Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Mullet

Matias and I beatin' the snot out of each other.

It’s tough to beat the central Iowa cycling scene, especially during the fall months with the biggest mountain bike race in Iowa and the start of cyclocross season. Julie and I had a few weeks between Chequamegon and the Mullet Fall Classic, so we busted out Pat the ti Mongoose and did some cross racing to carry us over until the Mullet.
One of the great things about the Mullet, is that it has a ‘cross race vibe to it. Lot’s of cycling folks hangin’ out, shootin’ the breeze, drinking beer, eating food, heckling, etc. Race directors Bruce Brown and Jed Gammell have taken mountain bike race promoting to a new level and have created a great event to cap off the Iowa mountain bike season with.
We lined up for the start of the race and I was happy to see one of my newest rivals, Matias Perret toein’ the line next to me. We’ve had several memorable battles this season, on the mountain bike and at a few cross races. We push each other pretty hard and it almost always ends up coming down to the wire.
Bruce blew the whistle and we were off like a pack of scalded dogs. I didn’t really want to take the hole shot, but I also didn’t want to get myself far enough back that I ended up behind enough people that I might get stalled out on the first steep climb of the race. The pace at the start was slow enough that the group was closely bunched, so I surged ahead as the trail started to narrow a little. As we hit the first right hand turn, I rolled toward the apex and heard what sounded like a deer darting through the weeds next to me. I took a quick look over and saw Ryan the Cable Guy trying to pass me through the weeds. I was already committed to the inside line and wasn’t in a position to back off without causing mass chaos behind me. I made the comment that it was a pretty ‘optimistic’ move and he backed off before causing a small yard sale.

Ryan the Cable Guy tryin' to put the squeeze on me.

So, I think that I need to clarify what I meant by calling his move an optimistic move based on what I’m hearing from others. I wasn’t being cocky, my thought at that moment was the pass that he was trying to make would have most likely resulted in carnage. I was on the inside line and on a right turn trajectory, if he had persisted with the pass attempt, his momentum could have carried him into a broad side collision with me. He might have been able to pull the pass of cleanly, however at that moment it seemed questionable to me. I’m not an arrogant person, definitely not enough to think that somebody else in the Cat 1 field shouldn’t attempt to pass me at any point in a race, even if he does show up clad in a Larry the Cable Guy race kit. Actually, it probably was more the blinding glare coming off of the pasty white nether region that exists between his normal cycling short line and the bottom of his Larry the Cable Guy shorts that I was more fearful of. Had I come into to contact with that…gives me the willies just thinking about it. Ryan and Rox are good friends of ours and do a stellar job as co-commander in chief(s) of the Psycowpath Series in Nebraska. We enjoy hangin’ with them, however I hope that I never have to see that much of his upper thigh again.
So back to the race… It didn’t take long for the lead group to whittle down to just Matias and myself after a couple of hard efforts when the trail pointed skyward. Over the first two laps the pace was fairly easy. I led both laps and occasionally slowed to a crawl in a few of the open areas, inviting Matias to take the lead. I also hit most of the hills hard, where drafting was at its’ least effective in an effort to wear him down a little.
At the start of lap three, Matias finally took the lead and applied the same basic strategy that I had used on the first two laps. I stuck to his wheel as closely as possible to let him know that I as feeling good and that I wasn’t going anywhere. As we began the fourth and final lap, I knew that I was going to have to do something differently soon. I didn’t want it to come down to a sprint because Matias is a proven winner in that type of situation. So shortly before we hit the first steep climb of the lap, I took over the lead. As soon as we hit the climb, I amped up the effort and hit it even harder after we reached the top. The portion of the course after the hill isn’t all that technical, until you start flying through most of it at 20+ mph. I managed to separate myself from Matias and kept the effort at full gas until I hit the dam. I took a quick look back and didn’t see him.

Julie rippin' it up.

My bro Chad is in full on Chia mode.

Hannah Banana schoolin' the rest of the juniors.

Shrek feels no pain.

