Friday, May 27, 2011

Platte River and Waverly


My female

You have to figure that at some point, my age is going to catch up with me. Especially when I get the crazy idea of doing two mountain bike races in one weekend. The first race of the weekend was the Psycowpath Series race at Platte River. Last years race was cancelled due to rain, so Julie and I were especially looking forward to this race. The course at Platte River epitomizes mountain biking in the Midwest region, smooth, rolling singletrack, definitely one of the more fun places to race and ride.
As I was warming up, I overheard somebody say Le Mans style start. I’m not a big fan of Le Mans starts, I love to ride my bike, but I don’t care much for running. Whenever I run, my old body threatens to blow something out. So the race started, I got to my bike without any blowouts and took off after the leaders. About 50 yards into the race, I had a snap decision to make, plow into the photographer that was sitting too close to the course, or veer to the right of the photographer with the hope that he doesn’t try to move out of the way. Right before I went around the guy, he saw me coming, started to stand and back up. I slammed into him and went sprawling over my handlebars. I quickly got up, picked up my bike, looked in the direction of the guy and said something to him. I don’t remember what I said as I was a little delirious from the red line effort that typically ensues at the start of a race. Whatever it was that I said, I’m sure that it wasn’t very complimentary. I hope that I didn’t offend whoever it was, and I hope that I didn’t hurt the guy.
So I ended up near the end of the field and found myself in chase mode, which is the exact opposite of what I was hoping for. It was going to take a lot more effort to catch the leaders, then if I were to have started with them. I pretty much killed myself going up the hill, trying to pass as many peeps as I could before we hit the singletrack. I had no idea what place I was in by the time I hit the top of the first climb and I was well into the red zone. So I settled in behind the guy in front of me and tried to recover a little.
I kind of knew who the leaders would be, Kent, Steve, MOD and Shim. As I rolled into some of the open areas of the course, I was able to pass one or two guys each time. At some point during the third lap, I finally caught sight of Kent, Shim and MOD, riding together. I upped the effort a little more and reeled in MOD. Shortly after I caught him, I burped the front tire. I tried to live with it, but it was too soft and I could feel the front wheel starting to wash out in the corners. So I pulled over and gave it a shot of Co2. I remounted and eventually caught back up to MOD before the end of lap three.
I could see Kent and Shim up ahead, and it looked like Shim was starting to put a small gap between he and Kent. By the time I had caught up to Kent, Shim was starting to fade from view. I rode behind Kent, anxiously waiting for the first opportunity to pass. As we were flying down one of the faster parts of the course, I took the ‘inside line’ going into a slow corner and made a pass that I normally wouldn’t have tried. However I wanted to get by as quickly as possible so I could get after Shim.
At some point before the rock garden, I finally caught up to Shim. I sat on his wheel for a short while and started working on a plan to get by and hopefully leave him behind. I passed him in the upper meadow section and he grabbed my wheel. As we were rolling through the roller coaster section of the course, I heard his chain jam and that was pretty much it. I rode away and once I felt secure with the lead, I put it into energy conservation mode with the hope of saving what little energy I had left for tomorrow’s race.
As I was rolling through the rock garden, I took a quick look back and saw Kent closing in on me. I screwed up the short climb out of the rock garden and had to jump off and run. I hit the top, remounted my stead and red lined it all of the way to the finish. I held on for the win and once again had surprised myself as I wasn’t necessarily expecting to after the debacle at the start.
Julie had her first clash with Rox and didn’t fare as well as she’d hoped. Rox has been riding and racing for long time, and she doesn’t get beaten very often, especially in Nebraska. Regardless, Julie had a blast on some of the sweetest singletrack that the Midwest has to offer, and that’s all that really matters!

