Saturday, December 31, 2011

#CCCNYR Saturday: Trebon Dominates, OVCX Impresses

Saturday was day one of the Chicago Cross Cup New Years Resolution with a full slate of racing, including UCI Elite Men and Women. The weather called for 46 and SUNNY - WOO HOO! Guess what? The weather in Chicago changes way faster than Cincinnati. At 9am it was sunny, warming up and feeling great, at 11am it got windy, dark and cold, about mid-30s, then at 8pm tonight it was back up to 39 and calm. Tomorrow it says 38 and windy. Pretty sure they get the windy part right up here, but I think I will take that temperature prediction with a grain of salt. Back to bikes...before we get to the Elites, we have a couple other topics to cover.

Paul Curley's fleet of disc covered bikes
First item of note is a call back to Nationals in Bend, OR in 2009. If you remember the coverage from The Best Bike Blog Ever there were pics of a racer, even a group of racers, racing CX in Bend with full disc covers on the rear wheel. We were perplexed and never really caught up with the owner. Today we saw Paul Curley, the owner of these bikes/wheels and got to understand quite a bit more. 

His contention is that more races are lost and/or diminished due to mechanical issues from the rear derailleur shifting into the back wheel and the resulting destruction of hanger and rear mechanism. If you were present at Kings CX or here at Chicago UCI today you would have seen a large number of this exact issue, but not Mr Curley. He raced with the 50+ crowd and put himself on the podium with a disc wheel cover - they can't be too bad, huh? Click for a little more on Paul Curley.

Jon Card, strikingly visible through the morning fog
As a second item of business we need to note the OVCX presence felt today at the UCI Chicago races. I arrived at the course just in time to see the Masters Men 40+ lining up to take the course. Immediately visible through the foggy cool morning was the unmistakable spade skinsuit of Jonathan Card, from upstate Ohio. Jon would start a string of races with a strong OVCX showing by taking 2nd place in the Masters 40+. In the next race, the Masters 30+, Andy Messer toed the line, took off, and never looked back cruising easily to win in the Masters 30+.

In the third race of the day we had two juniors racing, Mackenzie Green in the Womens 3/4 and Spencer Petrov in the Juniors 10-14. Mackenzie had an admittedly rough race taking 12th out of approx 30 women, but Spencer made his presence known quickly. The Juniors 10-14 group started exactly 2 minutes after the women's 3/4 race had started. Spencer had caught and passed everyone on the course by the end of the first lap, besting Michael Owens, the New England 10-14 regional champion, by just over 3 minutes and 30 second.

Spencer Petrov (center) with Andrew Schmidt (left)
 and Michael Owens (right)
To give a little insight, Michael Owens is a fast rider, nearly sweeping the Verge series on the east coast. He only lost one race all year, and that was a 2nd place. The third place rider on the podium is someone to watch too. Andrew Schmidt came to Kings CX and is tearing up the ChiCrossCup, winning most of the races as a racing age 12 racer. Pretty soon I will be lobbying with the OVCX to separate the Masters from the Elites so I can try to prevent those "your losing to a 12 year old" heckles that I am sure will be coming to a race soon.

After the race, Spencer provided this insight on his race: "I am sitting in my hotel drinking the root beer that I won, thinking about todays race. Today was a good day, I liked the conditions and had good legs so everything worked out but one thing happened that has never happened to me before. I was approaching an older lady riding in the Women's 3/4 race and I politely told her I was passing on the left (usualy people let me pass and everything goes well). Today not only was I told no, but this happened to me multiple times!  I guess tomorrow I will try yalling at them MOVE and see what reactions I get."

In the Elite races most of the action was in the pits. By the time they hit the course the mud was sticking a little more and was thick and soupy. Goose Poop Hill was unrideable by even the most powerful and talented Elites as everyone was riding as far up as they could maintain speed, then dismounting and running. From riding the 2/3 race I can say that the hill may have lacked size, but it delivered a pretty good punch to your lower back. It always makes me feel better when the pros don't ride a section that I wasn't riding either - of course they still run it better than I do.

The women's race saw Sally Annis of ride away after the first lap, never to be caught. Sue Butler, River City Bicycles / Ridley, overcame a rough start and first couple laps to come back to the podium and third place behind Andrea Smith of Ladies First.

The men's race was the race everyone was interested in seeing- Ryan Trebon's return to competition. How hurt was he? Was he sitting around the house eating brats, sauerkraut, and Twinkies? For the first lap of the race it was really hard to tell. A group of four formed on the front with Trebon, Powers, Jones, and Matter riding together for almost two laps. Behind the four a team time trial with three riders from Adam Myerson's Team Mountain Khaki's group formed, riding almost 4 laps as a unit.

While watching the race you knew something was going to happen in the front four, but you didn't know when or how big. When was at the end of lap two and how big was WAY bigger than anyone expected. Trebon attacked and no one who catch his wheel - at all. Between Cincy3, USGP, and assorted live video feeds of other races I have seen Jeremy Powers race a lot of times this year and the last two years. I have never seen J-Pow go into the pain cave to try to catch someone, overcook himself, and then proceed to lose a couple places trying to pull himself back together, but he did that today. Chris Jones and Brian Matter moved into second and third, while J-Pow pulled himself backed together for about 3 laps, then came back and got past Matter for third spot on the podium.

