Kickin Off Cross in Style

Cyclocross season officially kicked-off on Saturday in West Pennsylginia with the first race of the Appalachian Bicycle Race Association (ABRA) Cyclocross series in Point Marion, PA. Always a fast and, according the JR Petsko (race series Director), the ‘easiest’ course of the series, we got the season started with 14 Cat 4 women racing it out.

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Spending my Tuesday nights at Frick Worlds (aka CX practice in Pittsburgh) focusing on my starts and barriers, I got a good position out of the start line – check! However, a wheel hang-up with a  fellow competitor coming into the first little uphill push put me at the back less than a minute into the race – time to get into fight back mode!

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With the next few laps spent picking off ladies one at a time, I fought back to the 5th spot and had my CX arch nemesis (and one pretty awesome lady) Melanie Marra of Pathfinder of WV to catch.  With each turn, I felt myself pulling her in a little closer and finally caught her wheel on the back side of the course.  With the next Cat 4 racer, Alice Vernon also of Pathfinder of WV, in my sights for the rest of the race, I couldn’t quite catch her wheel and finished it out in 4th place – word!

What an awesome way to kick-off the season!  I watched fellow RDC team mates Gerry Pflug and Stephanie both podium as well, spent the sunny afternoon with some amazing racers and friends, and kicked out the cobwebs with some cleaned up technique and fresh legs for the season…

Happy Racing all!

Stoudt’s 4 Hour Race Report

Stoudts SummerfestSaturday was a 4 hour race at Stoudts brewery in PA. The course had been designed specifically for this race, and it was awesome. It reminded me of the World Cup XC races I watch that happen in Europe with courses that have everything. Switch back climbs, super rocky technical sections, tight off-camber downhill turns, rock bridges, steep climbs, shallow climbs, and even two ramps on the course. Midway through each lap they even had a section for specators to watch riders coming through one of the more difficult parts of the course, and much like a cyclocross race, they were heckling and cheering like mad. It was great.

I elected to go solo for the 4 hours as opposed to doing a 2 or 4 man team. We lined up mid morning for a Le-Mans start (running to your bike) and I immediately learned I don’t start very fast that way. I made up a few spots on the first climb but got stuck behind a few riders at some tight turns. Two riders jumped hard and I later learned it was Nick Sears who was leading. I chased furiously as I was not ok losing time to him on the very first lap. Going into the third or fourth lap, I was sitting on the wheel of second, still pushing a fast pace… thats when I learned Sears was apart of a duo, as was the guy in front of me; they would be trading out with their partners at the end of the lap.

Relieved I wouldn’t be chasing Sears all day, but also worried now about all the matches I just burned, I dialed things back and kept on trucking. A last minute course change meant the course was only 1.3 miles as opposed to 2.4 miles, that meant we were in for a TON of laps over four hours. I tried not to think about it, put my head down, and pedaled.Stoudts Summerfest

Stoudts SummerfestI ended up doing 31 laps. 31 climbs up the totally exposed switchbacks, 31 trips through the rock gardens, 31 off-camber/loose dirt turns. It was a long 4 hours. Every minute that passed seemed to bring even more heat. I wasn’t prepared, and by midway through the race, I was getting worried. I was drinking Infinit so my hydration was great, but more core temperature was still going up and there is only so much water you can take in before feeling sloshy. When I stopped for more bottles after 2 hours, I grabbed some ice from my cooler and placed it in as many places in my kit as possible to cool me down. That worked wonders and within 15 minutes, I was feeling good again!

But, the race went on. I had no idea where I was in the solo field, but I wasn’t getting passed much, so I figured that was a good sign. As my endless laps went by, my mind slumped more and more. The heat was oppressive, and the course required maximum focus on the tricky sections of rocks and turns. I started focusing on the good things to keep my legs pushing.

Bike: I can’t recall a more perfect race for the Specialized World Cup Epic. I needed a smooth locked out suspension for the climbs immediately after flying out of the rock gardens. But since the rocks were designed for the race, they made them tough! Rear suspension was a life saver as we tried all day to find some sort of efficient line through the various fields. The terrain went from packed gravel, to soft grass, loose dirt, and on to sharp rocks. People were flatting all day and shredding tires. But, as usual, the Specialized tires were flawless.

Stoudts SummerfestFriends: There is nothing like have friends at a race cheering you on. There were a bunch of Twenty20 folks there racing and FatMarc Vanderbacon was kind enough to give me splits in the later half of the race so I knew what was happening behind me. Fellow Rare Disease Cycling teammate Kathleen Harding was also there racing and cheering hard for me! I got to ride with her for a brief bit when our laps coincided and wow, she sure can fly! Her husband, Ron Harding, was paired up with Nick Sears and they crushed the Duo category, and were even kind enough to give me water after I ran out! It was awesome seeing all of them there.

The day wore on and I was told I had over a lap on second place. That was great to hear, but one flat tire or broken chain, could have blown that lead. So I stayed steady, trying to shut the door, and leave it all out there. I managed to do just that and finished 31 laps in 4:07, good for 1st in the solo category!

The race production was exceptional and the course was really fun (albeit a bit short). Big thanks to the promotors, volunteers, photographers (Don Pagano) and the hecklers, it was awesome.

Patapsco 33 – The Battle

When I decided to do the Patapsco 33 at 11:30pm the night before the start, I knew it would either turn out to be a very good decision or a disastrous one. I was away for the July 4th holiday and ended up getting back early, putting me back in Baltimore at 2am the morning of the race. I love the trails of Patapsco and after hearing all the good things about the race from those who went out for the inaugural race last year, I decided I just had to try it. So, 2 hours of sleep later, I was back up and heading to the start. The day turned out to be a true battle; I battled others, the trails, my mind and body. patapsco 100

It really can’t be overstated, AFC does an incredible job with this race. They’re obviously racers themselves because they have all of the important parts of a race dialed perfectly. And its only their second year having the race! The aid volunteers were excited, motivated and encouraging. The course marking could not have been any better. And the trails, well, we all owe a huge thanks to Ed Dixon who put in thousands of hours the past two years making the trails ridable and ready. He was even out at 8:30pm the night before clearing a new tree that had fallen on the course that is 99% single track! The course really is incredible.