Day two consisted of racing on more of some of the sweetest singletrack that the Midwest has to offer. Camp Ingawanis is another one of my favorites that I always look forward to. We woke up on Sunday morning, took a look at the radar and it didn’t look good. A large clump of rain clouds were heading east and the southern tip was heading straights towards Ingawanis. We decided to make the trip anyway with the hope of getting one or two laps in before the rain hit. My days if racing in mud bogs ended a couple of years ago, so if the rain hit, the plug was getting pulled.
I got in about a lap and a half before the start, when it started to sprinkle ever so lightly. The race started and everybody seemed to be willing to concede the hole shot to me…until Aaron R snaked me going into the singletrack. Somebody else tried to get around, but I wasn’t having any of it. It ended up being Aaron, myself and Brian Furhmann that had gapped off the rest of the field shortly after the start. As soon as we hit the first descent, followed quickly by a long, fast, flowy section of singletrack, the perma grin found its way to my face despite the pain of the racing effort. When we hit the rock garden, I took a bad line and dumped it. Brian got around me and both he and Aaron took off. I subconsciously took a quick look around to make sure that nobody saw what had happened (my inner pride), jumped back on my back and high tailed it after Aaron and Brian.
As I rolled through the start / finish line, I saw Brian standing on the side of the trail with his spare tube wrapped around one hand, draping off of one of his ears and around his saddle…he must have flatted. I kept the pressure on, hoping to reel in Aaron sooner than later. At some point during lap three, I had almost completely closed the gap, maybe within a couple of seconds. Shortly thereafter I was beginning to feel the effects of the previous days’ efforts. The last lap quickly transitioned into survival mode as my legs had reached their point of expiration. Aaron rode a great race and took home a much deserved win. I held on for second and my former apprentice, Padawan Gammell came in third.
Julie had a pretty good day, she got throttled by Robin Williams, however she did finish ahead of Sally Logan. They have a friendly rivalry going on, fun to watch, especially when Julie finishes ahead of her!

Thanks for reading,


Bone Bender

They call these races ‘Bone Bender’ for a reason, there were probably more rocks on the course than dirt. For me, the course was the type of course where it would be a lot fun to ride, for the sake of riding. Racing is a different story. I decided to ride the full suspension because I had heard that the course was pretty rocky. Riding on rocks for six hours would not be good for my back, or any other part of my old bag ‘o bones.
The start was a le mans style start up this crazy steep, loose rocky hill. Despite my strong dislike of running, I got off to a pretty good start rolling onto the dirt in 5th or 6th, and in 2nd for the six hour solo category. The guy in 1st was leading the entire field, including the three hour racers. He was obviously a lot more familiar with the course than the rest of us!
Throughout the four laps that I had completed, I was riding at a very comfortable pace, one that I could have easily maintained and even increased as the race progressed. The rocks were giving me a royal pounding, so much so that the fun of racing my bike was slowly dwindling. To add to the situation, my chain would not stay in my big or middle ring. The straw that broke my back happened on a short power climb while in my middle ring. About midway up the climb, the chain skipped and slammed me forward, bashing both of my knees into the stem and handlebars. With my morale totally gone, I decided to pull the plug. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to race a bike that isn’t working properly, especially with the fear that your middle ring won’t hold a chain when you put the power down. I put it into cool down mode and rode back to the start area, put my bike away and headed over to Geoff’s mobile boom box / pit area and had a beer with the Iowa City and Des Moines crew. On a more positive note, the weather was pretty close to perfect for having a beer with a bunch of your cycling buddies.
On another more positive note, Julie was riding impressively and stuck it out for the entire six hours. She seemingly increased her pace with every lap and passed Sally Logan on her last lap to snare a much deserved 3rd place in the six hour solo category. Props to her and Sally for riding non stop over the 6+ hours on such a brutally rocky course. I’m a very fortunate man to have a woman like that for a wife!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sylvan Island

