Time To Get Fat

It’s that time of year again…cyclocross season has come to an end.  Spouses and families are rejoicing while we are crying in our skinsuits.  It comes with a mix bag for me.  The season does wear and tear on me  both emotionally and physically, especially with all I do with CX Nation.  I am not just a racer anymore.  I run a business, a team and I have coaching clients who rely on me.  It can be exhausting.  So while there is still one more race for some in California (the NorCal vs. SoCal Showdown this weekend), unless you are racing pro in Europe…the fat lady is singing.

I did manage to get one more race in after Nationals.  Nats usually marks the end of the run for me, but the 8th race in the Sacramento series was held last Saturday and it looked intriguing.  The course was set to run through Old Town Sacramento, which is a bunch of old brick buildings and looks like the Wild West.  Center to it all is a pretty grand train museum.  There was the lure for the family to come.  Having the family come along is both good and bad.  I love seeing my girls at the races – they are my best fans – but it can be stressful for warming up, setting up the CX Nation stuff, etc…  I went “light” and just decided to warm up on course and not bring any of the other accoutremants.

Old Town Sac Cross

Riding the train tracks in Old Town Sacramento

Old Town Sac Cross 1

Jeff and I over the tracks

The course started on a cobblestone street, wound its was through a grassy knoll, over a bunch of railroad tracks and did an “out and back” on a bike path.  There was off camber, sand, pavement and a section up and down the old boardwalk.  Lots of cool fixtures.  Attendance was low, but Sage and I lined up in the 35+ A field with a couple of the regulars, who turned out to be battling for the overall; more on that later.  Sage took off like a bullet and I slotted in close behind.  Once we reached the bike path section he took off.  He said he was battling the flu, but man….I could barely keep his wheel.  I then realized that I was dragging the whole field in tow, so I let up on the gas and just sat in.  That was the last we saw of Sage.  He was gone.

I settled in with Robert Braun and Jeff Mitchell.  Robert has some pretty good skills, but he kept making small mistakes in the turns, which is uncharacteristic of him.  Eventually on lap 2 he went down.  Jeff and I took off and immediately started going…really hard.  After a few laps of this Jeff turns to me and says, “I am not racing you.”  I thought, well I am right next to you and if you are not racing me, then who are you racing….oh wait, I get it.  Jeff had a one point lead on Robert for the overall.  If he held him off then he would take it.  I know this isn’t road racing, but I pulled a Vinokourov and said that if he let me take 2nd, then I would help him beat Robert.  So that is what we did….although a few times I had to wait for him, so I might have just dropped him anyways.  But then karma got me and I dropped it on the boardwalk and slightly rolled my tire.  Jeff waited and we rolled the last lap together.

Podium at Sac 1

Addie shared the podium with Sage and I

I could hear my daughter the entire race and that made me so excited.  I even shared the podium with her.  We got a train whistle (how appropriate) for getting on the podium.  My brother was there too.  He lives in Sacramento.  For his efforts he got a big beer from sponsor Yolo Brewing.  Everybody wins!  Now the off season…..

End of the Season

Burgers and Fries at Gott’s Roadside after racing – Let’s get fat.

NATS!

CX Nation

The year end bash that is called Cyclocross Nationals is happening this week in Austin, Texas.  I had been to Austin a few years ago and really enjoyed myself.  It was sunny and 80 degrees one day and then snowing the next, so I knew I had to be prepared for anything.  The whole saga did not start out without drama.  Scott Chapin of Team Rock Lobster had offered to take down bikes for a bunch of us NorCal folks.  What a dream offer!  All we had to do was bring our bikes to the race in Monterey the week before.  Well…best laid plans….Scott’s van broke down and he couldn’t make it.  So the plan was to pile all the bikes into 3 pickups and bring them to him, while he fixed the van.  Being a little of a “control freak” or maybe I just like to be in control of my own actions, I couldn’t let go of my two bikes.  I decided to send the single speed with them and fly with the geared bike.

After packing and loading up the bike bag (for anyone who does not do this on a regular basis, it is a pain) I headed off to the airport.  While waiting for take-off I received a text from a local father who was driving down to Texas.  I guess he could have taken my bikes, but we never connected.  Oooof….  well maybe on the way home, was our parting thought.  When I got to Austin, it was cold….really cold, but again, not Iowa cold.  I went out for an early morning pre-ride before my noon race.  What a great course!  There was grass, some long straights, lots of off camber power turns and two limestone staircase run-ups.  Crazy good.  Plus, I was able to run my file tread Chicanes.  Bonus!

Nats Pins

Thousands of pins needed to get the double back and two arm numbers.

Sage and I lined up for the non-championship race.  I had never done this race before, but now that they moved my age group race to Friday this was a nice option to stretch the legs and check out the course at speed.  The first lap shook out and I was in a “peloton” of riders – 10 of us.  Chris McGovern took off and I should have followed, but I didn’t.  We chased for some time and I got so cross-eyed that I planted myself into one of those big wooden poles that they drive into the ground.  The pole won, rolled my tire and bent my bars.  After 10 dudes rolled past me I was back on the bike, but lost a lot of ground.  The rest of the race was a war on attrition and I ended up 24th after all that.  Sage blew his rear deraleur to pieces, ended up on a neutral bike and got pulled.  Worse day for him.  I was so sore that I just skipped the single speed race.  I think I had the gearing wrong too. I would have been a grind.