Given the shorter format than usual, I elected to just take 3 bottles of Infinit GoFar with me on course, and roll through the aid stations in order to save time. That strategy worked out perfectly, as I felt energized and sharp the whole race. This would’ve been a good course for a camelbak though, as the unrelenting terrain was a bit tough to sneak drinks in! Twenty20 actually hooked me up with some really cool Specialized Purist bottles recently that have some sort of coating inside that keeps your fluids from tasting plasticky, which is really nice! I loved that during the race.

With a tough course ahead, the start line was ominous. To add to the impending pain awaiting me, I line up next to none other than Chris Eatough, former 7 time 24 hour mountain bike world champion! I readjusted my expectations and presumed it would be a race for second. Given my training though, I felt confident I could race well and get somewhere in the top 5. Chris Beck had prepared me for months for these moments.

At the start, Chris Welsh (Diamondback), Eatough and I got an immediate gap in the opening single track. We ripped the first sections, flying over the most technical and narrow sections of the course. Eatough and Welsh were taking more risks on the technical descents than I was willing to and were getting separation that I would push to make up on the climbs.

Then, unfortunately, Eatough flatted and had some issues with his flat kit, taking him out of our group. Welsh was up the trail a bit, so I dug in and pushed the climbs even harder to get him back. I reeled him in finally and we began working together on some of the flat sections to try and hold off the image of a charging world champion behind us. The trails were super fast, with just enough moisture to keep them tacky, but not enough to slow you down. I was worried my tires wouldn’t be aggressive enough running a Fast Trak in the front and a Renegade in the rear, but I couldn’t have been happier. The format of the race, 3ish hours, is just long enough to be endurance, but just short enough to require full gas racing. That meant every section was taken full speed and all energy saved was vitally important. I rode my Specialized Epic World Cup and was very pleased. Out of the saddle the brain was locked out, but over the rocks and roots (that seemed never ending) it just floated. At one point even Welsh remarked he was jealous!

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Right around the half way point, Welsh and I had slowed a bit as we rolled along some flatter sections of flowy trail near a river. I came around him and put down a long effort to speed things up, thinking we might be leaving ourselves open to getting caught. Immediately a little gap opened, so I drove it hard to see what I could do. Welsh didn’t respond and I started drilling the climbs even harder to make the gap permanent.

One thing I loved about the course was that it was never boring. Every section was different and relatively short, so the terrain was changing constantly. This minute you might be climbing a rocky single track, and the next you were flying on a smooth, flat, flowy track. I did hear some folks comment that the constant changes lead to them having difficulty seeing. Sometimes it would be super bright and sunny, and moments later you were in thick woods where it was much darker. I was wearing the Spy Daft’s and found them to be perfect the whole race, even for the early morning start.

Leading a race with 90 minutes to go is anything but relaxing. With no idea whats going on behind you, its really stressful. Such was my lot for the remainder of the race. My mind played constant games on me, taunting me into slowing down. I pushed and pushed as hard as I dared hoping I wouldn’t blow up before reaching the finish line. I turned into the park onto the final climb (3rd of a mile at 11%) and couldn’t see any chasers. That was it, the top spot was in the bag in 3:05:30. I sat up and took the ride through the park nice and easy to enjoy the victory; a nice taste of redemption after last week! Every race is a learning experience and I learned some new things about myself that day, especially how I handle stress! Talking to myself to maintain a positive but focused perspective was huge.

All in all, it turned out to be a great decision to race, even if it was a tough battle. Not only did I get the win, but I got to ride with tons of friends who were racing various distances or volunteering on course. It was such a fun day, I can’t recommend the race enough!

2014 Cohutta 100 Race Report

Patience is a virtue, so they say.

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In endurance mountain bike racing, anything can go wrong. Over the course of 9 hours there is plenty of time for your bike to break, for your body to revolt against you, for you to lose focus and crash, or to simply become unmotivated. To do well, you need all of those things, and more, to not happen.

The Cohutta 100 is a mountain bike race in the Cohutta wilderness area that sits between the Tennessee and Georgia border. It is a 100 mile race that climbs 14,000 feet and descends just as much in its mostly out and back format. Charles Nelson does a fantastic job every year putting the race on and the volunteers are exactly what you’d expect from an NUE race: energetic, helpful and fantastic.

A week before the race, one of the best mountain bike pros in the country, Jeremiah Bishop, announced he would be starting. That deepened the field significantly and promised to make the race even harder. There were over 150 open mens racers, a bunch of singlespeeders, women, and masters (50+) on the line to make a field of just about 250. The gun went off, and we began.

2014 Cohutta 100 Route

You never want to go very hard when you’re racing all day. It’s all about being steady for hours. But at the beginning of a race like this, starting slowly can lead to getting caught in traffic at tight sections of trail. So, when the gun went off, the front few rows hit it hard. After 2 miles of fairly steady climbing on the road, the 250 person field was strung out. The lead pack was about 15 strong as we headed into the first single track. We wound and weaved all over the mountain side and the pack thinned further. Around mile 10, my Rare Disease Cycling teammate Rob Spreng led the group of 8 as we entered a series of fast tight downhill sections. I sat 7th wheel and slowly began losing contact as Rob, Jeremiah Bishop, Gordon Wadsworth, Gerry Pflug, Chris Michaels and Andy Rhodes ripped through the trails faster than I was willing to go.

It is at these precise moments that you have a very important decision to make. Do you turn on the gas and burn precious energy closing the gap that has formed? Or, do you be patient, settle into your all day pace, and trust that is the smartest thing to do? It’s a hard decision to make. You’re in a race, you can see your competition just a few seconds up the trail! But closing that gap down, however small it is, will hurt you at hour 7 and beyond. So, I settled in, and waited.

