Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy New June??!!

Unlike January 1st, I actually gauge my year beginning in June. This is for several reasons. First, last year at this time I got married so I got to celebrate my first anniversary a few days ago. It's great to see how much things have changed and also stayed the same in the last year in terms of being a married man not to mention how lucky I am to be in such an awesome relationship. Kristen and I celebrated in the most romantic way by going to see a Zombie flick in 3d. Nothing says love like seeing a bunch of zombies coming at you on the big screen.
The other reason I like to start my year in June is that school is out for summer which means "the summer of Brian" is just beginning. I love summer. Days are longer, the ocean heats up, things on the grill taste better and I feel like I get to live in a bit more of a comfortable schedule. Also the Tour de France starts. The one sporting event I love to pay close attention to and have for years. Every year for the past five or so I like to ceremoniously kick things off with a classic head shave. One less thing to think about and it always makes me feel light on my feet. One day I may not even have to worry about it and sport the look year round.
In terms of my own cycling things have been ratcheting up nicely and I'm adapting to some of the changes that have taken place. After being inspired by the Tour of California last month and watching the big boys climb Mount Diablo effortlessly, I've decided to step up my game with a few changes. First USA Cycling approved my request to upgrade so I am officially in the Cat 3 men and doing the 35+ categories. An epic step up from what I was doing. A month ago I was racing thinking I was fast and just recently I'm trying to sit on Ivan Dominguez's (The Cuban Missile) wheel and suffering. In order to help facilitate the extra rigors of racing a higher category and training more, I've enlisted the help of a coach. He's been having me put in the miles with more specificity and doing multiple races on weekends plus group rides during the week. On paper, it's a bit intimidating but so far my body is able to handle all of those changes.
I also started using a bike computer. Something that sounds standard to most people but ever since I got back into the sport, everything I've been doing is on perceived exertion. All my workouts, and efforts have been measured in my head. I didn't even use a paper and pencil to record anything. Now I just started using Strava and my Garmin and heart rate monitor (still no power meter yet). I can tell elevation change, time ridden, speed, heart rate, calories burned etc. It's a truckload of information that I'm trying to interpret but it seems simple enough and is still like that pen and paper, a tool.

After only my third race as a cat 3 I bagged my first result at Ladera Ranch Grand Prix. With some help from my teammate Troy, I got a 5th in the field sprint after we were unsuccessful trying to catch a guy solo off the front who had a 30 second gap on us. Unorthodox for a crit. It felt good looking at my efforts against guys who have been in this category much longer than me. I have credit towards another upgrade and even got some prize money out of it which I gladly split with my teammate. Unfortunately racing with a team in these categories is the exception and not the rule and most times I am racing, it is spent alone and I have to be a bit of a privateer to move around in the peloton and search for opportunities. 
Throughout the weeks, in order to keep things a little sharper I've started doing the group rides. As many north county folk can attest, they are more race rides than anything. So far I've done the Tuesday Morning, Tuesday Evening and Wednesday Worlds rides. They are fast and relentless. They offer a great workout. Often times we finish with a lot less people than we started. It's a bit of a confidence booster knowing that I can finish the ride with some of the leaders and even pass people I didn't think I was in the same league with. I've always trained with people a lot worse than I race so to keep up with some of the big guns on a training ride helps me dig a little deeper when I need to. I never used to do group rides and insisted on training solo but I need to get those negative thoughts out of my head, know that I race differently than how I train and just pedal harder. To many of the locals that show up, Ive never seen them at a race so their group ride is their race. It's no walk in the park. People sometimes play possum and not appear is if they are hurting especially when egos and machismo are in the mix but there is nothing more satisfying seeing someone faster than me, in a category higher than me, panting and sweating.

