Friday Night Lights

The Annual SF Bay Area night race was upon us.  It is high school football all over again…although I can’t say I ever even played high school football.  I played soccer instead…and being from Marin,  mountain biking.  My mom thought these sports were much safer.  I tell you what…no sport is safe when you are kid.  Everything is 100 mph with no safety nets.  We didn’t even have helmets back then…What!???  Absurd!  Another absurd fact….I don’t have any pictures for this blog posting.  Seems there weren’t many photogs there for this race or I just can’t find them on the web.  What gives?

Well, I did find a couple….here is Men’s Elite winner Scotty Chapin.  He just crushed the competition from the start….and on a single speed.

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The Mustache Rides Again!

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Not to be outdone by testosterone – Ellen Sherill with the win for the ladies and Rock Lobster

My day started about 8 hours earlier when I was the first person to arrive in the team tent area.  I knew this was going to be a long day.  It is fun though to hang out and see all the characters (my cross breathern).  I usually sell some swag and eat some good bbq as people tend to make this a party.  Well, more of a party than a usual race.  Lucky for me too that I looked at the schedule.  The Master’s A race usually started at 7pm, right before the Elites.  This year they bumped it to 5pm…right at dusk.  The sun just set over the hills so we didn’t have really bad lighting.

I got a second row start which was good considering I had all those mechanicals last race.  I had a great start and was sitting pretty good after 1/2 lap.  Then, I got Brock Dickie’s seat caught in my saddle when he tried to ride the one-stair run up and failed.  At that point the big three were off (Robinson, Swanson and Coates).  The follow group was up to 5 or 6 riders.  Slowly they started to fade like the setting sun.  Mayne missed his call up then had a mechanical right in front of me so I had to chase the gap down.  Then, I let someone I didn’t know pass me in a tight turn.  Cost me my race later in the lap because he crashed (full spread of body and bike) in front of me.  I had nowhere to go, but over his rear wheel.  That gapped me off the chase group and I was alone the rest of the race.  Worst part…Dickie had a mechanical and then there were three guys for 4th and 5th.  It could have been me and my first podium ever in the BASP.  Instead I settled for 7th…again.  Not sure how many times I have been in 7th, but at least 7 times in the past 3 years.  Someday…..

I drowned my sorrow’s in one of Tim’s famous bleu chees stuffed burgers and the world was right again.  More pictures next time I promise….

The Makings of a Great Cyclocross Course

What really makes a good cross course?  Well, like everything in life the answer will vary from person to person.  And trust me, if you pose the question, everyone with an opinion will let you know about it.  I just love listening to racers as they come off the the course.  The question is usually something boring like, “How was the course?”.  The answers are anything but boring.  “This course is awesome.  Really loose. Man dusty.  Too bumpy. Not bumpy enough.  Too many turns.  Too straight.  Too muddy. I hate rain. This course sucks.”  And everything in between.  It’s like being at the bears house when Goldilocks is around.

Since we really only have two seasons here in Northern California, we usually get either dry or wet….with the emphasis on dry.  No other course in NorCal is better than the course at Lembi Park in Sacramento…and this coming from a guy who designs courses for his own race series in Sonoma County.  I must admit I am jealous of Sacramento.  A huge expansive city with unlimited park space.

The course is actually in the town of Folsom.  This year they started it on the pavement in the parking lot, a plus in my book.  Every race should start on pavement and go into some sort of grass/dirt.  Tradition right?  It then winds its way around the park which has some good little kickers (small hills you know), there is a sand pit (aka beach volleyball court) and more rolling terrain, mixed in with some flat flowie (a word right), power sections.  A really well designed course, especially since most venues are nervous about riding on grass.  It grows back people!  After all you have soccer games all the time on grass right?  I played soccer growing up and fields get trashed and they let them play year round in California.  Park managers…don’t get me started.

Switching gears….(haha literally) I have decided to start a small grassroots CX Nation team.  Unbeknownst to me but the transfer season is upon us in amateur cyclocross.  I wanted to have 3 guys, at least 1 female and at least 1 junior on the team.  Well rounded, small and easily manageable.  Anyone who has ever been on a cycling team is already shaking their head in agreement when I say that I wanted to keep it small.  That reduces the drama.  Drama destroys teams.  In road cycling that occurs in a small amount at the end of June, then the Tour de France energizes the team till the end of July before ultimate destruction occurs.  I am rolling the dice on the cyclocross season being short and that I will hand pick a great group of people.

I already have snared my first prey.  His name is Sage Aldebaran.  I noticed him a little last year in his first season racing cross.  Then this year he has been on a tear.  So I approached him before the Lembi Park race in Folsom about  joining the team since he was unaffiliated at the time.  He said “yes” right away and was in the kit that day.  It was like signing Peyton Manning on Saturday and him starting the next day.  Ok a football analogy…moving on.