Fast starts are great. They set you up to move easily through all the opening miles of track. But, it also means that there are a lot of fast guys behind you, and you will get passed ALL DAY by the overly zealous. That is exactly what happened. Around mile 16 the single track ended and a few guys came by me chasing the leaders. I tried to remember the day ahead, and keep my pace steady. “Maybe I’ll catch them later” I told myself.

Then I was alone. Riding, churning out mile after mile, just by myself. Around mile 21, Brian Toone (a very strong rider from Alabama), came up on me and we worked together to get to the bottom of the huge climb of the day. When the route got steeper I said my farewells to Toone and he rolled away from me up the mountain. This climb would rise steadily from miles 23 to 48, and gain about 7,000 feet

A few miles later, Garth Prosser, snuck up on me (literally) to try to scare me. He gave me a slight push and startled me; he got me good! We talked for a minute and he relayed no one was even close behind us which was great to know. He motored on and I once again had to fight the urge to up the pace. “Patient, be patient,” I kept telling myself.

In such a long race, you lean heavily on various things and are forced to trust (sometimes blindly). I had to trust that even though I hadn’t done many long rides this year, that my coach Chris (of Chris Beck Racing) had prepared me well for the race. I had to trust my nutrition strategy would fuel me well into the late hours of the race. I had to trust that my SRAM drivetrain would keep shifting well, not get jammed, or loose. I trusted that my Specialized Epic would keep me stable on the 45 mph downhills of the race. A week before the race I had flashbacks to last year when my brakes were failing towards the end, so I went to Twenty20 and they tuned them perfectly to ensure I was ready to go. All the variables spin through your head and separating from them, turning your mind off and pressing on is all you can do.

I was feeling steady like I was climbing strong, but at mile 40, Roger Masse and Jesse Kelly (two of my RDC teammates) rolled up on me like I was on an easy Sunday ride. This time, I forgot patience and upped my pace to stay with them. My heartrate jumped as my power spiked as a result and I soon realized this was not smart. So, again, I backed off and watched them pedal away. More people passed. It was getting discouraging. Patience.

2014 Cohutta 100 2

Mile 48 brings elation and the biggest smile to your face. The climbing is done (temporarily) and it’s time to head down the mountain to the turn around. I ripped my way down the long descent and finished the single track that is the turn around. Almost immediately, the road turns back up for 7 miles of steep climbing to go back the way you came. I was promptly passed, AGAIN, by two riders. I was about 5 hours in at that point and the thoughts of holding back didn’t even cross my mind. My pace was set, there was no upping it now.

I pressed on steadily, trying to stay out of the way of the many racers now coming down the mountain in my direction. I picked my way up the climb slowly and deliberately, searching for the best traction on the steep pitches. I passed some gorgeous overlooks and enjoyed them greatly. It was a beautiful day; cloudless, 75 degrees, and relatively low humidity. What a great day to ride a bike

Towards the top of the climb, to my confusion, I saw Greg Rittler descending toward me. He had missed a poorly marked turn and ended up doing an additional 14 miles and 2000 feet of climbing! Bummer! He flew past down the mountain and I continued on my way up. Reaching the top of the second climb is a huge weight lifted off of your shoulders. The hardest part of the day is over. My spirits lifted a bit and I began my meandering back towards the long downhill. A few riders came into view and a few riders passed. My mind had lost track of my position so I simply focused on keeping my heart rate steady, riding fast and smart.

Down the mountain I flew and after what seemed like an eternity, I was back at mile 85. Exhausted and losing focus, my previously positive mental state was deteriorating quickly. I actually prayed that I would zone out for the final miles which features many little climbs, and that’s exactly what happened. Until mile 90.

2014 Cohutta 100 Profile

I was content with my day. I had ridden consistently and hadn’t made any mistakes. I felt rough but knew the finish was within reach. Just then, Brian Toone rode up next to me. “What are you doing here?” I asked. It turns out he had missed the same turn Greg had! Such a disappointment. He seemed to be in good spirits and promptly continued on his way much faster than I.

I glanced over my shoulder and a Toyota rider was about 30 seconds back. Until this point, I was content to hold my pace and not really “race” anyone all day. But then, the competitiveness turned on, I zoned out (as requested!) and I drilled it.

Out of the saddle I hammered the climbs, pushing 30% harder than I had been all day. My heart rate jumped up and I began flying. The pain faded to the background, and I was dead set on not getting passed again. Instead, I began picking up riders. One by one they appeared around turns, head down, legs heavy, slogging their way towards the finish. I passed as quickly as I could, and saw Toone again as we entered the final single track. Being primarily a road racer, he doesn’t get the same training time in tight single track and was very gracious to let me come by. I was racing scared, afraid to be caught by anyone and the fear propelled me forward. Every twig snapping, every bird chirp sounded like someone’s drive train coming up on me. I pushed and pushed.

The final descent came and I did it a full minute faster than I ever had before. I trusted my tires (Fast Trak/Renegade) to their complete limit, hoping no one would be able to match the pace. Toone was on my mind as I came out on the final 2 mile stretch of road the finish. He’s got a lot of power that is hampered by single track, but when he hits that road section, I knew he would be crushing it. So I put my face on the bars, tucked down as low as I could, and hammered with everything I had left.

I crossed the line in 8:32 which was good enough for 7th place. I was thrilled. I had hoped for a top 10, so 7th was a nice reward for the dig I put in over the last 10 miles! Jeremiah Bishop ended up taking the win with my teammate Rob Spreng finishing 2nd on the day. Gerry Pflug also had a great ride taking 4th in the singlespeed even after getting lost for 30 minutes. Roger Masse bagged 2nd in the masters (which was a tough field) and Jesse Kelly had a solid ride finishing inside the top 15.

