Year of the Gravel Ride?

I keep hearing that Gravel is where you ride, and not what you ride.

I also wonder if an explosion of events follows the explosion of sales of a particular type of bike.

Case in point: Everyone and their mother started hawking their trail mountain bikes. 4-6 inch travel bikes that are fun for riding pretty much anything. Not really XC light, not really DH burly. Right around the same time, you start seeing Super D (Is it Enduro now?) events popping up all over the place. Shoot, there’s even an Enduro World Series now and it looks amazing!

Well, what other type of bicycle has been increasing in popularity? What is the fastest growing cycling discipline in the US?  

The answer is cyclocross! And since cyclocross is traditionally only run from September thru January, what are people gonna do with their CX bikes for the majority of the year? If I were an enterprising race organizer, I’d definitely come up with some sort of event that would be semi-specific for CX bikes in order to tap into that market.

Enter the “Gravel Race.” Yeah, I know gravel isn’t exactly CX. There are gravel specific bikes out there. But I would consider them under the same umbrella. Mixed terrain with some road, some dirt, some off the bike and lots of fun.

And for some reason, these events also have a reputation for being long. And for me, where most of my events are 60 minute or less Crits or CX races, anything over 2 hours is really long.

Last year, I raced two such events. The local Redlands Strada Rossa and the infamous Belgian Waffle Ride.

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Those two rides were some of the most epic things I did all last year. And yeah, since this is the CrossDoc blog, I figured I should do something that actually involves the Cross bike this jaar.

So this is the year of the Gravel Event! I’ve smartly, or stupidly, signed up for four events so far, each spaced out so I can actually recover in between them. And we’ll see how it goes. Each one seems to have its own flavor and challenges. I’ll have a “race” report after each one. So here goes.

1. Sambarn’s Rock Cobbler 3.0

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2. Inland Empire Biking Alliance’s Strada Rossa 

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3. The 2016 Belgian Waffle Ride

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4. And finally, the 2016 Crusher in the Tushar 

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By the way, event organizers, maybe chose some riders who are smiling or having a good time for your posters and flyers. The guy for BWR and Crusher look like they are having an enema and a root canal at the same time.

Thanks for reading, sorry I’ve been in radio silence for a while, and I hope to see you, out at the Gravel events?

-crossdoc

 

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Velocity Cross Video and Race Report.

It’s often said that the riders make the race. This was definitely true at last weekend’s Velocity Cross race in Chino, CA.

Held at Prado Regional Park next to manmade lakes and cattle farms, the conditions were pretty nice for a bike race. It had rained earlier in the morning but by the time the race went off the sun was shining and the temperature was hovering in the 70’s.

The race course is actually pretty flat. In fact it’s most unique feature is probably long grassy straights and turns with tons of bumps and divots in the ground. But the lack of elevation can also make for some very dynamic racing. For about 85% of this race, I was always racing with at least one other person. I was never by myself for very long.

The focus of the video above and my main take-away points from this race are related to group racing and pack dynamics. Here are some of the main things I learned this race.

1. The importance of getting yourself established in a group. The first couple minutes of the race you really want to get yourself in the best spot as possible. If you’re in the group you want to be in, like the lead group, you have to either hold your position or find places to move up.

2. You should at least be aware of who’s up the road and how many people are currently in your group. Use the information to calculate your possible finishing position and see if those fit your race goals.

I’ll give you an example. For most of the race I was in a group of 4 riders with two riders up the road ahead of us. That meant that if the groups stayed the same, the BEST I could have gotten was 3rd and the WORST I could have gotten was 6th. If I was fine with those odds, then I should work to stay in my group but conserve energy whenever possible.

But if I wasn’t fine with those odds, for example if I really wanted to get either first or second, then I would need to work with my group to effectively chase the leaders or else attack the group and try to bridge up.

As it turned out, two of the rider in our group of four attacked and I ended up in the third group. So the BEST I could have gotten was 5th and the WORST was still 6th. I was OK with 5th so I did my best to race smart to get that placing. You’ll have to watch the video to see what happens though!

