Tag Archives: racing

Quad Cross 2015

Labor Day has passed, the days are getting shorter, the mornings are getting cooler… that means it must be time for cyclocross!  Yes, yes it is.  As usual, I started off with the “official” season opener for the #NECX of Quad Cross.  Some people may race cross earlier, but that’s pre-season racing if you ask me.  Although with Labor Day being as late as it was, there were definitely plenty of options for people to start racing.  But many people waited for this past Sunday to kick things off.

Although I don’t race for Quad anymore, I still volunteer and help out with the race every year.  So I woke up early, got in the car and headed over to Maynard to help with registration.  Things were surprisingly smooth as people started registering — it’s almost like after a number of years of doing this, it’s starting to be something that we know how to do.  That said, racers — have your license handy!  If you don’t have a paper copy, install the USAC app on your smartphone and then you can show that.  Having to look up your license info slows things down for everyone.

Once registration was well underway, I hopped on my bike and went for a quick pre-ride of the course.  Although it had rained overnight, it wasn’t particularly muddy — just not the usual dustbowl.  The course was fast and fun.  But I knew a lot of pedaling was going to be required for it.  I got in a second lap and then went back to help with registration some more after the Women’s 3/4 fields kicked off.

As that wrapped up, I got in a third lap (wow, it’s like I almost warmed up for real!) and it started to mist.  We headed to the line and it was a little bit less than organized getting people set up.  And thus, I chose poorly in terms of starting position.  Then we were off and I basically got boxed in more than I would have liked :(  But I kept moving forward and generally was riding okay.  Some of my cornering was bananas but that’s to be expected in the early season and not being used to having brakes that can actually stop me.  Anyway, I raced, it hurt and I finished.  Ended up 26/63 which puts me right back where I was before I upgraded a few years ago.  Given that I was being demotivated fighting for not-last in the 3s, I downgraded back to a 4 this year which definitely seems the right thing to have done — I felt like I was really racing again.

Keeping it tight!
Picture courtesy of Patricia Tamagini-Dayhoff

But maybe the best part of the day was hanging out afterwards.  We had a huge presence for the Keep It Tight team at the race and the tent set up and were just generally chatting and encouraging everyone else in other fields.  I also got to see and catch up with a ton of folks who I pretty much only see at cross races… too many to name them all.  A big fat reunion for the (perhaps dysfunctional) family that is the #necx.

And next weekend, I’ll be at it again.  Another chance to test myself.  A chance to do better.  And onwards.

 

I’ve moved my bike blogging

I’ve been wanting to play with tumblr, so I’ve set up a new blog for my bike blogging to try it out. Check it out for exciting race reports, some video and probably some other random thoughts on cyclocross as I begin my inaugural season of cyclocross racing.

There might be some other reorganization and moving around here as well in the future when I have a little bit of spare time. Which, since I’m racing cross, might not be for a few months ;-)

Lake Auburn Road Race 2009 Recap

Yesterday, I raced in the Cat 4 men’s field of the Lake Auburn Road Race. Unlike last year, the weather was much better and I had a much better result.

Instead of going up the day before, I woke up extra early to drive up. Picked Kate up and got on the road basically on time. The roads were empty and as it got light, there was quite a bit of clouds. Right as we crossed into Maine, there was a little bit of drizzle and I was worried that we were going to have a repeat of the rain from last year. But it let up after about five minutes and then the sun came out and the cloud cover burned off.

We got to the course start with lots of time to spare and actually had the time to pre-ride a lap of the route. Even more shockingly, the rest of the team (minus one person) had made it there with plenty of time to spare as well. So we headed off as a team to recon the course and jog our memories from last year. It was good to do as little things like “landmark for the turn before the hill” doesn’t stick with you for a year… but half an hour before the race start it certainly does.