One benefit to all this riding and racing is that I get to eat more. On one particular ride I did over five hours in the saddle and when I got home I don't remember the quantity that I ate but I do remember my jaw hurting after I polished off two more waffles. My appetite has increased but I don't want to go overboard. I can say that riding more does seem to make food taste better.
So it's almost the end of June, the Tour is starting soon and it's prediction time. I'd say the guy to beat is Chris Froome of Sky. Even though he's got of a bit unorthodox style on the bike, hes got solid legs and solid team. I'll go with Sagan for the green jersey and for best American and a legit pick for the wildcard overall, I'll go with Tejay Van Garderen. He's a shoe in for the white Jersey as well and for the mountain polka dot jersey my pick is Movistars Colombian sensation Nairo Quintana. It's a climbers route this year and I'll look for Contador to animate things in the mountains and Voeckler to animate things every where else and ham things up for the cameras. The only thing I'm really rooting for is a clean tour in every sense of the word. We'll see!

So it's new years time, summer is here, I get to read for pleasure and things are looking good on and off the bike. I'm finding my fast legs in the races and on the group rides and the coaching is hopefully helping. I'm fortunate to be spending my vacation this summer right here at home! People spend lots of money every year from all over the world to come to the California coast so I'm fortunate and lucky. I've got two big road races left that I'm targeting. We'll see what happens. Until then, happy new year, happy summer Vive le Tour and be safe out there.
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Full Circle...and Then More Circles.

I suppose everyone has a race that has broken them and changed them. The last race I had done before I took my decade long hiatus, the one that made me tell myself this is the last one for a while, the one that made me lose taste in racing was the Sea Otter Classic. I distinctly remember the road race being so brutal and unforgiving, that I laid in bed after I DNF'd after getting dropped and thought I don't want to race for a long while. I had no idea at the time that it would be almost fifteen years until I would do the race again.
When I signed up, I knew it would be a significant race to do again. I did and will never take this race lightly. Since I was beaten and I needed to redeem myself I had been training specifically for this race which included a few races leading up to Sea Otter. I even remember in several crits trying not to risk too much as to not screw it up for the big one. In addition to all the usual training that goes on for this race, I took to some mental prep as well. I signed up for both the road race and circuit race. Each with it's own level of pain and suffering. My non bike prep including playing a sim on Xbox that featured the exact Laguna Seca course. I practiced a ton trying to remember and take all of the right lines.
Just getting to the race is quite a spectacle. I drove up, parked in a big mountainous field and walked a few minutes to the big registration place and tried to make heads of it all. Sea Otter has just about every bike discipline on tap. Down Hill, MTB, Road, Grand Fondo, Cyclocross, Dual Slalom and not to mention industry peeps and an army of volunteers and staff.
After I did all the paperwork and got the timing chip, I wanted to preride the course but before I did, I wanted to check out the view of Laguna Seca and soak it all in. I got to go out on the ledge and just stare. There were simultaneous races going on, loud music and a bike sensory overload. The weather was perfect with some cool breezes and bright sunshine.
After a bit of refocusing, I got on my bike and rode the course. It is located on the old Fort Ord base where we would be using the entire road where the only thing about it was there was never a flat section. If you laid a basketball on any part of it, it would roll and roll fast.
I was lucky enough to be staying with the Skratch Labs crew for the weekend. They got a mansion in Pebble Beach and were cooking up some tasty grub for hungry racers and fans. That meant I would have to contribute what I could to representing the brand, cook and shop and give out samples to the thirsty public. I went to the Skratch camp and started right away explaining to people all about the former secret drink mix that's been fueling the pro peloton for years.
After being with the crew for the rest of the day while standing most of the time (these guys are so disciplined) and going shopping for supplies, I tried to get some rest get ready to wake up for the big road race. In the morning I got into my race routine and headed to the start. Luckily I don't need a race strategy. Just hang on and survive. The course had over 780 feet of climbing per lap in 7.8 miles and then to make things downright cruel, on the last lap, it turned and finished on a 800 foot two mile climb. That made my race feature just north of 5,400 ft of climbing. Basically a nightmare for me.
It started out with a neutral roll out and then as soon as the moto blew his whistle, attacks came thick and fast. I stayed with the main pack thinking we would reel them in. On the first KOM climb, people started pushing the pace and we lost a whole bunch of people. The heat turned on literally and figuratively and every lap we were losing guys. On more than one occasion I would be standing on the pedals, looking back and seeing no one. The worst of the climbs for me was actually the feed zone. As soon as people took on bottles the road got really steep and then turned left. Guys started to go there and my legs were hurting bad. During the race two guys broke away and built a quick 30 second lead which peaked last I heard to nearly a minute. The pack had whittled down to only a few and on the second to last KOM climb, I counted the guys in front of me. I was 15th and holding. Just then, both legs cramped and were not working right. That sensation of knives jabbing into my IT band and calves was like a cruel bully. I lost contact with the group and in my futility chased for the sake of chasing, as hard as I could.
By the time we turned on to the finishing climb, I was glad the laps were done and all that remained was a climb. My legs were cramping so bad, I was zigzagging across the road, butt on the tip of the saddle, not able to stand. I poured water on my legs and even pushed with my hands to get the pedals over. I was in so much pain I was actually amazed how my muscles were staying contracted for the last 20 minutes. It was actually one of the few times I thought of getting off my bike and walking. Less than a kilometer to the finish and I was getting swept up by the 45+ guys. I heard a cheer from behind from another Swami. It motivated me to get to that line. Once crossed, ten feet after I tried to unclip my pedals but it didn't work. I just leaned on the barricade looking at my legs and wondered when I could actually bend them. After a few minutes I walked over to the top of the hill to get some water. I ended up 18th on the day and was just focusing on recovery for the next days circuit race. I got the car, spun the legs on the trainer and just laid there trying to figure out how to pull myself together before going down to the Skratch tent to work until the end of the day.
After standing on my feet working the Skratch tent, I was running on fumes. I luckily got fed some tasty rice cakes and random burritos when I could scarf them down in between explaining to people the benefits of Skratch and selling more copies of The Feedzone cookbook. All I can say is that the guys from Skratch are working animals. The terminators of the industry. Tough. In fact I was talking to Ian (Former Garmin Pro) and asked him advice on the bike and using a trainer. He just told me to harden the F**k up. Gotta love it!
After we shut things down, we headed to the store where we got insane amounts of food. Even the customers at Costco had to do a double take. We also went to some great local Mexican market for some top quality ingredients. Here's a rundown of some of the the things we got: 80 Dozen Eggs, 60 pounds of Chicken, 150 pounds of Rice, 60 pounds of Sweet Potato's. The owner of the market was so stoked on our purchases, he gave us a discount and a couple bottles of Fanta that Chef James thought would be cool to drive down the street in the Skratchmobile and drink it gangsta style. Ironic!
That night we prepped and I cracked more eggs that night than I ever have in my life!