3. You can also use your perceived effort in the group as a gauge on how to race against the riders in that group. For example, if you’re sitting in the group and you’re breathing pretty easy and you find yourself soft-pedaling through sections, then maybe you should think about attacking that group. But if you’re barely hanging on and you’re giving your all just to stay on the tail end of the group, then conserve your energy and let the riders up front pace your effort.

4. Drafting in cyclocross is NOT like drafting in road racing. In a road race or crit, you’re pretty close to the rider in front of you to get a draft. But in cyclocross, being too close is not a good thing. Being too close means that you might not be able to hit your lines at the speed you want. It also means that if the rider in front of you makes a mistake, it could slow you down or even worse, cause you to crash. Since there are so many line options in cyclocross, you have to give yourself a little escape route just in case the rider in front of you messes up.

Well, those are my take-aways and tips from Velocity Cross. This blog is really just as much for me as it is for you the reader. Those pointers I wrote above are all things I SHOULD have been doing and I can learn from.

Thanks again for reading. Subscribe to the blog and the YouTube channel and feel free to share any posts or videos you find helpful.

Next up, Spooky Cross!

Another excellent photo from Phil at PBCreativephoto.com. I'm  smack in the middle of a chasing group. I felt like I was in a group the entire race. Definitely different from the last race at Storm the Beach.

Another excellent photo from Phil at PBCreativephoto.com. I’m smack in the middle of a chasing group. I felt like I was in a group the entire race. Definitely different from the last race at Storm the Beach.

Storm the Beach CX video

Here’s my video from last weekend’s SoCalCross race, Storm the Beach, which was just north of Oceanside, CA.

As you’ll see in the video, the big take away lesson for me was the importance of keeping the bike moving forward. I noticed there were little sections during the race where I was coming to a complete stop before starting up again.

Even if that complete stop only happened for a split second, I was still slowing myself down.

Even so, I was stoked to race on a course that was new to me and have my family there.

The next race should require some different skills and tactics. Velocity Cross in Chino is generally flatter and it’s a power course. Think grassy turns, bumpy terrain, and faster average speeds. I’m curious to see if we’ll stay in a group, if we’ll have a sprint finish, or how the weather will be.

Thanks for reading and watching!

These excellent photos were taken by Jeff Urban. Check out his stuff at jurbanphotos.com

These excellent photos were taken by Jeff Urban. Check out his stuff at jurbanphotos.com

These excellent photos were taken by Jeff Urban. Check out his stuff at jurbanphotos.com

These excellent photos were taken by Jeff Urban. Check out his stuff at jurbanphotos.com

Autumn Cross Race Report. SCPS Race #1, Verdugo Park, Glendale CA.

Getting the first of the season under your belt is always a weird experience. The effort I put out racing cyclocross is unlike anything else in cycling. You’re on the gas the whole time, you’re using muscles that never get worked, your nose and throat are clogged with dust, and you have to deal with the dreaded cross-back.

So yeah, I often don’t feel like I’m actually “racing” until a couple of races into the season.

This year I was privileged to do the SoCalCross Practice Race also in Verdugo Park a couple of weeks ago and also race at CrossVegas so at least I had some CX racing in the legs. However, I wasn’t gunning for a top spot in either event.

Got a chance to do the "practice" race here a few weeks ago. I think it helped. Maybe?

Got a chance to do the “practice” race here a few weeks ago. I think it helped. Maybe?

This year, I’d like to try and do well in the overall series for the “B” category so I was somewhat apprehensive with the first race. Has the training been working? Is my equipment dialed? How is the competition going to be?

After this past Sunday, I have some ideas on those questions.

In terms of training, it’s tough to race cyclocross events consecutive weekends because you need the recovery time after each race. But I feel like I still need to build up fitness between events instead of just purely focusing on recovery. This will be a new challenge to tackle this season. And this is also where working with a coach helps. Thank you Coach Joy!