I pretty much continued the lap at full throttle hoping to open up as big of a gap as possible and get myself out of sight. Once you loose sight of the guy ahead of you, it pretty much breaks the spirit of your opponent. I held on for the W, and shortly after I finished, Julie rolled across the line for a solid 2nd overall in the women’s race. We did a short cool down ride, packed up the bikes, changed clothes and headed over to the beer garden to celebrate the end of another great mountain biking season. She claims that I threw down six beers, I only counted five, both of which is considerably more than I’ve had in a very long time. Regardless, it wasn’t entirely my fault as I was constantly being provoked by Chia Chad and Jerome. At least half of the 150+ racers stuck around for the post race party of great food, a lot of beer, great conversation and the usual shenanigans that ensue when all of the aforementioned elements are combined. It was the perfect way to cap off another great year of mountain bike racing!

So what’s next? More cross races of course! Neither of us really care about our results, we just want to get a good workout in so that we can justify our consumption of some bad food and good beer.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 22, 2011


The sketchy rollout out of Hayward.

Over the years, Chequamegon has gradually become one of the focal points of my season. This year I had my training plan set up to have me on peak form for the race. Peaking is commonly referred to as a black art, and it only becomes more so as you get older. It’s a constant battle trying to figure out how much is too much.

This year I think that I came pretty close to hitting it on the head, finishing 9th overall and 1st in my age. My goal for Chequamegon every year is to finish in the top 20 overall and 1st in my age. Either of those results will secure my lottery free entry for the following year. My ‘long shot’ goal is to crack the top ten in the overall. This years edition had a stacked field containing Tour De France veterans Christian Vande Velde, Jason McCartney and Jeff Bradley. Several other contenders include previous champions Brian Matter, Jeff Hall, Doug Swanson and Steve Tilford, along with a lot of professional up and comers like Jack Hinkens, Cole House. Mikey Phillips, TJ Woodruff, Matt Shriver, Mike Anderson, Mike Olheiser, Pat Lemieux and Nathan Guerra, all of whom had a legitimate shot at the W as well. This was probably the deepest field that I’ve ever toed the line with and I had figured that my chances at a top ten we’re less than favorable. However being the most fit that I’ve probably ever been, along with a solid plan and good tactics we’re all key to my best finish thus far.

The rollout on Highway 77 was probably the less stressful of all of the Chequammy’s that I’ve done. I was pretty relaxed the entire way and had worked my way up to around 30th place about midway through Rosie’s Field. By the time we hit the Birkie, I was at the ‘wagging tail’ end of the lead group. People we’re dropping like flies off of the end of the lead group and it was the first of the two times during the race that I had to make a pretty tough decision. Do I put myself into the red to latch onto to the lead group, knowing that there are a couple of Euro pro’s pushing the pace higher than ever, or do I settle into my own pace and hang with the second group on the trail? I chose the latter and after having a few days to think about it, I think that I made the right choice. With a couple of guys like Vande Velde and McCartney driving the pace, the lead group had whittled down to four before they hit the Fire Tower climb and there’s a really good chance that I would have gotten shelled too.

The lead group before everybody got shelled.

The lead group going up the Fire Tower climb, after everybody got shelled. Look's like Vande Velde had some issues with the climb.

My plan regardless of which group I ended up with was to keep my nose out of the wind as much as possible until we hit the Fire Tower climb. And I did just that, conserving energy until the real smack down happened. The second group contained myself, the Eppens, Matais Perret, Alex Vanias, Corey Stelljes, Jeff Hall, Brian Jensen and Scott K.J. It was pretty easy to stick with the plan as Alex, Brian and Jeff all seemed pretty motivated to do the majority of the work. I made a point to keep myself 2nd or 3rd wheel throughout because of the yoyo effect that happens at the tail end of a group, especially on the Birkie rollers.

1995 Chequamegon champ Jeff Hall was kind enough to block the wind for everybody in our group for a good chunk of the race.

By the time we hit the Fire Tower climb, we had lost a few from our group, but had also collected a few of the casualties from the lead group, including Jack Hinkens, Tilford and Cole House. One of the few mistakes that I had made during the race was not getting myself into a better position at the bottom of the Fire Tower climb. I was near the end of our group and about halfway up, I think it was Jensen that had faltered and had to unclip, causing me to stall out. I had to jump off of my bike and run up to the next tier. By the time I had remounted, Jack, Tilford, Cole and one or two others had opened a substantial gap. Once they hit the top of the climb they had a big enough gap that all I could see of them were the plumes of dust coming off of their rear wheels.

This is what ends up happening if you're not close to the front of your group heading up Fire Tower...I hate running.

The Eppenators making their way up Fire Tower.