It was a hard day, and a battle. But, in the end, the patience paid off.

2014 Baker’s Dozen – 2nd

2014 Bakers DozenThe Bakers Dozen is a 13 hour race in Leesburg, Virginia. A very popular race in Virginia, it sells out every year and typically draws some good competition. This year, I planned to try the race for the first time as part of a 3 man relay. We would take turns doing a single lap at a time to try to get as many laps in over the 13 hours as possible. I joined up with Patrick Traill and Ethan Frey to see how we could do against the field.

bakers dozen 2014Last year’s winners, Rocktown Racing, did 21 laps in 13:09. We were shooting to get 22 (8.5 mile) laps in, and with that, hopefully lock up first. A relay over 13 hours is tricky. On one hand, its an endurance race as you’re racing all day. On the other hand, each lap is a separate race where you are pushing yourself to the limit, with fairly large breaks in between. I talked to my coach Chris Beck (Chris Beck Racing) beforehand and he basically told me to go as hard as I could every lap, and to simply rest in between. So that is what I did, and it turned into doing 7 laps as hard as I could.

The race began and our first guy, Ethan Frey, led us out. He passed things off to Patrick Traill next, and I rounded things out on lap 3. They told me my job as the last guy was to make sure we made the cutoff for 22 laps. If we were close on our 20th lap, I needed to be able to go out and fly so that Ethan could go out for the 22nd lap. Great, noo pressure!

My first lap could be described as a traffic jam. Since Ethan and Patrick had ridden so fast the first two laps, we were now catching up to and lapping other teams and solo riders, so I was in a constant state of passing, slowing to pass, or speeding back up. Additionally, having never ridden the course, I was learning the hard way just how tight some turns were, how to go over and through certain rocky sections and when to hit the gas. When I started, I knew we were a bit behind Haymarket, a team of very strong local pros, and last year’s winner, Rocktown. Shortly after starting I reeled in Rocktown and passed, but in the process picked up a nice train of racers who sat on my wheel and paced. I finished the first 2/3 of the course and accelerated to gap my train a bit to give Ethan a bit of a heads start on Rocktown going into lap 4. It worked and we had a tiny bit of breathing room.

As the laps wore on, Haymarket kept getting further and further up the road. We had the perfect pit location that was in a spot that the course passed twice thanks to Joe’s Bike Shop. The first time you passed it, the next lap rider knew they had about 8 minutes until you would be back and ready to transition. So we could sit, eat/relax, and wait for the first pass, then gear up, warm up and get ready to roll again. This was also great as we could see how far ahead and behind the competition was on any given lap. Going into my second lap (our collective 6th lap) I knew two things: Haymarket was riding faster than we were, and Rocktown and the Old Line Velo teams were right with us.

2014 Bakers DozenI began my second lap and the crowds had thinned just slightly. I went into the woods right behind Tony Vacchino, an OLV racer who happens to be one of best technical riders I have ever seen. He was absolutely flying through the course, taking turns faster than I would have thought possible, going over rocks with seemingly no effort. Following him was very educational as I learned the best way around everything. Each time we’d pass someone though, he’d get around them first and put in a little dig. A gap would form between us and I’d have to claw my way back to keep him in sight. Rocktown was nowhere to be seen at that point, so it was just me chasing OLV. As we approached the pits, I attacked Tony but he was waiting for it and I couldn’t shake him free. We entered the Pines (the last 1/3 of the lap) and Tony jumped in front and upped the pace. I latched on and we flew through this fast section of the course, averaging over 14 mph. Leaning through every turn, ducking under branches, around tree trunks it felt like a race track. Confidence is vital for survival at such speeds. You have to know your hands aren’t slipping off the bar, and that your tires are not going to break free and lose traction. With Specialized tires and ESI grips, I didn’t think twice about it. Eventually we both dialed it back, seeing we were glued together, and chatted a bit as we finished up our respective laps, acknowledging the good battle we had on the lap.

7th, 8th, my turn again. Going out on the 9th lap, I knew we had a little gap over OLV and were widening our margin over Rocktown who was sitting in 4th. Not wanting to battle with Tony again, or to give them any hope of pulling us back to take back 2nd, I dug deep on my 3rd lap. At this point, I’d put in about 70 minutes of all-out effort during the day, and it wasn’t easy to get the engine warmed up again. But after about 3 minutes of feeling terrible, your legs come back and you start to feel good again. I pushed and pushed  the whole lap hoping to not see Tony coming up behind me. When racing all out, you are shifting constantly. Up, down, two up, back down. You are essentially pushing your drivetrain to its absolute limit so as to be as efficient as possible. But, as expected, mine performed flawlessly all day, unlike many I saw on the trail side trying to coax life back into their various mechanical issues. Thanks to Twenty20 and SRAM for the great XO1 system! I finished my lap, utterly exhausted, ate and drank and almost fell asleep in our pit tent.

The 12th lap came all too quickly and my body was feeling a bit haggard. Muscles were tightening, energy was depleted. The sun was getting hot, more than forecasted and dehydration was setting in. I set out hard, just like the other laps, but I hoped to settle into a pace more reasonable given that I still had 4 laps to go, and many hours remaining. I was able to hold a steady pace through the lap, and was particularly happy to find the crowds had thinned a bit finally and passing was becoming easier. I focused on the positives of the day to keep me pushing hard. My Epic World Cup had been flawless, and with the course being so fast, having full suspension was a back saver! After finishing the lap I inhaled as much food as possible, and drank a ton of water. Midway through a 13 hour race, I couldn’t afford to feel how I did. I needed salt, calories and water. I checked the live results that Go Time Racing provides and saw that we were close to 12 minutes back from Haymarket, and only a minute or so up on OLV, with Rocktown a few more minutes back.

bakers dozen 2014My energy began coming back and I started to feel better when it was time for lap 15 (my 5th). Our lead over OLV was growing but a single flat tire, broken chain, or any mechanical issue could wipe that lead out instantly. I focused on riding carefully on the rocks so as to avoid flatting. I entered the woods with a rider from the “geezer” Haymarket team (they had two teams) and realized a guy perhaps double my age was holding my pace with seemingly no effort. That irked me a bit but there was nothing I could do to lift my pace through the technical part of the course. While we were competing in different categories, he in the above 40 category they affectionately dubbed the “geezer” category, there was still overall honors to consider. So when we hit the last 1/3 of the course I floored it, and finally was able to shake my shadow. The Haymarket “geezer” team had a really great showing and ended up winning their category!

