. As we hit the rise in the road on the approach to Rosie’s, all kinds of hell started to break loose as all kinds of people started to crowd towards the front. I made it into Rosie’s without too much trouble and rode as hard as my legs would allow.
As we approached the Birkie, I could see the lead group starting to form and it was actually within reach…if I’d had good legs. However it became apparent that I had brought the wrong pair of legs with me this year. I tried to go, but my legs said no…no way, not today. I settled into a pace and tried to get myself a little recovered from the effort through Rosie’s Field. I could tell that I had a long line of others behind me as we wound our way through the first section of the Birkie. As we hit a long, super fast downhill, I saw Doug Swanson running across the trail with his bike. I went off line to miss him and as soon I went by him, I heard the metallic sound of bikes clashing behind me. As I started rolling up the next hill, I took a quick look back and saw nobody.
I continued on, pushing the effort thinking that maybe I could bridge my way up to somebody ahead of me. A short while later I took another look back and saw Jesse Lalonde closing in on me. Sweet! My chances of bridging up to the lead group took a huge turn for the better. We rode together for a couple of miles and swapped a few pulls. He asked me if I was good on the flats and I told him that my legs weren’t good for anything today. As we hit the next hill, he swung out from behind me and carried is momentum up the hill and left me for the buzzards. There is a reason that he does so well on singlespeed and I saw one of the many reasons firsthand…momentum.
So I rode alone in no man’s land, with Jesse disappearing into the distance ahead of me, and nobody in sight behind me. I buried my head and did my best to keep the effort going, hoping that I could catch somebody ahead of me rather than be caught from behind. After about five miles of no man’s land, the latter happened as I glanced back to see a long line of what turned out to be about 40 riders bridging up to me. I backed off the effort and about a mile later I was passed by the first guy in line. I quickly jumped on his wheel with intent of staying at the sharp end of the group.

Despite minimal training, Kent Carlson tore it up, placing 6th in the singlespeed class and 83rd overall.

The Eppenators, before they broke a chain and bent a chain ring.

Not having the greatest of days but making the best of it.

Despite the crappy legs, I found it pretty easy to hang near the front of the group. However whenever I took a pull, I was quickly reminded that my good legs were on vacation. So I kept myself in the top five of the group and tried to save myself as much as possible for the climb up Fire Tower Hill. As we approached Fire Tower, I kept hearing the grinding noise of knobby against knobby. One more reason to keep myself near the front of the group. Shortly thereafter, I heard the sound of a skewer rattling into some spokes. It never ceases to amaze me, I can almost understand things like that at the start. However when we’re single file this far into the race, there’s no reason to continually get into somebody’s wheel, and even less of a reason to plow your skewer into the spokes of the wheel ahead of you.
So we hit Fire Tower and I was sitting probably 5th wheel. I locked out both ends of the bike and motored up in my middle ring as hard as my legs would allow. I hit the top without incident, took a quick look back and to my surprise saw nobody near me. So hit the throttle and quickly closed the gap on the group of five ahead of me.
Our group consisted of myself, Michael Simonson, Adam Swank, Ted Hanes, Kelly Magelky and possibly Joe Brzuchanski. We worked together fairly well until we hit the last few miles of the Birkie, which consists of a lot of steep rollers that usually do a pretty good job of breaking up small groups like ours. I had nothing on the short hills and found myself constantly having to bury myself to bridge back up to the group.

I actually felt OK going up Fire Tower.

On the last couple of hills, I gradually lost contact with our group. As we descended onto the finish at Telemark, I closed back up, however it was too late to do anything. I came pretty close to passing Ted, however he saw me coming and held me off.
I ended up finishing 19th overall, good enough for a reserved entry into next years race and 2nd in my age group. Dewey Dickey once again got the best of me and took first place in our age group by a crushing 6+ minute margin. Brian Matter crushed the course record by over 5 minutes and furthered my argument that he is the fastest guy in the Midwest right now. Cole House and Steve Tilford rounded out the top three overall. I did manage to beat my fastest time with a time of 2:10:35, however things like that are pretty meaningless in a mountain bike race as course conditions cause a lot of variance in how fast you can go.

