Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Master Cross Worlds Wrap

Well, that was fun. I've raced my (road) bike in snow before and also sub-freezing temps. But Louisville, Kentucky on Friday the 13th a few days ago was different. Different in that we had frozen ground after that predicted cold-front blew in and dropped temps to the high teens Thursday to Friday night.

So lucky for me and Justin (other rider from TX doing the 30-34 race) we didn't need to worry about getting muddy bikes (since we only brought one CX bike up here)...because all the mud-sections were 90% frozen! Problem is how you ride that stuff. Warming up at 27degree outside temperature (with the wind chill close to single digits) I knew this will be a tough one - coming from sunny & fast terrain. Riding on the grassy section was okay but you had to ride on the very outside just mm from the course-tape to avoid having to ride in the frozen ruts which developed over night (see picture below). The 35-39 AG heats Friday morning were quite "entertaining" as a lot of (experienced) riders hit the deck a few times while making their way over the worst parts of the course. De-icing of the flyover was in full swing when their race was supposed to start at 9am.
Friday morning courtesy of Tim Harris Visuals
I had a descent start in my race and was in the middle of the "pack" of 30ish guys when we hit the dirt. The first few ruts took out a few guys and I found myself quickly somewhere 10-15 positions behind the leader by the time we hit the first ice-ride-through and a sweeping left turn. Not ideal but at least I managed to handle my bike 'til then. For me, I spent too much time dodging icy ruts which were still peanut-butter-like mud the day before. It was awful. Amazing how the leaders rode over that stuff. I had descent legs and was gaining ground and passed a handful of guys on the flats but either was lacking the skillz (?) to ride over the frozen ruts without crashing. I fell once but besides a twisted shifter-lever I was good to go 3 seconds later. Halfway through the race I realized that running the worst part of ice by the flyover was much quicker (and safer) than riding it. But I paid for that a minute later when I wasn't able to ride up the run-up anymore simply because my legs were on fire from running all-out for 10-15seconds. So off the bike again for that little kicker close to the finish.


the Belgie (right) who won already in 2010 won again
After 5 laps and 52minutes of racing I rolled in 15th, nothing stellar and I was hoping for more. But all considered, I can be happy with it. I had good legs, and the bike & rubber worked 100% well. I just lacked that special skill you need in Cyclocross to be at the very front. I lost approximately 70seconds every lap to the Belgie who ended up winning. On a 3.1K lap that's quite a bit in cyclocross.

Again, special THANKS to Sol and Eric at Austin Bikes, Doug Looney of SCOTT, Sean Lambert of ROL Wheels, and Ian, Justin, Paul & Cath at Bicycles Outback for the sponsorship and support this week. Now it's time to shift the focus back on the road and the 2012 season lying ahead. Some old and new things for the coming year and I am excited. Stay tuned for updates.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Master Cross Worlds Day 1 & 2

I'm out here in Louisville, KY for 3days after I pulled the trigger and registered for my first ever Master's race - the 2012 UCI Master Cyclocross Worlds. I thought I'd never do a Master's race and probably retire before doing some local 40+ race in Texas but since UCI Master's includes 30-year-old's like me I might as well, right? Steve Tilford put it nice when he said to me re: entering my 1st Master's race: "It happens to the best of us." He's right. But he's a so much better CX racer, too ;-)

Wednesday evening forecast: winter!
Anyways, Texas CX races don't compare to what you see up here in the Midwest right now on the Kentucky/Indiana border. It's muddy-messy. It's Thursday afternoon and so far I've ridden 30minutes on the course yesterday (when it was raining), then this morning the Bicycle Outback guys and I rode out on the road for an hour or so and tomorrow is already the 30-34 Men's Final. Comparing to most other age-groups, our "kiddie" group has no "seeding heats" (to determine starting order) since we only got ~35 guys racing so I drew start # 17 out of the bag. 3rd row, on the outside - not great but I also could have drawn # 32 and be OTB.

It snowed during the qualifying heats this early afternoon. We rode at 9am and it was 49F. Now it's 3pm and barely 30F. Forecast is more snow tonight and high teens as a low. Will be an interesting day/race tomorrow. The last (and only) time I did a cyclocross race with rain & mud was probably around 1996 back home in Heidenau, near Dresden. My ride? A old Diamant steel-frame with "maybe" 14-gears. But it had tubulars at least!

Wednesday, 1:30pm: first & last time this rig is so clean...
We're trying to stay warm here and luckily I packed enough clothes for the few days in the cold. Just needed to buy some super-warm and waterproof for the race-site which is a mix of mud, water and just overall a messy place. But that's cross and everyone has to deal with it here. The only thing I didn't bring is a spare/pit-bike and if the mud will be similar tomorrow then those 4 laps will be gnarly without pitting. But oh well, let's see what happens. A lot can happen in 45minutes. The reigning 30-34 World Champ from Belgium is racing tomorrow but besides him and me, that race is pretty much a copy of the US Master Nationals last weekend in "warm"  Madison with 99% US riders lined up. Brad Cole raced well there in 5th and he'll be lining up tomorrow, too. I think the cost of coming over to the US, bringing bikes, extra wheels, renting cars, hotels and stuff is just too expensive for more Europeans coming over here. Oh, and there are a few other Texans up here who can do very well: Jimmie Vaughn, Paul "5 races in a row" Bonds, and Ian & Catherine Moore from Waco. There are more, but I already forgot. Looks like more Texans here than at Nationals a week ago.

photo taken by Trudi, with Steve riding on rideable part yesterday. Now it's all mud.
With those extreme conditions the roadie in me is be pretty "unexcited" but still I'm looking forward to race and go all out. I'll try to post some update tomorrow after the race and hopefully some more muddy pics. 

Thursday, 3pm: 2 laps in...
Wednesday, 2pm: 30minutes on the course and my tights are "done"

Ian found a sweet spot inside the our downtown Hyatt to wash bikes. Hot water, too! 
Thursday, 12pm. there was grass 2 days ago...
Thursday, 1pm: trying to stay warm while heats are going on. Notice: it's snowing
Special THANKS to Sol & Eric at Austin Bikes, Doug Looney of SCOTT, Sean Lambert of ROL Wheels, and Ian at Bicycles Outback for the sponsorship & support this week.