That night my goal for the circuit race was to hang on until they pulled me. It's no crit, as it's got a nasty climb on it over the 2.24 mile course. I head over to the track and then wait patiently until it's my turn to get to the line. People take this course seriously. There were so many new faces I hadn't seen from the previous days road race that meant fresh legs and more pain for me. The famous corkscrew turn required tons of concentration as you could hit speeds over 50mph. I saw a huddled few cyclists prepping for the race. I went over to see what they were doing. They were praying for a safe race which actually made me less calm and a little more freaked out.
Our race was for just under an hour and the climb was going to separate people every lap.
From the whistle, it was quick. Rather than getting dropped right away I stayed with the main group even though there were attacks every time we hit the hill. At about the 30 minute mark, I lost contact and was dropped but there were so many others dropped it was hard to make heads or tails of where I was. I just told myself to ride myself into the ground until I get pulled. It never happened and I finished with a group of about ten stragglers and I ended up 17th. After the race, I didn't even get out of my chamois right away and got to helping the Skratch crew again. This time working inside the food trailer, making rice, washing dishes and all sorts of other tasks. I was in a haze but didn't want to let those guys down and make them feel like I earned my keep.

This race was huge on so many levels. Afterwords I drove a couple hours to see my brother and fam for some much needed rest before the drive back to San Diego. The legs were so sore from racing, then standing for hours and driving that even a leg massage from my three year old nephew didn't help. He tries though and he'll be one to watch on the bike in a few years.