Padawan Gammell didn't have that great of a day, at least he didn't get cock blocked halfway up Fire Tower like I did.

Tour De France veteran Jeff Bradley kickin' it up Fire Tower.

It's always party time for Hollywood.

When I finally crested the Fire Tower, I dumped it down several gears and dropped the hammer in full on pursuit of the guys that had just dropped me. I caught up to and passed Cole pretty quickly and caught up the rest shortly thereafter. It was down to four of us, myself, Tilford, Jack and maybe Alex. Jack was by far the biggest aggressor of the group, but we all managed to hang on despite his efforts. We came up on one of the larger puddles, Tilford was at the front and opted to ride through it while the rest of us took a ten foot long section of singletrack around it. It was enough of a disadvantage that Tilford had maybe a 3 or 4 bike length advantage on us. The rest of us looked at each other and nobody seemed interested in closing down the small gap. Tilford recognized this almost immediately and gradually started to roll away. It was at this point in the race that I’ve second guessed my tactics for the past few days. I felt like I could have chased Tilford down pretty easily as he only rolled away from us as opposed to an all out attack. Had I chased him down, I’m pretty certain that I would have caught up to him. I had good legs and at that point in the race I was still feeling pretty good. I chose not to because had I chased and caught him, who knows how much I would have had left for the last two rolling miles on the Birkie. Instead, I opted to stay on course with my original plan and conserve as much energy as possible until the last few miles. I know, sometimes you have to get out there and go after it otherwise you will never know for sure. My big goal was to finish inside of the top ten and I chose what appeared to be the safer of my two options at the time. If I find myself in a similar situation in the future, I’ll most likely choose differently.

Jack continued to push the pace in our group and once we hit another gravel road section, I decided to put in a small attack to see what kind of legs everybody else had. I opened up a small gap and held it for a while, but I could tell that I was being marked pretty well. So I let up a little until Jack and Cole caught back on. Cole threw in a small counter move as soon as he rolled by me and I was able to close it up pretty easily. Then all of a sudden the Eppens rolled up out of nowhere and flew by us like we were almost standing still. Everybody reacted and went for their wheel.

As we hit the final miles on the Birkie, Jack accelerated and took advantage of one his many strengths on the final two miles of the Birkie. I went after him with Cole on my wheel. With about a mile to go I was starting to make some progress on Jack and I had also managed to separate myself from Cole. I gave it everything that I had to bring Jack back, but he was too strong on the hills. I rolled across the line 2 seconds short of Jack and 8th place. We ended up about 15 seconds behind Tilford, which furthers my second guessing of not chasing him down. Who knows… I’m extremely happy with the result however and honored to be able to mix it up with the likes of Jack, Tilford, Cole, the Eppens and Lemieux. That’s the kind of stuff that motivates me to work as hard as I do, especially during the long winter months on the trainer.

My homeboy Jack Hinkens heading towards the finish line.

Me trying to catch Jack...

Still tryin' to catch Jack...

Julie had a good race, finishing 50th among the women and 8th in her age group. She fell short of her goal of cracking the 3 hour mark, which I feel is very attainable for her. It’s just a matter of all of the pieces coming together for her, and maybe conjuring up a little more nerve on the Highway 77 rollout. Mom had a pretty good race too, besting last years’ time by about 15 minutes and placing 3rd in her very young age group!

Moving towards the front of the race, despite the tag teaming efforts of McCartney and Vande Velde, Brian Matter took his third consecutive Chequamegon victory, with a little help from Vande Velde’s flat tire shortly after an attack that might have won the race for him. It was great to see Brian stick it to the Euro pro’s and I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a good guy and a great ambassador for the sport of mountain biking and cyclocross.