Maybe it was just that first race back and Trebon has been licking his lips waiting to get back in the game, but he looked really, really good today. The announcers were tracking laps times and for laps 3-7 he was putting over 30 seconds into his rivals - on each lap. He nearly had time to sit down and have a root beer with Spencer before heading to the podium to collect his winnings today. Great ride for Trebon, and had to be a confidence builder after his time away.

Tomorrow will be day two of Chicago Cross Cup New Year's Resolution and I am sure we will have more fun in store with winds whipping up to about 25 mph outside while I ride this. Of course getting to the assumes that I survive the night. I am being reminded that New Year's is the perfect opportunity to check into a hotel with your kids and let them run amok while drinking beer in the lobby.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Arrival: Mud Insensitivity #cccnyr

TBBBE Stock 4-Runner Photo
Friday we loaded up the Toyota 4-Runner and ended up in a caravan with another Toyota 4-Runner, once again the official race vehicle of the The Best Bike Blog Ever, and headed north. It will come as no surprise to anyone that just like the last several races in the OVCX series it rained from the time we left our driveway until we reached Indian Lakes Resort in suburban Chicago. Good thing I packed that 33 gallon drum of chain lube.

The odd part was I didn't care. Am I tired of cleaning bikes? Yes. Am I tired of lubing chains and replacing bottom brackets? Yes. After two days of promoting Kings CX in derailleur clogging, hanger breaking mud it didn't phase me in the slightest. Was I expecting mud when I signed up for Chicago and Madison a couple months ago? Not in the slightest. Of course I could have sub-consciously realized that mud and 46 degrees beats the pants off icy and 20 degrees - THAT is what I expected.

Upon arrival we set into motion and started preparing ourselves to pre-ride and set up. We obtained Club Row treatment through ChiCrossCup and got to set up our tent in advance just feet from the starting grid. This is a primo setup, with tents on either side of us to secure everyone together from the Chicago wind and literally be able to hear our names during callups from our tents. Stay warm to the last minute kids.

Showing that I have been completely desensitized to the mud, I put on my shoes, a rain jacket, and my helmet a rode a lap of a very wet course in my jeans. Surprisingly the ground was very, very wet, but very, very firm. The course reminded me of Storm the Greens back in its heyday with its flat runs, a few small off camber hills, and some sculpted and contoured sand pits. Mostly it was flat with lots of straight aways. It was very calm today, and I think as a result I am not taking into account factor that race day might bring - wind. Chicago is well known for its wind and with long flats and wide open spaces that wind could make or break your day. They put wind turbines in the fields on I-65 for a reason.

Mackenzie and Spencer try to walk Goose Poop Hill

For technical features there are two notable features. The first is a "hill", literally the only hill taller than my official TBBBE race vehicle on the entire course - and for as far as you could see in the misty, wet day. That hill appears to be very special in its construction, something you can only get on a golf course. It is constructed of waste material from the course maintenance - literally consisting of grass clipping, extra sand, goose poop, aeration cores, and whatever else might have been collected in the grass catcher of the lawn mower. Walking up the hill we realized we shouldn't have. My shoes weighed about 5 pounds each by the time I got back to the bottom. Whether this is rideable or not will depend on the weather - but if you have to run it, you are not going to clip in clean. The hill was quickly nicknamed "Goose Poop Hill".

Sand trap love, Indian Lakes Resort style

The other technical feature of note is the many sand pits in use throughout the course. None are UCI legal length, but none are like riding sand either. The rain and elements and dormancy of the course have left them firm and rideable, but the lips riding out of them are similar if not greater than the lip to the right side of the long pit used at Kings CX a couple weeks ago. All of this is rideable, but those grunts up and out with the sand at the end of the lip getting churned up will definitely create some issues and opportunities during the weekend.

That is a wrap of the Chicago Cross Cup New Years Resolution course preview - I have to go get those jeans out of the hotel washer - there wasn't a "heavy soil" setting, so I have my fingers crossed. Stay tuned for more reports from the upper midwest.

P.S. - Here is Mackenzie's reaction to the course preview:

If you've ever ridden at Kingswood, you would recognize it here in Chicago. This course is a golf course, with a hill right smack in the middle. Just like Kingswood, except the hill is made up of random debris they don't want on the course and is smaller and only one hump...but that doesn't matter right now! Soo the course was really familiar feeling, fairly flat and straight. A few s-turns and u-turns thrown in, for variety. The start will be iffy for sure, long relatively thin pavement that's curvy with a strange turn onto the grass with off camber right after it. The hill that's pretty much literally made up of mud, goose poop, and unwanted dirt (lovely combination, right?) is slippery and has bumps, reminds me of the big hill at nationals the past few years, except not nearly as steep. After you go across the first time you go back later and go up and down the side a little around a tree, similar to what we've done at Kings before. Plopped at the end of the course are 6 sand pits - a lot of sand pits.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Blogger Road Trip: #CCCNYR Chicago CX Cup & #CXnats

