Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Providence Cyclocross Festival, Day 1 and 2, October 10 and 11

The big news on Saturday was that Tim Johnson did it again.  In addition to winning, he again took out another rider for the second straight race.  But this time it wasn't a former world's silver medalist (i.e. Jon Page),  it was a 6 year old kid riding his BMX bike around the infield after the race. 

I barely saw it happen out of the corner of my eye - Tim was starting to ride down hill from the finish area past the bike expo and toward the podium after winning the race.  The young guy, whose name was Ryder, was riding right into Tim's path and Tim had little choice but to t-bone Ryder, knocking him off the bike.  I doubt Tim even saw the kid until it was too late. 

Too many kids are conditioned to think that they should cry when they fall down even if they aren't hurt.  To his credit, Ryder got up like a true cyclocrosser and didn't shed a single tear.  I just missed having the camera out, and apparently was nowhere near the scene this time, but I did get a shot of Ryder soon after he got up:

Always wear your helmet, kids.  You never know when TJ might be near.

Tim really is a nice guy.  He went out of his way to make sure that Ryder was ok and chatted for a couple minutes with Ryder and his parents.  Once the kid was back on his bike and everything was alright, Tim said "Come on kid, you and me are going to the podium."  He later gave Ryder his first place medal.

TJ and Ryder heading for the podium

TJ doing the post-race interview

That was actually the end of the day.  A lot happened leading up to it.  I got to Providence in time for the Elite Women's and Men's races but missed everything before that, including the race that I had preregistered for.  When I went to bed Friday evening, I was planning on racing Saturday morning despite a sore throat and stuffy nose.  But it got much worse overnight and at about 2 AM I woke up and turned the alarm off so I could try to sleep it off.  $30 down the drain, but I would have been completely miserable if I had tried to race.  I slept around the clock and felt good enough to spectate Saturday afternoon.

Readers of this blog (Dave Foley, my mom, my parole officer) might recall that I ruined my camera in the rain at Gloucester last week.  That's actually a good thing, I hated that camera.  It missed more shots than it got and it would kill a pair of AAs every 20 minutes.  I got a new Fujifilm S1500 on Friday and with no practice at all, started taking much better photos than I ever have before.  Wait until I learn how to use this thing!  It was kind of an impulsive purchase because it was the only real camera the store had, the rest of them looked even cheaper than the one I had ruined.  But it got the Paul Weiss seal of approval Saturday so it must be alright.  Hey Paul, what does appurture mean?  I have a lot to learn, but here are some of the photos I took of the women's race:

Those yellow Mavic shoes are getting popular.

Mo Bruno (blue tape) didn't look comfortable in the race or on the line.

Amy Dombroski had a very strong ride in 3rd place.

Rebecca Wellons heading to the finish

The women's podium with Richard Fries (l to r): Katerina Nash (1st),
Amy Dombroski (3rd) and Mary McConneloug (2nd)

Ms. Nash had the race in the bag early on and not much seemed to change after the first lap.  Mary McConneloug was sort of a surprise finishing second in her first cross race of the year.  Amy Dombroski is riding very strong and finished third.  The podium was exactly the same on Day 2.  The Verge points series leader heading into the weekend, Natasha Elliot wasn't present this weekend, probably so she could attend the Canadian National cross championships, so the leaders jersey was in jeopordy.  Mo Bruno, who has scored points in all six races so far took the lead by 16 points.  Rebecca Wellons has stayed close by being competitive in every race and is currently third in the series.

In the men's race, Dan Timmerman needed to finish well against some strong competion to retain his series lead and he managed to do that with an eighth place finish Saturday and 5th on Sunday.  He finished the weekend tied with Tim Johnson for the series lead.

Series leader Dan Timmerman at the start line.

My new camera has a "panorama" feature that stitches together 3 pictures. 
Well, sort of.  It needs work.

Adam Myerson and Tim Johnson at the start line.

Sexual Camel?  Must be a mountain bike thing.

Chris Jones, a roadie (not Rhodey) thing.

Frattini, Weighall, and Timmerman

A beer thief  dabs in the woods.