What’s next…well, I’m not 100% sure. Either the Minnesota race up in St. Cloud, or maybe some cross racing in Des Moines. Ten hours in the car for a sweet mountain bike race, or 30 minutes in the car to race in small circles around a city park…

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sugar Bottom


There are a lot of things that I love about Sugar Bottom. The first time that I ever rode there was probably about 12 years ago, and I was blown away at how cool the place was. Over the years, the trails have seen a lot of use, so much so that a lot of re-routes had to be done. The course also contains a lot of big, exposed roots that beat the crappola out of my old body. Every time I hit a rooty section at speed, I cringe in fear at the thought of my frame, or my body developing cracks from all of the jarring.
The Elite field was of typical Sugar Bottom quality, sans the Eppenator and Kevin McConnell, who both opted for the WORS race up in Green Bay. The race started on the gravel access road and I somehow ended up pulling the field to the top of the hill. Aaron R and Matias P both snaked me going into the singletrack. Shortly after we entered the singletrack, the pace started to slow a little. I was a little gassed from the start, so I was pretty A-OK with that.
Throughout the first lap, the pace in the singletrack slowed even more. And whenever we hit the gravel access road, everybody would sit up and look at each other, probably wondering who was going to take the lead. By the end of lap one, there were still six of us riding together, myself, MOD, Shim, Matias, Aaron and Nate Kollbom.

The 'peloton' at the start of lap 2.

This continued throughout the second lap and I, along with a few others were starting to grow a little weary of the road race like dynamic that was going on. As we hit the gravel access road towards the end of the second lap, I was at the back of the line. I stepped out and hit throttle in an effort to shake things up a bit. Aaron and MOD were on singlespeeds, so I’m pretty sure they fell off almost immediately. I took a look back about halfway down the road and Matias appeared to be closing in on me a little. I hit it even harder to keep the gap between Matias and myself with the hope of minimizing his ability to draft. We hit the singletrack, and I slowed a little to recover from the effort. Matias closed the gap shortly after we hit the singletrack, and it didn’t take long for MOD to catch back either.
At the start of lap three, I led the way up the access road and Matias jumped into the singletrack first and the pace slowed again. MOD and I were getting pretty impatient with the pace and it didn’t take long for MOD to make a pass on me that only MOD could pull off through a pretty tight, technical corner. It was an impressive, clean pass and I had no choice but to give him room. As we rolled through the singletrack, I could see that MOD was setting Matias up for the same move. And sure enough, he pulled the same move on Matias and instantly created a gap between Matias and myself.
It was at this point that I thought the race had been decided. I was stuck behind Matias and MOD was almost out of sight. As Matias and I rolled up an uphill section of twisty singletrack, I made a pass on the inside of a corner. I got by and kept the pace as high as I could in an effort to create a gap. I could tell that Matias was falling off the pace, and I also started to feel a lot better than I had earlier in the race. So I kept the pace high to see if I could pull MOD back.
About midway through the lap, I had finally reeled MOD back in and started thinking about how I could possibly pull this one off. MOD can negotiate his way through the singletrack a lot more quickly and efficiently than I can, so my only hope was to hang onto his wheel and try to drop him on the last section of access road. I knew that his singlespeed wouldn’t be geared to handle the pace on the road. I held his wheel, we hit the road, I dumped it down a few gears and opened her up. About halfway down the road, I was completely out of gears, so I knew without looking back that I had created a pretty good gap.
I kept the pace as high as I could on the road, and managed to avoid T-boning Maria, who appeared to be wandering along the road in an apparent state to delirium fresh off of finishing her race. I motored through the singletrack as quickly as I could, knowing that MOD was most likely closing the gap back down. I hit the last section of grassy field and didn’t let off the pace as I had no idea where MOD was. As I approached the finish, I took a few looks back expecting to see MOD closing in on me with a 200 rpm cadence, but it didn’t happen. I had managed to pull off the W by a close 30 seconds over MOD. Matias came in third, a little over two minutes back.
It was a really hard, but fun race. There was never really a point in the race where I felt like I could pull off the win, with the exception of maybe the final mile or so. MOD and Matias were both very strong competitors, in their own very different styles, that made for a pretty unique, but fun dynamic throughout the race. Lot’s of different tactics going on for sure.

Julie rippin' it up on some of the sweetest singletrack in the Midwest.

My studly wife cleaning cyclocross hill.

