Nats, Altitude and Hay Pits

How excited I was when I heard months ago that Nationals for cyclocross in 2018 was awarded to Reno.  Drive to a Nationals?  Home court advantage, yes!   Drive to the race.  No flying, breaking bikes down, hurting my arms dragging said bikes through airport, rental cars that don’t fit the bikes…you get it.  Winner! I can’t wait.  In the meantime, the organizing committee is putting together some racing in the park where Nats will be held.  Sort of a practice run.  Very smart, after last years debacle in Austin.  Granted this race was in September and not in January, but at least it is something.

Now Reno is a long drive for just one race, but I want to support this organization and all that they are doing.  Rancho San Rafael Park is an easy venue to get to, very close to the main freeway running through northern Reno.  The venue is huge with lots of parking, plenty of places to set up and very centrally located to everything in Reno.  I set up the CX Nation tent on the grassy area and went out to check on the course.  Granted this is trial run and some things might change, but the course was well set up and had lots of tough obstacles.  Pro rider Teal Stetson-Lee of Scott Racing is the main hancho (or is it honchette?) and the mad creator of this course.

The course begins with a long and wide packed dirt start/finishing stretch.  The dirt was a little bumpy and slightly uphill.  A box scraper might make this a little better start and reduce the bumps.  I felt like I was on a mini pump track.  From there it’s into a small bark section and then into the grass, which is all uphill.  The grass puts you into a sand pit which was made unrideable by all with two sharp turns.  Then it’s downhill and into the Hay Pit, which at first I felt was a little dangerous.  It is basically a trough of hay with two planks that stretch across it.  You can ride the planks, bunny hop the barriers holding the hay in or dismount and run.  Of course it is fastest to ride the planks, but being my conservative self, I just dismounted.  After that it was into a very steep flyover, through some trees and to the back side of the course.  On the backside the main feature was a huge loose dirt run up, then down a loose, tricky off camber downhill.  So what I am saying, it was “loose”.  Back to the front side and over some double barriers to the finish.  Whew…  Oh, and did I mention that it is at altitude.  I believe a few thousand few at least.  Dry and dusty too.  No biggie….

In my race I started out well and got the hole shot.  From there is was all downhill.  I just didn’t have the power and felt like the altitude was really hurting me.  I just couldn’t get into a rhythm and get going.  Field sizes were small and I ended up 7th…out of 7.  Doh!  Sage fared a little better in 4th, after washing out on a turn and losing 2nd.  Our new local Jonathan Baker, ex pro, took the “W”.  Gotta beat that guy this year.  Nats here we come….

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Back side, sketchy downhill.  Looks like I am walking

Sage 2 Reno 2015

Sage out of the hay pit. He chose to run also.

Brian 2 Reno 2015

Double barriers on an uphill.  No rest for the weary.

Down By The River….

The West Sacramento Gran Prix was last Saturday and what cool place to have a cyclocross race.  We are literally right on the Sacramento River.  So close you just want to jump in and float down to the Golden Gate Bridge, which isn’t a crazy idea based on the time of year and the heat.  Hades has nothing on Sacramento in the summer time.  This year was predicted to be off the chart with the heat, but it didn’t really pane out the way it was predicted.  Would you say I was crazy when I was relieved it was 90 degrees?  Smoke from a fire in the Sierras and some cloudy muggy weather made it almost bearable.

The course in West Sac is one that I really like sometimes and dislike at other times.  Lots of grass (typical for Sacramento races) which I really like, but a lot of turns.  Makes it like a roller coaster.  Not my strongest suite because you can never really get going.  Great crowds, bands and a festival atmosphere make one race not to miss.  Plus it USAC, so we get points for Nationals.

First official race of the season and it is like a reunion of sorts.  I haven’t seen a lot of these folks since last year and the social aspect is one of my favorite parts…catching up with all racers.  I set up the CX Nation tent on the promenade next to all the others and settled in to watch the chaos of cross.  Granted I also had to sit down and rest because the drop off and the set up area seemed like miles apart.  What a trek….got my lifting workout in before cardio. I am not sure that is the correct order.

After previewing the course a few times we lined up for the 35+ A’s race and we were off.  Now I pride myself in begin a fast started…and an even faster fader as the laps go on.  I got a great jump off the line and made it to the first turn in first.  Then another rider started coming on the left and I thought…”who is this?”  He blew right by me and I began the chase.  Halfway through the first lap I wasn’t making any ground, then Sage came around me and starting hunting the guy down.  I was blown.  A group of 3 of the usual suspects came up to me and I joined them – Mundelius, Steve O and “Benny” Benford.  I just sat in and waited.