This was the first race of the year for a lot of the 40 or so Cat 1’s that lined up for the start and it showed. The start was a complete cluster with about half of the field gunning for the hole shot. A few overly ambitious guys got tangled up next to me and one of them got into the rear end of my bike. It felt like I had gotten pulled backwards so I knew that his bike had snagged something on mine. I was able to continue rolling and ended up 4th wheel going into the woods….until we hit the end of the trail with nowhere to go. Race officials forgot to tape off that section of the course, so we had to roll back to the start line for a re-start. After fiddle-farting around for another 20 minutes, they finally restarted us and once again, there was another wreck that happened next to me. I was able to avoid any contact this time and ended up 4th wheel going into the woods.
As I sat behind the guy in 3rd, I had a front row seat to Brian and another guy slowly riding away from us. We the hit first opportunity to pass on one of the levees and I slipped by 3rd place. Brian had passed the leader and started to gap him off. I tried to overhaul the 2nd place guy but quickly realized that my legs were not feeling the love today. I sat on his wheel throughout the rest of lap 2 and Brian disappeared off into the sunset.

The Eppenator beating the crap outta me.

As we rolled down the start / finish road we were riding into a pretty stiff headwind, so I sat in on the wheel ahead of me with the plan of passing right before we entered the woods again. Aaron R had the same idea and had gotten passed both of us. I grabbed Aaron’s wheel and held his pace throughout lap two. At some point during lap two, my chain had gotten hung up somewhere and I couldn’t turn the cranks. I dumped it down to the small ring and tried again to no avail. I tried again with a little more force and finally broke it loose. In the process I bent my front der and thankfully didn’t break my chain. I was still able to index the big ring so all was good.
At the end of lap two I passed Aaron and hit the singletrack at full speed. I’m still pretty amazed at how much better a 29” wheel can hook up on tight, twisty singletrack. It’s like night and day compared to a 26” wheel. I gradually increased the gap and began to focus on reeling Brian in. The great thing about Sylvan Island is that the course doubles back on itself a lot. So it’s pretty easy to gage gaps based on reference points throughout the course. Throughout the last three laps, I could tell that I was closing in on him by about 5 – 10 seconds a lap, but in the end his lead was too big to overcome. I was very happy with the result as I would have had to have had an extremely good day with Brian having a slightly off day for me to take him down.

Julie loves her new big wheeled bike.

I caught the end of Julie’s race and could tell by her body language that she wasn’t having a good day. She had gotten off to a bad start and just wasn’t feelin’ the love. Racing at Sylvan Island is deceptively tough. Yes, it’s pancake flat, but it’s so tight and twisty along with all of the glass, rocks, etc., that the slightest lapse in focus could have you wrapped around a tree, sitting trail side fixing a flat, or taking a dip in the river. With close to 300 competitors throughout the day, traffic was a little thick at times which added to the already challenging conditions.

My little niece, she loves watching her Uncle Cam race his bike!

Me Mum shreadin' some singletrack

All in all, it was a great day to be a mountain biker! We had great weather, sweet trails and Julie and I were able to spend most of the weekend with my family and good friends. We had a great turnout from central Iowa, and it was great to see a lot of folks decked out in Rassy gear!

Thanks for reading,


Friday, May 20, 2011


I can’t believe how quickly winter flew by this year! Julie and I were fortunate enough to be able to spend three weeks through the Christmas / New Years holidays on the beautiful island of Maui, thanks to some very generous in-laws. And yes, we brought our bikes and rode everyday that we were there. If you ever get the chance to visit Maui, bring or rent a bike because Maui has some of the best road riding. In a lot of ways, the road riding is better than Colorado.

I have a lot of the same sponsors returning to offer their incredibly generous support this year, Rasmussen Bike Shop, the best bike shop on the planet…of course everybody already knows that. Phil Godkin of Orbea Bicycles, the best bikes on the planet, especially the Orca and the Alma 29er! Rob Versteegh of Oakley, Oakley Rob has been an absolute champ when it comes to the local bike racing scene. Compass Chiropractic Care, I’ve been making regular visits to Compass for about nine months now and it has made a big difference in how I feel, especially after a long ride.