The events and the participants, stoked kids and the unassuming pros. It was a bit of a reunion running into people and friends I haven't seen in years. This was one of the ages and I think I may have redeemed myself in some small way. The fire is going strong and I can't wait to see how the rest of the season unfolds. Big thanks to everyone at Skratch Labs, Swamis, Focus Bikes and to all the sponsors and volunteers of this great event. I'll be back next year.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Greed is Good"-Gordon Gecko

Since cycling is experiencing a deluge of confessions, I have a few of my own. No I'm not on the juice or ever will be but I have been racing somewhat well lately. The thing is, in San Diego I consider myself still very much an outsider to the sport. That ten year cycling coma makes me feel like I've got more than a generation gap. A community and sport that was very much my existence as a junior and collegiate racer is still so familiar and foreign.
Ever since I started riding a back again in 2011, there are a few things I still have never done. I've never climbed Palomar. I've never done the Swamis A ride, Tuesday morning or evening ride. I've still yet to buy a powermeter or any other type of computer. I will suck a wheel if I have to. I'm the type of rider the authors of the BWR ride had in mind to make fun of in the race flyer narrative who is not welcome to ride with the Chuck Norriss's of the sport. None of this is conscious plan to remain an outsider. Partly it's due to my schedule, and also my sometimes lack of belief in my ability. I don't really have a strong grasp on watts or speed or what my max HR is. The last time I got a VO2 Max test was in college. My last bike computer was an Avocet 20 and my last bike was made of a material called steel.

Despite all of this, cycling is still the same thing as I remember and for the last few months, I've had the uncanny ability to get my front tire over the finish line in the top five or ten over and over and over. My philosophy has been simple yet effective. Ride my bike a lot, get lots of sleep, lose weight and eat mostly plants with the occasional Korean BBQ thrown in.
I'm not a sprinter, climber and definitely not a time trialist but the results have been slowly and reliably coming in. In the crits a few top fives and a lot of top tens have been coming. At Tour de Murrietta I got fifth in the road race. And even though San Dimas was a total mess, I was able to beat my TT time from last year by over two and half minutes (calculated if 2013 course was shortened back to last years.) I'm sometimes the only Swami in many of my races and have relied on my experience and the ability to read a race more than anything. Yet, that important win is still elusive and I want it to happen. The difference between first and fourth can be an instant to some but an eternity to me.

Today at Ontario I placed unofficially 7th and sit technically one result away to upgrading to the next category.
Cyclists can sometimes romanticize our sport to the point of believing in a watered down way of why people race. I heard a pro in an interview define success. The standard response is "when it's fun" "when I gave it my all" etc. I don't want to take anything away from those ideals but those come a distant second to flat out winning. When a pro ceases to win, they are out of a job. I've reached a point now where I am salivating. It's typical conditioning. People have been conditioned to like winning. People will sit for hours at a slot machine on the chance that the next pull of the lever will be a big result. With competition, when a little taste of possibility enters the equation, I'm no different than that guy breathing through an O2 tank at Pechanga. I want it.
So Spring has sprung and the season is unfolding well. I'm racing for success and the possibility of "what if"? I'll still laugh a little inside when someone tries to tell me what knickers are or how to stay on a wheel. Most of the time, my attitude is very "aw shucks" when a result comes in or I'll justify a result by thinking so and so wasn't here. Yet, deep down, in a very dark place that I only go to on race day, there is a little instinct that tells me I want it, and I'm going to ride into the ground and find a place between absolute commitment and rage to take it. It's been with me since I first raced as a kid, and it has come to aid me now.
My focus has become a little more clear and with great rides at Valley of the Sun, a few Ontario's Races, Surf City Crit and Tour de Murrietta I think I can continue to push myself the next levels of the sport. I honestly think the only way to do that is by doing those group rides and doing Palomar. I need the big talent pool of San Diego to push me even further and harder. I'd like to get a powermeter and do more than perceived exertion. In the spectrum, there is a huge way to go and I've failed more times than I've succeeded at racing a bicycle.
After this weekend there are a few more crits and then I'm making my way up north to Monterey for Sea Otter which is one of the biggest bike circuses around. In order to do well, I still need to keep the momentum going and I need to be humbled by riding with more than just myself and sprinting for random street signs. I'll hopefully see some of you guys out on the rides and try not to embarrass myself too much. I'll always view myself very much an outsider but this is the first time in a long time, that in races or just rides with people, I feel like I belong in the peloton.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A nail biter in the Valley of the Sun