Does Adam squeeze the brake levers with fingers
or push them with the palms of his hands?

Tim Johnson is telling me to "go left, go left".  After he went by I understood why.  He planned to stretch the tape out on this corner while he carried maximum speed.  Pro tip: The course tape is fair game.  If it doesn't break, you are still on the course.

Results Boy takes the same line just a moment later. 
Exactly how long is a "moment" anyway?

Here is Butch Balzano from SRAM digging through the car looking for some chain rings for Adam Myerson after the race.  Van Dessel gave Adam cranks and chain rings with 53 tooth outer rings.  Adam was flattered, but decided to build his 2009 cross rigs with something a bit smaller.  Butch is the man.

Sunday mornng I awoke feeling much better and decided to do the day of registration for the Cat 4 masters race.  Being a day of registrant, I got to start DFL in the last row.  I was number 769 and two guys registered after me bringing the total to 71 in the race (counting any preregistered riders who might have been sick and stayed in bed).  I was still kind of clogged up from the cold, but I went ok.  I passed a bunch on the paved start and kept the pressure on when we reached the grass.  The first turns were a pinball game but I managed to get a couple of good bounces and didn't have to get off the bike where others did.  I must have gotten near the top 25 on the first lap, but then I started to slide.  I lost about 4 or 5 places per lap for the rest of the race and didn't stop sliding until the last half lap.  37th out of 71 is practically top half if you assume that all everyone was there and that DNFs are last (there are only 58 or so i nthe results).  So, I almost made my goal of being in the top half and I am getting better each race.  Considering my starting position, I'll call it a pass.  I wonder what I could have done if I was healthy Saturday and got my prereg starting spot.  I think I would have been in the third row, maybe fourth.

My coach, Negacoach, was heckling me during the race and yelled something completely useless about riding too slow to deserve to have a beard.  WTF?  Try telling me something useful like "get the water bottle out of your back pocket, it's only a half hour long race!"  That might have been helpful since I had forgotten to ditch it at the line and rode the entire race looking like a Fred with that bottle back there.  I am surprised I never felt it when the bike was on my shoulder on a run up.  At least I had a nice sip of Hs, twos, and Os handy at the finish.  

So I had the Fred water bottle thing going against me, but I felt totally pro using embrocation for the first time ever, unless Bag Balm counts as embrocation.  We used to use Bag Balm in the spring time, especially if it was raining, because tights or warmers would get soaking wet and heavy.  But you had to have your legs shaved or it made an awful mess.  I haven't shaved them since my Cat 3 days a long time ago, but I found that the Mad Alchemy stuff isn't too bad with hairy legs, it just doesn't look as pro.  Even the mildest heat level was pleasant in the morning chill.  The only down side was that it lasted well into the night and felt quite hot under the covers when I didn't really want it to.  I probably could have wiped it off more thoroughly and avoided the bedwarmer effect.

After my race was over it was time to head back to Plymouth for a gig with my band at noon.  I was cutting it close, but made it just in time.  When we started playing, my head just wasn't into it.  I usually remember the lyrics to songs that I sing pretty easily, but something wasn't right in my head all afternoon and I kept forgetting the lyrics to songs that I wrote and covers that I have sung hundreds of times.  It was weird.  And that sweet precious nectar, beer, didn't seem to help.  I probably won't try to race and play music professionally in the same day again.  But despite the mental block, it was a fun afternoon.  Stop by T Bones Road House in Plymouth November 1 at noon if you aren't heading to Vermont for the cross race.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What, no cupcakes?

Normally I write race reports from the detached persepctive of a (not very good) journalist.  Third person omnicient voice if I recall high school English class correctly.  This one's going to be a little different as, instead of actually paying attention and keeping notes, I spent my time cheering, drinking beer, racing, and then drinking beer again while cheering.  Foregive me if this goes astray:

The only thing missing at Gloucester was cupcakes.  It's entirely possible I spent too much time in the beer tent and missed them, but I didn't see a cupcake in all of Stage Fort Park.  But that's my only complaint. 