So for this year, after a lot of going back and forth, Julie and I decided to give 29” wheels a whirl. Neither of us had much of a chance to ride them before the first race, other than a shake down ride on paved bike paths. So we were both entering into some unknown territory heading into our first race at Swanson. I did a recon lap of the course and the bike and the engine both felt pretty good. I got off to a pretty decent start, fifth wheel going into the woods. I would have liked to have been a little closer to the front, but it probably ended up being for the better as it gave me a chance to get a feel for the bike at a slightly slower pace than what the leaders we were kicking out.

I settled in behind Shim and Steve Jarrett throughout the first lap and could see Kent McNeil and Garret Steinmetz rolling away from us until we could no longer see them. At some point during lap one, I remember thinking to myself that a top five finish would be great as it was the first race of the year, I’m the backyard of McNeil, Steve and Shim, I’m old, new bike, yada yada, yada.

As we hit the field at the end of lap one, I started to feel really comfortable with the bike. I slipped by Shim and Steve and kicked up the pace a little. It felt pretty good, so I kicked it up a little more with the hope of catching up to Kent or Garret before the end of the race. To my surprise, I had managed to reel both of them in by the end of lap 2. I had worked pretty hard to catch up, so I sat on for all of lap three in hopes of a little recovery. At some point during the lap, it felt like my pedal had smacked into a root or something. After that my back brake started making an awful squeal, even when I wasn’t braking. I tried to live with it for a while, until I began to realize that I was really starting to struggle to hold the wheels ahead of me. After getting gapped on one of the many short climbs on the course, I figured that at point I had nothing to loose in stopping to figure out what the deal was. I got off the bike, put some weight on the saddle, popped the rear skewer loose and could feel the back wheel reposition itself. I snapped the skewer back in place, hopped back on the bike and instantly noticed a difference how easily the bike rolled.

I managed to claw my way back up to Kent and Garret by the end of lap three. Shortly after I caught up, they both sat up, looked at me and suggested that I do a little work. I took the lead with a little reluctance as I was still a little tired and still had my tongue hangin’ out of my mouth from the effort of catching back up. I led the way throughout lap four and started to notice that I was opening an occasional small gap towards the end of the lap. I increased the effort a little more and by the end of the lap I had managed to separate myself from them. I kept the effort up throughout the first half of the lap, until I felt that I had a pretty comfortable lead and then eased it up a scosh. I held on to the end and was very surprised to score the W. I was very much expecting a severe beat down from the locals. Kent and Steve hadn’t been riding as much over the winter due to a few priorities in their lives and Shim had logged some pretty decent hours in over the winter. Their local knowledge will almost always trump a reasonably fit out of towner and I really wasn’t expecting to finish ahead of any of them.

The bike. My first assessment of the Alma 29er, the bike felt great! I felt very comfortable with the way that the bike fit me. It weighs in at 21.2 pounds, over two pounds less than my previous bike (full suspension). It scampered up hills with seemingly minimal effort, it cornered like a dream, especially through high speed corners. And even though I bleed Orbea, I opted for the Specialized S-Works Renegade for my tread and they hooked up like I was riding on Velcro on the dusty hard pack terrain. It was the first true ride on the bike, so we’ll see how the next few races go. Though at this point, I find it hard to believe that I’ll think any differently about it.

I have to give a shout out to the Psycowpath folks, Roxzanne, Ryan and the rest of the posse work their tails off the provide the state of Nebraska with a quality mountain bike racing series. THANK YOU! This race had no less than 200 participants, which made for a pretty crowded course at times. Crowded courses and lot’s of lapped traffic go hand in hand. I’m sure there were a few folks that I had passed, that either didn’t hear me, or thought that I might have sounded a little rude. I never intend to sound rude or impatient, however it’s hard to maintain my alleged ‘stoic’ disposition when I’m cross eyed from a red line effort. It was great to see so many folks out racing their bikes, especially the 20 or so that came from Iowa.

Thanks for reading,