What’s next…unfortunately no Mapelag this year. The Hy-Vee triathlon is the same weekend and Julie has to stick around for a few of her clients. So maybe the next WORS race up at Lake Geneva.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Border Battle

So Julie and I headed to the great white north last weekend and did the Border Battle, a pretty sweet race that pits the WORS series against the Minnesota Series. We drove up Saturday and did a few laps of the course. Whoever does all of the trail work at this place must spend a lot of time diggin’ in the dirt. They made great improvements on what was already a pretty sweet course in years past. Lot’s of new, super fun singletrack! Combine that with mostly damp and tacky conditions and you’re most likely going to have a great day on the bike. After the ride we drove over to my Aunt and Uncle’s in Chanhassen, had a great steak dinner, followed by some Sebastian Joe’s ice cream…man that’s some good stuff. They have a couple of cats that always prove to be very entertaining.
Race day. All of the fast guys from the upper Midwest were there, sans Matter and Schouten who were resting up for the upcoming cross season. Brendan was also out, I heard that he was attending a fund raiser for his nephew, a two year old that has terminal cancer. That is way too young…my heart truly goes out to Brendan and his family as well as our thoughts and prayers.
I got a 2nd row call up among the 75 man Elite field and was very glad for it as I got off to a crappy start again. I missed the mark when attempting to clip in and ended up about mid pack heading up the hill. I followed a few guys on the far right side and made up a little ground on the field and found myself in around 20th going into the woods. My legs felt pretty OK so I settled into a fairly comfortable pace and patiently waited for opportunities to pass in the couple of small passing zones.
I managed to pass one or two peeps in each passing zone and had worked my way up to Sam O and Ray Nelson. I eventually got by Sam, Ray and a few others at the end of lap 1 and hammered it up the hill. As we hit the bottom of the rocky, techie climb, a rock rolled out from underneath my front tire and I went down while going about 3 mph. Sam O got by, I picked myself up and chased after him going up the hill. I caught back up in the next section of singletrack and sat on for some recovery.

That's me getting chased by fellow old racer dude Todd McFadden.

I eventually got back around Sam and noticed Kevin McConnell a short distance up the trail. It took the better part of two laps to reel him in. He was having a good day and riding well. Once I caught up to him, I latched on and followed his wheel throughout the last lap. There were a few instances where I had gotten gapped off a little due to the thick Comp traffic on the last lap, but I managed to close it back up each time. As we hit the final stretch to the finish line, we both dropped the hammer on each other to be the first to the hairpin right before the finish line. I had the inside line and had managed to get a wheel ahead of Kevin going into the turn. I overcooked the corner a little and Kevin took over the inside line. We were both in way too big of a gear for the 25 yard dash to the finish line. I decided to stay in the gear and push it to the line, Kevin tried to downshift and I heard his chain skipping around. I managed to nip him at the line by the width of a tire. It was painful, but I enjoyed every second of it. Kevin’s a great guy to race against regardless of the outcome, always a great time.

Kevin McConnell tearin' up the bridge berm.

The Eppenator rode to another solid top five finish.

I managed to pull of 7th place overall, my best result for the Border Battle, around 4 minutes behind the winner. A little better than I was expecting as I’m at the end of a pretty heavy training block, so I’m pretty happy with it. The Iowa folks had a great showing, with Eppen finishing 5th and Kevin finishing 8th. Kim Eppen won the women’s race and Robin W and Brittany were also in the top ten. It’s great to see the McConnell’s and Eppen’s kickin’ some bootay up north. Julie’s race? I’ll put it in her words, “Well…I didn’t finish last!” She did have a great time and as we all know, that’s the most important thing. It was a great course, so it was tough to not have a good time out there.

Sugarbottom is up this weekend and rumor has it that most of the black sections of the course have been eliminated. That’s too bad because their cutting out a lot of the fun stuff. It should still be a great course for the race. Maybe the part that were most looking forward to is the buffalo chicken burritos from Atlas that were going to devour on the way home from the race!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Swanson V2.0

It doesn’t get any better than damp and tacky at Swanson Park. Swanson is right up there near the top of my list of favorite places to race when it is damp and tacky. With the usual suspects in the line up, sans Kent (doing the Leadville death march) and Shim (apparently opting for a criterium elsewhere) and the welcome addition of MOD, I was looking forward to another fun race with the fine folks of Nebraska.
So as we were heading into the singletrack, MOD and I were in the lead and took two separate lines into the woods. Neither of us seemed to have a whole lot of interest in taking the lead, so I told MOD to go ahead. My plan (my hope anyway) was to follow MOD into the woods second wheel. He’s super smooth on the dirt, and with Swanson being his home track, I knew that it’d be a lot of fun following his wheel. It’s not always the best strategy, especially when the other guy is riding a singlespeed because it forces you to race and react to his strengths, rather than your own. I think that was partly what led to my demise two weeks ago when Kevin ripped my legs off at Ingawanis.