The day drew on and I felt better and better physically. My legs were dying a slow death, but I wasn’t hungry or thirsty anymore; a very good sign your body isn’t shutting down. A 13 hour race that starts at 9am in April is guaranteed to end in the dark, so when my 6th lap came up we were right on the edge of needing lights. I put them on my bike and hoped I wouldn’t need them. Riding in the dark, even with the brightest lights slows you down, and I wasn’t interested in seeing less and increasing my risk of crashing. I rode out and had probably the most enjoyable lap of the day. I rode hard, but was able to watch the sun set through the trees as I rode around the course. I didn’t have to navigate around many groups and was able to ride mostly alone as I worked my way back to the transition area. I was smiling, soaking it all in. I was riding a bike on a gorgeous day with a bunch of friends. What a gift.

2014 Bakers DozenIt was dark. Small camp fires were popping up all over the farm that was our race course for the day. The mood was good as the end was now in sight for everyone. I waited impatiently for my last lap, and was excited when my turn came. I had about 60 minutes to get my 7th lap in (our 21st) so that Ethan could go out for a 22nd before the 10pm time cut off to start another lap. Haymarket was long gone with something like 15 minutes on us (so we thought), OLV had slowed and were about 7 minutes adrift and Rocktown was even further. I was happy the pressure had lifted and I started onto my lap, lights ablaze, and with a higher contrast yellow lens in my Spy Daft glasses. Doing the course 6 times that day, you start to memorize everything. Every rock, root, turn, log. What the traction is like here, what’s the best way over that rock there; it all becomes second nature, which makes riding it at night a bit easier. I glided through the course and watched the other lights of other racers dance through the trees. It was like magic, I could’ve enjoyed that for hours. I passed our pit once more before finishing the last 1/3 of the lap and shouted a heads up to Ethan that I was 8 minutes out. Once more through the fast section and I was done.

Ethan finished our 22nd lap and powered all the way through to the end, shutting the door on OLV finally and securing our place on the 2nd step of the podium. We ended up 9 minutes down on Haymarket, 8 minutes up on OLV and 23 minutes up on Rocktown. It was a fantastic day. Patrick, Ethan and I all raced our hearts out. I can’t imagine having done the race with a better set of guys.a Sitting around between laps talking to other teams was a ton of fun, and the course was a dream. Go Time Racing did a fantastic job and the 120 pizzas they had delivered at 10:30p was a pretty nice bonus!

With more laps than the winners last year, it was disappointing to not win, but given who we were beat by, we were happy we got as close as we did. It turned out we had raced 10 laps faster than Haymarket but 12 laps slower. Oh well, next year! As the second fastest team of the day, we landed ourselves in the money which was great. Looking back, the course, camaraderie and overall atmosphere of the race put it solidly into the top 3 of my favorite races I’ve done. Big thanks to Go Time Racing who absolutely nailed the execution of this race, and did so without a hitch! What a great day.

6 Hours of Cranky Monkey Race Report

2014 Crankey Monkey 6 HoursIt was still cold out when we spun slowly toward the start line of the prologue. The race began and immediately I found myself 4th wheel in a tight paceline, ripping through Rosaryville State park. With plenty of duo classes racing, I had no intention to go out so fast, but when I saw Jim Mayurick of Toasted Head Racing tuck in 3rd wheel, I knew thats where I needed to be to fight for contention for the top spot at 6 Hours of Cranky Monkey.

The course for Cranky Monkey is a ton of fun. Made up of 100% single track, it twists and dips, turns and rips through the woods of the park for about 11 miles each lap. As recently as the Wednesday before the race, the course had been covered in snow. But with warm temps the snow had quickly melted leaving tacky trails and the best conditions I had ridden since November. The only downside to the tacky traction, was the climbs were slow and sucked the power out of each stroke, making for longer lap times.

Jim and I ripped around the course for two laps at a cross country pace, attacking the climbs and taking all the risks. At the end of our second sub 57 minute lap, I concluded that Jim was either in a different league or was going to promptly blow up at about hour four, so I dialed back my efforts to settle in for the next four hours.

It cannot be overstated that this course is an absolute blast to ride. If it wasn’t for a more technical section in the middle, I’d imagine average speeds would be in the 13mph range. It wasn’t uncommon to be leaning through turns so much that your inside knee was grazing the foliage on the trail side. Too much fun.

As fun as it was though, after 3 laps, you begin to realize you’re only half way. Those log hops that you enjoyed the first 2 times aren’t that fun anymore. The rollercoaster type personality of the trail made for no spots to rest on the entire course. Constant pedaling and power surges accelerated the exhaustion. Somewhere on the third lap, I began to realize how little water and calories I’d taken in on my first two laps with Jim. It began catching up with me as my legs began to feel flat and cramps were threatening to come on full force. But the worst realization of them all, was that my back was coming undone.

cranky monkey 2014My lower back is a continual point of concern as it has a tendency to tighten and become very sore after hours of single track with no break. With no real areas to rest and stretch it out, the pain was becoming unbearable. Just then, Chris Dobroth of Wicked Wash Racing rolls up on me. He chats me up a bit and sounds like he is feeling great. After a few minutes, he passes and immediately drops out of sight. That was it. I was unraveling. The lower back pain wasn’t going away and I was now going backwards.