For the first time in years I headed to Arizona for the Valley of the Sun Stage Race. I did this race back in my collegiate racing days many moons ago and was looking forward to getting back. While the DET guys were tearing it up with the Juniors, Andrew mixing it up with the pros and Roger and Troy fighting for the cat 3's, I was the sole Swami in the 4's.
The race is made up of three stages, TT, Road Race and Crit. With some the time trial being the most unfamiliar to me, I got some tips from Troy Huerta who specializes in this discipline. Troy, my roomie for a night had me go over some crucial things that could make me suffer with style and efficiency. With a borrowed Helmet from the clothing czar and some borrowed aero bars, I did the best I could and finished mid pack in 38th.

The road race the next day was a little weird. An itchy 4's field mixed with some crazy head and cross winds kept most people in the peloton. A stacked field filled with Trek Landis guys had one of their guys go off the front with over a lap to go. Thinking he was going to get caught, the field sat up. For reasons still unknown to me the peloton was neutralized by the officials and we were crawling at about 10mph for 5 miles or so. While that was happening the Landis guy had minutes on us and there was no way we were going to catch him.
By the last lap on the big ring hill, I tried to stay near the leaders. It was a tight group of about 20 and as we crested the hill, you could throw a blanket on us. In the last K it got a little strung out and I lost about 20 seconds to the lead group finishing in 23rd.
After staying at my Kristen's cousins house (a genius and champion foosball player) I moved toward where the crit would be, my last chance of leaving Arizona not empty handed. After a thorough massage, I went to the "try too hard to be cool" neighborhood of Scottsdale and got some serious food at a place called Culinary Dropout where I feasted on pickled beets, veggies and some sliced rib eye.
On Sunday, I watched just about every Swami in races before me crash in the crit. It was nerve wracking to say the least. I did my usual pre race warm up and headed to the line. I decided to not be tempted by any primes and focus on the win.
For the first half of the race, the attacks came thick and fast. The speed was bearable but there were a few near misses by a number of crashes (go figure) that seemed to come on every corner. With three laps to go I started to weave through the group and towards the front to safety. Since I had no teammates I knew I could race for myself but also had to piggy back on other teams. I leapfrogged to the front and waited to see if anyone was going to set up a leadout train. A team from Vegas called Le Rois Cycling did and I jumped on it. I picked the biggest muscle bound dude I could find and stuck on his wheel not letting anyone on. With a lap to go I was glued and not going to budge. In the last corner I was in third. I jumped out of the saddle and overtook the lead out man and started to gain on the big dude but ran out of road to pass him. Second in the stage with a six second time bonus didn't to much for the GC but showed my fitness and skills are slowly improving.
The team wasn't angry I used their train but I had to race semi smart and stay out of the wind. A great weekend with some upgrade points to boot. I can't wait for the next big couple of races as well as some more weather like we had in Arizona. A big shout out to the DET Swamis and Troy as well as Quintin Kirby's mom for looking out for me during the road race. Hopefully I won't have to wait another decade to do this race again. Next big one is Tour De Murrietta and San Dimas Stage race. Glad results are coming but didn't think it would be this soon. Racing next week and hopefully I can prove this wasn't a fluke.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Reflection and Redemption

2012 came and went. 2013 has crept in with a lot of changes. I spent the new year in Costa Rica for a week away from the bike and with good friends, food and some fun surf. It's starting to feel like a home away from the paradise I already live in. 
First sunset of 2013. Pura Vida!

As cross season was educational and fitness improving, I really am looking forward to the road season. All of the new things that come with a new season of racing makes me that much more giddy. New team kit, equipment, not to mention an insane new BH Ultralight complete with new Osymetric Chainrings and some race wheels. Something that I did not have last season as I raced and trained on the same clinchers. I got a proper bike fit through Retul which was educational. I've lost a good amount of weight as well and I feel a touch more spry on the bike.