Sage continued his winning ways and in a nice new CX Nation kit from Capo.  He will be great addition to the team next year.

Sage and Lembi

First podium for CX Nation

One of the athletes I coach this year, Zac Stanley, and I took part in the A’s race.  He in the Elites and me in the old guys 35+.  William Youngman, another CX Nation coached athlete further rounded out the group by doing the 45+ A’s.  We all went for 60 minutes.  They started us so closely together that we caught the elites in the first lap.  It was nice in a way because eventually I caught Zac and we were able to ride together for a bit and I could check out his riding style and technique.  He hit this a couple times….

Zac at Lembi 2

I have to practice this….

I was behind him when he jumped the barriers one time and his left foot unclipped out of the pedal.  He held on and landed it.  The next lap he got off the bike and ran the barrier.  Still I was impressed….  I ended up 4th, just off the podium again and sit third overall in the series.  Only problem is the two guys who sit one and two have been consistently beating me.  Time to up the ante a little….

Brian Lembi 2013

Rolling grass at Lembi Park….

Kewl Fit Vest Review

The Kewl Fit vest is a training tool for all types of athletic endeavors.   After seeing the Whole Athlete Cycling Team in these vests this summer I had to give it a try.   I’ve been using mine for about 2 months.  Before a cyclocross race I get on the trainer and warm up with it on.  I even walk around with it on after warming up, in order to keep my body temperature low.  The vest comes with 4 ice pads, the vest itself and a nice little carrying bag that is insulated.  The bag allows you to travel with your cooling vest to events.  I have even put some frosty drinks in there to keep cool for after racing, like soda and chocolate milk right?

Kewl Fit 2

All the goods.

You leave the cooling packs in the freezer and then when you are ready to train you can take them out and just slide them into a mesh pocket on the inside of vest.  I found that hanging the vest vertical rather than leaving it horizontal, like on the ground, works better for putting the cooling packs into the vest.  Small velcro tabs keep the cooling packs secure in the vest.  Like anything that you take out of the freezer, I found that the packs started to cool down immediately, which can be a problem when travelling to cycling races.  So I ended up putting some more ice in the bag to keep it really cold.

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The vest all zipped up

Once the cooling packs are inserted you can just put the vest on and zip it up.  There is bungee cord material on the sides to cinch up and get a snug fit.  You want the cooling packs to be against your body.  I always wore a thin shirt when wearing it, but I imagine that you could go without.  The idea behind the cooling vest is that it can be used weight reduction and as a cooling agent.  I won’t go into the science of it all.  You can check their website for that.  I used it for thermoregulation and for keeping my core temperature down when working out.  There is a claim that this can help with training.  I have no doubt that it could.  I must be honest though, I didn’t notice an appreciable difference with the vest on versus not wearing it, which doesn’t mean that it was ineffective.  I am sure there was a benefit to having it on.

I did notice that once I really started working up a sweat that my heat output off my body evened out the cooling effect.  Therefore, it felt like it was not being totally effective.  Overall though it is another tool in the tool chest to pull out at races when warming up or when trying to recover after a race.  For cyclocross in Northern California is can be effective in early season races when we have 70-90 degree days.  In other areas that actually have a fall and winter it might not be useful during cross season, due to the fact that you are trying to stay warm before your race.  Many athletes, including the pro cycling teams, have used the vests with much success.  More information can be found about the cooling vest and other products at http://www.kewlfit.com/index.htm

Kewl Fit 1

Kewl Fit Vest in Action

Reviews

CX Nation

So I decided that I love writing so much that I would do some reviews on certain equipment that I find out on the cyclocross circuit.  I’m always looking for some new and cool little gadget or thing that makes myself or my athletes that I coach better racers.  I am going to try and be as honest as possible without outright being critical of any of the things that I will check out.  Some things work for some people but don’t work for others.  So being neutral in a critique or a review is the most important thing for me.   Here we go……

Surf City

My wife and I like to take a long weekend every October and head down to Santa Cruz.  For the past two years we have rented a house a block from the beach.  We hit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, go to the beach and just chill like most do in Santa Cruz.  This year our trip just happen to fall on a weekend where there was a cyclocross race.  One of the oldest race series in the state, if not the country is Surf City.  Santa Cruz is a hot bed for cross talent and for bike builders – Rock Lobster being one of them.  I paid a visit to the master, Paul Sadoff, on Friday and ordered up my new cross/road bike frame.  I am getting too old to be on these road frames that are slammed for racing.  I like having the more upright fit of a cross bike so I decided to get a full hydraulic disc bike made up, so I can ride it on the road and during cross season.  It’s going to be the first “CX Nation” bike – built in my colors.  Super Stoked!

RL Shop

Paul said, “Yeah I got your specs in the pile of papers over there” I snickered. It really is organized.