In terms of equipment, the longer you are using your gear, the more familiarity you have with it. Nothing crazy new this season. Still rocking my trusty Focus Mares with IRT Carbon Tubulars and my favorite Clement MXP tires. I did switch things up a little by changing the drivetrain to SRAM CX1 and I’m trying out the Giro VR90 laceup shoes.

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And lastly, when it comes to the competition, just like it is in the world of professional cyclocross, the local “B” series is going to be the realm of the youngsters. I think the top 5 for B’s looked almost like the U23 podium.

I ended up getting 6th place which at least should help to get another front row start with call-up for the next race.

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Hope you enjoy the video from the race. I ended up running out of battery and the GoPro died on me. I break down the opening lap with a focus on the concept of Balance.

Thanks for reading and here’s to everyone having a great season!

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CrossVegas 2015

Check out the video I put together from CrossVegas 2015.

If you’re a fan of cyclocross, or just like spectating awesome cycling events, nothing beats going to world-class level CX race. And nothing is at a higher level than a World Cup. OK, maybe a World Championship but a World Cup is pretty up there. CrossVegas this year was World Cup #1. The first time a World Cup is being held in the US. And that meant all the top riders were there. Honestly, I think the fields were only missing Mathieu van der Poel and Marianne Vos.

I spent 3 days in Vegas and it was jam-packed with stuff: Meetings for work, time at the Interbike trade show, racing the USA Cycling event, racing the Wheelers & Dealers event, and spectating the Women’s and Men’s World Cup races.

Here are my take-aways from the trip.

1. Traveling for races is an additional element that needs to mastered. You’re not at home so you have to bring everything you might need, like clothing and gear for a wide range of temperatures, tools, spare parts etc. You’re not in your own bed. You have to find where to get a healthy pre-race meal. You have to get familiar with driving and navigating the area. These factors all affect your racing.

2. Having a routine and sticking to it pays dividends. Having a routine for how you warm-up, how you pre-ride, what you eat. If you master these routines so that it becomes second nature, then it won’t matter if you are away from home or not. As you can see in my video above, I didn’t do any of that.

3. Pacing can be a very valuable skill in cyclocross racing. I’m not a top racer so it’s not like I’m battling at the front. Plus, at CrossVegas, I was starting in the 100’s in fields of about 150-160. So my goal should have been to get the best possible time for me, and this is key, over the entire race. The first race, the USA Cycling Cat 1-3 event, I was focused on getting to the first feature, a stair run-up, in top position. I tried to pin it off the line but all I ended up doing was making the 2nd and 3rd lap super painful. The second race I still went hard but I kept it at a level I was able to sustain the whole race. I finished 1 minute faster the second time even though I was tired from the previous race.

4. If you’re a spectator, nothing beats watching a cyclocross race. Try going to a Cross-Country MTB race or a road race. Fun for participants, can be a little boring for spectators. At CrossVegas, I watched the start, then ran over to the barriers, then walked over to the sandpit, then back up to the lip of the bowl to watch the race. I was able to take in a lot of action just from walking around.

5. And finally, my last take-away from Vegas: Don’t forget that there’s a reason why they call it “gambling.” Oh, and there’s a reason why they call also call this place “Lost Wages.” Hahaha!

Here are some of my favorite images from Cross Vegas.

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Thanks for reading! Our local SoCalCross series kicks off this Sunday. Cross is here!

CrossVegas Number pickup. Vegas Day 1.

It’s not “cross is coming” anymore. Cross is here!

I’m honored to race the USA Cycling Cat 1-3 CX race for Don’s Bikes and the Wheelers & Dealers race for IRT – Inertia Racing Technology Wheels.

To have the first CX race of the season be on an actual World Cup course and in fields of 150+ racers will be intimidating to say the least. But it should also be a blast!

The drive out to Vegas was weird. Cool, wet, and rainy leaving SoCal and when I got to Vegas, rainbows.

