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.

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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!

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!

Cross into 2015. Race Report. With Random Pics

My last race of 2014 was this past Sunday.

Another event at Irvine Lake. I had good vibes from the venue as I got 2nd at the state champs a year ago (Cat 4) and got 7th place at the Dia de los Muertos event there earlier this season (Men’s B race).

On the box at Irvine Lake last year. Love the kid's expression.

On the box at Irvine Lake last year. Love the kid’s expression.

During the B race earlier this season 10/26/14. Got 7th.

During the B race earlier this season 10/26/14. Got 7th.

I was excited, and a little nervous, because these last couple of races combine the men’s A and B. I didn’t race on Saturday but when I saw the podium from the race, I saw Ryan Trebon and Ned Overend, in addition to all our local heavy hitters. TreeFarm and The Lung? That’s like saying “Let’s play some pick up hoops in the back yard. Oh, and you’ll be playing against Detlef Schrempf.” But then again, it would be so cool to say you raced against a childhood hero. I still remember the epic Tomac/Overend battles when I was a young grom.

But alas, Trebon and Overend did not race on Sunday. Oh well. I was still tempering expectations racing against professionals. I lined up in the 3rd row then the whistle goes off.

That flash of highlighter yellow in the circle. Yeah, that's my shoulder. Woo hoo!

That flash of highlighter yellow in the circle. Yeah, that’s my shoulder. Woo hoo! Photo by Rod Christiansen.

Slotted into the top 10 and we charged through the first lap. Rode through the sand and now I’m in 6th or 7th place. We approached the run up, but I had hit that feature in warm up and knew I could ride it. Ended up riding it and now I’m caboose on the lead group, putting a gap into the chasers.

Dot Wong, on the run up. But this is rideable. I rode it every lap except for one. I blame it on tiredness. Photo by Rod Christiansen.

Dot Wong, on the run up. But this is rideable. I rode it every lap except for one. I blame it on tiredness. Photo by Rod Christiansen.

Through the trees and over the curb then BLAM!

Rear tire vs. Curb, rear tire 0, curb 1.

Instant flat and I think what happened is that I pinched the tube inside my tubular. Ugh.

Hoof it into the pits, slap on the spare rear wheel then off I go again. But it turns out the RAT axle on the Focus loosened up and I had to stop again. All in all I think I lost 3 minutes but that’s an eternity in cross racing. That’s pretty much half a lap right there.

When I told my wife earlier in the day I was racing against professionals she said, “Well, at least don’t come in last place.” Now with these mechanicals and flat tire, I was in last place.

Being in last place is weird. You want to do the best you can, but there’s a little voice in your head that tells you to just mail it in since there’s no way you’re gonna do well.

I basically told myself, “Don’t come in last, don’t come in last.” Honestly, I got sketchy over the barriers but didn’t crash. Slowly but surely I reeled in a couple of riders. I ended up finishing 9th place. Maybe I could have done better but I got a top 10. I’ll take it.

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I was happy to get a solid workout in and at least, if I was gonna get a flat, I should get one here and not at Nationals which is next week!

I’ll sign off with a couple more random shots I snapped of the earlier races.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be posting more reports and pictures on the road to Austin, CX Nationals 2015.

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Santa Cross: A race report in pictures. Plus tips.

This race report is going to be a little different. A little bit about the race, check. More pictures, check. And actual racing tips from a middle of the pack Cat 3 racer. Definitely check.

I don’t claim to be a an expert in cyclocross. Maybe “OK” is a good adjective for my racing. Because I’m not naturally  gifted, I have to use any and all strategies available to me in order to get the best possible result. I wanted to put some of those techniques in this post.

Most of the photos in this blog entry are done by Mike Lord Damayo, an excellent photographer, who also happens to be my cousin. Check out his stuff at six3events.com. 

Headed to Pierce College in Woodland Hills for Santa Cross. I think it was my 2nd or 3rd time racing at this venue. It had been raining for several days prior to the race but Sunday was sunny and clear.

Pics and Tips for Pre-race

Arrive at the venue with plenty of time to do all the stuff you need to do. There's more then you might realize. You gotta register, get your number, get your chip, change, warmup, pee, etc. I find that I need to arrive at the venue at least 90 minutes in advance.

Arrive at the venue with plenty of time to do all the stuff you need to do. There’s more then you might realize. You gotta register, get your number, get your chip, change, warmup, pee, etc.
I find that I need to arrive at the venue at least 90 minutes in advance.