Brian Matter outkicking Cole for the W.

The Eppenators after they broke their chain and bent a chain ring.

Deep in the bowels of the pain cave...

Julie had a pretty epic race, finishing one place behind her goals of a top 50 overall and a top ten in her age group, good for 51st overall and 11th in her age. If she hadn’t hit the deck at mile ten, she would have easily achieved all three of her goals, including a sub three hour finish time. When I caught up to her right after she finished, she had dried up blood running down her arm and a dirt covered face. Despite the blood and dirt, I could still see the smile through all of the dirt and a wonderful smile it was! It was that kind of smile you see when somebody just had a lot fun on their mountain bike.
I could go on and on with other stories about the weekend, and a great weekend it was. In the end, I’m happy with my finish. I can’t complain about a top 20 overall and placing in my age group in a race this big. Julie and I thoroughly enjoyed the company of our cabin mates, Jim and Sally Logan, Ken and Kristin Sherman, Lang Wightman, Brian (Potato Cannon) Benson and John Newell. Good peeps!

Next up is the final race of the Psycowpath series and race #10 of the IMBCS at Lake Manawa State Park in Council Bluffs. The tight, twisty nature of the course lends itself to only a few passing opportunities. Kent McNeill beat me by the width of a tire last year, so I’m hoping that I can return the favor this time around.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Science Center / Branched Oak

Photos courtesy of Angy Snoop

What was supposed to have been a dirty double, turned into something a little more demanding. The Psycowpath race at Branched Oak was rained out on Saturday and rescheduled to the following Sunday. So Julie and I had a decision to make, do we make the trip to Nebraska and skip the IMBCS races, or vice versa? We both needed the points for both series, so we mulled it over for a while and finally figured out that we could do the morning TT at the Science Center, provided we were able to be the first two starters. If we could get on the road by 10, we could make it to Branched Oak by 1, with an hour to spare for the 2 o’clock start of the Psycowpath race…Game on brutha!
So the day started off with the TT, which used the Hillside and Rollercoaster trails of the Science Center. As I was getting ready for my start, the race director, Ryan Hanser, threw a couple of curve balls in my direction. They were running the course backwards and we were doing two laps. I was expecting a short 15-ish minute effort, which turned into a 35-ish minute effort. I had myself dialed into doing a lap in what is traditionally the ‘right’ direction whenever we race on the Hillside. I also wanted to try and pace myself so that I could have as much in the tank as possible for the afternoon pain fest.
I was given the go ahead and I took off like I stole somethin’. I hit the trails and felt like I was riding well and within myself. With nobody in front of me, I was able to focus on the trail and nothing else. I completed my first lap and as I rolled through, Padawan Gammel was sitting at the start line getting to roll out. As I was cruising through the Hillside, I kept hearing something a short distance behind me. I couldn’t tell who it was, but I suspected it was the young Padawan attempting to bridge up to his Jedi Master teacher. This forced me to go a little harder than I wanted because I couldn’t allow my pupil to overtake me.

Julie using her skisszzllss that she learned at my women's mtb clinic.

I think that I had a Dio tune goin' through my head when this picture was that look on my face.

Throughout the 2nd lap, I encountered some slower traffic, however it was never really an issue. As I exited the Hillside and rolled towards the Rollercoaster, I could tell that the Padawan had slowed a little. I backed off on the throttle a scosh, and rolled to the finish. Julie and I had to take off as soon as we finished, so I’m not 100% sure of the results yet, however I heard that I nipped Jed by a scant 5 seconds. He accused me of sandbagging, however it wasn’t nearly as much as he thought. I worked pretty hard, harder than I wanted to. The Padawan’s form is coming along nicely this year and he’s riding stronger than I’ve ever seen. It’s really too bad that he got snubbed for Chequamegon this year because I think that he’d tear it up. I’m pretty sure that Julie had a good race too, though neither of us have any idea how she did. I knew that she’d have a good race, she rode everything the day before without much trouble. There are a few sections that can be pretty tricky and she handled them like a champ.

Padawan Gammell...close but no cigar.

Seabiscuit got drunk after his race and decided to give out Mad Dog handups at the creek crossing.