I spent the day off as a food tourist and we (Sage, his wife, his baby and I) hit up the “best bbq in America”- Franklin BBQ.  It was even featured in a Chase credit card ad.  So we froze out butts off in a line that was 2.5 hours long before we ate.  I am not sure that the line was worth it, but the food was excellent.  Stuffed is an understatement.

BBQ

That’s two pounds of brisket with ribs, plus some fixings – I didn’t eat all that!

Race day dawned and we had a little rain the night before.  It was really cold and there were some loose sections on the course.  I switched out to the Clement PDX and it performed like a dream.  Unfortunately before I entered that dream I was in a nightmare.  I now call rows 4-7 in Nats the death zone.  Every year there seems to be a crash at the start.  This year didn’t disappoint as I got rolled into the mess.  Bikes and bodies everywhere.  There is video all over my Facebook page.  I couldn’t find my bike at first and then located it 5 feet away.  Ugh….race over.  Nope by some dumb luck my bike and I landed on so many people that the chain was just off.  Nothing else was wrong.  I jumped on and was literally dead last, aside form the guys lying on the ground and heading to the hospital.  I chased and chased and probably had my best race ever.  I caught and passed around 80 or so people, didn’t get pulled and had a full race.  Silver lining…..

Nats 2

The carnage – There I am getting my chain back on

Nats

And finally some racing. 36 degrees and still going Belgie – no leg warmers.

I also managed to get my bikes a ride home with a local from Santa Rosa, John Haley.  I did have to leave them next to his truck because I couldn’t find him and I had to get to the airport.  That was a little scary.  But he got them and now it is time to lick the wounds and prepare for next year…oh wait…there is another race next weekend in Sac…and it is supposed to rain.  Not packing it just yet…..

Austin Weird

Keeping Austin Weird – my hotel sign looks like a – well you know. It’s the red one in the distance

Countdown to Nationals

After a two week layoff for the holidays it was “back at it” for the CCCX race down at Fort Ord.  It is always pretty hard to stay motivated for racing in January now that Nationals has moved to January.  Nationals used to be  in December, before the Christmas holiday.  USA Cycling changed it to better help the US pros that go to Worlds in Europe at the end of the month….all 12 of them.  It really never made sense to me.  99% of the people that are racing in Nationals are not “going to Europe” for Worlds.  Hello, USAC we are amateurs with jobs and families.  I am sure our families would love it if we ended before the holiday period.  I know, it is our choice to continue with the season past December 15th, but how about we do what the majority wants to do?  I expect to see a petition for a change in the near future.  We shall see….. and now on to racing.

I rarely get down to Monterey to race in Keith Defibre’s series.  It is just too far.  6 hours drive, round trip.  But since it is the only show in town on Saturday, I went for it.  I have only been down to Monterey twice before and one of the courses was the exact same course as Saturday’s.  Oh well….It consisted of a long uphill, followed by a screaming downhill through banked turns.  Keith throws in a little of his pump track/downhill building skills.  Unfortunately I don’t really have that skill set for riding it.

photo (1)

Beautiful day at Fort Ord, Monterey

What this series lacks in numbers of racers it makes up for in quality.  Myrah, Coates, Dickie, Robinson and a host of others were there.  I started a little towards the back and with only two lines, then one line, to get up the hill, the separations began immediately.  Plus since I could not  see much in front of me because of the narrow track, I hit a cone straight away.  Nice way to mark the course…out of sight of where we are looking.

photo

Sage and I at the start

Sage was with me when the split happened and he made a great effort to bridge up to the lead group.  BMX skills for sure.  I just settled in and blew up time and time again on the hill.  The 45’s passed me, so I just cruised with them for quite some time.  One of my coaching athletes, Mark Howland, had a great race and ended up 2nd in that group, losing in the sprint to Cesar Chavez, who has been killing it this year.  Brij nabbed a 4th place.  Sage ended up riding to a 5th place finish in the 35+ A’s.

While my fitness wasn’t really great, I was able to beat out two guys that I was racing the entire time.  I knew that the first one to the barriers, right before the finish would probably take it.  I accelerated on the pavement right before the barriers and won the sprint…..for 10th.  That is the great thing about cross, you can get a race in with just about anyone.  Two more days and then off the Austin, Texas.  Looking forward to some racing.  I am going to race a single speed bike for the first time ever….and in Nationals.  I figure if I am going all that way I should just race as much as I can.  See you in Texas!

 

Future CX Nation

The future of cross – Paul Haley. Santa Rosa local, who has two older bros that race

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Sage on the podium with Coates, Myrah and Dickie, plus Brock’s dog

Howie @ CCCX 8

Howie in 2nd and Brij with a 4th place