It's that time again when I hand over the keys to the blog.  Similar in principal to last years trip to Bend for CX Nationals, Corey Green will be guest blogging for the next 10 days as the run in to Nationals begins with the Chicago UCI races. This year it's a bit different.  Corey has chosen quite a task for himself.  Instead of traveling with two Masters aged micro-brew snobbing fart-joke loving buddies like he did last year with John Petrov and Gregg Shanefelt, this year Corey is traveling with two junior teenagers who may be polar opposites of each other: daughter Mackenzie Green and Justin Bieber...we mean John's son Spencer Petrov.  It's a sit com in the making, "I Love My Teenage Cyclocrosser."

Mackenzie Green - Corey's teenage daughter who loves cyclocross, but chooses to be quiet and reserved. While traveling she will most likely have her nose in a book received on Christmas day, playing a game on her iPhone, or doing what most teenage girls do - texting a couple hundred friends. Kenzie's goal for Chicago and Madison are to simply have great races, continue to build her experience and have fun. You must also realize that Corey is legally against saying anything remotely close to making fun of Kenzie in a blog. It would result in 10 days of teenage looks that all of you remember giving your parents as well as a general lack of forgiveness for embarrassing her.

Spencer Petrov - if anyone has spent any time with Spencer they will realize that his motor never stops. Most times he is reminiscent of that 2 year old toddler that is beyond tired, running frantic around the house getting into anything not glued down and non-stop chattering the whole time. The biggest difference between Spencer and that toddler is that Spencer never hits that wall where he collapses on top of himself, face down in his creamed bananas in his high chair - he just  k e e p s  g o i n g. If you have ever seen Justin Bieber Nyan Cat you sort of understand what I is like that...

Corey Green - driver and watchdog for the two above, plans are to race at Chicago and Nats and use his middle-aged body the best he can to not get lapped by Pete Webber and Adam Myerson. Cincinnati Master, Peter Hills will be in the same races in Chicago and at Nats and called up about the same time, so comparisons will be made to determine who had the best holiday prep to racing. Otherwise days will be filled with getting kids ready to race, pumping tires, cooking food, calming nerves and pretending that somehow this is a vacation from work.

This Friday the Toyota 4-Runner (official vehicle of TBBBE bloggers) will depart for Chicago, loaded up with 6 bikes, 6 extra wheels, tents, coolers, a case of lycra, left over mud from OVCX (for luck) and all those little things that you always throw in before leaving "just in case". We will return late, late on January 8th, after Nationals, filled with memories of good times had and a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Or we won't talk to each other for 6 months, it could go either way.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Xmas Break: Who Poofed in the Peloton

(Joe Biker Note: It's that time of the year when you patch the 23 tubes you flatted in 2011, find your hiking boots, and of course face the decision on whether to get "Call of Duty: Blood, Cussing & Grenades" or "Bop-It" for your 11 year old nephew.  While I'm out wishing I was riding, enjoy this classic from The Best Bike Blog 2006 Archives: "Who Poofed in the Peloton."

You're rolling down the road at 23-25 mph and it hits you.  Woo-wee!  You squinch your nose and turn your head.  Dang.  That's nasty.

In the peloton its nearly impossible to figure out who poofed...until now.  Its a matter of weighing the variables such as wind direction and turbulence from churning legs and eliminating outside sources such as garbage trucks and dead animals along the creek.  Based on physics and aerodynamic principals, the rule that whoever smelt it-dealt it does not apply.  Within a second of the poof leaving the factory, it can travel dozens of meters.

You=Red, Possible Poof=Green

However, one rule does apply. If you smelt it, it most definitely came from within the "cone of poof probability" in front of you (see diagram left.) The vortex of the "cone of poof probability" is the shorts of the person in front of you and stretches forward in either direction to the sides of the peloton. Poofs on a bike don't travel side to side too quickly. So the persons directly to the right or left of the person in front of you are unlikely sources of the poof.
The first thing you need to do is figure out whether it was an actual poof or some other offending odor. It's not so easy. But, if you're on a route that you're familiar with, you should be familiar with the odors in that area. Is there a creek or river nearby? Are you in a trashy part of town? Are you out in the farmlands? Does the odor smell like any of these things? Or, does it smell like the remains of a mushroom & broccoli omelet or day old pizza.
Ah ha! Now you know it was a poof. But, who poofed in the peloton?
First, let's revisit the "cone of poof probability." The "cone of poof probability" is rather small and based on the speed you're traveling at. At ten miles per hour, the cone may be a ninety-degree angle from the buttocks of the person in front of you. However, at 25 miles per hour, that cone gets much thinner, maybe only 60 degrees.
What you need to do, is count the number of people in that area. Say you're in the front third of a pack of fifty riders, traveling at 25 miles per hour. There are maybe 18 people in front of you. But, at 25 miles an hour, there are probably only 8-9 people within the "cone of poof probability."
Poof Eliminator
Now, out of those eight and based on pure experience alone, I think you can rule out the really skinny riders. For some reason, larger riders tend to poof more in public. Maybe it's because they eat more meat, cheese and fats. I do. I used to weigh 163 and poofed a lot.  However, now as a 150 pound vegan, beans have a tendency for poofiness.  So, pick out the big boys and known vegan/vegetarians.  That should at least cut 4 people out of the equation and brings it down to an educated guess.
Do you know those riders? Who's more jovial? Who puts on deodorant before races?  Who's more outspoken? Who's the prankster? Who reads GQ?  Who's the goofball? Who smells like Tide laundry detergent?  Who's most unkempt? Who's got the messiest car in the parking lot at the race? Who would think it's funny to beef a poof in the peloton? Who wouldn't care about poofing on his fellow racers?
Out of the five possible offenders, rate them. On a scale of one to five, who's the most likely poofer? I'm pretty sure by now you know whom poofed in the peloton.
So, now what. Big deal. You know whom poofed. What good is that information? I really don't know. I don't think there's a USCF rule against poofing in the peloton. But, by now, having taken your mind off the race for a few minutes, you're probably relaxed and recovered.
I'd attack that damn poofer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quit Making Fun of my #LobsterClaw Mittens

