Wednesday, September 27, 2006

charm city cross

i rolled into this weekend's charm city cross - the first midatlantic race of the season - excited but unsure. i've raced (and ridden) so sporadically this year that i had no idea what kind of shape i was in. i'd been relatively happy with my race results and unlike previous years i'd actually managed to spend a decent amount of time working on my 'cross skills in the prior weeks, but i was lacking any context within which to judge myself.

the forecast was threatening rain and storms but it was still dry as i arrived at druid hill park in baltimore before the first race of the day. i like to get to cross races early so that i can get a nice relaxed look at the course before the racing starts, so i suited up, put my race wheels (to which i'd finally mounted my tufos the night before) on my bike and took a couple of laps.

the course was long with no steep climbs, but there were a couple of hills near the end, a road climb from the start followed by a flat road finish straight that was perfect for sprinting and a couple of long fast grassy drags. a real power course. there were a couple of tight and off-camber corners, but otherwise it wasn't that technical. two sets of planks, both right after turns, one followed by a long shallow climb that would make a quick remount difficult. throw in a wooden retaining wall, followed by 180 around a tree to go back over the wall, and a triple sandpit with a 180-degree turn in the middle and you've got a good idea of the course.

watched the C race, took another couple of laps between that and the masters race, then started my final prep and warm up. there were callups based on registration order, so i took a fast lap of the course before heading to the start to line up. number 133 put me back in the 4th row of a 90+ rider field and i ended up near the middle of the row. as the ref blew the whistle i could feel the rest of the field starting faster than the area that i was. there was some rubbing on the start but we all stayed upright. my start wasn't good, in fact i'd say it was downright bad. being right in the middle of the field i had nowhere to go and then got stuck behind bottlenecks and pileups a couple times once we got off the road and into the grass. once i had the chance i started passing riders, including my city bikes/metrogutter teammate mike scardaville, fort james, and dillard, working my way up through the field.

3 laps down, 4 laps to go we were pretty well sorted out and i started to let off the gas a bit to make sure i'd make it too the end of the race without fading. i had a kelly rider in front of me, and a couple of coppi riders behind me. i passed the kelly rider after he went off course on a road crossing half way around the lap, then he came back around 30 seconds later when i took a turn wide and ended up in the tape. next lap i took a bad line through a tricky off-camber turn up and around a tree and ended up in the dirt. i was back up quickly but realized that 6 inches of my tufo had popped off my rim. i'm not sure if this was the cause of the crash, or a result of it, but i was able to pop it back onto the rim and ride to the pit, which, luckily for me, was pretty close. eric leaver of ncvc gave me a hand getting my pit front wheel on and i got back out onto the course to try and salvage my race.

i'd burnt enough matches in my ride up through the field on the first couple of laps that i didn't have the juice left to take back many places, but i probably managed to pull back 5 or 6 places in the last couple of laps. mike put in a good chase when i came around him, but i was able to build a little gap.

i'm not disappointed with my result (50 of 78 finishers), but i'd have been much happier if i'd not crashed and finished where i think i was before that (around 35th i think). with a better start i think i'd have done a lot better. my remounts aren't great -- they still have a stutter-step -- but they're getting better and i'm getting back in the pedals faster. i'm definately not losing as much time on the barriers as i used to. the 45-minute B race didn't seem as long as it did last year when i made the move from the Cs in the middle of last season.

i liked the tufo rear/michelin mud front setup that i had after my mid-race wheel change, so i think i might keep it. the michelin felt more sure-footed in the corners, but i do like the extra climbing traction in the rear from the lower pressure you can run in a tufo.

B race notes: brewer won the race, beating georgia gould (current womens mtb national champion)... the top 10 had 3 under 18s (nick bax, morgan gerlak, zach adams)... fatmarc took 6th, nystrom 7th...

great course, great park, great people, great time... keep it up guys.

next up... ed sanders cyclocross at lilypons

Monday, September 25, 2006

shifting shifters...

back in the spring i bought a new (used) road bike. it was going to be a bike to leave up in philly to make the logistics of alternate weekend a little easier, but due to injuries and a couple of warranty issues i didn't manage to get the bike set up until my previous road bike was knocked out of commission by my run it with a car a couple of months ago.

one of the big draws that got me to fork out some hard earned money for the bike was the campy carbon record drive train and i've got to say that after a month on it i'm a big fan. it took a little while to retrain my hands to the campy-style shifting (paddle & trigger).

a couple of weeks in i can't think of a single thing that prefer on my old shimano setup. there are a lot of advantages that i could mention (easier downshifts, multiple upshifts at a time, being able to trim the front derailleur) but the one that i sticks out the most is just how good the shifters feel in your hands. the combination of the very flat profile of the top of the hoods and a nice flattened are on the FSA K-Wing handlebar on the bike makes the hoods (where i spend 95% + of my time on a road bike) a lot more comfortable than shimano. these shifters just plain feel good. flipping the paddle for a rear derailleur downshift is a lot easier action than twisting the whole brake lever (a la shimano) and the upshift trigger action is light and allows multiple upshifts.

now that cross season is here and i'm spending time on my shimano equipped cross bike i'm having trouble re-adjusting and i'm thinking about going to a single ring campy setup on my cross bike. i can pick up a couple of american classic conversion cassettes for my cross wheels, but campy shifter and derailleurs can be pretty pricey so i'm not sure if i can swing it right now.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The 2006 Shenandoah Mountain 100


Ok, my SM100 pictures are finally up somewhere that you can see them. I haven't posted all of them and there's a reason for that. I went out to stokesville to try and tell the story of the event. To this end i've posted an edited selection of the pictures that i took that i think acomplish this goal. This isn't the final product, but i'd like to get the pictures out there and get some feedback about what people think. Rather than look through the thumbnails for pictures of you and your friends, do yourself a favor and look at the slideshow (and let me know, good or bad, what you think).

View set as a slideshow (recomended)
View the set