The race itself was to be three laps of an 11.5 mile circuit. It started with a quick downhill followed by a little bump and then a steeper little climb. Then a few turns and a mile or so with a slight downward grade to the back half of the course which was about six miles and pretty much flat. This was thus a bit on the fast side. The course then took another turn and began going back up towards the finish with one steeper and then one longer and more shallow section to a bit of false flats for the final kilometer or so. Total of about 600 feet of climbing a lap. Pretty much good pavement for the entirety of it, well marshalled, etc. Honestly, it’s a great course and I was looking forward to coming back and doing better.

Map of the Race
Map of the Race
Course Profile
Course Profile

In the Men’s Cat 4 field, we had six people in the field out of a total of somewhere between fifty and sixty — myself, Jim Gomez, Charles Wescott, Nessim Mezrahi, Kenton Eash and Andy Tucker. My personal goal was to finish with whatever the main pack ended up being and from a team perspective, we were hoping to get someone at least in the top ten. The race started on time and it started out pretty quick. I was at the front and was able to maintain my position through the fast descent in a nice improvement from last year. The first lap continued pretty quickly; I know I saw an average speed of above 25 mph at one point on the back stretch. When we hit the big hill up to the finish, that dropped a bit. We had definitely started to drop some riders off the back, though.

The second lap was much of the same and I realized that hanging on was really about all I was going to be good for. I did get in some good work with moving up in the pack and raising my comfort in doing so. It helped that the peloton for the field was pretty smooth overall. The exception was that for every corner, the speed dropped somewhat dramatically and then people accelerated like hell on the other side of the corner only to let up after 100-200 meters. A little annoying, but I kept with it. Andy and Nessim spent some time during the lap attacking and trying to weaken some of the stronger riders in the field. I was content to just sit in and let things happen.

By the third lap, I realized that the only Quaddies who were left were Nessim, Andy and myself. I talked briefly with Andy and he said that Nessim was going to try to set him up with a lead-out. I didn’t really have anything to add to the effort, so just was going to keep my head down. I also noticed at this point (not far into the lap really), that there was a rider a little ways up the road and that the pace car seemed a little further away. Not that I was going to be able to do anything about it. As we started up the hill for the finish, though, the gap dropped — by the time we were cresting the second hill up to the finishing flats, we passed the guy who had jumped off the front and this was when people really cranked it up a notch.

With a little more than a 1km ago, someone decided to start pushing for the sprint and I decided I had done enough to accomplish my goal. So I sat up and got passed by 6 or 8 people coming across the line about 26th although I did make it look like I was sprinting for something. Andy ended up with 7th and Nessim was somewhere in the pack between 15th and 20th. All in all, a respectable day by the Quaddies.

A sprint for the photo at least
A sprint for the photo at least (photo courtesy Charles Wescott)

By the numbers:

  • 34.7 miles, overall average of 24 mph
  • Second lap was the slowest by a small margin, first and then the third was the fastest
  • Pretty usual race heart rate for me averaging 170. Max was only 193, though, which is a little lower than usual for me in races
  • Cadence only averaged 80, although maxed out at 132. Low average is probably as I got to do some decent coasting sitting in the pack and the Garmin averages in those zeros
  • 1750-ish feet of climbing and some of that was serious grades. Not long climbs though

So overall, a very satisfying result from my point of view. I finally feel like I’m getting back the right level of fitness for racing. Also, a pretty good team result with the seventh place plus we also had two women in the Cat 4 women’s field (Nancy Labbe-Giguere and Kate Leppanen) who finished fifth and sixth out of a field that was probably about twenty deep.

New race bike

As I offhand mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently built up a new bike. Although my Merlin is awesome, I’ve been wanting to build up something that’s set up a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more geared towards racing as opposed to the long rides the Merlin is for. After a fair bit of looking around, the fact that Quad was going to be becoming a Cannondale dealer for this year led me to settle on the CAAD-9 as a good choice of frame. And since the MIT cycling team is sponsored by SRAM, I figured I’d give SRAM a try — the Merlin has Campagnolo Chorus, but the continuing increase in cost for Campy meant I was interested in trying something a little cheaper. So a SRAM Force group was purchased.