As Big As A Cat and Just as Warm
(Joe Biker Note: I'm out shopping for holiday gifts.  Until I find something you'll really like, please enjoy this updated little morsel and possible gift idea from the archives.  Our Cyclocross Calendar sponsor Pearl Izumi has some great Lobster Claws mitts, check 'em out here.)

They’ve been called Camel Toe Mitts, Dinosaur Paws, and, (using my Scooby Doo pronunciation) Robster Craws.  They’re nearly the size of a small housecat, 3 times the size of the gloves you wear in summer and, I-tunes be damned, crafted when the grunge of Pearl Jam and Nirvana first hit the radio.  They’re my circa mid 1990’s Performance brand Purple anodized parts-matching Lobster Claw cycling mittens.  Using the term as loosely as possible, this past weekend on the regular Cincinnati Saturday morning club ride, I got tons of "compliments" on them, such as, "What the F&*% are on your hands?"

Gloves? I Say, "Hand Blanket!"
For booger freezing cold weather riding, there is no better glove.  These are the best winter mitts EVER!  Don’t even try to compare.  I’ve ridden through Ohio & Wisconsin winters in these with wind chills that’d make your teeff loosen and fall out.  Sure Pearl Izumi's may be more fashionable, but nothing makes your group ride buddies say, "oh jeez, who brought the Fred to the ride" like a wave with a purple dinosaur paw.  There's probably a fetish website dedicated to the love of Lobster Claws.  If not, I'm starting one.  Sadly "" is already taken.  Fortunately for your cycling buddies, they don't make 'em like this anymore.  Like dinosaurs, a dying breed nearing extinction. 

They’re fatter than Wendy William’s twin sisters, and therefore lack a bit in dexterity.  However, if you install an Idiot Strap to your jacket, you can pull them off mid-ride and easily reach bare handed into your jersey pocket.  You hand will smoke with steam when your bare hand hits the cold air.

Id-ee-ott Strap: (noun) A buckled or sewn strap, commonly found in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and North Dakota that mommy uses to physically tie your mittens to your jacket, so you don’t loose your gloves in the freezing cold like a 3 year old idiot.

Expedition Quality
They’re as thick as boxing glove; the top surface is a pillow of warm filler impenetrable to any wind.  Pull ‘em on and you immediately feel like the heavyweight champion of the world.  There’s not just a terry cloth snot wiper on the thumb, there’s an entire beach towel which makes up 2/3 of the top surface area.  Not only can you wipe snot, in case of a wreck you could clot a gaping wound with the left hand mitt and use the right in case you need to take care of “business” at the same time.

15 years and Still Steaming Hot
I should’ve got out the tape measure, but I’m certain you can see from the photos that they practically go up to your elbows.  So, I exaggerate.  There’s enough room inside to stick both hands in one, or easily pull them over the lower arms of your thickest winter jacket.  You could probably wear them as slippers or an insert for your Crocs. 

Dinosaur Track or Mitten Print?
Most people call them Lobster Claws, but a Lobster claw this big would fetch a world-record market price at the best steakhouse.  I prefer Dinosaur Paws, because that’s what the tracks look like when you fan out the 3-fingers and make tracks at the MTB trail head to freak out other Wisconsin trail users.  “Hey dere honey, we bedder not hike here.  Looks like dere’s a ferocious dinosaur at this trail.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

#Cyclocross: My Diabolical 5-Step Tactical Plan for Masters Worlds Domination

Fave Cartoon EVER!
Trainer: Gee, Joe Biker, what do you want to do tonight?
Joe Biker: The same thing we do every night, Trainer - try to take over the world!