Yermo, CA. Those of you who know me probably know what I was doing out there. #peestop

Yermo, CA. Those of you who know me probably know what I was doing out there. #peestop

I made it. The Strip. And traffic. Such a weird city to have a bike event. Just sayin'

I made it. The Strip. And traffic. Such a weird city to have a bike event. Just sayin’

On arrival to the strip, I went straight to the meet and greet with several professional racers as well as number pickup at the Monte Carlo.

It was a cool time to mix and mingle with some of the who’s who of cyclocross.

I have the honor of racing on the same course, at the same time, as the one and only Gary Fisher. Growing up, I really wanted a Hoo Koo E Koo. This guy has a front row start at Wheeler and Dealers so it'll be safe to say the only time I'll see him is if he laps me. This guy was a legit racer back in the day. Look it up kids.

I have the honor of racing on the same course, at the same time, as the one and only Gary Fisher. Growing up, I really wanted a Hoo Koo E Koo. This guy has a front row start at Wheeler and Dealers so it’ll be safe to say the only time I’ll see him is if he laps me. This guy was a legit racer back in the day. Look it up kids.

Greatest CX racer of all time.

Greatest CX racer of all time.

So I asked Jeremy if his mindset was any different now that this was a World Cup. His answer, "Well, they're all big races. I'll race this one pretty much like how I race all big races." But you know what, it's been a while since he's been off the podium at Vegas. To do it at the World Cup level? That would be sick. Hopefully I didn't just jinx him. I probably just did. Go JPows.

So I asked Jeremy if his mindset was any different now that this was a World Cup. His answer, “Well, they’re all big races. I’ll race this one pretty much like how I race all big races.” But you know what, it’s been a while since he’s been off the podium at Vegas. To do it at the World Cup level? That would be sick. Hopefully I didn’t just jinx him. I probably just did. Go JPows.

One of the nicest guys on the scene and one of the only Americans to be on the podium at the World Champs. Shame he's not racing. I remember back in Austin, Tim and Ryan Trebon invited my son to get on their side of the table and help them sign autographs. Such an upstanding guy. He'll be commentating tonight on Universal Sports.

One of the nicest guys on the scene and one of the only Americans to be on the podium at the World Champs. Shame he’s not racing. I remember back in Austin, Tim and Ryan Trebon invited my son to get on their side of the table and help them sign autographs. Such an upstanding guy. He’ll be commentating tonight on Universal Sports.

Team dinner at Gallagher's. Thanks Patrick.

Team dinner at Gallagher’s. Thanks Patrick.

Ready to hit the sack.

Ready to hit the sack.

Well, that was Day 1 for me. Tomorrow I’ll be on the floor at Interbike for a bit then heading off to the race venue. I’ll be racing the USA Cycling Cat 1-3 at 4pm then the Wheelers and Dealers at 6:30. Then it’ll be a bunch of hanging out watching the fast girls and guys race for the first World Cup on US soil!

I’ll have more photos and videos posted up soon. Here’s a video of Adam Craig doing a course preview for Giant Bikes and Cyclocross Magazine. This will be the course we’ll be racing on tonight. Thanks for reading!

The Cyclocross “Off” Season

Here in So-Cal, our first CX race of the season is September 27. The last race one is January 17.

That means that all the cyclocross racing for the year is crammed into three and a half months.

For comparison, the first criterium race of the season was January 11 and the last one is going to be on October 11. (To people living in places with four seasons, my apologies. We do have year-round racing. But then again, we also have a drought….)

So for the dedicated cyclocross racer, what do you do during the spring and summer. When it comes to “off-season” cyclocross riders, I find there are three basic types.

You have the professional cyclocross racer who focuses their entire season into those three and a half months. They might do some competitive events during the spring and summer but nothing too serious. Everything is geared towards cyclocross exclusively. While others are racing their road or mountain bikes, they’re laying down base miles.