Everything finally arrived and I had the bike built up. Odds and ends include an older, but awesome pair of Velomax Ascent wheels, a Fi’zi:k Antares saddle (as I was happy with it on the Merlin), white bar tape, Speedplay Zeros (another new thing to try compared to the Keos on the Merlin). I think it turned out pretty well — it looks sweet and more importantly, is a lot of fun to ride. The setup is definitely more aggressive and it just feels like it wants to go fast. Stiff as rails too. So I’m pretty happy with it.

No white garage door, but for an obligatory picture

Full Bike

Now, three weeks later, I’ve got about 500 miles on the bike and am really enjoying it. I raced it the first weekend I had it and have also gotten in some other, longer efforts including today’s century. It is meeting all the criteria I set for it. Still to be considered — power meter options and if I want to get a pair of flashier wheels.

X-Pot 3D Race Report

This past weekend was MIT’s ECCC race weekend out near Mount Wachusett. I wasn’t able to get out for the crit on Sunday but I was able to go out for the road race and TTT on Saturday.

The day started out very early, leaving the house at 5 am to head down to MIT and pick up people and bikes to drive out to the venue. We were on our way roughly on time and made pretty good time out to Westminster. I got my race numbers, pinned them and got ready. First event of the morning was a team time trial so I headed out with my team to pre-ride the course as a warmup. As we warmed up, it was colder than I thought it would be so I was glad I had grabbed arm and leg warmers as I left the house. We mostly got into a groove and got back just in time to line up. A little bit of waiting later and we were off. Being on the new bike with a new pedal system, I was a little slow to get clipped in, but I don’t think I slowed us down too badly. We rode hard and I enjoyed it… final time for the 7 mile course was just under 18:30 giving us sixth place.

Then a cool down and stood around a little bit to wait for the road race. Did something of a warm up (aka climbed a few of the close hills) and lined up. Ended up standing lined up long enough that the warm up probably didn’t matter. The start was a neutral rollout with a large field (56 riders). As we went down the first hill, the sketchiness began — between the riders, the potholes and the oil slicks (!), it was a bit nuts. As the pace car pulled away, the field started to stretch a little. Still lots of sketchiness, plenty of disregard of the yellow line, and watching people moving into the other lane with cars coming in the other direction. I picked a semi-safe spot, but wasn’t really able to move up with the way the pack was working.

As we reached the fourth mile, we turned onto a road with a sign mentioning the Wachusett ski area. And at this point, the field blew apart as we began the climb. I was moving forward but the front of the pack had surged forward. I tried to bring along one of my teammates (Zach Y) but he was in pain so I kept moving. As I reached the top, I pulled together a small group and started urging them to work together so that we could catch however many people were in front of us. I didn’t know how many there were, but I knew working together was our best chance. To some extent, this was successful as a few of the people eventually fell into working with me in a pace line. And we caught up with some more people. But as we moved forward, the pace line began disintegrating. By the beginning of the second (of three) laps, it was largely to myself and one other guy working together. But we kept at it. Unfortunately, on the hill on the third lap, my left leg cramped in a major way. A combination of the heat and a lack of drinking much through the race were the probable causes. But in any case, I fell off my little group and limped my way up the climb. From that point, I basically soloed the rest of the course. As I came to the final finishing climb, I started to cramp again, but as an RIT guy who had originally been in my little group but not working much started to pass, I dug deep and sprinted for the line. End result of 33rd. Not what I had hoped for, but there were definitely some good parts from a learning perspective. Hopefully I can put some of them into practice soon, maybe even this weekend at Blue Hills.

After the race, changed and then got to work for my task of shuttling marshalls around to their posts. I was kind of glad to have a job that let me sit in the air conditioned car as the temperature was above 90 degrees at that point. Then, eventually back to Cambridge and then home.

