Sunny, low 80s, Traverse City, and two days of racing what more could be better? The weekend kicked off with the Old Town Criterium in downtown Traverse City. We had a very competitive field that was dominated by mostly Bissell and Priority Jerseys. Bissell was out in numbers with Mac Brennan, who had recently been placed on the Bissell Pro Team, so my guess was they would be looking to make a statement. After my last experience I made my mind up that my race was to stay near the front the entire time, at all costs, so right out of the gate I got myself to the front. Being near the front made it an entirely different experience than what I went through in Milford, there were actually times when I found myself heading off of the front with small break/chase groups and there was not nearly as much fighting for position. That said, after getting a feel for what the pace was going to be like and expending energy with no gain, I realized pretty early that my only play was to survive until the end and then try to sprint it out, with a goal of finishing in the money. Despite an average speed of nearly 28mph, a two man break eventually formed off of the front just shy of the midway point of the 50 minute crit. With about 20 minutes to go I started to notice things getting really hard and seemed to be getting more noise/vibration from my rear wheel over the brick section and began to think maybe I had a flat, but it was only noticeable over the one section and I was not 100% sure it was flat. After two more times over the brick section and the handling of the bike starting to become difficult I convinced myself to stop, sure enough my rear tire had gone soft. I have never experienced a mechanical during a crit, only a crash, but for those who think it is a relaxing experience and a chance to rest up, your nuts!! It was stressful working with the guy to get my pit wheel, on and my brakes were not lining up correctly so in a rush I just opened them all of the way up, then getting launched back into a race that is moving at 28mph stinks. Despite all of this I somehow managed to get back in about the same spot I had left off, although the new rear wheel felt strange and I certainly could have used more rear brake. With 5 laps to go we had closed down the gap to the two man break to 20 seconds and I started to get the feeling that I may get to sprint it out for a win instead of third. Then the pace car ensured that we would get to sprint it out for 1st by taking out one of the guys in the lead group as he tried to go around one side of the pace car when it unexpectedly slowed. Coming into the last lap I knew that I had to fight to get myself as close to the front as possible, Rob Foshag came by me and I knew he was a good wheel to follow and about half way through the last lap I was right on it. Typical with all of my sprints this year things got nuts and I almost went down, losing a couple of spots leading into the last corner, but managed to sprint it out down the straight coming across the line in 8th!! Well into the money and I was able to check off the goal I set before the season started of finishing in the top 10 of a Pro/1/2 race!!
With the great result from the day prior I went into the road race feeling relaxed and like I actually belonged racing with the guys I was racing with. Make no mistake, with 86 miles of racing and over 6,000 feet of climbing I knew that it would be the hardest day I had ever had on the bike. The first 30 minutes of the race were insanely fast, fueled by constant attacks and two challenging climbs. The pace up the second climb of the day was all out, in an effort to stay towards the front my legs and lungs were on fire as we approached what seemed like the crest, and I was not sure how much longer I could hang on. Then to my horror we turned the corner and the hill just kept going, at that moment I was almost certain I was going to get dropped. I don’t really remember the pain and suffering, but I am sure it was intense. Somehow I crested the hill on the back of what was left of the main field. Of course sensing damage had been done, the aggressive pace continued and I suffered in agonizing pain for the next two or three minutes just hanging on the back. Finally a small two man break established, so the frantic pace on the flat ground seemingly let up a bit, or was at least smoother and easier to settle into. However, the third hill was a double tiered hill and nearly a repeat of the second hill, had it not been for a downhill section afterwards and the fact that there was basically a split in the field my race may have been over there. The last hill was a climb up to the start finish at the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain Ski Resort and based on appearance it seemed that it would be the most challenging; however, the feed was located on the hill, which neutralized things a bit making the most challenging part getting your bottle and then getting back on. One lap down, three more to go, except now I knew the course and where to conserve energy. The second lap was pretty easy going up the long first climb, a nice steady tempo in which everyone took the opportunity to take on some calories, but that didn’t last long as a couple others took the opportunity to try to make a move up to the break. Knowing the course, made the second lap somewhat easier, although your pace when racing on a hill is mostly dictated by the fastest guy, so it was still very much a battle