Then there’s the cyclocross racer who also focuses exclusively on the fall and winter months. But instead of laying down base miles they are focusing on perfecting their beer drinking technique. When cross season is about a week away, they dust off their CX bikes and start riding again.

Finally there’s the rest of us who fall somewhere in between. We like cyclocross but we also like riding our bikes year round too. Riding bikes only 112 days out of the year isn’t enough.

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Criterium racing is great for honing in your line selection skills as well as your cornering technique. Picture is from this year’s Dana Point Grand Prix, turn 1. Staying low, having good weight distribution, looking where you want to go. Hey, those are all good cyclocross techniques!

For those riders wanting to keep their fitness throughout the year, here are five tips for staying active during the cyclocross off-season.

1. For time-crunched, real-world cyclists with families and careers, you can’t afford to lose fitness. It’s so hard to build it up when you only have a few hours a week to train. So you really have to focus on having some baseline fitness all year round. Staying active in some capacity is really key.

2. In line with being consistently active is the concept that it’s easier to maintain motivation when you have specific goals for yourself. Maybe you want to do a triathlon with your friends and family. Maybe there’s a local criterium or XC mountain bike series that you want to do well in. Perhaps you want an upgrade on your USAC license. Find specific goals to work towards during the spring & summer.

3. Don’t neglect working on your core and upper body. This one is the hardest for me because with limited time, I always want to ride when I get the chance. But cyclocross really does involve your entire body and for once, I’d like to finish a season without the dreaded condition known as cross back.

4. Pick events that are fun for you. Don’t underestimate the importance of the fun-factor. Cyclocross already has fun built into it, which is my totally biased opinion. So for off-season racing, do what’s fun for you because ANY cycling discipline will have some overlap with cyclocross and can help you in some way. Love high-speeds and sprinting? Then race criteriums. The punchy efforts and close quarters will help you for cross. Love epic riding, adventure, and ripping descents? Then race enduro. The emphasis on bike-driving, being smooth over technical terrain, and picking fast lines will definitely help in cross. Love being fast up AND down the hill? Race cross-country. The events are slightly longer then CX so you’ll have good endurance. Being fast over a variety of surfaces forces you to focus on proper body positioning and maintaining traction which really helps with cyclocross.

5. Finally, use your summertime discipline of choice to guide the start of your cyclocross training. If you’ve been doing crits all summer then you probably have a good amount of top-end speed and repeatable hard efforts. So start focusing on riding technical terrain. Get out on the trails with your bike. If you’ve been racing mountain bikes these last few months then you need to add in the high speed intensity and repeats. Start doing Tabata intervals and practicing your race starts.

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Here are some of the differences but also some of the key overlapping features of CX vs criterium racing. Nothing like a Venn diagram to illustrate things!

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The same goes for overlapping skills with cyclocross and MTB, though this would probably be more specific for XC and Enduro.

I hope those tips help you as you transition into cyclocross season. Now that I think about it, I probably should have posted this at the END of cyclocross season, not the beginning! Oh well. Thanks for reading and have fun this season.

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Check out these power files from a criterium race and from a cyclocross race. Can you tell which is which? If you can’t, it’s because the power demands of crits and cross are remarkably similar. By the way, the top file is the CX one. Some differences are seeing the larger differences in speed with the CX file and the sprint at the END for the crit race.

Cross Nats Master’s 30-34 Recap

It’s been exactly 224 days since January 9, 2015, which was the Master’s 30-34 CX Nats race.

And it’s 24 days till Cross Vegas 2015.

Seems like a good time to pick up the blog again. To the 6 people who viewed this blog this month, my apologies.

When I left off, I had just finished the Non-Championship race at nationals. This is a quick recap of my Master’s race.

Friday was my Master’s race, the event I had been peaking for all year. I warmed up on the rollers at the house then cruised to the start. It was cold for this island boy for sure. I went Aero helmet with hat, long sleeve wool base layer with long sleeve skinsuit, embro on the legs, and long fingered gloves.

Lined up and at least this time I was on the 5th row, not the 12th row. (Still the last row).