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Have a routine. I always try to dial in my tire pressure based on the conditions and what wheels/tires I’m using. I do this before my pre-ride so that if I need to make tweaks, I can come back to the car to adjust the air pressure. I think I ran 25psi front/28psi back on this day.

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Pin your number on the right way. If they give you paper numbers, don’t pin through the holes. Oh, and check to make sure you didn’t pin all the way through the front of the skinsuit. Like I did here. Ugh.

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Finally, time to hit the course. The tip for this picture is to know the conditions and dress accordingly. It was 67 degrees and sunny. Some wind and chilly in the shade. I had a long sleeve skin suit with base layer for warming up which I removed for the race. I also rolled with some embro. Used Mad Alchemy Russian Tea for this one.

Equipment is super important in cross. You don't need the fanciest, most expensive stuff. But having a spare wheelset in the pit could be the difference between finishing and going home early.

Equipment is super important in cross. You don’t need the fanciest, most expensive stuff. But having a spare wheelset in the pit could be the difference between finishing and going home early.

Warmup

I pre-rode the course doing 2 laps. One lap was to cruise and get the lay of the land. The 2nd lap was to go at a faster speed to check my lines and see if my tire pressure was good. Then I spun on the road as you can see below. My warmup was about 30-40 minutes total.

After doing my pre-ride of the course, I spun for about another 10-15 minutes on the road with 3, 30 second hard efforts up this little hill into the college. I did this to get my heart rate up so my body would be ready for the intense effort to come. I tried to finish about 15 minutes prior to race time so I'd be ready for the next step, staging.

After doing my pre-ride of the course, I spun for about another 10-15 minutes on the road with 3, 30 second hard efforts up this little hill into the college. I did this to get my heart rate up so my body would be ready for the intense effort to come. I tried to finish about 15 minutes prior to race time so I’d be ready for the next step, staging.

Staging

After the first couple of cross races I did, I realized proper staging is an art and skill in itself. The first cross race I did, I got to the line 5 minutes before the start to make sure I was as warmed up as possible. I got to the staging area and realized there were 45 people already there in front of me. I never saw the front of the race the entire time. Now I get to the staging area with plenty of time.

No one else is at the staging area. Guys, where you at guys?

No one else is at the staging area. Guys, where you at guys?

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OK, more people showing up to staging. I didn’t realize I would get a call-up but just in case I didn’t, I’m just chilling toward the front. I’m also on the side that I think will give me the best line to the first corner, a sharp, 180 degree left hand turn.

The Start

I don’t know who was the first to say “You can’t win the race at the start, but you can lose it.” It’s pretty true in cross. I’m gonna insert a video here by Ben Goyette. You can clearly see the start and the different things going on. I’m #289 on the right. I’m in the 2nd row, 2nd from the right. Keep in mind there’s a left hand turn coming up. You can see me, Troy Templin, and Jason Gersting starting by sitting on our saddle, foot on the ground. Kenten Harris and the MOX Multisport rider to the left of us are starting by straddling the top tube. Not one style is good or bad, just be aware the differences and the pros and cons of each.

The whistle goes off 0:14 seconds into the video and 4 seconds later, I’m outta there. Instead of being 2nd row, with 8 riders in front of me, I slot right away into third place. You can see that in the progression of these photos.

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So the basic tips for the start: Line up in the right spot, get into your pedals quickly, and move up if you can. It will pay dividends later. If you watch the rest of the start on the video clip, at 0:28 seconds, Griffith Vertican has to dab on the inside of the left hand turn, costing him valuable spots. Sorry Griffith, I know you are way faster then me!

Different skills used during the race

What follows next are some different skills used in cyclocross racing, shown in the flow and context of the race itself.

Dismounting

The approach. I've stopped pedaling at least 2 bike lengths before the barrier and now I'm just coasting. I having both my hands on the hoods and I've swung my right foot over to the left side and I'm going to hover with my right foot right behind my left one.

The approach. I’ve stopped pedaling at least 2 bike lengths before the barrier and now I’m just coasting. I having both my hands on the hoods and I’ve swung my right foot over to the left side and I’m going to hover with my right foot right behind my left one.

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The Hover and Dismount. I’ve now moved my right hand to the top tube and am resting my body weight on it. I’ve also now unclipped my left foot and getting ready to hit the ground running. There is also a different method called the “step-thru” but that’s for another time.

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I try to hit the ground running so I only need to take 1 or 2 steps before clearing the barrier. I’m trying to minimize the amount of time I’m actually running but if you’re learning it’s ok to dismount further out from the barriers and practice dismounting closer and closer.