The conditions were perfect for 'cross with plenty of rain Saturday to create that euro mud vibe we mostly only see in videos, and then a mostly sunny day Sunday.  This created almost entirely different conditions from Saturday to Sunday, at least for the elite races.  When I was out there Sunday morning it was still a mudfest but at least the moisture was only coming from below, not from the clouds.  The mud that stuck to four or five hundred bikes throughout the morning and early afternoon Sunday was enough to leave a relatively dry course for the two elite races.  Here is the dreaded run up in all its muddy glory Saturday afternoon:

I couldn't race Saturday do to other commitments, but I arrived in G'ster in time to watch the last three races of the day (B's, Elite Women, and Elite Men).  During the B race, I ran into Solobreak Foley as he was coming out of the porta-john.  He had set me up me with some frosty beverage last year at the Ice Weasel's race so I owed him a beer or two.  As he already had a bit of a head start on me, it didn't take much convincing for him to join me in the Great Brewers beer tent.  They had EIGHT different beers on tap from eight different craft brewers, most of them local to New England.  My favorite was the Smuttynose Belgian-style single, followed closely by the Cape Ann pumpkin stout.

During the elite race, Solobreak and I were hanging near the fence at the back of the beer area.  A few laps into it, Jonathan Page had a commanding lead.  He thundered past us on one of the drier stretches of the course followed by Ryan Kelly.  Ryan saw my 1/2 full beer hanging over the fence and yelled "beer me!".  Solobreak credits Joachim Parbo for this, but it was Ryan (both were in red and white and covered in mud so it's an understandable mistake after a few beers).  Ryan was going considerably slower than Page since he had just been lapped by Page so he had no trouble grabbing onto the beer cup and he downed it before he was three pedal strokes away.  He then apparently abandonned the race soon after because we didn't see him again.  Ryan created (along with Colin) which helps me immensely with race announcing, so I wouldn't mind buying him a whole beer of his own sometime. 

If you haven't read a real race report by professional journalists yet, Page won the race by a country mile with moustache-less Jamey Driscoll behind in second, followed by Chris Jones.  In what seemed like a very short women's race, Natasha Elliot won convincingly while a new women on the scene, Amanda Carey, took second.  Lynne Bessette is out of retirement and took third place. Here are a couple of shots from the Women's race.  My cheap camera took a beating in the rain.  It didn't take long for the picture quality to deteriorate.  I think my camera is ruined, but that's a good thing since I have always hated that camera.  Good excuse to get a new one.

Series leader and race winner, Natasha Elliot.

Rebecca Wellons

Amanda Carey

Saturday's typical conditions, mudfest.

Sunday morning at 9:00 I took the line with the rest of the masters Cat 4 field.  Actually, I took the 8th line out of 11 so I figure I started the race in a bout 85th place.  I need to start pre-registering earlier for these things.  I had a pretty good start and passed a bunch of people in the twisty stuff after the pavement.  But then I biffed it on the section behind the building which I think was the slippiest part of the course.  My chain dropped off too, just to make sure I lost all the places I had been making up in the turns.  We did four laps through this section and I only cleaned it once.     

I normally have a pretty good sense of direction but this Gloucester course completely screwed with my head.  No matter where on the course I was, I could never remember what feature was coming up next.  The worst for this was the multple coils around the pits.  It probably didn't help that I didn't pre-ride the course. I could still go through Sucker Brook in my mind now 8 days later and remember every feature in order, but I couldn't follow that Gloucester course now without the course tape and it's only one day later.  Is it just me? 

Entering the final lap I was going back and forth passing and being passed by a couple of other no-hopers.  One guy had traded places with me a couple of times but I had the upper hand going through the start finish line as we got the bell for the last lap.  He came storming past me on the right and picked up a lot of speed as the pavement began to slope downhill.  It was just him and me at that point and I heard a little kid voice say "Go daddy."  I knew that wasn't for me.  My dog's smart but not that smart.  I guess this guy was trying to show off for his family and giving it everything he had.  He must have forgotten that he had to veer right into a bumpy dirt section with an off camber turn to the right.  I don't think he even touched his brakes before he blew the turn big time and fell hard.  I don't want to say he was screaming, but it was like a cross between that and a moan.  A deep manly scream I guess you could say.  He lied there crumpled up tangled in his bike and the white course tape he had taken out.  I nearly added to his woes, but managed to stop barely before running into him.  I waited for a couple of seconds and called for help until I saw a couple of spectators running our way.  Then I figured it was ok to get back to racing.  I found out later he broke some ribs and a wrist and was taken to the hospital.  Bad enough to get hurt, but to do it in front of the whole family must be extra painful.