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Last row again?!?

I tried to be aggressive off the line. It paid off down the start straight and I went from 40th into top 20. But I was maybe a little too aggressive. I took the inside line on a much larger rider half way through the first lap and I tried a little “Low-High” action. We both went down and both got back up quickly. But the cable on my left shifter snapped and I was effectively testing out a Sram CX1 setup, without a CX1 setup. I only had a 38T to use on the front so it was all about shifting the rear effectively.

It was a hard race: colder, slicker, and way more windy. I tried to stay smart, ride everything I could, and finish strong. I ended up 28th place and the 5th Cat 3 there. For my first ever Nationals, I’ll take it.

Take home points.

1. Starting position means a lot. If you have a great call up, take advantage of it. If you don’t, do everything you can to get one.

2. Be prepared. I had to buy a base layer from REI the day before. That thing saved me.

3. Handle the unexpected. I didn’t stress out about losing my big chainring. I just kept racing.

4. Finish strong.

Lots of off camber cornering. Sometimes hitting the corner more slowly, and in control, meant saving time by sticking the high line as seen here.

Lots of off camber cornering. Sometimes hitting the corner more slowly, and in control, meant saving time by sticking the high line as seen here.

Tim Johnson rode a way faster line in his preview video here. I was too gassed and I just picked my way through.

Tim Johnson rode a way faster line in his preview video here. I was too gassed and I just picked my way through.

Staying well away from the trees. My cousin and nieces cheering from the tape.

Staying well away from the trees. My cousin and nieces cheering from the tape.

Breaking down the post race analysis with my cousin.

Breaking down the post race analysis with my cousin.

Most of you know about the debacle related to the Elite race that Sunday. It honestly left a bittersweet taste in my mouth about an otherwise awesome city and awesome trip. Here’s to USAC getting it right next time.

Austin Day 2. When is a call up not really a call up. And what do you call the champion of the non-championship race.

Wednesday dawned sunny but windy and cold. Today was the 30-44 Men’s Open, Non-championship race. Also known as the annual Sandbaggers Championship. But hey, if I was gonna fly out halfway across the country, I was gonna race every single race I could!

Had breakfast with the family then cruised out to the venue.

There’s are definitely differences when you’re racing Nationals. This was my third time racing Nationals. I raced in Junior Nationals for MTB a LONG time ago in Mammoth, CA. Back when the Kamikaze was a thing and mountain biking was hitting the main stream. Then I raced age-group Nationals for MTB in 2007 in Mount Snow, Vermont. Total opposite of main stream at that point. But I digress.

So the differences.

1. Size of the venue. The layout of the course, where things are located, where you can park and warmup are all larger in scale compared to our local race scene. Even the laps at this course was about 2 miles. The walk from the warmup area to the pit then to the car was about 20 minutes. This meant planning and logistics and timing would be way more important.

2. Size of the field. I’ve never raced cross at this scale. We had 148 riders in our field. That’s 148 riders to call up, line up, start together, and race together. I guess it was good the laps were about 2 miles long!

3. Amount of distractions. There’s lots of cool stuff going down at Nationals. Old friends to catch up with, new ones to meet, food, drink, and swag. All good stuff but all potential derailments if you’re trying to warm up and race.

I told myself I was gonna do everything I could to limit the differences and make things as close to my normal routine as possible.

I normally warm-up about 30 minutes before a race so I cruised to the venue, which took about 10 minutes, then rode around the venue a little bit on the grass and beside the course to check grip and tire pressure. Then I placed the spare wheels in the pit. The pit was far. Unless you flatted right at the pit, your race would be done. But I put the spare wheels there because I wanted to finish. Then I hit the rollers at Tony’s tent to spin one more time.

Hitting up the rollers to warmup.

Hitting up the rollers to warmup.

Elliot working on wheels.

Elliot working on wheels.

The bookabikemechanic tent was like club Focus.

The bookabikemechanic tent was like club Focus.