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The leap. Ideally, you wouldn’t really be jumping over the barriers but rather striding over them, if that makes sense. I’m holding my back with my left hand on the brake hood and the right hand on the top tube at the balance point. I’m lifting straight up and keeping the bike a little bit away from me. Notice how my saddle is to the outside of my elbow and not under my armpit, otherwise known as a suitcase carry. This is avoid getting thrown off balance if the bike were to hit the barrier (which it did later in this race) and also to take up more space just in case someone wanted to pass. It took me so long to get over the habit of doing the suitcase carry and I still sometimes use it.

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Repeat the process for the 2nd barrier.

Remounting

I've gotten over the barriers and what I have going through my head is making sure to set the bike down smoothly, straight up and down. I don't want the bike to get squirrely on the remount.

I’ve gotten over the barriers and what I have going through my head is making sure to set the bike down smoothly, straight up and down. I don’t want the bike to get squirrely on the remount.

In the previous picture, my left foot was just about to hit the ground. Now my right foot is hitting the ground and the next step will get me back onto the bike. I have both my hands on the hoods again and I'm opening up my hips to face the bike slightly.

In the previous picture, my left foot was just about to hit the ground. Now my right foot is hitting the ground and the next step will get me back onto the bike. I have both my hands on the hoods again and I’m opening up my hips to face the bike slightly.

This picture is from a different lap and not the same sequence as the rest. But it's the only one I have showing the remount! I take a step off my left foot then make a big stride, like a hurdler would, to bring my right leg over the saddle to hit on my inner thigh. As you can see in the picture, I'm not trying to leap or jump as high as I can. Just enough to get my thigh over the saddle then slide forward into place. This is the crux move and I had to practice this a lot for sure. I still mess up too. Not fun.

This picture is from a different lap and not the same sequence as the rest. But it’s the only one I have showing the remount! I take a step off my left foot then make a big stride, like a hurdler would, to bring my right leg over the saddle to hit on my inner thigh. As you can see in the picture, I’m not trying to leap or jump as high as I can. Just enough to get my thigh over the saddle then slide forward into place. This is the crux move and I had to practice this a lot for sure. I still mess up too. Not fun.

The pro way is to click into your right pedal as soon as your foot contacts it and pedal away. I don't always get the cleats clipped in but at least I start pedaling right away. I want to get back up to speed after being on my feet.

The pro way is to click into your right pedal as soon as your foot contacts it and pedal away. I don’t always get the cleats clipped in but at least I start pedaling right away. I want to get back up to speed after being on my feet.

Cornering

There were tons of corners each lap. OK maybe let’s say 10 corners.  And our race was 8 laps. If you could save even 1 second in each corner that would add up to 80 seconds or 1:20. There was about 40 seconds between me and 3rd place Chad McKonly and 30 seconds between Chad and 2nd place Ian Schwartz. All other things being equal, the faster racer through the corners will be faster overall.

The setup. I'm thinking about body positioning here as well as my line. I'm off the saddle slightly, putting my weight on my feet to drive the bike tires into the ground for grip. To the left of me, right of the picture, is a camber going away. Because of this I'm leaning the bike a little more then my body.

The setup. I’m thinking about body positioning here as well as my line. I’m off the saddle slightly, putting my weight on my feet to drive the bike tires into the ground for grip. To the left of me, right of the picture, is a camber going away. Because of this I’m leaning the bike a little more then my body. I have my left, or outside, foot down and putting weight on it.

The initiation. I'm leaning the bike now, still keeping my head up and focusing on where I want to go. I'm shifting my weight just slightly towards the front of the bike to give the front wheel grip. I'm still focusing on putting weight on my feet but I'm starting to flatten out the cranks. Still off the saddle as I want my center of gravity to be over the bottom bracket which is more stable, not the saddle which would be more tippy.

The initiation. I’m leaning the bike now, still keeping my head up and focusing on where I want to go. I’m shifting my weight just slightly towards the front of the bike to give the front wheel grip. I’m still focusing on putting weight on my feet but I’m starting to flatten out the cranks. Still off the saddle as I want my center of gravity to be over the bottom bracket which is more stable, not the saddle which would be more tippy.

The Turn. The turn has started and now I'm leaning with my body and bike aligned and pedals flat as I'm no longer pedaling. I'm really focusing on my line at this point. You can see braking bumps to the right of me and the off camber to the left. I'm trying to find that fast middle line that avoids both.