to stay alive. As the race turned onto the third lap the field started to disappear from both ends, with three more guys going up the road, and a lot of people falling off of the back. The once 40 person main field now consisted of maybe 15 guys and 5 guys were up the road. At the start of the last lap, we got word that what had once been over a 3-minute advantage to the breakaway was now down to just over a minute and a half. Upon hearing that, what was left of the teams that did not have guys in the breakaway rolled to the front, but a chase was short lived as it seemed like everyone was exhausted and no one really wanted to do any work. Despite the main field’s reluctance to pull back the break we managed to pick up three of the five in the last 10 miles of the race, leaving only two off of the front. With the absence of the feed to neutralize things, I fully expected the final climb to be a battle, with a select group then fighting it out in the sprint about a half mile from the crest of the hill. To me this was fine, because it meant less thinking, all I had to do was have the legs and follow wheels, if I didn’t then I was pretty confident that I had enough to beat at least a few of the guys in our final group of now 18, to finish in the money. Surprisingly enough everyone seemed content with it going to a bunch sprint because the pace up the final climb was tolerable. I even debated making a move myself, but opted for the less painful route of waiting until the sprint. As it turns out I may have been better off attacking on the hill because despite having a decent position leading into the sprint, I began experiencing significant leg cramps in the lead out and it became an effort to just hang on to as many spots as I could in the sprint. In the end I crossed the line 13th in the field sprint, for a 15th place finish. Another great result for the weekend and in the money for the third race in a row!! While it may seem somewhat silly to get excited about getting a check for $30, at this point it is at least a realistic goal that I can set for myself. Hopefully with some hard work in the off-season my goals and expectations will change to the point where I can start making goals to finish on the podium.
The Ohio State Road Race takes place in Shreve, Ohio. The course itself was 9 mile loops with 750 feet of elevation gain per lap, most of it coming from a climb right at the start of the course. Our race was 8 laps of this course which put the total elevation gain for the day at over 6,000 feet. The race started quickly, with the first attacks coming as soon as we hit the hill, I stayed patient and just tried to follow wheels keeping a close eye on both Paul Martin and Kirk Albers with Panther. The second time up the hill Paul countered an early attack, knowing that this could be the winning break I gave everything up the hill to stay in contact with Paul and the other 3 to 4 guys who had joined him. Paul must have sensed the break was not the right combination of guys, the field was too fresh, or maybe he was simply trying to wear out the legs of those of us who were eager enough to follow him out, because as quickly as he started the break he ended it by sitting up. He certainly did the latter to me because on paper this would turn out to be my biggest effort of the entire race. The remainder of the second lap continued to be fueled by attacks and small breaks forming off of the front and being brought back. Of course none of this happened on flat or downhill sections, so there were many other serious efforts that had to be made. At the start of the third lap you could sense a change in what was left of the field, almost as if everyone somehow knew that this would be “the lap”. As we hit the hill for the third time I could see a familiar jersey of Mark Sobb just ahead. Mark had started in the Cat 5 field ten minutes after our start and was turning for the last of his three lap race, at that point it gave me perspective on just how fast our first two laps had been. I didn’t get much time to reflect on that or to even to as much as say hi because as soon as we got around him it was on, with attacks coming from both Paul and Kirk. By the top of the hill a large break had formed and I found myself faced with a pretty big gap to get across, it took another huge effort, but I made it. The disappointing part was that it seemed that I had pulled a few people up with me and several more got on during a downhill section that was a bit later, so all of that work for what felt like nothing. To make things worse I was feeling pretty bad and the attacks were not letting up. Finally on a headwind, uphill section with what seemed to be a harmless three man break off of the front, Kirk went hard to get across the gap. What followed was a mad scramble of wheels and pedals that left me trying to make it across on my own. My main concern was making it across so I didn’t really bother to look behind me until I was nearly there, legs exploding, but when I did I realized I was pulling a guy who I had raced with as a 3 across. In hopes that he would help me finish closing the last 50-feet, I flicked him through, but he jumped me leaving me to finish it on my own. I made it onto the back, but was guttered and into a cross wind and the pace of the break was not letting up, so dry heaving and stamping on the pedals was all I could do to stay on for maybe 30 seconds and then I fell back to what was left of the main field.