The temperature right around then was probably 45 degrees. This was another difference, but more unique to my situation. What was I going to wear? I decided to race in a short sleeve, thicker base layer, long sleeve skin-suit, embrocation on the legs, then regular long fingered summer gloves. Air Attack helmet.

I did one warmup lap then it was off to the start. I was actually cutting it too close because a lap took me about 10 minutes but the start was 12 minutes away. I ended up cutting the lap short and heading to staging.

Didn’t really matter since they actually call up every single racer. Yup. All 148 of us get called to the “line.” I put “line” in quotes because by the time they called me up I was in the 12th row. There are 8 racers per row so there were 90 people in front of me. Seeing the line was impossible.

The official gave her instructions, including the fact that she would be pulling out racers if they were lapped or slower then 80% of the leader’s time. Wait?!? (Insert record scratch sound drop). They’re pulling people? How bad would that suck if you flew halfway across the country to race a 45 minute race, only to get pulled by the official. I told myself, “If there’s one goal you have today, it is to NOT get pulled.”

The racers around me joked that the official gives that instruction only to the last half of the field, not the front guys!

Then it’s “15 seconds to start” then the whistle! And it is mad chaos.

I knew that the long, wide, paved start straight would be one of the best and only places to pass people so I sprinted like a mad man right up the right side. It really pays to know who to follow, which I didn’t, and it was tough navigating but I made up probably 40 or so spots in 15 seconds.

Then we hit the off road sections. I kept everything smooth through the grass as we approached the first pinch point. A tricky downhill into off camber left turn, around a tree, then back uphill. What made it tricky was the pile of wood chips laid down over the ground. Even though I rode this thing no problem in warmup, when you have 8 people across going full bore it’s totally different. All it takes is one person slipping or messing up then it’s a pile up.

So that’s exactly what happened. I tried staying on the bike to ride but in hindsight, I should have just dismounted and run because that’s what ended up happening anyway. I gave back 15 or so spots right there. Ugh.

Then it was back on the bike and then just doing what I had been training to do all season. Race my cross bike.

I found groups to stay with and pace with. I just tried hitting lines clean and smooth. Having a big field made it kinda fun because there were always people around you. I saw lots of bad luck happening to people. Broken chains. A guy rolled a tubular on a grassy uphill right next to me. Brakes failing. I kept trying to pass people which oddly enough, happened in the flat, power sections. I got passed every single time up the limestone steps. Ugh.

I almost ate it on a off camber slope right after I heard my family cheering for me!

One of the spectators was counting off racers and as I came past he said “53.” Oh nice! That meant I was somewhere around the middle third of the race. At least nice for me.

With one lap to go I told myself I have to keep it up to not get pulled. Turns out the mind was willing but the flesh was weak. I started cramping bad, especially at the running parts. The limestone steps turned into limestone crawls. Then over the barriers I cramped real bad, a rider passed me, and I had to limp to the line.

But I finished! And without getting pulled or lapped. It was fun to hear the spectators, the cowbells, people cheering. I knew I had given a good effort.

I later found out I ended up in 47th place. Same lap as the leaders but 5 minutes back. Made sense. I was about a minute slower each lap and we did 5 laps.

I cooled down on the rollers a bit, met up with the family, then cruised back to the house.

Hit up East Side King for lunch for some Tako Tacos and chicken rice.

It was nice to get one race done. The weather ended up being sunny and cool. Perfect cross weather. I was able to finish the race and feel like I gave my all.

Now for the big one on Friday. The Master’s championship race.

It's fun racing with a big group.

It’s fun racing with a big group. Jason Siegle hitting the front of the group.

My cheering squad. Taking a break to tailgate.

My cheering squad. Taking a break to tailgate.

My wife snapped this pic of me going by near the pit.

My wife snapped this pic of me going by near the pit.

Limestone steps. Look at that pain face. I look so dead. Haha.