Sweet shot of the start with MOD and I 'offering' each other the lead.

There were probably four or five of us together throughout lap one, and as predicted, I had a blast following MOD’s wheel throughout the lap. I’m not sure who’s more fun to follow, MOD or Kent. Either way, I ride so much better when I’m following either of them. As we neared the end of lap one, it was MOD, myself, Ryan and Nate. At some point during lap 2, Nate dropped off and Ryan followed.
I continued to follow MOD’s smooth lines throughout laps 2 and 3. Only tailing off when my chain dropped from the big to the small ring. At the end of lap 3, I took the lead with a little reluctance as I was having a great time riding with MOD. After a few corners in the singletrack, I noticed to my surprise that he had fallen off the pace. I kind figured that he would have stuck with me pretty easily in the tight twisty sections. After the race, he’d said that he was probably pushing one tooth too many on his singlespeed. Pushing too big of a gear at Swanson will eventually get the best of you, with all of the tight corners that you have to accelerate out of.
I held on for the W, MOD held his position for 2nd, I think that RF was third and Nate might have been 4th. In the women’s race, Rox had her usual day of domination and checked out with a hole shot among the men’s field. Julie came in second and Katie Bergman brought it home in third. I think the first thing that Julie said to me after the race…’I love my bike’. Music to my ears…

So we’re most likely going to head up to the great white north and do the Minnesota / Wisconsin series collaboration, known as the ‘Border Battle’. It’s a really fun course and the best of the Midwest will be there. I’m looking forward to the pain of a good ‘ole fashioned butt whoopin’.

Thanks for reading,


Camp Ingawanis V2.0

After probably what was the longest hiatus from racing that I’ve ever had mid summer, I was very ready to get back on the dirt for some racing. Julie and I had a very busy July with the first two weeks spent in Colorado. We spent about half of the time at her brother’s place in Avon and did a lot of sweet road and mountain biking in and around the Vail valley. We also spent a week in Durango for more of some of the best riding that the state has to offer. This year I spent a little more time on the mountain bike than I did the road bike. I think that as I grow a little older, I’m becoming a little less tolerant of highway noise and air pollution, especially when some of the knucklehead diesel pick-up truck drivers give me a drive by dusting of diesel smoke.
The second two weeks of July were spent packing up all of our junk, getting ready for the move from the townhouse / bat cave into a real house. I managed to get rides in almost everyday, however the rides weren’t as substantial as I would have liked. It only got worse during the second week as we were busy moving all of our stuff into the garage of the new house. Between all of the heavy lifting, lack of sleep and extremely hot weather, the quality of my training suffered.
The weekend after our move, we headed up to Camp Ingawanis for the race on the south course. The last time we raced on the south course, the laps were pretty short and not nearly as fun as the north course. I was expecting the same this time around, however when I went out for a recon lap, I was pleasantly surprised. It was very apparent that a lot of work had taken place over the past year. I have to give some props out to Karmen Woelber, as I was told that she is the trail master at Ingawanis. Karmen and the rest of the crew put together a great course that consisted of about 90% of fast, rolling singletrack.
I knew going in the I wasn’t going to be anywhere near 100%, so my plan was to get into the singletrack 2nd wheel behind Kevin McConnell (aka Cross Jesus). We started and Kevin immediately jumped into the lead. Matias Peret and I sparred a little for Kevin’s wheel and my persistence netted me 2nd wheel into the woods.
Kevin created an immediate gap as it took me around a mile to get my high speed singletrack mojo going. It took me about a half of a lap to finally reel Kevin back in and by this time I had gapped off Matias. I sat on Kevin’s wheel and felt pretty relaxed throughout each of the three laps that I was there. About the only time that I felt like I was being pushed was on all of the short power climbs. I was actually surprised at how well things were going until we started lap 4. I started to yo-yo on and off of Kevin’s wheel and the elastic finally broke about mid way through the lap.
I put myself into survival mode form that point until the finish. There were a couple of moments during lap 5 when I felt like I was starting to get a 2nd wind, but it never really came. I was totally blown with nothing left in the tank.
I ended up salvaging a hard earned second place on the day and Kevin took the much deserved win. I felt pretty good about the result given all that had been going on over the past couple of weeks. The course was a lot of fun and well worth the 2+ hour drive. I had a great time riding with Kevin throughout the first three laps. And it was good to see all of the Iowa mountain bike racing peeps.
Julie also had a pretty good day, despite the women having to do the same amount of laps as the men. I finished my race early enough that I was able to give her a water bottle that was half ice and half water at the start of her last lap. It was a pretty hot day, so I scored some ‘good husband points’ for that one.