My first real race of the year was Boulevard Road Race. A race that I was looking forward to but only lasted a few miles. Running the new rings, something happened and the chain got wrapped around the crankarm twice! Huge disappointment but after a few adjustments, it was dialed in proper and hasn't screwed up since. It's a pretty dramatic feel but I like them.

I did a few early season crits already and the level of fitness is good, just the technical aspect needs more work. I raced the Roger Millikin Crit last week and felt ok but didn't want to take any unnecessary risks in the very argy bargy field of 100 tough guys. I finished in the pack at 26th but I will be climbing up the leader board this season.

I'm actually getting ready for Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Arizona next week. It's a race I did in my past cycling life in the 90's and I really had a great time doing it. This year I don't know what to expect since its been so long since I've done it. I'm just going to give it everything I have and hopefully not wait a few more decades before I do this race again. The drive back is long and I don't want to spend it with the woulda shoulda coulda mental filth cycle. I'm realistic about my chances but if I can leave everything out on the course, I'll be happy.

This season is the first one that I can actually have a frame of reference for the races I'm doing since I did many of them for the first time last year. Big one's that are on the Calendar are Tour De Murrietta, San Dimas Stage Race, Sea Otter Classic, San Marcos Circuit Race, Brentwood GP and this year is Swamis own Carlsbad Grand Prix.
I've never been more excited about things to come. Yeah the new material gear is always a treat but I think I'm more prepared mentally and physically then last year. I'm having fun and my team is much more organized then last year. I'm still on the lookout for the big W, and I think it will happen. Sprinter Robbie Hunter said on any given day, everybody's beatable. This includes myself. I'm still training and racing with no data, no computer or power. All feel but I'd like to change that soon if I can afford it but maybe it will be a gift to myself if I upgrade.

If I could describe what's different about this year then last, it would have to be consciousness. Something that everybody is aware of or not. I have a higher level of self awareness I haven't experienced in a while. It's the little things. Conscious of the amount of sleep I get, the food I eat, "should I have that beer?" "Should I stick with my plan?" "Am I having fun?" When people get better, it's the little things compounded together that add up and in the end make a difference. 2013 is only 42 days old and it's already been an interesting and fun year. I'm chomping at the bit to race and get results. It's going to happen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

CX San Diego Style

San Diego- I take a bit of pride being able to race in a place I normally go to take friends and relatives from out of town. Instead of going to a museum or go view an IMAX doc, I get to race my bike in events #6 and 7 in the SoCalcross San Diego CX weekend in Balboa Park. In theory I would be able to sleep in a bit as I wouldn't have more than a 25 minute drive. In reality I woke up earlier than I do to get to the venue to set up camp, bring a cooler of beers and just hang out with my other Swamis teammates who are "relaxing" in the off season.

The venue was an assault on the senses. It began and finished in the velodrome, looped around the infield and wound it's way on some trails and into a wooded grove that was loose and deep. It wound through some grass, had a double barrier and then a steepish incline before it reentered the velodrome with one final single barrier before the finish.

My race on Saturday lasted about twenty minutes as I could not find a good place psychologically to maintain my suffering and focus. Before I was aware, my bike would and could not pedal any further as my chain was wedged pretty good between the inner ring and the chainstay. In futility I tried to wiggle it out with my fingers but it did not budge and I was forced to DNF. I later found out that I had to take off the crank and readjust the chaincatcher.

Determined to not lose face on Sunday, I raced again on the course. It was a tad modified but only a few tweaks. Most notably there was an ill placed log at the bottom of a turn and hill that added an additional run up. What was great about the course or not so great were the dynamic turns. They allowed racers to see their competition as it wound its way up and down. If you chose you could see how far people were behind or ahead of you at almost any given point in the race.