We loaded our crapage back into the car and high tailed it to Nebraska. As the drive progressed, we could both feel the post race rigor mortise setting into our legs. I had no idea what to expect once we arrived at Branched Oak.
We made it with an hour to spare, got ourselves registered and suited up for a recon lap. The course was pretty straight forward with no real technical sections to worry about. There were several sections that were very bumpy, bumpy enough that I feared I it might knock a few of my fillings loose.
The race started and JP took the hole shot, followed closely by Kent and myself. Whenever we hit a hill, JP would punch it and it eventually wore on everybody but myself, Kent, Darin Schlake and John Rokke. As we began lap two, Darin took over the lead, followed by JP, Kent, myself and Rokke. I was pretty content to sit in as I didn’t have to work that hard and I still wasn’t really sure which pair of legs came with me to Nebraska, the same pair that I used this morning, or the other pair that usually sends me to the hurt locker.
As we approached the end of lap three, the inevitable happened, Kent took over the lead and immediately upped the pace. Small gaps began to form between Darin and JP while I was still sitting in 4th. At the first opportunity, I passed both of them and latched onto Kent’s wheel. We gradually gapped ourselves from the three locals and it was shaping up to be another epic battle between myself and Kent.
Kent led throughout lap 4 and I was surprisingly able to hang onto his wheel without too much trouble. As we rolled through the feed zone, Kent slowed to take another bottle from his soigner, I think that’s why he brought his kids along. At the end of the race, I thought that I saw his son giving him a post race massage like the European professional cyclists get, while his daughter was loading up the car for the trip back to Omaha. Maybe I need to get myself a couple of kids…While Kent took his hand up, I rolled by and took over the lead.
I actually felt pretty good and thought I was maintaining pretty close to the same pace that we had done the previous lap. As the lap progressed, I could tell that I was creating a little separation between us every once in a while. So I decided to up the pace a little to see if I could gap him off and make it stick. Over the latter half of lap 5 the gap increased and I started to feel pretty good about how things were shaking out. There were a couple of spots on the course where it doubled back on itself where, for a short while, I was able to see him and track my progress. When I could no longer see him, I put into cruise control and kept my good eye on what was going on behind me.
As I began the final lap, my legs decided that it was getting close to Miller time. Despite my legs rebellion, I kept the pressure on and survived to take the win. Shortly after I rolled across the line, I quickly began to realize the extent of my fatigue. My body felt like I had gotten run over by a train. The bumpiness of the course took its toll on me, my arms were just as trashed as my legs…a full body beat down. Even though it wasn’t a very technical course, it was still a pretty physically demanding course and I enjoy courses like that.
Julie also survived the day, when Kent and I rolled passed her during the race, I felt her pain as she was riding the ‘goose. A 1998 ti frame with a vintage 2000 Rock Shox fork. I remember back when I used to race on that bike. On a course like this, I used to get the crud knocked out of me, it felt like I was riding a fully rigid bike with solid rubber tires. She was not a happy camper when she finished her race. However she did manage to lock up the Cat 2 women’s points for the series, so that made the visit to the pain cave worth it for her.

Next up is a big one, Chequamegon. Hopefully I can get myself recovered enough to top my effort from last year. Two races in one day was probably not the most ideal thing to do the weekend before one of my ‘A’ races. However it had to be done in order to defend my series titles for Iowa and Nebraska. That’s my crazy lifestyle and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mapelag SR

Photos courtesy of Skinnyski and Julie.

