Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tour of Somerville Race Report

I made my return to racing from my hip injury at Monday's Tour of Somerville. I was joined by the ever-fast ProfessorAndy and Craig from the Hermes for a cat 3 criterium slug-fest with 135 of our best friends. It's always a great idea to choose the biggest race of the calendar for your first race of the season.

The race started well enough as I managed to sneak myself into the third row. Andy was a little farther back and Craig even farther. At the whistle, the chaos began. Much jostling, bumping, and missed clip-ins ensued.

I've never done Somerville. Did I mention that?

A few laps in, and I remembered what criterium racing felt like - ouchy.

A few laps more and they announce a $200 prime. The mad dash for cash results in a huge crash at the finish line. It goes down right in front of me, and by a miracle I stay upright and get through the crash and chase back to the field.

Another lap in and another crash goes down in front of me. Again, I keep it upright and get into the field.

With 3 to go, Andy rolls by me and tells me "my bus has arrived." Andy delivers me in great position at the front for the last two laps, but my lack of fitness is evident as I can't hold it and get shuffled back to mid-pack.

On the bell lap, I sat way too far back to have any shot at the finish, but I had a good idea of how the finish would play out: the left would open then close down, then the right would open up. I came out out of the last turn in maybe 70th wheel.

I went left. I went right. The field opened up. I found myself in the top 15 and in the midst of the chaos that is the Tour of Somerville field sprint.

I'm told I had a few near misses in the finish. I kept it upright but decided not to go full bore and risk crashing on my still-injured hip. I rolled in for 26th place just 6 places out of the money.

All told it was a pretty good day of racing on a beautiful Memorial Day. A big thank you to everyone who came out to support us!


Granogue Report

This past Saturday, Jay, Charlie, and I raced in Delaware at the beautiful Granogue estate. Between the fall 'cross race and the spring MTB race, this is one of my favorite venues of all. The weather was cooperative, the ground was mostly-dry, and we were ready for combat.

I should probably mention that Jay and I have an ongoing rivalry that is simultaneously amicable and fierce. Every ride so far this year has been sharpened by the impending race season, every climb was an unspoken yardstick. We even pushed each other to first ad second in a spontaneous karaoke-night limbo contest! Whether we'd find ourselves riding in 1st or 21st, we would be racing each other.

Charlie, with an upcoming wedding and a mid-day race start, wisely pulled out of the 3-lap Expert race after difficulties on the second 7-mile lap. No need to get sick before the big day!
CaptainChaz crushes the road climb at the end of lap 1

Jay and I started well in the Sport Singlespeed race, hitting the singletrack in 2nd and 3rd wheel - exactly where we wanted to be. Our field worked its way through slower traffic from other Sport fields, and I yielded a spot to another racer. By the end of the first big double-track climb, though, I was riding in first!

Then I went kaboom, crashing hard on a slippery descent. I immediately lost 2 spots, and another two singlespeeders passed me as I rode over-cautiously for the next few minutes. I finally got back in my rhythm and raced hard for the ensuing 45 minutes, but I couldn't catch the leaders, who rode superbly to a fantastic finish.

I was pretty spent on the last climb, the sort of spent where I stare at my front wheel and nearly ride off the road. I was hurting bad enough to entertain the thought of walking up the steepest section... until I heard a spectator say "oh, it's a Rutgers jersey! GO RUTGERS!", a cheer that was taken up by a bunch of the spectators. It's amazing how a simple cheer can buoy a tired rider to the top of a climb, and how widespread pride in Rutgers has become.

Awesomest of all has to be Jay's performance on the day. He rode to a strong 10th, which is made all the more impressive by the fact that he executed a hard-fought pass on the final climb... immediately after taking a PBR-feed at the bottom of the hill!

Next is Neshaminy. Last year, it was the first race where I successfully beat Jay, although his flat tire and the helmet-cracking crash it caused made the result a controversial one. This year, the racing will be even more intense, and hopefully our rivalry will continue pushing us toward the podium!

