Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sac CX #10 MOVED !

Crap. It looks like they have to move the Sac CX series finale back a week due to some site problems. Now the finale will be December 9th, 2006 (not December 2nd) at Sutter's Landing Park in Sacto. Of course, this completely screws me, since I need to go back to Australia on December 2nd (and I had actually moved back my flight so that I could race . . .). Oh well, good luck to everyone and I'll see you next season.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sac CX #7: Granite Bay

Another home race for the Folsom people, but the C league didn't have a big turnout for Sac CX #7 at Granite Bay Beach. I think we had only about 15 people show for the early morning race. Not sure what the cause of this was -- organization, course and weather were all top-notch. Oh well, their loss.
The morning started off cold again, but the light rain were had received the past two days was gone and a perfectly tacky course was left. I forgot my GPS unit again this week, but the course seemed longer (seemed like 9 minute laps or so) but faster than last week. I would have called it 55% singletrack, 20% sand and 25% pavement. We had no real climbs, but two "bumps" (see picture), one set of barriers and three sand pits. For those of you who raced the MTB Challenge races, this course was the first 1/2 or 1/3 of that race.
The course basically went: pavement start, hard right on path, hard left onto the singletrack, up and over the "bump", around the corner and over another "bump", then the barriers. Clearing those, it was pavement straighaway to the singletrack. The singletrack winded for a while until it hit a small sand pit. Beyond that was a short pavement uphill to a U-turn and more singletrack. This brought you to the first sandpit, short uphill and downhill into the second huuuuge sandpit then to the finish line. Brilliant course, great conditions, loved it.
I rode a mediocre race. Due to work pressures, I didn't get much training in during the week which made the first lap or two a living hell. Although I picked up the pace for the final two laps (catching one person), I really never challenged for a top 10 finish. I finished at around 35 minutes (winner came through in 29'). No major mishaps (due to my new tire kit -- see below) but the sand was a bear. I could go through the first and second sand pits alright, but the third one would just slow me down to a crawl. I felt like I lost a ton of time through it.
For this race, I finally changed my setup. Fearing mud after the rain on Thursday and Friday, I bought some Maxxis Mimo CX tires (700x35) and swapped them on for my Ritchey Speedmax. As you can see from the picture below (Speedmax on the left, Mimo on the right), the Mimo has a much better mud/moist tire with a little bit of a penalty on rolling resistance. As expected, it was excellent on the singletrack, worked pretty damn well in the sand and cornered on rails. I probably lot a bit on the pavement, but it was a tradeoff I would make again. I think I will keep these on for a while.

Post race beer: None :< . Although I was able to sneak this race in, I had to catch a flight to Australia later that day.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sac CX #6: Men's A Video

Sorry this took so long, but here is part 1 of my video masterpiece from last weekend's cyclocross race:

This is the Men's A race. Sorry for the poor quality, but I took this with my cameras video option.

Look for the Women's video tomorrow. This should be better as I filmed it with an actual DV camera.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sac CX #6: Negro Bar

After several weeks on the road, I finally got a home game as the Sacramento Cyclocross series came back to Folsom this weekend. Sac CX #5 was held in Negro Bar (just north of the rainbow bridge) on the American River. With it being pretty close to home, I got there in time to do a quick pre-ride lap.
Although the morning started off cold, the weather was pretty close to perfect again this week. And the course was much more to my liking: a few climbs, sweeping turns and longer laps. I forgot my GPS unit this week, so I won't have distance or maps unless I ride the course again tomorrow. However, I think the course had about 8 minute / 1.5 mile laps. Being Folsom, the course consisted about 87% of loose gravel over hardpack, 5% sandy, 5% pavement and a little bit of grass. We had three short but steep climbs, one stair run-up and a barrier grouping of about five logs. The course was in great condition - clearly marked, lots of race marshals keeping people off the route and well designed.

The course basically went: pavement start, hard right on sketchy gravel, hard left going down deep gravel section to sand 180 degree turn. Steep hill with hard left at top. Down and off camber left turn onto grassy section. 180 degree turn then up short rise to stair run-up. Pavement section to steep singletrack climb. Singletrack back through woods then floating right back down onto pavement. Another 180 turn to grass section, then hard left to five log dismount. Up and down to 90 degree turn on deep gravel into the horse corral, flat section to 180 degree turn again. Flat section to hard left, then pavement to finish line. Repeat until bell lap.

