Traveling + Bike Racing = TOUGH

Pete Webber celebrating

A little behind in the blog posts, so I am going to try for catch up.   I went out to the USGP in Ft. Collins, CO two weeks ago.  Not much racing was happening here and I wanted to get some points for Nationals.  At Nationals they line you up in the start grid based on the amount of points you get during the season.  Now don’t ask me how this all works.  I have read US Cycling’s explanation of it several times and I think I could explain cold fusion better.  The gist is that you have to do well in races where there are people who are rated better than you and these said races have to be US Cycling affiliated.  Most of the races in NorCal are not affiliated with US Cycling, so even though I am racing against 4 current or former national champions and a world champion each week, it doesn’t count.  Not a great system.

The US Grand Prix of Cyclocross does count though.  They put on quite a show.  Great courses, lots of fans, food and of course beer.  I decided to enter 4 races in order to get my money’s worth.  I planned on doing the 2/3 race and the Master’s race both days.  I really had no idea what I was doing and as a coach I would have never recommended this to a client.  So why was I doing this?  Because I am crazy?  Oh yeah, for fun!

The first race was the 2/3 race on Saturday.  I got the great call up – second to the last row.  Oh well, time to start practicing my passing skills.  It had rained a little the night before so the ground was a little damp but dusty underneath.  The course ran down this hillside, going back and forth, up and down.  Lots of elevation and being at elevation it really hurt.  I only managed to get crashed into 3 times on the first lap.  And after pushing myself into the pain cave I ended up 37th out of 80 or so riders.  Not bad.  Best thing about these races is you get your lap times and mine were consistent with the Top 20 riders, so if I would have started up front…Hmmmmm  There is that start position I talked about in the last blog.

Next race was the exact opposite.  It started to rain really hard and by the time the Master’s went off the course was totally different.  I decided to keep warm in the car instead of riding a warm up lap and that cost me.  Traveling with just one bike and no entourage of gear makes you decide to do some silly stuff.  Because of my “no pre-ride” I went to the line with my tires pumped waaaay to high.  I realized my mistake when I saw Greg Keller (Local Boulder hardman) in front of me and his rims were almost touching the ground when he sat on his bike.  I asked him after what he was running and it was like 24 and 22 psi.  I was embarrassed to say that I was about 10 psi higher.  He went to touch my tires to check and I wanted to just ride away.

So after about 4 crashes, a twisted shifter and a bruised ego, I headed out of there with my tail between my legs.  This guy however, won the race and started about 7 rows back. Then again, he is the reigning master’s world champion.

Pete Webber celebrating
Pete Webber celebrating

The next day I just ended up doing more of the same thing in the 2/3 race.  I was tired.  the course was tacky and fast, but I just didn’t have it.  Then I realized that I wouldn’t make my flight if I did the Master’s race, so I packed up and took off.  Nice planning on my part.  Greatest thing about the USGP had to be the WD 40 bike wash station. These guys basically took my bike, cleaned the whole thing and prepped it for the flight home.  Now that is pro.  Thanks to Brian Dallas the his whole crew.  Well, maybe the there was something better – waffle with banana and Nutella.  Yum!
Bottom line… unless you are pro, have a whole support staff or are rich – traveling and racing your bike can be difficult.  You have jet lag, elevation, crappy hotels, rolling bikes in airports, coach leg room, bad food, no food, bad start position, no trainer, no tent….it’s a long list of excuses.  Feel free to use any of them when you don’t do well in a race.  I’m going to.  BTW…I didn’t get many points for Nationals and now it doesn’t look like I am going, but who wants to race in Madison in January?  Brrr….

The Start Grid….

Here is Scotty Chapin. He started on row 6 of the Elite race and came in 3rd place. Granted he has skills but…..

One of the biggest skills in cyclocross has nothing to do with actually riding your bike.  It has to do with getting to the start line before some other schmuck gets there.  In cyclocross you have to be loitering around the start line some 20 minutes before a race, if you don’t have a call up.  Even if you think you have a call up you might want to get there before the sun comes up because the promoters might decide to change up their original plans at the last minute.

     It seems counterintuitive to do a really good warm up on a trainer, get a sweat going and then wait around for 20 minutes freezing your butt off or getting totally wet in the rain, but that is exactly what you have to do sometimes.  Last weekend at the Bay Area Superprestige at Candelstick Park was a prime example of start line madness.  Now I didn’t see all the starts nor did I see the controversial B race start where a whole group of riders from one team just stepped in front of the entire field.  Bloggers, Yahoo groupies and people hiding behind their computers shamed them enough that I won’t talk about it anymore.  I did get to see the madness of several of the other starts and it is amazing what a little testosterone can do to a simple jaunt in the park.  ROAR!

     The thing is….sometimes you get a good starting position and sometimes you don’t.  I feel like I am a strong starter so it helps me when I am up front.  Then I just blow up like an atomic bomb and fade back.  Some people have bad starting position or a bad start, but then turn it on after 10 minutes or so.  And still others just start bad and end bad.  The most important thing is to go hard and race against yourself.  Pick off as many riders as you can without getting passed by the whole field and most of all, have fun.  Hearing all the news this week about the doping in cycling just leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.  The best thing about cross is that we don’t have to worry about this type of stuff. (My fingers were crossed when I typed this).  So go out there, try to get a good starting position. If you don’t just work on your skills and run over as many slower riders as you can.  But do it with a smile on your face.

     I leave tomorrow for the USGP in Ft. Collins.  I am doing 4 races there.  Crazy? Oh yes, but if I am going to travel all that way I might as well hit it hard.  In each race I will be at least 5 or more rows back.  Not my usual position, but I am going ride till my heart explodes or I throw up, whichever comes first, and I will do it with a smile on my face.

Here is Scotty Chapin. He started on row 6 of the Elite race and came in 3rd place.  Granted he has skills but…..
Here is Scotty Chapin. He started on row 6 of the Elite race and came in 3rd place.
Granted he has skills but…..