As a ‘professional’ mountain bike racer wannabe, most people would not believe that DSM is actually a great place to live. We have access to some of the best mountain bike racing in the nation. Just about every surrounding state has a mountain bike racing series and we’ve been able to race somewhere every weekend, all within a days drive.
So last weekend, Julie and I packed up the Jeep and made the long drive up to Mapelag Resort in the western part of Minnesota. The stage race was the 9th installment of the MNSCS and it has a pretty solid reputation as a racer favorite. After 9 hours of sitting in the car, we had finally arrived at the resort. We drove straight to the main lodge where dinner was being served. We were both pretty strung out from the long drive, however we were quickly revived upon entering the enormous dining area. Every table was full of mountain bike racers, stuffing their faces with some of the best home cooking that I’ve ever had. This was pretty much the norm over the entire weekend with breakfast, lunch and dinner. I also should mention the 5 or 6 bottomless cookie bars available to all of the folks staying at the resort, homemade of course.
After dinner, we registered and headed over to our cabin. The cabin consisted of about 6 rooms, all connected by one central room complete with a refrigerator, comfy couches and an impressive collection of National Geographic magazines, some of which probably predate the existence of man. When we were kids, my brother and I used to get a charge out of looking through National Geographic and seeing the aborigine women with their big ‘ole boobs hangin’ out. Yeah, we were a couple of weird kids…all kids are kinda weird though, so whatever.
We unloaded all of our junk and settled into the common area for some good conversation with our cabin mates, the Hinkens family, TJ Woodruff, his dad (Woody) and Doug Swanson. All good peeps that have given me many a beat down. It was nice to finally get to know some of the folks from the great white north.
Saturday morning kicked things off with a short, 3-ish mile time trial. As I was warming up, it quickly became clear that my legs were still pretty cooked from the previous weeks workouts. This has pretty much been the norm for the season however, I race almost every weekend and I have to train through most of the races if I want to be in peak form towards the end of the season.
I started my TT and my legs instantly rejected the violent effort that I was asking of them. I persisted and they eventually came around. My goal for the race was to put in as little effort as possible while still keeping myself in contention for a strong finish in the overall general classification. Much to my surprise, my time was good enough for 4th place on the day, about 20 seconds behind winner Brendan Moore, TJ Woodruff and Doug Swanson. The TT course consisted on mostly open cross country ski trail sections connected by 3 or 4 sections of singletrack. My bike handling was a little off, so I knew that the singletrack would slow me down a little. It’s pretty easy to get off line during a short, anaerobic effort like a TT. So I took it a little easy in the techy sections of singletrack, knowing that any mishap would cost me a lot more than slowing it down a little.

Cruising down one of the ski trails with some pretty unhappy legs!

Julie bringing home a nice finish in the TT.

Next up was the short track criterium and my goal was once again to maintain a solid position in the GC and not get dropped from the lead group. I got a front row call up and we took off like a pack of scalded dogs. I tried to get myself settled in to a position near the sharp end of the field. As the race progressed, a front group of 13 formed. I was dangling around 6th or 7th about midway through the race. A short while later, the group eventually whittled itself down to 7. We hit the 20 minute mark and had 2 laps left. There were a few attacks, however nothing really stuck. On the last lap, Doug Swanson took a flier and managed to create a little separation between himself and the group. Doug ended up winning, followed by TJ, Brendan and myself.

TJ asserting himself while leading the train of pain about midway through the STXC.

Riding in the shadow of Minnesota mtb legend Hollywood Henderson.

Doug Swanson taking his turn at the front. I decided to skip all of my turns at the front.

Julie chasing down the lead in the STXC.

Julie ripping it up through a corner on the STXC course.

Julie took the sprint for the 'W' in the STXC.

So at the end of the day, I had a pretty solid hold on 4th in the GC with a little over a minute cushion on 5th. Julie also had a great day and was sitting in 2nd in the women’s Cat 2 race. She finished 2nd in the TT and won the women’s STXC race. She had gotten off to a pretty decent start and picked off racers throughout the race until the penultimate lap when she finally took the lead. I was pretty beside myself in excitement for her.
Sunday was the traditional cross country race on a course that I would liken to a slightly flatter version of the Seven Oaks course. Only maybe a little more technical with several lakeside drops, some small but tricky rock gardens and a lot of roots. I knew that it was going to be a pretty rough race, so I softened the tires and the suspension to minimize the battering of my body.
I got off to a pretty good start and settled into the top ten with the hopes of a top ten finish on a course that I typically would not do very well on. Throughout the first lap, I worked my way up to 7th and as I approached Suicide Hill, I could see Doug Swanson about halfway up, kinda weaving back and forth like a drunken sow. He was having one of those days that I thankfully rarely have. As I passed, I asked if he was OK, and he offered some encouragement to keep on keepin’ on. Later on in the lap, I saw Eric O and Jack Hinkens up the trail.


