Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Last weekend we were waffling between heading to Ponca or Afton, all depending on the weather. If Ponca were to get rained out, we were going to head up to Afton on Sunday. We woke up Saturday morning, took a look at the radar, rolled over and went back to sleep thinking that the Ponca race was going to be postponed. There was a big, ugly green, yellow and red mass rolling over western Iowa and Ponca was on the north edge of it all.
A little later we took a look at the FB page and to our surprise, they said the race was on. Sweet! We scrambled to pack up the rest of our crap and took off about 30 minutes later than we would have liked. We hit I-29 north to Sioux City and the folks on the news were not kidding about all of the hardships that the residents along the Missouri River are facing. Lot’s of flooding everywhere, please keep the people along the Missouri in your thoughts and prayers…
The tread at Ponca however, was close to perfect, slightly damp and very grippy. I’m in the midst of my mid season peak, so I was looking to have a really good race. We lined up for the start and I was pretty determined to get a good start with the goal of letting only one cat into the singletrack before me. The USAC official blew the whistle and I slotted myself in behind Kent McNeil, one of my all time favorite wheels to follow. I’ve learned a lot of good lines following Kent’s wheel over the years, he’s among the best of the best. We hit the singletrack with Kent in the lead, followed by myself, Shim and the rest of the field. The pace throughout the first lap was pretty comfortable and about midway through the lap, the lead group was down the Kent, myself and Shim. I found myself chomping at the bit to take over the lead, but I was having fun riding with Kent and Shim, so I contained myself until the start of lap three.
As we rolled through the start / finish area at the end of lap 2, I took the lead and accelerated up the hill to test the legs of Shim and Kent. I took a quick look back and saw that I had opened a small gap. I continued the effort throughout the lap until I felt like I had a comfortable lead. I’d hit it pretty hard throughout lap three, so on laps four and five I backed it off a little and tried to take it all in. I love racing my bike regardless of whether I get 1st or 50th, I love the people and I love sweet singletrack. The trail system at Ponca has some of the most fun singletrack that you will find anywhere. All of the climbs reward you with fast, swoopy descents that are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
So in the end, I was fortunate enough to once again take the W. I went into this season thinking that my results would start to fade a little as I’m not getting any younger. However I seem to be getting slightly better with age…I’m cool with that. As most predicted, Kent claimed another USAC Nebraska State Champion title as the first Nebraskan to finish with Shim coming in third. Prior to the race, I thought the state title would be a toss up between Kent and Shim. Kent is always a contender and Shim is having a really good year. I bet it was a fun race to watch.
Julie had a really good race and I knew it before we talked after the race. I can always tell when she’s having fun whenever I pass her. She finished 2nd in the women’s Cat 1 race to Sydney Brown. Ponca is the type of course that favors good fitness and Sydney has a big engine, so Julie has every reason to be happy when she can finish within a few minutes of Sydney on a course like Ponca.

This coming weekend will be a busy one. Zoom Performance is doing their annual training camp for triathletes in Madison on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The WORS Subaru Cup Pro XCT is Saturday and Sunday and the Minnesota series has a XC race on Sunday at Red Wing. As much as I’d love to take part in the Subaru Cup, I’m most likely going to help out the fine folks of Zoom in Madison and maybe do the XC race in Red Wing.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, June 17, 2011