Clicked into a trainer and surrounded by hibernating garden tools, garbage cans, and grease coated shop rags, my water bottle and cell phone rest on the filthy hood of my Toyota 4-Runner.  I lost the remote control a few months ago backing out of the driveway with it still on the hood.  So now, barring unclipping, our 13 inch garage TV is more or less permanently tuned to Universal Sports.  It’s not bad.  At least it’s not figure skating.  I’m watching the first World Cup bobsled race of the season at high volume because my Ipod battery died 4.5 minutes into tonight’s trainer workout.  Facing a series of 5 minute blocks of 15 and 30 second all out intervals for the next eternity, my thoughts turn.  I shouldn’t have made that wrap with beans and started working out in a sealed room.  Secondly, I need a better plan to win Worlds, since actually training probably isn’t going to work.  In bike racing, we call this “tactics.”

I Work Owwwwwt!
I try to keep it positive.  Maybe I am the only guy registered for Nationals and Worlds who came home from work, made a quick veggie wrap, swapped pants for bibs, and hit the trainer still in dress socks.  Then I saw a Facebook post from the US’s #1 45-49 year old cyclocross racer Fred Rose, about “punishing” his trainer after work.  Dammit.  He’s not eating bacon while watching Jeopardy and I’m not the only one in the World, North America, the US, not even the Ohio River Valley dropping sweat on the garage floor in December.  I’m ranked 102nd in the US of guys my age.  In the World, who knows?  I’m so screwed.

Uber-Legend Don Myrah
Then I start to crunch the numbers.  Not every 45-49 year old Cyclocrosser in the World will show up in Louisville in January.  Look at the pre-reg for Nationals.  Out of the 1450 or so ranked riders, only 65 or so were signed up the last time I checked.  Out of those, Race Predictor slated me in at 28th.  Out of those 28, who will make a second trip to race Worlds in Louisville the following weekend?  I could qualify.  I could even get a middle of the pack call-up.  Then I see Olympian, 4x National Champion, guy I read about in the magazines when I totally sucked at mountain biking and uber-legend Don Myrah is slated in behind me at 29th for Nationals.  No matter how much he says he hasn’t been training, he’s still a killer.  He’ll certainly race Worlds and he’ll certainly leave me crying for mama between bouts of the pukes in the snow.  Then I start to wonder how many Belgians, Netherlanders and Canadians will make the trip and are watching the bobsled action from their trainer right now.  If I’m going to have a chance at taking over the World of Cyclocross, I’ve got to commence Plan B.

Step 1:  The Irresistible Infecting Invite 
Dear Fred, Mike, Keith and other Masters aged Midwest Cyclocrossers buddies faster than I,

You are cordially invited to travel over Christmas to Wisconsin with me.  I know!  How super cool of me!  I once lived and worked in Madison and have the local knowledge, like how to ride your bike on snowmobile tracks across the frozen lakes.  It’s a perfect opportunity to train on the frozen tundra, maybe pre-ride the Nationals course and enjoy free food and lodging at my brother in law's house.  You can’t pass it up!

Joe Biker

PS…I left out the part about the house crawling with germ infested kids and dogs and there’s no way any human can walk out of there between Christmas and Worlds without a sniffle or cough.  Good luck with that.  Boo ooh ah ha ah!

Step 2: Divert the Best in the US
To deal with the X-pro and other uber-masters aged athletes in Colorado, circled around Mt. Rainier and Northeast, I contracted with Cincinnati’s hotbed of IT geniuses.  Based on my theory that they spend most of their time training for Worlds in meat lockers at 5,000 feet above sea level and not enough on US Geography, I had my band of hackers make a switcheroo.  The venue for Worlds on the website now reads:
UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships powered by Exergy
Presented by
Louisville Championships 2013
Thursday, January 12, 2012 to Sunday, January 15, 2012

Step 3: Memo to Discourage Eastern Europeans
To: Eastern European Cyclocross Masters Racers
Fr: UCI Grand Poobah
Re: Countries other than the US and Canada not Eligible for Worlds

It has come to my attention that historically so called World Championships in North America, such as the NBA, NHL and NFL are really only contested by two nations, the USA and Canada.  Think about it.  Have you ever seen a Mexico City Football team win the Superbowl or a Dominican baseball team win the “World” Series?  Of course not. Even though athletes outside of the US and Canada may be better, faster and stronger, it’s obvious if the World Championships are in the US, it totally sucks donkey turds but in the eyes of most Americans, your country doesn’t really count.  Sorry, but we’ll see you in two years. 

Step 4: Defend the Northern Border
Since that would leave only Canadians left to battle against me, I have invited hockey superstar Mario LeMieux to Worlds as Master of Ceremonies.  While it appears on the surface as a grand international gesture that’ll draw tons of people from Canada, I have him contracted to sign autographs, let Canadians touch the Stanley Cup with their bare hands and give a hockey demo on the Ohio River at precisely the same time as my race.  Canadian Masters will be forced to choose between an everyday occurrence of beating me at a bike race or a once in a lifetime chance to take the ice with a childhood legend. 