A well run race weekend and a good chance to get out on the new bike and see how it performs. Answer is that I’m pretty happy with it. Now just to work on racing smarter and not missing when the front of the pack goes off rather than being towards the middle and falling behind.

Back to Myles Standish

The Myles Standish Road Race was my first race last season and so after having circumstances keep me from going to Dartmouth for the weekend, I decided to sign up for the Cat 4 race there this year. Unfortunately, due to the road conditions, they weren’t able to run it on the road race course (~ 7 miles) and instead had to run it on the Charge Pond course that I raced on earlier this year. So basically a crit. Okay. Not what I was hoping for, but you deal with the cards you’re dealt.

Given that and the fact that I had crashed on the course a month ago, I went in with very simple goals. Stay upright, get in a speed workout, and get past any lingering anxiety in the pack after the crash. With those, I’d say I succeeded. Another win of the day was that I didn’t forget anything I intended to bring with me. The race results were a little less great

Anyway, the race started off fast. Very fast. I didn’t have a good position at the line and so was struggling with the rubber band effect from the go. After a couple of laps, the pace cooled down a little bit, but not too much. The corner and hill before the finish line had a strong impact on every lap but with the pace immediately following it, I never managed to pull myself far enough forward to make a difference going into the next lap. After about half the laps, I snapped a little as we went around the backside and fell a little off the back. I kept driving on and pushing for another few laps but knew I was falling further and further back. I decided to pull out before getting lapped since I expected at that point there was a break which had gotten away that would be closing in. As it turns out, no break had gotten away and so I don’t think I would have been lapped. I wouldn’t have caught the pack though.

Next weekend, heading out with the MIT team for the MIT sponsored race, X-Pot 3D. I can only do the road race on Saturday (and the TTT if another man is needed) as Sunday is my niece’s baptism. But hopefully the road race there will be a little bit better for me.

First race of the season

Made a last minute decision (yesterday) that I wanted to go ahead and get some racing in, so went down today to Plymouth to race in the 4/5 field at Charge Pond. The race is held in the same state park as the Myles Standish Road Race that was my first race of the season last year but it’s a month earlier, it’s a 4/5 field and it’s a much shorter circuit (1.1 miles vs 7-ish miles). Kara had class today, so I talked Kate into going down and she talked Jon into driving for us which was awfully nice — he also played the role of photographer for the day.

We got started early enough and pulled into the parking lot at the park right after 9 for the 10 am race start. I got out and registered and pulled on the appropriate clothing for the fact that it was about 35 degrees out. We went for a few laps around the course to warm up and also do a bit of recon work. Overall, the road was in good shape; there was some sand on the edges, but that was about it. The end of the course had a pretty good corner after a downhill that was a little tricky… it was even trickier in the pack as everyone slowed down for it (including me) — definitely need to work on cornering more.

As we lined up at the race, there were about 8 other Quaddies present as well as 4 other guys from the MIT cycling team in the field of 50+. So went in with a good number of friends in the field. The first lap was very very mellow. Not sure how mellow, as the one thing I left at home was my GPS/computer. On the second lap, Kenton came up around the outside and began pushing the pace. That set the tone for pretty much the rest of the race. Someone would go up the side, push the pace, and then things would pull back together. I tried staying in the front part of the pack to varying degrees of success but it was good to get back to riding in a pack.

With what ended up being seven laps to go (wasn’t sure, they weren’t showing lap cards yet), Charles decided to follow a guy up the road and tried to get me to go with him. My legs didn’t feel like they could bridge the gap, so I instead stuck back and tried to control the pace of the pack so that he could get away. It was successful for a little bit, but then Charles ran out of steam. Was fun to try to do, though. The effort sent me to the back of the pack, though, to regain something for the end

Coming up the hill on the back side of the course with just over two laps to go, the guy in front of me had someone cut in front of him and he then went down. I was right behind him and so had no choice but to slow down a lot and then basically go over the guy. I went over the handlebars but the only real damage was biting my lip, a little bit of skin on my left knee, a bruise on the right knee and the nose of my saddle coming off (that may have been from the guy behind me who also went over us). Shook me up a little, though. So I mostly got out of the way and tried to calm down until the race ended not long after. Then I did a cooldown lap slow and relaxed with Kenton and also to stretch out the muscles.