There are a lot of great reasons to sit in the car for 14 hours on a weekend trip to Wisconsin. The beautiful scenery and America’s largest mountain bike racing series are two of them. Julie and I made the long drive up to Wausau to do some racing on one of my all time favorite courses at Nine Mile Forest. There are so many different trails there that the course seems to be different every year, and they always seem to put together a great 50/50 mix of singletrack and forest road.
Close to 80 Pros and Cat 1’s toed the line for the start. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a ‘real pro’ even though my USAC license might say so. The only reason that I maintain a pro license is to get call ups for the WORS and Minnesota races. This time my license netted me a second row call up, which I happily accepted. When the Pro / Cat 1 fields are as large as they are here, a call up is pretty critical if you want to have a good race.
So Don said ‘Gooooooooooo’ and I managed a pretty decent start, sitting comfortably within the top 10 or 15 until we hit the first section of fast, flowy singletrack. We hit the second section of singletrack, I think it was the Ho Chi Minh trail, and gaps started to form all over the place, including between myself and the guy ahead of me. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the race for me. I pretty much had no game in the more technical sections of singletrack that day.
I lost touch with the lead group and settled into the second group. Throughout the first couple of laps, I’d get gapped off in the singletrack and then chase back on when we hit the forest roads.
About midway through the race, our small group consisted of myself, Darrin Braun, some dude in a Culver’s kit, Ben Koenig and a couple of others. We hit a pretty techie section of singletrack and like before, I got gapped off by Ben, Darrin and everybody else that was in front of me. By the time I hit the next forest road, Darrin and Ben were long gone enough that there was no catching back up. I ended up with the Culver’s guy, and sat on hoping to recover a little. WORS courses are always well marked to prevent wrong turns, however there were a few areas on the forest road sections where the course was taped off far enough away from a ‘Y’ in the trail, that one could potentially make a wrong turn. As I was following the Culver’s guy, we we’re flying down a forest road and quickly came up on one of the not so well marked ‘Y’s. He went right and quickly realized that he’d made a wrong turn. The only reason that I didn’t follow was because there was a sign ahead with a red arrow pointing us in the correct direction. After that I never saw him again and found myself in no mans land with nobody to work with on the forest roads.
So over the final lap and a half, I drilled it on the fire roads and tried to recover a little in the singletrack with the hope of keeping whoever was behind me from catching up, and maybe close the gap to the group ahead of me. Near the beginning of the last lap I could see a group of three nearing the top of the steepest climb on the course as I was approaching the bottom. I also happened to see Julie about halfway up, always a pleasant site for me during a race! As I passed her, we exchanged grins and urged each other on.
I tried like crazy to catch the guys ahead of me, but couldn’t get it done. I ended up in 9th, maybe my best result at Nine Mile, but a little short of what I was hoping for. The time gaps were close and I was pretty surprised to see that I was only about 4 ½ minutes behind the race winner, Brian Matter. He ended up winning in a three man sprint against Tristan and Mikey with a bike throw. Yes, it took a bike throw to win a mountain bike race. I bet it was a pretty exciting finish for the spectators.
When I had passed Julie, I could tell that she was having a great time. She finished 18th out of 22 in the women’s Elite race. She never really cares too much about where she finishes and is much more into just having a great time. We did this race two years ago and she was still pretty new to mountain biking. She had mentioned how difficult the Ho Chi Minh trail was for her back then. This year was a different story as she said that was among her most favorite parts of the course. Stuff like that’ll always bring a huge smile to my face. Those of you that have significant others that share your passion for the sport of mountain biking probably know what I’m talking about…
So in the end I was pretty happy with the result. Yeah, I stunk it up in the singletrack, but I had pretty decent legs on the fire roads and that was pretty much what kept me in the top ten. After the race, I did a 20 minute or so cool down ride on a forest road that parallels Nine Mile Forest. I rode along and took in the amazing scenery that the area has to offer and had a moment of appreciation and thankfulness for the great life that I’ve been blessed with.

Next up for us is the Nebraska State Mountain Biking Championship race at Ponca, another one of my favorite race courses. I always look forward to the fast, flowy singletrack goodness that Ponca State Park has to offer!