Laps 3 and 4 were dark. Negative thoughts streamed through my mind. Bike races are won by the mentally strong. Those who can block out the pain, focus and do what they’ve trained themselves to do. I wanted to stop, quit, stretch my back and be done. In fact, I almost didn’t go out on lap 4. But I did and I began focusing on the positives.

Twenty20 Cycling had recently built up a new Specialized WC Epic for me that was phenomenal. It was exceeding my expectations in every way and I was flying on it. So there was that. Then the trails were good, fun, and I was holding traction through the turns well with Fast Trak tires. Also very good. The only real problems to fix were my back and my depleting energy. So I went to work.

specialized epic world cup I had learned the course well enough by lap 4 to know exactly where I could drink and stretch. I began methodically eating and stretching, eating stretching and by the end of the lap, the legs were coming back and my back was fading to the background. I rolled through the pit, got new bottles and Chris Cosper of Joe’s Bike Shop said I was 20 seconds back from Dobroth. With my new found energy I rolled into lap 5 like a madman. Pushing the turns and climbs I caught Dobroth to take back the 2nd spot. Mentally, I was back, the negative thoughts were gone and I was excited about the new energy in my legs.

The next two laps were as fast as I could run them, and I ended up coming in just under 6 hours for 6 laps at 5:58 for second place overall.

EX2 Adventures put on a great event and I’m glad I was able to enjoy it this year! It was a successful day because Twenty20 Cycling, Specialized, ESI Grips and Spy Optics had me on the best gear available. Thanks also to Rare Disease Cycling for making it possible! Looking forward to getting the actual team kit to race in!

cranky monkey 2014 podium

Redemption at Barry Roubaix

Barry Roubaix_Mary BooneMy adventure into gravel road racing continued with Barry Roubaix in Hastings, MI this weekend. Why you ask would I go even further north when it is barely in the 20’s in Pittsburgh to get on my bike and get muddy for a few hours – because that’s what we do for fun!

As we headed through the flats of OH in our bike-laden Subie, I only had redemption on my mind. My first gravel road race at Southern Cross in Georgia last month handed me a big fat second to last person across the finish line – talk about an eye opener with 7300 ft of climbing! So, I dropped down to the 36 miler for Barry Roubaix and, with a little prodding from the coach, opted to ‘train through’ this early season race.

After seeing my boyfriend Dan off on his first gravel adventure in an earlier race wave, I stepped up to the line near the front of the women’s pack to get this party started. A surprise sighting of Sarah Lukens, former teammate and all-around awesome lady, got me pumped up and ready to race. So, with the words of many awesome racers and coaches in my brain, I stuck to the center of the pack as we got a fast start on the road – hold on, hold on, hold on!
Randy, my new Raleigh RXC, was raring to go as we hit the dirt a few miles in, and I continued to hold to the front pack…until the first climb of course. Knowing that I’m supposed to be training through this race, I let go of the front pack and settled into the race at this point with 5 or 6 other ladies. We traded places throughout the race and worked together a bit on the roads. Yay, I’m not all alone out here for once!

The course was soft mud with a puddle here and there making for some grinding on the legs, washboards that put my cyclocross skills to work, and some all-out road straightaways that made me appreciate Randy’s carbon frame and awesome gearing (thanks to Dan and Pro Bikes in Pittsburgh). With three miles left, I decided to ‘race’ the finish and picked it up on the road. I came in alone but feeling amazing both physically and mentally.

Founders Brewery hosted a stellar post-race celebration and, sporting my Rare Disease Cycling team wool beanie, I hooted and hollered as I watched my teammates Stephanie Swan and Gerry Pflug take 1st place spots on the podiums in their respective 62 mile races. I had no idea until the next morning over a hearty grease and protein filled breakfast that I finished 14th out of 41 women in my field – what! I can’t wait for my next gravel adventure – Hilly Billy Roubaix I’m coming to get you!

Team CF New Jersey Race Report

Team CF New Jersey has been keeping busy in August. Here are some recent highlights:

Team CF NJ raced at the D&Q Summer Sizzler on Sunday, August 4 at Gloucester County College, Sewell NJ.

  • Alan Moy, Cat 2 30-39, 3rd place

Team CF NJ raced at H2H #7 Summer Scramble at Mountain Creek Bike Park, Andover NJ on Sunday 8/18.

  • Alan Moy – Cat 2 30-39, 3rd Place
  • Miguel Damian – Cat 2 50+, 2nd place
Alan Moy on the podium at H2H
Alan Moy on the podium at D&Q
Alan Moy 3rd at H2H
Alan Moy 3rd at H2H
Miguel Damian 2nd place Master at H2H
Miguel Damian 2nd place Master at H2H

Bulldog Rump

Team CF New Jersey raced the 2013 Bulldog Rump and NJ State Championship on Sunday, July 14. Held at Kittatinny Valley State Park in Andover, NJ, it was #5 for the H2H series and also the MARC Finals.

Alan Moy, Cat 2 30-39, 1st place for NJ State Championship

Joseph Cummings, Cat 1 40-49, 9th place

TeamCF Rider Alan Moy wins Cat2 30-39 at Bulldog Rump
TeamCF Rider Alan Moy wins Cat2 30-39 at Bulldog Rump