Step 5: Defer to Facebook Fans of the Blog

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#Cyclocross Pitting For Dummies

Where's my bike? (Joel Quimby Photography)
They call it the credit card, when the rear wheel gets slid through a rider’s rear end on a botched cyclocross pit exchange.  It’s the dreaded remount bobble, caused mainly by having a drunken person pitting for you.  It was the biggest mistake I saw in the pits at the muddy Kings CX race on Sunday.  The 2nd biggest mistake was seeing riders pull in the pit looking as if their car was stolen from the mall parking lot, only to realize their pit crew was still on the opposite side of the pit Tweeting about how great their rider was doing in the race.  Contrary to popular whining, no matter how many middle fingers get thrown between riders and their pit person, the rider is ultimately responsible for everything that goes wrong in their pit.

If you’re going to put a dummy in the pit for you, the best thing you can do is realize that they’d rather be back at the hospitality tent checking Sunday football scores or shopping for pretty shoes on their smartphone.  Outside of actually finding someone who has a fetish for rain gear and mud or someone with a vested interest in how well you do in the race, the second best thing you can do is prepare them.  Realize the dummies in your pit crew are only as good as your instructions and how much Chipotle you bribe them with. 

"A yuk-yuk.  Sure I'll pit for y'all!"
Outfitting Your Pit Dummy
Unless they wear as much latex as Lady Gaga, don’t count on your pit dummy to come prepared to be wet.  Bring the following for your dummy:  a pair of rain pants with belt or suspenders (because for some reason rain pants are only available in Paul Bunyan size), long johns, a sweatshirt, rubber boots, rain jacket, hat and waterproof gloves.  If you’re really smart, you’ll give them a team hat so they feel like part of the team and you can pick them apart from the 40 other people wearing yellow jackets in the pit.  Plus, if you pack a spare backpack with all this stuff and carry around a giant burrito wrapped in tin foil, you can raise your CX scepter and appoint any gap-toothed weirdo your pit dummy. 

All Hail The Conical Brush
Tools for Dummies:
Unless you’re shacking up with someone with perpetually grease packed finger nails, chances are your dummy is no mechanic and thinks an Allen wrench set looks identical to a set of measuring spoons.  Do not trust a pit dummy with unfamiliar tools.  The cassette brush will be challenging enough.  Give them the basics: a bottle of lube, a few rags, a bucket, a bottle of dish detergent, a chain/cassette brush and a conical brush.  Tell them if something is mechanically wrong with the bike to take it to the neutral support guy under the tent with the tools and bike stand and repeat exactly what you shouted at him when you dropped it off. 

Clean BioWheels Exchange (Joel Quimby Photography)
The Most Important Thing:
Tell your pit dummy that the most important thing is not cleaning the bike.  It’s not catching your dirty bike, getting the bike back to you in a ½ lap, lubing the chain, or other mind numbing details like making sure your drive side pedal is in the 2 o’clock position when you get on the bike.  The most important thing while pitting is making sure you go to the bathroom before the race starts.  The 2nd most important thing is …say it with me…making sure the rider mounts the new bike smoothly.  Nothing else matters as much as you getting cleanly on the clean bike and out of the pit.  Show them how to hold your spare bike correctly and practice an exchange or two.  See “The Hand Off” for dummies below.

The Pit Signal (Joel Quimby Photography)
Tell your pit dummy to take mental note of the riders in front of you, so they have an idea when you are due in.  Tell them you’ll most likely be in the top 10 riders, or in my case, the one wheezing like a donkey mid pack.  Explain that on each lap you’ll pass by the pit twice, once on each side.  Since lap times are about eight minutes, you’ll pass by the pit about every four minutes.  Tell your dummy, you’ll raise a hand in the air a turn or two before pitting which is a signal that you need a clean bike.  Tell them to wave back or shout “ready” when they see your hand.  Tell them, if you don’t get confirmation you won’t come into the pit. 

The Pits (Joel Quimby Photography)
Claim Your Pit Home:
With the bucket, your bin of rags, tools and brushes, along with the spare bike or wheels, stake out an area of the pit with your dummy to call home prior to the race.  If you’re lucky, you’ll set them up next to a friend maybe with a stick of beef jerky and a flask of bourbon, or perhaps a granola bar and a can of soda.  Put some dish detergent in the bucket and fill it up with the pressure washer.  This is a perfect opportunity to show them how to operate it…the pressure washer not the bucket. 

Clean Hand Off (Joel Quimby Photography)
The Pitting for Dummies Routine:
Tell your dummy to clean your bike the same way every time.  Upon seeing you off, they should quickly take the dirty bike back to your place in the pit.  Other riders are coming in and it’s very important to get off pit road as quickly as possible.  To save your pit dummy from trying to figure out your gearing, before you come into the pit shift into the gear you wish to have when you pick it back up.  Then tell your pit dummy not to mess with the gears.

1 DECHUNKIFY.  Using the conical brush, dip it in the soapy water and run it above and below each brake shoe front and back.  Then, run it through the bottom bracket area between the wheel and frame and between the crank arms and frame.  Then knock the big chunks of mud off the frame.  If there’s time, they can clean their ears with it.  If the brush goes in one ear and out the other, you have a perfect pit dummy.  Done: 30 seconds.