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 07, 2011


It’s pretty tough to beat a couple of days on the mountain bike on one of my favorite trails, with my best friend and close to perfect weather. Julie and I headed up to Mankato on Saturday and did a couple of recon laps of the course. Julie wasn’t all that excited about doing the race as the Elite course had a couple of techy sections that she felt were a little beyond her skill level. I did the first lap with her to show her the way, and then did a second lap to get a couple of sections dialed in. I could tell by the way that my legs felt that I might have the wheels for a good race tomorrow.
Julie opted out of doing the race and put herself into partial soigneur mode. No she didn’t give me a pre or post race rub down, nor did she butter my chamiox. However she did a stellar job with the bottle hand up and heckled me into a good finish.
I got off to a pretty good start and felt good enough on the initial uphill to roll into the singletrack sixth or seventh wheel. I comfortably sat on the wheels ahead of me on the flats and as we hit the first techy section small gaps formed as it was slow going on some of the drop sections. Everybody made it through cleanly and I upped the effort to close the gap ahead of me on the next uphill.
We hit the Quick Release and the guy ahead of me took a bad line on the last drop and t-boned a tree. I skidded to a stop and had to track stand until he was able to right himself and continue on. As we started lap 2, I passed him on the uphill and found myself in 4th place. I could see Jesse Rients and Ben Koenig up the trail and it looked like Jesse had opened up a pretty good gap on Ben. It took the better part of the 2nd and maybe the 3rd lap to close in on Ben. I eventually caught up to him and held onto to his wheel hoping to recover a little. On one of the shorter, loose climbs his back tire broke loose and he had to jump off and run. He was nice enough to give me the preferred line and I passed by as he was running his bike.
Jesse was out of sight, and the leader, Brendan Moore, was most likely all ready in cruise control as he gapped the field almost as soon as the race had started. I yo-yo’d between 10 and 20 seconds behind Jesse throughout laps three and four. I could see him up ahead on some of the climbs, but it never seemed like I was gaining any significant ground on him.

One of the many roller coaster style corners on the course.

As I was heading up the climb on the fifth and final lap, somebody told me that Jesse was just up the trail and that there was a guy right behind me. I took a quick look back and saw that Ben was about 5 or 10 seconds back. I remember thinking to myself at that time that I’d have been totally OK with a 4th place on the day. However as I approached the top of the climb, I started feeling a little better and went after Jesse with a little more vigor, knowing that Ben was right behind me.
About ¾ of the way through the lap, I had found myself about five or so seconds behind Jesse as we were heading up the last climb. He had gotten by a group of Comp riders at the right time and looked like he had an open trail to the top. I caught up to the group at about the worst point in the climb, but still managed to get by. Over the last two laps, the lapped traffic was pretty thick and tough to get by. Some got over quickly, while others didn’t. Everybody is out there racing, so sometimes it’s tough to yield the right of way to the guy trying to pass. I say this a lot, I’m generally pretty good about politely alerting lappers of my presence though I probably sound a little impatient at times. That’s kinda how I roll when I’m cross-eyed and frothing at the mouth, and not always in complete control of how I articulate my words. I love that so many folks come out and race, even if it results in crowded courses. I would rather have a crowded race course and a healthy race culture, than an open course and dwindling participation.

Race winner Brendan Moore dishin' out another beatdown.

I ended up finishing about four seconds behind Jesse, good enough for third. I went into the race unsure of what to expect. I knew that my fitness was good, probably a little above where I was towards the end of last season. So it was pretty reasonable to expect a good result today, maybe a top five if I was feelin’ the love. So needless to say, I was pretty stoked with the finish.

We’re thinking about heading up to the WORS dirt circus in Wausau next weekend, provided we get a little cooperation with the weather. The form seems to be pretty good now, so I’m going to make the most of it at some of the bigger races this month.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Snake Alley

Crossing swords with JJ

My wife makes it look easy.