I was not real sure how many guys made it into the break, it seemed like 20 because when the main field swept me up there was only maybe 12 guys left and it was obvious that every single one of them had a teammate in the break. The nice part was that the pace for the remainder of that lap was as civilized as it had been since the start of the race, unfortunately that only lasted until we hit the hill for the fourth time and then the racing commenced. The cramps started on the 5th time up the hill and they were bad, the kind that make you afraid to get out of the saddle, all I could do was focus on the wheel in front of me and suffer. At the turn of the 6th lap, excitement ensued when the guy in front of me decided it would be cool to grab my bottle that Jeff Smith was handing off for me. I am not sure how he thought it was his, given that it was purple and Jeff was wearing a MVW jersey, but he did. I yelled out indicating that he had just grabbed my bottle and his response was to turn around and try to hand it back, the only problem was he took my front wheel out. Somehow I managed to get to the grass on my feet and was able to “run it off”, leaving my bike in the middle of the street. Fortunately I had some great teammates who had my bike ready to go, and with a push I was off. As I started my chase back on, someone yelled about using the adrenaline, which was useful advice had I not been suffering severe leg cramps and the main climb was not within a mile of the incident. To put it simple that time up the hill was hell. For the most part my legs seemed fine on the flat ground and I was able to do my share of work to keep the pace up and with two laps to go there were only seven of us left, the rest had just disappeared. We hit the hill for the last time and two guys attacked; I was in the middle of a giant leg cramp, so I just simply could not follow. The attack had dropped two guys off of the back, so now it was my group of three chasing a group of two and by midway through the last lap it was apparent that we were not catching them. I found myself on the front with about 2K to go and could not get either of the other two to pull through, so I set a steady tempo that I knew I at least had a slight chance of sprinting from. In the end I was only able to hold one of the two off, but was surprised to find I had finished 14th. It was just enough to cover my entry and pay for dinner the next day, but it was my first payday in the Pro/1/2 field! The race itself was maybe my hardest effort ever on a bike; compared to racing in the Cat 3 field, just finishing the race felt like a top ten, finishing in the money was like a podium finish, so I was certainly satisfied with the result.
Here is a list of my Cyclocross races for the upcoming season. If anyone is interested in participating give me a shout. The more the merrier. For those not in the know, Tailwind is the SE Michigan series, OVCX is the Southern Ohio Series, and USGP is the National Series.
Also considering CX practice nights again at Pine Glen Park in Toledo if there is enough interest. We did on Tuesday nights in the past. It's very informal, but a good time to work on skills and ask questions if you are new to CX.
2012/13 CX Calendar
Saturday, September 16th – Tailwind CX – Columbus, MI.
Saturday, September 22nd – USGP: Madison, WI.
Sunday, September 23rd – USGP: Madison, WI.
Saturday, September 29th – Tailwind CX – Kensington Metropark
Sunday, September 30th – Tailwind CX – Kensington Metropark
Saturday, October 6th – Grampian Challenge
Sunday, October 7th – OVCX – Dayton Gearfest
Saturday, October 13th – Peak 2 Peak MTB Race – Thompsonville, MI
Sunday, October 14th – OVCX Gun Club – Cincinnati, Ohio
Saturday, October 20th – Ohio State Cyclocross Championship – Dublin, Ohio
Sunday, October 21st – Ohio State Cyclocross Championship – Dublin, Ohio
Saturday, October 27th – Tailwind CX – Lake Orion, MI.
Sunday, October 28th – Tailwind CX – Lake Orion, MI.
Friday, November 2nd – UCI 3 – Cincinnati, Ohio
Saturday, November 3rd – UCI 3 – Cincinnati, Ohio
Sunday, November 4th – UCI 3 – Cincinnati, Ohio
Saturday, November 3rd – Iceman Cometh MTB Race – Traverse City, MI
Saturday, November 10th – USGP: Louisville, KY.
