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!

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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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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Udo Cross Race Report

There was an excellent Cyclocross race this past Sunday. Held next to Lake Hodges in Escondido, the course had a little bit of everything (well, little bit of everything that we can ask for in So Cal. In November). But it would be remiss of me to not share why this race is called Udo Cross. The Southern California cycling scene can seem very large and disjointed. But at the same time, pockets of community and connection also develop amongst us. When a cyclist is hurt or killed, we all fell it in some way.

This is how I felt when I heard about Udo Heinz just a little over a year ago. Even though I did not know him personally, I raced at many of the same races as he did and his personal story resonated strongly with me. It was an honor to race in an event named after him and that he contributed so much to.

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I had circled this race in the calendar as it was the regional SCNCA cyclocross championships. Last year, I raced the Cat 4 championships at Irvine Lake and got second. This was race #2 in the local SPYclocross race series, sanctioned by USA cycling.

This year was a different Lake, a different course, a different bike, and a different category.

This would be my first time racing as a Cat 3. It had taken me a while to accumulate USA Cycling upgrade points…but that’s for another post.

As this was my first time racing as a Cat 3, I had no points in the series standings, so no call up. I knew this would definitely put me at a disadvantage. But then, some dudes who were called up weren’t even there. So when the official called “All other racers to the line,” I snuck into the last front row slot, on the very right on the inside.

On the start.

On the start.

The start was great and I hit the first difficult section off the road in 2nd place. This part of the course was tricky. Downhill sand section and gravelly rocks. Followed by a 180 turn by the water’s edge to start the sand section again. This time uphill. And with the barrier section thrown in.

Hitting the sand in 2nd place. Right behind Vertican. This is on the first lap. Photo by Phil Beckman.

Hitting the sand in 2nd place. Right behind Vertican. This is on the first lap. Photo by Phil Beckman.

I knew I wanted to make my own line through the sand so I attacked right before the 180 turn. I powered the uphill sand section, cleaned the barriers, and chose to remount IN the sand right after the barriers. This would turn out to be a downfall later in the race. But on the first lap, I all of a sudden in front. I hear the announcer in the background saying my name. I should be happy. But I’m worried as hell! I’m never in the front.

I hit the flyover and as I start the backside of the course, which is a steady climb which seemed to last for a minute, I actually purposefully slowed down. “There’s no way I should be in front,” I thought. As I crested the climb and got ready for the descent, 2 or 3 other riders in my race passed me and I slotted in right behind them.

The downhill was welcome. Fire road and singletrack with some loose corners. This transitioned into some 180 turns back on the pavement, which honestly was a sign to me that the organizers needed to lengthen the course but didn’t now how else to do it. Then it was back to the start/finish area.

This pattern repeated itself for the rest of the race. Attack the downhill sand section, blow up the legs on the uphill sand section, recover over the flyover, then attack the climb and singletrack downhill.

In hindsight, after the barriers, I should have kept running because remounting in the sand was hard to get going again.

People started passing me and I couldn’t tell if they were in the waves that started behind me, or in my same category. People passing me is pretty much par for the course. People also were crashing in front me too. I avoided at least 3 crashes, all occurring in sandy, loose corners. +1 for tubulars, thru axles, and luck. Or is that +3.

Eventually I could see that one other rider and I were battling. He was behind me but each lap was inching closer and closer. I had met Griffith Vertican right before the start. Nice guy. And I knew we were in the same race. On the last lap I gave it everything I had to keep in front of him but he passed me on the long uphill. He later told me he went into the red to pass me and stay away. I told him I was already in the red.

I jammed the downhill, sprinted for the line, and that was it. I had no idea how I did.

When people go to the race with family and friends, they often chill after the race. Hang out. Hit up the kids race.

Yeah, my family wants to get out as soon as the event is over! So it was off to Thai food and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Turns up I ended up getting 5th place! For me, I was happy. Solid enough result at the regional champs in my first Cat 3 race.

So post race lessons. I want to end these race reports with an analysis of what I did well and what I could do better. Hopefully these can help you too.

Things I did well:

– I don’t really warm up on the trainer anymore. I used to. And I guess if the weather was bad, a trainer warmup would be good. But otherwise, warming on the course allowed me to warm up AND learn the course at the same time. I ended up doing two laps to warm up.

– Started well. If you can, having a front row start helps so much. Call ups will negate most of this but if you can get a front row start, it’s time in the bag.

– Raced aggressively but not TOO agressively. I honestly wanted to hit some of those corners at warp speed but I saw people going down left and right.

– Raced to my strengths. I attacked on the downhill sand and singletrack descent areas.

Things I could improve on:

– Pacing. My first lap was 7 minutes flat but all the other laps were about 7:30

– Saving momentum. I should have kept running on the uphill sand after the barriers. This is how I got passed several times because I was getting bogged down in the remount.

– Know your competition. I was within shouting distance of 3rd place. If I knew who was in Cat 3 and who was a master’s racer, I might have dug a little deeper to stay with my competition.

Well, that’s my race report for Udo Cross. Hope you enjoyed reading it. More to come!

Oh, and the pictures are from Phil Beckman. Nice guy, local, does great work. Check him out at PB Creative.

Results for Cat 3. Interestingly enough, the top 2 riders in Cat 4 had faster lap times then all of us....

Results for Cat 3. Interestingly enough, the top 2 riders in Cat 4 had faster lap times then all of us….

Phil making me look like I know what I'm doing.

Phil making me look like I know what I’m doing.

Nice video of a lap of the race course. Thanks to Le Tour de Plants for posting on Youtube. Lots of videos here for our local cross courses. Around 0:40 is the start of the downhill sand section, 1:15 the start of the uphill sand section, 1:30 for the barriers, 2:20 for the flyover, 3:13 for the start of the long climb, 4:40 for the downhill portion, 6:15 back to the pavement, 7:10 for the Stuffed Burgers food truck, and 7:26 back to the finish line. This is pretty much the timing of the laps I was doing.

I’m a husband, father, and physician. I like Cyclocross.

The world doesn’t need another blog.

But I figured there were other people like me. People who have real lives, real work, and real families who still love to race hard and do well in cycling.

I want to share what works for me when it comes to racing. And especially racing Cyclocross.

This blog will share race reports, product reviews, training tips and hopefully, some inspiration.

Disclaimer. I’m not a professional cyclist. I’m a regular guy. I race Cat 3. I’d get my butt kicked in an “A” race. But hopefully that means people can relate to my experiences.

Thanks for reading!

One of my first cross races over three or 4 years ago. At Vail Lake, Temecula, CA. Struggling to get over the barriers, holding the bike way to high and suitcasing it. Technique matters!

One of my first cross races over three or 4 years ago. At Vail Lake, Temecula, CA. Struggling to get over the barriers, holding the bike way to high and suitcasing it. Technique matters!