The Turn. The turn has started and now I’m leaning with my body and bike aligned and pedals flat as I’m no longer pedaling. I’m really focusing on my line at this point. You can see braking bumps to the right of me and the off camber to the left. I’m trying to find that fast middle line that avoids both.

The Apex. I'm starting to come to the end of the turn and I'm just trying and now I'm trying to keep my weight centered so that I have really good grip on both the front and rear tires. I have a relaxed grip on the bars and in a low, attack position on the bike. Head still up and looking to the exit.

The Apex. I’m starting to come to the end of the turn and I’m just trying and now I’m trying to keep my weight centered so that I have really good grip on both the front and rear tires. I have a relaxed grip on the bars and in a low, attack position on the bike. Head still up and looking to the exit.

The Exit. I've already hit the apex and now I'm thinking about the next turn. Even though there's braking bumps on the inside, I was trying to setup for the next corner so I'm on the inside against the tape. I have my hips turned toward the inside of the corner and my head turned to look where I want to go.

The Exit. I’ve already hit the apex and now I’m thinking about the next turn. Even though there’s braking bumps on the inside, I was trying to setup for the next corner so I’m on the inside against the tape. I have my hips turned toward the inside of the corner and my head turned to look where I want to go.

This corner was on the backside of the course and obviously every corner will be different. The tires, soil and ground conditions, whether or not there are people next to you, and even how tired you are will all be factors in how you corner.

These were just some basic tips that I find help me. The take away for cornering for me was “Look where you want to go.” The bike tend to go where you look so I’m always keeping my head up.

Tips for Post-Race

I crossed the line, tried to do a celebratory wheelie, but was too tired. I had no idea how I did initially.

The time immediately after the race, I'm too tired to reflect. But seriously, the big tip post race is to actually think about your race. What did you do well at? What could you have done better at? What tire pressures did you use? I try to write these things down somewhere. But not right after the race. Haha.

The time immediately after the race, I’m too tired to reflect. But seriously, the big tip post race is to actually think about your race. What did you do well at? What could you have done better at? What tire pressures did you use? I try to write these things down somewhere. But not right after the race. Haha.

The next big tip is recover. After the race, I spun on the roud for another 30 minutes to cool down. Then it's time to get out of your racing clothes, unless you got another race. Don't want to get a saddle sore. Then you gotta get some food and drink into you. Fish tacos sound pretty good for that.

The next big tip is recover. After the race, I spun on the road for another 30 minutes to cool down. Then it’s time to get out of your racing clothes, unless you got another race. Don’t want to get a saddle sore. Then you gotta get some food and drink into you. Fish tacos sound pretty good for that.

Cross is a social event. Don't forget to chill and hang out and chat with friends. Here's me with Phil Beckman, photographer extraordinaire.

Cross is a social event. Don’t forget to chill and hang out and chat with friends. Here’s me with Phil Beckman, photographer extraordinaire.

Race Report

Oh yeah, race report!

I guess a true race report would detail the events each lap and how the race progressed. It would include tactics and possibly teamwork. Yeah, for me cross racing is just about going as hard as you can for the whole time. I’ll summarize it. I started well, got as high as 2nd, got passed by 3 riders to slot in 5th. Then I reeled in one of those guys and stayed in 4th place all the way to the finish. It was an 8 lap race and at least I didn’t get lapped by the Masters guys who started in front of us. I definitely noticed my strengths were on the power climbs by keeping momentum up them. I also got lucky and didn’t have any major mishaps. I was a little bummed to be one step off the podium but it’s more fire in the belly for next time. Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post if you know people who could use some of these tips.

Thanks for reading!

Cyclists love excuses. Maybe that’s why I love Turkey Cross. Gobble Gobble.

Turkey Cross is my favorite event in the Socalcross Prestige Series.

It is also the the most frustrating.

When I started racing cyclocross, I used my hardtail mountain bike. My fork didn’t have a lockout so I pumped up the pressure in the fork as high as it would go, and off I went.

Then I realized SoCalCross had CX bikes available to rent. I wanted to see what it would be like to race a “real” cyclocross bike. Rented a 50cm steel Jamis with Shimano Tiagra and clapped out brakes (can’t stop, won’t stop) and lined up in the Men’s C race.

It was a blast. Awesome course with autumn foliage, mixture of grass, dirt, loose turns. Someone had a Twinkie on a fishing pole just daring you to take a bite through the sandpit. I finished 23rd out of 37 but I didn’t care. It was so fun.

AND it gave me, in my mind, some legitimate excuses. I didn’t have my own cross bike. The rental didn’t fit. It was steel. It was Tiagra. I couldn’t stop. It had clinchers. Blah blah blah.