Sunday, November 11th – USGP: Louisville, KY.
Saturday, November 24th – Tailwind CX – Waterford, MI.
Sunday, November 25th – Tailwind CX – Waterford, MI
Sunday, December 2nd – OVCX – Indianapolis, IN.
Sunday, December 9th – OVCX – Yellow Springs, OH.
Sunday, December 16th – Tailwind CX – Addison Oaks
Saturday, December 29th - Chicago Cup CX – Bloomington, IL.
Sunday, December 30th – Chicago Cup CX – Bloomington, IL.
Friday, January 11th – US Cyclocross National Championships – Madison, WI.
Saturday, January 12th – US Cyclocross National Championships – Madison, WI.
Sunday, January 13th – US Cyclocross National Championships – Madison, WI.
Saturday, January 26th – Cincy Kings International CX – Cincinnati, OH.
Monday, January 28th - Friday, February 1st – UCI Masters World CX Championships – Louisville, KY.
As a reflection of the length of my race, this recap will be short. My first Pro/1/2 race, an amped up UCI team that was looking to make a statement to the “local guys”, and a course where I crashed at last year turned out to be the perfect storm for a very humbling experience. Knowing that moving up in the 70 person field during race would be difficult, I made certain to line up in the front of the field. At the start of the race I was actually in the front row. The whistle blew and we were off, by the time we reached the second corner I had given up 30 positions in pure fear of crashing myself or someone else. I had gone into this knowing that physically, it would be a fast race, what I didn’t expect was the actual speed of the race itself. Everything felt as if it was in fast forward, and I felt as if I was in everyone’s way and everyone was trying to take me out, it was like my first race all over again, only exponentially faster. I soon figured out that while not physically comfortable, sitting at the back was mentally comfortable. Tail gunning any criterium is about the hardest place to be, but when there is a field of this quality on a course that has a very sharp left hand corner at the bottom of the descent and then heads quickly back up hill, hanging on to the field was like staying on a raging bull. Although by about minute 20 I began to figure out where I could conserve energy and where I had to pump out 1000+ watts, and was actually very confident that I could stay on until the time was right and then try to move up before the finish. Well about 5 minutes later all of that changed when there was an attack or something on the front, and as I came out of the corner to head up the hill all I could see was people scrambling for wheels, some making it across the gap and other just sitting up and calling it a day. My first instinct was to write the “big check” and try to get across the gap, but then I noticed a guy that I had raced with as a 3 trying to get across in front of me, so I jumped on his wheel figuring that we could work together. However, it seemed that he had other plans because after I took my first pull and pulled off to let him pull through I realized I had dropped him. I was now alone and all I could see was the field pulling away in the distance. There was no sense in fighting anymore, so I pulled the plug and rode up on the sidewalk, becoming a spectator. Turns out, had I stayed in, I would have been pulled in a couple laps along with the other guy I was dropped with and would have received a 53rd place finish. While certainly not anything to be remotely proud of, in some strange way it would have felt better than receiving a DNF. On to the next one!!
The weekend kicked off Friday night with an 8.4 mile time trial that started from Mastropietro Winery. The venue is really cool, with food, a live band, and if you wish wine after the time trial. Time trialing is one of my strengths and it would be the one event during the weekend where the results would be primarily in my hands, so I had high expectations. The first part of my warm up went well, it was my 1st time using power, so it was kind of fun to mess around with that while getting a good solid warm up. Things turned a bit south about 20 minutes before my start time, when while as embarrassing as it is to admit, I actually somehow fell over while trying to turn around in the middle of the road. The bike and myself were mostly unharmed, with the exception of a pretty good bruise on the palm of my hand and to my ego. To make matters worse, as I hopped back on the bike to complete my warm up with my 1min intervals, I discovered that my bike kept trying to skip out of gear when in my 11 tooth. Typically this would not be a concern, because heck when would I need a 54x11, but the last 1 mile drag was slightly downhill and with the wind. I tried several things to fix it, but only caused myself to nearly miss my start time. I managed to put everything behind me and actually had a good time trial, passing my 30 second guy within the first 3 miles, my minute guy within 5 miles, and my minute 30 guy within the last mile. The overall effort was hard, as it felt like a strong headwind for 75% of the course, and sure enough the last mile with the wind was complicated by the chain skipping when under load in the 11 tooth. Despite this I crossed the finish feeling pretty confident that my time would put me on the podium.