Overall, a fun time even with the jarring and unintended ending. The big positive is that my legs mostly felt pretty good keeping up in the pack, so hopefully that can continue and translate into having a good time the rest of the racing season. I’m definitely getting more into the racing spirit, which has been a little bit of a hurdle. Hopefully the new bike will help get me the rest of the way there.

I am though now looking at saddles to replace what I was using (a Specialized Toupe). I’d been thinking about trying something new so this seems like a reasonable excuse. Suggestions welcome. Right now, I’m trying out a Fi’zi:k Antares and from the two miles I did on it, it seems okay but the real test will come tomorrow when I put 50-60 miles on it.

The ongoing return of winter

A week and a half ago, almost all of the snow around here had melted. Temperatures were still seasonable, but it was getting to be nice. Then, last Sunday and Monday, we got to have another little snow storm with the better part of a foot of snow. After that, the week began to warm up until over the weekend we had temperatures of around sixty and sunny. So all of the snow again mostly disappeared. Then, today the snow and ice began again, although a much smaller amount. The cycle will probably continue another time or two. The only thing that helps is knowing that it’s really not much longer and the warmer, better weather of spring can be here for good…

And with spring, comes good cycling. Although there was plenty of good riding to be had over the weekend. Saturday, I led a fairly large contingent, 11 people total, out to both Harvard and Westford for a nice 75-ish mile ride with some good climbing. Sunday was a smaller group and a shorter ride as Kara and I had other plans for the afternoon. But 110 miles for the weekend isn’t bad overall. Hopefully this weekend will also cooperate, although if I decide to go do the first race of the year at Wells Ave, I won’t quite get the same mileage in. We’ll see how I feel over the course of the week and I’ll then end up deciding later in the week.

Starting to feel like it’s near racing time again

It’s been a long winter of base training, but in the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to feel the twitches that make me think that race season is coming soon (and it is). While I’ve been perfectly happy to go along nice and easy both on my commute and on my training rides for the past few months, a couple of weeks ago I had someone pass me on my way to campus and I felt that it wasn’t right and so I had to sprint forward and then drop them. And the frequency of it has been increasing. I see someone up the road a little bit and I need to jump forward to catch them and pass them.

So how do I think the base training has gone? Pretty well, overall. I haven’t quite hit what the MIT plan was but I’ve done pretty well considering I was sick a couple of times, I’m working in addition to school (unlike most of the team), and the general crappy weather that this winter has seen in New England. We’ll see how it translates into racing. And there’s not long until I’ll see — the first ECCC race weekend is a week and a half away in New Jersey and I’m leaning towards going there. Which, of course, means that I need to find some time to tune up the bike and get it race-ready. Hopefully the components and frame for my new race bike will be getting here soon, but it definitely won’t happen in time for next weekend.

Spring Racing Schedule

Inspired by SoC’s post, I sat down and started looking at the NEBRA racing calendar tonight. There really are an astounding number of races within two hours of Boston. The biggest problem is that a lot of them have yet to put up a more clear picture of what categories they’re going to have. And since I want to, for example, avoid 3/4 races it’s not easy to really come up with a full plan.

That said, I think that my racing plan is going to consist of a lot of the ECCC races for MIT in April and wrap up a first set of races by mid-May. Then, take a few weeks of resting and then pick by up with an aim for a second peak for either Fitchburg or Working Man’s to get in a stage race for the year.

We’ll have to see, though, if my plan changes as I start to come out of the base training period and start ramping up my training intensity over the next couple of weeks to really see what I’ve got. It’s hard to imagine racing right now with the continued snow and cold that we’re getting although this weekend looks like it’ll be good for some solid hours on the bike