I had modest goals for this race (as I always do).  I had hoped to finish in the top half of the race.  68th out of 86 finishers isn't top half, but considering all those that started and didn't finish, it's pretty close.  I felt a little better about my result after I checked the bib numbers of all those ahead of me in the results (bikereg and cross results rule!) to see how much the starting positions affected the race.  I found that of 67 people who finished ahead of me, only 12 of them started behind me (based on bib numbers).  I can live with that.  Using the BikesnobNYC pass/fail rating system for race success, I guess I call it a pass, but I hope to go better next week.

I ran into Adam Myerson as he was preparing for the elite men's race and we talked a few minutes about music and UMass before I actually paid attention to what he was doing.  As he sat in his driver's seat he had pulled his skinsuit up backwards over his legs.  I had to ask what he was doing but then at the same time he took out some safety pins (from his pocket, not his skin) and started pinning up his bib numbers on the stretched material.  How pro is that?  A perfectly flat number every time.  Maybe everybody knows to do this, but it was new to me.  It's going to be a while before I where a skinsuit (another 10 pounds at least) but it should work just as well on a jersey.  I can't wait for Providence!

Adam even pins up the pro way.

At this point I had completely lost track of the time, but I knew I was ready for a beer.  As it turns out, I got to the beer tent exactly at high noon and got the first beer of the day!  That's the one race I can win.  After a few minutes, some friends from my club showed up and we had a great time comparing war stories from our races while seated at the table with the best view of the course and the ocean. One of the guys had been doing well in the 55 plus race when he rolled a tubular.  He wasn't the only one.  I don't recall seeing so many rolled tubulars in a race as there were Sunday.  3M Fasttack seems to work for me now that I have figured out (the ouchie way) that I need 4 times more than I would use on a road tire.  I just doomed myself didn't I?

The women's elite race Sunday was another competitive and exciting race.  Natasha Elliot repeated with Laura Van Gilder finishing second on a flat (but not rolled) rear tire.  Mo Bruno-Roy was not far behind in third.  The biggest improvement of the day was probably Rebecca Wellons who went from 10th Saturday to 5th Sunday.

If you haven't seen the footage, the men's race came down to this.  People have been analyzing this like it's the Zapruder film and there seems to be some difference of opinion as to how agregious Tim's move was.  I'll leave it for others to speculate if he was trying to take Page out or not.  I can't really tell from the angle we have how much Tim slowed down when he got in front of Page and I think that is the crux of figuring out his intent.  If he slammed the brakes, it was malicious.  If he was just trying to scrub a little speed getting set up for the sand, I'm ok with that.  Remember, he was nursing a sore shoulder that clearly had been giving him a lot of trouble all weekend, maybe he needed to be a little extra careful going into the sand and braked more than Page expected.  As pointed out by Adam Myerson, Jeremy Powers showed a lot of class by not taking advantage of the situation with a big attack.  Watch the video to the end and you'll see that Page apparently puts a shoulder into Powers as he passes him on the flat section after the sand pit.  But they are getting pretty far away by that point so it's hard to say if it was payback for Johnson's move or just some frustration showing through. 

After the race the hurt feelings couldn't have gone too deep because Page was mostly all smiles signing autographs.  I got this shot of him with my wet camera.  He doesn't look like he is holding a grudge here, does he? 

Jon Page after Sunday's race.

What a great weekend of cyclocross, but I really wanted a cupcake.

P.S. - I'll be doing the announcing at the Maine Verge weekend on the 24-25th of October.  If you have read this blog, stop by and say hi, even if you think it sucks.