The next race on the horizon will most likely be at Swanson Park in Omaha. IMBCS #8 was supposed to be at Lake Manawa State Park, however there is no such thing as underwater mountain bike racing, so the venue for IMBCS #8 will actually be in Omaha.

Thanks for reading,


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,


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,


Saturday, October 02, 2010


Another reason to love the month of September…Chequamegon! The north woods of Wisconsin are pretty amazing at this time of the year, with the fall colors just beginning to make an appearance and all of the pines, northern Wisconsin rivals Colorado in scenery.
Julie and I arrived at the cabin, and shortly after our arrival, Brian Benson busted out the potato cannon as promised and he did not disappoint. I almost felt like I was watching an episode of Beavis and Butthead while Brian and Jim Logan were experimenting with different ways of increasing the distance, velocity, visibility by fire and target practice on John and Kristin while they were on the lake in a canoe.
On Thursday, Julie, my Mom and I went out for an hour long ride over the first part of the course, and it was the wettest that I had ever seen. There was a lot of standing water on the trail that threaded it’s way along the Birkie. As we hit the first little power climb going into Rosie’s, I heard my Mom grinding away at her gears behind us. She quickly realized how deceptive Rosie’s Field can be, with its’ sometimes steep, rolling hills and freshly cut, but still deep grass. We did enough of the course to give her a good idea on what to expect over the course of the race.
Friday, same deal but we did 90 minutes instead and the course was considerably dryer than yesterday, but there were still quite a few large puddles, I knew that the puddles were going to be a lot worse on the middle parts of the course. After the ride, the garage at our cabin looked like the pit area of a World Cup cross race, with everybody doing some last minute clean up and tune ups on all of the bikes. Cool… Bike maintenance was followed by more shenanigans with the potato cannon and mass consumption of lasagna.
Race day. We woke up to mostly blue sky and cool temps in the upper 30’s. After a breakfast of pancakes and eggs, I suited up and rolled out for my warm up. As I hit the road, Jack Hinkens rolled up behind me. We had a nice conversation during our warm up about how his first season on the U23 World Cup mountain bike racing circuit was going. If things continue for him as they are, this guy could easily become one of the top mtb racers in the country, if not the world. Once he gets more base mileage in his legs, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.
About 10 minutes before the start, I rolled into the start area and backed myself into a front row position and all of the big dogs from the Midwest racing scene were there, Schouten (whom most picked as the race favorite), Matter (last years winner), Swanson, Anderson, Simonson, Mikey, Peariso, Braun, Marko, Tilford, the Eppenators, among a great many others. Also making an appearance was Utah native Jason Sager.
The cannon went off and I attached myself to Tilfords wheel on the rollout out of Hayward. I stayed on Tilfords wheel for most of the rollout and once we hit Rosie’s, I hit the throttle going up the first short power climb. Within a few pedal strokes, the chain made the dreaded clanking noise as it struggled to engage the teeth on my big ring. The next thing I knew, I was pedaling freely with no power transfer to the chain. I looked down and the chain had dropped to the outside. I dropped the front der to the granny gear and gently pedaled the chain back into position as what seemed like hundreds of racers went whizzing by me like I was standing still. Once the chain was back in place, I opened it up again in attempt to get myself into a decent position as we rolled onto the Birkie. In looking at some of the pictures, what seemed like hundreds of racers ended up only being around 60 – 70-ish.
As we rolled along the Birkie, I managed to pick my way up to what had become the 1st chase group, with the lead group only about 30 seconds up the trail. As we rolled through OO, our group had whittled itself down to seven, including myself, Simonson, Maxwell Anderson, Nate Whitman, Sova, SKJ and Tim Mulrooney. The lead group of 12 was about 60 seconds ahead of us and with Matter launching several attacks on the lead group, there was no chance of us catching them.

The Simonson pain train, followed by yours truly, SKJ, Nate, Sova and Max.

#78 – Mountain Biker… #19 – Roadie maybe?