After my cool down, I discovered that my rear tire was really soft and I was certain I had fully inflated it prior to the time trial. I threw some air in the tire to see if it would hold air, changed, and headed off to grab some food with my family, and check results. Looking at the posted results I was horrified to not even see my name in the top 6, or 10, 20…, I was not even on the results list!! To make things even more disturbing, the winning time was listed as 16 minutes, over 3 minutes faster than I had gone, and 2 minutes faster than the Pro/1/2 winning time. There was also an 18 minute time that rivaled the winning Pro/1/2 time, so with those times and given the time that I had thought I ran it appeared that the best I could do would be 5th place and that was once I figured out what the heck happened to my result. Long story short, after a bunch of stress and effort on my part and the race official’s the many errors were corrected, the 16 and 18 minute times went away and my time was figured out, putting me in 3rd place. So a podium finish, but much more stress than I had hoped for the evening. To add more stress to things I still wanted to figure out what was going on with my rear tire, which would take more time once I got back to the hotel for the evening. As it turned out, it seemed that the valve may have been bad or there was a slight leak in the tire, because it was corrected by pumping a bit of Slime that I picked up from K-mart into the tire (yes, Slime from K-mart). As to if it was low during the actual TT, I only have to assume it was at least a bit low, but dwelling on what could have been would do nothing for me for the weekend and I was satisfied with a 3rd place result.
Last year’s road race was difficult to say the least and with promise of this year’s racing being more difficult than last year, I was prepared to hurt. The course was a 27 mile loop that we would do twice and nothing about it was flat, even the “flat” parts were just false flats. The worst part of the course was a series of “rollers” from miles 11 to 21, we would call them mountains around here, every one of them were over .5-miles long with the longest at over 1 mile. What made this section so difficult was that it was literally climb and then descend right into the next climb, which gave your legs no time to unload. My strategy was to stay towards the front on the climbs, as I was certain that there would be many attacks and splits in the group. I would take a cautiously passive role on the first lap and then become more aggressive on the second lap, when everyone was not quite as fresh.
The guy in the yellow jersey (yes they actually have a yellow jersey, which makes this race that much cooler), was on a team called The Bike Shop, out of New York. They were a strong team that had about seven guys in the field. From the start of the race they had a strong presence, from protecting the yellow jersey well to sending a guy up the road, setting up what I thought was a move for the guy in yellow to go clear and have a team mate to work with. Knowing that he had a better time than me in the time trial and making the observation that he was about 30 lbs lighter than me I figured he would be the guy to watch. Then half way through the 1st time over the “rollers” and after their guy up the road was pulled back, the entire team just vanished. I figured they were setting something up for the second time across the rollers, but later was surprised to find out that the yellow jersey was struggling to hang on. The 10 mile stretch of rollers, was followed by a long false flat which was not any easier on the legs and left me wondering if I had the physical ability to do what we just did over again, but by the time we made the long gradual descent back into town for the second lap I was ready to go. We hit the “rollers” for the second time hard and it seemed that I was not the only one holding back a bit the first time around because there was attack after attack. Seeing that there were others who were willing to do some damage, I decided that I would just try to cover pretty much everything and hopefully end up in a break, or throughout the process we would destroy the field and there would only be a few of us left. Then the muscle cramps started. I think through a combination of increasing heat/humidity and the relentlessness of the “rollers” my quads had enough and I began to have severe muscle cramps. These were the type of cramps that threaten to put you down on the side of the road, and they were relentless. While I was in a pretty bad place with the cramping, I knew that I could not fall back in the field, one because I had no clue how many people were behind me and two because if a cramp hit that made it impossible to pedal, I wanted to at least give myself a chance to stay on once it lifted. So I just looked straight ahead, trying to flush my legs on the descents and thinking about anything to take my mind off of the pain on the climbs. After finally making it through the rollers, I