I started well and my confidence was up. I marked two riders ahead of me that were coincidentally on the same team. I actually heard them argue with each other about why the second guy wasn't taking his pull. I could tell the guy sucking his teammates wheel was getting gassed and passed him on the next set of barriers. I was now on the guys wheel and didn't hear a peep from him. He proved a bigger challenge to pass and was running out of real estate. I still have no clue how team tactics work in cross racing if at all. I was in the top ten for most of the race and on the last lap, got passed by three gents. My decision at that point was easy. Burn my last match to stay on the wheel or limit my losses and ride within myself to not have more people pass. I chose the latter and unfortunately moved from the business end of the action to mid mullet and finished in 12th.

The venue and vibe could not be better if anything a tad warm with temps in the low 80's. San Diego, which used to be known as the younger cousin of LA can stand proudly on it's own two feet. It is becoming the destination for people that want to escape the scene of LA and relax for a weekend in any number of chill beach neighborhoods. Don't believe me? Check the 5 North on a Sunday evening. It's red lights as far as the eye can see with everyone going back towards the concrete jungle of the north. I'll be taking a break from cross next week as my interior walls need some attention in the paint department. The week after it's more action in San Diego! Check traffic before you head down.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Bike Circus Comes to Town!

Pomona- If the previous weeks race was a relaxed edition of cyclocross action, this weekends event was quite the carnival. In that case the natural choice for a venue was inside an over sized fairplex known as the UCI SCPS #4/5- LA Bike Fest: Spooky Cross Weekend.

The first thing everyone probably noticed after they parked in the Disney sized parking lot was the hardcourt bike polo antics on the way into the venue. There were people doing things on bikes that were quite a spectacle. A mix of thunderdome style polo battles, style and attitude all it's own. You could not find a starker contrast between a dude rocking a denim vest filled with patches and the lycra clad racers. It looked like a crazy amount of fun and skill although I would suspect they don't require drug testing at these events as the air had a certain flavor to it.

The course for the cyclocross race was flat, fast and felt like an amusement park ride. It started on pavement and then wound it's way to the inside of the venue. From there, it circled around the track before it took to the infield. Once there there was an off camber turn and then a cute stair run up before there were more turns up and down the grass sections, a double barrier that I thought I would try to bunny hop but chickened out at the last second and then the flyover to BMX section. Once there there were a few berms and some big jumps and some whoops for good measure before it finished on the long straight away. You could theoretically pump that section and not pedal of you have good BMX fundamentals. It was also a great place to watch like a vulture all the thrills and spills as you could heckle and cheer from the infield. Arguably the most tricky section was the berm right after the flyover. People were carrying so much speed on the ramp down, many had to brake and then go over a hump and lean it hard right on the berm to make it and carry the speed. This may have not been the most tough or gritty course but it could be argued that it was the most fun so far.

To make things festive there were plenty of gravestones, ghosts and goblins and even a severed head hanging under the flyover. I didn't notice most of these things until after the race due to suffering and tunnel vision but it was quite macabre. The only things spooky about my race was how fast it was going to be. I thought about wearing a costume but was relieved when no one else dressed up in my category. I ended up getting a terrible place in staging. Third row back and on the inside. When the race began I had to fight hard to move up and burned a lot of energy as the first lap was going warp 2. For the first half of the race I was up there and the grouping was tight enough you could throw a blanket over us. It felt like a crit for the first part of the race where finding a wheel was key. When it got technical, I started to lose spots and was getting frustrated. For a flat course, I was shifting more than usual to find the right gear. When things got separated I got complacent hanging onto a wheel rather than trying to pass it and it cost me precious time. Lesson learned. I finished mid pack two minutes behind the winner. Not that terrible considering there were a few pro mountain bikers and Cat 2's in the mix.

Instead of packing up and going home right away, feeling frisky I went to the infield, bought a nine dollar beer and ten dollar sliders from a food truck and watched the other races go down. I did not offer any handouts though as I was at that point broke. My race was merely the opening act of the main event later that night which was the UCI pro women's race followed by the pro mens race. I sadly did not stick around to watch as I had a good two hour drive home and I was feeling pretty grimy and a tad slimy. I did watch the pro event live online and it is always a treat to see just how slow you really are when the pro's take their turn at making their race look like they have motors in their bikes. Also the night races under the glow of lights always make things seem cooler. Next week is the San Diego weekend and I could not be more excited to finally race in my own backyard! See you out there.

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