Cruisin' down one of the many lakeside drops.

I eventually caught up to them and we rode together in 4th, 5th and 6th for the majority of lap 2 and 3. We worked well together throughout and as we hit a steep, barely rideable climb chock full of loose gravel, I stalled out and they didn’t. I had to hike-a-bike to the top while Eric and Jack rode off into the sunset. They opened a pretty good gap on me, however I could still see them. I buried myself in an attempt to bring them back. In doing so, I found myself getting a little sloppy through some of the techy sections of trail. This continued until I wrapped my handlebars around a small tree. I wasn’t going that fast and was able to keep myself upright, however it stalled me out and took away all of my impetus.

Jack, Eric O and I shadow boxing up Suicide Hill.

Jack showing me the lines through the lakeside drop section.

Jack is still in front of me here, you just can't see him.

I rode by myself throughout the last lap and as the lap progressed, I could see that I was slowly closing in on Eric O. Instant motivation set in and I pushed myself pretty hard to reel him back in. I could tell that I wasn’t making any progress in the singletrack, however I was quickly closing the gap on the ski trails. We hit the last kilometer of the race and it was all ski trail, so I put my head down and pushed the pedals as hard as my legs would allow. I eventually caught him with about 400 meters to go, sat in for a couple of pedal strokes and then passed him right before the finish to snag 5th overall. For a course that doesn’t necessarily suit my strengths, I was extremely happy with my finish. TJ won the race, followed closely by Brendan Moore. Sam O came in 3rd a couple of minutes back, followed by Jack.
My finish today dropped me down one spot to 5th place in the GC. TJ took the overall, followed by Brendan, Sam O and Jack. Jack rode a great race and was lightning quick in the singletrack. When he, Eric and I were riding together, he sometimes had me bouncing off of the trees like a pinball while trying to stay on his wheel in the singletrack. He, along with Jake Richards are two guys that will be the men to beat if they stick with it. They’re both still in their late teens and are producing some impressive results in the men’s elite fields.

Jake using his home course knowledge to bring it home in 8th place.

Julie had another great race, despite one of her cleats coming loose early in the race. She pulled off a 4th in the XC race and managed to hang onto the 3rd overall in the women’s Cat 2 GC. I was able to watch most of her race and she rode the lakeside drops like a pro. The drops are techy enough, that a lot of people either dismounted and ran down, or tried to ride them and ended up in a pile of dust at the bottom.

Julie knows what she's doing.

Lake Ahquabi point man Bruce Brown made the trip from DSM.

Negotiating her way through the lakeside drops.

If you want to learn to ride steep drops like Julie, attend our women's mtb clinic this fall and she'll teach you all that you need to know.

What can I say about this event? It was one of the best races that I’ve ever done and has become one of my favorites. Jay Richards, his family and the staff at Mapelag put together a great event. Jay has an enthusiasm for the sport that is very apparent in so many ways and the entire weekend at Mapelag made that even more apparent. The atmosphere, the hospitality, the race courses, the beautiful landscape surrounding the venue were all unmatched. Thumbs up baby!

Next up is another dirty double, with the Psycowpath race at Branched Oak on Saturday, followed by the Des Moines Dirty Time Trial weekend on Sunday. Not exactly what I need the weekend before one of my ‘A’ races at Chequamegon, however it is what it is and I’ll make the best of it.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lake Maskenthine

Not really sure who took all of the pix...

Word on the street was that I had my angry face on...I'm never angry on my bike, even if I get spit on or when someone threatens to beat me up.