2 POWERWASH.  Since the bulk of the debris was knocked off with the brush, time at the power washer should be minimized.  Since most pit dummies don’t understand the laws of gravity and jet propelled water, tell them to wash the bike top down: saddle, bars, top tube, down tube, seat tube, brakes, wheels/tires, bottom bracket, rear derailleur & pullies.  Done: 1 minute.

3 BRUSH DRIVETRAIN: Facing the rear of the bike on the drive side, supporting the bike with the right hip, use the smaller brush to get the debris out from in between the front gears and rear wheel gears.  Believe me, explaining the difference between chainrings and cassette cogs is like explaining Skype to your grandmother.  Spinning the pedals backward while brushing works well.  Then work to remove the stuff from the derailleur pullies, also known as that thing the chain snakes through on the back of the frame.  Done: 45 seconds.

4 LUBE CHAIN:  Still in the same position, spin the cranks backward and squirt lube on the chain as it spins.  Tell them to do it exactly like they did on their Huffy when they were 11 years old.  Done: 15 seconds.

5 RETURN: Take a rag, head to the opposite side of the pit the bike was picked up at and look for the rider.   With the rag quickly wipe the bars, saddle and shifter levers.  Time permitting, pick any loose leaves or grass still in the brakes or drive train.  Watch for the raised hand from the rider and signal and call out “ready” when you see it.   To alert others in the pit, have your pit dummy shout “rider up” when you are a turn away from coming in to the pit.

One Man Pit Crew (Joel Quimby Photography)
The Exchange:
I saw 10 year olds catch bikes perfectly Sunday.  Any dufus can do it.  You know who else is great at catching bikes?  The ground.  Once again, say it with me, the most important part of the bike exchange is…yes, going to the bathroom before the race.  The 2nd most important thing is getting the rider cleanly on the clean bike.  Let the dirty bike fall into the grass if need be.  Tell your pit dummy to ask someone nearby to catch your bike when you come in.  If that’s not possible, they can do it solo. 

Whoever’s catching the bike, should stick their left hand out at handlebar height toward the rider coming in, look them dead in the eye and say “your mama was right, you are ugly.”  No really they should say something to the effect of “Right here Dude.  I got it!”  That way there’s no confusion on where the bike is going.  If they’re doing double duty, catching and handing off, it’s not so much a catch as a slowing down and gentle deflection of the dirty bike to the ground with your left hand.  The pit dummies main focus should be on making sure the clean bike is ready for the hand-off. 

Two Hands Two Bikes (Joel Quimby Photography)
The Handoff. 
There are ways the pros do it, but there is only one way your dummy should do it, with the most minimal involvement possible.  Tell them to position the clean bike over the pit line, angled toward the best exit to the pit with the handlebars pointing forward.  The drive side pedal should be up and forward at around the 2 or 3 o’clock position.  Tell them to hold on to the bike’s saddle with their right hand at the rear edge on the drive side and not let go until you pull the bike away from them.  Repeat this to them.  Assure them there’s no need to hold the handle bars.  The fewer interfaces with your pit dummy and your bike the better.  This way when you grab the bars, the bike gets pulled from their grip and you’re on your way in the best direction.  

They should not push you.  While it works in bobsledding, the guy in the blue shirt with the USAC badge frowns upon riders getting an unfair advantage.  He also frowns at just about everything.  The last thing you want to do is get DQ’d because your pit dummy is a dummy.  Secondly, pushing a rider off essentially hogs the limited space on pit road by putting yourself in front of other rider’s pit crews.  Lastly adding extra arms, legs and heads around the bike is a recipe for throwing the rider off balance and making for a bobbled transition.  Let the rider make the mistakes.  A pit person should be a dummy.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Like Plinko On Wheels #OVCX #KingsCX

Choose Handups Wisely (by Chris Jones)
You ever wonder what it’s like when a gust of wind blows up while teetering on tight rope between skyscrapers, to drive 100mph down a black iced winter Wisconsin freeway, to cut your regulator hose 35 feet under while scuba diving?  The acrobat grips the wire between his toes gently holding the balancing pole.  The rally car driver nearly spins off the road still gripping the steering wheel and finessing the parking brake.  The diver always knows which way is up.  At the bottom of a mud covered off camber hill at the Kings CX OVCX finale I slipped to a stop with both feet engaged to the pedals and my hands on the bars.  Until my shifter and pedal anchored me to a stop, “I got this,” I thought. 

Me on Heckle Hill (Photo: Karen Wells Hamilton)

What makes cyclocross so different from road, track, bmx or mountain biking is that in a muddy race, you’re not certain of the exit.  It’s like Plinko, the game on TV’s The Price Is Right where you drop a disc down a peg board and it randomly pops out at the bottom making you a winner or a loser.  In the one hour race yesterday, I can’t count the times I went into a muddy section, only to exit 3 feet to the left or 4 feet to the right.  Sometimes the same trusted rut would shrug me a different direction each time through.  Still I blindly drive my bike into the muck at full-tilt fully expecting to be head up and rubber down on the doormat sized piece of solid ground on the other side.  Suddenly my opening analogy doesn’t seem so ridiculous. Monster
Turning right, the front wheel slid away as fast as Herman Cain’s hopes for the presidency, down the hill to the left.  Naturally through my experience in Wisconsin winter driving, I steered left into the slide.  It hooked up.  For .32 seconds I had it, then lost it as fast.  It was like a hydroplaning track stand.  I got this, until PAFFF!  I pancaked into the hill.  I still wasn’t done moving.  Like falling off that skyscraper, with my hand clawing the ledge, feverishly swimming to the surface, seeing the road that was in front of me in the rear-view, I distinctly remember riders going by above me, at least four if not five.  