And while Saturday was spa day for the girls, Sunday was race day for dad.  So I actually went bare bones, packed up my backpack and rode my bike to the race.  The course was designed my one of the Jacques-Mayne brother and it was tough.  Lots of up and down, fast flowing sections and a large run up.  Surf City always brings out the best riders.  Usually the numbers are down, but the quality is staggering.  National and World Champs galore.  I challenge any other place in the country that consistently has this many quality riders.

Surf City Start 2013

At the start it was all nervous smiles

Once again it was Brian Finnerty who sandbagged us at the start then left us all in the dust after Lap 1.  I have no doubt that he will be the national champion in the next two years.  He is an unstoppable force.  I rode my hardest, but my back finally did the Roberto Duran and said “no mas” after running up that hill 6 or 7 times.  I ended up a decent 8th, but not without drama.  I came in pretty hot to the barriers on one lap and stepped in a huge gopher hole.  I lost my balance and touched the barrier, causing an almost epic disaster.  I was hoping no one saw it and certainly didn’t photograph it.  Not the case….Garrett Lau did both.

Botch Barrier - Surf CIty 2013

Whoa. I got it.  Please don’t fall. Don’t I teach this stuff?

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Gassed on the run up

Surf City 4 2013

Up….

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and down…..all day long.

Triple Play – Host Race, Race, Then Race Again

Anyone who has ever put on a cyclocross race (or any event for that matter) knows how much hard work needs to be done before the event even takes place.  Then you have the day of the event and of course the aftermath.  In college I would have called it – pre-party, party and hangover.  In college it was not a problem to host a party and participate; but in cyclocross it was difficult for me to host a race, then try to race.  That wasn’t going to stop me though.

Round 1 of the 2013 Santa Rosa Cup took place once again at Santa Rosa’s self-proclaimed “cyclocross park”  We have had a total of 4 races here with various courses.  It is 20% pavement and 80% hard pack, bumpy dirt; depending on the weather.  If it rains it can also be a total mud bog.  We had no rain 2 weeks before the race, so it was hot and dusty come race day.  We spent 10 hours the day before the race setting everything up and I was up at 4:30am,so I could get to the park and put together the final details.  Bike Monkey (my co-producers) is always dialed in set up.  They have been promoting races for years and it shows. Very pro!

Sunrise SR Cup 2013

Sunrise on Race Day – TRP in the brake zone

We have a pretty smooth program and Round 1 went off without a hitch.  The races started on time, the scoring was accurate and posted quickly and there was a ton of cash on hand.  We have pay out in all categories with a huge purse for the elite racers.  I feel like it is kind of payback for all the work the elite racers put into coaching, training, racing etc….  Not to say that lower classes don’t put int he time, but they are “elites” for a reason.

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My little helper – Addison- putting the paint cans back

I decided to jump into the last race of the day and slay myself for 60 minutes.  I never have any expectations in these races other than to have as much fun as possible and work on my technique/fitness.  This one was fast from the gun with Brian Finnerty utterly crushing the entire field in just the first lap.  It was humbling, but…he didn’t come close to lapping me,so that makes me feel good about my race.  Having a water bottle on these 60 minute races is a must in NorCal.  I have been doing that for a couple years and it is a savior.

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Rolling the berm in the CX Nation kit

Day 2 of the weekend brought about total exhaustion and fatigue…at least to start the day.  Sometimes my body responds to the second day of racing in a good way.  It was Round 2 of the Bay Area Super Prestige at Candelstick Point…again.  After finishing 7th in Round 1 I got a front row call up and proceeded to botch my start, almost get taken out by Chris Kelly’s very long mountain bike handlebars and proceed to have the most unlucky race in years.  And it was all my fault.  I tried a little experiment this year and put Stan’s sealant in my tubular wheels to protect them.  Well it has actually hurt them more because I didn’t put valve extenders in between the tire and the valve stem.  I chose to run the extension after the valve.  Well the sealant gummed up the valve cores and they started burping air during the races.  On the second lap of this race I noticed my rear tire was going flat. I was sitting Top 5 and was bummed to have this problem.

BASP #2 2013

Rolling with the “B” bike

I had an awesome bike change with Daniel from the Pilarcitos.  Dude saved me because I passed the pits and was yelling his name to get the next time through and there he was.  Daniel is a stalwart in the local racing scene with BASP and has sacrificed a lot of his time to help us in the pits for years.  He is moving to SoCal next year.  He will be missed.  Turns out though my “B” bike was having the same issue. Pit again, back onto a flat rear tire.  The guys in the pit fixed the problem.  Pit again for the “B” bike.  You can see where this is going.  Losing tons of time and placings.  Lesson learned…always take care of your bike issues during the week.  Don’t put it off.  Do it before the season even starts.

Overall assessment – Once again I learned that it is hard to be a promoter and a racer, but it is worth it.

BASP #3 2013

Back on with the old shipyard in the background

Photo by Jeff Namba