This past weekend was a big weekend in Central Iowa for bike racing with the All Nine Yards diva’s hosting the Big Creek Road Race on Saturday and my homie’s at Rassy’s hosting the East Village Criterium. With all of the rain that we had throughout the fall, some postponements were bound to happen on planet dirt and the Maskenthine Classic was one of the casualties. With the rain date rescheduled for last weekend, I unfortunately had to miss out on all of the road raging in DSM. I hate missing out on weekends like this, lot’s of good peeps, lot’s of bikes, etc. However my passion lies on the dirt and if there’s a mountain bike race within a 1,023 mile radius, I’m gonna opt for the dirt.
At the last Psycowpath race, Kevin Limpach was the most successful survivor in the battle of attrition in the extreme heat at Tranquility and he put the hurt on me. I felt a slight sense of obligation to return the favor at Lake Maskenthine.
The usual suspects, sans Kent McNeil were all present and accounted for at the start. I didn’t really feel like leading the way into the woods this time, however when the race started, I found myself leading the way to the top of the gravel climb heading into the singletrack. I know, I know, at the bigger races, my starts almost always suck. And one of the best ways to get better at them, is to practice by going like a bat out of hell at the start of the smaller races. Maybe someday I’ll remember that at the smaller races…
Anyway, just before we hit the singletrack, Kev snaked me going into the woods and I rolled in 2nd wheel. Nate Woodman followed and the three of us were able to establish a small gap on the rest of the field during the early stages of the first lap. I settled in on Kev’s wheel with Nate in tow and we rode in this order throughout the first two laps. At some point during the first lap, Kev got off line and came close to layin’ it down. He pulled off a good save and thankfully, I wasn’t right on his wheel when it happened. A short while later he dug a pedal and almost bought it again. At that point I decided that it was probably a pretty good idea to give him a little cushion so that I didn’t get myself caught up in a yard sale. We all have days like that, where you feel like you’re riding with two left hands. Thankfully they are far and few between for me!

Monkeywrench pointman Nate and I. If you're ever in Lincoln, stop by his shop and buy a new bike.

Shimanonek wants a PRC t-shirt.

My bro JP just wants a beer.

During the 2nd lap, he dug another pedal and at that point, I decided that it was getting close to go time for me. We started lap three and as we hit a short uphill section, there was a small window of opportunity for me to get by. I took it and was able to establish a gap pretty quickly. I kept the pressure on throughout the lap and settled into a pretty good pace. I held the pace throughout laps four and five and was successful in reciprocating the beat down that Kevin gave me a couple of weeks ago. Kevin barely held on to 2nd by one second over Darin Schlake after Darin put in a impressive effort from a mid pack start to bring home 3rd. Shim finished up in 4th and Jesse Peterson rounded out the top five.
Julie raced in the Category 2 Women’s Open class and continued her impressive debut season with another 1st place finish. She is doing so well this season that I’m going to promote her from trainee to expert advisor when I hold my 3rd annual women’s only mtb clinic again this fall (Sunday, October 25). It’ll be nice to have a woman’s perspective at the clinic from now on. With her newly acquired off road skizzllizlzz as well as her experience as a professional coach, she’ll be a great addition to my ‘staff’!
A couple of interesting things to note for this race. I’ve been experimenting with various tire pressures, daring myself to go with a lower tire pressure. I just started using tubeless tires last year and I’m still trying to get a good handle on them. I usually have to go by the squeeze method because I don’t really trust the accuracy of my floor pump. I think that I ran pretty close to 23 pounds this time around. That seemed like a pretty good number as I seemed to hook up a little better in most of the corners without burping the bead. I also dropped the pressure in Julie’s tires a little, probably down to around 27, which is well below anything that I would have run when I used tubed tires for fear of the dreaded pinch flat. However, knowing her riding style pretty well, I felt pretty safe in dropping her pressure down a little. She said that it felt a little spongy in some areas, however she felt a little better when cornering. I think the sponginess was probably more to do with some of the loamy tread being pretty soft and spongy in a lot of areas.

So this coming weekend is the annual 24 Hours of Iowa race at Seven Oaks. I always feel myself getting pulled in several different directions on Labor Day weekend, with several different big races to choose from throughout the Midwest. I’ve always opted for the 24 because it’s a great time on some awesome trails and it’s always a well run event. This year was no different and we’ve made the tough decision to bypass the 24 and try something different. I’ve always wanted to do the Dakota 50 and the MNSCS race up at Mapelag Resort. With Chequamegon happening just two weeks after this weekend, a 50 mile mountain bike race is too close and I don’t think that I’ll recover in time for a race that I’ve historically had a difficult time getting myself fully recovered for. So MNSCS it is. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the MNSCS race, Julie and I are pretty stoked to check it out.

Thanks for reading,