discovered I was not out of the woods yet when my quads continued cramping on a flat section as the group lined out after an attack. As we started our final descent into town, as I began to see new faces joining me at the front, I realize that we had not done the damage that I had thought through the rollers. The lead out into the sprint was fast and long, to make things worse we only had a single lane with gates setup on both sides of the field from 100 meters on that made it feel like you were cattle being herded into a pen. I held strong in the front, then at 1k out some one decided to advance positions on the other side of the yellow. Upon hearing protest from the field, he tried to tuck in making contact with a guy in front of me, which set off a chain reaction of banging bikes and caused the guy in front of me to come over on my front wheel. Having your front tire buried in someone’s rear tire so deep that you are threatening to take off his rear derailleur at 46 mph is never a good feeling. All of the commotion took me out of position and opened up opportunities for others and the best I could do was grab 13th place, legs cramping so bad I could not even stand to sprint. Given the work I had done throughout the race and the position I felt like I was in before chaos ensued, I was disappointed with a 13th place finish. The one good thing about the whole situation was that the race referee for once actually witnessed the flagrant yellow line violation and relegated the rider, but this in no way made the result easier to digest. I was also surprised to find out that we finished with a field of 30, which given the nature of the course and the pace of the race I am still not sure how that happened.
When looking over the overall standings Sunday morning I was surprised to find that despite my 13th place finish in the road race, which was heavily weighted with regards to points, I was still in 6th place overall and had an outside shot at winning the whole thing if things fell into place. My main concern with Sunday’s crit was the amount of soreness my legs had developed due to riding through the muscle cramps during the road race, and how this would affect my ability to complete a one hour crit that would take me up a short, but very steep section of roadway multiple times. Despite my concerns this effort was one of those where once you settle in after the first 5 minutes or so everything just goes away. I really rode a great race, putting myself in all of the right positions and picking my moves well. Minus the two cars that somehow found their way onto the course and the torrential downpour at about 30 minutes in and a major crash that followed, the race was pretty uneventful, which as I seem to always get the short end of the stick when things happen, was good for me. With the roads still very wet on the last lap, I knew I needed to be real close to the front on the second to last corner, which was at the bottom of a hill and where the crash had occurred earlier. Sure enough, a guy who had gapped the field a bit went down hard on the wet pavement, but I was ready for it and was able to go inside and avoid the crash. From there it was a bit chaotic with people trying to make last minute moves. I held my position and was in second wheel heading into the final 200 meters, when two guys came around. Knowing that this was my time to go I went to make my move around the guy in front of me, but it seemed that every way I went he went and I just could not get around him. At one point I tried to squeeze between him and the fence, but it was not going to work, so I sat back and cruised to a 4th place finish. I was satisfied with the finish in the crit, but knew it would not be enough to get me a win for the weekend or even put me on the podium. In the end I finished 5th on the weekend, which out of 37 people going for the overall GC, was a pretty solid finish. The upgrade points earned from the 4th place in the crit and the 5th place overall was enough to get me my Cat 2 upgrade, so the next race report will likely be from a whole new perspective!!
MVW racer William McLaughlin blew off the last Sunday's event at the velodrome to (putting it kindly) participate in the Cat 1-2 event at the Le Champion Pave criterium in Flint, MI. The main attraction of the race being 0.4 mile stetch of a false flat, brick road leading up to the start finish line. Durable equipment was the order of the day.
Although feeling at home on the rough pavement (thanks to his many miles on the roads of Metro Detroit), Will managed to miss the move (again) and waited, with what was left of the field on a hot, humid day, for two ringers from the west coast (of Michigan) based Bissel Elite/Master's squad to lap the field.
To add insult to embarrasment, Will also happened to pick a bad wheel on the final sprint and wound up having to try and bridge a 20' gap instead of fighting for the finish line leavings that the Bissel squad had left for the bunch.
Mediocre race for a mediocre racer. At least there is symmetry.