I felt I rode a good race. Although I finished midpack at best, I rode strong towards the end of the race (passing a few people toward the finish) and had no major mishaps. Unfortunately, I kinda struggled on the first and second lap before getting my rhythm, which meant the I was well back of the leaders most of the race. I also had a lot of trouble in the deep gravel and sand, often having to dab to keep the rubber underneath me. While this hurt me on the first half of the course, after the run-up I made up a lot of ground. The hillclimb and singletrack helped me greatly and I caught more than one person on the corral flats. I think I did five or six laps. Not my best performance, but still pretty strong for me.

I ran my usual setup (Scott Team with Ritchey Speedmax at 55ish PSI). I should gone down even more on tire pressure -- I think it would have helped in the deep stuff. This was another race that hurt people on mountain bikes. They just couldn't keep up on the flat sections in the corral.

Post race beer: Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale. Hoppy, spicy, oaky. Different and quite good. And they sponsor a MTB race. 4/5 stars.

I'll be posting more photos Sunday night along with the video that I took.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sac CX #5: Rancho Seco

Okay, after the two week break (My dog was sick last week and the Bay Area Super Prestige was two weeks ago), I got my lazy ass out of bed and drove south to Herald, CA for Sacramento Cyclocross #5 at Rancho Seco Park. And for once, I actually arrived on time and got to do some pre-riding of the course.

Beer league was up first on the schedule and the weather was perfect. The course was very different from the other races: very short, very grassy (more on that later) and very technical (16 turns?). The laps measured just 0.65 miles with almost no climbing (30'/lap). It was basically 85% grass, a little pavement (10%) and one stretch of sand (which was actually pretty easy). We had two (or maybe three) barriers, a little higher than normal, along with a step up out of the sand. What was really difficult was the sharp turns on the wet grass. The course started out is good condition, but started to get muddy after the first lap. I didn't see the Men's "A" race but I imagine that the course might have gotten sketchy.

I had a pretty mediocre race. After the initial jumble of riders (which lasted several turns due to the many sharp corners), I ended up in the middle of the trailing pack. I made pretty steady progress throughout the race and by the end of the 7th lap, I was within striking distance of the lead guy in our trailing pack. Unfortunately, I almost missed a turn and lost a few seconds which let him get clean away. I finished on the lead lap (9 laps total) but somewhere around 12th place (out of probably 20ish). Considering the course didn't really cater to my skills (in fact, the technical nature, flatness and short length really hurt me), I think my race went well.

I ran my usual setup (CX bike with Ritchey Speedmax at 60ish PSI). I could definately have used better mud tires -- people on mountain bikes really had a good advantage on this course.

Post race beer: Farmhouse Hayloft Pils. Got it on sale at BevMo. Not a bad beer, a little light for my tastes. Brewed in Gilroy, CA. 3/5 Stars.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sac CX #3: Penn Valley

Some mornings you get up and you feel like you really shouldn't have gotten out of bed. And today, I should have listened to myself.

After arriving home from the Bay Area late Friday night, I got a late start for my 1+ hour drive to Penn Valley (outside Grass Valley). After missing my turn off, I got to the race at 9:36. Unfortunately, the C mens race started at 9:30. Crap. Not willing to just pack it in after the long drive, I signed up for the Men's B (Under 40) class and waited around until 12:30 PM. I got a little pre-riding in and watched the 'A' Men's for once. This was entertaining, and Junior Cody bunnyhopping the uphill barrier was pretty sweet.

The course was longer and more challenging than the two previous Sac CX races. It clocked in at a normal 1.93 miles with 70' of climbing per lap, but it had a little bit of everything: 3 barriers (one double set), 1 sand pit, 2 run ups (although they were ridable) and a few gulleys (but no whiteknuckle descents).

The course went like this: Singletrack, barrier in the woods, more singletrack, crap loose corner, uphill barrier which I ran up and remounted, pavement (with speedbumps), down into the sandpit, steep climb to get out, more pavement, back across the grass field, through the woods, up to race official and then double barrier. I've marked the map above with some of the obstacles (click to see it larger).

My race can be summed up with one word: outclassed. Or maybe 0wn3d. Even, suck*ss. From the get go, I was off the back, struggling to keep touch with a MTB guy ahead of me and fighting off a lone staggler behind. Through three laps this race within a race continued, until I lost my chain riding up the pavement. The MTB guy charged ahead and lost me here, but the straggler was nowhere to be seen. I continued on through the race, not riding bad, but certainly not competitively. The extra 10 minutes started to wear on me and I was crying for the bell lap, when I heard the lead peloton gaining on me. I kicked it up to finish with them -- but they were on the bell lap so I got pulled, down one lap. A nice little DFL was my prize, as the lone straggler evidently DNF'd. Overall, I finished with 5 laps at 00:43:33 (but down one lap) for 12th place.