I typically don’t get too excited over racing on pavement, but there’s something about racing at Snake Alley that gets me all riled up. For whatever reason, I have a pretty decent track record in the 40+ and 30+ categories at the Snake and that record has increased my expectations for the race every year. So, for this year I was really hoping for that elusive double W in the 40+ and 30+ races.
The 40+ race started out on a wet course and I was about as close as one can come to not starting as I’m not a big fan of racing on wet pavement. I took my usual place at the back of the group, alongside Jeff Barnes. We had both gotten off to a slow start and were near the back of the pack at the top of the Snake. I took it easy on the first few descents down the wet backside of the course. Taking risks on the wet corners was not in the equation for me as I have bigger fish to fry later in the season on the mountain bike.
After a few laps, the course started to dry and I was finally able to let it all hang out. By then, however the lead group had pretty much shattered as a couple of guys had taken off and I had no idea who they were. The bottom portion of the course is pretty bumpy and I rediscovered this the hard way as I rolled through one of the ‘nicer’ sections. I was seated, with all of my weight on the saddle, as I hit a bump. I hit it hard enough that it had rotated my saddle towards the back, enough that I probably would have been deflowered by the horn of my saddle if I had left it alone. I shifted forward, bounced on it a few times, hoping to rotate it back with my tail bone and it ended up rotating too far forward. I went back and forth until I got it reasonably close.
Once the saddle issue was fixed, I refocused on getting myself back into the race. I gradually picked off a few guys on each lap and eventually made my way back up to Jeff and a few others. We only had a couple of laps left and it was down to Jeff, myself and maybe one or two others. Jeff opened up a small gap on the 2nd to last lap while going up the Snake. I was blocked by one of the guys in our group, don’t remember who it was. By the time I got around him, Jeff was already halfway down the hill.
I managed to get away from the remainder of the group, Danny Casper and maybe Shim, and did my best to bring back Jeff. He was too strong and managed to stay away. I thought that I had 2nd locked up, however after the race I had heard that Jim Cochran was still off the front, and that Jeff had just gotten by him at the finish. I was maybe 25 yards behind Jeff at the finish, so Cochran must have been right in front of me. Crapola…
For the 30+ race, we had a steady sprinkle throughout that kept the cobbles of the Snake nice and snotty. The pace was fast right from the blow of the whistle, and by the time I hit the top of the Snake on the first lap, the leaders were already out of sight. I was pretty timid on the descent over the first few laps as I didn’t want to lay it down. I couldn’t really make up any ground on the Snake either. Every time I tried to power up the Snake, my back wheel would break loose regardless of where I shifted my weight. It took a few laps, but I finally got into a groove that I was relatively comfortable with. I started picking off riders at a pace of about one per lap, but it wasn’t enough to get myself out of the realm of pack fodder by the end of the race. I’m not sure exactly where I finished, but I still had a great time despite the conditions.
Julie probably had the only dry race of the day. I wasn’t able to watch much of her race as it was sandwiched in between the 40+ and 30+ races. She had a pretty good race and finished in the money for the first time on the pavement. I was pretty stoked for her!
Hopefully next weekend we’ll finally get back on the dirt up in Mankato. I love the course up there, lot’s of climbing, lot’s of techy singletrack, lot’s of fast competition, always a great time!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

State Fair Crit

Doin' a little road ragin' on an old school bike.

With some pretty heavy rain in the morning, Julie and I were up in the air about doing the State Fair Crit. The course was still wet for Julie’s race, so she opted for heckling and beer with some of the other hooligans on top of hooligan hill. The course had dried up for the old man’s race, so I suited up and got a quick warm up in. I rolled to the start line and slotted in near the back o’ the pack. I got off to my usual start and rolled up the hill somewhere near the back.
I finally got my race mojo going after the first lap and picked my way to the front. As we hit hooligan hill, I upped the pace a little with the hope of thinning the lead group out a little. I did it about every other lap and our group eventually shrank down to myself, Shim and Dominic. Shim and Dominic didn’t seem like they were going anywhere, so I upped the pace a little more and noticed that Dominic had fallen off. I found out after the race that he had flatted, too bad because he was riding well. So it was down to Shim and I. I wasn’t real keen on it getting down to a sprint, and I also didn’t want to cook myself for the 1/2 race, so I put in a couple of 80% efforts going up hooligan hill, hoping to shake Shim but he wasn’t going anywhere. So on the last lap, I tried to back off the effort a little for the sprint. I led the entire last lap, and as we hit the last corner I hit it full throttle. Shim still managed to come around me and nipped me at the line. He rode a good, smart race and deserved to win. Me? I led almost the entire race, which I know is not the preferred tactic when racing on pavement. On a course like this, there isn’t as much of a benefit in drafting as there might be in a flatter course anyway, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I didn’t really care as I was primarily looking for a good, sustained high intensity effort that’ll hopefully make me faster on the dirt.
The 1/2 race was all about hanging onto the lead group for as long as I could. I felt pretty shelled between the previous days workout and the old man’s race earlier in the day, but I did manage to hold on to the main group to the finish. I think a few guys got away from the group and soloed to their respective finishes. Mike Secenbaugh (spelling?) took the W for the Zealous Racing boys, nice to see the race host take home a win from the weekend.
Hopefully next weekend we’ll be back on the dirt in Minnesota on Saturday and Banner Pits on Sunday.

Thanks for reading,