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.

Advertisements

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.

10407560_465274450306811_1550042095697877795_n

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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 4.03.55 PM

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!

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 5.04.18 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 8.57.13 PM

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 8.00.51 AM

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.

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.

IMG_6547

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.

img_9443

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.

img_9453

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.

img_9466

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?

img_0623

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.

img_0632 img_0633 img_0634 img_0636

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.

img_0917

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.

img_0918

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.

img_0919

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.

img_0920

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!