I ran my usual cyclocross bike since I was travelling all week. However, the tires were a good choice for the wide array of terrain we faced today. And I was especially pleased with the sand performance.

I haven't seen the results posted yet, but I got a quick picture of the "leaderboard" that the organizers had posted. Click the picture to get a high resolution version.
Post race beer: Spaten Oktoberfest. A classic, drank in honor of the start of one of most favorite months, October. Malty Martzen brewed by the originators. Nice. 5/5 stars.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sac CX #2: Vacaville

This morning was the second race in the 2006 Sacramento Cyclocross series. Hosted by the Monticello Cycling Club at Lagoon Valley Park in Vacaville, California, the weather was perfect for the C league race (but I wouldn't have wanted to be racing after noon in the A league). Registration for the race was a little bit more of an adventure than last week, and overall the atmosphere was definately low key.

The 1.41 mile (130 feet climbing) course was really two separate courses: the fast, flat path and the sketchy climb/descend MTB section. If you are looking at the satellite picture below (courtesy of Google Earth and Motionbased), the right side (south) is the flat path and the left side (north) is the MTB section. The races went counter clockwise, starting midpoint on the path closest to the lake.

We started on the flat section taking a few turns over sometimes loose but predictable doubletrack dirt. There were multiple turns and one dismount obstacle (with the barriers really close together). The second section started with a big climb out of the saddle (90' or so), followed by a harrowing downhill with a hard right bottom turn, then a hard left gulley descent, a short run up and a steep but rideable down and up gulley.

I had a pretty good race, with no major mishaps. We began with a normal start (after our military drill sergant UCSF official did a roll call). The field of 31 racers made from a crowded start but everything quickly thinned out by the first barriers and then really spread at the hill climb. I started towards the back of the lead peloton and was doing pretty well until my downhill. The rest of the peloton took off with abandon while I slid into the riot fencing at the bottom hard right. I got right back on and only slide out once more (sorry race official on the gulley turn !). I made my time back up on the climbs and eventually moved into a netherland between the leaders and the rest of the group. By the time I had completed my third lap, the drill sargant was signalling bell lap, so I kicked it up a notch and passed one last rider.

In the unofficial results, I scored a 8th place finish. However, that was somewhat tainted by the fact that the second place finisher was DQ by the race official due to "outside support." The starter had said that there was no resupplying or free lap before the start, but I think the racer didn't hear. I thought a time or lap penalty would have been more appropriate as this was beer league . . . Overall, we had a high DNF rate - it looks like only 23 of the initial 31 racers finished.I ran my usual equipment today with the substitution of slimed innertubes for my usual racing tubes. I drive by this course commuting into the Bay Area and presumed that goat heads would be prevalent. I was correct. However, I wished I had changed out my tires (Ritchey SpeedMax Comps again). Although they worked well for the straight aways, it was a little dicey on the loose corners and downright dangerous on the downhills. Thinking about investing in some Maxxis tires.

Full results have been posted over at Sacramento Cyclocross. They also have the "A" league coverage. Some good photos from SinglespeedGuy on Flickr too.

Post race beer: Warsteiner. Yes, life is too short to drink cheap beer. Another 4/5 stars.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sac CX #1: Folsom Rodeo

Last weekend saw the kickoff of the Sac CX series at Folsom Rodeo. It appears to be organized by the same people behind the PCRS MTB series with some of the same racers. The course was a 1 mile loop with 4 barriers and 2 run ups. The racers ran a variety of bikes, from hardtail MTBs (about 1/3) to Redline Conquests and higher end Ridleys and Lightspeeds.

It began with a Le Mans style start (over a ten foot woodchip mountain!), then hammering and running for 30 ("C" class) to 1 hour ("A" class). I was slow in the run (bad knees), last to my bike and had a hell of a time picking my way through the pack. I eventually made it to the mid pack before the bell lap (last lap) to finish 14th.

Equipment-wise, I think that the tires that I choose (Ritchey Speed Max Comp 700x35) were a good choice for this course. Might have been able to get away with something a little narrower (I didn't need much tread) but some of the gravel sections would have been dicey. People on mountain bikes probably did pretty well, but they certainly weren't a major advantage.

Photos have been posted here and the results are here.

Post race beer: Widmer Drop Top Ale. Malty, tasty and they have bike jerseys (nice). 4/5 stars.