Peter Hills (Photo: Karen Wells Hamilton)
I could’ve whipped out my phone and had a pizza delivered to the pit in the time it took my butt to grind to a halt.  I could’ve made an OVCX series winner’s mug out of the mud.  I could’ve married and divorced Kim Kardashian in the time it took to fall, slide and stop.  From the pit, I’m sure it looked like another one of a hundred slips du jour.  It was.  Everyone who fell, thought, “I got this!”  Until…they didn’t.

Early Kings CX Day 2 Video featuring Heckle Hill

Kings CX Weekend - Day 2 Highlights from Corey Green on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#Cyclocross: Surviving The Holiday Abyss

The faded workout has treated me well
My Christmas list sadly begins with socks.  The other thing I’m working on in early December is how to bridge the fitness abyss of after-work darkness, St. Nick’s candy, Dorothy's ham gravy, and a marathon of New Years Eve parties between now and Cyclocross Nationals.  Then it struck me like a V8 vegetable juice palm slap upside the forehead, my modified Chris Carmichael workout.  It’s an hour long, burns nearly 800 calories and is a good general power workout.  I scribbled it down on post it note which remarkably, 3 years later, is still adhering to the side of the 1987 13-inch TV in front of my trainer set-up. 

I’m no coach, which is precisely why I have no problem copying Chris Carmichael’s workout, modifying it and then dispensing the result as my own for free.  While others charge for their training secrets or leave you wondering what kind of incredible workout they did to post quotes like this to Facebook: “contact and put that trainer on my victims list,” I have no problem telling you what has got me this season’s incredible mid-pack results and kept me off the podium.  All kidding aside, I started the season finishing in the mid 30’s and now I’m knocking on the door of a top 20.  While no one has noticed this incredible performance but me, something must be working.  Either that, or the 15 Ohio Valley Elite Cyclocrossers I think I’ve become faster than have been abducted by aliens. 

Come Nationals and Worlds time, one thing is for certain, some people will be slower than they are this weekend.  Some will be faster.  I prefer the latter.  If the thought of racing cyclocross past Sunday doesn’t make you want to cry for mama between bouts of the pukes, I think the best you can do at this point is sharpen your fitness and skills over the next 3 weeks.  Come New Year’s day, aside from rest, there’s no interval workout that’ll make you any faster.  So really, you’ve got about 3 weeks to polish that middle of the pile turd.  Chop chop.

As far as skills, I'll try to spend at least one day/week on the cross bike practicing dismounts, starts, and hill carries.  It probably wouldn't hurt to do some running in there too.  I've lived in Wisconsin in January.  I've had to dig my car out of 17 inch snowfalls.  There's no guarantees you'll be riding your bike at Nationals.  Aside from that and keeping your core solid, you still can get quicker and snappier.  While the original workout is listed below, over the years I’ve adapted the structure to specific cyclocross workouts.  Do the warm up, pick the 15 or 30 sec interval workout and be off the trainer at 60 minutes even.  I like to start at 6:30pm with the evening news and finish up with Extra-Extra!  Print it out and tape it to your TV.

6 Min Easy Warm Up
1 Min Fast Pedal 110-120 rpm
1 Min Recover
1 Min Fast Pedal 110-120 rpm
1 Min Recover

OPTION 1: CX ATTACK 15 on 15 off Interval Insert
5 minute set of 15 on 15 off.
In a hard gear, 53x14ish, simulate starting, punching it out of corners, driving up a short steep hill. 15 sec attacking as hard as you can, 15 sec no pedaling (coasting.)
5 min rest.
Repeat set 5 times.
5 minute easy pedal cool down.

OPTION 2: CX STICK IT 30 on 30 off Interval Insert
5 minute set of 30 on 30 off.
Simulate the effort you’d put in hammering straightaways between course features.  Don’t punch it at the beginning, ramp up to a 100% effort you can sustain for 30 seconds.  Recover in between efforts with a  high cadence spin. 
5 min rest.
Repeat set 5 times.
5 Minute easy pedal cool down.

OPTION 3: ROAD/HILL POWER (The Original Carmichael Workout...more or less)
Five 2 minute efforts with 2 minute fast spin recovery in between.
The two minute effort should be steady and sustained, but as hard as you can handle without loosing power for 2 minutes.  Think hammering a breakaway.
Recover with easy spin for 6 minutes between sets.
Repeat 5x2 efforts a 2nd time.
8 Minute Easy Spin Cool Down.