Limestone steps. Look at that pain face. I look so dead. Haha. I honestly feel like deaf people would lip read my face right now as saying “Why” or “Please make it stop”

Madness up the steps

Madness up the steps. All these photos were taken by my wife. She tweets at @aalawahine

Thanks for reading!

Austin Day 1. Tacos. Sun. And Limestone Steps.

Landed in Austin on Tuesday and we were greeted with awesome weather! Upper 60’s, sunny.

First stop from the airport was grub. We hit up South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery. Nice outdoor setup with a Torchy’s Tacos, Conscious Cravings, and Holy Cacao.

After some barbacoa, migas, and some awesomely good fried avocado tacos (vegetarian option) we were off to race registration and number pickup.

Torchy's Tacos

Torchy’s Tacos

Registration at Bicycle Sport Shop on Lamar.

Registration at Bicycle Sport Shop on Lamar.

Saw Crystal Anthony at registration. I asked her what her goal was this weekend. "It's always nice to make the podium."

Saw Crystal Anthony at registration. I asked her what her goal was this weekend. “It’s always nice to make the podium.”

After settling in, I made my way to Zilker Park to pre-ride the course.

Decided to take a total of 3 laps. First lap, ride nice and slow just to get the lay of the land. Second lap I was trying to go a little bit faster to hit my lines. Then the last lap a little bit faster still to see how the tire pressure would handle at speed and how things changed at race speed. A lot changes at race speed. Entrance and exit points into turns and obstacles for example.

Here are my thoughts after pre-riding the course and checking out the venue. These include observations and tips for myself.

– If there’s a nationals course that suits me, it’s this one. Pretty flat. 100 feet of elevation gain per lap. And the elevation gain is composed of limestone steps and short punchy climbs.

– Bike handling and bike driving will be key. This sounds obvious but since there’s not much climbing on this course, you have to make time on corners and riding things others can’t.

– Off-camber skills, line selection, and cornering technique will be very important.

– I really liked running slightly higher pressure in the tires. There’s no mud and there are some G-outs, braking bumps, and curbs. The slightly higher PSI’s did feel a little faster.

– The start will be crazy. A 300-yard paved road, slightly uphill.

– Just because you can ride everything while you are pre-riding, doesn’t mean you can ride it when you are red-lined, with 150 other sweaty people all around you.

– Limestone steps are not the same thing as wooden steps. Especially when you’re short like me and some of those steps seem waist high. They’re jagged, variable, and will hurt during the race.

– The laps are fairly long. I was doing 10-11 minutes at a cruise pace. Hopefully that means I won’t get lapped!

– Don’t stress about things you can’t control. This last one is especially for me. I’ve been stressing about the weather. I’ve been looking forward to 50-60 degree weather and sunshine. But the weather forecast keeps showings 30-40 degree weather and wind! Also been stressing about the fact that I don’t have a lot of USA Cycling points. This means my start position is gonna be in the back. WAY back. And I’ve been stressing about having a slight sore throat and runny nose.

– STOP STRESSING. I’ve been looking forward to this event and this trip for a long time. I’m gonna enjoy myself. I’m prepared and I’ll do my best with the situation at hand. All those things above that I can’t control, I’m just gonna have to let them go.

After pre-riding the course, I cruised back to our Air BNB house to chill for the night with some Thai Food, putting the feet up, and hanging with the family.

Thanks for reading and good night from Austin.

Short sleeves and bibs in January! I feel like I'm in So Cal.

Short sleeves and bibs in January! I feel like I’m in So Cal.

Found some of the SoCal peeps.

Found some of the SoCal peeps.

The shorter of the two sets of Limestone Steps. This one comes about a third of the way into the lap. The approach seems straight forward but the steps themselves are not. Varying height on the steps, a little slick and jagged, and basically not what you want to be running on with carbon soled shoes.

The shorter of the two sets of Limestone Steps. This one comes about a third of the way into the lap. The approach seems straight forward but the steps themselves are not. Varying height on the steps, a little slick and jagged, and basically not what you want to be running on with carbon soled shoes.

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