So in addition to spawning a love for a new discipline, Turkey Cross also reinforced the favorite pastime of racers everywhere. The art of the excuse.

(In the summertime, I race crits. Crits are AWESOME for excuses. How many times have you heard “No one wanted to work” or “I got boxed in during the sprint” or “I’m using this as a training race” or “I rode 100 miles the day before” or “I’m here without teammates” or “The official didn’t give me a free lap”)

Fast forward to the following year. I have a brand spanking new Cannondale CAADx with SRAM Rival. Shiny and red. Perfect, no excuses this time.

My first "real" cross bike. 51cm of finely sculpted aluminium.

My first “real” cross bike. 51cm of finely sculpted aluminium.

Right off the start I hit the first corner in the top 3! Top 3! See, the bike makes all the difference. As we come into the barrier section, a super tall rider (everyone to me is super tall), swings his leg over to get ready to dismount.

AND HE KICKS MY BRAKE LEVER AND DESTROYS IT.

2 minutes into the race and I can’t use my front brake. The most important brake. How many times does that even happen?!? Someone kicks your brake lever and destroys it? I didn’t even crash. Ugh. Finished 4th place but I just knew I could have done better.

Turkey Trot Cross circa 2011. This bike only has one operational brake lever. Hard to race that way. Note suitcase carry. Photo by jurbanphotos.com. Get well soon buddy.

Turkey Trot Cross circa 2011. This bike only has one operational brake lever. Hard to race that way. Note suitcase carry.
Photo by jurbanphotos.com. Get well soon buddy.

Fast forward to the following year. Now I’m in the B category. CAADx is not so shiny and new. Now I know to stay away from tall dudes in the barrier section. The Killer “B” category is no cake walk so I hit the first corner in the top 10. Start moving up through the field in the twisty grass sections. Everything is going OK so far.

2 minutes into the race I hit a sharp right hand, off-camber turn, up the face of a grassy climb.

I hear a POP, BURP, and start low-siding it with white goop all over my leg. My tubeless setup (Ultegra wheelset with Stan’s The Crow tires if you must know) just blew up on me. Hoof it to the pits and grab the spare rear, slap it on and go.

But wait, this isn’t my wheel?!? Brakes rubbing and tire pressure feels like it’s at 80psi. I stop, undo the brake cable, let some air out of the rear tire and for the 2nd year in a row, I’m down to one brake.

Still loved the course, but got 26th place in B’s.

Turkey Trot Cross, circa 2012. Note different wheel/tire on the back. Thank you random owner of Ksyrium with Grifo tire. I owe you one.  Photo by Phil Beckman

Turkey Trot Cross, circa 2012. Note different wheel/tire on the back. Thank you random owner of Ksyrium with Grifo tire. I owe you one.
Photo by Phil Beckman

I was getting really good at this cyclocross stuff, namely in the excuses department. This time it was a rolled tubeless tire. So it was time for tubulars. Probably carbon tubulars. Funny how excuses come right before big purchases.

Fast forward a couple of years to this year.

Another brand new shiny machine. This time a Focus Mares. 2015 model. Thru axles front and rear. Hydraulic disc brakes. Carbon tubulars. Now we’re cooking with gas!

The bike to end all excuses. Not.

The bike to end all excuses. Not.

No excuses this time. But wait, it’s raining, and it’s cold, and there’s, gasp, MUD!

Only this time, my setup should actually give me an advantage right?

Which made me realize that in cyclocross, there really are no good excuses.

You can have a pit bike for crying out loud. You can pit twice a lap. Anything that CAN happen in cyclocross, WILL happen. The rider who succeeds is the one who manages the chaos the best.

So I raced. And I had a blast. The course was grassy, loamy, with punchy climbs and twisty turns. I got wet, cold, and muddy.

And I got 8th. These young kids keep beating up on me. The most unsatisfying excuse is when you realize you’re just getting old and slow.

On the other hand, the most satisfying thing is just getting out there and racing.

Gobble gobble.

Turkey Trot Cross circa 2014. Movember power. But no excuses this time. Thanks Phil Beckman for the photo.

Turkey Trot Cross circa 2014. Movember power. But no excuses this time. Thanks Phil Beckman for the photo.

Honestly, the best part of the day was seeing my kid have a blast during the Kiddie Cross race. Did two laps and loved it! My plan is working!

Honestly, the best part of the day was seeing my kid have a blast during the Kiddie Cross race. Did two laps and loved it! My plan is working!

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