Brian 3 West Sac 2015 (2)

Chasing Sage on the 1st lap

The 4 of us took turns beating each other up until the elastic broke on lap 3 for me.  Jason attacked and left me with John and Steve.  Then John took off and Steve just sat on my wheel…until I took a drink of water.  Then, he attacked (cheap shot 🙂 and I was blown.  An Alta Alpina rider had bridged up to us and he left me in the dust too.  I just tried to pace myself to end, but maybe I should have tried a little harder because on the last run up the AA guy fell on the steep hill.  If I was closer I would have taken one place.  That’s why you should never give up.  You never know what might happen in a cross race.  Lesson learned…..  Sage came in second as the unknown guy dropped him on the last lap.  Turns out that guy is Jonathan Baker, ex pro from Colorado who got 6th in the Elite race after “warming up” on us.  I guess he just moved to Chico.  More strong competition in NorCal.  Kristin had a strong showing in the Elite Women’s race, scoring an 8th place.  After a strong road season that saw her win the NorCal crit championships in her age group, she is just getting her cross legs.

Brian West Sac 2 2015

Mundelius and I over the Barriers

Sage West Sac 2 2015

Sage leading Baker

Kristin West Sac 1 2015

Kristin driving it on the grassy hills

Sage Podium West Sac 2015

Sage on the podium

Ready, Set, Lobster….

And with it comes the beginning of another year of cyclocross.  With the season starting earlier and earlier each year it brings a new set of questions…. Do I race this early?  Will I wilt in the heat?  Will I peak too soon?  Should I carry a water bottle…you know cross bikes don’t have bottle cages?  What will wifey say?  But this race was for a good cause…the Rock Lobster cyclocross team.  Paul Sadoff, creator of all things Lobster and all things cross, legendary frame builder and all around awesome guy, came up with a unique way to fund his team.  Instead of dealing with some corporate sponsor that calls all the shots, he decided to have a cake sale of sorts.  It was a fundraiser based on a cyclocross race.  I had to go, even though it is still August.

The family and I made our once a year pilgrimage down to Santa Cruz to soak in the sun, sand and cyclocross.  After renting a nice place near the beach I woke up Saturday morning and decided to ride to the race.  It’s kind of a novel idea for cyclocross.  I mean, we have all this gear – two bikes, wheels for snow/ice/sand/hurricane, trainer, food, water, beer, brats, dogs (the fury ones), etc….  There is no way we could ride the SAME bike to a race and then race.  It would just blow your mind.  Hey folks, I did it.  I couldn’t resist.  I got to ride through my old alma mater, UC Santa Cruz to get to the race.  It was a walk down memory lane.  Go Banana Slugs.

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Upper Campus – Great Trails – Lots of Interesting Things Happening Up There

The course for the race was on private property that had an airport runway on it.  The Rock Lobster folks set up a nice track that had 4 log barriers, a flyover, pump track and more dust than the Sahara.  The weather brought fog initially and sun later, neither of which could knock down all the dust on the course.  Ah, NorCal cross at its finest.  I hope they are right about this El Nino thing.

I didn’t have too many expectations going into this race.  Hence, the two hour ride up to the venue before the race.  I was just going to use it a pre-season race and see what happens.  I lined up in the second row and off we went.  After lining out in 6th or 7th we hit the dust cloud.  Pigpen has nothing on this cloud of choking dirt.  I couldn’t really see what was ahead so I just hoped the guy in front of me knew what he was doing.  After a half of lap it kind of thinned out.  I got gapped a little in the loose singletrack (not my strength) but then tried to ride hard up the second group on the course.  That’s where the wheels dropped off.  I tried to ride over that group and just imploded.  One lap in and I was running on fumes.  Not good.

Brian Lobster Cup 2015 (5)

Pump track action – BMXer = not me.

Brij Lobster Cup (1)

Brij in the dust bowl for the 45+A’s

The rest of the race was just a blur.  I tried to hang with guys that were catching me and I just couldn’t.  Hopefully that is a good sign and I have not peaked yet.  I did essentially interval training on the whole  course.  The people were great.  Lots of support out there and I heard almost 300+ racers came to the race.  That is pretty awesome.  A couple of the athletes I coached had great days.  One scored a  3rd place and the other got the last step 5th, racing in various categories.  I did do something that I have never done in a race before – beer hand up.  I know, I know…I am a promoter of all things cyclocross, but I am not really a drinker and to have a beer during a race might put me into a coma.  It was so dry and dusty out there that I literally needed any fluid.  Beer it is and the proof was captured by photographer Jeff Namba.  Thanks Jeff.

Banana Beer

The perfect red cup hand up from the banana

Cheers Lobster Cup

A little salute and down the hatch

Unfortunately there was only a little beer in the cup.  They were being pretty stingy with their Mickey’s I guess.  I rode the whole race with a smile on my face and even heard my little girl cheering me on, which is the best.  Thanks for the good time Lobsters.  On with the season!