Team CF/Whiskey Springs in CO

On June 16th Justin and Mike McFadden, Team CF in PA, had a unique opportunity to race the KMC Classic in Colorado Springs, CO. Being from PA we won a KMC chain not for being not fastests entrants, but for being the farthest entrants. We hoped to represent with performance also. With rented bikes, high altitude, new terrain, and way too much riding the two days before race day (just because we could), we were set to go that Sunday. That said, we had no bike issues, got to preride the course, and didn’t seem to suffer too much in the thinner air so no excuses. Justin, race age 16, did 3 – 4+mile laps in the Cat 2 15-18 Juniors. His race was early, but temperatures still hit the 90’s. The course was very fast gritty / loose sandstone trails with more than a few beach sand thick corners that could kill speed and the intended direction. Justin pushed 22 1/2 minute laps and had no issues with the technical rock sections, PA rock training paid off! When he was settled in, there was a gap in front of him and behind him in his class so he had just a bit of back and forth with other riders and finished 11th of 15. The top 4 were looking to move up to Cat 1 soon, so not too bad. Mike, Cat 2 40-49 did the same course scheduled for 5 laps. Though it started later in the day it started hot, then got windy, cooler. At the highest point lightning and thunderstorms could be seen on either side of the race with the Rockies in the distance, but just a few drops of rain ever hit the course. He had a fun race with back and forth among a few in class racers taking the better of the downhills and and rocks and sucking wind on the climbs. Mental note, knowing all the rules can pay off. Once the leader of an earlier heat of Cat 1 riders laps you the race stops. So while closing distance on a couple riders Mike was done at 4 laps, a surprise to most of the riders, finishing 9th of 11. Both riders are aiming to improve in first full year of Cat 2 races.

Big Bear 2×12

Another race weekend is in the bag. We had a great weekend with racing and hanging out with good people. It started on Friday with a 3hr drive to Big Bear Lake Campground in WV. We got there around 4:45 then registered, set up the campsite and then out to pre-ride the 12 mile course. We met the Sornsons (Lee and Cheryl) at the campsite and Zack Morrey showed up a little later.

Saturday was race day . The teams were myself and Lee Sornson racing the sport masters class. Andrew Bobb and Brandon Draugelis (Team Shred) who raced the men’s open and Cheryl Sornson (Team CF Elite) and Zack Morrey (SCOTT PRO MTB) who raced the coed expert class. After everyone had their time to figure out the race strategy that would work best, we went to the racers meeting and then to the mass start. 3-2-1-GO. The first riders are off. Brandon got the “hole shot”. Zach was in the top 12 or so. I was 2nd master going in to singletrack. The race was on. As the first riders came in and the 2nd riders left things got exiting Lee and I were 1st by 5 secs, Brandon and Andrew were top 3, Zach had struggled and fell back some, which meant Cheryl had some time to make up.

Lee went out and turned the fastest sport lap time of the day. Andrew went out and buried himself. Cheryl did what she does: race with a vengeance and got back the time that was lost. As the races shook out Branden and Andrew where in a close race between 3rd and 4th. Despite the valiant effort from these two they ended up 4th. Lee and I ended up 1st in class and fastest sport team. Cheryl and Zack finished 2nd coed. But things may have been different if Cheryl would not have had a mechanical that cost her just about the amount of time that they lost by: less than 1 minute!

The “after party” was very entertaining also. We went to the awards and recieved our very nice ceramic crocks and then the band started to play…

Ride it’

John Mountain Bobb

Andrew Bobb at the end of a tough lap at the Big Bear 2x12
Andrew Bobb at the end of a tough lap
Andrew Bobb comes into the start finish area
Cheryl Sornson approaches the start finish area
Andrew Bobb finishes a lap
Andrew Bobb finishes a lap
Cheryl and Zack just seconds out of first stand good enough for second
Cheryl and Zack just seconds out of first stand good enough for second
John Bobb and Lee Sornson are the best Sport Master riders of the day
John Bobb and Lee Sornson are the best Sport Master riders of the day

Rothrock Trail Mix

Andrew Bobb and I went up to State College to race in the Rothrock Trail Mix on Saturday. The race consisted of 32 mile of very rocky, sharp rocks, wet rocks, flat rocks, big rocks,small rocks, (OK you get it) with close to 4000′ of climbing. The weather was 50, damp with drizzle. It felt more like April than June. There were 75 riders who participated and a lot of no shows, most likely due to the the tropical storm that went through on Friday.

We all lined up for the mass start. We’re off with a long gravel road start, then to a long rocky single track climb. Drew and I were close through the climb and he got to the single track 4 riders in front of me. Everything was going as expected some crashes in the wet rocks that jammed things up a bit. Drew had a mechanical, the chain would not stay on the big while under load in the technical stuff. I asked if he was fine he replied that he was fine. I mentioned to him that he should stay in the 26T ring. As things started to spread out after the 5 to 7 miles. I was riding in no-man’s land for almost the entire race. I was not sure where I stood with in my class but new I was around 15th overall. Drew was about 4 mins back from through all the check points. Andrew was the first and only junior to attempt this course and when he would come through at aid stations or road crossings the race marshalls and spectators would comment “hey there’s the junior”. When it was all said and done I was 1st overall Masters 45+, 15th overall and 1st overall sport (3hr 31 min). Drew was 1st jr, 17th overall and 2nd overall sport (3:37) It was a good race for us. Agian we had great race support from Angie and Megan Bobb

The race was well manned with marshalls (safety at road rossings) and aid stations. Happy Valley Biking was the promoter and did a nice job and a nice venue. The riders were mostly the locals who have good riding skills which is nice on this type of course. This one to think about for next year.

Ride it’

John

John and Andrew Bobb
Team CF riders John and Andrew Bobb
Andrew Bobb navigates the slippery rocks of Rothrock State Forest
Andrew Bobb navigates the slippery rocks of Rothrock State Forest
John "Mountain" Bobb on top of the podium
John “Mountain” Bobb on top of the podium
Andrew Bobb was the best of the best Junior at Rothrock
Andrew Bobb was the best of the Juniors at Rothrock

PA State Championships at Bear Creek

Riding the rocks was the name of the game this weekend. Six riders from the Team CF/ Whiskey Springs raced at Bear Creek for the PA State Championships. We had our share of ups and down this weekend. The weather was sunny, hot and humid 90 degrees +or-. The course was the National amateur loop (7.6 Miles). Tons of rocks and 1200′ of climbing per lap. This couse is a whole lot better than the pro course (or worse depending on your perspective).