Monday, May 05, 2008

H2H#1 - Wawayanda:FarmerAndy's report

Even though I love the collegiate road series and I love racing and hanging out with my teammates on the road, I was pretty amped for the first mountain bike race of the season.
Rolling out in the morning it was foggy. So foggy that we almost missed the turn into beautiful Wawayanda (say that 3 times fast) state park.
Luckily, when the spot class race started at 10:30 the fog had cleared and the sun was starting to come out. I tore though the first few miles of the course sitting in second wheel where there was not too much technical stuff and my fitness from the road season definately came in handy. Once the rock gardens started I slowed down a bit and ran a lot of stuff. I made it though the first lap feeling pretty good and really amazed that I did not flat though some of the technical sections. The second lap went pretty much like the first lap, except it hurt more...still I finished at about an hour thirty min, which was good enough for 4th in the 19-29 sport class. I'm pumped for the rest of the season!

Shout-outs to Jim, Kat from Bard, and James from Effingers/Colavita for tearin' it up in the expert race and to Olivia for taking sweet pictures and cheering!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

H2H#1 - Wawayanda: CaptainChaz's report

Today, FarmerAndy and I headed up, with Olivia, to Wawayanda State Park for the first race of the USAcycling MTB series, and oddly enough, the regional championship. I needed to place well in this race to qualify for MTB nationals at MtSnow later this Summer.

The course was balanced, yet completely unbalanced. There were ~3.5 miles of fast smooth trails (almost completely contiguous), then ~3 miles of rocky, technical trails with some impassable sections. So, you spend the first half of a lap reaching for all the power you have and making yourself a bit delirious, then, you try to finesse your way through the rock gardens and technical climbs.

I took the hole-shot and lined things out, for there was a single-file bridge over ~40 meters of flooded trail about a half-mile into the course, and I wasn't interested in throwin' 'bows and risking a mechanical on the first lap.

Feeling pretty good yesterday and this morning, I kept the pace up, but soon realized that I was overcooking my legs, for there were no technical sections in that first 3.5 miles to let the legs recover, unlike most places I ride. After going backwards for a few miles, I got back into rhythm and regained a number of places on lap 2, especially where it got technical. I was able to clean a number of climbs that other riders were having trouble with, and I was quicker down the descents and over the rocks. On lap 3, I got in a bit of trouble, as my legs were starting to fade in the long power section. By the end of it, I could feel some previously distanced riders about ten seconds back. Digging really deep, I put everything that I could into holding them off, but they were closing on me even through the technical sections! Some delirious bobbles in the rocks held me from opening the gap back up, and I was sure that at least one of them was going to catch me. He was only ONE meter from me before the final climb before the descent to the finish line. I remembered the sport singlespeed victory that I took on the last climb at Granogue two years ago, upshifted, and cranked out the last climb out of the saddle. My opponent was not able to chase, and I blazed down the final descent to a second place finish in the expert 19-29 category.

Special thanks go to Olivia, who kept me well fed with moral support and sport drink.
You can see here, can't you? She's the one holding the bottle. Oh, and she also saw a bear today!

Special thanks also goes to Efinger Sporting Goods, who built a really tough rear wheel for me (thanks Dustin), provided a last minute bearing adjustment (thanks Chris), and had a high-end tire in stock (thanks MarcC) for the back of my bike to help me over the climbs and rocks that most couldn't seem to manage.

Last, but not least, thanks to FarmerAndy, for allowing me to drench his helmet in sweat. The temperature increased dramatically from 11am to 12pm, and Andy had removed the bug net from his helmet, replacing it with the other pads and increasing ventilation. My helmet was still in cold-weather mode, and I would likely have gone deeper into delirium on the course if not for the good Farmer.

After seeing Andy's performance (more on that from him later), and looking forward to the performance of other team mates, I expect this mountain bike season to be pretty great for the Rutgers University Cycling Team!

PS - I was asked if I was on the road team after the awards ceremony. A rider wanted to congratulate you guys on some recent performances in the region. RutgersCycling is becoming a force to be reckoned with!