Padawan Gammell at OO, puttin’ the hurt on all who follow.

Benson carries a smaller version of the potato cannon in his Camelback.

Julie was once again restricted to self preservation mode by her Mom. I think she’d look pretty hot if she had a couple of battle scars from Chequamegon that were visible when wearing her wedding dress.

Shortly after OO, the large man eating puddles began to appear. Some had narrow routes around them, while others gave you no option other than to plow through middle of them. In years past, things never really started to break apart until we hit the Fire Tower climb, however this year the puddles that preceded Fire Tower were the catalyst that began the disintegration. I never had any real issues with the puddles, my drive train made an awful grinding sound whenever I went through some of the puddles, other than that, it worked about as well as one could expect.

Padawan Gammel nearing the top of Fire Tower Hill, makes it look easy. He must have a really good coach…

The Rock, rode to a 1st place finish in the single eye division. The Eppens wanted to insure their dominance in the Iowa category, so they stole one of his contacts before the race.

Big John won the non-mutant division within his age group. Tilford is a mutant and therefore does not count.

As we hit the base of Fire Tower, our group was pretty well strung out with the exception of about five or six of us that were consistently near the front. Simonson took off like a scalded dog, Darrin Braun joined our group out of nowhere and made an attempt to stay with Simonson. Maxwell and I were a little further back, followed by Adam Swank, who had also clawed his way into our group after a not so good start. As we hit the top of Fire Tower, I went by Maxwell and put it into pursuit mode. I closed the gap to Darrin and we worked pretty well together to pull back Simonson after a couple of miles. Maxwell, Adam and Nate eventually closed the gap to us as we hit the final miles of the race.
As we rolled along the final sections of the Birkie, we had caught and passed a few that had blown themselves up with the lead group, Marko, Ryan Krayer (I think we passed him a little earlier, not 100% sure) and maybe one or two others. As we hit the final rollers, Simonson again took off and never looked back. Darrin tried to stay with him, but couldn’t hold his pace. I tried to stay with Darrin and couldn’t match his pace either. I took a quick look back and noticed that I had gapped everybody else off. So I put my head down and steadied my effort to try and reel Darrin back in before we hit the finish. As we hit the top of the last climb and I worked my way back up to Darrin and passed him as we started down the descent to the finish. I lead all of the way down and as we hit the last little power climb he went around me. I tried with everything that I had to keep him behind me, but it wasn’t there.

B Matter = dominance in the 40.

Jake Richards = dominance in the Short and Fat.

PRC chica Maria Von Ruhtenberg, the kid in the background appears to think that biker chicks are hot. I tend to agree with him….especially mine.

My biker chick.

The look of pain says it all, Darin blew by me like I was standing still at the finish.

The Eppenators = dominance on a tandem despite their ever present mechanical issues. Are they going to ditch the tandem for single bikes next year?

My Mom had a great race…rumor has it that she bested Pigs best time.

My lovely wife put in another solid effort that should gain her another preferred start for next year.

Benson told all of us that if we didn’t turn ourselves inside out at the finish, he’d launch a potato at our quads from point blank range. Tom thought he was serious.

I ended up 12th overall and 1st in my age group, just shy of my goal for a top ten. I’m pretty happy with that, considering that I was a little behind where I would have like to have been all season. I missed out on the lead break due to the dropped chain, however I’m not really sure that my result would have been much different had I made it into the lead group. It was a great day for a lot of folks from DSM, John Newell took 2nd in his age group, Sally Logan took 2nd in her age group, Jeff Barnes (Iowa City) was 4th in age, the Eppenators won the tandem division and Julie was 13th in her age despite being in self preservation mode due to our upcoming wedding. The old man of the woods, and I mean this in the most complementary of ways, John Adamson finished an incredible 23rd overall in the short and fat at the young age of 64?! And last but not least, my mom placed 3rd in her age group in the 40. Why did I not refer to my mom as ‘the old woman of the woods’ you ask? Well, she brought me into this world, and even though she is 63, she could just as easily take me out of it. ‘Nuff said.

Next up…I never thought that this day would come, Julie and I are heading out to Colorado to tie the knot. I never thought that I would be this excited to get hitched, but I am. I can’t think of a better person to spend the rest of my life with. I only hope that she can continue to put up with my occasional…maybe sometimes frequent ‘manly tendencies’…

Thanks for reading,