On Saturday Dakota Detwiler showed up to race the Super D course. He gets there to make the shuttle to the top for his practice runs. He gets a good run in. The next run he noticed that the bike felt a little sloppy. He and another rider took a look at the frame and the chain stay on the drive side was broken. He never got to race. BUMMER! I hope Specialized takes care of him this week. He is looking forward to the Massenutten Enduro next weekend. If anyone has a bike he can borrow that would be nice.

On Sunday Andrew Bobb, Levi Sornson, Mike McFadden, Justin McFadden and John Bobb (myself) came to race in the XC. Levi raced in the Cat 3 Jr 13-14. Levi had a fantasic race. He ended up catching the back cat 2 jr riders that started 15 mins ahead of him. His lap time 1:06.

Mike Mcfadden raced the Cat 2 40-44. Mike put in a hard effort and dealt with he heat and the climbs and ended up 9th. That’s about how he expected to do. All in all he had a good day.

Justin McFadden raced the Cat 2 15-16. I think Justin was one of the heat casualties of the day. He did finish in 8th. With that being said there were a lot of people who did not finish. Way to stick it out.

Andrew Bobb did his first CAT1 15-16 race. His race did not go so well. Andrew was doing a great job setting the pace for the group making sure that he was in front but not working to hard. As they near the top of the mountain he broke his seat post. That Sucks! He tried to ride with out it and lasted 1 more lap and eventually had to call it quits. His Comment was “I didn’t realize how much you need your seat” for control and climbing.

I raced the 45-49 Cat 2 class. I had a very good race. I started with the leaders and caught the leader’s wheel at about 1 mile in and stayed there till I made my move to be in front on the downhill sections. It worked out great, I rode the course clean and stayed calm throughout the race. I came out with the race win and the PA State Championship in class.

I think this was good weekend of racing. There was a lot hard core riding that had to be done. It definetly took it’s toll on many bikes and riders (lots of blood). You can see the rocks in the pictures. So if you going to Nationals put your big boy tires on.

ride it’

John “Mountain” Bobb

John "Mountain" Bobb wins the 45-49 class at PA State Championships
John “Mountain” Bobb wins the 45-49 class at PA State Championships
BearCreekStates2
Bear Creek has rocks
BearCreekStates1
Bear Creek has beauty

Whiskey Springs tackles Michaux

This weekend was the Michaux “Maximus”. There was a 10 mile, 20 mile and a 40 mile loop. All the loops are known for there technical landscape. There are lots of rocks, steep descents, long climbs and pain. This is a course that a lot of racers chose to stay a way from because it is a real challenge. It has been dubbed “the toughest race in the east” by many.

The Team CF / Whiskey Springs chose to do this race in lieu of the MASS race at Iron Hill. This is our house! The junior teammates had a great and the adult teammate did very well also. Just no podiums for the big boys. Team CF elites Rob Spreng and Cheryl Sornson won their respective open classes in the 40 mile loop. Congrats to both of them.

Let’s start with the 10 mile loop. Levi Sornson (son of Team CF elite rider Cheryl Sornson) won the 10 mile jr class with a time of 1:23:30. He was 6 min up on 2nd place. Not bad for a junior who has been playing soccer this spring for his school. Levi is going to be force to be reckoned with in the cat 3 jrs.

The 20 mile loop had Team CF / Whiskey all over it. Andrew Bobb turned out a spectacular ride with a winning time of 1:53:47 and 2nd fastest 20 mile time of the day only to Matt Miller (Mid Atlantic Giant team rider). Drew woke up with a cold/sore throat and we thought this is going to be a tough day. Drew over came and gave one heck of an effort. Dakota Detwiler turned in a great performace also. He was 3rd in the jr class with a time of 2:11:45, less than 30secs back from the number 2 rider. Fantastic race. Justin McFadden and Dominic Desimone raced in their first Michaux 20 mile race. Both of these two riders finished with great class and style. Mike McFadden raced the 20 mile vet class. Mike had a good day and finished as he expected. He was mid pack and happy.

The 40 mile loop had the best of Northern Michaux. Mike Diodato did the Single Speed class (first Michaux 40). Mike crashed at around mile 3. Mike got his self put back together and turned in a awesome time 4:28 for a 5th place spot. John Bobb (me) did the 40 mile master class (first Michaux 40) I had a great day with a little bit of suffering. Sore knee and cramps. My time was 4:50 for 6th place.

Other notables:

Phil Spare 10 mile masters 4th. Great ride!

Shawn Withers 40 mile masters 5th. Nice ride!

Sally McClain 40 mile women’s 2nd. Good riding with you up top.

Missy Mertz 40 mile women’s 3rd

Ride it’

John

Team CF juniors all over the Michaux Maximus Podium
Team CF juniors all over the Michaux Maximus Podium

Mountain Bobb’s Greenbrier Report

We were at the Greenbrier Challenge this weekend. it was a MASS race and a national qualifier. Dominic Desimone, Dakota Detwiler and Andrew Bobb were the ones who showed up to do this demanding course. This course has some rocks, but nothing like we call rocks. It does have a lot of climbing though.

Dominic raced the cat 3 17 & 18. Dom had a great day he pushed through the climbs and was able make the podium with a 3rd place finish.

Dakota raced the Clydesdale class. 200lbs+ Understand that this not a slow class. Dakota heard they were paying cash for this race and had a taste for money. Dakota ended with the top spot. He beat a rider who I have rode against. He usually races in the single speed class and is no slouch. The rider who took 3rd was the man that they professed that he owned this race for the last 5 years. It was a 17 mile race and his time was 1:36:07. Nice ride! No intimidation!

Andrew (15) entered the 19-29 Cat 2 class. If he was looking for competition he found it. 30+ riders. Drew realized what a fast start is. He had an awesome day ended up 12th with a time of 1:26:29. He hung tough. I feel that this class will give the race experience for the next move. CAT 1

Ride it’

John “Mountain” Bobb

PS No mechanicals

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